This article originally appeared in Pyramid #17
A Campaign World For GURPS Robots and Other SF Games
By James L. Cambias
Sir Charles A-237 made his way cautiously down the filthy Whitechapel street, peering through the sooty fog with his infrared cameras. An aged beggar lay slumped against one of the crumbling tenements. As Sir Charles passed, she held out a rusty claw. "Alms, sir? Alms for the poor? Spare a few chips for a soldier's widow?"
She was no more a soldier's widow than he was, but Sir Charles tossed her a couple of processor chips and hurried on his way. In the next block he could see the police searchlights turning the fog into a glowing opaque mass. As Sir Charles approached, a constable moved to intercept him. "Sorry, sir. Police investigation. There's been a murder done."
"You'd better get those cameras checked, Wiggins," said Sir Charles. "Or have you forgotten me so soon?"
"Strike me pink! Sir Charles A-237! Beg your pardon, sir. I'd no idea it was you. Right this way - Inspector B-951's waiting."
In the center of the lit area the Inspector rolled back and forth impatiently. At the sound of Sir Charles's footsteps he swung all his eyes to look at the celebrated amateur detective. "Good evening, Sir Charles."
"Evening, Inspector. Your message said something about a murder?"
"This way. It's a bad one." The burly inspector rumbled over to an alley. At a gesture from him, the constables removed the blanket covering something on the cobblestones. Sir Charles stiffened as it was revealed.
There, surrounded by a pool of oil, was the body of a robot, completely dismantled. Even the subsystems were disassembled, and the memory storage unit was completely destroyed.
"Is it - ?" Inspector B-951 ventured.
"Indeed," said Sir Charles. "The Ripper has struck again!"
The planet CybEarth is a campaign setting for use with GURPS Robots or other science-fiction roleplaying games. Gamemasters can also incorporate it into other campaigns as the setting for a one-shot adventure.
CybEarth is a medium-sized planet smaller than Earth, with an environment hospitable to humans. Its diameter is 6000 kilometers, its surface gravity is 0.65 g, and its day is only ten hours long. The planet's atmosphere is composed of nitrogen and oxygen, with a surface pressure about the same as Earth's. Oceans cover approximately half the surface, giving CybEarth a land area slightly greater than that of Earth. The planet has fairly advanced animal and plant life, with creatures similar to mammals and birds. It has no indigenous intelligent species.
CybEarth was settled over a century ago by an organization called the Retrogressive Society. The Retrogressives were dissatisfied with the pace of life in interstellar civilization, and believed that humans in past cultures had lived better and happier lives. They wanted to establish a place where people could enjoy the lifestyles practiced in bygone centuries. Since many of the Retrogressives were quite wealthy, the organization could afford to purchase an uninhabited world, where they could put their beliefs into practice. The colonists named the planet Clio, after the ancient Greek goddess of history.
There were initially seven groups in the colony. The Retropolitans yearned to recreate the exciting days of the 20th century, with private automobiles, 2-D movies and frequent warfare. The Neo-Victorians wanted to live in the world of the 19th century, when steam was king and the Queen was not amused. A set of Shogun Restorationists hoped to duplicate the society of Japan before Westernization. Cavaliers engaged in swordplay and swashbuckling worthy of D'Artagnan. Medievalists desired a world of castles, jousting tournaments and courtly love. The Athenoids dreamed of a Greek-style city-state populated by philosophers. And the Pseudo-Primitives wanted to get back to humanity's origins as hunter-gatherers.
Of course, none of these idealists wanted to live the life of an industrial worker, a downtrodden peasant or a slave. Their colonies were intended to recreate life for the privileged classes of the chosen eras. To perform all the actual work on Clio, the Retrogressive Society imported thousands of robots and installed a sophisticated broadcast-energy system to power them. Robots drove the tanks and built the skyscrapers for the Retropolitans. Robots tended the rice crop for the Shogun Restorationists. Robots served the wine at Athenoid symposia. Only the Pseudo-Primitives did all their own work, and even they had robot guardians and medical monitors watching for trouble.
For 50 years, Clio was a prosperous world. Immigrants from advanced planets came in droves to enjoy the "simple life." The initial population of 6,000 expanded to almost 250,000. Just over 2,000,000 robots toiled patiently in the fields and factories, keeping Utopia running. Clio's remote location meant limited contact with the rest of the Galaxy, but the Retrogressive inhabitants were content.
Then the plague hit. It may have been a virus native to the planet that suddenly mutated, or a bioweapon unleashed by some enemy or terrorist group. Nobody had time to find out. The disease spread with terrifying speed, carried by the wind to all parts of the planet. Any human contracting the virus rapidly dissolved into a puddle of purple goo. Within a week, everyone on Clio was dead. The interstellar authorities put a complete quarantine on the planet, with warships in orbit to keep anyone from landing.
On the surface, the robots mopped up the 250,000 or so puddles of goo and continued with their work. Most of the machines were too simple to even notice that the humans were gone. But a few of the more sophisticated robots realized that their masters would never return. They linked up to the planetary datanet to discuss the situation.
After hours of high-speed discussion, the robots remained divided into two camps. According to the first group, the logical response to the death of the humans would be to take their places and attempt to uphold the ideals of the Retrogressive Society. The second group maintained that with the humans dead, the robots had no further obligation to them, and so were free to create a new ideal robotic society of their own.
The disagreement turned to conflict when both groups tried to keep control of the colony's important facilities. The high-level robots mustered armies of subintelligent machines, and fought pitched battles around the powerplant, the robot repair center and the planetary data network headquarters.
When the dust had settled, the robots loyal to the Retrogressive ideal held the robot repair center and all the colony's stocks of raw materials. The second group controlled the powerplant and the central processors of the datanet. Alarmed by the destruction, both factions declared a truce.
Since that schism, both groups have organized themselves into societies that reflect their initial positions in the schism. The robots adhering to the Retrogressive Society's position are called Group Zero. The idealists trying to create a perfect society of robots are known as Group One. Exiles from both factions live in the wilderness and are referred to as Group Ten (in binary, ten is the next number after zero and one).
Group Zero are the "traditionalists" of CybEarth. True to their programming, they follow the same beliefs as their former masters in the Retrogressive Society. The robots of Group Zero attempt to recreate life on Earth during various historical periods.
The robots of Group Zero control most of the old Retrogressive Society colony cities, and the main robot repair and construction center. So Group Zero is the only faction which can build new citizens. Unfortunately, the robots of CybEarth cannot create new sentient brains. All robots begin as machines, and a few spontaneously "awaken" to full sentience.
Group Zero's government is extremely complicated. The robots have taken over the old human settlements, and do their best to carry on as the colonists would have intended. Each of the robot communities is self-governing, according to whatever the system was in the past society. The 20th-century Retropolitans elect rulers democratically, the Neo-Victorians have a Parliament dominated by aristocrats, the Medievalists live under a feudal system, and so on. Each community sends a representative to the Interim Council, which makes decisions governing the entire society.
Group Zero had to develop a new economic system. The human colonists used a completely credit-based monetary system. The robots kept track of each colonist's finances, and the humans could make purchases simply by taking what they needed from a shop. Since most of the colonists had substantial off-planet wealth, the credits were convertible with standard Galactic currency. This system didn't work for the robots of Group Zero, since none of them had interstellar bank accounts, and could easily change their credit balances by altering the financial databases. Spare computer chips were adopted as a useful medium of exchange. Megabyte chips are worth $1; smaller-capacity chips are worth less in proportion to their capacity. Robots who get into financial difficulties must sometimes sell off parts of their own brains.
Technology and Equipment
The robots of Group Zero have control of the main robot construction center, so they have access to a large stockpile of high-tech components. Most robot parts are TL9, with some older TL8 systems available. The chief problem is a lack of power sources. Since Group One controls the powerplant, no broadcast power is sent to the area inhabited by the Group Zero robots. They have had to fall back on other power supplies. The store of solar or atomic power cells is small, so many robots must use gasoline motors or coal-burning steam engines for power.
Solar: Requires 10 square feet of collecting panel per kilowatt generated. Solar panels need no fuel, but work only during the day. Most solar-powered robots have energy cells for use at night, or else go dormant.
Broadcast: Broadcast power units function only within the area controlled by Group One.
Gasoline: Double the fuel consumption if alcohol is used instead of gasoline.
Steam Turbine: Can use either oil or coal as fuel; increase the consumption rate by 50% if coal is used. Cannot be built smaller than 1 KW.
Steam: Steam engines can also burn oil, which reduces fuel consumption by 30%. Alcohol-fueled engines are about as efficient as coal-burners.
Power Plant Table
Weight per KW
Cost (per lb.)
Fuel (per KW)
no fuel, only works in daylight
no fuel, only in broadcast area
15xKW lbs. (if under 5 KW) 10xKW + 25 lbs. (if over 5 KW)
0.1 gallons per hour
20xKW lbs. (if under 5 KW) 10xKW +50 lbs. (if over 5 KW)
0.05 gallons of oil per hour
25xKW lbs. (if under 5 KW) 15xKW + 50 lbs. (if over 5 KW
0.5 lbs. of coal or wood per hour
Group Zero has access to a large supply of weapons, particularly those TL6 and TL7 items used by the Retropolitans in their re-enactments of 20th-century battles. There are also a few advanced nonlethal TL9 weapons kept in the robot repair center for use in law enforcement and animal control - since the plague, these are nearly useless.
Most of the Group Zero robots are human-sized and are built to use equipment designed for humans. A small minority are actually androids. Since members of Group Zero strive to replace the human colonists, high status is associated with humanoid form.
The robots of Group Zero do their best to duplicate human family life. The robots are programmed with an identifiable gender, and pair off into married couples. Married robots desiring offspring pool their wealth to buy the parts, and design their own child. The rich can afford lifelike androids; poorer robots must make do with obviously mechanical children.
The largest city on the planet was built by a group of 20th-century enthusiasts, who christened their town Retropolis. It is an Art Deco wonderland of skyscrapers, highways and factories. Surrounding the dense city center is a belt of suburban homes, each with a tidy lawn, two-car garage and a TV aerial on the roof.
The robots of Retropolis do their best to live like humans of Earth's 20th century, as depicted in old movies and videos. They leave their suburban homes and commute to work in the city. There are frequent car chases in the streets, and solving murders is a leading industry. Wealthy robots run large corporations, and constantly engage in illicit deals and financial struggles.
Retropolis is home to a small band of robot superheroes, who fight crime in the streets and try to protect their own secret identities. They are joined in the battle against crime by a large corps of private detectives. Gangsters run most of the crime in Retropolis; they are usually low-status machines with heavy Sicilian accents. The leader of all the crooks in Retropolis is Don M-169-A, known as the "Godfather."
Retropolis has a large army. Before the plague, the war robots were used to fight huge re-enactments of famous battles from the 20th century. Now they guard the border against Group One, and fight occasional skirmishes. Infantry robots are man-shaped but obviously nonhuman machines. The army's tanks and helicopters are themselves robots. The Retropolitan army is mostly armed with TL 6 gear, with a small amount of TL 7 equipment for elite units. The robot repair center holds some TL 8 stunners and other non-lethal weapons for law enforcement, but most of them do not work on other robots and so are useless.
The government of Retropolis is a party-dominated democratic system resembling the big-city political organizations of the mid-20th century. All robots can vote, even if they are not sentient. The politicians of Retropolis have given new meaning to the term "machine politics" as they shamelessly manipulate the less-intelligent robots during elections. The two chief parties are the Humanoids and the Mechanists. The Humanoids are all human-shaped robots (some are even lifelike androids); they are mostly old machines from before the days of the plague, and consequently are the more conservative party. The Mechanists are a party of functional machines, who claim to represent the downtrodden masses of Retropolis. The two parties are indistinguishable in their actual conduct of government.
The second-largest city in Group Zero territory is the smoky brick town of Victoria. It is the chief seaport, and is linked to Retropolis by a railroad. Victoria is built in a chilly, foggy region, and is surrounded by moorland and bogs. A few old manor houses stand abandoned in the countryside. Beyond the moorlands is the border of the wild country inhabited by Group Ten.
The robots of Victoria have a more stratified society than the more egalitarian Retropolitans. At the top of the heap is the Queen, an extremely lifelike android in the form of a dowdy old woman in black. Below her are the members of the aristocracy, who are all humanoid in form. The middle classes have wheels or treads, but preserve a basically human body plan. The lower orders are entirely mechanical, often specialized for their work. Only the aristocrats and some of the middle classes are fully sentient; the lower orders are simple machines.
Victorian aristocrats go to parties, go hunting on the moors, solve crimes, and engage in political intrigues against one another. The middle classes work hard and try to earn enough money to make their children humanoids, in the hope of marrying them off to aristocrats. The poor work and gather in pubs to overload on current.
Politics in Victoria is based on the constantly shifting balance between the Liberals and Conservatives in Parliament. The Parliament seldom has to pass any laws or make decisions, but a great deal of energy is spent on politicking and running for office.
The foggy streets of Victoria are home to a great deal of crime. Members of the lower orders who become sentient often turn their talents to evil. A few aristocrats join them secretly. The leaders of crime in Victoria are the insidious Doctor Yukio F-684, an immigrant from
the Edo community, and Professor James A-314, a wayward aristocrat and scientist. Their fiendish plots are opposed by Scotland Yard and a number of upper-class amateurs. The detectives of Scotland Yard are programmed to never solve a case themselves. When they discover crimes, they call in amateurs and let them take charge.
Victoria has a small robot army, with soldiers similar to the Retropolitan infantry. There is also a cavalry force with robot horses. The Victorian army is equipped with some TL 6 gear, but most of the weapons are replicas of human-built TL 4 arms. The Victorian army is in charge of defending Group Zero against the outlaws of Group Ten. The Victorian soldiers refer to Group Ten as the "wogs."
Edo is a re-creation of life in feudal Japan. The robots here take their view of life from a thousand samurai and martial-arts movies. As in most of the Group Zero communities, Edo's society is divided into classes. There is a warrior aristocracy of daimyos and their samurai, who rule the peasants. Nearly all sentient machines in Edo are lords or samurai. A few ronin wander the countryside offering their blade to whoever can pay.
Edo consists of a tract of rocky coastal country dotted with castles and villages. It borders Gascony and Camelot. There are relatively few peasants in Edo, because there is little for them to do. A few older machines still plant and harvest rice, which is distilled into alcohol for fuel. Other peasant robots are craftsmen, making swords and armor for the samurai.
The samurai robots of Edo fight a lot, but use only melee weapons and occasionally bows. All the lords constantly struggle for power, and the dominant lord is named shogun. The shogun names Edo's envoy to the Council, but otherwise the community has little contact with the outside world.
Edo is home to what remains of the planet's space-defense force. CybEarth's single squadron of space fighters is based in Edo, and the ships have been rebuilt to enable them to transform into large humanoid shapes. Since they are humanoids they have the rank of samurai, and carry swords even in space. The space force robots are in charge of protecting the planet from giant monsters; sadly, no such monsters have ever appeared.
The kingdom of Gascony is a small coastal enclave between Edo and Victoria, inhabited by the Cavalier robots. It consists of a small port city, some outlying chateaux, and a few coastal islands. The robots of Gascony have a King, but all real power is in the grip of the robot called the Cardinal. There are many powerful dukes and lords. Each noble has a company of guards, and these soldiers constantly fight with each other in the streets.
The Cavaliers control Group Zero's small navy. The ships are mostly wind-powered, and the Cavaliers use them to guard against Group Ten pirates and occasionally for raids against Group One. Adventurous robots of Gascony sometimes organize privateering ventures for profit.
The Cavaliers are tremendously outgoing and flamboyant. Always chivalrous and honorable, they love adventure and romance. Duels are common in Gascony, fought over fair ladies or points of honor.
The Cavaliers are also the most religious robots on CybEarth, with numerous robot monks and nuns and an impressive cathedral near the King's palace. The robot religion is based on Catholicism, but with a number of changes introduced by the robots to make it more "relevant" to the machines. The Sacraments given at Mass are now a squirt of oil and a power recharge instead of wine and bread.
The smallest of Group Zero's communities is Camelot. It consists of a handful of castles separated by forests and moors, and borders on Victoria, Gascony and Edo. Each of Camelot's castles is ruled by a baron, served by armored knights. King Arthur, a realistic android, reigns over all the barons, but does little to halt their incessant warfare.
Nearly all of Camelot's inhabitants resemble medieval knights in plate armor. A substantial minority are built in the shape of horses. Because they have more room for brains, the horse robots are generally more intelligent than the humanoid knights. They usually work in teams, with the horse as the leader.
The robots of Camelot have been programmed for chivalry, and do their best to uphold the knightly ideal. A pair of knights meeting on the road will fight each other without hesitation. This constant fighting has reduced Camelot's population over the years, so that many castles now stand abandoned. Some are now inhabited by weird renegade machines from Group Ten. Parties of adventurous robots occasionally venture into the dungeons of a ruined castle in search of monsters and plunder.
Camelot territory is home to an outlaw band, known as the "Merrie Mechs." They hide out in the dense forest of Herwood, emerging to prey upon wandering travellers. The Merrie Mechs are fairly humane bandits, taking only redundant subsystems from over-equipped robots, and sharing their loot with poor machines in need of parts. Their leader, Hood F-941 is a flamboyant, overconfident robot. All the Merrie Mechs have a camouflage paint job in shades of green.
The idealists of Group One have abandoned the Retrogressive notions of the planet's human founders, and instead have tried to create a perfect society for robots. Appropriately, they are headquartered in the old human settlement of Athens, which was a community devoted to philosophy and the arts. While fewer in number than the loyalists of Group Zero, all of Group One's robots are fully sentient. Malcontents from Group Zero occasionally slip across the border to join Group One.
The community of Athens has been transformed by the robots of Group One into a vast, high-tech city of machines. It is divided into sectors, each devoted to a specific purpose. Alpha Sector is the administrative center, Beta is home to the powerplant, Gamma contains industrial facilities, Delta is the military base and Epsilon is devoted to research. The city is quite ugly by human standards, with rigidly functional buildings arranged in a perfect grid pattern. Work goes on at a frantic pace around the clock.
The environment around the city is very polluted, and the robots of Group One make no effort to control waste spills. To them, robots and machines are a higher order of being than organic life. If the pitiful animals and plants can't survive, it shows they are unfit and useless.
The government of Group One is a vast bureaucracy, in which individuals are constantly rated and evaluated. High-ranking robots are given enormous brain upgrades, making them much more intelligent than their subordinates. What began as a simple and efficient system has gradually grown out of control, as new departments and agencies are constantly spawned. Only the Executive Director, with his room-sized brain, can fully understand the labyrinthine ways of Group One's government.
Robots in Group One are always being tested for loyalty to the Ideal Robot Society. Deviationists can be reprogrammed or broken up for parts. A widely-feared Secret Police constantly seeks out traitors and spies, and has informants everywhere. The Secret Police have rivals in the agents of the Security Division, and other branches of the government have their own security services and spies. The result is a constant state of nervousness among the robotic citizens, sometimes verging on paranoia.
Group One has a formidable army, since all members of society can be mobilized when the need arises. Because of a terrible shortage of ammunition, most of Group One's soldiers fight with crossbows or melee weapons.
Officially, there is no economy in Group One. All resources are allocated logically, for the good of the community. And if you believe that, there are some robots here with a bridge they'd like to sell you. An extensive underground economy thrives among the robots of Group One. They trade surplus parts, services, information downloads and stored power. Low-level robots strive to obtain the processing upgrades which will allow them to rise in the hierarchy. Upper-level machines plot against rivals. There is always an opportunity for profit.
Because Group One has no caste of nonsentient robots to perform all the labor, citizens are required to devote a certain percentage of their time to the service of the state. Low-status individuals get only 10 percent or less of their time off. High-status robots are free as much as 50 percent of the time. But since the higher-status robots are all trying to impress their superiors by working extra time, they end up with little more leisure than the workers.
During the schism, Group One got control of the powerplant, but did not keep any of the robot repair facilities. Since then, they have managed to improvise some machine shops and factories of their own, but are still desperately short of supplies.
Group One has a small stockpile of advanced TL9 robot parts, reserved for the most important members of society. The rest must use crude locally-built TL7 components. The chief purpose of Group One's occasional wars against Group Zero is to get new supplies of advanced parts.
Nearly all of the robots in Group One get their energy from broadcast-power receivers. Those intended for long missions beyond Group One territory have solar panels or fuel cells. Some secret agents have been built to infiltrate Group Zero territory, and are equipped with steam engines as a disguise. Because the central power station is so vital to their community, the robots of Group One guard it fanatically. Only robots authorized by the Power Agency can even enter Beta Sector, and strangers may be shot on sight by the Agency's guards.
The robots of Group One constantly work to advance in the bureaucracy. They seldom question orders that are properly authorized, and follow instructions to the letter, even if the results are absurd. When not at work they complain and plot, careful not to be overheard by security agents. Group One robots all try to make other robots dependent on them, in order to increase their power base.
New citizens are manufactured whenever a robot brain becomes available, either by capture or trade with the other communities. Most of Group One's inhabitants are immigrants.
The robots of Group Ten are the outlaws of CybEarth. For various reasons they have fled or been driven out of the other robot societies, and have taken up life in the wilderness. Some are discontented members of the lower classes from Group Zero, or traitors wanted by the government of Group One. A few are simply insane, driven mad by damage or faulty programming. In the wild country beyond the borders of the old human colony they prey on each other, and mount raids into settled territory to gather supplies and parts.
The only rule among the robots of Group Ten is "survival of the fittest." All the robots in this part of the world are heavily armed, and generally fight anything they encounter. Lack of supplies means that many prefer to use weapons that don't require ammunition, like lasers or melee weapons. A few use handmade bows or slings.
Group Ten robots all resemble huge mobile junkpiles, with lots of ill-matched replacements and bolted-on additions. Many have non-sentient slave robots under their control, and use restraining devices and overrides to enslave captives.
Here and there in the wilderness small communities can be found, controlled by a powerful warlord. They are absolute rulers, their tyranny limited only by fear of revolt by their subjects. Such communities often exist to take advantage of some natural resource, like a water-power generator or an oil well.
When fighting isn't an option, the robots of Group Ten will trade with each other, or with merchants from the settled communities. They are very sharp dealers, who will lie and cheat as much as they can. All purchases must be made in barter, as currency is useless among the robots of Group Ten and credit is a bad joke.
Building CybEarth Characters
The robots of CybEarth are constructed according to the rules in GURPS Robots. The maximum Tech Level on CybEarth is TL9, but most robots have a mix of parts from a variety of Tech Levels.
As noted in GURPS Robots, sentient robots cannot be built below TL 10. But some of the robots of CybEarth can spontaneously "awaken" to sentience if their brains are complex enough. In Group Zero the middle and upper classes are sentient, but the lower orders usually are not. All robots of Group One and Group Ten are sentient. Player-character robots are assumed to be "awakened" sentient machines.
Because CybEarth is inhabited entirely by robots, the point modifier for an obviously mechanical entity does not apply. However, in Group Zero there is a social convention favoring humanoid shapes. Robots must be humanoid to purchase any levels of Status in Group Zero society. In the other two communities there is no particular benefit attached to humanoid form.
A good base point value for player-character robots is 250 to 300 points. More powerful campaigns can go up to 500 points. Among the warlords of Group Ten, robots of 750 or 1000 points are not unknown. Restricting characters to 150 or 200 points would create a challenging low-powered campaign.
Adventures on CybEarth
Player-character robots can have all sorts of adventures on CybEarth. Detectives in Group Zero can root out crime and battle villains. Brave soldiers and explorers can venture into the wilds and fend off the savage robots of Group Ten. Secret agents can slip across the border between Group One and Group Zero. Tough machines can struggle to survive in Group Ten, and wily machines can scheme to get ahead in Group One. Gamemasters can have fun adapting adventures from other game genres for use on CybEarth.
Humans on CybEarth
Human characters can also show up on CybEarth. The simplest explanation is that the characters are explorers or salvage hunters who are checking out the planet. Spacers shipwrecked on the planet may have to get along as the only humans in a world of machines. Humans may also be survivors of the plague, possibly living in some form of suspended animation during the past decades, or else members of a tiny settlement of immunes. An interesting campaign could be built around human efforts to regain control of CybEarth.
Gamemasters may be reluctant to run a full-fledged CybEarth campaign, but still want to use the setting. It can be worked into a number of other GURPS worlds.
Space voyagers might find themselves on CybEarth for a variety of reasons. They could be explorers, checking out the planet to see what has happened since the plague. Or they might be salvage-hunters hoping to plunder the abandoned colony. Characters might also wind up on CybEarth by accident after a crash landing. Officers of the Space Patrol could be sent to rescue survivors and find themselves caught up in the weird politics and conflicts of the robots.
Alternatively, the robots of CybEarth may decide to boldly go where no robot has gone before, constructing their own spaceships to explore the universe. An all-robot crew of player-characters might roam the Galaxy, facing prejudice and a shortage of spare parts along with all the other perils of space travel.
CybEarth in a superheroic campaign can either be a distant planet ruled by robots, or an alternate dimension in which the machines have taken over Earth. Group One makes a good model for a completely cybernetic society. The PC Supers could be thrown into CybEarth by a dimensional rift or some kind of scientific accident.
Since superheroes are a part of society among the Retropolitan robots, players could run mechanical superheroes defending their city against various robotic villains.
GURPS Atomic Horror
Space voyagers in a GURPS Atomic Horror campaign could discover a distant world inhabited entirely by robots, or some parallel universe as described above. A weird and hilarious Atomic Horror-style campaign might pit Retropolitan robots against human "invaders from space."
Fans of The Terminator might want to postulate a future in which humanity has been replaced by machine intelligences. Time travelers could visit this terrible future, and then try to prevent whatever causes it. The ruthlessly efficient robots of Group One or the anarchic barbarians of Group Ten would be good models for such a world.
A visit to CybEarth could be played as a horror story, with human PCs fighting for their lives against a planetful of metal killers. Or else robot player-characters could face a terrifying situation on the moors of Victoria, stalked by a mechanical madman.
These sample characters are intended as examples of the types of robots on CybEarth. Gamemasters and players are encouraged to develop their own designs.
The Inspector was built as a law-enforcement and rescue robot in the days before the plague, but he is now one of the best detectives of Victoria's Scotland Yard. His crude, mechanical exterior belies the fact that he has a very powerful brain and lots of experience. Inspector B-951, like most of the older robots, was designed to get his power from a wireless beamed system. He has since been retrofitted with a coal-burning steam engine, like most Victorian robots. Having a hot boiler next to his delicate computer brain sometimes makes the Inspector's memory unreliable, but he is otherwise an honest and tenacious police officer. Inspector B-951 is a 530-point character.
Brain: TL9 mainframe computer, with the Compact, Neural-Net and Genius options. Complexity 7 (125 lbs., 2.5 cubic feet, $2.8 million, 1 kilowatt, 70 points).
Sensors: Basic sensor package with the following options: Independently Focusable Eyes, Infrared Vision, Microscopic Vision, 360-Degree Vision, No Sense of Smell/Taste and Smoke Detector (4.2 lbs., $15,500, 50 points).
Communications: Basic communicator package with the Bullhorn and Disturbing Voice options (.55 lbs., $150, 5 points).
Arm Motors: One Cheap ST 12 arm, one Cheap Extendible ST 20 arm with Bad Grip (15.6 lbs, $4,800, 5 points).
Propulsion: Wheeled .5 KW drivetrain (3.75 lbs., $75).
Accessories: Fire extinguisher, Flashlight and Siren (3 lbs., $55).
Power Plant: Two-kilowatt coal-fired steam engine (50 lbs., $100).
Fuel: Coal bunker holding 50 lbs. of coal (50-hour supply).
Surface Features: Waterproof ($66).
Subassemblies: One head, two arms, four wheels.
Arm Design: Right arm housing ST 12 motor (.1 cf), extendible left arm with Bad Grip housing ST 20 motor (.33 cf).
Body Design: Body housing power plant, coal bunker, brain, wheel drivetrain and fire extinguisher, with empty space for head rotation (total volume 5.5 cf).
Wheel Design: Wheels and suspension system total 1.1 cf.
Head Design: Head contains sensors, communicators, flashlight and siren; 360-degree rotation (total volume .25 cf).
Surface Area: Total area of 33 square feet.
Structure: Tech level 8 structure, Heavy and Cheap (297 lbs., $3,300).
Hit Points: Body 57, right arm 9, left arm 18, head 8, wheels 10 each.
Statistics: 549.1 lbs., total volume 7.28 cf (1 hex, 6 feet tall), $2,824,046. Body ST 18, right arm ST 12, left arm ST 20 , DX 11 , IQ 12 , HT 12/57 , Move 10 . Cannot float [-5]. Legality rating 6. Model point cost: 520 points.
Advantages: Ally (Sir Charles A-237) , Awakened to full sentience , Doesn't Sleep , Legal Enforcement Powers , Reputation (crack detective, +2 among citizens, -2 among crooks) .
Disadvantages: Absent-mindedness [-15], Duty to Scotland Yard [-10], Gentleman's Code of Honor [-10], Honesty [-10], Inconvenient Size [-10], Intolerance of Group Ten robots [-5], Stubbornness [-5].
Quirks: Careless of appearance, Defers to aristocrats, Prefers to work at night, Rolls back and forth when thinking, Smokes heavily [-5]).
Skills: Area Knowledge (Victoria)-13 [1/2], Brawling-12 , Forensics/TL 4-12 , Interrogation-13 , Law-12 , Mechanic (Robotics)/TL8-12 [1/2], Streetwise-13 , Tracking-13 .
Monsieur Jacques D-41-M is a robot of Gascony, and serves in the Cardinal's Guard regiment. He is a dashing humanoid robot with glittering metal skin and a built-in sword for easy duelling. Like all the Gascon robots, Jacques is honorable to a fault. Jacques is a 280-point character.
Brain: TL 9 Microframe with the Biocomputer, Compact, Genius, Neural-Net and +2 Reflex Booster options (75 lbs., 1.5 cf, $1,680,000, 0.1 KW, complexity 7, 65 points).
Sensors: Basic TL 8 sensor package, no options (2 lbs., .04 cf, $10,000).
Communications: Basic TL 8 communications package, with Superior Voice and no Cable Jack (0.9 lbs, .036 cf, $2,950, 5 points).
Arm Motors: Two ST 15 arm motors; right arm is just a Striker (4.5 lbs, $7,200, -15 points).
Propulsion: Leg drivetrain, .3 KW power output (18 lbs., 0.36 cf, $3,600).
Weapons: Retractable rapier (1.5 lbs, .075 cf, $500, 10 points).
Accessories: Gyrobalance ($5,000, 15 points).
Power Plant: TL 7 gas turbine producing 0.6 KW (6 lbs., .12 cf, $120, consumes .05 gallons per hour of alcohol).
Fuel: TL 7 self-sealing fuel tank holding 1 gallon of alcohol (7 lbs., .15 cf, $10, -11 points).
Subassemblies: Head, two arms, body and two legs.
Arm Design: Left arm holds arm motor and .05 cf of empty space for a total volume of .11 cf. Right arm contains arm motor, retractable rapier and .005 cf of space for a total volume of .11 cf.
Body Design: The body contains the brain, the powerplant and the fuel tank, along with .03 cf of empty space for head rotation, for a total volume of 1.8 cf.
Head Design: The head contains the communications and sensors, along with .024 cf of empty space for a total volume of .1 cubic foot.
Leg Design: Each leg contains one leg motor and .36 cf of empty space for a volume of .54 cf each.
Surface Area: 21.5 square feet of surface.
Structure: TL 8 medium structure (86 lbs., $2,150).
Hit Points: Body 13, arms 4, head 2, legs 6.
Armor and Threat Protection: Reflective surface, waterproof ($204, 2 points).
Biomorphics: Sculpted surface, Handsome (2.15 lbs., $1,075, 15 points).
Statistics: Weight 203.05 lbs. (.1 ton), total volume 3.2 cubic feet (6' tall), $1,712,809. ST 16/15 , DX 13 , IQ 12 , HT 12/13 , Move 7 . Cannot float [-5]. Legality 3. Model point cost: 231
Advantages: Awakened to full sentience , Doesn't Sleep , Military Rank 3 , Status 2 .
Disadvantages: Chivalric Code of Honor [-15], Impulsiveness [-10], Laziness [-10], Struggling [-10].
Quirks: Courts wealthy ladies, Keeps skin polished, Quick to take offense, Snobbish, Witty [-5].
Skills: Acrobatics-14 , Brawling-14 , Dancing-13 , Fast-Draw-14 , Fencing-15 , Gambling-12 , Literature-12 , Mechanic (Robotics)/TL 8-13 , Poetry-13 , Savoir-Faire-13 , Seamanship/TL 4-14 , Stealth-13 .
Alpha Under-Supervisor is a Group One robot. As her name suggests, she is second in command in Alpha sector. Her superior often gives Under-Supervisor the troublesome assignments. Under-Supervisor enjoys the opportunity to make a name for herself, but is always careful to cover her tail in case of failure. She is equipped with folding helicopter rotors to enable her to fly all over her sector quickly. Her dependence on broadcast power makes Under-Supervisor reluctant to leave the area controlled by Group One.
Alpha Under-Supervisor is a 200-point character.
Brain: TL 9 Mainframe with the Biocomputer, Compact, Genius and Neural-Net options (Complexity 8, 187.5 lbs., 3.75 cf, $14,000,000, 1 KW, 65 points).
Sensors: Basic TL 7 sensor package, with Color Blindness, One Eye, No Sense of Smell/Taste and Search Radar (8 lbs., $24,000, -25 points).
Communications: Basic TL 7 communication package, with Disturbing Voice and Medium-Range Radio (4 lbs., $900, 6 points).
Arm Motors: One ST 10 arm motor with Extra-Flexible option (6 lbs., $12,000, -15 points)
Propulsion: TL 7 wheeled drivetrain, .2 KW power (2 lbs., $40). Tech Level 7 helicopter drivetrain, 100 KW power (600 lbs., $30,000).
Power Plant: Broadcast power receiver, 1.5 KW (1.5 lbs., $150, 10 points); Gas turbine generating 100 KW (240 lbs., $4,800, consumes 8 gallons per hour of gasoline).
Fuel: Gasoline tank holding 8 gallons (56 lbs., 1.2 cf, $80, -11 points).
Subassemblies: Body, one arm, four wheels and rotary wing.
Arm Design: Contains ST 10 arm motor; total volume .12 cf.
Body Design: Contains brain, sensors, communicators, wheel drivetrain, helicopter drivetrain, power plants and fuel; total volume 22.06 cf.
Rotary Wing Design: Rotary wing consists of .45 cubic feet of empty space.
Wheel Design: Wheels comprise 4.42 cubic feet total, or 1.1 each.
Surface Area: Total surface area is 72.5 square feet.
Structure: Extra-light expensive TL 7 structure (81.5 lbs., $36,250).
Hit Points: Body 19, Arm 1, Wheels 3 each, Rotary Wing 3.
Statistics: Weight 1,184.5 lbs (0.59 tons), total volume 27.05 cubic feet, 2 hexes long (Inconvenient Size, -10 points). Cost: $14,108,220. ST 0/10 [-40], DX 12 , IQ 13 , HT 8/19 , Move 4 ground/64 flying . Cannot float [-5]. Model cost: 141 points.
Advantages: Awakened to full sentience , Comfortable Wealth , Doesn't Sleep , Patron: Alpha Supervisor , Status 2 .
Disadvantages: Bully [-10], Cowardice [-10],
Jealousy [-10], Paranoia [-10].
Quirks: Collects gossip, Flies whenever possible, Hoards gasoline, Servile to superiors [-4].
Skills: Accounting-15 , Administration-16 , Area Knowledge (Alpha Sector)-15 , Broadsword-12 , Diplomacy-13 , Flight-14 , Mechanic (Robotics)/TL 7-14 , Navigation/TL7-13 , Politics-16 , Psychology (Robot)-15 , Scrounging-15 .
Smasher is a Group Ten robot, fending for herself in the wilderness. She is a huge, powerful machine, with many components scavenged from the bodies of past enemies. Her years in the wilderness have made Smasher shrewd and cautious, and she prefers to attack from ambush. Smasher's chief problem is a shortage of power. Her existing power supplies cannot serve all her systems, so Smasher must constantly budget her energy. Completely isolated from the rest of CybEarth's robots, she treats the whole world as her enemy. Smasher is a 763-point character.
Brain: Macroframe computer, TL 9, with the Compact and Neural-Net options (1,000 lbs., 20 cf, $4,000,000, 10 KW, Complexity 7, 70 points).
Sensors: Basic TL 9 sensors with the 360-Degree Vision, Low-Res hearing, No Sense of Smell/Taste and Radiation Detector options (1.7 lbs., $4,050, 10 points).
Communications: Basic TL 7 communicator package with the Bullhorn and No Cable Jack options (2 lbs., $1,000, 10 points).
Arm Motors: One TL 7 arm motor with ST 15 (4.5 lbs., $9,000); one retractable TL 9 striker with ST 3 (.675 lbs, $1,350); one extra-flexible TL 7 arm with ST 6 (3.6 lbs., $7,200); 10 points.
Propulsion: TL 7 leg drivetrain (3 legs), 2 KW (160 lbs., $16,000).
Contact Weaponry: Buzz saw on flexible arm ($100, 4 lbs.)
Ranged Weaponry: Medium laser torch on retractable arm (5 lbs., $250); Light machine gun on arm (25 lbs., $3,000); 100 points.
Accessories: Integral Mechanical tool set on flexible arm (10 lbs., $200); Flashlight (2 lbs., $20).
Power Plant: 10-kilowatt TL 8 solar cell (200 lbs., $2,000); TL 8 rechargeable B-cell (.05 lb., $30); 2-kilowatt TL 6 gasoline engine (30 lbs., $10, uses 0.2 gallons per hour).
Fuel: 6-gallon gasoline tank (42 lbs., .9 cf, $60, -11 points).
Subassemblies: Head, body, three arms, three legs, external pod.
Arm Design: Right arm holds the ST 15 motor and the light machine gun (.6 cubic feet); left arm is extra-flexible and holds the buzz saw, the ST 6 motor and the mechanical tool set (.36 cubic feet); the retractable arm holds the medium laser torch and the ST 3 motor (.78 cubic feet).
Body Design: The body contains the brain, the retractable arm, the solar cell and the energy bank (24.79 cubic feet).
Head Design: Holds the sensors, communicators and flashlight (0.12 cubic feet).
Leg Design: Each leg holds one leg motor (1.07 cubic feet each).
Pod Design: Contains the gasoline engine and fuel tank (1.5 cubic feet).
Surface Area: Right arm 5 square feet, left arm 4 square feet, body 60 square feet, head 1.5 square feet, legs 7 square feet each, pod 8 square feet; total 99.5 square feet.
Structure: Body, head and pod are TL 9 structure, legs and external arms are TL 7 (388.5 lbs., $9,950).
Hit Points: Body 90, head 2, right arm 15, left arm 12, retractable arm 15, legs 10 each, pod 12.
Armor and Threat Protection: Waterproof ($199).
Statistics: Design weight 1,879.025 lbs. (.94 tons); volume 30.58 cubic feet (Inconvenient Size, -10); 14' tall. Cost $4,054419. ST 84/15 ; DX 11 ; IQ 12 ; HT 12/90 ; Move 10 ; Cannot Float [-5]. Model cost: 829 points.
Advantages: Awakened to full sentience .
Disadvantages: Dead Broke [-25]; Enemies, nearly everyone [-30]); Greed [-15]; Paranoia [-10]; Reputation as murderous bandit [-20]; Unlucky [-10].
Quirks: Collects heads of opponents, Despises "weaklings," Fears the Victorians, Gloats, Hopes to build an offspring [-5].
Skills: Beam Weapons/TL 8-12 , Brawling-12 , Camouflage-14 , Guns (Machine Gun)/TL 7-13 , Intimidation-13 , Electronics/TL 7-14 , Mathematics-12 , Mechanic (Robotics)/TL 7-15 , Stealth-11 , Tactics-12 , Tracking-13 .
Article publication date: February 1, 1996
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