Saturday, January 8, 2011

Robot Detectives

Here’s an idea I had the other day: a one on one game where the player is a robot detective in a gritty true crime but futuristic setting. The advantage of playing the part of a robot is that if in the course of investigations the solo player dies, their memories can be downloaded from “the cloud” into any needed replacement. I think I’d run it using BRP, maybe drawing heavily from Call of Cthulu or else use Gumshoe. Yeah, I’ll probably never get around to this, but when your regular game’s been on hold for awhile the mind begins to wander.

15 comments:

Adrian said...

Instantly made me think of "The Detective's Story" from Simmons' Hyperion. I suppose also Asimov's Caves of Steel and other related robot/mystery stories.

If drawing from CoC, how would sanity work given the robotness? Every time you die there are "copy errors" or existential growth or some other techno-/psycho-bable reason? Or possibly there's a "Rules of Robotics"-type scenario and bending those require upping insanity, which would actually fit very well with Asimov's published fiction.

Trey said...

Had the same associations as Adrian. I think it has the makings of a pretty cool game.

squidman said...

Awesome idea! BRP would fit nicely with Adrian's proposition concerning the Rules of Robotics.

ze bulette said...

Thanks for the comments guys -

@Adrian: I was definitely thinking of Asimov, but with regard to CoC, I was mostly just thinking of its investigator feel and some of the resources out there, probably slightly altering the Cthulu aspect to be more of an alien-conspiracy thing. I hadn't even considered SAN in the game, but I think your idea is brilliant. Maybe implementing it along the lines of corrupted software... "does not compute... programming breaking.." Even the servers might get corrupted, and maybe that's the alien master plan. :)

LoneIslander said...

Ah the cloud, the best form of resurrection.

Paul said...

Yes, and the character needn't be a robot as such. Consciousness transfer/backup is classic scifi territory, and opens the door for Philip K. Dick style reality bending.

ze bulette said...

@LoneIslander: To quote Peter Gabriel:
"The jaded underworld was riding high
Waves of steel hurled metal at the sky
and as the nail sunk in the cloud, the rain
was warm and soaked the crowd."

@Paul: Very true. I'd been thinking of Blade Runner and replicants too.

Timeshadows said...

The better version of Cyborg Commandos.
--I like it, and hope you will write it. :)

Doo said...

Cool idea =] One of the reasons I love d&d :)

Big Bad said...

Reminds me of "the Automatic Detective" by A Lee Martinez.

Telecanter said...

I think this is an excellent idea; I would feel much better as a solo player knowing destruction was not death. Maybe have a brand new player starting the game just being revived so that sense of security sinks in.

Makes think of Planescape Torment and how death was part of the game.


Makes me also think of how to translate this into my fantasy game: golem characters? constructs? Thanks.

C'nor (Outermost_Toe) said...

Do it.

TheGrumpyCelt said...

Having a warforged investigator in Eberron is something like this, though the mind is not downloadable.

Adrian said...

I'm glad you liked the idea, Ze. Less a brilliant insight and more me trying to guess what your plans were.

I've been thinking about it heavily since yesterday. I can really think of two ways to implement it, which I touched on.

The first is the whole "software degradation" thing: every time the character dies, (s)he loses a set amount of SAN. It could be treated otherwise as CoC treats SAN, and the drop in SAN could be accompanied by a "dream/vision" sequence that represents the experience of the character existing solely within digital space. Definitely more of a PK Dick feel to this set-up. However, when accompanied by the loss of time and physical presence (death = losing the pursuit, any physical objects, etc.) that also comes with player death, it might make death a little bit too much to be avoided. Depends on how bad you want death to be in-game.

The other option I find most interesting takes a bit from the new skool of RPGs, but not too heavily. Pretty much, SAN represents how "robotic" the character is, how unemotional and how well it follows the 3 rules of robotics. If the character tries to do anything that would bend any of the three rules, they have to roll d100 *above* SAN. If they fail, they lose something like d2 or d4 SAN points and they can't take that action. If they succeed, they lose SAN based on the rule being broken and the severity of the break, d6 to d20 or however you want to deal with it. They also in that case get to bend/break the rule. The first time a break is attempted, there could be a large one-time sanity loss. To counterbalance this growing power, as the robot becomes more "insane", the GM can more easily compel the character to act based on emotion. If the GM compels the character, the player rolls d100 *under* SAN to resist the compel. So as the character gains power over the laws of robotics, they lose power over their emotions. Other things could also cause SAN loss, such as interaction with insane robots. Most of this has precedence in Asimov's fiction, and would seem to work quite well in an Asimovian setting. And the player always has the choice to ignore the mechanic so it isn't necessarily forcing a single style of gameplay with a single theme always defining the narrative.

Anyway, wanted to at least get those ideas down on "paper". Hopefully they continue to inspire.

ze bulette said...

They definitely have me thinking more about how I'd want to handle this mechanically (see my newer post). I know I'd want to keep it simple, not just for myself but as a game concept for someone new to role playing games.

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