Booty And The Beasts, Part VI: Robots
(A quick note… some readers seem to be having word wrap troubles with this article… I’ve check on 3 different browsers and it looks fine on all of them to me, and there don’t seem to be embedded control characters or mismatched formatting codes or whatnot. If anyone is still seeing wrap issues, please let me know OS and browser you’re using, thanks.)
And now… the end is near… and so we face… the final cur (screeeee!)
Nah, we still got the “Booty” to go.
But this is the finale of the monsters. From egg people to mingo snails, from womb lice to galactic dragons, you have seen a glorious sampling of the many wonders offered by Erol Otus, Paule Reiche III, and the rest of the gang at Fantasy Art Enterprises. We finish up with a look at robots. Not “living constructs” or “steam golems” or anything like that, but robots — clanking, whirring, buzzing, robots. Also killing. Did I mention killing?
This kind of blend of out-and-out sci-fi with pure fantasy, without any feeble excuses like “elementally powered trains” or “spelljammers” or whatever, was one of the hallmarks of “first wave” gaming. (“Old School” has too many contradictory meanings, it seems.) It was part of the very earliest versions of D&D — the Temple of the Frog in Blackmoor probably opened the floodgates — and it showed up again at times, such as the astoundingly classic “Expedition To The Barrier Peaks”, but it faded pretty quickly, and it’s rare to see it nowadays in its rawest form, unencumbered by such trivialities as “logic” and “internal consistency”. (There was a vaguely defined but widely shared assumption among a lot of older gamers that Your D&D World was just this world, you know, in orbit around some sun, and there was a galactic empire out there, and every so often some high-tech doodad would land in D&D World, and that’s where all this came from. Gnomish tinkers and the like came much, much, later.)
Before we go on to the descriptions, remember the Three Laws Of D&D Robots:
- A robot must always kill a PC, and not permit, through inaction, a PC to live.
- A robot must misinterpret the orders of a PC so as to enforce the First Law.
- A robot must preserve its own life, unless doing so would keep it from fulfilling the First and Second laws.
(Seriously, my semi-regular DM back in High School was a big Larry Niven fan, and any time you found a semi-aware high tech item and tried to get it to do anything, he pulled from “The Soft Weapon” and had the thing decide that any show of ignorance on your part was proof you were unauthorized and it would then kill you. If that failed, any time the thing was damaged, it would go mad and try to kill you. You may have heard nightmare stories about “wish lawyers”, but such player-vs.-DM battles of wits and wording over wishes (today’s post is brought to you by the letter ‘w’) had nothing on our efforts to get a robot we found in one of his games actually work for us.)
Read on for Robots!
Sadly, in a lot of the kitchen soup settings and supplements (damn, I am in an alliterative mood today) of the 1970s, there were few Daleks, or even anima tributes. This was just before there was a great wave of foreign stuff streaming into the American geek conscious, so, no “Dalakoids”. Sigh. Hmmm… I see an Encounter Critical idea…
It’s a robot. With drills for hands. Which would be sort of boring if it just did 3-18 damage or something, but it has a +5 bonus to hit and if it hits, it drills through a random body part any destroys it. If I used this monster, I would so be using the Aftermath hit location charts. Totally.
It looks human on the outside, but with a crunchy robot center, and has a pulse laser and a vibroblade. Another “tribute” to a famous movie monster? Ah, but check the publication dates… “Terminator” was released in 1984. This was published in 1979, a full five years earlier. Given that Mr. Cameron is well known for “borrowing” from other sources, who knows if a copy of this supplement might have found its way onto his desk?
A floating sphere which non-aggressive unless attacked, or prevented from going wherever it wants to go. If it becomes aggressive (if? Why am I saying “if”? It’s moving. It might have loot. It’s certainly worth XP. ATTACK!), it can use static electricity to make your hair stand on end, embarrassing you and…no, wait. It uses static electricity to rip you limb from limb! (Save or die, sucker!) Gee, when Mr. Wizard rubs his hand on a balloon and then touches little Billy, we never got to see the explosion of bloody gore that was surely the result! TV sucks.
The Aquatron gets made fun of a lot by Superdroid, Wonder Robot, and Batbot, because all it can do is breathe underwater. It’s a patrol bot used by the Neptunians (of course, people from Neptune are aquatic, just like people from Mars are warlike and people from Venus are hot sexy blonds. Didn’t you study astronomy?) to guard their underwater cities. It is always accompanied by 1-6 sea creatures, including giant squid and electric eels, and it fires a probe into your brain which can control you utterly if you fail your save (no plusses!), and, even if you make your save, there’s still a10% chance it will fry out your nervous system. That’ll teach you to make jokes about its tacky orange paint job.
The Dredbot requires a full page of descriptive text. It’s basically an Ogre… not the big club wielding kind, the massively treaded, heavily armed, kind. I am not going to list each and every lovingly detailed instrument of death which the Dredbot carries. In essence,if you can’t get your annoying munchkin players into space for the galactic dragon to go nom-nom-nom on them, you just have a Dredbot appear around the corner. Look, this was a time when you could roll up 1d4 dragons on the wandering monster table, no matter where you were, so it’s not like anyone was going to be too put out by this. The ultimate weapon of the Dredbot, though, is the hellbore, which focuses a nuclear blast into a 1250 foot long cone. If you’re within 50 feet, you are completely disintegrated, unless you save, in which case you are “merely” turned into a charred and twisted corpse. Oddly enough, being with 51 to 250 feet is the best place to be, as you will lose 1d100% percent of your hit points, meaning, even if you’re a 12 hit point magic-user, you’ve got very good odds of living. By contrast, further out, you roll a fixed amount of damage, such as 6-48, which could be lethal to a lot of characters… well, except for the fact that if your DM has been reduced to pulling this out of his bag of tricks, you probably have more hit points than Cthulhu. (Which was 300, IIRC.)
Thus, we conclude the “beasts”. Next time…. Booty Call!