Thursday, February 27, 2014

Android's Dungeon


I've been reading Neptune's Brood by Charles Stross, which takes place in a posthuman future where the civilization of humankind's android/bioroid creations have spread out into the stars. These beings can look pretty much human and act pretty much human--including eating and excreting biological material. The difference is that they are made of mechanocytes instead of biological cells that must "learn" to form organs and "tissue" types and their brains have soulchip backups they can be placed into a new body if their old ones are destroyed. Interestingly, priests (like those of the Church of the Fragile, who seek to disseminate old style "fragile" humanity in the galaxy) have "powers." Special structures and training that allow them to control the mechanocytes of others to heal or alter forms.

All of this sounded like a good way to in-setting rationalize traditional dungeoneering rpg tropes, if you're into that sort of thing. Imagine a future where humankind is extinct and its android descendants live in a pseudo-medieval society--except for things like soulchips (or something of that nature) and clerical healing. The androids (who would just think of themselves as "people," of course) would go down into the underground ruins of old humanity (who they probably wouldn't realize were any different than themselves) to wrest treasures from less socialized posthuman intelligences, i.e. monsters.

What would be the point? Well, it would be an interesting mystery to add in the background of a science fantasy sort of campaign (like a variant Anomalous Subsurface Environment, maybe). Also, the increased durability and easy resurrection of posthumans would explain some things about how D&D works as written, but could also be used to ramp up the carnage to Paranoia-type levels. Death wouldn't necessarily mean starting with a new character most of the time, it would just mean starting with the same character, poorer than before or owing a debt to somebody.


8 comments:

Tim Shorts said...

Your description reminds me of how it works in Borderlands (the video game). Your guy dies, he regenerates at the nearest respawn station, I think 10% of his income is deducted and off he goes again. Although in the video game version you get to keep your equipment. This version I doubt they would be able to keep much of if any of their old equipment. Sometimes the threat of losing the player's stuff is more important to them than death of a character. I could see this as a fun romp of a game. Or figure out some sort of effects to the character to take on a more serious tone. Like each time they regenerate they begin losing memories, skill depreciation and so on.

Trey said...

Yeah, that's sort of the thing: loss of stuff. You could also have a save or lose ability score points, degrading with each regeneration.

akfu23 said...

Interesting, sounds like Stross really dials up the posthuman/tech in the sequel, which is a good thing.

Good idea for a game, especially with the mystery / discovered by the players as they go angle. A neat rift of the classic "starts as fantasy but is really Gamma World" etc premise.

As for the, re-spawn but lose you stuff: It reminds me of the very first Everquest MMORPG, where if you died you'd often mount an expedition just to go back into wherever to get your good gear back before it "decayed".

P.S. the first time you mention soulchip it's typed "soulship", I knew what you meant from Saturn's Children but others might think it's like Battlestar Galactica or something

Sean said...

Hmm. Given that premise, there's no reason you'll have to be resurrected into the same body (except possibly cost). You could get a stronger one, or maybe even a monstrous body. It could also explain the druidic spell 'reincarnation' as a used car dealership version of resurrection. "Sorry pal, I don't got no human bodies right now. But I could get you into this sporty little badger at a good price!"

Trey said...

@akfu23 - Fixed, thanks. Yeah, that's exactly what I was thinking "standard D&D that isn't." Stross also gives a cool rationalization for undead that would work too, but I wanted to focus on the base element.

@Sean - Exactly!

Francis Lee said...

I do like the sounds of the soulchip, I'd like another crack at a few things!

Konsumterra said...

Eclipse Phase, GURPS Transhuman, did stuff like yhis and will have to read stross as l rate him highly. Was thinking for my ringworld BRP setting where characters uplifted by things left billions of years ago in near future and now immortal characters grow to see humanity become increasingly gonzo and earth forgotten and lost

Chris C. said...

I really like this idea.