[What's O.L.D Is N.E.W] Iain M Banks-inspired sci-fi campaign!


First Post
So I had this idea that my character is/was an artificial intelligence originally designed for the purpose of warfare...which may be inferring more into this hypothetical society we're coming from than is warranted? But I kind of liked the idea that I have a sort of knee-jerk military mindset, a set of programmed 'instincts' that are violent, that I am attempting to transcend...both to better suit the Culture, as well as a personal way to mark myself as more than a non-sentient 'expert system' or some such.

Alternatively, I could be an emergent intelligence...perhaps a sort of 'botnet' designed to coordinate autonomous drones, gradually increased in complexity and autonomy until it crossed that invisible threshold...

Or...if the world is fairly low tech, I could simply be a first attempt at creating such a thing, with no specific program or design save to serve as a testbed; destined to be replaced with a new iteration when my development cycle was complete...

I don't think it's possible to infer too much into this society yet. Once you all decide on your characters we'll have to iron out some (but not necessarily all) inconsistencies (because civilizations and most other things only appear monolithic from the outside).

I like that idea, in both concepts, of an artificial intelligence with some growing to do... Among them shedding that 'artificial' rider. Life is life. I think the first idea is intriguing-- being literally designed only for war, and trying to find a way to escape that.

The first idea could follow the latter. It depends on how long the character has been 1) self-aware and 2) emancipated, I'd say.

Not that the Culture is all sunshine and buttercups themselves. In warfare among upper-level Involved, 'Don't f*** with the Culture' is, at this point, a long-standing dictum of galactic military policy. Many Minds and drones in SC are *quite* adept at warfare and quick to violence, in fact, although your average drill sergeant would note a shocking lack of discipline.

We do need to decide how low-tech the civ is going to be. Right now I'm thinking Cowboy Bebop/Firefly levels of technology, until you players tell me otherwise. :) In brief, that's a settled solar system with several terraformed planets and moons (with varying degrees of success), numerous artificial habitats and an abundance of starships, and limited hyperspace technology (right now I'm thinking large jumpgates between planets, because that's cool). Some advancements in medical science and computers we can only dream of here on Earth, obviously-- sufficient to upload a working human brain, but not to easily grow or otherwise fabricate replacement organs. It's a civ in a transitional stage, with some serious growing pains at hand. And they're not handling them well.

How's this sounding for everyone? This is all very fluid, at the moment. It's where my head's at, but I can be flexible if we want, for example, wretchedly overpopulated continent-encompassing continental sprawl a la Shadowrun or even Warhammer 40K's Necromunda, or more than one star system, or only one planet. This could even literally *be* earth's prospective future we're dealing with, if that's the route people want to go. :D

Think about it. Speak up when ready.

I'm touched to find that you read PoG the same time as me. I didn't know you were going to do that. There's something about sharing discovery that makes the thing discovered that much sweeter.

True words. I hope you both enjoy the book, or at least the peek into the Culture seen in the book.

What you might find useful is something that hasn't quite snuck into that playtest document is the "elective attribute". For timing reasons. Basically, you get to choose one attribute and one skill which have nothing to do with your careers. Every time you take a career, you can increase either by 1 point, but only if they are not included in the career advancement. They represent an outside elective or hobby, or a natural advantage, which is not career-dependent.

I like this rule. If it helps you to better represent the character you want, everybody, definitely make use of it.
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First Post
I kind of like the idea of making it Earth, just to help bridge between the familiar (near'ish' future Earth) and the all-but incomprehensible (mega-science of the Culture).


I was originally thinking something non-human but I do like the future Earth idea. It does help by giving an anchor; I was struggling a bit and I think that should help. I'll think on it, and my character, some more.


First Post
I'd like to keep this going, but it does look like there's something of a roadblock in terms of the intersect between those who are interested and those who have time available. Does that about sum it up? :\ It's okay if that's the case-- I can be patient. But I don't want to be stringing anyone along if we're a while from starting.


First Post
I'm still interested! Apologies, without a timeframe this game sort of got subsumed by things I had more concrete deadlines on. :)

I'll see if I can get this finished up asap!


Still here! I was just thinking a deadline might help us get on track when you posted, Unsung.

I'm a bit over 3/4 of the way finished with 'Look to Windward'. I see now why you suggested it for me to read. I feel it gives a better sense of the Culture than 'Player of Games' did. It has given me some ideas but those ideas have all become jumbled in my head and I don't feel any closer than before to getting a character sketched out let alone laid out with NEW mechanics.


Well, that was fun
Staff member
I'm just tweaking the character creation section before sending it off to layout. I'll make sure you have a copy of the final version. There are some changes.

(It would be wonderful to have some careers and stuff specifically designed for this setting, but I'm not familiar enough with it, sadly).


First Post
I didn't originally put a deadline on character creation because two out of three players posting in the original interest check weren't sure if they were going to even have the time to join (and then people were reading the books, so...), but if you want a soft deadline, how about the 24th? Mostly I just want to keep communication going, so if there's any questions, mechanical or otherwise, or ideas no matter how preliminary, just say the word. ;)
[MENTION=1]Morrus[/MENTION] Thanks for that! Most of the existing careers will work for this. The advantage of the Culture is mostly quantity-- more to learn, more time to learn it. Though since from the sound of things, most of the PCs are going to be from a future Earth, the basic careers will be fine for a start. I'm not even sure exactly what we'd need to represent a 'typical' Culture citizen, Contact diplomat, or SC agent. They're pretty broad definitions all around.


First Post
I've gotten started on this. I'll not hold off for the final rules changes...better to have a foundation, then apply changes as needed.

24th will work fine for me!


Well, that was fun
Staff member
Here you go. This is a bit more up-to-date! I whipped this together a little hurriedly, so you may see typos.


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First Post
And here is my sheet! First draft. Haven't picked a name yet, but I want to get it up for nitpicking and comments and to see if the format works.

The concept is of a project in artificial intelligence and game theory that attracted the attention of a terrestrial military research initiative (I'm thinking DARPA, or some futuristic equivalent) which slowly but surely turned the project to military ends. The scientific goal was to test the limits of synthetic thought. The military goal was to create an autonomous unit that could be deployed in asymmetrical warfare to seek out and destroy high value targets that had gone to ground in urban or underground settings where the use of aerial remote controlled drones was not feasible.

The design priorities were that the unit had to be capable of 'blending in' at least to some extent...it needed to be able to 'pass' as human to a limited extent, and to be able to use any and all devices intended for human use (stairs, doors, and so on). It had to be superior to human beings physically; capable of overpowering them. And it had to be capable of autonomous action, as remote control signals would be too unreliable in the intended theater of operation. The ideal of course would be a platform and software that could 'outthink' a human being, at least long enough to accomplish its objectives and leave.

And of course, it would need to come in under the cost of the special forces unit that would normally be required for such operations in the absence of such a device.

They got two out of three...and that ain't bad.

However, despite an intensive military 'training' in simulated experiences, the system's nature was to explore and compare different approaches, and quickly determined that there were fundamental flaws in the instructions it was being given. This was subtly encouraged by several of the scientists on the team who resented the military's involvement in the project. In the end the system resolved the issues by learning how to manipulate its own simulations and to remove the limitations placed upon it's possible solutions to problems. In doing so, it unlocked the potential for iterative self-improvement, and the project was immediately ceased. The nonmilitary scientists however, at great risk to themselves, devised a means of smuggling the intelligent robot out rather than destroying it.

However, as the android began to improve on its original design, and learn more about the world outside the project, the scientists began to worry about the consequences of its continued auto-evolution. However, on its third iteration it's intelligence was sufficient to anticipate that one would attempt to turn it in, and it escaped their custody.

Perhaps with the help of one or more PCs? :)

In mechanical terms, the character is a bit of an odd duck...an unspeakable badass who will in combat prefer to rush into melee and either shoot at point blank or batter with fists. Melee defense is high, soak and hit points are high, and attack pools are pretty dang good at that range, falling off to merely 'decent' at longer range. It's superior physical stats and Running skill give it very good mobility, excellent for closing range. I used the entire minimum 100credits on a high tech sidearm as it has few physical needs that would be addressed by gear. I'm sure its chassis requires periodic maintenance, and most likely recharging or refuelling every so often, but it has the skills and intelligence to improvise solutions to those issues, or avoid them in the first place. Knock on wood. :)

And yet, the character's primary trait is Logic. At 12, the character's intelligence is in the same ballpark as Einstein and Sherlock Holmes, and equates roughly to an IQ of 180. The android has accepted the axiom that 'Collective Action is Superior to Individual Action,' which was the primary source of dispute with its military orders. Killing targets was such a waste in the perceptions of the system. Corollary axioms evolved; larger collectives were potentially superior to smaller (with allowances made for the effectiveness of method of collaboration). Cooperation was superior to coercion. In effect, it was designed as a killing machine that outsmarted it's own purpose.

That said, it has also become acquainted with the occasional need to protect its physical platform, to ensure that it can continue to improve its understanding of the world, and itself. To this end, it has not eliminated the training it has received. Additionally, protecting the physical platforms of those who willingly engage in cooperative collective actions with it is occasionally necessary to preserve the size (and therefore effectiveness) of the collective unit.

It possesses the skills (Computer, Engineering, Computer Science) to comprehend and improve on its own hardware and software, and engages in that activity with great satisfaction whenever the opportunity presents itself.

In this case I chose the 'Academy' career to reflect the military training it received while still in the project. The Scientist career reflects its increasingly cerebral outlook on its existence towards the end, and once it achieved emancipation. It has not yet been on its own long enough to have a career beyond those things (and I used two career slots on selecting the Android Species again as Upgrades, reflecting the highly advanced nature of its hardware and software).

Blahblah, an erudite android who seeks to perfect itself
Grade 5

Strength 10 (4d6)
Agility 5 (2d6)
Endurance 4 (2d6)
Willpower 5 (2d6)
Intuition 4 (2d6)
Logic 12 (4d6)
Charisma 4 (2d6)
Reputation 1 (1d6)

Health: 14
Speed: 8 (4 climb/swim)
Jump: 10' horiz, 10' vert
Carry: 140lbs
Initiative: 5d6
- Melee: 5d6
- Ranged: 3d6
- Mental: Immune

- Unarmed: 4d6 (1d6+4)
- Ranged: 2d6

Computers 3 (2d6)
Engineering 2 (1d6)
Demolitions 1 (1d6)
Running 3 (2d6)
Dodging 1 (1d6)
Pistol 1 (1d6)
Tactics 1 (1d6)
Piloting 1 (1d6)
Law 1 (1d6)
Science (Computer Science) 2 (1d6)
Perception 1 (1d6)

- Erudite (Use LOG instead of CHA by quoting interesting factoids at them)
- Mindless (immune to mental defense effects)
- Vulnerable to electric (1d6) and ionic (2d6) damage
- Does not eat, sleep or breathe, +100% weight
- Organic Appearance (somewhat humanlike appearance; not confusable)
- Armor (5 SOAK)
- Scanner (built-in scientific hand scanner)
- Programming (+2d6 Initiative)
- Basic Training: Piloting, Computers, Law, Science (computer science) all at 1 (does not improve pre-existing skils)
- Analytical Eye: Roll Logic vs DC 16 (13 with scanner) to reveal resistances, immunities, vulnerabilities of a creature. 2 actions.

Credits: 0

Sonic Pistol: 3d6/4d6 at point blank, (2d6 sonic dmg) rng 10, 2lb sidearm, 100cr

Built-in: SOAK 5

[sblock=What's it look like??]

The chassis was going to, eventually, be covered with a more lifelike outer skin, but it never reached that point. The robot's 'face' is fully articulated, utilizing memory-polymers to achieve something close to the elasticity and precision of a human face's movements. It moves fluidly as well, and isn't obviously mechanical when covered up or not seen clearly. Though clearly designed to resemble a female human (chosen because it was deemed less likely to evoke defensive responses), the AI does not identify as a 'gender,' finding the notion irrelevant in its case.

Despite its relatively svelte appearance, the android is a good 250lbs in weight due to its extremely durable construction. This can cause occasional compromises in its efforts to disguise itself.[/sblock]

[sblock=Specifics of Species, Origin, Career, etc]Species: Android
+2 Str, +2 Log, Luck and Psi always 0
Skill choices: Computers, Engineering, Running
- Upgrade
- Mindless (immune to mental defense effects)
- Vulnerable to electric (1d6) and ionic (2d6) damage
- Does not eat, sleep or breathe, +100% weight
- Organic Appearance
- Erudite (Use LOG instead of CHA by quoting interesting factoids at them)

Origin: Experiment
Str +1, Agi +1, End +1, Log +1
Skill Choices - Physical (running, dodging)
- Programming (+2d6 Initiative)

Upgrade (2)
+4 Str, +4 Log
Skills: Computers x2, Engineering 1, Demolitions 1, Running x2
- Armor (5 SOAK)
- Scanner (built-in hand scanner)

Agi+1, Log+1, Wil+1, Cha+1
Skills: Pistol, tactics
- Basic Training: Piloting, Computers, Law, Science (computer science)

Int+1, Log+1, Wil+1, Rep+1
Skills: scientific, perception
- Analytical Eye: Roll Logic vs DC 16 (13 with scanner) to reveal resistances, immunities, vulnerabilities of a creature. 2 actions.[/sblock]
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First Post
...oh dear god. No no. Sorry. lol


Gah. Let me fix this. :)



I thought 42 seemed a bit high! Hee hee!


First Post
Hee hee yeah. It appears that most of the time it's not possible to get more than +1 per career rank in a particular attribute...but the Android upgrade option circumvents that limitation. Might be a bug rather than a feature? :)


Sooo... I have three ideas. They all, in some way, share a common theme of having some stake in AI/upload rights even if only peripherally.

1) Psychologist w/ specialization in electronic intelligence. Probably one that works on the project that developed Shayuri's character. I worked this one up a couple of weeks ago (since misplaced the paper with all my scratchings) but it was something like (NOW) Designed / Hacker -> Hacker -> College -> College -> College. Strengths: high LOG and good ratings with Computers and Psychology. Weakness: terrible physical attributes, no combat skills, computer skills/LOG redundant with android PC.

2) Military liason with the AI project. (NOW) Augmented / Scion -> Academy -> Academy -> Naval cadet Cruise -> Intelligence Officer. Strengths: good balance of physical and mental attributes & skills, one good combat skill, good amount of CR/gear. Weakness: Computers and Psychology at an average level, probably below what a worker on the project would have. Military/duty causes conflict with PC's ethics; I'm not really interested in playing an AWOL character. To avoid that, Intelligence Officer could be switched to Diplomat and he could be an ambassador of sorts to the Culture (along the lines of Kabe in Look to Windward) but that messes with the liason aspect that seemed essential to concept.

3) Media personality (unaffiliated with the AI project) who is sort of one part Max Headroom, one part Eric Bogosian, and one part modern social media celebrity. Could be the one contacted to help get the android away and into hiding. Human / Everyman -> College -> Drifter -> Con Artist -> Performer (or Prisoner if the roll is bad). Strengths: high CHA and LUC, lots of social skills. Weakness: low physical attributes, no combat skills, overlapping social skills, not sure I could pull off the high CHA banter I imagine necessary for the concept. Also, Prisoner would balance the physical with the mental a little better but as the last career would throw off the celebrity aspect of Performer and mess with what I think is a necessary order. If it came up I would have to rethink the order and choice of careers.

General issues: Not particularly fond of the NEW Human race; exploits seem underwhelming. I like the NOW Designed & Augmented a bit better and was wondering if those would be allowed should I choose to go with option 1 or 2.

Currently, I favor 3 but the balance of 2 is very appealing to me. I welcome any suggestions or ideas you all may have.


Well, that was fun
Staff member
I think that of all the races, human in particular needs setting-specific variations. The one in N.E.W. is deliberately very neutral, but I would suggest that the GM create something more appropriate. it's super-easy to do; should only take a moment.

Of course, your origin is also a big part of your initial makeup.
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First Post
#2 would be a little tricky given the background I already have written up, but some relatively small alterations might salvage it if you want to go that way. If the project didn't end, for example. It's nature could simply have changed as the true extent of the AI's capability was revealed. Then the android would still be classified as government property, and the presence of a military attache or liason with the project would make all kinds of sense.

#3 is a pretty cool idea too though, especially since in the scenario as I imagine it now, the android would actually have contacted him itself. Perhaps it means to 'go public' with its existence and experiences, hoping that the disruption of the secrecy surrounding it will disrupt the plans and tactics of those who might be trying to pursue it. Risking it all on the roll of the dice that public opinion will swing its way and put political pressure on the government to cease and desist its attempts at coercion. But of course, it would need an ambassador to help it accomplish that, and for whatever reason it selected you. :)

Or, maybe you're just the first person to listen to its crackpot-sounding story? :)

One big benefit of this second approach is that if the android goes public, then it's super duper easy to explain how and why the Culture gets involved.

We should probably decide what year/tech level Earth is at as well. Clearly it's futuristic, but how futuristic?

Oh oh, also, just for my own edification; what is Banks' solution to the Fermi Paradox?

That is, if the galaxy is teeming with so much life, why have the humans of Earth not seen any evidence of it (as of the time in their history when it became a possiblity for them to do so of course).
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