Robot/drone scenario. SMARTbots

As a preface: I tend to describe things in a long winded and oblique way, so if I don’t make any sense or you think you can think of a better way to do a suggestion, then you’re probably onto something.

This is mostly an idea for a scenario start where the character is constrained by different mechanics than usual. Specifically, robotic ones. Was based off of some joke about drinking batteries if they were set to be a liquid. That, and it’s 20xx with crazy 4th dimension guff and post mad-science mutants and cyborgs running around, so why not? We’ve already done some pretty impressive things with robots as it is by 2014, and hardware-emulation of synapses via Neurosynaptic chips is actually a current feasible thing. (See IBM’s recent efforts in their TrueNorth project)

Mechanically, they’re just a player with weird constraints and equipment/mutation/cbm requirements, different food source, possibly an increasing power use with increasing self-improvement mechanic, and an alternate take on morale thats tied in with the existing mission system. Would also be neat if some types of robots were less aggressive to them somehow (But not entirely non-aggressive, just less likely to burst on sight)

The fluff:
Maybe a branch of darpa or some private corporation, perhaps even combined efforts of multiple sources, was involved in attempting to develop robots and drones that were highly adaptable and could operate with minimal human operator intervention. Existing robotic efforts were already in use that addressed this to some point; Tank drones, eyebots, riotbots, and manhacks were all definitely efficient at intelligently navigating unknown terrain and tracking specific targets, but couldn’t just be given objectives on the fly and be expected to adapt to them. Robots had to be specialized when they were designed, and couldn’t easily be changed on the fly for new but similar tasks or purposes. None of them could become more valuable assets by exceeding their fixed programming, and efforts in the opposite direction (Ie cyborgization efforts to make humans more robotic) were met with all sorts of rejection issues (and moral dilemmas).

Enter the culmination of these efforts (or at least what prototypes managed to get made before the cataclysm), SMART (or Synaptic ModulAr RoboT). Based on alternate processing architectures designed around self-modification and adaptation, these robots blur the line between plain AI and true AI. While not quite sapient strong ai, and not specifically designed to emulate the human psyche, these bots are still pretty good at what they were designed for.

While designed for helping humans, they have an innate survival self-preservation sense as well. The one of the hardest parts of developing the SMART platform was getting them to parse and balance the two against eachother without becoming frozen with indecision.

These bots are also Turing-capable and able to talk and understand conversation to a degree. While they’re not very relatable, and they still miss out on a lot of context, they can understand/convey the concepts necessary for their operation and tell if someone’s lying or telling the truth (sometimes).

They are also unlike normal bots in that they are capable of telling the difference between a normal human and a zombie, by behaviour and specific goal blocking. Defending themselves or other surviving humans against this new threat, lethally or not, is entirely within their realm.

Due to their short existence as a project before the cataclysm, the modularity requirements and nonstandard architecture, and being mired in their ethical concerns; SMARTs were not produced in volumes, and few designs ever got past prototype certification. After the cataclysm struck, the remainder are basically flawed prototypes that were either still being tested in lab environments, or rushed out to help with FEMA and Military efforts.

This would of course, require code changes (unless someone gets creative with LUA), and either trait whitelisting or blacklisting, and maybe a way to define alternate names/descriptions for traits per scenario, so you could re-use existing traits. (IE: Gourmand could be Efficient Capacitors, Self-aware could be chassis sensors, Heavy sleeper could be extended downtime. Etc.) Some mutations would also be re-usable, IE: shaggy fur would be a pretty heavy insulation system, shell could be ballistic armor plating, sunlight dependant could be photovoltaic coating reliance, etc.

It would also require a somewhat alternate way to handle CBMs, and ability to black or whitelist CBMs for use in a similar fashion to traits.

It would be pretty neat if an altered vehicle interface were hacked in that the player could access in this scenario, and represented the player themselves. It would allow the player to stop and look at their part damage and things installed, and install/uninstall them or enact repairs. Probably not install/build new frame parts in it though. (while building and rebuilding themselves in various configurations would be mind bogglingly awesome, that’s not the purpose of this suggestion and this all sounds extra super overcomplicated.)

The scenario would give you a limited selection of professions and places to start in, and would probably cost a few points. All of the professions would have these benefits and boons in common:

  1. The SMART architecture still has needs.

Exist on power. Running out of power is tantamount to death, because no human is going to come by and charge them. The SMART design was never certified for using plutonium technology, so unless they find a way to mod themselves, they’re going to be living off of batteries and UPS that they come across.

Hunger and Thirst penalties still exist, but are calculated based on ratio of power left. I’m guessing the penalties would start under half or quarter power left.

The ability to later on craft an object that’d let it abuse a recharging station on a vehicle as long as it was close by would be nifty.

Draining power from UPS without eating the UPS itself probably would be a good thing too.


It needs to ‘sleep’. A side effect of emulating synaptic efforts is that they need a shutdown period to be repaired by a tiny built-in nanobot factory (too small to enact full shell repairs). Thus, SMARTs can get ‘tired’, and must alleviate this by going into a low poweruse hibernate mode.


Fortunately pain isn’t an issue. Unfortunately, significant chassis damage does still slow it down. While a significant advancement in AI technology, still they’re not quite as adept as humans at adapting to damage and must work around dings and dents and bent armor.

Net effect: Pain and its malus still exists, some innate pain resistance though. Pain can be reduced by using power in certain mods or fixing damage, unlike normal where it has to subside naturally or be treated by drugs.


Morale and focus are still a thing, though not in the same way as humans. The SMART architecture was made to be adaptable, and able to receive and enact new orders and directives on the fly. A SMART bot is innately programmed to want to finish their goals, and to accept new ones of appropriate type and from appropriate sources, or create its own. In that respect, not accomplishing such can be regarded as a lack or a failure of functionality.

Learning and adaptation are part of their modus operandi, and would probably be seen as a good thing if it furthers their goals.

In addition, (Barring specific adaptations/glitches), SMARTs were made to help humans, to some degree. A SMART assigned to the police force would obviously be respecting police and their directives over violator’s, and would consider causing the death of their perps to be a negative result. A military SMARTbot probably wouldn’t decide a child was a pretty good thing to shoot at, even if it was toting an ak47 or alternatively gnawing people’s faces off. They’d still recognize the need to reduce said theoretical child’s caused damage and help in their subdual or stoppage, in the event that stopping them outweighed their need for human preservation.

End result: Focus is unchanged, and it doesn’t gain or lose morale from some things like drugs or reading non-skill or recipe books, but shooting survivor npcs or child zombies still have morale penalties (barring adaptations like a psychopath-analogue). Being wet from rain is probably not much of an issue (though being submerged without appropriate equipment probably is) Reading skill or recipe books have much more of a morale boost, and some books that previously had negative morale penalties are now negated or even slightly positive. Not sure if listening to music would do much.

In addition, accomplishing missions (especially for npc survivors) incurs longish lasting positive morale boosts.
Having some sort of automatic small mission generation system would be neat too. Especially if they’re playing with static npcs off. They would occasionally receive missions to try to accomplish, or generate their own. Not sure how it’d be done or made though. Maybe something faction or story related?


Finally, temperature is still an issue. While able to operate effectively in a wide range of temperatures, adaptations or mods are still required for extreme cold or heat, and even high heat or cold has a slowing effect on the bot. (Precision parts require not freezing, as well as appropriate cooling).

Effect: Resistance to temperature effects, but not outright immunity. Get an insulation adaption or a temperature resistance CBM.

  1. Unable to wear equipment normally.

They would need to spend time crafting and adapting the equipment to be a modular part, and this might not work on everything. Kind of like mutations and XL equipment. It would take time to attach and detach the equipment as well. Basically, to emulate the robot building and adapting its shell to specialize in new future situations. Scout and analyze their goal, and prepare ahead of time; they may be top of the line tech and a machine capable of many feats, but natural Human adaptability and flexibility is still king.

Probably would be easiest to have the crafting step add a modular tag to the item or something, rather than creating a whole slew of new items.
Being encumbered/wearing more modules would also have the side effect of draining more power.

(If some sort of quasi-vehicle interface were hacked in, you could alternatively just have new vehicle part recipes within that interface, and have normal everyday items as requirement materials for mounting.)

  1. No drug or food use (unless its being run through a power furnace mod or something, then it just gets converted to power), and some operational restraints still apply. Diseases and parasites are not an issue, because robot.

The SMART architecture is a new experimental processor type, and is still muchly understudied. While the robotic chassis itself is resistant to chemical effects and ionizing radiation, the processor itself is susceptible to high levels of both. In addition, the 4th dimensional effects of post cataclysm environs are poorly understood.

Read: Light innate resistance to radiation and acid (but high doses can still be highly damaging), inability to inject yourself with chems or ingest medical drugs, and still the possibility of certain ‘mutations’ via radiation (represented as positive or negative adaptations. Stuff that exists on the mental level. Wouldn’t make much sense for the robot to suddenly grow a pair of dog ears, but you could represent it as an acoustic optimization instead.) Ironically, alcohol and the ethanol burner CBM would work amazingly well for this platform, due to their lack of a metabolism to get drunk.

  1. A big selling point of the SMART platform is their compatibility with CBMS on the market. Due to their neurosynaptic processors, they could interface somewhat with a majority of them (But not all).

CBMS are handled a little differently, in a similar way to traits and mutations, but are not all that big of a change from how they are now.
Basically: They would require electronic stuff rather than first aid kits, and certain mods that didn’t make sense would be either re-fluffed or blacklisted. (Ie, blood filter/analysis wouldn’t make much sense, but could serve some alternate purpose.)

(Could potentially integrate cbms with the hacky player vehicle interface thing too if you were doing that)

A built in toolkit for enacting at least some of the basic necessities they’ll need would be a good addition. Basically an integrated toolset-lite, so they can do some repairing and modularizing. I guess you could require an actual integrated toolset or an array of collected tools if you want to add challenge.

Some scenario profession ideas: (I’m not very great at ideas)

A) SMART rescue

You’re a spiderbot-type chassis with built in mods/adaptations designed around venturing into all sorts of dangerous and precarious situations with the goal of rescuing and freeing humans from said precarious and dangerous situations. In your case, building wreckage, fires, car accidents. (You’re still trying to figure out how to add ‘zombies’ to that list)

They would have an integrated toolset, some power storage, a furnace or battery-nomming, and either adaptations or CBMS and equipment that would theoretically help them dig and rescue people out of dire situations. As most of the people are now zombies, this equipment and toolset probably is now better used for getting THEMSELVES out of dire situations.

B) SMART reserves

You’re a treaded smaller edition of the tankbot with arms, deployed to help the Police and National Guard. While you don’t possess the incredible offensive or defensive capabilities, you’ve done adequately assisting with things like bomb and explosive defusal, building raids, takedowns, and medic evac. Now, ever since your C.O. got their face gnawed off, you’ve been struggling just to keep yourself from becoming scrapmetal.

Would have hydraulic lifting, battery nomming, and a few armor and combat related augs/equipment, maybe a gun of some sort too.

C) SMART research

You’re a smart-wheel mounted and somewhat android-ish shaped chemistry set with arms. You’ve spent your operating time assisting lab research, mainly in handling dangerous chemicals and (un)willing lab victims volunteers. While you have no good concept of compassion or much in the way of empathy, you still found problems with it often tripping your human-protection based modus operandi. Now that containment has certainly been breached, it’s time to find a new line of work.

You’re a walking chemistry set and hotplate with various protections against acid and electricity, and maybe cold. You also have the ability to gain power by consuming food/drugs/etc. While making drugs probably isn’t useful for you beyond that, there’s always trade with survivors. I’m sure they can use that aspirin about as much as you could use that equipment they’ve got. You could also probably use it to make explosives. Explosives are pretty fun.

D) SMART malfunctioning prototype

You’re a basic large scuttlebot-type chassis that was part of the original experimental efforts to develop the SMART platform. You’ve been around almost as long as the project, and your processor’s age is showing. While lacking in specialization, and a bit slow, there’s a bit of freedom and flexibility in your programming that the technicians STILL haven’t figured out how to reproduce. When the cataclysm struck, you snapped and nabbed a few things, then went crazy on the remaining workers in an effort to escape. Now you’re free, and you’ll show them! You’ll show them all for getting in the way of your goals! Boop beep.

Probably battery powered, maybe ethanol burner, basic tools and stuff. More of the cheap cost profession and would come with the analogue for psychotic and possibly other things. Perfect for enacting that scifi robot overlord meme.

So… you’re saying that the player could start as a robot?


Well, player would start as a player,

  • but they have to keep their bionic power up rather than eat or drink, and get hungry/thirsty based on a ratio of power left after half or quarter empty,

  • They still have to sleep and use less power during, conversely they’d drain more power wearing more equipment,

  • They be resistant to pain/temperature/radiation/acid but not immune, and fix pain by fixing themselves,
    they’d probably get rid of radiation quickly once they’re no longer near the source, though,

-They can’t consume food and chems (Unless you have a cbm that lets you in exchange for power),

-They use electronic parts instead of first aid kits for installing cbms,

-They have to take time out with tools and scrap to repair damage to their chassis rather than being able to regenerate/medicate,
(though I could see quickfix patches being a thing for slapdash ‘I need to run away’ repairs),

-They have the mutations and CBMS that don’t make sense for robotics blacklisted or re-fluffed,

-they gain and lose morale from different sources,

-and they have to ‘set up’ equipment ahead of time rather than being able to swap it around at will.

In addition, I put a few mentions in there about a hacky vehicle interface spinoff. It’s unnecessary to the body of the suggestion, but has an alternate approach to the above:

You open it and you get shown an imaginary vehicle that represents the player, and you can install or remove new parts as well as repair and possibly enable/disable things through a control interface. You would have new robot recipes that are basically vehicle recipes, but they use various armors or equipments as resources. (IE: Use a kevlar suit and a utility vest to install an armored layer or something.)
You would be stuck with the configuration though and couldn’t add or remove new frames. (Though figuring out how to do that while having a mechanical effect on the character would be amazing. Either just mechanically and power use wise, and still being a @, or outright building the player into a quasi-vehicle.)

So tl;dr is player starts as a robot and does robot things? Alright.

Boop beep.

Soooooooo (many ohs) basically an android, character from the Alien series suited to survival in post-apocalyptic conditions? I like the Universal Soldier clue to cooling off and repairs after dark.

Your robot may need some repairs right away, though. :slight_smile:

It can’t be subject to morale changes, so its abilities go as far as silicon is suitable for processing data. It doesn’t need clothes (altough you can dress your robot and keep him warm and cuddly) but only industrial cooling solution(s). It does, however, need solar collectors (which will warm him up) and a backup power supply and a set of routines to deprecate him of a great set of abilities if he enters a failsafe state. His scent stamp is nonexistent, he cannot be poisoned nor infected, and he produces virtually zero overhead for stimulous such as visual (he’s generic, and holds no charisma whatsoever) and auditory (he would, if you load him with a full backpack and strap steeltoed boots on him). He has no need for several skills, altough he can learn from applicative occursions and advance in ranks with others.

I’ve decided to stop at this point (because you should incline even more bits and pieces into thought) to lever the main question and declare I’m oblivious to the purpose of this robot’s survival. I mean, you understand this is a killing machine (if it owns a gun, and it should - aiming it perfectly) that was never ment to be zombie food? Other than some predators defending a territorial square your robot virtually has no enemies; yet there are misc non-sentient beings like those that intercept trespassers? If you add up all his resistances (and his heritage that comes from being just a robot) the sum is a hack&slash RL game measured with bodycount only.

I’m not familiar with the alien franchise or its characters.

In the case I described. It can and is subject to morale, it needs clothes to adapt to its shell for equipment, can be powered by a number of sources not limited to solar collectors, does not have a backup power supply nor a failsafe mode.

They also probably don’t smell as much as a human but have an even worse trait: They produce heat and shiny signatures similar in method to solar panels. I’ve noticed that zombies (especially intercontinental ballistic zougars) go after solar panels on sight like moths to a lamp, if a path to a player is not easier.

They can’t be poisoned or infected, but have a number of mechanical maladies that they may run into over the course of their excursion.

I’m not sure what you mean by producing zero overhead for stimulus, but robots in this case in cataclysm are not quiet nor innocuous.

While true that some skills may not directly benefit the above described character type, Cataclysm DDA is significantly a crafting based game. Even first aid (or at least, first aid books sometimes have recipes for) is required to craft certain bits of equipment and the robot would need some of it to modularize itself. A gas mask, for instance, could be adapted for use, as these bots are likely air cooled and susceptible to significant particulate issues. In addition, having swimming so you can craft rebeathers and some of the swimming equipment would help for aquatic adaptions, as diving into water without them is tantamount to suicide.

The robots described are modular and adaptive and were made with many different situations in mind, and calling it a killing machine is overly specific. In addition, you realize the large gap between humans and robots? Even if a robot can perfectly predict every single shot they should make with the ideal wait time and lead and recoil, it would still be unable to cope with the large amount of complex entropic guessing and intuition that a human possesses innately due to their brain structure and function. While a synaptic processor brings a robot closer to having this feature, I wouldn’t be surprised if it also decreases the benefit of being a pure logic machine. Further, the SMART platform is capable of learning, and thus would be able to function in situations that a traditional robot would not.

Robots by nature, were designed to have an autonomous device that can perform various functions that a human can’t; because unlike humans, robots are expendable. Rebuild-able. Specialize-able.
As thus, while probably not originally intended for zombie food (as zombies didn’t exist when they were made), their purpose becomes being zombie food post cataclysm. Especially with lack of human oversight, or in the case of factions, the unknown of trusting various conflicting human oversights.
I’m sure that most enemies in cataclysm would not discriminate between a player and a robot, as long as it moved and made noise. (that they currently do is a bug/un-coded case situation)

In culmination of all this, I would like to add that the described robots in the OP would find a stone knife just as useful as a knife-less human survivor, mechanically within cataclysm-dda.

Wow, that’s a really long post.

I’m thinking that it’s a lot of overhead you’re asking there, and though the idea’s interesting, I’m not sure it’s worth the programming investment. Sorry.

Yea, a little more detail, it seems like it would require writing special-purpose code to reach into pretty much every part of the player interaction code to make this happen.

As is, I wouldn’t be interested in working on it, but, if someone were to do some research on the existing code, see how much of your suggestions they could make happen with existing CBM code, and outline what features aren’t possible, it’d be a lot more likely.

In culmination of all this, I would like to add that the described robots in the OP would find a stone knife just as useful as a knife-less human survivor, mechanically within cataclysm-dda.

This was exactly the reason I’ve decided to take a break from implying what effect could a simple embedding of a robot character have on CataDDA world @present. Nevermind the intrigue your idea certainly abounds, every fantasy - even your very best one - is prone to change when it comes to considering realization. I appreciate your tender approach so much I’ve inclined that it reminds me of a classic fantasy piece which features a humanoid robot; however artificial intelligence has a preset throughout Cataclysm spaces and planes of existence. Even though this game treats hostility as a programmable parameter you cannot just go on and assume he will develop a measure of human traits equal to any CBM-Joe-a-clysm; I’m not even sure about the viability of discussion concerning emulating human experience and complex emotions.

In the very end, your play on the default character is very important to me as the CataDDA player - it’s interesting to think about post-cataclysmic world from a different angle, especially if the supposed point of view features the kind of undead that are taking no interest in your character’s brains or limbs. The thing to dwell upon here actually is whether an android, an artificial being created with different intentions than of plain survival and instincts would endure the harsh conditions of the Dark Days Ahead world.