Ours is an age of ignorance. The heights of human knowledge and civilization are far behind us. Whether or not we will ever rise again is a question too lofty for anyone to concern themselves with. If it is going to happen, the process will take so long that our grandchildren’s grandchildren will be dead and forgotten. For most, it is best simply to let the past remain the past.
For others, created in that distant age, the past cannot so easily be dismissed. Scholars of the time knew the secret of making men from metal and lightning, and giving them life. Most of these machine men have long since ceased to function. Some of those are propped up in palaces or town squares like statues. There are a few, however, which still walk the earth. Though, in the absence of qualified technicians, all of these are in a poor state of repair.
Nods to Bryan Mullins, who once had something like this in a game he ran, though I can’t recall any of the details.
The Machine Man
Machine Men have a d10 hit die, advance as fighters, and make their saving throws as Magic Users. Because of the unusual composition of their bodies, they do not eat or sleep, and they cannot be healed by magic, or by human medicine. Once per day, a successful Tinker check can be used to restore 1d4 hit points. The Mending spell, if available, will also work.
Machine Men have an auto-repair function, which restores hit points during rest at roughly the same rate as human healing. If a Machine Man ceases to function (“dies,”) their auto-repair will shut down. They may, theoretically, be revived by an engineer of superlative knowledge and skill, but only if that engineer were familiar with sciences that have long since been lost to humanity.
Starting at first level, and again at each subsequent level, the Machine Man’s autorepair function manages to restore some lost ability. Something the machine man was originally designed to have, and which they contain all the requisite mechanisms and coding for, but which their long decay has caused them to forget. The table below determines what abilities the machine man gets.
The player may opt either to roll a d10 to determine their new ability randomly, or to choose themselves which ability they want from the list. Note, however, that while the results of a random roll are less predictable, the abilities gained are significantly more potent than if the same ability had been chosen.
If Rolled: Long dormant servos in the arms and legs whir to life. When tracking encumbrance, it now takes one additional item slot to make up a single encumbrance point. (Using LotFP RAW encumbrance). Furthermore, it is now trivial for the Machine Man to lift or push objects weighing up to 200lb.
If Chosen: Only the leg servos whir to life. The Machine Man gains the increased encumbrance ability as described above, but not the lifting/pushing ability.
If Repeated: Cannot be chosen a second time. Each time it is rolled, add 100lb to the amount that can be lifted/pushed trivially.
2. Onboard Equipment
If Rolled: Randomly determine one of the following pieces of equipment. It has always been there in your body, but only now do you have the drivers required for operating it.
- Telescoping tentacle, 20′ long.
- High-powered, 60′ flashlight, with flash-bulb.
- 200′ Grapple Gun
- Hidden storage compartment, equivalent to a backpack. Nothing stored in it is added to your encumbrance.
- X-Ray vision through up to 10′ of solid, non-lead material.
- Propellers and flotation devices, allowing you to move through water at double your normal walking movement speed.
If Chosen: Pick one of the following pieces of equipment.
- Telescoping tentacle, 10′ long.
- Dim, 30′ flashlight, with flash-bulb.
- 100′ Grapple Gun
- Hidden storage compartment, equivalent to about half of a backpack. Nothing stored in it is added to your encumbrance.
- X-Ray vision through up to 5′ of solid, non-lead material.
- Propellers and flotation devices, allowing you to move through water at your normal walking movement speed.
If Repeated: Can repeat until all six pieces of equipment are active. Once all are, reroll this result.
If Rolled: Targeting software comes online. The Machine Man’s attack and damage rolls both gain a +1.
If Chosen: Gain the +1 attack roll bonus, but not the +1 damage bonus.
If Repeated: This one stacks fairly predictably.
If Rolled: Projectors for a personal energy shield have been repaired. The machine man’s armor rating increases by 2.
If Chosen: Armor rating is only improved by 1.
If Repeated: Stacks predictably up to a maximum of 18, after which, this result must be rerolled if landed on again.
If Rolled: Randomly determine one skill from the skill list being used. If that skill is at a 1-in-6, it immediately gains 5 skill points, rising to 6-in-6. If that skill had some skill points in it already, it is still raised to 6-in-6, but any excess skill points are allocated to another randomly determined skill.
If Chosen: Gain 3 skill points, which may be assigned to skills at the players discretion.
If Repeated: Stacks predictably.
If Rolled: Tools and programming suited to a mining-bot become active. The machine man can now excavate a 5′ x 5′ x 10′ volume of materials in 10 minutes time. This includes hard materials, like stone walls. While tunneling through most materials, the Machine Man instinctively knows how dig so as to prevent any cave-ins.
If Chosen: Same as above, except the time required for a similar volume of excavation is 20 minutes, rather than 10.
If Repeated: Each time this is chosen, increase the excavated volume by 5′, up to a maximum of 5′ x 5′ x 30′.
If Rolled: Tools and programming suited to a medical robot become active. Each day, the Machine Man has a pool equal to one half of its total hit points. By spending 10 minutes tending to a patient, the machine man may spend as many points from this pool as they like, restoring an equivalent number of hit points to their patient.
If Chosen: Same as above, but the pool is equal to one quarter of the machine man’s total hit points.
If Repeated: The machine man’s healing pool doubles in size. (So, if it was rolled, it is now equal to the MM’s current hit points. If chosen, it is now equal to half). In addition to this, the machine man is also now capable of advanced surgeries. Given 6 hours with their patient, they can replace limbs and organs which have been lost, or damaged beyond healing. Of course, a suitable replacement must be available for this to work. If Docbot is rolled a third time, reroll.
If Rolled: The Machine Man’s base speed increases from 40’/120′, to 50’/150′. Additionally, a whole suite of sensory equipment becomes available, granting the Machine Man: thermal vision, telescopic vision, directional hearing, and tremor sense.
If Chosen: Same as above, but only part of the sensor suite comes online. The player must choose one of the four types of new sensory information to gain, while the rest remain dormant.
If Repeated: Each time, the movement speed increases by an additional 10’/30′. Characters who chose this may also pick an additional sensor package to come online.
If Rolled: Utilizing available materials, a machine man with construction-bot programming active will be able to build any 10′ x 10′ x 10′ structure within the space of an hour. This includes floor, walls and ceiling. In a similar space of time, the machine man could build 60′ of wall, or perhaps some siege equipment.
If Chosen: As above, but construction time is doubled.
If Repeated: Cut the time required for construction in half. If rolled again, re-roll.
If Rolled: A weapon pops out of the machine man’s body, The player should decide what sort of weapon it is, pending the approval of the referee. It might be a laser, a gun, a flame thrower, a sword, a buzzsaw, or any other myriad options. Each one will have its own logic as to how it can be used. Regardless of the type of weapon it is, though, it deals 1d8 damage.
If Chosen: Same as above, but the weapon is in somewhat less pristine condition, and deals only 1d6 damage.
If Repeated: Each time this is rolled or chosen, the machine man gains a new weapon. Each new weapon may be used every round. So, a machine man with two weapons may make two attacks each round, a machine man with three weapons may make three attacks, etc.