Friday, November 2, 2012

Ghost in the Machine (gonzo gothmetal race class for dndish blah blah)

Scattered across Kalak-Nur are remnants of ancient mining facilities. In some of these, a particular type of droid can be found, inactive at first, that can only be activated and controlled by having a technosurgeon implant certain machinery into one's body. The Hackers, Gadgeteers, and Magitek Engineers that give up part of their humanity to become part of one of these machines are known as Ghosts in the Machine, or more pejoratively as "The Soulless." They call themselves "The Two-Souled."

The robots tend to look odd and junky, as they are often found incomplete and are being continually patched together from found parts, sometimes of animals and monsters! These droids are completely different from the usual living construct robots found on Kalak-Nur, and anyone saavy will not mistake one for the other.

For clarification, below I call the human the 'Controller' and the robot the 'Machine.'

Level progression: Thief
HD, saves: as Elf
Armor: any, but -1 ac for metal armor (must leave areas open for tubes/antenna)

The robot half of the equation starts out with the stats of a first level Fighter with the following Ability Scores: STR 12 DEX 10 CON 10 INT 2 WIS 2 CHA 2. These improve by 1 for every 2 levels of the Controller. In addition, the Controller can give the Machine 1 or 2 points from his own ability scores each time a level is gained.

In addition, any time a level is gained, the Controller can give up 2 points from his max HP to give the Machine a special ability from another class (including spells), as long as they explain how the Machine does the ability. These abilities always start as if the character is level 1, no matter what level the Controller is when modifying the Machine to gain the ability. These abilities may be improved in their equivalent level by the Controller giving up a point from an Ability Score or 2 max hp when he gains a level.

At first level, the controller is physically attached to the machine by tubes and wires and must stay within 5 feet of it. He can detach these tubes and go farther, but the machine will be completely inactive. At second level , the machine begins to show a spark of life. If left detached, it will follow simple commands until reattached. (ie "Dig," or "Defend Yourself" or "Squeel if anything moves" DM's discretion, maybe limit to two words?) In addition, the Controller may go up to 30 feet away and still fully control the Machine, as the Machine has attuned to the Controller's electrical field. The Controller can use the senses of the Machine, but cannot use his own senses at the same time. (ie you can send the robot 10" away per level and see through its eyes, but your own eyes are blind while you're doing it.)

Obviously, what's going on is the Controller is giving up his health and self to the Machine. At Level 6 and every level thereafter, the Controller has a choice: to stay alive or give the Machine his final "spark." When the controller does this, he dies and the Machine awakens to true Independent consciousness. (My idea: this is a wholly alien mind that has been in the machine the whole time, frozen from some ancient era. It has been somewhat aware the whole time, and will remember the Controller fondly, but expressly is not him. Does that suck too much for the player? Should they get to choose if it's the Controller's consciousness?)

The Machine gains 1 level of Fighter HP every time the Controller goes up 2 levels, or when it goes up in level after the controller's demise.

I am afraid I am looking at this concept all wrong and maybe this sucks to play. I dunno! Let me know what you think, and feel free to come up with your own guy-controlling-robot class and play that!


  1. I like this a lot and I would totally have the machine be a separate consciousness (although I'd get the player to roleplay both characters for at least a few levels before separation/choice), but the being tied together at 5' at level 1 will severely limit what the class can do. How does the machine solve problems? It's a fighter? And the controller is also a fighter? They can't act independently, can they? So a robot/controller combo is really a metal fighter with a big Baby Bjorn attached?

    Just trying to understand here. Intrigued by the possibilities, especially of picking stuff up in the environment to plug into your character and that being a sort of campaign-based advancement similar to level advancement but object-based. I might even not have the robot ever level up, just get crazier stuff.

    I especially like that the robot could act as a sort of magic eye scouting ahead for the controller at 3-5th level, but then you lose that when you are the robot at 6th.

  2. Yeah, metal fighter with baby bjorn. It's almost more of a story game idea. And you picked up on the changing abilities as the thing advances. I think there are some good ideas here, but it's not really playable in D&D in this form, unless in a really specific campaign.