I’m sure there’s a whole heap of people out there who aren’t a fan of this type of character build. I do play a fair few games without it, Cyberpunk 2020 being the most recent example, but a lot of my favourite games, the ones I go back to time and again, all have something like this. There will be a few differences to the usual rules governing such things though, as the more complicated an Automaton is, the more likely it is to break down. I’m still working on exactly how that system will work, so a lot of the numbers used on here will be – like everything else – a work in progress. Anything listed as points is just that, a way of keeping track. So for an Upgrade, it is how many points it will cost to buy, but for a Fault, it is how many points one gains for taking it. The other number still doesn’t have a proper title, as I’m trying to come up with one that hasn’t already been used by a different mechanic, and that still makes sense.

All Upgrades and Faults will have this second number, and for each ten full points of it, the Automaton adds one to its Malfunction score. The Malfunction score has two purposes. Firstly it is used to determine whether or not a critical roll has been a success or a failure. If a double is rolled on any skill check, then it’s a critical. If the double rolled is equal to or less than the Malfunction score, it is a failure, greater than and it’s a success. So, as much as a player may want a whole heap of optional extras on their Automaton, the more they take, the more likely the robot is to break down in an interesting fashion. For every point the Malfunction score is above five, it also causes a one point negative modifier to all skill rolls.

The second purpose of the Malfunction score is all about damage. As the automaton takes damage, it is recorded on a check box on the character sheet. Once a full ten points are taken, the Malfunction score goes up a point, and the extra damage is rolled over. As an example, an Automaton takes a hit for seven points of damage – after modified by build score. The player crosses off the boxes, but there is no other effect at present, the damage wasn’t enough to affect the Automaton. The next round they take another five, this takes them over ten, so they add a point to their malfunction score, and the damage is rolled over, putting them on two (or twelve. I’m not too sure on what will be easier at this point, and would need to play test it out).

Like most systems that have this part of character creation, there will be a limit on how many Faults one can take. Depending on how the points work out, I imagine something like a maximum of ten Fault points, which can be used to buy Upgrades or spent on skills and attributes. There is also a limit to how many Upgrades an Automaton can have, but this is down to physical limits rather than a game mechanic. Each arm may have one upgrade, plus one each for the body, legs, head, processor and case. This sounds quite limiting, but to ensure that character development still makes sense, a lot of the upgrades come in levels, with the previous level being required as a prerequisite. An example of this is a targeting array upgrade for the head. At basic level it allows for a bonus to ranged combat checks, with subsequent upgrades adding options that will remove or reduce range penalties or allow for a bigger bonus.

A few points worth noting on the different types of upgrade allowed. Limbs are pretty obvious, but head is different from processor, as the head slot takes a hardware upgrade, whilst the processor is about software. There will be skill packages and modifiers that can be bought, and upgraded through experience points, but each Automaton will only be able to handle one such package. Case and body are also different, as some body upgrades are internal, whilst the case upgrades are about what’s on the outside. For example, a chest mounted weapon will require a lot of internal workings, but spike furniture is just bolted on to the outside of the case.

I hope this makes sense, and over this week I’m going to try and get a list of Upgrades and Faults on here so people can see what I mean. As always, feedback is welcomed in the comments section. If anything isn’t clear, please question me so that I can rectify how I’ve described something so that it makes sense to everyone.