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MegaTraveller Discuss of the MegaTraveller ruleset and the Rebellion Milieu

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  #121  
Old May 21st, 2011, 04:18 PM
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Originally Posted by OjnoTheRed View Post
First cut of front cover here. In PNG format for your viewing pleasure.
Nice. Iron shaped feet :-)

Should the subtitle be "Robots and Robotic Craft" ??

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  #122  
Old May 22nd, 2011, 12:10 AM
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Why did you increase the size and cost of programs for increased skill levels by the _square_ of the skill level when size x skill level is sufficent in terms of cost of the program as well as the brain in CPU and storage needs?
This is carried over from Rob Prior's original notes (I've uploaded them here).

I agree with this call. In going over the robot designs in the spreadsheet, I have come to appreciate that without squaring the requirements, it is too easy to give all robots level 4 in everything. This relates to the point that Hyphen made above - albeit on a different aspect of robot design: Traveller is a game biased towards sophont characters: people trump machines. Machines help people accomplish more, but they don't easily have the same capacity as someone who has made a skill their life's work (which is around level 4, sometimes more but rarely).

For a lot of the robot designs, it did not make much difference - this is because for level 2 or 3, the existing rule that EDU + INT was the upper limit for skills (same as sophonts) this meant provision of brain space anyway - particularly storage. For robots that did need to expand their brains a bit, for the most part it largely meant eating into fuel capacity.

It does, however, place some burdens upon the "professor deskbot" and the Rashush models that will mean skill levels need to come down. The Hiver Bruiser models aren't quote so volume or cost restrained, and the brains can just expand as well as the hulls.

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The black squares at the corners of the boarders of the tables shouldn't go over any text or tables. Also there should be no black corners on boxes internal to the page (see page 62 of the Refs Manual) they should just be on the outside (in the 4 corners of the page). I.e. there shouldn't be black boxes around "1 - BASIC HULL DESIGN" or "2 - POWER SUPPLY", or "3A - LOCOMOTION" or "4 - COMMUNICATORS AND 5 - SENSORS & ELECTRONICS 1" or "6 - WEAPONS AND 7 - SCREENS" or "8A - ENVIRONMENT" etc etc etc
I'll double check the layout of the corner black squares for places where they have interfered with internal layout. If you've got chart / page references for stuff you've found, it would help me greatly in correcting particular errors.

Yeah, that's an interesting observation about black box corners for edges internal to the page. I had always taken that way of doing things on p.62 to be a layout mistake! But on a quick scan of other pages in the Referee's Manual and other pages, I see that charts with corner boxes always otherwise take the entire page, so it's really a page layout rather than a break-out box.

I'm in favour of this fitting in with Canon as much as possible. What I'll do is post another iteration of the supplement with both ways of doing it, see what everyone prefers (including me!).

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Suggest the addition of "Civil Engineering" Skill, so robots lower than TL 11 can designe buildings to standard physical rules. Either this or remove the need for Emotion Simulation from architect.
That's a good call. The idea behind Emotion Simulation for Architect was that without it, designs would be lifeless and drab. But you're right, it does leave a gap for CAD style autonomous systems.

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Why do robots need light and heat on the inside of their bodies? There is absolutly no need for any vehical to have basic enviroment installed, so why impose this on robots? This requirements needs to be removed.
All craft need basic environment to keep fuel at the right temperature, provide for fittings for moving parts, some basic indicators and switches (e.g. on/off). While this isn't explicitly stated in the rules, most people I have discussed this question with indicate they feel basic environment is more or less compulsory. The comparison I would make would be to my family car - there are some basic environment things such as interior lights and heating for the passengers not relevant to robots. But then there are things like window controls (yes, just the handle for each one!) and some considerations such as anti-freeze in the radiator water and the placement of the fuel tank for dealing with the Australian heat. All of which falls under 'basic environment'. It is kind of like a tax on the design.

Having said this, have a look at the robots in the design spreadsheet; even among larger-than-human robots, say, 400 litres, basic environment comes to no volume, weight or power required, and costs a grand total of Cr4! For the purpose of keeping the rules simple, it's easier just to state that you need to calculate it and let designers figure out that it basically costs nothing. Having said this, I might help out by adding a phrase something like "up to volume X, basic environment takes no volume, weight or power".

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You missed the three stars on Emotion Simulation form the table.
Thanks, will make the correction.

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Why have you put the requirement of Low Attonomous on the ground and vehicel combat skill when it wasn't there before? Limiting warbots to TL11+ ? You've also removed Tactics as a skill.
For that argument all skills need Low Attonomous because they all require "independent action without direct commands".
You raise a good point about autonomy in general, and I think I may go over the text again with that in mind. The question is one of threshold. What the Robots in MegaTraveller chapter spells out is how Infantry Ground Combat and Armoured Ground Combat work in practice. (On reflection, there needs to be equivalent skills for water, air and space.)

The way I see it working for warbots is this: yes, at TL11+ they are much more flexible and can take orders and act independently with those orders. At lower tech levels, warbots are restricted to being given commands rather than instructions - so, "fire at that enemy over there" rather than execute a detailed order. I've developed that last chapter in the latest iteration to make a distinction between giving a robot a command - one sentence containing a verb in the imperative voice - and an instruction - a more lengthy assignment to a task. For warbots the distinction is spelt out in detail. For other robot tasks - e.g. repair and maintenance - it would vary greatly on the particular circumstances. For the most part, yes, robots are given instructions rather than commands, but it will take some time to make - in a way, it's really a form of programming by an operator. What I might do is spell out some distinctions between instructions and commands for non-combat tasks to give a better flavour.

So, note that warbots are not restricted to TL11+ - it's just that they need much closer supervision by operators below that TL.

Tactics is included as a skill. It's there on the table on page 22. The skills listed in the text are only those that need to be addressed in some way for robots, or are new skills.

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If robot brains can replace a computer in a vehical why can't they replace one in a starship? They either can or they can't. Either robot vehicels need a computer and a robot brain, or they just need a robot brain. As a robot brain is a computer I don't see the need to have two. The original rule (which makes sence) is that a robot brain can replace a computer and a crew member. Starships have three computers, boats have two. Why can't a computer (a robot brain) replace one of these computers?
This is first and foremost a game balance / game world issue. In DGP's 101 Vehicles where they first discussed the INT rating / CP multiplier for robot brains, they pointed out that higher level computers have robot components built into them, and gave them some effective intelligence. Clearly in those cases, robot brains do not replace the entire ship's computer. If they did, no TL15 starship would have a ship's computer at all, they would just have a brain. I think this is against the spirit of Traveller. Some of the size of the computer is co-ordination of all of the various systems and sub-systems and hugely complicated calculations like lighting up that Lanthanum Grid for getting into Jumpspace correctly. A tiny robot brain is not up to a Model 9's capacity for that sort of thing.

This does create a threshold issue - that is, a situation where something of 99 dTons can be classified as a Small Craft and be run by a robot brain, but something of 100 dTons needs a computer. But this threshold issue is already built into the rules anyway in the way that crews are calculated differently for small craft and for starships / spaceships. So if I'm creating an issue, at least it's in line with issues already in Canon.
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Old May 22nd, 2011, 12:13 AM
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Originally Posted by E.D.Quibell View Post
Also Spohat control points in vehicels. If the crew position in a vehicel is required to be controlled by a sophant, then enough CPs need to be installed for this to be the case. If you install a robot brain to for the crew position you don't need these CPs. You only need them if you require the crew position to be filled by both a robot brain and a sophant.
This is for the sake of simplicity. If we get down to designing starships that have both sophont and robot crew, calculating the proportion of sophont control points and robot control points is, frankly, an unwanted complication. So I've settled on any sophont controller requiring full CP to be installed for the craft, ignoring robot brains. Having said this, robot controlled craft can take along passengers who are robot instructors, and sophont control panels do not need to be installed. The Essor Robot Drone - design 107 - is an example of this kind of design; the robot brain controls the craft and the passenger might be able to give commands or instructions - e.g. "fly lower over there, and get pictures of that funny grey box object with slits in the side".

Starships and spaceship crew calculations do benefit from robot brain installation by removing the need for accommodation and state rooms to be supplied.

Having said all of that, I think I've just talked myself around to a position where we take total percentage of crew not replaced by robot brains and use that as a multiplier to reduce the required sophont controls. I'll think about it.

As I read the MegaTraveller design sequence, what control points and control panels was replacing was the Classic Traveller Bridge "2% of volume or 20 dTons minimum" rule, but in such a way as to scale the design system from motorcycles through to Imperial Dreadnoughts and Battle Carriers.

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Originally Posted by E.D.Quibell View Post
Dexterity for Grav vehicals should be better than air cushoned.
Yes, good call. What do people think - a better multiplier - e.g. x5, x6?

Thanks for all your feedback, I'll go away and chew over it. Also, on looking at the latest layout, one of the chapter headings has dropped off, so I'll look into that as well.

Also, thank you aramis, swiftbrook, and SJWaldock! Swiftbrook - "robotic craft" it is!
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  #124  
Old May 22nd, 2011, 03:30 AM
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OK, updated supplement.

Keeping Black All Corners
Removing Black Corners except at Page Corners

I am still to have more of a rethink about the autonomy issues that Ewan raised. This revision includes improved front and back covers, updating the Base Dexterity for Grav robots to Grav Vehicle Skill x 6. Also - new! improved! chapter headings - now using the Shattered Imperium logo instead of the sunburst.

As well as placement of pictures (any ideas gratefully received!), I will be spreading example designs throughout the supplement in the style of COACC. Currently I have two example designs in, but the table borders aren't correctly formatted (should be top & bottom thicker lines), and I need to sort out a consistent format for Design Evaluation, commentary - and possible a picture.
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  #125  
Old May 22nd, 2011, 08:48 AM
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Originally Posted by OjnoTheRed View Post
I agree with this call. In going over the robot designs in the spreadsheet, I have come to appreciate that without squaring the requirements, it is too easy to give all robots level 4 in everything. This relates to the point that Hyphen made above - albeit on a different aspect of robot design: Traveller is a game biased towards sophont characters: people trump machines. Machines help people accomplish more, but they don't easily have the same capacity as someone who has made a skill their life's work (which is around level 4, sometimes more but rarely).
As you know I work with low tech robot designs, where I get hampered with negiative and limited intelegance, limited skill choise due to lack of Emotional Simmulation, and double space requirments for my programs anyway. By squaring the space requrements for skill levels the burden becomes even grater.

I can understand the reasoning, but then High tech robots get free Intelegance. The same brain at TL8 is Int -4, while at TL15 it's Int 3. Which I agree with by the way, because it should be harder to make intelegent robots at lower tech levels.

But by squaring the requirements for increased levels at TL10 robot needs 32 slots for Pilot-2, on top of the normal brain requirments, while a TL11 one only need 8.

The skills aren't were the problems for robots are, it's the interprtitaion, understanding and creative thinking where the issue is. i.e. not the skill as such, but the intellegance behind the skill. I could understand higher storage requirements for skills that need interperatation, i.e. the stuff that Emotional Simmulation is required for.

The dificulty in the skill is already suggested in the space requirements needed for the different skills; driving a car 1, flying a space craft or an air/raft 2, piloting a spaceship 4. These are standard stuff, however things that require intelegance, instruction 10, linguistics 10, Tactics 8, pyscology 12 already have far higher space requirements without incorporating the fact that you need Emotional Simmulation for some of them as well.

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That's a good call. The idea behind Emotion Simulation for Architect was that without it, designs would be lifeless and drab.
You could do a simmilar thing with Steward, and do a with and without. Functional vs Artistic.


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Originally Posted by OjnoTheRed View Post
All craft need basic environment to keep fuel at the right temperature, provide for fittings for moving parts, some basic indicators and switches (e.g. on/off). While this isn't explicitly stated in the rules, most people I have discussed this question with indicate they feel basic environment is more or less compulsory. The comparison I would make would be to my family car - there are some basic environment things such as interior lights and heating for the passengers not relevant to robots. But then there are things like window controls (yes, just the handle for each one!) and some considerations such as anti-freeze in the radiator water and the placement of the fuel tank for dealing with the Australian heat. All of which falls under 'basic environment'. It is kind of like a tax on the design.

Having said this, have a look at the robots in the design spreadsheet; even among larger-than-human robots, say, 400 litres, basic environment comes to no volume, weight or power required, and costs a grand total of Cr4! For the purpose of keeping the rules simple, it's easier just to state that you need to calculate it and let designers figure out that it basically costs nothing. Having said this, I might help out by adding a phrase something like "up to volume X, basic environment takes no volume, weight or power".
Unencolsed Vehicals can't have basic or exstended enviroment. Jeeps, Motocycles, boats, biplanes, to name a few don't have basic enviroment and don't need it. There shouldn't be a requirement for it. I understand what you are saying and the cost/wieght/price implications, however it shouldn't be a requirement to have it. We aren't changing the vehicel design rules we are integrating robot design with them.


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You raise a good point about autonomy in general, and I think I may go over the text again with that in mind. The question is one of threshold. What the Robots in MegaTraveller chapter spells out is how Infantry Ground Combat and Armoured Ground Combat work in practice. (On reflection, there needs to be equivalent skills for water, air and space.)
These skills aren't needed for Humans. They are said to be "instictive" i.e. there is no Infantry Ground Combat or Armoured Ground Combat needed for Mercanary characters. So these skills are specificly designed for Robots so by having the skill disinct from just weapon skills implies that what you need for a warbot is in the skill. As per my last comment this implies a limited emaout of "independent action without direct commands" is already programmed into the skill it'self. You don't need to add to this with the brain command structure.

Where you do is when you need intelegance to provide creative thinking. Creating new tactics, reacting to situations in new ways. And this is what limits the robots. Come up with a new tactic and robots are stumpt. They won't be able to respond creativly.

The skill itself, using cover, identifying targets, moving between cover, laying down suppressing fire, responding to amushes etc etc. These would all be covered in the skill it'self.

Co-ordinating a team, as in your example, would need intelegance and tactics I agree. But not individually.

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Originally Posted by OjnoTheRed View Post
The way I see it working for warbots is this: yes, at TL11+ they are much more flexible and can take orders and act independently with those orders. At lower tech levels, warbots are restricted to being given commands rather than instructions - so, "fire at that enemy over there" rather than execute a detailed order. I've developed that last chapter in the latest iteration to make a distinction between giving a robot a command - one sentence containing a verb in the imperative voice - and an instruction - a more lengthy assignment to a task. For warbots the distinction is spelt out in detail. For other robot tasks - e.g. repair and maintenance - it would vary greatly on the particular circumstances. For the most part, yes, robots are given instructions rather than commands, but it will take some time to make - in a way, it's really a form of programming by an operator. What I might do is spell out some distinctions between instructions and commands for non-combat tasks to give a better flavour.

So, note that warbots are not restricted to TL11+ - it's just that they need much closer supervision by operators below that TL.
By imposing "Low Autonamous" on the combat skills you are limiting those skills to TL11+

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Tactics is included as a skill. It's there on the table on page 22. The skills listed in the text are only those that need to be addressed in some way for robots, or are new skills.
Thanks Missed that. Tactics is a skill which I would suggest requires "Low Autonamous". YMMV.

O, and from the other side of combat skills are needed to be programmed into a robot, one thing that I think a robot doens't need is the Sensor Ops skill. I think that sensors are the "senses" of the robot and are thus "instictive" in their command programming. Much like we touch, see, smell etc, a radar is just anouther sense to a robot, like light amplification. To use it the command functions are already programmed in. The robots might not be able to learn from their senses, but they have no trouble interpreting them.

It's only humans that need to be trained to use and "interperate" the results of sensors, for robots it's already in the programming.

I suggest that you expand the fluf on the command aspects of the brain it include radar, pasive ems etc etc, and drop the sensor ops skill.


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Originally Posted by OjnoTheRed View Post
This is first and foremost a game balance / game world issue. In DGP's 101 Vehicles where they first discussed the INT rating / CP multiplier for robot brains, they pointed out that higher level computers have robot components built into them, and gave them some effective intelligence. Clearly in those cases, robot brains do not replace the entire ship's computer. If they did, no TL15 starship would have a ship's computer at all, they would just have a brain. I think this is against the spirit of Traveller. Some of the size of the computer is co-ordination of all of the various systems and sub-systems and hugely complicated calculations like lighting up that Lanthanum Grid for getting into Jumpspace correctly. A tiny robot brain is not up to a Model 9's capacity for that sort of thing.

This does create a threshold issue - that is, a situation where something of 99 dTons can be classified as a Small Craft and be run by a robot brain, but something of 100 dTons needs a computer. But this threshold issue is already built into the rules anyway in the way that crews are calculated differently for small craft and for starships / spaceships. So if I'm creating an issue, at least it's in line with issues already in Canon.
I understand the games balance issue, but then you need to explain this in some way in the book otherwise it doen't make any sence. You say something like "We are doing this for a game balance issue as we are integrating robots into the existing vehicel design system." and something about the instability of synaptic cpu against the reliabilty of needed jump calculations at TLs lower than 17. Follwoing with at TL17 this requirement goes away, as starship computers gain intellegance by themselves (a TL17 starship computer could be said to have INT 4 automatically).

Best Regards,

Ewan
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  #126  
Old May 23rd, 2011, 06:16 AM
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This is just a quick note to say that you've given me a lot of food for thought. Yes, your perspective on lower tech robots should definitely inform the design question.

Overall, two things strike me:

(1) autonomy - I should liberalise the limits around "emotion simulation" and the ground combat skills but rather have a scale for these - e.g. some way of working the fundamental logic into how the software operates. This would preferably be a simple game mechanic related to the tasks in the Robots in MegaTraveller chapter.

(2) capability - in relation to the "square the skill level" rule, I think it calls for lowering costs for a lot of the skills to rebalance them, and as you point out, how much processing power / cost difference is involved in programming Grav Vehicle vs. Pilot? So we could balance it that way. I think I also need to go back to the Tech Level charts in the Referee's Companion and do a bit of research into robot capability expectations by Tech Level so that we enable designs that way.

More thoughts and revised versions to follow.
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Old May 23rd, 2011, 10:54 AM
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(1) autonomy - I should liberalise the limits around "emotion simulation" and the ground combat skills but rather have a scale for these - e.g. some way of working the fundamental logic into how the software operates. This would preferably be a simple game mechanic related to the tasks in the Robots in MegaTraveller chapter.
I don't think you need to liberalise around "emotion simulation" because this is where there is a fundermental problem for Robots. They lack creativity and empathic responses. In dealing with sophants skills "emotion simulation" should be reqiured, and limited to a single race (Human, Vargr, K'kree etc). And it also makes sense that "emotion simulation" needs "Low Autonamous" command because it's hard to deal with humans in a human way. Yes this limits the options of Low Tech robots, but then they should be limited in some way.

My issue was the new requirement for "Low Autonamous" on the combat skills, as I don't think it's needed.

Where I think it's more needed, and likely missing is in Tactics.

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Originally Posted by OjnoTheRed View Post
(2) capability - in relation to the "square the skill level" rule, I think it calls for lowering costs for a lot of the skills to rebalance them, and as you point out, how much processing power / cost difference is involved in programming Grav Vehicle vs. Pilot? So we could balance it that way. I think I also need to go back to the Tech Level charts in the Referee's Companion and do a bit of research into robot capability expectations by Tech Level so that we enable designs that way.

More thoughts and revised versions to follow.
I think we should concentrate on the intergration of the rules, and not the changing of them. The costs/sizes are as they are, they work and they are relativly accepterble. TL10 or under means you double the cost and size. This works to imposing limits on lower tech robots that are understandable, while making it easier as the TL increase.

Where the rules need intergrating, like CPs and CP multipliers, I think we've come up with some great answers, TLx10 for CP multipliter with no INT is genious by the way, I wish I had thought of it.

MegaTraveller isn't going to be revised (more is the pitty) unless Mongoose have the inclination (which I doubt), so I don't think we should be creating new rules. Intergrating, tweeking, and slight adjustments to help the intergaration is what we should be aiming for.

Best regards,

Ewan
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Old May 24th, 2011, 10:55 AM
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I have made some updates to the supplement and the spreadsheet:

Spreadsheet - Open Office
Spreadsheet - PDF version
Supplement - Open Office
Supplement - PDF version

Firstly on the capability of lower tech robots. I have thought about this, and Ewan, I have to disagree. The rules as they stand provide a reasonable restriction that does not significantly break designs.

Ewan, I took on your challenge about Pilot-2. Have a look at the new designs in the spreadsheet on pages 111 and 112 of the PDF file. Both are TL10. The design on p111 is a 37 L / 14kg box with Pilot-2 and a brain interface for plugging into your starship and comes in at Cr32,789. The design on page 112 is a two-legged, two-armed design with Pilot-2, a base speed of 192kph (mwa ha ha ha ha ha), eyes and ears. Ignore that TL15 holorecorder I just spotted that I forget to remove. The whole thing is 138 litres / 106kg and comes in at Cr97,008.

Both designs use the supplement rules as they stand. What you won't get is a TL10 shuttle pilot that is roughly human sized with Pilot-4, and Navigation-4.

Based on those results, I'm happy with the software rules as they stand.

But onto autonomy. Here I've changed approaches. Firstly, I have expanded the skills charts to explicitly cover all vehicle and combat types, and filled in some gaps from the Mega Traveller skills list. I have deliberately left off some interpersonal skills that are problematic such as Persuasion - but on those, I am open to argument as to how a robot might Persuade a sophont of anything in a role-play context (yes, emotion simulation for a start!).

Secondly, the Infantry Ground Combat etc. skills now no longer require Low Autonomous. But they work significantly better with it. Bear in mind that Tactics skill provides that "roving DM" in combat. That's the core thing here.

The rule I have instituted is to say that robots with less than Low Autonomous can act in an "advisory" capacity for someone who already possesses the skill as well as Robot Ops. So, an NCO with Robot Ops-1 and Tactics-1 could use a robot with Tactics-2 to gain an additional roving DM for their team.

BUT if that robot was equipped with at least Low Autonomous logic, the operator would not need to possess Tactics skill themselves; the robot would have sufficient independence to advise the team / unit directly and thus they gain the roving DM.

Robots who have the relevant combat skill ("Infantry Ground Combat" etc.) can now be regular warbots without Low Autonomous logic. That expands warbot functionality - the ability to execute orders independently. But if that warbot has Low Autonomous, they also get the benefit of any roving DM to apply to help their orders. Bear in mind that Infantry Ground Combat etc. are treated as Tactics minus 1. Thus, a robot with Infantry Ground Combat-2 and Low Autonomous logic could execute independent orders and get a roving +1 DM to support their actions.

I think this gives a good scale of abilities from lower tech to higher tech robots.

A couple of more minor things. No preferences yet by anybody for supplement with / without the extra black corners? My own preference is to keep them, having looked at both but I'd like to hear other views.

Is Grav Vehicle Skill x 6 for base dexterity for grav-based robots good?

Steward skill and a couple of other I have adjusted around their usage with and without Emotion Simulation.

I'm inclined to keep Sensor Ops skill in, but maybe add a note to the effect that it's only really needed for the sensor lock tasks in Space Combat - otherwise we can assume as noted by Ewan that radar etc. are just another sense from the robot's point of view and assume sufficient software drivers are built into their logic programs.

I did miss adding an explanation re: the requirement for a computer for starship / spaceship sized craft. Next time.

Other views on Basic Environment? It doesn't make much difference, stay or go - I'm starting to sway towards "go" - i.e. only needed in cases where the robot is sealed and expected to operate in a hostile environment. Takes away a headache from designers.
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Old May 24th, 2011, 05:32 PM
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I think it looks better without the black boxes in the middle of the page.

Grav x6 seems ok for Dex.

With the size needs for multiple skill levels, could you have the skill-1 in CPU at the skill-1 size and the skill-2 at the inflated size in storage?

i.e. for pilot-2, could you have pilot-1 in cpu at size 4 and the pilot-2 skill in storage at size 12? Empersizing the grater knowledge base needed for increased skill levels over the ability to do the skill?

Best regards,

Ewan
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Old May 25th, 2011, 12:23 AM
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Yes, absolutely Ewan - we don't require the entire program to be CPU resident, just resources worth a level-1 skill, the rest can be in storage. This allows designers to balance cost vs. volume/weight. I confess I hastily put everything in the CPU in haste in those two extra designs, but it doesn't have to be done that way.

This will even be the case where robots with Grav / Air Cushion / Aircraft locomotions require the applicable skill to be CPU resident - i.e. level-1 at least must be CPU resident.

We can assume that a robot can shuffle the program in and out of storage as necessary to get the benefit of the skill.
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