Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Maintenance Drones

The Huey Drone from "Silent Running"
We built these little robots in the times preceding the Diaspora, but they are now ubiquitous across human space. We created the drones to carry out simple maintenance tasks on-board spacecraft. They are specialists, mastering one skill at a time. Although slow and rather susceptible to injury, they are  cheap to build and repair.

They are also tireless, predictable, and programmable.

And, truth be told, they're loyal and cute. Many crews prefer them to Trelebs for these reasons.

Drones have one fine manipulator arm which can be adapted for a variety of tools and appliances. They learn skills using programming cards, as depicted in the picture below. These are inserted into programming slots on the drone's body. They store no more than three skills at a time.

Programming Cards 


Maintenance Drone:

  • Skills: One skill at Good (+3), one at Decent (+2), one at Average (+1)
    • If your drone has been programmed with ethical protocols such as the Three Laws of Robotics, reserve one skill slot with the Resolve skill.This slot can have a permanent skill level (this is an exception to the way the Programmable Stunt works - see below)
    • Drones come "out-of-the-box" with one Language skill hardwired at Mediocre (+0). This does not count against the maximum of three skills.
  • Stress Tracks: Frame (Body) 2, Data (Composure) 3
  • Stunts: 
    • Programmable. The skill card inserted most recently sets their apex skill. Any preexisting skills drop down one skill level. A skill reduced to Mediocre (+0) is deleted.
    • EVA capable. Drones can work on the hull of a ship by magnetizing their feet.  
    • Man's best friend in space
    • It can waddle through anything
    • Accident prone, but eminently repairable


  1. This is pretty cool. It's fun how modelling the Three Laws differently creates different effects:

    * as an aspect -- even a required aspect -- ("No harm to humans, through action or inaction") it represents a tendency, and violations will happen, though perhaps rarely.

    * as a stunt, it represents hardwiring that can be absolute, but represents a limitation on the robot: it "gets" nothing from the stunt (in fact it is limited) and a robot without the stunt has another slot available for additional capability.

    * as a skill level (as you have it here) a third possibility is introduced, with robots having quantifiably different ethical protocols.

    In *Hollowpoint* (note FATE sf, but still relevant), another possibility was raised: characters could choose combat skills (KILL) if they wanted, but are ethically prevented from using them on humans (Three Laws by GM fiat).

  2. I love this. I've been looking at Diaspora, and planning some tweaks, and this speaks to some of what I wanted to see in my game, which takes some ideas from Shadowjack's "Federal Space" on the Rpgnet forums.

  3. @ C.W.: I am trying to be intentional in designs about asking myself: "Is it an Aspect? Is it a Skill? Is it a Stunt? Is it a Stress Track?" I actually think Diaspora is one of the easiest implementations of FATE to design things for. It is a pristine, clean framework that is easy to modify for new uses. As I will do tomorrow with the System T-E-R ratings...

  4. @LordDraqo: Glad you are liking the content and getting ideas for further tweaks of the system!