Monday, May 12, 2014

Machine Weeds

Dandelion seed head - taken in Southwest Ohio. Photo by Greg Hume

Machine weeds crop up everywhere: lowtech worlds, industrial worlds, dead worlds, orbitals, and starships. Machines weeds may be big or small, and they are often biomimetic. Look for extraneous structures of all sorts cluttering the built environment. Many resemble beanstalks, power or data cords, or vines. Others resemble antennae, collector dishes, or keypads, displays, and control consoles.

A disseminative technology, machine weeds broadcast their seedlings from a variety of metallic and plastic articulations that resemble flowers, seed pods, shower heads, or strainers. These broadcast structures are often well-hidden well from prying eyes, lurking behind a photocopier or other control console, seeding inside an air handling system, or deep within the plumbing.

As long as there are machines nearby - even broken or primitive ones - machine weeds' living kipple will grow and spread. Machine weeds ablate existing structures in the built environment to add to their biomass. They can grow anywhere that there is metal or plastic, choking out functional machinery, draining power systems, often causing functional structures and mechanisms to weaken and collapse.

However, an array of machine weeds can sometimes express highly useful and novel functionalities. Such benefits are usually shortlived. Unless pruned and contained, a patch of machine weeds manifesting such emergent properties will progress toward a new, and destructive round of dissemination. Since this is a constant risk in proximity to machines, people working near them are advised to check their suits and equipment for extraneous buttons and tags - frequently.


Machine Weeds
Biomimetic replicators (inimical)

  • High Concept: Biomimetic weed machines
  • Trouble: What breaks machines hurts us
  • Aspect: Our feeding breaks down machines
  • Aspect: Sharp edges and brittle stems
  • Aspect: Flower in dark places
  • Careful: +1
  • Clever: +2 
  • Flashy: +2
  • Forceful: +1
  • Quick: 0
  • Sneaky: +3
  • Bloody Patch - Take +2 to Forceful Approach to Attack a living target with plastic and metal flails
  • Disseminate - Take +2 to Sneaky Approach to Create an Advantage by contaminating an adjacent Zone
  • Emergent Properties - Take +2 to Flashy Approach to Create an Advantage by revealing a novel functionality
  • Failure Mode - Take +2 to Forceful Approach to Attack an adjacent machine, including robots, androids, and cyborgs

Note: A patch of machine weeds takes up one or more Zones. The patch has one Consequence for every Zone it has colonized.


  1. I wonder if any machine weeds, spread over a long area, have ever formed a rudimentary neural net with their pollens and what not for signaling. The begins of a Gaea consciousness?

    1. I am almost certain this is happening in some places. It probably starts with a sudden inexplicable increase in Wi-Fi signal.

  2. Players have run into pernicious kipple in some of the pre-Riskail days, so this was a fun post to read. There's an interesting connection/implication in this that I'd like to explore sometime, based on some of the old crap I've been re-reading this spring.