Monday, March 17, 2008

Reign of Steel - Kafka's Androids

So I was searching the web for Reign of Steel information as the urge strikes me every few months when I found a pdf copy of Pyramid magazine from 1996/7 (just before Reign of Steel was released).

One of the cover stories was Designer Notes from the author of Reign of Steel. I decided to pay the $5 for the download. It was then that I discovered the article was a scant 3 or 4 pages. And most of that was just describing what would be in the book, rather than something substantial and additional.

But it did offer a few campaign ideas, one of which resonated strongly with me. It was titled Kafka's Androids and the idea was thus: several AIs worked independently to plant android agents in a human resistance movement. Unfortunately for them, the resistance suffered heavy casualties soon thereafter and only the preternaturally tough android agents survived. So, the party consists entirely of double-agent androids working for separate AIs in what they believe to be a human resistance group. They continue to play their parts, fighting against the zone AI and helping human survivors and resistance, until the opportunity to fulfill their original subterfuge presents itself. Despite their enhanced abilities and senses (including scanners), none are aware that their compatriots are also androids because each was built to remain undetected in a rival AI's territory.

I really, really like this idea. It allows all the players to think they are the special character with the juicy secret that leads to backstabbing.

In my Reign of Steel campaign, they would be part of the Human Liberation Army in zone Vancouver. One of the agents will be Vancouver's own android, sent to gather intelligence on the HLA in its own territory. Another would be Moscow's, sent to keep an eye on Vancouver as well as coordinate with human resistance to divert Vancouver's resources away from the covert operations in Siberia. Both Denver and Mexico City are also direct neighbors of Vancouver and, thus, likely candidates for android spies. However, I see a more human-hating AI with an agent instead of the all-life-hating Mexico City. For example, I see Manila's agent revealing the locations of human hideouts as he travels through the zone, allowing Overmind to send another covert agent in its wake to wipe them out. Or, more accurately, I see Manila's agent as the android equivalent of a homicidal maniac or serial killer, wiping out survivors when he has the chance and allowing the "clean-up crew" to get those he cannot.

Moscow is my favorite idea so far because it just makes a lot of sense but Manila's agent has the strongest visuals in my mind.

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