August 28, 2013
Behold The Mighty Robot
Robots, androids, automatons, drones, or whatever you might wish to call them (just not “cyborgs” as any true geek will tell you, those are something different), mechanized men are a stable of science fiction. You see them all throughout the genre, from “bioriods” in Appleseed to those “roger-roger” troopers in Star Wars to “replicants” in Blade Runner and more. The idea of a human-like robotic being has captivated the imaginations of people for centuries; see the tale of the Golem of Prague if you doubt me.
So, what is it about them that captivates us? Well, in part, I think it is because we, as human beings, are used to being (at least in our own minds) the dominate life form. Robots, especially ones that appear in many ways similar to us, make us question that, as they are often viewed as smarter, faster, stronger, and perhaps most fascinating to us, nigh-immortal. We fear that, should they ever want to, robots would overthrow us, replace us, or just put an end to our influence over the word. See works such as The Matrix and Terminator for a view on just how this might happen.
Robots are similarly popular concepts for role-playing games; often as non-player characters (NPCs), but sometimes as player characters. The latter is often quite rare because, unless the player is planning on playing their robot character in a non-robotic fashion, such characters tend to be very one-dimensional and monotone. However, playing up matters such as the discovery of the self, the concept of a consciousness with or without a soul, what it means to be human, and similar from very self-aware machines can be a very rewarding experience. See Ghost in the Shell for more on this, a fantastic animated movie, and series, that I recommend to anyone wishing to give more thought to the concept of what it means to be human. In games like Big Eyes, Small Mouth, robotic characters are a common player concept, mainly since the game takes its flavor from various Japanese anime. One of my absolute favorite character templates in the game is the Robot Maid, a housemaid that is actually a self-aware, combat capable, superhuman, android. I have never had the opportunity to play such a character or run it in one of my games, but I have looked forward to doing so for some time. I imagine it would be a blast. Likely as a one-time or short term campaign, as I would question the seriousness of such a character.
In role-playing games, robots often take up the role as antagonists, usually as legions of servant automatons that march mindlessly to the beat of their master’s orders. They are much like zombies in many regards, but only with a capacity for understanding that zombies often lack. Think metal zombies with laser guns, and you will get the basic picture. Just as robots serve many uses in our modern world, they also serve just as many in our imaginations. They can be whatever we imagine them to be, which is part of what makes them both wonderful and terrifying at the same time.
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