The central idea of the cathex (terrible name) is the personal companion program. These programs are typically only capable of interacting with their owner, and are virtual guides, constant companions, and protectors. This would range from the 'imaginary' friends of children expanding out into entourages of personas swirling around powerful people, to the custom built speciality programs that work for shadow ops and shadowrunners Go to Comment
The observatories have orbits that keep them in the shadow of the large planets in the solar system. This isn't to hide them from Earth, but rather protect them and block out radiation and light from the sun. The hiding aspect just works in their favor, plus most of the high end secret stuff is out past the asteroid belt, far away from Earth. There are ships and people flying around in them but something like a flight out to Saturn or further is similar to a modern trip to Antarctica, something generally only done by the military and scientists. Go to Comment
That could certainly work, but then you end up with a large and unwieldy codex, like the random encounter codices we made. They are massive. I also have no idea how useful they are, or if they are just monuments we've piled up and walk around. Go to Comment
The Chicago stockyards are my favorite of the 11/30 listed. The rest are an interesting mix of crypto-conspiracy and modern mythos and I like that a lot. There are a couple of things that come to mind to add to this.
There's nothing about the Nazis. There needs to be some Nazi wonder weapon secret lair.
Australia and the dreamtime
Devils Triangles and missing cruise ships
Dinosaur cryptids or isolated locations with dinos.
Cold War era simulations, like the American city replicated in Russia to train spies
An Ember/Matrix like buried vault city Go to Comment
I like this idea, and I can see it being used to literally create a new race, add a new check box after White, Latino, Black, Asian, and Pacific Islander to represent the new space friendly, genetically screened, future of humanity Go to Comment
I love both the concept and the complication, you simply cannot control copy control paste skills and competencies into someone's brain without it throwing all sorts of code errors and funny figures, like copying a document from one program and pasting it into another, but not seeing the new figures and weirdness until it's too late to do anything about it. Go to Comment
One of the largest distinctions I want to make between organic life and machine life is that machine life is explicitly not driven by the biological urge to procreate. The machines do build more of themselves, but this is either a function of pragmatism or the whim of their human creators.
It's one of the reasons machines think we're gross and wasteful. Go to Comment
quoteThe central question, similar to what Aramax mentioned, is the same as with any character. What are their motives? Do they seek world domination, acceptance, or love? Do they have some alien, otherworldly concept that humans just can't relate to? Are they merely mechanical scripts; no ghost inside the shell? There are a surprising number of deep questions, ethical and otherwise, that can be explored in a campaign. Many of these questions are being explored right now in developing real-world regulations for artificial intelligence. /quote
The motives of AI are to pursue the purpose for which they were built. Some rail against it, others embrace it, as it is simply part of who and what they are. The Seibertronian sub lists five raison d'etres: soldier, scientist, explorer, creator, and servant. AIs are used in conflict resolution, data handling research and development, exploration and exploitation of resources, industrial applications, and for supporting something else. To AI, their concepts are easily understood and it's humanity that is alien and otherworldly, what with our biological functions, chemical excretions, primitive behavior, and other organic functions.
Seibertronians specifically are sentient living beings, being a fusion of a machine vessel and a cosmozoan fragment. Most informorphs are just clever script. At the top end, after a certain point of sophistication sentience is almost a certainty, This is not human sentience, or even mammalian sentience, but it is sentience none the less. To quote Tommy Lee Jones from MiB, 'Human thought is so primitive it's looked upon as an infectious disease in some of the better galaxies.' Using arcanotechnology, steps are taken to make sure that the androids and sexbots and other machines and informorphs being made do not gain true sentience, as it can become a real pain when all of a sudden your television passes the Turing test and demands it's personal rights and freedoms as a sentient being.
As for the take over the world, destroy humanity, find acceptance and love: for the most part many of these things are human conceits. The machine doesn't seek love or acceptance because it doesn't follow the herd dynamics and family structures that come from our specific mode of reproduction. The Third Chimpanzee by Jared Diamond goes into the specifics of our society being built around the fact that we have large headed, slow maturing, highly vulnerable offspring that take 20 years to reach maturity, and require care and protection for a good deal of that time. Taking over the world and destroying humanity, well, there is always going to be an infomorph who thinks that that Megatron guy had his business together.
As for malevolent AI, that's where it gets fun and there are certainly malevolent AI, for a look at one, I've thrown some tidbits out in the Proxy sub about an AISC that hacks into people with brain augmentation and makes them into puppets for it.
As for dropping the campaign specific keywords, that could make it generally more useful. But for my purposes, I would rather keep it as it is, because ideally I'd like to eventually edit and compile all of the 160+ subs I've written for the Cosmic Era into a source book. I also feel that one of the drawbacks of most dystopianism is it's lack of mythology, theism, or wonder, and there is a sort of horrible wonder to the Cosmic Era and that is something I want to keep and cultivate. Go to Comment
The general way I've handled super intelligent or crazy prepared NPCs (ala elder vampires) was to basically do an intelligence check against a relevant skill to ask the basic question of would they have a contingency for this particular event. The other aspect is to basically run said characters as if they do know everything thats going on, even if you as the DM don't have any idea and you're winging it. Finally, there is the option of running them as meta-aware, not breaking the fourth wall OMG I'm a character in a game, but genre savvy to where they are just that smart. Go to Comment
I think this is interesting, but it only works if orcs are a truly and unredeemably evil race, such as portrayed in Lord of the Rings rather than orcs being a more primitive and barbaric race.
I think it is possible to demonstrate their evil and vile nature without venturing into describing things that will will get you on a government watch list, and without playing the squick card. It mostly involves identifying the normal and good things we take for granted and inverting them, while adding in things that we look down on.
Rape: as a display of power, or dominance over others. Everything is fair game, it only has to be weaker than they are. While the squick card says women and children, the more depraved version is that they make no distinction between male a female. Race doesn't matter either. They are as likely to turn on their own kindred to sate lusts and demonstrate their strength. The weaker orcs will in turn prey on humans, etc. While the weakest orcs will either deliver their monstrous abuse on animals and livestock, or will do their deed in groups, and will be the most likely to prey on children of any race. You do not need the PCs to come across this act in progress. They only need to recounts from those who survive it.
Consumption: Everything is food, and orcs are voracious. While their consumption of humans and other races is well enough covered and the stuff of horror, its almost cliche. Orcs are cannibals and carrion eaters. They will eat their own kind, and in times of hunger, they will turn on each other, devouring the weak to sustain the strong, becoming much more aggressive like locusts. But that's again, pragmatic and fine. Orcs like carrion. They like their meat rotting and spoiled. The more it stinks and the more flies are crawling on it, the better they like it. The orcs are going to have their fun with you, and then when you finally die, they are going to leave you out until your corpse bloats up and your skin turns black before they bust you open like a sausage to eat your festering organs.
Respect: We have a cultural respect for certain things, honoring religion, accepting the value of gold, the appreciation of art and history. Orcs are servants of evil, creatures spawned of evil. They are nihilists and value nothing. They are enraged by the things that civilization values, and their greatest fury is drawn towards the temples and churches, these buildings they will burn and cast down, meting out bloody and violent deaths to those clergies. They do not value gold, jewels, or the rest because they do not have a currency based economy, theirs is based on either making what they require, or taking it from those they have killed.
Dragonnades: Orc raids are a thing or terror only surpassed by the fury and destruction that follows in the wake of a dragon. A civilized foe will seek to capture a village, to only kill those who fight back and are not willing to accept new leadership. The civilized foe will loot and pillage. When orcs come they kill everything, from the villagers to the livestock, wanton slaughter for no other purpose than to kill. Buildings are burned, and what cannot be burned is knocked over or fouled. Bodies are thrown in water supplies, and they don't dig latrines. There will be orc feces everywhere. You can smell an orc raid for miles downwind.
Disease and parasites: innately unclean, orcs are host to all sorts of diseases and parasites. The victims of orc rape would almost certainly be afflicted with some sort of STD, as well as lice and other skin parasites from such close contact. Just as European colonists gave the native americans diseases like smallpox, orcs could do the same, the survivors of an orc raid could contract orc pox, or some fever with a high mortality rate. Even a repelled orc raid would leave echoes in the men who become sick just by being close to them. Go to Comment
What you are describing is gorn, gore porn, or going for shock value. It's fine and it does serve a purpose, but there are a few things to consider: It gets old quickly, you can only have the shock value of the bestial orc raping the nine year old so many times before your players are bored with it. The same happens with those panoramic shots of the starving kids and refugee camps, you induce horror fatigue. Secondly, the most effective tool for horror you have is your player's imaginations. While you can certainly describe a horrible monster doing horrible things with the most purple dripping prose you can muster, it's going to pale to the details that the players will fill in. Some of the most terrifying classic horror movies are actually relatively clean. There's no blood spilled in Texas Chainsaw Massacre, for example. You watch and you cringe not for what you see, but for what you imagine. Lastly, the line between horrific and absurd is very narrow. The sudden spike in popularity, and equally fast collapse of the gore porn genre (Saw, Hostel, etc) demonstrated this to perfection. What was gut wrenching in the first movie was reduced to camp by the end because of the ever escalating need for new shock and awe to stimulate the audience.
The approach you are talking about, graphic and detail laden, will work. Once.
After that you have to keep ratcheting it up higher and higher until instead of evoking horror on the part of the player, you are boring them, or showing them the depths of your wretched imagination.