2015/01/13

Humanoid Battle Droids

Somewhat recently, I played in a game of Star Wars: Edge of the Empire. Most people are reasonably familiar with Star Wars as a setting, though being into the minutiae is seen as being somewhat lame. Us, sitting there with a multitudes of unique proprietary dice, had obviously gone far beyond that point.

Anyway, one of the character races was "Droid". In game terms, it was the most customisable race. So I thought about what would make a good battle droid.

My first thoughts didn't leave me. If anyone has watched the Star Wars prequel trilogy, they'll know that droids in that setting suck at fighting. Especially the (apparently notorious) B1 battle droid. The ones who beat up the Gungans in Episode I, notable for being the only time they've beaten anyone on their own.

So, I decided to write what I thought would be an appropriate layout for a Star Wars style humanoid battle droid. Bullshit technology aside (which can provide any sort of advantage the writer may think to provide), given what you see in the films about weapons technology and computational power, what could I come up with?

First, I had to come up with a role that my droid would take, as part of a larger army. The split, I decided, was between facilities and environments designed for use by humans or rubber forehead aliens, surely the vast majority of strategically significant battlegrounds, and everywhere else. My droid would involve itself in fighting within these urban environments. Everything else would be handled by a Fighter/Bomber/Tank variant, which I may write about later.

The droid's name was Boarding / Urban Battle Droid - Intelligence / Data Gathering Experimental, colloquially "Bub". The idea was that this custom droid had been made using tactical knowledge, and had learning capacity so it could gather more (and that's where it begins in the party). So let's go over some of its features, and why the B1 Battle Droid sucks. Because this is how I get my armchair general jollies off.
Fuck, I'm bored.

In the Star Wars setting, the battle droids appear to use the most rudimentary of tactics. They march in parade formation directly towards enemies, diverting for only impassable bits of terrain. This makes them exceedingly easy targets. Given the level of AI that appears in the setting, bordering on sapience, let alone sentience, this seems rather dumb. It would surely cost them nearly nothing for their droids to figure out how to use cover.

The cost is important for understanding a lot of the B1s shortcomings. However, the ability to assess the locations of enemies and then seek appropriate cover is surely well within the capacity of cheap Star Wars tech. However, even after this, I ditched the awkward gun hold that the B1s exhibit. Instead, the head and primary weapon were located on an armature that could be used to peek out from behind cover, exposing only a tiny sliver of weapon and sighting systems.

Bub still had arms though, for use in situations where one would require hands. One can imagine any number of scenarios in which it would require hands in an area designed for humans. In the campaign, having hands allowed Bub to use rocket launchers and regular weapons designed for humans, drive cars, and so on.

Having the weapon fixed to the droid means that it's much harder to trivially disarm, also. This feature can be seen in Droidekas and B2 Battle Droids (the big ones first seen in Episode 2). For whatever reason, in both those cases the weapons are entirely separate from any sensory systems, a problem I rectified with Bub.

Of course, having a gun for a face made Bub very impersonal, but very threatening given the right circumstances.

Bub also had a lot of climbing gear, and was a very good rough terrain combatant. This is its primary advantage over Droidekas, which is believed to be "rad as fuck" and "very cool". The problem with Droidekas is that anything it can overwhelm can evade it, and anything it can catch in more open areas can destroy it. It is only truly useful as an anti-infantry defensive platform, one which could be improved significantly were that its only design goal.

So, how would Bub or a squad of Bubs defeat a Droideka or squad of those? By moving around the terrain such that Droidekas could not follow, using grenades, and destroying them if they ever packed up to mobilise. This would take time, but patience and prior planning cost very little compared to expensive battle droids.

After the game, I had a few other thoughts. The arms could be designed to be used for running as well as holding things, allowing for cat like movement if speed is more necessary than endurance. The feet could be rudimentary hands, greatly simplifying the process of climbing and utilising Z space in combat. A flamethrower would be nice for cooking Jedi (as seen in Episode 3).

It also had a thumb that had a retractable vibro knife, which was good just in utility. Its torso had grappling hooks and low velocity grenade launchers. Its sensor suite was very advanced. The final product (as is the case with RPGs in which character progression is marked in both equipment and character ability) was significantly more expensive than a B1 battle droid. However, a lot of the upgrades wouldn't cost that much money after the research stage (rudimentary tactics, for example, or aiming algorithms). Overall, I'd doubt that a Bub would be more than ten times the cost a B1 off the production line. However, I'd rather be backed up by a hundred Bubs than a hundred thousand battle droids.

No comments:

Post a Comment