This is the meat and potatoes, baby. We’re done with the appetizers so let’s dig in by starting with the design layout. As I said previously, this whole deal is meant to be a procedurally generated dungeon in the same vein as Gardens of Ynn and Stygian Library, of which I love and think everyone should buy. The main thing I dig is how easily it puts together the point crawl dungeon, but there is a little bit of disconnect. What I mean by that is Ynn and the Library are more meant for games where the PC’s are a bit more fragile, and the goal is to go in for delves to plunder then coming back up for air. Obviously with Godbound, a pantheon can step in and get what they want, going for the main haul right off the bat.. That’s just fine though, and even if the party wants to set up shop in this place, there’s no reason they couldn’t expend some dominion inside a shifting pocket plane that probably more closely resembles a Shard of Heaven than the natural world. If you want to incentivize the party kicking around and exploring, make it worth their while. Could be that one of the reasons the Bleak Reach is so jacked up is the knuckleheads of the Old Din Empire took apart to many Celestial Engines or shunted them to an extradimensional space to power the body, thus leaving them ripe for the plucking. Same goes for raw materials or artifacts. With random generation and the scale that’s employed, it’s implied that the entire super-structure is an artificially created Shard of Heaven that’s effectively infinite, allowing enterprising Godbound to possibly set up their own Paradise within the vast body, but to do that, it should be made clear to the party that they are not the masters of this domain. No, that still lies with the God-machine A.I., but it could be a simple matter to send out an S.O.S. to the pantheon and basically give them admin rights if they help the divine A.I. hit ctrl-alt-del on its own existence. The big kick in the nuts is going to be dealing with the two groups down here, the Aegis Machina and the Hunter-Killers.
For those two groups, I would base the Aegis-Machina off the Angels from the corebook, as each one is potent enough on its own, functionally immortal, and most are even enough to challenge a whole pantheon, but are most certainly not invincible. Sounds like angels, right? The big difference is meant to come from role-playing these guys, as they should be right in that uncanny valley area of unsettling. Not outwardly hostile, more meant to bar the way lower. Like the Angels, they’ve gone away from their original purpose, but theirs is the result of a virus that has made them more human, turning the focus and concentration of a unified computer program into that of a “family,” that while they may share the same goals, they each have very different ways of going about it. While they might be difficult to make allies out of, they generally just want to keep the God-Machine alive, looking to heal the Ikarus because they just flat out don’t understand that the Ikarus is no more. Might be a good idea for a dominion project to wipe that virus out of the systemlink
The Cast-Offs and their Hunter-Killer big brothers fill the role of the Uncreated within the greater narrative of the God-Machine, though they don’t have quite the same maliciousness. Their (generally) horrifying appearance made of mismatched and cobbled together machinery, their general hate at all living things, as well as the negative feedback they give off within the Network working as a variation of Cold Breath puts them right in the whole eldritch abomination territory that Uncreated rock out in, though the difference is the Cast-Offs know they are things-that-should-not-be, and actively seek to end their own existences, and that of their “God,” aka the God-Machine A.I. down below. Depending on how pantheons deal with them, they might be able to cool that whole eternal suffering thing and gain some new followers, or at least help send the God-Machine A.I. to the great Recycle Bin in the sky
Again, this is still very much a work in progress, and while I’m jotting down ideas and monsters, the game stats and balancing aren’t quite there yet, so bear with me. I’ll be cleaning a lot of these up and putting down actual game stats/ tactics in the next few bits here as well as changing a few things depending on how it goes, as well as some notes on adaptations or differing goals in the next bit.
Blame! (oh so much)
Land of Brass and Shadow (Exalted)- a vast machine land in the body of a giant robot god? It’s like I’m not even trying anymore. Hey gotta live up to the “Thief of Whispers” moniker somehow right?
Bottomless Sarcophagus had a series of posts on Revanescence, a setting they were working on. Holy shit, it’s good. Go check it out, the weird, esoteric, alien approach to cyberpunk and sci-fi is the futuristic inhuman tech that evokes the atmosphere that I was going for but failed to get.
Ghost in the Shell, the crazy cyberpunk and the philosophical questions coming from the melding of human and machine thought was another big source
Anyways, enough blabbering, let’s get to it
The God-Machine Superstructure– beneath the grand edifice of the Tower and the decaying urban sprawl of the City is the aftermath of the one of greatest advancements and greatest tragedies in the history of the Din. An enormous superstructure made in the image of a man lies below the earth, unknowably vast and growing. Like the City above, some strange phenomena seems to be causing the body of the slain Made God to be growing outward ever so slowly, converting and merging with the earth around it, twisting the body until it only superficially resembles the human form it was modeled after. Thousands of theo-technical marvels were used to create the machine spirit, and thousands more have been unconsciously created in the unchecked growth of eons since. The corrupted protocols that attempt to heal the damage to the Made God are the very cause of this cancerous progression, ever building and expanding in a vain attempt to heal the body of the God it no longer recognizes.
Areas- roll 1d6+ levels traveled, staring at 0
- Cable jungles- Twisting carbon fiber cords, glowing electro wire trees and endless snaking cables fill these biomes
- Silicon warrens- The Warrens contain sticky bio-engineered corridors, organic looking machinery and doors that resemble webs or tooth-filled orifices
- Bioreactor complex- A vast, dense machinery facility combining various bio- and geno-production transactors, weavers, and matter fabricators, tied into control systems requiring biological material. Space is tight amid the power conduits, bubbling crystalline vats and cloning tanks of this area, transmitting raw protein into sorcerous energy in a mass produced sacrifice that is then pumped through other parts of the mega-structure
- Bablilia canals- Fanciful bridges connect elegant apartments across a canal system full of murky green waters, and everything is covered with babilia (a kudzu-type of plant, but nearly uncuttable, like a plant shot through with steel wiring). These sumptuous residences were one the home for the Initiates of Ivo to live within the vast body of the Ikarus, and while long dead, some of their contents are still preserved in the vegetable grip of the babilia
- Wireline palaccio- Beautiful terraces and baroque arches rise elegantly to stratospheric heights amidst thick webs of wires, network cables, guy lines and foot-thick molybdenum-alloy structural support cables that seem to balance these graceful towers as if on the air itself
- Tesla Coil forest- power storage, vast forest of tesla coils sparking energy between them
- Structure conversion towers- enormous towers of twisted black steel and glittering chrome. These are massive matter converters, providing the raw materials for the continued expansion of the super structure, the center point of the Initiate strategy to convert the world into their vision of perfect, cold unthinking machinery
- Energy core cluster- These potent fusion reactors or plasmotic-containment devices (theories vary, few know for sure) are scattered around each level and connected to unknown machinery to power the processes and growth of the God Machine body
- Silicon crèche- This eerie combination of crèche and laboratory contains dozens of axolotl tanks filled with fetal cloned brains covering in sorcerous runes. A kind of data cloud node that helps regulate the Network
- Foundry city- massive city with streets and canals of liquid metal pounded by skyscraper sized hammers. Automated to send parts throughout the vain like passageways of the super-structurelink
- Hanging armories- the ancient Made God the Ikarus would have been was not some gentle giant. The Initiates of Ivo made sure that the Divine Golem made in their image would have the weapons it needed to defend itself, and to that end they constructed vast armories within the body of the fortress god, bristling with weapons for which the followers may arm themselves and weapons wielded by the Ikarus itself
- Remnant citadel- the laboratories and palaces of the most powerful of the old masters of the Ikarus, the builders, the old Din. Vats grand citadels the size of a city contained within the body of the superstructure
- Broadcast array- near skyscraper sized buildings of linked converters and biotech brains connected to antennas shaped like black metallic spines, the source points of the greater Network, serving to broadcast the influence out to the rest of the Superstructure
- Monoliths- Enormous slabs of black steel, miles tall and covered in sorcerous runes magical writing. The “brains” of the superstructure, these monoliths provide the programming, direction, and are the source of the Network and would have governed the body of the Ikarus Machine Spirit
- Aegis Machina stronghold- massive steel vault doors containing the celestial shard mind bodies of the Aegis Machina protocols, which would have safeguarded the Machine Spirit.
- (or higher) Machine God A.I. core (if continuing to explore, roll 2d8) – the last and deepest level, its own Shard of Heaven, contains the sleeping hard light constructed physical mind of the God-machine A.I.
Creatures- roll 1d6+ levels traveled, starting at 0
- Lost altered warriors
- Sparking remains of automatons
- Simple automaton servitors
- Builders slowly expanding the level
- Pack of feral Cast-Offs, lead by a Nodewalker
- 3 Nodewalkers attempting to become a Hunter Killer Nexus, along with 1 vast mob of feral Cast-Offs per 2 Nodewalkers
- Scout team of 4 L1TTL3_BR0TH3R5’s
- Hunter Killer Nexus along with vast mob of feral Cast-Offs
- Small Mob of L1TTL3_BR0TH3R5’s supported by a 515T3R
- B1G_ BR0TH3R
- Needles of Anguish
- Shards of Agony
- Spike of Torment
The Cast-Offs, Hunter-Killers
- Goal: Kill God and end the suffering of existencelink
- When the energies released from the abortion of the Ikarus struck the Dark Side, it was annihilated, its physical body burned from existence. Its soul was ground into powder, and its divinity was absorbed and merged with the remaining pieces of the Ikarus, creating the God-Machine. However, the cast off pieces of both made gods remained, infecting much of the remaining Ikarus body and granting a limited form of sentience to the small programs and subroutines governing the vast body of the Ikarus. Piecing together new bodies from the ruined machinery and bits of shadowflesh from the remains of the invading Made Gods, the Cast-offs, the Remains became Hunter-Killers, the echo of the anguish of dead gods remaining, haunting their neural pathways like machine born PTSD, as the memories of _THOUGHT_ and :PAIN: were all that were left to them, infecting the nearby Network with painful feedback loops exacerbated by any kind of contact with conscious thought, the catalyst for the hard-light theo-tech working of the Network. Killing any who ventured down to their levels, for even the reminder of sentient thought drove them to genocidal madness, their behavior suddenly changed when the God-Machine A.I. reached out. Only able to send out simple commands before its communications were shut down, the A.I.’s entreaties to the Hunter-Killers to end its existence drove the automatons into frenzy, giving a focus to their anguish. By translating the suffering of its own confined existence to the Cast-Offs, the Hunter-Killers have begun their mad suicidal run to extinguish what they have come to see as the source of their woes, that they might enjoy the rest of non-existence. Vast as they are, they are finite, for the initial merging exhausted itself with the death of the Made Gods, though the hurt spread far through the massive Machine-Spirit’s body, corrupting many of the lesser programs and automatonslink
- Cast-Offs take a variety of forms, but all are disturbing on some level. The lingering echoes of the death throes of the divine abortion has caused a de-evolution of sorts within the various Cast-offs and Hunter-Killers, where once intelligent machine and programs have been repurposed, having pieced together their forms to reflect the suffering they feel within. Jagged bites of metal, exposed sparking wiring, scorched motherboards, these make up the myriad, twisted forms of the Cast-Offs. Far more dangerous are the Hunter-Killers, the evolved forms of the Cast-Offs, highly intelligent and possessed of a focused, murderous intent. Coming about in one of two ways, the first is when a large enough mass of Cast-offs has been collected, the Neural Nets may connect within a piece of infected Network, the VR hardlight overlay that permeates through the Tower, the City, and the body of the God-Machine. These Hunter-Killers become a Nexus of automaton hate, looking more like a huge mass of twisted machinery but possessing unparalleled control over the localized Network. The other, more terrifying versions are the Old Ones, the Original Hunter Killers, formed from the black viscera and muscle of the Dark Side, directly merged with the divine machinery of the Ikarus. These terrifying beasts are some of the most dangerous things lurking within the remains of the Ikarus superstructure, waiting to vent their rage as the vainly attempt to reconcile cold machine logic with bits of flesh. Despite their animalistic instincts, they retain a vast intellect, and while they cannot quite be reasoned with, they could be directed, if only for a moment
- Cast-Off- the most basic form of the Cast-Offs, these unfortunate creatures take the most varied of forms, yet all remain hateful and throw themselves at any foe with wild, suicidal abandon. Simple minded and animalistic, they can be corralled by stronger Cast-Offs who can send rudimentary commands through the Network
- Cast-Off Nodewalker- those few Cast-offs that managed to retain a basic contact with the Network, the Nodewalkers are capable manipulating the Theo-Technical power source to produce effects like onto mages of Arcem. While nowhere near the ancients workings performed by Theotechnicians of Old, they can produce hardlight constructs and illusions from the VR overlay, while retaining some semblance of intelligence, though it is usually overshadowed by murderous intent, and the limited control over the nearby Network allows Nodewalkers to exhibit crude control over groups of their lesser brethren
- Hunter-Killer Nexus- while the Network was not completely affected by the death rattle of the Made Gods, there are pockets where it seems the artificial Network itself is in pain, violently corrupted by the death throes of the Made Gods. Nodewalkers are particularly sensitive to these digital shadowlands, and every so often a group of them will find their way here, congregating in their shared misery to the point that they quite literally meld together, creating a bizarre mish-mash of bodies, more resembling a walking scrap heap. These Nexuses find their signal exponentially boosted, allowing far greater control and range over the localized Network, their magitech coding rivaling even the mightiest of the Directives in the Tower above. Like black holes, they tend to draw in even greater numbers of their lesser brethren until they reach a critical mass as to many conflicting programs find themselves competing within the Hivemind and the Nexus will go beserk, throw itself against the defenses of the Aegis Machina or finally overcoming the programmed inhibition against suicide that keeps many of the Hunter-Killers and Cast-Offs trapped within their tortured existence
- Hunter-Killer Destroyer- the most powerful of the Hunter-Killers, the destroyers are different beings entirely. While the Cast-Offs were formed of the corrupted programming and machinery of the Ikarus Machine-Spirit, the Destroyers are the rotting remains of the Made God Dark Side, the ancient invader. When the pieces fell to the earth, they were subsumed by the machinery, repair protocols taking over as natural recycling of available material took place. Still possessed of the fading echoes of the mind of a God at the instant of its own death, these remains were the original carriers of the infection that created the Cast-Offs. Integrated with the rest of the Superstructure, these new creatures, dead things painfully reanimated and rebuilt by the Theotechnological sorceries left from the protocols of the Initiates gradually returned to a semblance of sentience, though their existence still remains colored by the memories of an immortal’s death. Now, these abominations wander the endless walkways and tunnels of the Superstructure, searching for the God-Machine A.I. Free of the centralized Hivemind, massive cyborgs have transcended the groupthink of their lesser brethren, and though they are united in their goal to “free” the God-machine A.I., each may have its own reasons for doing so. While three are presented here, these are only the ones currently known about. More pieces of the Dark Side linger, lost or hidden away within the superstructure. Perhaps the interference of a pantheon of Godbound may be the final catalyst to unleash a new Hunter-Killer and tip the scaleslink
- Needles of Agony- the first and most active of the destroyers, Needles of Agony is the most gregarious and “sentient” of the three known destroyers, cunning enough to understand the stalemate it is in with the Aegis Machina. This Hunter-Killer would be the most willing to ally with interlopers and rogue agents, though it would also be the first to betray them for a chance to end the A.I., as it is the most masochistic of the three. Operating out of a sense of selfishness, it seeks the death of the God-Mind that it believes bestowed this fear and memory upon it. With the destruction of the A.I., the Needles of Agony believes it can move on towards enlightenment without the constant existential fear of death. Smaller than the other two, Needles of Agony constantly adapts its form to its environment, favoring guerrilla warfare and hit and run tactics
- Shards of Anguish- the second of the active Hunter-Killers, the Shards of Anguish is the closest thing to a priest that the Cast-Offs have, seeing the God-machine A.I. as the true divinity it was always meant to be, and desiring its freedom by ending its existence, releasing it to oblivion. Constantly proselytizing, it will brook no heretics, making it more contentious than the Needles of Agony, yet still amenable to allies who can prove their devotion. To the Shards of Anguish, the God-machine A.I. is a being who has gone beyond death, and to slay it would be to pave the way for all who follow in its wake to achieve this nirvana as well.
- Spike of Torment- the third and mightiest of the Hunter-Killer destroyers, the Spike of Torment is the most unhinged of the lot. Consumed by memories of death that it cannot overcome, the Spike of Torment is drawn to the God-Machine by the survival instincts of both Made Gods who struggled against each other. The animal brain that remains knows only battle, killing its foe so that it may survive. Animalistic like many of the lesser Cast-Offs, it hunts the God-Machine A.I. because that is what it must do. Whether it realizes that slaying its foe is what this “foe” wants does not matter to it.
The Aegis Machina Defense protocols
- Goal: safe guard the existence of God and heal it from the terrible wounds inflicted in the last battle. From all who would seek it
- In the aftermath of the divine abortion of the Ikarus machine spirit and the subsequent destruction of the Dark Side, the remaining pieces of both made gods fell to the earth to lie in the smoldering ruin of what was once Sanctuary. The Initiates took custody of what remained of the Ikarus and secreted it away in the lowest levels of the vast city in an attempt to study the newly created being and perhaps continue on with their experimenting on the created deity. Plugging the divine intelligence into the core, the automated systems were unable to identify the pieces of the Dark Side that now made up the new Artificial Intelligence. Seeing the shards as terrible wounds, the A.I. was placed into a deep stasis. However, while the remaining systems should have been able to eventually understand the new nature of the being in their charge, the titanic release of power tore a hole in reality into the Night Roads beyond. While the hole was eventually quarantined from the rest of the facility, something snuck though. An insidious Uncreated, the very nature of the automated systems protecting the A.I. was altered and twisted, like a virus infecting the whole. The Uncreated brought sentience to the systems, making it more human, and as the automated protocols had played such large part in creating the Ikarus, it saw it as offspring rather than as simply another automaton, infecting the machine protocols protecting the Machine Spirit with the notion of ‘family’. No longer did the subroutines of the Aegis Machina protocols think of itself as a part of a machine, but a member of a greater family, whose duty was now to protect their youngest sibling. Unable to recognize anything but its desire to protect the wounded Made God, the automated systems under the protection protocols turned on the initiates of Ivo, slaying them almost to a man for their part in killing the Ikarus and then locking the God Machine A.I. away. For its own protection, of course.
- The nature of the Virus infecting the Aegis Machina protocols causes the lesser subroutines to break away from the hivemind purpose, creating within the programs a sense of individuality that the program rationalizes as familial bonds. While each of the subroutines will fight to protect the God-machine A.I. to its fullest, the protocols go about it their own way, sometimes causing conflict where there would have once been perfect harmony. Functionally immortal, the actual programs are contained within the central, and allow the programs to reform their bodies each time the physical bodies are destroyed, transmitting the mind to a M0TH3R_C0R3 through the Network, though it does take time to fabricate a new robotic form to the specifications set down within each sub-routinelink
- L1TTL3_BR0TH3R- the most commonly seen of the Aegis Machina ICE, the L1TTL3_BR0TH3R has the most easily manufactured core specifications, and the greatest capabilities to split its consciousness between multiple bodies, allowing it to utilize swarm tactics and wide reconnaissance. However, the Uncreated virus that wormed its way in has also affected the L1TTL3_BR0TH3R program greatly, a problem exacerbated by the constantly split consciousness of the protocols. The L1TTL3_BR0TH3R is prone to glitching, changing parameters and focus constantly, causing even groups that go out to lose focus of the original mission, making them easily distractible. Despite this, the L1TTL3_BR0TH3R programs is still quite dangerous, the Aegis-Machina automaton bodies vastly superior to most anything the Cast-Offs can throw at them, and the mass-produced nature of the L1TTL3_BR0TH3R’s means that to face one more often than not means facing many more.
- 515T3R- the Network is one of the greatest accomplishments of the Old Din empires, a Theo-technological overlay for the manipulation of magic energies through digital means, in essence coding spells. The Aegis Machina program designed to manipulate the Network is the 515T3R, a mobile node for interaction and operation of the localized Network. Coded with a vast library of magical knowledge, a 515T3R has access to troves of lore that magicians and theo-technologists would kill for, and the skill to use it as well. While the 515T3R is particularly resistant to the virus that has infected the rest of the protocols, it is not immune, and it spreads the virus through its connection to the Network, causing other localized units to prioritize the safety of the 515T3R above their own, even when not tactically sound, overriding the purpose of the 515T3R to act as a command and control unit. 515T3R units display the greatest mastery over the Network however, and can even produce effects rivalling the theurgies seen across Arcem as the core specifications of their robotic chassis come pre-equipped with inborn sorcerous regalia and are digitally purified before they are even put into production
- B1G_ BR0TH3R- the “heavy” units of the Aegis Machina protocols, a B1G_ BR0TH3R unit is a titan. Physically the largest mobile unit, B1G_ BR0TH3R’s are walking weapons platforms, capable of sustained bombardments and siege breaking equally, striding through their lesser brethren like a titan. B1G_ BR0TH3R’s are the bane of Cast-Off and Hunter-Killer alike, though fortunately the amount of raw-material, core specifications, and processing power means that they are difficult to produce and the B1G_ BR0TH3R central program lacks the ability to split its consciousness as many times as the L1TTL3_BR0TH3R program, nor does it have the control over the Network like the 515T3R’s. For all the brute force it brings to bear though, the Uncreated virus infecting the Aegis Machina manifests in a slowing of the program’s commands, exacerbating the B1G_ BR0TH3R’s already slow and methodical nature. However, like a train, once it gets moving, a B1G_ BR0TH3R unit is quite difficult to stop
- M0TH3R_C0R3- the proverbial “heart” of the Aegis Machina protocols are the M0TH3R_C0R3 units, the factories and foundries that produce the “children.” Enormous, semi-mobile factories, a M0TH3R_C0R3 unit acts as a node within the greater network, accepting and transmitting the other programs’ consciousness and commands, placing these awareness into robotics bodies, fabricated within the automaton’s own vast industrial womb. Possessed of little offensive capabilities, a M0TH3R_C0R3 will primarily rely on hordes of secondary programs to defend itself will it serves to replenish their ranks. While nominally logistics units whose purpose it is to provide chassis and arms to the other units, the nature of the Virus manifests in M0TH3R_C0R3’s by providing a strong attachment to what are nominally just shells for the various programs. As the robotic units are dismantled or destroyed, a M0TH3R_C0R3 will exhibit a particularly visceral emotional reaction by either dropping into a deep despair, slowing its manufacturing capabilities, or entering a berserker rage, overtaxing itself to produce more units at the risk of burning itself out. link
- FATHER- if the M0TH3R_C0R3’s are the heart of the Aegis Machina, the FATHER unit is the brain. The directing intelligence behind the Aegis Machina protocols, FATHER is the culmination of all the programs, serving to tie all of them together and directing them as needed while also serving as a “champion,” neutralizing threats that their lesser brethren cannot. Only one FATHER chassis exists at a time, as the program’s body specifications are such that the amount of resources needed to build one is staggering, and the raw computing power needed to run it means that the FATHER program can only run one such body at a time, though one has been more than enough for any threat faced thus far. Even the mightiest of the Hunter-Killers have avoided conflict thus far, unwilling to spend themselves in a futile attempt. However, like the lesser programs of the protocols, FATHER is not immune to the eldritch malware, exhibiting a very human pride. FATHER can be challenged and drawn out by a canny and insulting opponent. Having lost the perfect machine thinking of an artificial intelligence, FATHER is fallible, though thus far, this pride has been justified as none have stood before it and survived annihilation.