Monday, April 13, 2020

A.I Characters in GURPS

GURPS has some solid stuff for computer characters but there is always more to cover and a recent question on the SJG GURPS forum prompted me to write this.

Official Sources

  • GURPS Transhuman Space: This is a Third Edition and Fourth Edition setting. Its a solid setting but never became popular, I think mostly because of timing. Published around the transition time between editions it lost a lot of momentum during the changeover. However it has rules for uploaded minds, A.I.s, bioroids, robots,and more.
  • GURPS Cyberpunk: This is a Third edition setting and genre book.  I personally found the phases (action turns) to be cumbersome but liked the book overall and would like to see a new version.
  • GURPS Ultra-Tech: The first of the GURPS tech series,it has lots of gear and expanded the computer rules from GURPS Basic Set.
  • GURPS Template Toolkit 2: Races - Has a few additional racial traits for computer based charecters.
  • GURPS High-Tech: Electricity and Electronics: Is a great book on gear but also goes into detail on computer of the modern age exceeding any other GURPS book and good for future settings too.
  • Pyramid #3/21 Cyberpunk: Has several articles on computers and the article Console Cowboys and Cyberspace Kung Fu is a great netrunning update. Gets rid of alot of the complexity from GURPS Cyberpunk with a more streamlined netrunning rule set.

I may have missed something but if I were running a cyberpunk or netrunning campaign I would start with these books. However as the op asked in the thread referred to earlier how many points is a program?  And beyond that if your building a character or purchasing one as an Ally some questions may remain.  So here are my current thoughts.
Most of this can be gleaned from GURPS Basic.

  • Digital Mind [4] is the base and makes your mind a computer with a complexity of at least half your IQ.
  • Alternate Form or Morph (both types of Shapechange) can handle controlling robots or even a super science computer capable of rebuilding itself for different applications.
  • Compartmentalized Mind represents networked computers or multiple central processing units. Though each CPU is more powerful than real world CPUs in that they are basically duplicates of the brain.
  • Duplication (Digital) can represent uploading a copy to another computer.
  • Eidetic and Photographic Memory are easily represented by quick access to large storage media.
  • Extra Life of course represents a digital backup.

  • Intuition and Oracle (Digital) are ways to represent processing massive data to come up with a useful answer.
  • Lightning Calculator and Intuitive Mathematician represent the superior math capability and are parts of most A.I. related metatraits.
  • Machine and Computer metatraits bundle several traits together, found in GURPS Basic and GURPS Template Toolkits 2: Races.
  • Modular Abilities (Chip Slots) represent swapping programs in and out of memory. The Super Memorization version would be more for writing a program in cinematic time.
  • Talents can represent dedicated co-processors, especially Mathematical Ability (Math) and Artist types for graphics co-processors.
  • Telecommunication represents computers talking to each other or people interfacing with them. From Cable Interface Jacks [5] to advanced neural interfaces, these are found in various books.
And this is off the top of my head, lots more could be had but thats a good core. So about that initial question...
Wih all the hardware out of the way, how do we determine the complexity of a program and how many points it is?  Different sources give us good ideas for complexity based on program type but that can be a bit tricky to adjudicate.

Quick and Dirty Complexity vs. Character Point Rules

Complexity determines how bulky and sophisticated a program is. Base Complexity is 1 per character point in the skill or technique. Most programs are one skill, though some may package related skills into one software package. If this is done the entire package must be loaded into memory at one time.
Modifiers: Highly math oriented programs that would benefit from Intuitive Mathematician or Mathematical Ability -1 complexity; Graphical or Musical programs that would benefit from artistic or musical talents +1 complexity.

That's a very simplified fast method but it means harder skills will be more expensive and require better computers to run on than easier skills. Dollar cost can be based on the setting or use the rules from one of the books above.

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