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Robotic Exoskeleton Construction Notes


HU2 doesn't improve much on the lack of details regarding the construction of exoskeletons (Robot Type 3) that has been lacking in the Palladium system. The book implies that one follows the rules for building a normal robot, purchasing PS and Speed attributes by the values given for normal humanoid robots. The physical systems involved are far too different from each other to make this ready of a comparison. Rather than relying on endoskeletal designs, one has to build exoskeletal designs. Buying a humanoid body (HU2 pg 200) hardly seems useful, except as a manequin. I believe separate items should be designed, and a new section called "Exoskeleton Construction" should be developed. I'll try to lay a framework that matches the spirit of the Robotics section.

Much of this work could be applied to building a Type 1 Robot. I'll leave those additions for another day, since I never wanted one of those as a player character.


What are the considerations a character must make when designing a Type 3 Robot?


Exoskeletal Framework

The frame has to be custom fit to the intended user, requiring extensive computerized body modeling (3-7 full days of work by several trained technicians).

The basic choice to be made is the body type and size. As for type, current choices seem limited to humanoid bipedal, but possibilities for equine/centaur, serpent/gorgon, ape/hominid, and even reptilian/dragon types could exist. In the relatively low tech world of HU, the humanoid type is the only readily available option. The basic frame is essentially a set of external rods and hinges, adjusted to fit the character. A reinforced body frame is required for any model featuring enhanced strength and/or speed.

Assuming the character is of normal humanoid dimensions (~6' tall), without extra appendages:

At this point, the character is wearing a metal and plastic frame over their clothes (typically some type of bodysuit, for ideal fit). This is not meant to be used as body armor, and does not enhance attributes. It does provide support to a character's joints, allowing them to safely lift maximum weight for their PS. This may be useful for characters with injuries preventing them from movement and exercise.


External Robotic Motive Sources

The exoskeleton can be fitted with a system of external robotic "muscles". Two alternatives are available: the character can either replace his attributes with those of the robot (robotic armor) or enhance his own physical attributes (power armor). Operating robots with these two systems is different, requiring separate robotic piloting and combat skills. Note that the use of either of these systems will require the installation of a pilot interface (below).

Pilot Attribute Replacement (Robot Armor)
This option offers a replacement of the character's physical attributes. The character, when performing a physical action, is not using his biological muscles groups for more than superficial exertions. The character will eventually fatigue, but at one twentieth the normal rate. The base system allows the character to walk, run, lift objects, essentially to perform the full range of motions. This base system adds 150 lbs to the robot's weight.

Cost of basic attribute replacement system: $450,000
Attributes of base system are PS: 10; PP: 10; Speed: 20; Upgrade of the system is customized as follows; costs are determined by my Robotic Attribute Rules.

Pilot Attribute Enhancement (Power Armor)
This option provides lightweight, reasonably form-fitting motive systems enhancing the character's natural attributes. This means that the character, when performing a physical action, is actually using his biological muscle groups as well as the robotic systems. The character will fatigue, but at one third the normal rate because the exoskeleton performs a large share of the work. The base system will provide enough strength to carry the exoskeleton, allowing the pilot to perform a full range of motions with no penalties and adding 50 lbs to the robot's weight. Attribute enhancement is inherently more delicate work, and improvements cost a bit more than those of attribute replacement.

Cost of basic attribute enhancement system: $350,000
Upgrade of the system is customized as follows (reinforced frame is required); costs are determined by my Robotic Attribute Rules:

Notes and Options for Either System:

Weight due to increased attributes is added to the robot by eight lbs for each addtional PS point, five lbs for each additional PP point, and 1 lb per additional Speed point. Increasing the robot's attributes will make the robot less streamlined around the pilot's body. This presents no combat penalties.

See New Hydraulic Leaping and Lifting systems

Locking Joints
Joints can be equipped with high tensile metal mechanisms, allowing a robot to lock that joint in place. Moving the limb will require a PS capable of overpowering the robot's PS by at least 20 PS attribute points. If a joint is overpowered it causes damage to the mechanism. It is bent out of place, causing the joint to stiffen. The robot will be incapable of easily moving that joint until it is fixed. Combat penalties should be assessed on a situational basis by the GM.
Cost required for locking joints:
Single Joint: $5,000
Hand: $14,000
Arm and hand: $35,000
Leg: $28,000
Full body (incl waist, neck): $150,000


Advanced Propulsion Systems

The following systems available in HU2 (pg 203) are appropriate for installation in a Type 3 robot:

Keep in mind that these system will add visible external bulk to the robot, since there is much less room for concealment than in a Type 2 robot.


Sensor Systems

The Audio, Optics, and Sensors available in HU2 (pgs 205-206) are all appropriate for installation in a Type 3 robot, except for the Maxi-Radar.


Weapons Systems

The Eye and Humanoid Robot Weapons available in HU2 (206-208) are all appropriate for installation in a Type 3 robot, including weapon arms. Concealed weapons are possible, but will increase the size of the area used to hide, since there is no "interior". Some Giant sized weapons (HU2 pg 208-209) may be appropriate (GM's discretion).


Onboard Computer

A computer will be needed to interface with and coordinate requirements for the onboard systems. The computer's operation is entirely independent of the pilot's direct control when properly operating. The computer can be programmed to relay information to the pilot, as well as interact with the pilot. Either of these capabilities will require appropriate pilot interfaces. In the high tech world of HU raw computing power is cheap, but programming and cofiguring the system is a challenge.

Cost of onboard computer with appropriate control cards and software: $65,000


Pilot Interface

Eventually the exoskeleton will have onboard features for the pilot to exert control over. Information will be relayed to and from the subsystems through one or more pilot interfaces.

Multi-Purpose Interface Systems
Some interface systems can be used to interact with some or all of the robot's subsystems.

The cybernetic implant prices below are listed for reference. Costs can be applied to the purchase of cybernetic replacement systems (if desired), as they are simply an intermediate step in that process. Corporate-sponsored pilots may recieve these implants, as well as the Hardwired body motion implants, as a type of employee benefit (which minimizes robot construction cost and makes the pilot more flexible).

Body Motion
For the pilot's body motion to be tranferred to external motive sources ("muscles") there must be either a preset list of programmed movements or continual feedback from the pilot's body. Preprogrammed movements (like "walk" and "grab") are probably not ideal for combat situations; pilot is -6 on initiative, strike, parry, dodge; rolling with and pulling punches is not possible. Advanced robotic pilot training (additonal pilot skill selection) can reduce these penalties by half. Using continual feedback means the robot will detect a pilot's intention to move a particular limb and take action to engage or assist that motion. Both of these options require an onboard computer component to process the incoming data.

Sensor Systems Output
The pilot will want to protect his bodily sensor systems, as well as recieve output from his enhanced robotic systems. Starting with vision, the pilot will (hopefully) opt for some eye protection. From this bargain option, one can upgrade to various onboard display systems.


Life Support Systems

Unless the character leaves open hole in the faceplate, Type 3 Robots require the purchase of a Life Support Unit (HU2 pg 210). The system allows the character to filter atmospheric air, using it to breathe. It also includes an independent oxygen supply, which can be used in lieu of external air for up to four hours.
Cost of Life Support Unit: $100,000

The following systems are also appropriate for use with Type 3 Robots:

It should be pointed out that robotic materials are rarely magnetic. Magnetic shielding to protect the robotic circuits from EM interference and attack can be installed.
Cost of Type 3 Robot Magnetic Shielding: $25,000


Onboard Power Supply

The power supply systems in HU2 (pg 202) are woefully undetailed and non-specific. I suggest using alternative rules; I have developed a set of rules that govern power consumption and supplies, including the addition of battery power (by far the most logical alternative for Type 3 Robots).


Exterior Armor

The robot should first be equipped with light permanent armor to protect it's inner workings. This addition turns the robot into a full exoskeleton. The permanent armor has 100 SDC, and is custom designed for each model to protect the particular systems and weapons.
Basic permanent armor system: $135,000
Adds 115 lbs to weight of robot
Final, basic exoskeleton has attributes: Natural AR: 6 (full body); SDC: 225

When designing the above basic exoskeletal armor one can install attachments for use with additional armor components. These components are easily removable and replaceable by a trained technician (or a character with an appropriate skill selection, like "Basic Robotic Mechanics"). This will protect the robot from interior system damage. Type 3 robots can have a maximum of 500 additional SDC. Extra removable armor (spare parts) can be purchased with startup money, if desired.
Armor attachment system: $50,000
Cost of additional removable armor: $10,000 per 10 SDC

Stylizing the armor is possible. A graphic designer interacts with the armor's manufacturer. Possible effects can increase the armor's visual appeal or intimidation factor. A maximum effective PB of 16 is possible, as well as a maximum optional HF of 12.
Stylized structure of armor: $15,000
Stylized color of armor: $1,000

Specialized coatings and treatments can be applied to the armor, giving it special properties. The most effective is to increase the armor's Natural Armor Rating, which is initially at 6. Rolls to strike below this AR will usually do no damage to the armor's SDC. This AR can be increased to a maximum of 15.

Other treatments can prevent damage caused by intense heat, lasers, and electricity. Note that the advanced alloys used in robotic construction are largely immune to cold damage (but not necesarily damage due to ice attacks). The treatment does not have to effect the entire SDC; if a partial amount is treated, the effect will last until that SDC is lost. Only one treatment can be used on a given section of armor. It is entirely possible to put one type of treatment on the body at large, and a different type on a specific area. Specifically, one can create forearms designed to parry a certain type of attack.

To assist in making the robot immune to electrical attacks, the character can install a type of lightning rod. Part of the armor (which is hopefully given electical immunity) can be charged, in order to attract electrical attacks. The attacks strikes that section of armor, doing no damage. The system should not be left on continually, as it interferes with other components. Use a normal parry roll, with a +3 bonus, to attract any electrical attack striking within ten feet of the character.
Cost of "Lightning Rod": $15,000

Physical damage done to armor by strength category (normal bullets are considered extraordinary) is as follows:

Strength Category Roll under AR Roll over AR
Normal No damage No damage
Extraordinary 1 / 4 damage 1 / 2 damage
Superhuman 1 / 3 damage 2 / 3 damage
Supernatural 1 / 2 damage Full damage