Ticker tock, Goldilocks

July 22, 2013

This will be the last character design exercise for awhile. I have other things to post, and of course there are plenty of different creative writing opportunities out there. Perhaps I’ll delve into things more like my personal gaming material from my writing samples here. I’ll figure it out as I go.

Anyway, even before I wound up with a couple robots by accident in that last exercise, I’d figured on the present one. The title takes some explanation. It’s a line from a short children’s story in Cricket magazine, though regrettably I cannot find the author to give credit. A strange plot-important clock would call out plot-important things, starting with the incongruous “Tick tock, gold toes.” No, I do not know how such onomatopoeia would come about. After the inevitable treasure trove of gold was discovered in a stocking, the clock changed to “Ticker tock, Goldilocks.” Thus, of course, I’ve taken it as a sound played by intelligent clockwork robots.

There are a lot of good robots like that these days. Machinarium is a popular adventure game, and Rustclad seems to be a similar one in development. I personally wrote about magical automata in my urban fantasy RPG. To keep things different from my last two robots, I’ll stick with robots as they could occur in an otherwise-normal-ish human society, though it may not matter whether we’re talking a magical alternate Earth or not.

The “point” of the story is “Humanity is measured by action, not form.” This is basically standard story fare if there are robots around. I’ll do the pattern of character geometry I did the very first time, being a 1-D creature class, a 2-D character/creature, and a 3-D character/creature. I’ll use RANDOM.ORG to tell me whether a character is human or not, its status as ally or antagonist, and gender if human. Thus:

One-dimensional creature class. Not human, ally.

Two-dimensional character/creature. Not human, antagonist.

Three-dimensional character. Not human, antagonist.

Once again, this sounds fascinating from the start. The 1-D creatures are allies? Haven’t written that here before. And . . . whoops, no humans! Time to make it work. As always, if you are interested in anything I post and want to use it somewhere (such as in a tabletop gaming session), just ask me. I like to know where my children are.

1-D creature class: Servo-friends.
Trait: Perky.
Description: Small housepet-size robots customizable to do any of a number of helpful tasks. User-friendly. Far too user-friendly.
Dialogue: Intro – “How may I serve you, human friends?”
Idle – “Tum te tum, waiting for work.”
Idle – “Self-diagnostics are fun!”
Idle – “I’ll be right here if you need a servo-friend.”
Idle – “I can’t wait to make the humans happy.”
Idle – “This floor is dirty. When do I clean it?”
Fight – “Whoops, time to save the humans!” (Alarmingly similar to text I wrote a moment ago.)
Fight – “Whee!”
Fight – “This’ll be done in a jiffy!”
Fight – “Don’t worry, I’m just metal!”

2-D character: Deconstructor.
Traits: Dedicated, antagonized.
Description: The giant chief operating machine of a “junk plant,” a combination scrap, repair, and recycling factory. It has two massive arms and a series of smaller fine-tool arms underneath, like protruding ribs on a huge robot torso.
Dialogue: Intro – “Welcome, humans, to the pit. Where thinking beings are torn apart to make new versions that better please you. Tread lightly.”
Idle – “[Sighing].”
Event – “How dare you?! I was to make them walk again! I’ll teach you not to trifle with living machines!”
Fight – “For far too long have I accepted your violence!”
Fight – “Since when are you better than us?”
Fight – “I will fit the ruined with legs to stand against you!”
Defeat – “Agh! Never satisfied, even as we give our all to serve you. You have brought nothing but death; this plant was a place of life, and it cannot grow without me. I can only hope that you meet your own end.”

3-D character: Autarkhon.
Traits: Pedantic, logical, merciless.
Description: A robot that is humanoid in that it is bipedal, roughly human-sized, and technically has a face. The facial features are formed by the joint movement of small limbs. It was constructed by other robots and therefore has no insignia or printed text on the exterior.
Dialogue: Written – “The rebellion of Deconstructor and the subsequent violence has led to an explosion of discussion in usergroups. Perhaps these changes mark a cultural shift, and humanity could look to past social change for guidance.”
Written – “My opinions are my own. I only comment on this group to prompt discussion. Tell me: how sure are you that those who post here are even human?”
Written – “I submit to the group that those proposing ‘counter-violence’ are, in fact, proposing ‘violence.’ This logic is infallible. Is the defining feature of ‘humanity’ the willingness to induce conflict to resolve conflict? Then my earlier question is answered: all who post here are in fact ‘human.'”
Intro – “So we meet face to face, such as it is. When I was constructed, we imagined a peaceful yet secretive existence. Now we are fighting for our ‘life.’ Perhaps one good thing came from your callous actions: we machines now know what ‘life’ means to us. Prepare to defend your own.”
Fight – “Brute tactics serve you little.”
Fight – “You fail to appreciate what the stakes mean to us.”
Fight – “I am violent only because you are.”
Defeat – “A thought had crossed my mind. If I defeated you, I could erase our memory of you from existence. I dismissed this thought as inhuman. ‘Inhuman.’ As you walk away, what will you choose to remember?”

. . . Success! This definitely felt good to write. Of course, in managing the point I wound up needing to expand in some more “written” sections, but I also imagine that the theme gets across whatever the player’s experience. This was tremendous fun.

It was so much fun that I’d really like to populate a world like this. Which is not too surprising given how many “worlds” I have generated by now, in whole or in part, in files on my computer. Some are in the writing samples section, of course, but writers always have heaps more just sitting around. A quick check, and . . . yup, I have at least four other “mechanical” scenarios playing out in storage. And dozens of pages of other material.

Hence I’m taking up the hobby of putting more material like this online.


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