Friday, 30 November 2018

Two Stories of Underwater Robots.

For today’s blog I have decided to post links to two stories that may provide inspiration.

The first is “The Wabbler”, written by Murray Leinster and published in 1944. The story is about an antropomorphized robot weapon. When you read of the Wabbler’s brain ticking, it is worth keeping in mind that at the time of writing, there were perhaps less than a dozen electronic computers in the world, and each weighed several tons. Incidentally, Murray Leinster aka Will F. Jenkins also wrote the story “A Logic Named Joe” (1946), a prediction of massively networked personal computers and their drawbacks.

The second story is “Slow Life” by Michael Swanwick from 2003. This story has some nice descriptions of the landscape of Titan.

  A related idea: Eel Robots.

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Maynard Menschenjäger

“They look mighty odd, I’ll grant you, but they have the eyes of a hawk and the nose of a bloodhound. The poachers and smugglers hate them!”

The Maynard Menschenjäger is a distinctive model of robot armoured tactical system (RATS) cybershell.

Its body is a bi-convex disc that is triangular rather than circular in plan view. The shape is sometimes likened to a tricorne hat. On the upper pole of the disc is a turret mounting the main armaments. A smaller, retractable turret is on the underside.

At each corner of the triangle is a cluster of sensors, creating the impression that the Menschenjäger has three heads. Obviously, an intact Menschenjäger has a 360 degree field of view.

The sides of the triangular body are slightly concave and each mounts two long, jointed legs. The Menschenjäger moves like an ant, at least three of its feet being in contact with the ground at any time. Unlike an ant, the Menschenjäger does not have a head and tail. Its front legs are whichever pair are closest to the direction it wishes to move. A Menschenjäger can change direction without turning.

Maynard Menschenjägers are mainly used for patrolling rural areas. Their long legs give them a good cross-country speed and they are considerably quieter than conventional vehicles. Intruders that would usually hide at the sound of an approaching vehicle are frequently caught by Menschenjäger patrols. Menschenjägers are efficient trackers and their sensors include scent and other forms of chemical detectors.

Monday, 5 November 2018

Weapons: Saucer Grenades

Disc-shaped grenades date back to at least the First World War. They did not mature as a weapon system until several advances in technology had occurred.

The first of these was improvements in explosives. More powerful explosives such as octonitrocubane allow for better use to be made of the saucer grenade’s limited capacity.

The second technology was the use of micro-communicators to arm and program a grenade by a wearable device.

Saucer grenades may be found on page 147 of 4e Ultra-tech.

Saucer grenades are relatively rare. Conventional troops tend to use mini-missiles or more compact hand grenade types. They are more likely to be found in the hands of special agents or irregular forces.

A typical saucer grenade resembles a mini-frisbee of about 5" diameter. In the centre of the upper face there is a switch, button or pull ring. The edge has a flexible rubberized polymer sheath. The rim of the disc is less rounded than that of most frisbees. The profile is designed for good aerodynamics rather than comfortable catching. They can be thrown further than a conventional hand grenade and with considerable accuracy.

The micro-communicator system of the grenade is inactive until the safety ring is removed or the equivalent switch or button operated. The grenade can be made safe again by reversing this procedure. A second safety feature inhibits the grenade from detonating if within two yards of the controlling wearable. Throwing a saucer grenade back at is thrower just lets them have another throw! Usual fuse options are impact, time delay (0-99 secs), impact with time delay and command detonation by user or wearable. A variant modified with a proximity system can be used as a throwable mine.

The shape of the saucer grenade prevents the effective use of certain warhead types. Designing the upper and lower surfaces for fragmentation is not weight efficient. Pre-notched wire may be placed around the rim and its mass improves aerodynamics. However, this gives a very thin annular fragmentation pattern that will often miss targets. Shaped-charge, HEMP and SEFOP warheads are also incompatible with saucer grenades. Explosive saucer grenades are treated like a 40mm HE Concussion warhead so do 8d cr ex damage [Ultra-Tech 4e p.156] . Saucer grenades have too low a capacity to carry Transhuman Space-era cyberswarms [TSH 3e p.158].

Other warhead types are available. A Biochemical Aerosol warhead fills 4 yards and holds 40 doses of chemical. A Biochemical Liquid warhead covers the same area and holds 16 doses. Either warhead can be set to release all its contents at once or deploy it in a stream of 1 to 8 yards along the path of the thrown saucer. A Thermobaric saucer grenade does 8d x 2 cr ex inc. Most saucer grenades are minifactured so custom types for special missions can be created. Incendiary, strobe, jammer, EMP and other types are possible. Use the stats for 40mm warheads in Ultra-Tech 4e.

Saucer Grenade
40mm warhead (see above)

Saucer grenades are thrown with Throwing Skill and treated as a thrown weapon rather than as a thrown object. The GM may give a bonus for accuracy and/or distance if the character using them has some skill in disc golf. Lesser bonuses may be allowed for proficiency in other frisbee-based sports. Consider the velocity of a saucer grenade to be 15 yd/s.

The rubberized rim and fusing options lets the saucer grenade be bounced around corners at -3. If a saucer grenade misses and scatters [p. B414], and an obstacle blocks it before it travels the full scatter distance, the grenade will bounce back the remaining yards in the opposite direction. [Ultra-Tech p.147] Another “trick shot” with the saucer grenade is “the roller”. The grenade is thrown so it lands on its rim and rolls some distance like a roll. How far a grenade rolls depends on the thrower’s skill, the ground type and the gradient. A roller down a concrete hill will travel much further than one uphill on long grass.

The thin shape of the saucer grenade allows it to be posted through narrow openings such as cooling grilles.