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KungFuFerret

Intelligent/Sentient Ships

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So, I love stories with sentient ships in them.  From Farscape, to the Singing Ship series by Anne McCaffery, to the Bobiverse book series, I find the idea of it incredibly fun and fascinating.   But, as far as I can recall, there aren't any examples of it in Star Wars.  Which I find strange, given the prolific nature of droids.    Now granted, I've barely touched any of the Legacy stuff, because frankly, I found most of what I read to be terrible work, on par with the worst fan fiction, and I just didn't want to dump a metric ton of cash on all the stuff out there.  So maybe there are some examples of it the SW-Verse.  

If there are, what are some examples of it.

If not, how would you introduce it into your campaign?   Part of me likes the idea of having a PC be a sentient ship.  Obviously there are some limitations for the character, but I think it would make for some really interesting storytelling.    The PC sentient ship is more of a fun thought experiment than an actual idea though, but if you have ideas on how to actually make it work in a game, I'd be interested in hearing it.

Basically I'm just tossing out the topic of sentient ships in FFG Star Wars, and how that would work with the mechanics, and how you would utilize them, either as NPC's, or as part of a party of players.

Thoughts?

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I vaguely recall a short story in Tales of the New Republic I think that implied a Force ghost was the ship, or inhabited the ship. I could be remembering it wrong. Anyway there is that and the Eye of Palpatine that was inhabited by Callista Ming.

I've always liked the idea as well. My group and I had the idea of having the Empire using Force users who function as the Navicomputer in trailblazer starships. We were going to have them hooked up in a bacta tank with wires and drugs and such. We never developed that storyline, but I've thought about it off and on.

Mechanically, I'd probably just have the ship perform Assisted checks and remove one setback due to environmental hazards (or grant the ship the use of the Galaxy Mapper talent).

Edited by JorArns
Talent addition

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11 minutes ago, JorArns said:

I've always liked the idea as well. My group and I had the idea of having the Empire using Force users who function as the Navicomputer in trailblazer starships. We were going to have them hooked up in a bacta tank with wires and drugs and such. We never developed that storyline, but I've thought about it off and on.

....are you and your friends fans of Babylon 5?  Because the Empire sticking Force sensitive people into ships as the CPU sounds an awful lot like the Shadow Vessels and how they operated. :D    I approve, especially if the Force users were Dark Siders, so the ships get all dark and red, and veiny looking.   

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Just now, KungFuFerret said:

....are you and your friends fans of Babylon 5?  Because the Empire sticking Force sensitive people into ships as the CPU sounds an awful lot like the Shadow Vessels and how they operated. :D    I approve, especially if the Force users were Dark Siders, so the ships get all dark and red, and veiny looking.   

I didn't know that. I've never watched Babylon 5, so now I think maybe I should.

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It's my favorite scifi series of all time, hands down.  The CGI doesn't hold up well, because it was right at the cusp of real CGI technology, so they were fumbling around with really low quality gear.  But the stories are great, the actors are awesome, and it really captured the feel of a lived in universe, that made sense.  Plus it had some awesome space battles in the later seasons, once they got the hang of doing CGI.

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THESE MIGHT BE SPOILERS FOR THE EU, IF YOU EVER CONSIDERED GOING BACK TO READ WHAT DISNEY BURNED, TO MAKE THE CURRENT CANON!!!

In Expanded Universe, the Aang-Tii used living ships, from fighter size to dreadnoughts, and Zonama Sekot had some, too. They showed up a bit, during the end of the Vong War, I think, once they start sliding into material where a single planet (ZS), is sentient, and mobile, like Marvel Comic's Ego, and sort of the source of the Force, even being able to cut off whole races from it, including their gods. Weird, messy, yes I know, but I seem to recall that, during the Clone Wars era, they some how slip ZS into an episode, and Anakin Skywalker gets a living fighter of his own. Shadow droids...a wonderful example of "sentient" for the people who argue that their ships shouldn't do that.

 

Babylon 5 is great, to me, though often looked at less favorably, when compared to things like Star Wars, and Star Trek, which is a shame. Vorlons are among my favorite sci-fi races. I also like Andromeda, though such ships do only have AI, not organic hulls, and what have you; also very campy.

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1 hour ago, venkelos said:

Babylon 5 is great, to me, though often looked at less favorably, when compared to things like Star Wars, and Star Trek, which is a shame. Vorlons are among my favorite sci-fi races. I also like Andromeda, though such ships do only have AI, not organic hulls, and what have you; also very campy.

AI controlled is just fine, and in fact is the more common version of this trope.  Though biological ships are usually interesting too

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If you want the ship to be a PC, but have that player included, give the ship the ability to either transfer consciousness to a droid body or to remotely control a droid body. Problem solved.

But I guess I'm the odd man out on Babylon 5 here. They lost me in the first five minutes of the pilot, and despite several attempts at watching it again based on recommendations of friends whose tastes I generally trust and share, just never warmed to it.

It did, however, provide great, funny anecdotes for comics writer Peter David to share about his association with the show.

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7 hours ago, KungFuFerret said:

So, I love stories with sentient ships in them.  From Farscape, to the Singing Ship series by Anne McCaffery, to the Bobiverse book series, I find the idea of it incredibly fun and fascinating.   But, as far as I can recall, there aren't any examples of it in Star Wars.  Which I find strange, given the prolific nature of droids.    Now granted, I've barely touched any of the Legacy stuff, because frankly, I found most of what I read to be terrible work, on par with the worst fan fiction, and I just didn't want to dump a metric ton of cash on all the stuff out there.  So maybe there are some examples of it the SW-Verse.  

If there are, what are some examples of it.

If not, how would you introduce it into your campaign?   Part of me likes the idea of having a PC be a sentient ship.  Obviously there are some limitations for the character, but I think it would make for some really interesting storytelling.    The PC sentient ship is more of a fun thought experiment than an actual idea though, but if you have ideas on how to actually make it work in a game, I'd be interested in hearing it.

Basically I'm just tossing out the topic of sentient ships in FFG Star Wars, and how that would work with the mechanics, and how you would utilize them, either as NPC's, or as part of a party of players.

Thoughts?

I love sentient ships too.  My favorite series of this type is gene Roddenberry'so starship Andromeda, with "Rommie" being the gynoid (female android, or hrd in star wars terms) avatar of the ship's AI.  Make the player a hrd, and put the various 0 hp Droid brains on the ship.  The player rolls the as the Droid brain's (2 to 4 green dice) when acting as the ship and their own stats when acting as the hrd.  For an hrd (or other species replica droid) just use the stats of the species

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I was thinking stat out the droid, giving 1-2 boosts piloting as part of its own ship, and an equal number of setbacks when piloting any other ship as the droid (the thought being that it is far more efficient piloting itself as an AI in control of the ship than having to use the physical droid body in another ship).

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Have to be careful with those sentient AIs or you'll find that they head down the path of a different sci fi brand. "Look at you, Jedi. A pathetic creature of meat and bone..."

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This thread motivated me to google search more examples in fiction.  I found this

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/sci-fi-fantasy/our-6-favorite-sentient-spaceships/

but seriously, if I was to play a sentient star wars starship, I'd want it to have a hot/sexy female human-or-other-species replica droid avatar who was romantically interested in infatuated with whoever her current captain happened to be (it's part of her programming, so that she'll always be loyal/take orders)

 

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The Katana fleet were used in the Thrawn books; they were ships that were slave linked together and numbered 1000 in all yet on the day of testing they mysteriously went to hyperspace with no one aboard. For most part automation isn't actually very popular in this universe for that reason; droids inevitability develop quirks and usually aren't trusted a great deal as a result.

 

Thats just the boring answer though, go nuts! XD

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Babylon 5 had the vorlon ships that were actually living creatures.  The shadow ships were living creatures that used an augmented, mind controlled, sentient as it's control system.  The ship that sang was a good series.  Andromeda had a good bit about each capital ship having it's own AI.

Star wars wise, I only know about the example LordBritish gave.  My understanding is that is part of the reason that ships aren't very automated.  Droids are not trusted since they're so prone to going rogue.  That and the industrial age feel to Star Wars technology.  Sure you can power a jet-car on a D-Cell, but you still need 30 people to run your bridge and relay orders to the various sections of a large ship.

I think the lack of automation is a hard part for younger generations to grasp since they've grown up with everything being able to be computerized.  But growing up with 486 computers and manual assembly lines, it helps to understand the original feel to star wars.  I like to think of it as analog technology vs digital.

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I did it once, some time ago back with the D6 engine - and it worked out pretty well. One day the team Jedi and the sidekick droid got into an argument about if the droid was alive. The droid argued that he met all the criteria, and the Jedi called him on the ability to reproduce. And so the droid reproduced, reprogramming the ship's computers into an fully integrated AI.

Hope  was pretty cool - they installed holographic projectors all over the ship so she could have an avatar they could talk to, installed a couple of skutters in case she needed to manipulate real world things. All in all, it worked out pretty well! The players loved her, it took some of the burden off having to have great piloting skills and let me handwave some Ex Machina saves as the need arose.

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7 hours ago, Ahrimon said:

Babylon 5 had the vorlon ships that were actually living creatures.  The shadow ships were living creatures that used an augmented, mind controlled, sentient as it's control system.  The ship that sang was a good series.  Andromeda had a good bit about each capital ship having it's own AI.

Star wars wise, I only know about the example LordBritish gave.  My understanding is that is part of the reason that ships aren't very automated.  Droids are not trusted since they're so prone to going rogue.  That and the industrial age feel to Star Wars technology.  Sure you can power a jet-car on a D-Cell, but you still need 30 people to run your bridge and relay orders to the various sections of a large ship.

I think the lack of automation is a hard part for younger generations to grasp since they've grown up with everything being able to be computerized.  But growing up with 486 computers and manual assembly lines, it helps to understand the original feel to star wars.  I like to think of it as analog technology vs digital.

386 computers were a thing when I was an undergrad.  There was a big room of them in the library building for people to write reports, which we hated because they were slow and clunky.  In my senior year of undergrad I got a 486 Sony vaio, I started that year with a baude (sp?) modem in my dorm room, and got upgraded to ethernet, before the end of the year.  Warcraft 2 was the popular game everyone was playing over the network in the dorms.

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2 hours ago, Desslok said:

I did it once, some time ago back with the D6 engine - and it worked out pretty well. One day the team Jedi and the sidekick droid got into an argument about if the droid was alive. The droid argued that he met all the criteria, and the Jedi called him on the ability to reproduce. And so the droid reproduced, reprogramming the ship's computers into an fully integrated AI.

Hope  was pretty cool - they installed holographic projectors all over the ship so she could have an avatar they could talk to, installed a couple of skutters in case she needed to manipulate real world things. All in all, it worked out pretty well! The players loved her, it took some of the burden off having to have great piloting skills and let me handwave some Ex Machina saves as the need arose.

Under saga I designed a starship I called the stellar wind and was making a 3D digital model in matlab.  I'll try to dig up some jpegs.  It had a holographic avatar and hrd avatar that looked like Belinda Carlisle as well as 2 astromechs that it controlled, one in chromium and black trim the other in gold and black trim.

 

edit: found some pics.  The ship is intended to have a chromium finish like the royal naboo/nubian starships.  I was designing it with the thought that if I ever won a mega millions jackpot I could build a "replica" "parked" on a fake tarmac/landing pad that could be rented out as a posh  and luxury themed house by sci-fi geeks.  with refueling etc. tubes connected to supply power, water, sewer, etc. That's part of the reason why I was paying so much attention to the amount of space between decks.  I wanted a ship that could be comfortably lived in and wasn't bigger on the inside than it was on the outside.

StellarPlanet2.jpgFlutter_iso_0_0.jpgFlutter_iso_0_90.jpgFlutter_iso_p90_0.jpgFlutter_iso_n90_0.jpgFlutter_iso_n37p5_p30.jpgFlutter_iso_p37p5_p30.jpgFlutter_iso_p70_n15.jpgFlutter_lower_deck_iso_n37p5_p30_fi.jpgFlutter_lower_deck_plan_saga_square.jpg

it may not be obvious but this next one is the amount of vertical space between the lower and upper deck (assuming paper thin decks, obviously there is a non-zero thickness to the decks/walls but I didn't get that far into the design)

Flutter_vert_space_lower_deck_final.jpgFlutter_main_deck_iso_n37p5_p30.jpg

Flutter_main_deck_markup.jpg

this next one is vertical space between the main/upper deck and the upper hull

Flutter_vert_space_main_deck.jpg

 

Edited by EliasWindrider

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14 hours ago, LordBritish said:

The Katana fleet were used in the Thrawn books; they were ships that were slave linked together and numbered 1000 in all yet on the day of testing they mysteriously went to hyperspace with no one aboard. For most part automation isn't actually very popular in this universe for that reason; droids inevitability develop quirks and usually aren't trusted a great deal as a result.

Not quite right, the Katana fleet had a crew, but it was a relatively small crew because they were heavily automated.  The crew of the flagship went insane (magic insane-making space disease) and because of all the automation they could control the entire fleet to jump into hyperspace.  The fiction makes a point that this was back int he days when ships needed much bigger crews than they do nowadays (the bookw as set about 10aby?) so much of that automation has been included anyway.

I may have missed it but nobody seems to have mentioned the CIS vulture droids and other droid fighters/ships.  Most of their battleships were entirely crewed by droids as well.  Not sure why the droids were sitting in seats and not simply wired into the ship, but I guess maybe for interchangeability so that living beings could perform some of the roles when necessary?

From non-Star Wars I'd throw in Ancillary Justice as a great example, where the ship is sentient; but it is a distributed sentience across the ship and a large number of "ancillaries".  Imagine Andromeda but with dozens of Rommies.  They still have human officers however, giving orders and so forth.  

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Dark Matter, a current series soon to enter its 3rd season (I've watched it on netflix, but think it's on SyFy), features an Android essentially performing as the ship's AI (astrogation, ship systems control). It's a good show, and one of the story arcs involves an emerging underground droid rights movement.

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One group and I just basically made it a thing casually that the ship computer has a personality. He's named Dave and his voice sounds like a radio disk jockey. Recently the ship's had a secondary personality matrix downloaded (it was somewhat of an accidental thing by the crew) that contains the backup of an old droid friend that used to pilot the ship. The droid acts as the ship's security warning system.

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In a recent F&D campaign I had the PC get ferried around the galaxy in the Sulaco (from Aliens) that was a giant droid.  It could even remotely pilot the landing ships but not as well as the players could (Just take off, fly, and land).  It lasted about 6 sessions until the First Order took it out and the players were very sad.

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I know at one point, back in the 90's, I had a somewhat less violent "Brainiac-analogue" I made. They used to have some ships that were fully automated, including mass waste transports, following such slow, and safe, hyper-routes nobody was needed with the hazardous cargo, and "robot ram-ships", which were practically suicidal bots, flung at other capital ships; basically, jobs you couldn't get even nameless people to want to do. I don't remember his name, but the mass transport eventually gained some degree of sentience, like so many Star Wars droids do, combining a Blue Maxx-style device with said automated ship, and "disappeared". Like so many cliche characters, he "learned a lot about people from their trash", and decided he wanted to learn even more; like that killer Coluan, he decided to become a reservoir of knowledge, just without the planet-scale homicidal tendencies. He replaced the huge tanks, attached to his hull, with compartments, where he eventually started to add whatever Star wars would call hard drives, both to facilitate his own burgeoning consciousness, and to be able to store all the data he found, and then he moved to an abandoned region of space, and got to work. He'd occasionally find other droids, through accidents, or his drones, and add them to his network of influence, and some others, looking for that fabled droid world, might also have come to see what was up. The field he occupied also housed several other shipwrecks, some storage sites, a few of those priorly mentioned robot ram ships, for defense, and even an HRD, to interact with the occasional organic who appeared. He was going to figure into an RPG I ran, at the beginning of the 2000's, but I never got to pull him in. Oh well.

Thanks for pushing through, this far. Yeah, back in the day, Star Wars did use automated ships; just not very smart ones, or for anything particularly difficult. I know the later Trade Federation made use of significant automation, and even droid starfighters; the 90's Empire tried it, too, with Droid TIEs, but they never took off, and both had a bit more organic oversight, as you can't trust a machine to constantly act in humans' best interests, or some such thing.

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