code::2050: Drones, Drones, Drones

A funny kind of thing happened a little less than a decade ago: the word “drone” gained two ultraspecific meanings. First, there’s the military kind with the missiles and beluga whale head. Second, it’s the little quadcopter with the selfie stick on it. That’s pretty much it.

However, prior to those two paradigms coopting the word, it was a bit more broad. It meant any kind of autonomous thing that flitted about and did stuff. Really, it’s a robot that isn’t stationary, or an android that doesn’t resemble a human. It’s a self-contained affair performing its function.

This latter is the use code::2050 is going to use. Yeah, we could call everything a “robot,” but it just doesn’t have the sleek, futurespeak sound that “drone” does.

What’s a drone?

In code::2050, a “drone” is an electronic construct which has any level of autonomy. Effectively, it is a piece of wiring and mechanisms which can self-direct in some sort of capacity. Admittedly, that capacity can be pretty small.

The big example I will use a lot is the self-driving car. In code::2050, this is a drone, albeit a sizable one. It has the ability and computational capacity to direct itself about, even though it requires some direction from an operator (gotta tell the thing where you want it to go). Fancy ones may even be able to perform simple tasks, like “orbit” an area until summoned, or “go home.”

Now, because it’s a construct, it’ll have stats just like any other monster in the game. Really, a self-driving car is just a clay golem run by electricity rather than magic. These stat blocks are important for a few reasons.

  1. There will be no surprises or guesswork as to how spells and other effects work on drones. Does it need to roll a CON save? There’s a stat for that. Does it suffer a loss of STR? There’s a stat for that. Can it be poisoned? Probably not, and it’ll tell you that too.
  2. The rules for each drone are self-contained. We’d be hard-pressed to come up with a comprehensive set of rules that apply equally to a little flying eyeball drone and a self-driving cargo ship. So, we won’t. Instead, the rules for each kind of drone are contained in the stat blocks themselves, much like the rules for Zombies or Skeletons.
  3. They are endlessly moddable. When the drones are all individual blocks, it’s easy to write up your own and include them! Heck, that’s a brilliant idea!

When I first decided to write this post, I wanted to come up with complex and intricately brilliant rules for piloting and guiding drones around the world, especially in combat. However, try as I might, I couldn’t come up with any, because they already exist: Rangers directing their beast companions, Wizards directing their elementals, etc. are all examples. So, it’s straight forward enough: if a drone understands verbal commands, that’s free (just like directing an elemental or a familiar). Inputting a quick command into, say, a remote control device (like a smartphone App) would be a bonus action. Anything more complex (like actively piloting a drone using a briefcase with a joystick, or programming a string of commands) will be an action.

That’s it. Simple.

So, now that all those rules are out of the way, let’s get to the fun stuff. Here are stat blocks for a half dozen different drones that can be dropped into a campaign right now. Enjoy!