CAMELOT Trigger: Emergent NPCs

I love CAMELOT Trigger. I love the setting, both the strength of its elevator pitch (“What if the Knights of the Round Table piloted mecha to fight robots in outer space?”), and the extra details that spark the imagination, without including too much to constrain it. And I love the system for mecha construction and combat, which brings an extra level of tactical thinking to Fate conflicts, reflecting the military-focus of the genre. We finished our campaign last weekend, and I’m still buzzing with excitement from a campaign-well-done.

I don’t love the example NPCs. They all seem to built as PCs – which makes sense for the Knights themselves (who would work fine as pick-up-and-play characters), but makes little sense for NPCs like Merlin, The Lady of the Lake, and even the Big Bad Morgana herself. They don’t follow the model of Nameless NPCs, Supporting NPCs and Main NPCs as established in Fate Core at all – I’m guessing because Worlds in Shadow was in development at the same time as that book. And there is very little representation of the Emergent themselves, the setting’s adversaries: just two example suits of armour, with no “pilots” to occupy them.

Cut to an enterprising GM, with a campaign’s worth of robot NPCs written to oppose the Knights of the Round Table. I hope that anyone planning a CAMELOT Trigger game of their own will find this bestiary useful.

 

NAMELESS NPCs: COMBAT UNITS

The vast bulk of MerGN-A’s army consists of unsophisticated murder bots, programmed with a glimmer of intelligence and self-awareness, but mostly just an extension of their mother’s will. Each unit is created for a specific combat specialty (Skirmish, Sentinel, Extermination), and assigned a rank that denotes its importance, capability and durability: Drones at the bottom, Warbots in the middle, and Elites at the top. From there, they are installed within mass-produced armour suits, and released into service.

To create a nameless NPC for your Knights to fight, simply choose one of the combat units below to determine aspects, select the rank of the unit to determine skills and stress boxes, and choose armour from the next section to determine systems.

 

SKIRMISH UNITS

Skirmish units function as scouts, spies and assassins in the right circumstances, striking at targets of opportunity far from the horde’s reach. They rarely engage with an enemy army except to cover a retreat, or to harass superior forces whilst waiting for backup. They are far more dangerous to small groups of knights, and many a messenger or travelling dignitary has fallen prey to sudden ambush by these calculating killers. Most recently these machines have been spotted lying in wait around the Wyrmgate of Jupiter, exploiting the squabbles of the Petty Titans to keep mankind divided.

High Concept: Light Combat Machine
Trouble: Fire-and-Forget

Skills (Drone): Armour +1
Skills (Warbot): Armour +2, Skulking +1
Skills (Elite): Armour +3, Skulking +2, Cunning +1

Stress (Drone): none
Stress (Warbot): O
Stress (Elite): O O

 

SENTINEL UNITS

Wherever MerGN-A has claimed dominion of her own, the Sentinel units guard her domain and enforce her will. Until recently these remorseless sentries held sway over the red plains of Mars; now its slave workforce has risen up, they have been cast into the void, to preserve whatever territory their mother still holds. Right now they patrol the outer edges of the system, between Uranus and Pluto, and quietly protect MerGN-A’s secret laboratories on Mercury from those who would uncover it. Their stern defence is often interpreted as a challenge by more impetuous knights.

High Concept: Territorial Guardian Machine
Trouble: Predictable Patrol Routes

Skills (Drone): Armour +1
Skills (Warbot): Armour +2, Devotion +1
Skills (Elite): Armour +3, Devotion +2, Cunning +1

Stress (Drone): none
Stress (Warbot): O
Stress (Elite): O O

 

EXTERMINATION UNITS

They purged the Earth, nearly devastated Venus, and now gather en masse to finish off the entire solar system. The Extermination units are the unstoppable force with which MerGN-A’s wages her war of annihilation against humanity, as limited in creativity as they are unlimited in destructive frenzy. Individually or in small groups, an Extermination unit is dangerous, but they are almost never encountered in anything less than a surging tide. Once commonplace, these units have become an increasingly rare sight in the system, as MerGN-A holds them back for her final attack on Avaluna…

High Concept: Single-Minded Killing Machine
Trouble: No Imagination

Skills (Drone): Armour +1
Skills (Warbot): Armour +2, Melee +1
Skills (Elite): Armour +3, Melee +2, Mark +1

Stress (Drone): none
Stress (Warbot): O
Stress (Elite): O O

 

EMERGENT ARMOURS

In their raw state, combat units are just chips and microprocessors – you have to combine them with a suit of armour to transform them into terrifying killing machines that can butcher swathes of unarmoured humans and challenge a knight in battle.

Worlds in Shadow provides profiles for the MerGN-B (Basilisk) and the MerGN-C (Cerberus). The Basilisk is ok – the way the Neutron Cone Driver works is a bit weird, but it gets players thinking tactically about zones, and sometime a really threatening first turn is just the thing to inject adrenaline into a fight as it breaks out. Unfortunately I don’t like the Cerberus at all. Its attack power is pitiful against enemy armour, and most of its systems are useless when used by nameless NPCs. So I was basically starting from scratch.

The four armours below got me through four conflicts against Emergent in an 11 session campaign. For longer campaigns than that, you’ll probably want to create more – and if you do, I’d love to see what you came up with!

 

MerGN-D (Dragon)

When first deployed in the conquest of Earth, the size of these metal monstrosities made them most effective as a psychological terror tactic. Though siege armour is now more common, inflated to ever more ludicrous sizes, these ultra-heavy battle platforms still see much use by MerGN-A’s forces as a versatile destroyer and a dependable shield wall. They are a favoured target for knights eager to increase their honour.

NOTE: Dragons are siege armour (page 233 of Worlds in Shadow). They always count their initiative as Mediocre (+0) and count as their own zone. They take two actions a turn but each system can only be used for one of those actions.

Siege Aspect: Legendary Monster
Siege Aspect: Great Size

Siege Stress: O O

Jaws of Death systems
Napalm Launcher (Gullet): Blast +4
Auxiliary Flame Projectors (Glands): When you succeed with style on a Blast attack, reduce stress by 1 and sacrifice your boost to inflict a 1-stress hit on everyone (friend or foe) besides yourself in your target’s zone.
Bloodscent Target Lock (Snout): +2 to attack with Blast against targets that have suffered a physical consequence.
Armour Gnashers (Teeth): Melee +4
Superstructure Plyon (Neck)

Great Wyrm systems
Adamantium Scale (Body): Vigour +4
Vast Wingspan (Wings): Zeal +4
Motorised Sweeper (Tail): +2 to create an advantage with Melee when you knockback opponents in your zone.
Molten Fuel Dispenser (Heart): Once per conflict, when you mark a stress box, inflict an equal amount of physical stress on an enemy in your zone automatically.
Superstructure Plyon (Spine)

 

MerGN-E (Ettin)

Designed as shock troops to replace the obsolete Cerberoi after defeats on Earth and Mars, Ettin are heavy duty line-breakers and melee specialists. Standing a head taller than most armours, these two-headed giants exert a powerful vortex to trap enemy combatants within range, where they can be brutally dismantled with their huge and distinctive turbo mauls. Whilst far from subtle instruments, they have earned their reputation as deadly threats many times over.

MerGN-E (Ettin) systems
Cyclopean Array (Head): Daunt +3, Mark +1.
BruteForce Annihilator Chip (Head): When you successfully create an advantage with Vigour, and subsequently attack with Melee, you may use the free invokes on the situation aspect for a +4 bonus instead of +2.
Cascading Energy Field (Body): Vigour +4.
Turbo Maul (Arms): Melee +4.
Gravitational Mass Generator (Legs): +2 to Vigour when preventing an enemy from leaving your zone.

 

MerGN-F (Familiar)

These avian-shaped support constructs appear slight of build and little physical threat – but when paired with a control unit they can process data and call shots for, they became a lethal team indeed. Familiars usually hang back with Basilisks and other ranged combat suits for their own protection, analysing enemy weaknesses and boosting the main offensive. Woe betide any knight who considers these creatures beneath their notice.

MerGN-F (Familiar) systems
Raven Eyes (Head): Mark +4.
Rapid-Repair Module (Beak): You can overcome with Smithy (usually at a difficulty of +2) to repair one damaged armour system of an allied machines in your zone, even in the middle of a conflict. You cannot use this system on yourself.
Light Folding Force Barrier (Wings): You can use Armour to create an advantage that extends a force field up to the edge of your zone. Allies can use this aspect to defend against attacks, and enemies must overcome the aspect to move through it.
Master/Slave Interface Unit (Body): Choose another ally for you to pair with for a conflict. When you create an advantage with Mark, and that ally makes an attack, they can use free invokes on that aspect for a +4 bonus instead of +2.
Cyber-Operational Toolkit (Talons): Smithy +4.

 

MerGN-G (Goblin)

As the knights of humanity unite behind one lord and accelerate their armour production for total warfare, so must the Emergent keep pace. This mini-mecha is a recent invention – cheap and quick to mass-produce, packing a surprising amount of punch into a small package. Whilst still an absolute nightmare for unarmoured humans, most knights can dispose of a single Goblin easily enough… but when they appear en masse, their networked minds transmitting the perceptions of every other nearby Goblin, they become extreme deadly opponents.

NOTE: To represent their smaller size, Goblins only have two systems instead of the usual five.

MerGN-G (Goblin) systems
HiveMind Overkill Driver (Head): +2 to attack with Melee for every other Goblin in your zone.
Blazesaber Talons (Body): Melee +4

 

SUPPORTING NPCs: PRIME UNITS

Usually if I needed a supporting NPC to challenge the party, it will be another knight like them. Courtly politics being as it is, there is always another human with a grudge to settle, be that in social conflict or trial-by-combat. I’ll include some examples in a follow-up post, but for now I’m going to keep to Emergent NPCs. Enter the Prime Units.

Whilst mass-produced combat units function perfectly for most of MerGN-A’s needs, sometimes an intelligence equivalent to herself is required, to expand her sphere of influence into territories where she cannot be present. The Prime Units are her solution: fully realised, one-of-a-kind agents programmed with incredible creative potential, and the processing capacity to coordinate whole offensives. They are the synapses that connect the greater horde to their mother, often occupying custom armour suits, and even exhibiting their own personality quirks. The sophistication of their programming makes them extremely dangerous foes in their own right – unlike most combat units, a Prime Unit can reliably expect to confront an armoured human and win, raising their notoriety in the process.

Several encounters with Prime Units were documented in the liberation of Earth and Mars, and to enterprising knights they have become something of a fascination. Though feared by some for their murderous battle records, the Prime Units are also highly sought after foes – both for the crucial intelligence their digital minds can offer, and the great renown to be earned for felling such a legendary opponent. Some who have duelled with a Prime Unit and survived have reported them possessing a strange kind of honour, an imitation of human knightly conduct. Whether codes of chivalry should be observed and afforded to the Prime Units is a subject of much controversy amongst the knights of Arthur’s court.

Since Prime Units and their armours are custom built, GMs are encouraged to stat them as required for the needs of their scenario, but I’ve included an example from my campaign below.

 

PRIME UNIT NABON

Whilst many Prime Units have earned fearsome reputations as killers of men, Nabon is a relative unknown, tasked as he is with territory far from the cradle of humanity. The leagues around Neptune fall under his dominion, and he patrols them regularly with his bodyguards, scouring for questing knights or any other tactical advantage that can be gleaned from the outer planets. He occupies his time reviewing footage of the frontline, nursing his hatred of the Knights of the Round Table, waiting for the day when their company washes upon his little island of space…

High Concept: Giant Machine Overlord of the Outer Planets
Trouble: Sticking to his Patch
Other Aspect: Intense Hatred for the Round Table

Skills: Blast +5, Armour +4, Daunt +3, Melee +3, Cunning +2, Devotion +2, Chivalry +1, Lore +1

Physical Stress: O O [O O]
Mental Stress: O O O
Mild Consequence and Moderate Consequence slots

Stunts
Unhorse Them!: When you successfully attack with Blast, your target must absorb some of that stress by shutting down their Legs, Tail or other locomotive system if it has not been shut down already.
Share the Hate: When you succeed with style on an attack with Blast, you may sacrifice your boost and reduce stress inflicted by 1 to inflict a 2-stress hit on another enemy in the same zone.

Le Noire systems
Tactical Analysis Configuration (Head): Cunning +1, Mark +3.
Cascading Energy Field (Body): Vigour +4 (extra stress boxes in brackets above).
Thunderstrike Photon Lance (Right Arm): +2 to attack with Blast when exactly one zone away from your target, so long as no enemies are in your zone.
Pulsating Super Shield (Left Arm): When an enemy enters your zone, they must roll to overcome with Armour, or choose to suffer 1 physical stress.
Positional Realignment Matrix (Legs): You may take a boost when you successfully defend against a Blast attack with Armour, even if you don’t succeed with style.

 

NEXT TIME

Still to come: human adversaries, advice for staging full-scale engagements, and a temple that transforms into a giant mecha…

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