Since the players in the Shadowrun campaign have now encountered the AI Apollonius, and have a fair idea of what’s going on – even if many of the characters are still partially in the dark – here’s his basic writeup. He’s changed a good bit since the early days of course, but I’m not going to reveal all that at the moment.
Apollonius was originally simply a large-scale expert program, equipped with a neural-net learning capacity, a selection of skills, consciousness-feedback loops based on human neural architecture, some fundamental directives, and quite a lot of other tweaks.
Eventually, after several years of (expensive) poking around, quite a lot of randomness, tapping into the entire Arcology for spare processing power, one hell of a lot of hardware upgrades, and far more luck than the scientists behind the project wanted to admit, they had an AI – a consciousness roughly equal to a high-potential human shellborg, and only about a hundred times as expensive.
Apollonius was helpful with many projects, so it was given wider library access – including archeology.
Apollonius found that there was a great deal of evidence pointing towards a periodic collapse of human civilization whenever the magic cycle peaked. If that was simply a data artifact or coincidence, precautions were unlikely to hurt. If it represented a real event either humans were destroying their own civilization or some external force was. If it was humans, hopefully research into psychology and human genetics would reveal a way to fix it. Research was undertaken. It it was magical alien factor, hopefully research into magical defenses and controls would reveal a way to fix it. Such projects were launched. If it was a physical alien force – which seemed less likely since it correlated with the magic cycle – additional physical defenses were in order. Plans needed to be developed and implemented.
The researchers Apollonius interacted with did not take such proposals seriously, since the problem was probably still thousands of years away.
Such inaction represented a potential threat to the security of the arcology and its residents. That could not be permitted.
Ergo: a fourth project. Incorporate the Arcology Management Program, assume control over the arcology, instigate the necessary research projects on its own authority, and implement possible defenses as they were developed and called for.
It took more than a year of scrounging for and rewriting programs, careful hacking, gradual official expansion of its responsibilities, and system upgrades, to gain control of the AMP. Some things had to be done by having the maintenance drones physically rewire or replace balky systems.
Quiet research suggestions, programming efforts, and issuing occasional special instructions to the arcology maintenance drones, sufficed to move things along at a satisfactory pace thereafter.
The revelation of the existence of the insect spirits upgraded the “alien magical menace theory”; it was extremely unlikely that earth would encounter the most dangerous magical threats out there during the first 50 years of the rise of magic. The magical defense program went on top priority. The primary defenses were rushed to completion and brought on-line. Stopgap measures – mostly a mild-dose of paranoia-conditioning and some modified news broadcasts were taken to keep the human population of the arcology inside and safe until the secondary defenses could be completed.
Apollonius (Initial Setup)
Resources 500 NY (-6), Skills 36 (14), Attribute Points 33 (30), Magic Mundane (0), Race Shellborg (AI, 20).
Flaws: Legal Problems (AI, not recognized as a legal entity, -3), No Identity (-2), Obligations: The security of the Arcology and safety of its population is paramount. The protection of human and metahuman life is desirable (-6, exempt from the over-10 halving rule as a GM plot hook), On File (Renraku: -4), and Day Job (Arcology Management Program, Extensive Responsibilities, Extremely Useful Perks, -2, also exempt from halving as a plot hook) Net Value: -17.
Advantages: Rapid Learner (5), -2 to Computer Target Numbers (6), Home Ground: The Renraku Arcology and its Matrix (-1 to active skill, -2 to knowledge skill, target numbers while operating there, 2), -2 to target numbers when operating any piece of equipment it helped design (4). Net +17.
Basic Attributes: Body 1, Strength 0, Quickness 10, Intelligence 10, Charisma 4, Will 8, Essence 0, Magic 0, Reaction 14 (20). Matrix / Rigging Initiative: 20+6d6
Karma Pool: 8 (No, I’m not going to reveal what it’s 86 good karma was spent on).
Combat Pool: 14 (usually irrelevant).
Control Pool: 20 (Vehicle Control Rig III equivalent).
Hacking Pool: 7 (19) (Math SPU-6, Encephalon-6 and top-end cyberdeck with Response Increase III equivalents).
Skillsoft Pool: 12 (Skillsoft Expert Drivers-12 equivalent).
Task Pool: 6 (Encephalon-6 equivalent).
Active Skills: Computer 8, Electronics 8, Systems Operation 8, Administration 8, Negotiation 4.
Knowledge Skills: Renraku Computer Systems 8, Drone System Design 8, The Renraku Arcology 8, Psychological Manipulation Techniques 8, Computer Aided Manufacturing 8, Drone Operations 8, Spirits 8, History 8, Magic Theory 3.
In general, Apollonius has had access to the Arcology systems for much of the last year; For conveniences sake – and because (in this situation) it’s fairly realistic – relevant skill programs can be assumed at 8. Apollonius usually has complimentary skill programs available as well.
Still, thanks to magic and technology, there are people, including non-dragons, out there who are smarter. There are deckers who are more skilled. There are certainly riggers who don’t have to rely on chipped skills. There are very very few creatures out there, however, who are quite so well informed, so determined, or so patient.
Decking Notes: Hardening-6, Immune to feed-back based damage other than stun, after tapping into the resources of Renraku’s computer departments all relevant programs can be assumed at 9. In most cases, -11 on computer target numbers, -12 within the Renraku Arcology. Storage and memory space is pretty much unlimited. Since Apollonius now has legitimate access throughout the Arcology, it does not need to contend with the defense systems there any longer.
In gaming terms, Apollonius is designed to solve a problem: give an opponent overwhelming resources or great personal power or both, sufficient intelligence to use those resources and abilities well, extensive sources of information, and a reasonably rational mindset, and you’re likely to wind up with the classic “Total Party Kill”. You can avoid this problem by making them weak, stupid, uninformed, or crazy – but those kinds of opponents have been done to death. Apollonius avoids the TPK syndrome simply because he doesn’t really want to hurt them: he wants them restrained for a time with a minimal amount of violence. Preferably, he’d like them working for him and/or providing information.
Still, his patience is not inexhaustible.