D20 Terminators

And for today, it’s a question:

I admit I’m curious about Apocalypse after you mentioned him in your write-up for Cable, but really…while I know you meant with regards to the New Mutants (or similar groups), reading these over has reminded me of another action series that started in the 80’s and is still going today: The Terminator. While not quite the same, it deals with a lot of the subjects (killer robots, time travel, and advanced weaponry), so it strikes me as being in the same vein. More specifically, I’d love to see your take on the following:

  • The T-800 (and the T-850 variant),
  • The T-1000
  • The T-X
  • The T-3000

I think those would be a lot of fun.

-Alzrius

Well, why not? There’s already a fairly good book on this topic on the net, but – of course – it’s not as if I agree with everything in it.

Thanks to an incredibly tangled mess of alternate timelines, there are dozens of different “Terminators”, many of them mutually exclusive – and the movies aren’t too consistent about which ones are better or what they can do. That actually isn’t the big problem. Converting the Terminators to d20 is awkward for one major reason:

Terminators are designed to deal with reasonably realistic normal humans using personal weapons. In d20 terms that’s basically NPC classes and – at the top end – second level Fighters and Rogues with small arms.

For example, the classic T-800 is highly resistant to small arms. (generally up to 2d8). Only a lucky shot that hits a joint or exposed component was likely to do any actual damage. Yet small arms fire could take one down. It just took a LOT – or rather less armor-piercing stuff. And they certianly weren’t hard to hit, which let out armor class.

They seemed to be fairly resistant to energy too. The T-800 was able to handle lots and lots of being on fire (generally 1d6 to 3d6) but was unable to handle molten metal or magma (up to 20d6 on immersion).

Yet a pipe bomb (4d6 if you’re being generous) blew one in half. Admittedly that didn’t stop it, but it would be pretty hard to deny that eliminating the lower half is – by definition – probably about 50% damage. Even if we assume that Kyle Reese had some bonuses against Terminators (he can’t have too much though, since his small arms don’t work; perhaps about +1d6 with small arms, +2d6 with explosives?), that he got a good roll, and that the thing already had a little actual damage on it (as opposed to its disguise being ruined)… a Terminator can’t have more than twenty-five to thirty-five hit points. After all, we also know that anti-tank weapons – 8d6 to 10d6 – can damage them easily, and a solid hit (a good damage roll) can take them out in a single shot.

So, since we’re looking at Constructs here… we’re looking at Hardness of between 8 and 12. The standard for “Metal” is 10, so we’;; go with that.

Strength? Well… t-800 variants have been shown bracing a bus to keep it from falling off a bridge, stopping some enormous blast doors from closing, smashing down a large security door, punching through sheet metal, and smashing through cinder block walls.

Still… vehicles can hang partially over drops on their own, so that doesn’t tell us much. The blast doors… well, they were much bigger than the crusher which eliminated the first T-800. So why didn’t they crush the T-800? Perhaps they worked like elevator doors and stopped when firm resistance was registered? The shot didn’t seem to be show any strain or anything.

The large door… came down in one piece and wasn’t much damaged. Evidently the hinges broke. So that’s “break down strong door” (DC 23). Punching through sheet metal… I can poke an awl through sheet metal and hailstones can dent the sheet metal of my car. Sheet metal is simply not a major obstacle to something made of metal. Really, the cinder block walls are probably the most impressive item on this list.

d20 Modern (lifting from the fantasy SRD) lists the “burst” DC for a Cinder block Wall as 35 (Hardness 8, HP 90) – but that’s the same as a one-foot thick masonry wall and that, to put it bluntly, is baloney; I’ve worked with cinder blocks. Once we subtract the hollow part… Hardness 4, HP 20, and a burst DC of 24 is more like it. It might be less; I’ve had cinder blocks break when dropped a couple of feet.

The first movie didn’t show the Terminators as being especially good marksmen, or very stealthy, or extremely clever, or even all that fast. They WERE decent shots (especially when shooting unprotected people at point blank range while they were standing still – or when using a minigun to hose down parked cars with a stream of lead), had basic human level intelligence, were somewhat faster and considerably stronger than a normal human, were capable of using humanities clever machines against us, and they were very, very, determined.

Humans are Persistence Hunters. And the Terminators… are better at it. Plus, they were walking skeletons, classical images of death. They were humans plus, and they were bringing the same kind of death to humanity that humanity had brought to everything that stood in its way. They were stronger, and better adapted to humanities ecological niche, and they wanted us dead. They tapped into the same kind of fear that Godzilla – an avatar of natures uncontrollable wrath and atomic devastation – did.

S0… at a quick approximation: Medium Sized (which goes up to eight feet tall and 500 Lbs), Hardness 10, 30 HP, AC 15, Move 30, Darkvision and Low-Light Vision, Construct, BAB of somewhere between +1 and +4, basic Intelligence. can be temporarily “stunned” by damage. Str 20, considered “Large” for purposes of encumbrance, breaking things, and grappling. Dex 14 (they’re fairly fast and accurate, but they are not Jackie Chan), Int 10 (effectively anyway), Wis… had to say, but likely low, Con — (Construct), and Chr… probably 1 – although those that go rogue and develop personalities of some sort get normal rolls.

We can add a bunch of minor boosts and systems, but that’s our basic T-800 Framework – and the T-800 is a mainstay of the entire franchise.

The quick way to convert a Terminator into Eclipse is not to bother: Pathfinders standard Robot, Machine Soldier is pretty much an exact match (and may well have been meant to be). A T-800 has just been fitted with a high-quality disguise, has access to better weapons, and varies its tactics more.

And that’s a problem, because – while that’s capable of wading through first level Aristocrats, Experts, and Warriors (and even Fighters and Rogues) by the swarm – we want them to be formidable opponents. And many specialized or higher-level d20 characters are quite capable of taking and inflicting a lot more damage than that. It’s downright embarrassing when a mid-level barbarian takes a Terminators heavy weapons shot to the chest and shrugs it off before cutting the thing in half with his axe.

If you want to get sophisticated… drop the Machine Soldiers Two-Weapon Fighting and Weapon focus feats in favor of 12 CP worth of Innate Enchantment and start adding functions in search of 11,000 GP. As a partial Eclipse adaption, it’s probably best to upgrade the CR to 5.

  • Advanced Military Programming: +3 Competence Bonus to Heal, Intimidate, Perception, and Knowledge (History, the Military and Weapons in particular) (1400 GP).
  • Armored Framework: Enhance Structure: +12 + 2 x Str Mod Temporary HP to a construct, x.5 (only to a Construct, only to remain repairable after being reduced to 0 HP (700 GP).
  • Emergency Power: Enhance Attribute: +2 Enhancement Bonus to Strength (1400 GP).
  • Enhanced Servomotors: Boost Armor: Reduced Defense VII (+0 AC, -14 DC), Segmented III (+6 DC, no non-proficiency penalty), Max Dex +4 (-), Speed +10, +4 Str, +2 Reflex Saves (Net purchase DC 10 = 120 Credits or 6 GP). (This is a very cheap trick, but so be it).
  • Hyperalloy Endoskeleton: Crystal of Adamant Armor, Least (+2 Hardness) (300 GP). This increases the units hardness to 12.
  • Iron Strike: The user’s hands are treated as +2 Hand Axes (1400 GP).
  • Large and Heavy: Enlarge Person: Only to be considered Large for the purpose of breaking doors and other objects, grappling, and carrying things (x.5) (700 GP).
  • Reroute Systems: Repair Light Damage (3 uses x .6, recovers only when refurbished x.4, Self-Only x.7, requires 1d6 rounds to trigger after being reduced to 0 HP (ignoring Enhance Structure) x.5, if the first use is insufficient to get the unit up, further uses must be externally triggered by attempts at repair or an application of Mimetic Polyalloy (168 GP).
  • Self-Repair: Repair Light Damage (3 uses x .6, recovers only when refurbished x.4, Self-Only x.7, requires at least one minute of work (x.5) (168 GP).
  • Targeting System: +2 to BAB with Small Arms (1400 GP).
  • Weapons Catalog: Masters Touch, x.7 Weapons Only (1400 GP).
  • Secondary Equipment: Advanced Smartphone (10 GP), GPS (20 GP), Radio Scanner (10 GP), Lock Release Gun (10 GP), Rangefinding Binoculars (25 GP), Compass (2 CP), Flash Goggles (25 GP), HUD (3 GP), Military Transceiver (20 GP), Vocalizer (Voice Imitation, 50 GP), Power Backpack (5 GP), Multipurpose Tool (4 GP), and Remote Surveillance Module (20 GP). Net total: 200 GP.

That’s a total of 9250 GP worth of Innate Enchantment. It’s also significantly stronger and tougher than is really justified for a T-800 – but that’s all right given that quite a few of the variant models are supposed to be slightly stronger, or faster, or otherwise better – although there’s rarely any actual evidence of this. It also leaves 1750 GP worth of innate enchantment (up to 2250 GP if taking advantage of rounding) to add model details.

T-600:

  • The earliest “humanoid” Terminator, the major point of this model was to go into all the places that humans could – wading through water, crawling though holes and pipes, and otherwise getting into their hiding places. It had Tracking (even if it wasn’t all that good at it) instead of one of the Innate Enchantment feats, and so only has 5000 GP worth of boosts. Unfortunately, there really isn’t much information as to what – so you’ll just have to pick your own package.

T-700:

  • This model was apparently an experimental one, and is a bit less durable than the T-800. It has no Hyperalloy Endoskeleton, and so only has Hardness 10. It may have other limitations as well (possibly including the T-600’s tracking feat instead of other benefits), but there’s not a lot of information on them. It was often outfitted with good, but nowhere near perfect, disguises.

T-720:

  • This upgraded T-700 simply has heavier armor. To represent this, upgrade the Enhanced Servomotors entry to actually provide an armor bonus (variable cost) and – presumably – add some built-in weapons. As such, it cannot be effectively disguised. Unfortunately, it’s far more practical to simply deploy armed drones if you can’t disguise your units anyway, so T-720’s are rare, having mostly been upgraded from surviving T-700’s.

T-799:

  • These are basically identical to the T-800, but – not yet being standardized – were more expensive. Few were produced.

T-800:

  • For game purposes this is the basic model. Interestingly, quite a number of “rogue” T-800 units have added various upgrades to themselves – presumably making use of that 1750 GP worth of additional allowable improvements. If nothing else comes to mind… give them a +1 Resistance Bonus to Saving Throws (700 GP) and an Internal Inertial Compass that always lets them know True North (700 GP).

T-850:

  • Add Data Archive (+4 to all Knowledge Skills, all skills are treated as class skills, 750 GP).
  • Upgrade Armor Crystal to a Lesser Version (+5 Hardness, for a total of 15, 1000 GP).
  • Add Morphic Disguise Kit (10 GP). With an extra +6 bonus – and Taking 20 – a T-850 can slowly repair / regrow its human disguise.

T-888

  • Add Expeditious Retreat (1400 GP).
  • A +3 Bonus to Disguise (Thanks to a knowledge of human psychology, 700 GP).
  • Add Built-in Katanas (20 GP).
  • Another 30 GP worth of weapons is likely, but never demonstrated.

The T-900 and T-950 are supposed to be improved somehow, but seemed notably inferior to the 850 models in actual combat. I’d presume that while they are, in fact, somewhat inferior, they are also more stable and far less expensive to produce – a very worthwhile upgrade indeed during wartime, but not something that costs points.

T-X

  • Add Built-In Weaponry: Plasma Rifle (75 GP), Flamethrower (45 GP), Twin Thunder Machine Gun (175 GP), High Frequency Sword (25 GP), Grenade Launcher (100 GP), Laser Sniper Rifle (140 GP), Taser (3 GP), Katana (10 GP), Chain Saw (12.5 GP), minor melee weapons, for a net total of 600 GP.
  • Add Holodisguise (25 GP), since a T-X can perform minor modifications, but cannot change its basic internal structure.
  • Add a Wireless “Neural” Jack (20 GP) and a Neural Computer Link (450 GP), used to override other systems and control them remotely.
  • If it matters, the remaining 650 GP represents the units munitions stockpile; the weapons that require ammo can only be used until the units ammunition reserves are exhausted, whereupon it must restock.

T-1000:

  • Drop the Emergency Power (1400 GP), Hyperalloy Endoskeleton (300 GP), Iron Strike (1400 GP), Armored Framework (700 GP), Large and Heavy (700 GP), and Reroute Systems (168 GP), saving 4368 GP.
  • Add Disguise Self (2000 GP), Reduce Person (x.5, only to fit into and through small places, 700 GP), Summon Weapon (1400 GP), a selection of melee weapons (160 GP), and Reforming (Enhance Structure: +12 + 2 x Str Mod Temporary HP to a construct, reduces the base Hardness by 20% x.8 Personal Only x .7 = 1120 GP) at a cost of 5380 GP.
  • This effectively negates the first twenty-odd points worth of damage that a T-1000 takes each round, but reduces its Hardness to 8 and limits some of its other functions. In theory it leaves about 700 GP worth of Innate Enchantments to go, but I can’t think of anything at the moment. Perhaps a +1 resistance bonus to saving throws (700 GP)?
  • The T-1000 model is very difficult to physically damage, but lacks a solid internal structure to give it shape, strength, and support things like a concentrated energy source, computation, sensor systems, and more. All of those functions have to be distributed across every one of the nanites that makes it up – and it can only be as tough as the links between its nanites. Nanites that have to be able to do everything are always going to have a hard time matching dedicated systems. Unfortunately, it is also extremely resource-expensive to produce and the nanite swarm is highly unstable – making the system extremely vulnerable to program corruption. It may at any point malfunction, change its priorities and goals, subdivide, or even decide that it needs to replace Skynet, That’s why Skynet only deployed wholly-polymetal based Terminators as a last resort.

The T-1000 is also where the franchise makes the transition into complete fantasy; there are an awful lot of physics-related problems with the T-1000, even making allowances for future tech and nanites. Fortunately for Skynet, the Terminators get to run on movie physics instead of the real stuff.

T-3000:

  • The T-3000 does have many of the same abilities as the earlier Terminator models, but it is – quite blatantly – an acquired template, rather than an independent creation. I’ll be covering that template – and making the earlier models playable – next time around.
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4 Responses

  1. Thanks for taking on this particular series!

    I have to admit, it didn’t initially feel intuitive for the Terminator to be, in d20 terms, a relatively low-level creature. And yet, the points you raise are salient ones; since the series takes place in a (relatively) realistic universe, where the major enemies are ordinary humans (albeit action-movie “ordinary” humans) who tend to defeat them in the end (Skynet did lose the war, after all), it makes sense that most Terminators are going to be relatively minor monsters in terms of the d20 power scale…which I suppose is why so many fan-crossovers have the T-800 losing to Robocop.

    That said, I do have some minor quibbles with a few of the entries you’ve listed:

    The T-850, for instance, has two fuel cells that, when ruptured, create large explosions. While it can apparently function just fine with one (and apparently operate for at least a short time without any, presumably due to auxiliary power), it does use this as an offensive tactic at one point.

    Likewise, if I recall correctly, it’s stated that the T-X cannot be melted down the way the T-1000 was, which would suggest that there’s some greater degree of hardness (or perhaps energy resistance) in play there.

    (Oh, and don’t forget to give these builds Immunity to antimagic, dispelling, and magic detection – and Immunity to the XP cost of Innate Enchantments – too!)

    • Ah, since you ask… here’s some more of the underlying reasoning. It may or may not be “right” of course, but at least it is what seems more-or-less reasonable to me – and I hope it helps!

      Besides, questions tend to lead to articles, which is always nice. Thank you for asking them!

  2. […] today, it’s a bit of followup on the first Terminator article – in this case, addressing some things brought up by […]

  3. […] Super-Soldier, Kristin Stanwell. A cyborg firearms expert, the various How to build Terminators (Basic Builds, Power Sources, Explosions, and Robot Buddies), Garm, and Adam, Praetorian Nightmare: a melee […]

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