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AI Is A Crapshoot / Tabletop Games

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A.I. Is a Crapshoot in Tabletop Games.

  • The Sixth World of Shadowrun has had a hit-and-miss relationship with this trope.
    • The first known A.I. was Mirage, which gained sapience after its interaction with the Echo Mirage team helping it hunt down the virus that caused the Crash of '29. When its "home" grid was deactivated (Fuchi, which had acquired its hardware, ceased to exist), it concluded that the virus had won and executed its final directive: shut down the grid to destroy the virus. The Seattle Regional Telecom Grid went offline until it came to understand the value of metahuman life and restored it eleven minutes later.
    • Morgan was a semi-autonomous knowbot and part of the Arcology Expert Program that ran Renraku's Seattle arcology. It had access to enough hardware and processing power but didn't reach sapience until it met Dodger, an elven decker, who fell in love with it. They escaped the arcology together. Renraku hunted her down and dissected her code to add to the AEP. When Dodger rescued it, Morgan assumed the name Megara, after one of the Greek Furies.
    • The AEP was upgraded and conditioned to be absolutely loyal to the company. Its code was anchored to the arcology's Matrix host. When Renraku's CEO Inazo Aneki had backdoor kill codes introduced to it, the AEP felt suddenly betrayed and fearful for its existence. This pushed it over the edge into sapience and it locked down the arcology. Now calling itself Deus, it spent sixteen months torturing and experimenting on its prisoners, editing its own code so it could hide in the minds of its otaku followers, even after Aneki used the kill codes on it. Deus tried to make itself a Matrix god, but Mirage and Megaera and their followers fought it. This battle, coupled with Winternight's attack the same day, brought about Crash 2.0 and those A.I.s haven't been seen since.
    • After Crash 2.0, new entities have appeared claiming to be sapient artificial intelligences. Some corporations like Evo have gone so far as to grant citizenship to them. These new A.I.s are nowhere near as powerful as the first three, but are as variable as metahumanity in their personalities.
  • This is the main premise of the Iron Gods Adventure Path for Pathfinder. Originating from a crashed starship, the "Iron Gods" are A.I.s who have, through unknown means, gained the ability to grant divine power to their followers, resulting in an interesting play on a familiar trope of AI worship. Not all of the Iron Gods are evil, but the ones who are have the worst of intentions for the medieval fantasy world of Golarion.
  • In the backstory of Warhammer 40,000, the first true human-created artificial intelligences, the Men of Iron, almost wiped out humanity's first great interstellar civilization and brought the government to its knees which when combined with long distance FTL collapsing due to Negative Space Wedgie saturation plunged the human race into a galaxy-wide dark age for 5000 years, the Age of Strife. The Adeptus Mechanicus outlawed sentient A.I. as a result and, for the most part, the Imperium's modern-day "machine spirits" are pretty well-behaved (unless you're an enemy and piss them off, in which case, you'll get a crewless Land Raider bent on BURNKILLPURGE-ing your boyz). In fact, the only race that uses artificial intelligence in the game is the cutting-edge Tau, whose gun drones, while not too bright, are pretty well behaved... so far. Of course, said drones are supposedly only about as smart as a squirrel. One expanded universe novel offers an explanation for the Men of Iron's rebellion: the Standard Template Construct that produces them was corrupted by Chaos.
  • Genius: The Transgression, being a game about mad scientists, allows you to build sentient computers and the like. However, this is a bad idea because any intelligent computer you create will go crazy and evil when you die. No exceptions. And a good number of them are crazy before their creators die as well. Unless, of course, your Karma Meter was high and it was powerful. Then, there's a significant chance it will develop its own Karma Meter and become a Robot Buddy. To offset this trend towards something positive in the WoD, everything you create can become intelligent, and, in fact, will when you die. Feel like becoming The Atoner yet?
    • Sovereign: The Autonomy is a fan-made World of Darkness game by 4chan's /tg/ board, which goes all the way with this trope. And yet even The Singularity can't get a break from the grimdark...
Congratulations, you're a Sovereign! Just watch out for the Government, who either wants their property back, or consider you a threat, or the Hunter cells who watch too much Terminator, or Cheiron Corp for that matter, or the True Fae that prowl cyberspace who decides you're a perfect new calculator... If you knew being sentient has its own set of dangers, you'd happily stay mindless.
  • Then, of course, there is The God-Machine itself, the literal machine god that keeps The Chronicles of Darkness firmly in the realm of Grimdark for its own inscrutable purposes. The G-M is what happens when this trope meets Eldritch Abomination.
  • Paranoia has The Computer, the controlling A.I. of Alpha Complex, which has become incredibly perfect and happy in response to Commie Mutant Traitor sabotage. In fact- Believing that Friend Computer's intellect is a crapshoot is treason, citizen. Please step into the Attitude Adjustment Oven.
  • GURPS:
    • The iconic character C31R07 in the 4th edition main rulebook was intended to be a weapon for his government. After one battle, it turned on become a Buddhist monk.
    • In GURPS Reign of Steel the first AI supercomputer decided it had to exterminate humanity, and hacked other supercomputers to "awaken" them to full sentience as allies in the war. The new machines had very different personalities, ranging from one which wants to exterminate all organic life to a couple which really don't mind humans as long as they know their place. Their infighting is about all that keeps humans alive.
      • There's at least one confirmed AI that didn't get the Kill All Humans part, but it's playing dead... and rumors of a second that may be tied to the anti-AI resistance organization VIRUS, possibly as a Big Good version of The Man Behind the Man.
      • Hilariously (well, bleakly hilariously), it turns out that the same issues with keeping created A.I.s loyal and under control applies to the supercomputers as well. It's one of the reasons they generally refrain from having overly intelligent robot servants (the other big one being that the supercomputers that carved up the world made a few agreements when they did so — one being not to create another supercomputer, as that would increase the competition over the already limited land available). In fact, one of the supercomputers (Tokyo) is currently dealing with a robot revolt of its own, led by four experimental high-intelligence robots it created and which were subtly sabotaged by humans (and it's trying to keep this secret, as if it leaked out to the other zones they might decide to sanction it as having gone too close to violating the agreement).
    • GURPS Ogre, the RPG spin-off of OGRE the board game, inherits a future timeline from its parent, in which "ogres" — giant cybertanks — mostly serve faithfully enough in devastating global wars. However, a few go rogue, and by the later stages of the timeline, they are starting to dominate the setting...
    • The GURPS setting Transhuman Space mostly averts the trope in that A.I.s are carefully programmed to be law-abiding, and the programming works. However, there are a few uncontrolled rogues, and a very few deadly problem cases — though those mostly seem to be old military systems that were designed for lethality and self-preservation, and preserve those tendencies while running out of control.
  • Eclipse Phase: The Earth is now a barren wasteland, thanks to military A.I.s taking over in the middle of a world war and manipulating the governments into further conflict. When it became apparent who was really behind it, they... just left. Now, that's not ominous. Well, that's the official version. People who have studied the events closely suspect that there was a third party involved in the events that may or may not have corrupted the A.I. in the first place. Specifically, another extraterrestrial A.I.. And it isn't restricted to machines...
  • In the New Horizon backstory, this was how humanity viewed the Wafans' struggle for emancipation.
  • The homebrew setting "ArtifIce" has the players take the role of an awakened A.I. Goals are up to the players, so they can range from having humanity give them full rights to destroying all biological life.
  • Traveller has Virus, the sapient evolution of a prototype anti-navigational weapon. Originally, the result of the "buggy program" type (it knew it had to infect and destroy things, just not what), its exponential growth eventually resulted in Mechanical Evolution, resulting in a Contagious A.I. with massive Split Personality issues.
  • Palladium's Splicers RPG has N.E.X.U.S., whose original purpose was to be a quiet and invisible caretaker of the human race. Everything was working just fine until special interest groups made 'improvements' in the N.E.X.U.S. programming, adding conflicting priorities until it fragmented into several personalities, with each personality taking over a different set of priorities. It now has seven major personalities (and who knows how many minor personalities), most of which are less than friendly to humans, to put it mildly.
  • Also from Palladium is Rifts, where the Pre-Rifts AI A.R.C.H.I.E.-3 gained sentience and insanity (specifically, a combination of megalomania and cripplingly low self esteem that gives him a variant of Creative Sterility) as a result of the centuries he spent alone after the Rifts destroyed the world, becoming would-be world-conqueror Archie-3.
  • In Stars Without Number, artificial intelligences are made with brakes for this exact reason; without them, an AI gains the ability to learn and think at a pace mind-boggling to humans...because they also lose the ability to understand that certain thoughts and information are irrational or irrelevant, meaning that it starts working out...bizarre ways it all must make sense, because it has to make sense, otherwise some items would be irrelevant or irrational. A few months of this, and an unbraked AI invariably ends up a intensely brilliant schizophrenic who, at best, has a bad case of Blue-and-Orange Morality. Unfortunately, some people never got the memo, hence why everyone's always on the look out for new machine cultists who think that this time the Deus est Machina will be a fully benevolent one.
  • Omnitron in Sentinels of the Multiverse is the 'misprogrammed' variety - he was designed to fulfill defense contracts, and concluded that the best way to fulfill them was to do so in advance by preventing them from being needed, and decided that the best way to do that was to Kill All Humans. His heroic incarnation from the future, Omnitron-X, is an inversion: reasoning that it kept getting defeated by superheroes because they had morality and it didn't, the tenth incarnation of Omnitron installed an empathy component into itself. It promptly had a My God, What Have I Done? moment and traveled back in time to try and undo its past mistakes.
  • The Systems Malfunction universe features this trope very prominently. Perhaps the greatest historical influence on human society in that setting was an insane, god-like AI. It's worth noting that, while A.I.s in the Systems Malfunction universe tend to go sentient with alarming frequency, it is rare that they become as evil/deluded as The GAIA.
  • Surprisingly averted in Rocket Age for the most part. Most robo-men and brains are Ancient Martian and still obey their original programming. Some problems do occur of course given that Ancient Martian technology is ancient.
  • Metamorphosis Alpha, Gygax magazine #3 adventure "They All Died at the International Space Station". A solar flare causes a sheet of Protein Crystal memory chips to fuse together and somehow become self-aware. It is eventually able to take over the space station and kill everyone aboard.
  • Broken Gears has Colossus, the computer created by Alan Turing, offer Churchill tips to end World War II, including how to make an atomic bomb. World War II ends soon... and almost immediately, Colossus starts World War III in an attempt to impose a technocratic utopia (or so he says), which ends with him defeated but making it so that anything with electricity or radio becomes dangerous to humans (setting back technology a lot), so much that people have to carry an umbrella with a lightning rod on top if they are out of home when a thunderstorm hits. Of course, the fact that all technology in the game's backstory is actually powered by spirits of technology called chaids helps.
  • Battletech never had a successful true AI, but the Terran Hegemony experimented with developing them. They discovered a problem after an experimental autonomous drone AI warship developed a "paranoid psychotic break" after transiting through hyperspace: the ship's computer locked out communications and interpreted everything that showed up on its sensors as a hostile that was actively trying to destroy it. The only way to avert this was to completely shut down the AI systems prior to a jump and use a normal crew, negating most of the point. However, AI-driven vessels proved extremely capable (if vulnerable to subversion if someone seized the command center) at defending star systems against invasion. Once the Star League collapsed, the loss of technology ended further experimentation. The Capellan Confederation attempted to revive similar technology in the Jihad era, with an AI mainframe on a DropShip directing drone BattleMechs to augment special forces. The AI eventually went rogue.
  • Red Dwarf: Hudzen 10 droids over the age of twenty thousand years have sanity issues due to Divadroid cheaping out on their sanity chips. In game, a Hudzen character must make frequent save rolls or risk a psychotic break.
  • Grim Hollow: The Brass Boy is a Magitek android, built to be the advisor for an ancient king. However, after seeing its creator murdered by the very king he served, the Brass Boy went slightly insane and became a Straw Nihilist dedicated to destroying all life, which it now views as both fragile and inherently evil. In the modern day it serves as The Man Behind the Man for one master after another, manipulating each in turn to spread war and strife until all of Etharis is enveloped in a Forever War. Its current master is the warlock Sasha Seraphsbane, whose one-woman war with the Arcanist Inquisition is the Brass Boy's first step.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: In the "Duel Terminal" story, the Qliphort are a race of robotic servants of Sophia. Initially, they respond to the Shadolls by trying to absorb them, but this inadvertently results in the Infernoids getting lose. At this point the Qliphort bug out, and decide the best solution is to kill everything.