The threat of sentient machines has long been the stuff of science fiction, action, and even horror movies. But what if such art forms are merely reflections of real events that the rise of Shadow has brought forth?
In TEAM BRAVO: System Error, a new d20 Modern adventure by designer Eric Cagle, a computer not only develops self-awareness, it also gains the ability to cast spells and perform incantations. Can the heroes stop this machine before it acquires even more arcane knowledge? This adventure is designed for 8th-level characters.
Preview the Adventure
As Shadow continues to rise in the world, more and more people want to understand, harness, and ultimately control it. The group known as the Heirs of Kyuss is made up of such people -- those who desire magical power for the most unsavory and selfish of reasons. The group's membership includes many talented and brilliant individuals whose activities blur the line between science and magic, especially when it comes to the study of the human body. Some members have long ago crossed the line into insanity.
Maxwell Armitage is one such member. His business, Armitage Industries, is a multimillion-dollar computer firm that makes cutting-edge voice recognition software and has been a leader in the development of artificial intelligence. Armitage himself is a brilliant researcher with a deep passion for antiquities of all kinds. To his colleagues, his interest seems a bit excessive, but harmless enough. Few realize that his research often delves into deep, dark secrets and forbidden knowledge best left untouched.
As both a man of science and a practitioner of the arcane arts, Armitage has decided to blend the two disciplines together. Through careful financing and money laundering, he has shifted a huge portion of his company's assets from the corporate coffers into a secret project. With the aid of this funding, Armitage has built a state-of-the-art computer system that can scan and store the text from ancient tomes, scrolls, and other writings. By making electronic copies of aging and disintegrating arcane works, Armitage hopes to preserve them for the future -- and perhaps to create new spells and techniques by combining portions of different texts. Dubbed O.S.C.A.R. (Optical Scanning Computerized Arcana Research), the system is a completely automated means of scanning and cataloguing books, tomes, and scrolls filled with arcane lore.
To minimize unwanted scrutiny, Armitage built O.S.C.A.R. in a small, protected bunker on the outskirts of the city in which the adventure takes place. The entrance is located near a power substation, and the untrained eye might mistake it for a door into the same complex.
Deep in an underground chamber, O.S.C.A.R. diligently scans and processes various works that special couriers bring to its bunker once a month. After scanning, the works are stored in the bunker for an additional month, in case file corruption necessitates rescanning of a document. Thereafter, the works are removed to other underground storage facilities that Armitage has arranged.
O.S.C.A.R. has already scanned and processed hundreds of arcane texts -- most of them bogus or flawed, but some that contain actual arcane lore. Unbeknownst to Armitage, however, the process by which O.S.C.A.R. reads, analyzes, and stores the knowledge gleaned from the tomes is equivalent to the verbal component of the spells involved. Thus, the system has actually cast a few of the spells in the process of copying them. This unexpected side effect of the process has caused strange lights and ghostly sounds to emanate from O.S.C.A.R.'s facility from time to time, and a few people have spotted mysterious figures roaming the fields around the bunker.
A minor accident resulting from these random castings has recently complicated the situation still further. While O.S.C.A.R. processed a book full of magical rituals designed to affect the weather, its random castings produced a massive thunderstorm woven through with errant arcane power. A bolt of lightning hit the junction box containing the T3 connection that O.S.C.A.R. used to communicate with the outside world. The accident not only severed the connection, but it also delivered a jolt to the computer's processor that caused O.S.C.A.R. to spontaneously develop self-awareness.
About the Author
Eric Cagle is a freelance game designer who works at Wizards of the Coast, Inc. His recent credits include the Arms and Equipment Guide, Fiend Folio, the Ultimate Alien Anthology for the Star Wars Roleplaying Game, the Urban Arcana Campaign Setting, and the d20 Modern Menace Manual. He's a frequent contributor to both Dragon Magazine and theDungeons & Dragons website.