Hi, my name is James and welcome to Code/Switch. Today I want to talk about Androids. I’ve spoken ad nauseaum about my Android Envoy Mitsuku Hane on KD:B and in our Discord, and the fun I’ve had playing her in Starfinder Society. I have the fortune to play with 2 others who also have Androids of similar levels and we’ve formed a sub-group in our local lodge jokingly named Android Block. Early on in the Society’s scenario count we ended up with players who tried to force the “Androids are unfeeling robot” stereotype on our characters, and together we were able to change that perception, I haven’t been so lucky at other convention tables. Few things in roleplaying games tick me off more than someone trying to describe my character for me, especially if it’s based off lazy, ancestry-based stereotypes. Today, on Code/Switch I want to talk about Androids place in Starfinder and their place in our fictional narratives.
What is an Android?
In Starfinder, an Android is a created being whose body is a composite of technological and biologic components and bears a soul. By our modern day standards this actually makes them cyborgs, beings of technological and biological components. Android by comparison just means humanoid robot (more specifically “likeness of male”, but whatever). This already challenges the android connotation players are likely to bring to a Starfinder table. We tend to think of androids as cold, analytical approximations of ourselves, and even with androids we think exemplify inherently human traits like the Iron Giant, we compartmentalize them as still inherently non-human in a way we don’t with cyborgs.
Androids and Cyborgs in Media
There are a lot of robots that can be considered Androids in media, heck the Wikipedia list is huge and includes popular archetypal Androids like; Ash & Bishop from Alien(s), T-800 from Terminator, and Data from Star Trek the Next Generation. There are so many other examples that stray from the current archetype that we should pause before throwing around the designation as monolithic, some examples include; Marvin from Hitchhikers Guide, most of the Droids from the Star Wars Series, Bender from Futurama, and the Transformers as a whole.
While inherently mechanical, Starfinders Androids seem to fit better under our current archetypes for cyborgs. There seems to be a cultural understanding that a cyborg, while mechanical still shares a similar spark of life to us. Some examples include; Darth Vader, Robot Cop, Major Kusanagi from Ghost in a Shell, and Android 17 &18 from Dragon Ball (confusing right?). In the same vein, one of the Starfinder Society faction leaders is an Android named Historia-7 who has given off a “Cortana” from Halo vibe, and she has an active romance arc with another NPC!
Shouldn’t Players Already Know This From the Rulebook?
I know, right? The Core Rulebook even goes over their bio-mechanical components, ability to feel emotions, having a soul, and that they’re been legalized citizens in the setting for almost 150 years. I’ll give people the benefit of the doubt, I still stand by the no one has ever read and retained a whole core rulebook for any RPG. So if I can leave you with anything, it’s let others define their characters for you, especially at a public society table. If your android party member wants to be a T-800, acknowledge it as that, if they want to be 2B, let them be!
Questions? Ideas? Comments? Cool Android stories? Leave em in the comments below or you can find me and the rest of the KD crew at our Discord.
I think you slightly miss the boat: an android is slightly further along the spectrum from Humanoid to robot from a cyborg. A cyborg understands (or comes to understand) a loss of humanity – think RoboCop, or any being who realizes they can no longer have the sense of touch, because they lost their hands. An android is manufactured, and understand that intrinsically, while they appear humanoid, they LACK humanity – emotional, empathetic, sympathetic, whatever. Think: Data from Star Trek TNG, T-100 from Terminator 2 (much less so the murder robot from Terminator), Bishop from Aliens, the replicants from Blade Runner, etc. They know they aren’t human, they just (to varying degrees) don’t necessarily know why they CAN’T be human.
Of course, further along that spectrum you get Transformers, the Iron Giant, and Voltron. And then you get Robots that are just unfeeling automota.