In 1995, the sci-fi b-movie Screamers was released (see trailer here). The plot features a dark future where mankind has found the answer to all its energy problems on the planet Sirius 6B in the form of some substance. Sadly, mining the substance released a lot of radiation and of course, the miners were not happy about this. But, the New Economic Block (NEB) did want to hear anything about not mining no longer and..well… things escalated into a full blown civil war, turning the world into radioactive wasteland filled with bunkers and soldiers and deserted cities.
Sounds pretty post-A, right? Right! And it even gets better! While there are no mutants walking about, the former scientists and engineers among employees (who formed a fighting wing calling itself “the alliance”) did not only managed to rally some off-world support (reads: Earth citizens) for the battle, no, they developed independent, self-relying killer robots that would dig themselves through the earth at turbo speed (just below the surface, you can see the earth move) just before jumping at their target, making mince meat out of it with saws and blades they have for armament. Oh, and they employ a sonic attack while the launch themselves at their victim, meant to render it unable to defend. This little feature earned them the nickname “Screamers” (and gave the movie its title). They are completely autonomous, building themselves in a factory (or in factories) underground, breeding like rats and spreading like the plague (those scientists and engineers were underpaid for sure! Look what they were capable of as soon as they were motivated just right!)
To make things worse [LITTLE SPOILER ALERT] …. the Screamers were able to develop and evolve and they created models that looked like humans so that they can sneak into bunkers and kill those inside (if you know “Terminator”, you know that trick) .
Why do I mention this movie (which full plot and other details can be found here)? First and foremost, I like it a lot. It -is- a b-movie, through and through, but it is honest and it delivers what it promises to deliver. Stay clear of the sequel “Screamers – the Hunting”, so. This one is not worth any attention.
In addition, the world of the movie makes for a nice setting for a dark future or post-a game. If one would like to play a little game of Mutant Future(tm) without mutants but with more little robot beasties, this could be used as the basis for a setting. The civil war between the NEB (New Economic Block) and the Alliance left the world in ruins, and the factions themselves have seemingly splintered up to the point where every bunker pretty much fends for ifself (so, an ally is still an ally and the enemy is still the enemy). The Screamers make for a third faction. This setup can work with any other game as a core as well, perhaps with “World of Darkness” .
In a dark scifi setting, Sirius 6B could just be another mining colony where an evil MegaCorp does not give a dime about the life of the miners and but just sees an uprising that needs to be quenched. The war goes on, the alliance need supplies and the NEB needs to put an end to this: the costs for this start to get out of control, the board isn´t happy and worst of all, it gets hard to keep these things under the carpet….
For a cyberpunk game, the whole situation could be far more limited and and on our own earth. If the mines are not about some strange energy source and radiation but about gold and diamonds and if the screamers are just semi-autonomous drones in the fight of a rebel group of independent miners… some freelancers could find work either with the NEB or the alliance, as the alliance needs help supplies and perhaps some help to deploy the “Screamers” while the NEB will have put a price on the heads of those that develop those killer drones.