Machine Drones

Given that humans now have the opportunity to walk the Darkstream, there are far fewer manufactured organic/living Machine operatives, and far more mechanical Drones. These exist to  destroy non-Machine life and take the resources wasted by breathers to further their own culture and ends. They follow orders from the controlling Machine, and make no pretension to be human in any way.

Drones are manufactured in a number of different patterns. Thus far, the following have been encountered.

  • Humanoid
  • Rollers
  • Tripods
  • Hounds
  • Spiders
  • Hawks

These can be programmed to serve in different capacities, depending on the stage of the conquest of a world, including:

  • Foot soldiers
  • Resourcers
  • Specialists
  • Logistics

Drones differ in their degrees of ability and strength, which effectively acts as a rank structure. Across all classes, as the level of the drone increases, so does its abilities, stability and degree of “reality”. From what has been ascertained during encounters with them, they are designated with levels from one to twelve.

  • Levels one to three are designed for use in normal Shadow.
  • Levels four to six are more advanced, and would have a decent chance in worlds like the Commonwealth and the Outer Reich.
  • Levels seven to nine could potentially be effective in locations as real as Sable, the Reich, Elementis or the Technocracy.
  • Levels ten to twelve are the Officer Drones.
  • Above them are the various Controllers, and ultimately the Machine itself.

The proportions of each within an invading or exploiting force do not follow the pattern of a normal human military rank structure exactly. In general, the lower level models can be produced more easily than the more advanced ones, so, for example, the suppression of a normal Shadow will usually only involve the lower level foot soldiers. In contrast, a Commonwealth/Outer Reich equivalent world would use a larger proportion of higher level drones, but these would take longer to manufacture.

Drone Models


Humanoid Drones are most commonly used on New Oceania, although they do sometimes act as a senior “officer corps” on conquest worlds. Human Drones are often sent in as an advance party, to soften up a world and reduce resistance before the other models come in: in this case, they will usually be given a human “skin”, so they can blend in more easily. Usually the next to be depoloyed will be the rollers and the tripods, which have considerably more “shock and awe” potential.


These are the tanks among the Machine forces. At their base, they are tracklaying vehicles, but they can come with a variety of attachments, depending on their specific purpose. They are either controlled centrally, or paired with Spiders for operations that need more finesse. The inter-city transports on New Oceania are Roller vehicles.


These are the the platforms for the most devastating weapons among the various Machine drones (the “heat ray”). Once a world has been taken, the tripods move in. These vary in size, and can wield a number of different tools. The appearance and function of the tripods seem to suggest that the Master of the Datastream has read at least one book: H.G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds. Unlike those tripods, however, Drones do not need organic pilots.


These are more animal in appearance, usually with four legs (although this is not set in stone). They appear to have visual sensors at the “head”, but also usually also have a sensor array in the centre of the back. They work in packs of up to twenty, and their purpose is to attack and incapacitate or kill anything in their path, primarily using their sturdy, sharp claws. They are often used towards the end of the invastion process, for clean-up.


These are smaller than Hounds, and are usually used for ground-based reconnaissance and intelligence gathering. They are about a foot across, very fast, and have been confirmed to have Machine communications equipment built into their main carapace, although it is uncertain whether individual units can report back to base directly, or whether they report to a controller which then communicates with base. They can work either individually or in groups controlled by a more advanced model. Their level and control structure is similar to the hounds. Spiders are the other kind of drone used on New Oceania itself.


These are used for aerial surveillance, and like other forms of drones, are believed to have differing levels of ability, depending on the model. They vary in size from around that of a kestrel up to that of a golden eagle, and are believed to include a full suite of Machine communications equipment. They are also programmed for attack as well as surveillance. Usually, hawks will operate alone, although it is likely that they also have different levels of reality and efficiency, much like the other models. A few Hawks operate on New Oceania, usually as camera platforms.

Known Drone Functions

Foot soldiers

Foot solders are are used as shock troops on worlds which the Machine is attempting to subdue. They are completely emotionless and consider life to be worthless. Their sole purpose is to conquer and destroy, and they have no mercy. They effectively have a hive mind which offers them a measure of protection against mental influence. As far as weapons are concerned, they usually have weapons which can be adapted for firing projectiles or lasers, depending on the Shadow of conquest. There are also reports that long or short blades are also embedded in the inner forearm or hand of the humanoid models.


These are the drones which move in once a world has been subdued, and start stripping that world of its resources. At the most basic level, resourcers will just do what they’re told, be it mining ore, smelting metal, etc. However, the higher level versions actually bring some skill to a process – knowing the best place to dig, how to shore up a building, etc etc – right up to the equivalent of project managers. The majority of basic resourcers are not actually humanoid: they are more often either tripedal or quadrupedal, depending on what is most efficient for the terrain they’re working on.


These are specialist drones have been programmed with considerable knowledge in a given subject, such as mining engineering or geology. Lower level specialists are generally lacking in any but the most basic knowledge of other areas, although higher level specialists have been programmed with enough information to be able to draw on other relevant areas.


Once the resources have been stripped, it becomes necessary to transport them to the local hub for deployment for the use of the Machine. This is where the logistics drones come in. By far the largest number of these are rollers and tripods.