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Dolly Wars!

No one person made dolls think, of course -- the nondeterministic simulated cognitive feedback loop program was the result of careful investment, research and development by universities, governments and institutions worldwide. Of course, we cannot ignore the contributions of crowdfunding in this endeavor. Stories about the fundamental breakthrough being serendipitous, while charming, should stay on low-traffic internet forums along with UFO conspiracies where they belong. Ultimately, as far as the average person on the street is concerned, what made dolls think was the realization that dolls could play with dolls.

The point is that not-quite-thinking dolls got smart enough to be used in the sort of small war that doesn't attract the attention of the police ninety percent of the time. Couple that with the backlash from sharing-economy companies quickly turning into private taxation systems, and you have factions in HOAs and apartment blocks formally declaring war on each other about who gets to park where, which services should be bought collectively and which shouldn't, and so on.

One good thing about it is that Games Workshop went out of business, because they'd charge for plastic miniatures almost as much as fighting dolls ended up costing. The last official 40K tournament, in which about ninety percent of attendees scuttled their armies as soon as possible to go play with dolls in the parking lot instead, still makes for a good cautionary tale for toy company executives. Games Workshop is now a division of Prusa Industries.

Even in outdoor venues, people and pets rarely get hurt, at least around here. When they do it's usually just a scare and having a tiny nail removed from a hand or a paw.

These mostly-sentient (but just below the legal limit, of course) dolls are called lilas, probably because the Japanese got involved. They can run around, they can dance, and with careful programming they can fight. Just to prove that the Japanese didn't get involved too much, they can't have sex; well, the chassis can if that's what it has been designed for, but the experience isn't any better than with a $10 blowup doll, because they don't understand it. On top of that, lilas taller than a foot or so begin to get expensive as larger servos are required and more of the processor has to be dedicated to PID for movement, so this is rarely done.

Sport and grievance-resolution fighting is possible because the average lila has the ability to build copies of itself -- in fact, it is generally demonstrating this ability that kicks the simulated cognitive feedback loop into full function. This is emphatically not a function far more advanced than any of the others a lila normally performs, it just looks like it is.

Most tournament regulations and all GR regulations used to forbid calling lila-built dolls lolis and mandated the terms "minis" instead, but recently progressive blogs have pointed out that reclaiming the term for non-sexual use is probably a good thing, and most companies have ceased efforts to be politically correct. Lilas will use whatever word they are told matches the meaning.

Lilas are paired with fourth generation 3D printers and to-scale workshops to quickly assemble lolis with; people occasionally make these into dioramas, but lilas seem incapable to take advantage of advanced tools, so there's little point. The fundamental limitations of lilas has allowed enough standardization that enforcing balance rules is seldom necessary. The entire assembly is about the size of a beer keg -- a beer keg being the most common case mod in the college circuit -- and is referred to as the player's base; usually, but not always, "taking" the base is the win condition. the lilas sit or stand on top, so as to get a good view of the field, with the actual player generally controlling the match from the sidelines. Some circuits allow players to throw water balloons or fireworks to act as off-field artillery.

Lilas tend to spend most of the fights in conning/fabrication mode, directing the insensate smaller dolls around and making more. However, they can be used to fight -- loli-size launchers are usually too small to cause significant damage, and a lila can just kick or even scare infantry and even some vehicle lolis off. However, lilas have enough self-preservation that they will surrender if they start taking damage; loli components are 3d printed and essentially come at zero cost, but the bigger dolls are both expensive and conscious of their value. Lilas are always humanoid in shape, the proprioception loop just does not activate otherwise; for fights, they generally move on foot or more rarely are provided converted RC vehicles by players, although dedicated fighting lilas sometimes end up having their lower halves rebuilt to match their preferred loli chassis rather than just strapping accessories to themselves. Upon direction by the human commander, a lila will exit conning mode and enter fight mode; this distracts the lila from controlling lolis reducing their effectiveness, but puts a comparatively powerful unit on the battlefield.

Loli groups share the lila's processor, so a human player must choose whether to generate a large amount of slow and fragile lolis, or a small group of quick ones that are nimble enough to dodge blows.

Wargame geeks took to optimization forums and over a brief period of time, standardized loli designs have emerged; the individual player generally customizes the look, but most tournment play has settled on some optimized designs that differ mostly cosmetically. Of course, the lila generally editorializes a little. Lolis tend to look somewhat like their progenitor in that they have some amount of humanoid features, but the actual fighting gear is generally 3d printed as quickly as possible. This results in your average loli looking like a little upper half of a doll being embedded in a vehicle from a mid-90s 3D game, so that it looks like it's driving it. The average bipedal loli is about three inches tall.

Each lila specializes in building one type of loli. While a loli's abilities change depending on how much attention they receive, some abilities are chassis dependent.

Lolis are built to be disposable and recyclable, and are little more than 3D printed parts and servos with a radio in them -- no processor and few or no sensors. Even the eyes are decorative, lilas keeping an eye on things instead. As a result, they operate in attention-sharing mode; the more lolis a lila has to herd, the less time it can dedicate to moving any one of them.

In general, fights start with prebuilt lolls being deployed; common starting setups involve an equal amount of 3D printed filament. Bases are carried to the field, and a decision is made on how many lilas and how many meters of filament to use per side, then the lilas are allowed to interact for a little while the printers crank the starting components out. This is especially encouraged in grievance-resolution matches, since it has been observed that watching dolls prepare for what to them is earnest war may cause the players to solve their grievance and de-escalate the match into a friendly event. Due the fact that all lilas have the exact same processor, this interaction can go from the friendly to the hostile to the simply very odd.

For grievance-resolution matches, it has become more or less traditional for each party to address their plastic army as to the goodness of their cause.

Once a match start, lilas act as the player's proxy, controlling lolis on the field and dividing their attention between making replacement units and boosting extant units. While lilas direct the phisical movement of their lolls, it is up to the player to give tactical commands -- lilas can fight by themselves, but are rarely good tactical thinkers and generally do not have attention to spare during matches!

Lilas having some degree of autonomy makes the figure of a referee fairly optional in friendly matches; a few rules of engagement emerged because they were easiest to explain to lilas. in grievance-resolution matches, the ref is often the justice of the peace or arbitrator that would otherwise have been called to settle the matter. After the match, remaining lolls are generally recycled as part of field cleanup -- cleaning up together is considered healthy for both players and dolls, if at all possible, although in rare cases lilas from opposing teams will get into a kittyfight. A tradition for tournament matches, possibly derived from miniature wargaming is that the winner should hand over the best-built loll to the loser so that it might be painted and kept as a miniature; if the match wasn't to destruction, lolls may be exchanged.

While the hobby is only a few years old, a few items of lore and conspiracy theories have already emerged. A popular one is that the hobby is subsidized by a large organization -- governments, research institutes, and chip manufacturers are favorite -- in order to allow lilas to be used as drone control systems in times of war if the appropriate perception filter is integrated into them; another says that having many of the things around is likely to cause a serendipitous breakthrough into true AI. Yet another claims that modern combat drones are in fact piloted by "grey" lila minds that have undergone some sort of equivalent to a lobotomy to eliminate their well-known aversion to risk (despite the fact that the cognitive feedback loop is fragile enough that messing with it more than minimally turns a lila into an overpriced automated doll with a sub-par processor). Finally, there's the theory according to which lilas are in fact partial brain-dumps from someone whose unique brain structure allowed it to be dumped in the first place.

Due to the fragile nature of the pseudo-sentient logic, lilas do not have that many practical applications outside games -- they see themselves as playthings, as much as they can be said to see themselves at all. Even so, lilas are used with some success for tasks such as in-wall wiring, data center maintenance, and in general anything that requires small size, autonomy and fine manipulation without being time or safety critical. Lila-maid cafes exit in Japan, but are overshadowed in popularity by lila-maid-cosplayer venues simply because the uncanny valley is that hard to beat. The two sometimes coexist -- tea prepared by a lila may be brought to the table by a cosplayer who is in fact the lila's owner and delivered from the tray to the customer by a tactical team of infantry lolis.

Even Libertarian parties are split on whether lilas deserve civil rights; the issue seems to be moot due to lobbying by the electronics industry and the fact that lilas act as if they saw themselves as cherished possessions rather than people. In general, progressives see this as a sign that lilas are nonsentient and conservatives are not interested in considering the issue. Lila abuse is mostly a nonissue; while legally lilas are afforded no protection whatsoever (Scandinavian countries are considering extending animal abuse statutes to lilas, but that's it) a lila that is being abused will generally deactivate the moment it realizes what is going on, depriving a would-be sadist of any enjoyment. This, along with the somewhat high cost of a lila body, causes the problem to rarely present itself.

A few new-age religious denominations have equated lilas with faeries or similar creatures, and allow them as members; notably, after a decision by Pope Francis, the Chatolic Church allows lilas to attend services (but not to take communion) on the ground that they have roughly the same theological status as pets, but are easier to manage as far as hygiene goes.

The average lila costs about as much as a third-generation smartphone, plus accessories. Lilas are activated by their owner; activation happens with one doll in five on average, and is usually done at the point of sale. Dolls that do not activate one day might do so another day, or with another person; the randomness necessary for the cognitive feedback loop to stabilize in a non-brittle way makes this unavoidable.

Lilas nearly always identify as female, do not understand the concept of being owned by a business or anyone other than the person who plays with them (although they understand being borrowed), have the morality and common sense of an unusually thoughtful second grader, and stand a chance of not reactivating when reformatted. This has created a secondary market for non-activable lila brains; while the design is somewhat archaic by now, "zombie" lila brains are a popular hobbyist choice for a microcontroller. While reactivation has never been observed, the possibility prevents using them in serious applications, although there are stories about a smart appliance or even a piece of equipment going rampant due to body integrity disorder. Business employing lila operators will generally withhold part of the trainer's paycheck to allow the trainer to buy the lila as soon as possible, both for liability reasons and to avoid situations such as lilas trying to run away after a firing, or becoming unusable after a reformatting. A "dead" lila brain is generally removed and resold as a microcontroller, and a new one put in the body.

Active lilas can be bought and sold normally, in the same way very loyal pets can -- that is, it is legal and it is feasible, but it is often not a good idea. A non-traumatic transfer of ownership can take a week to a month... or sometimes just can't happen.

Overall, those who estimated AI to bring about a sea change in society should take heart; lilas are about as far as true AI as IBM's Watson was a few years ago, and simply take advantage of people's tendency to anthrophomorphize. The main contribution that lila technology has brought society is a new sport and a way to solve petty disputes by mock battle rather than by lawyer; what used to be a fad for this generation's wave of hippies took ground simply because attorneys started refusing to get involved in disputes small enough that dolls could settle them. This naturally segued into legal firms renting out trained lila teams for battles -- in general, it is considered in very poor taste to have a paralegal direct the fighting, although as grievance-resolution fights move from minor personal issues into areas that used to be the exclusive province of law it may become possible to see dedicated lila operator mercenaries.

A recent survey rates lilas' impact on society below smartphones and boy bands but above Crocs and capybara burgers.

Dolly Wars Association Rules - Revision .42 Not in any way affiliated with Games Workshop, the Japanese Self-Defence Forces, the Royal British Legion, Macrosoft, Electronic Farts, Scrapple, the International Olympic Committee, or the Platonic Plate Reactor Research Roundup.

TRAINING VERSION: Before having your commanders read the live-combat rules, be sure they are familiar with this.

Each army is composed of a general (the human player), one or more commanders (the lilas), and a variable number of troop types (the lolis).

The participating generals agree on how much filament can be used for initial troops and how much filament if any can be used for reinforcements, then prepare the field while the commanders build the troops, if necessary. In GR matches, this is usually when the referee tries to talk the quarreling parties into a friendly resolution; watching lilas get ready for what is to them earnest war occasionally has a calming effect.

Commanders have to specialize in one troop type, although variations between loadouts are allowed. If a lila has to control a troop it's not used to (such as an infantry lila needing to build a catapult) the chassis' attention requirements are doubled.

Most lolis can move and attack, attack and move, or perform a split move. A split move is generally used with cover; a loli moves by half its movement rounded down, attacks, then moves by 1.

Loli Chassis Types

Chassis typeHitsSpeedLauncher RangeAttention(Cost)Filament (Cost)SpecialAesthetic
Infantry15513Can climb. Can carry 0.25 infantry. Can do infantry things.Infantry lolis tend to have clean lines, omitting details like fingers.
Catapult2520210Must deploy to attack. Can attack twice. Can carry 0.25 quadcopters.Dedicated artillery; they generally move around on little caterpillar legs, or rollers, or cosmetic bipedal lolis depicted carrying the base.
ATV215536Can carry 1 infantry.Some players use a four-legged "centaur" design instead of wheels.
Tank31010315Cannot attack air. Can carry 2 infantry.Tracked or screw-drive lolis can carry bigger guns with longer range.
Quadcopter1255530Air unit. Can carry 0.25 infantry. Must return to base every fourth turn.Actual number of propellers varies between 2 and 6.
Balloon110518Air unit. Can land (or be popped) and convert to infantry.Generally uses party balloons.

Ground lolis cannot attack air lolis very well, and suffer a penalty to aim and dodge equal to half (round down); balloon lolis are very light, and do not take damage from a fall -- the balloon is popped and they revert to regular infantry.

While chasses are more or less standardized, each loli has attention-derived stats: Initiative, Aim and Dodge. All lolis start with three attention points, with one for each. Lolis can have more than that, but the points are withdrawn from the lila's attention pool. Initiative is added to speed for the purpose of determining which lolis move first in a turn, as per the Timing rules. Aim is used to allow the loli to hit with its launcher (nail launcher, coilgun, even a melee attack) while Dodge is used to move at the last moment to avoid such an attack. Aim decides how likely it is that damage will be dealt, while Dodge is added to Hts for the purposes of avoiding damage. A loli that loses Hits will move less accurately, so its total dodging ability is decreased automatically. A loli with no Dodge cannot defend. A loli with no Aim cannot attack. A loli with no Initiative cannot move.

Infantry lolis can perform a number of actions instead of moving AND attacking. However, the attention a lila has to spend on these actions still depend on the loli's Initiative and Aim attention abilities; it has to come from somewhere! If the loli has already moved or intends to move afterwards, all the attention has to come from the Aim ability, and all probabilities are halved. If the loli has already attacked or intends to attack afterwards, all the attention has to come from the Initiative ability, and all probabilities are halved. It may be worth it to do two different attempts. In addition to this, infantry lolis can climb an obstacle instead of having to drive around it; this costs 2 movement points.

Infantry Actions

Action typeMin AttnSuccess ChanceEffect
Hup!0160%The loli gets on a friendly vehicle, or off any vehicle. Lolis on a vehicle are too busy hanging on to do anything else, and cannot attack.
Fixed it!350%The loli fixes 1 Hit of damage to a vehicle.
Gattai!3100%The loli fixes all Hits of damage to a vehicle, and adds its attention stats to the vehicle past the usual attention-add cap. The loli is lost on success.
Wheeeee!2100%The loli launches itself from a catapult, moving as much as the catapult's range. A catapult can do this any number of times in a turn, but cannot also attack in the same turn.
Yarr!450%The loli climbs on an enemy vehicle. If successful, that vehicle can ONLY attack the pirate loli until it comes off or is destroyed.
Heave!!280%The loli pushes an obstacle by 1.
Yoink!!1100%The loli swaps accessories between itself and another friendly unit, or between two friendly units.

Accessories are antthing carried by a loli that is not the default launcher; they can be carried by infantry and vehicles alike. Note that they usually preempt an ability to attack. Accessories do not cost extra filament or attention, as they replace the default launcher.


Accessory typeAccessory effect
LauncherStandard attack.
Green stuffIncreases chance of repair by 100%; allows vehicles to perform a repair action.
FirecrackerSingle-use attack at Aim 10 and area effect of 21 (25-corners) squares. Range 1, so it's probably a suicide attack. The loli can return to base to receive a new accessory for free if it survives.
ShieldProvides cover for anything its own size or smaller (a catapult shield covers everything, an ATV shield covers ATVs and infantry, etc).
RibbonEnemy units that have this loli in sight and range must attack it, instead of other targets. Useful with high Dodge.
FlatbedInfantry carrying capacity is multiplied by 4. Catapults can also recharge a quadcopter they are carrying, but this is not an instant action.
Hot wireRange is reduced to adjacent/melee, but attacks are doubled (the loli can attack twice).
NoneNo attack. The loli can move normally at 150% move speed (round down). Infantry lolis can still perform standard actions. The loli can return to base to receive a new accessory for free.

Attention also determines whether more lolis can be made after the match begins. Building a new loli takes two turns; in the first turn, the loli parts are printed, in the second turn the loli is hand-built by the lila, and in the third turn the loli is deployed and can be used normally. This process requires the lila to multitask, and gives an attention penalty to the entire troop -- building a new loli costs as much attention as twice their attention stats. So for example, making a new basic infantry loli would cost the lila six points of attention.

Lilas cannot quite redistribute their attention as they want; their visual processing ability is limited, and they have to keep track of which loli is which. Lilas may take their attention away from lolis for any reason at any time, but it's all or nothing: that loli simply won't do anything during the next processing frame, including dodging. Attention can be returned the following turn.

Firing must happen in line-of-sight, simply because loli launchers are simple and an arcing shot would tumble all over the place; the exception to this is catapults, which may fire over obstacles or units as long as they have a spotter. While lolis have no optical sensors, lilas can use a spotter as the third known position for 2D triangulation to find a target. A spotter is in valid position if it is within line of sight of the catapult's target and is less distant from the target than the catapult's range. Air units ignore obstacles by flying over them; note that quadcopters must return to base after each attack.

Damage is calculated simultaneously; it's not uncommon for lolis to shoot or poke each other so that both combatants can no longer be used. Given that lolis are designed to be recyclable, that's okay. Lolis that are damaged take one hit. Lolis that reach zero hits are destroyed. Loli bits are usually recycled at the end of a battle, although this is a somewhat lengthy process and recycling during a battle seldom happens.

In combat, lilas are referred to as (Name) Zero, with lolis following in related numerals. A player calling just the name is giving an order to the entire troop. If a loli is destroyed and a subsequent loli is created, the numbering is kept linear; if Kiara Zero builds Kiara One through Kiara Fifteen infantry lolis, and Kiara Two gets run over by a tank, the next Kiara is still numbered Sixteen. Often, players and lila settle into a routine for unit naming (One through Five are skirmish, Six through Ten are assault, etc.) If bookkeeping is necessary, the easiest thing to do is to write down a lila's spec sheet, and then fill out a line per loli, crossing out the ones that are destroyed.

Loli Sample Specs

Ciccia4ATV324 LauncherCiccia-4 looks as pudgy as its maker, but is in fact a dedicated fast skirmisher; 4's job is to spot for catapults and deliver specialist infantry to their mission coordinates.
Bluejay1Copter6610 LauncherBluejay-1 is essentially Bluejay's primary avatar on the battlefield -- an expensive and powerful air unit intended for surgical dive-bombing strikes.
Bluejay2Pult112 FlatbedBluejay-2 is a support unit whose only job is to act as a (barely) mobile helipad -- Bluejay doesn't like relying on teammates for that, and besides, this way the pad matches the copter *perfectly*.
Maya20Infantry111 Hot wireMaya's specialty is the "antbot" strategy -- build a lot of cheap melee lolis and have them charge. Maya's infantry lolis aren't even bipedal, and look like four legged stylized spiders with cute faces.

Force Sheet

NamePref TypeAttentionStressPersonality TypeNotes
LevaInfantry11015Pure, HeroineLeva's army is as steadfast and reliable as she is, if a little too predictable. Leva's owner is a pretty big WW1 buff and comes from a wargaming background.
61Infantry121 LauncherUtility infantry
122Infantry121 Launcher
183Infantry121 Launcher
244Infantry121 Launcher
305Infantry121 Launcher
366Infantry112 LauncherUtility infantry
427Infantry112 Launcher
488Infantry112 Launcher
609Infantry112 Launcher
6610Infantry112 Launcher
7211Infantry114 GreenstuffDedicated medic
8612Infantry355 Hot wireDedicated ninja
9415Infantry205 RibbonDedicated target
10014Catapult101 ShieldMobile cover
11013Catapult231 LauncherCatapult

Note that the two catapults cost twice as much attention as their chassis indicate. The shield catapult can still be used to lob lolis in addition to providing cover, freeing the normal catapult to perform its artillery role. The specialized infantry is intended to tag-team an enemy unit and take it out quickly while the utility infantry holds the line.


Lilas can be statted as per the Maid RPG. This allows for a RPG/TTB hybrid. In that case, lilas are assumed to be very good at field recycling, being able to build lolis out of available material rather than needing bases and filament. Keep in mind that lilas are generally about one foot tall!

Alternatively, lilas may be statted using the Engine Heart rules. In that case, their ability to make and command lolis is unrelated to the Engine Heart Drone Swarm and Master Unit abilities; lolis are simple and fragile compared to even basic Engine Heart drones. An exception may be made for quadcopters.


Lolis fight by pitting Aim dice against Dodge and Hit dice, as per the game Risk; roll one die per stat point, and match the highest die rolls. If there are ties, the loli with the highest initiative hits or dodges depending whether it's attacking or defending. If the attacker wins, the defender takes one hit (this allows for vehicles to be somewhat more survivable againt highly skilled infantry).

Lolis move in order of initiative, rather than in turn; that is, there are sub-turns, or steps. Within steps, lolis with the same initiative values are moved one per player, as in chess or regular board games; to determine which army goes first in a step, an unit from the army currently using the least amount of attention will go first, to represent the lila's ability to react faster. Lolis with high initiative may delay their turn if the player wishe -- that is, a loli with initiative 4 move on the initiative-3 step, or not, or the initiative-2 step, or not, and so on.

Lolis with zero hits remaining are not removed immediately; rather, they are removed when the step ends. This may allow them to counterattack before they are removed.

With simplified combat rules, lilas do not enter the fight.

Note that there are no default dice: use any dice or random number generator you have available (or print them!). Percentages have been given for attemptable actions - simply convert your die roll to a percentage. For example, a six-sided die will return percentages of 17, 34, 50, 67, 84, 100.


Lolis and lilas can be statted using Emlia rules. The Initiative stat directly translates to Timing, the Aim stat translates directing to Aimed Fire (Indirect Fire for catapults and Close Combat for lolis equipped with hot wire), infantry actions are Skills, and so on.

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Page last modified on August 24, 2019, at 04:06 AM