Sunday, October 22, 2017

Using Silent Legions and 13th Age mechanics to make an OSR post apocalyptic monster boss

In the last entry, I used Kevin Crawford’s Other Dust to flesh out a ruined cul de sac complete with a insectoid mutated military scientist bent on unleashing a massive colony of radioactive bugs onto an unsuspecting wasteland.  The mad scientist, who I’ve decided to call Dr. Levinson, needs some stats.  I’ll be using ideas from Silent Legions and 13th Age to create the good doctor.
Silent Legions builds on the monster/mutant/alien toolboxes in Stars Without Number and Other Dust by presenting a menu of base creatures and adding a few add-ons to make the creatures unique.  I chose the Humanoid Thing, Average as the base for Dr. Levinson.  (Silent legion presents creatures as a generic type like Hulking Brute and Verminous Beast and gives three variants of each--weak, average and strong—with appropriate stats for each.) Average Humanoid Things have the following stats:

I’ll give him the Acidic template, which modifies his stats by upping damage and +Hit, but lowers morale.  Additionally, Dr. Levinson will be in body armor and carrying a laser pistol. 13th Age has some compelling reasons for giving monsters static damage rather than dice, so his final stat block is this:

One of the things I love about the Sine Nomine sandbox tools is how they allow the GM to discover the game setting right along with the players.  Monsters with lots of GM activated powers turn the play experience into a tactical battle, while monsters with only claw/claw/bite to me become quickly tiresome.  13th Age monster design has monster abilities activating based on the to-hit roll or the number on the escalation die (a die that counts rounds and has other mechanical effects in that game.)  Applying that principle to OSR monsters allows the gm to watch and enjoy the experience of the combat without switching roles from tour guide to tactical opponent.  (Of course, if you want to match wits with your players as a combatant, feel free.  However, I would rather facilitate their experience than be responsible for remembering how many times a breath weapon has been used or whether the spell-likes have been activated.)  I want Dr. Levinson to have some acid fly-puke ability as well as a swarm summoning that comes after a certain number of rounds.  I will also throw in a random mook bug showing up with certain die results. To add this kind of AI to the monster, I’ll tie certain effects to d20 rolls.

Even Hit 16+: Acid vomit.  Does 5 damage and 2 ongoing acid damage for 2 rounds.  Fortitude save negates ongoing damage.
Even Miss: One heritor bug appears to fight with Dr. Levinson. (Heritor bugs are giant roaches; any low-level vermin will do.)
Natural 20: An Ankheg appears to fight with Dr. Levinson

Should he fail a morale save, Dr. Levinson will retreat easily by scooting up the wall and out a window or into a hole in the floor. His insect minions will not follow him, but will continue to fight the PC’s to block any attempts at pursuit. Dr. Levinson will disappear and become impossible to catch if he is not caught in three rounds.

Now I have a boss monster for my cul de sac, a summoner with a ranged and a melee attack who will run away to fight another day.  Dr. Levinson could be a short fight or a recurring villain, always seeking to cleanse the earth of the plague of primates that prevent the ascendency of the insect horde. The final form of Dr. Levinson is this:

AC: 4 (14 if using ascending AC) HD:2 Attacks: Caustic claw +laser pistol. +Hit:+3 Damage: 3 and1 acid + 3 Speed: 30’, wall crawler (can move on any surface like walking) Morale:6 Science:2
Even Hit 16+: Acid vomit.  Does 5 damage and 2 ongoing acid damage for 2 rounds.  Fortitude save negates ongoing damage.
Even Miss: One heritor bug appears to fight with Dr. Levinson. (Heritor bugs are giant roaches; any low-level vermin will do.)

Natural 20: An Ankheg appears to fight with Dr. Levinson

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Making a Cul de sac Ruin With Google Earth and Other Dust

I've been enjoying the RPG mapping community lately.  There are a lot of helpful, generous, creative people making all kinds of fun, free maps for RPG's that I got a little excited and decided to try my hand at mapping, something I haven't done for years.

To create the ruin I wanted to map, I used the ruin generator from Other Dust.  This is about as good a generator as you can find, and it gives just enough detail to spur the mind to new and interesting avenues.  I rolled on the Ruin Origins table and got Suburban Wreckage.  I thought immediately of Sanctuary Hills in Fallout 4, the first settlement the vault dweller encounters in the game.  Sanctuary Hills is a ruined cul de sac, full of interesting back story and useful items and work stations.

I then rolled on the Ruin Destruction table and got Decay.  Ruin destruction tells what put the ruin in its current state. Basically, the place was quickly abandoned and then went to seed.  So I've got an abandoned cul de sac with buildings that are in various states of dilapidation.  Hm.

Next came the Ruin Inhabitants table, on which I rolled Beasts. The first thing that came to mind was an insect infestation: heritor bugs (the Other Dust version of PostApoc cockroaches), maybe an ankheg or rhemoraz (because D&D monsters are great for Post Apoc monsters as well in OSR games).  Things are coming together.  I have an abandoned residential area in a state of deep decay populated by monstrous bugs.  Nice.

Last came the Ruin Tags. Tags are one of Kevin Crawford's genius inventions, and basically are an evocative word or phrase combined with a number of variables like Friend, Enemy, Secret and Complication.  The tags I rolled up were Mad Scientist and Doomsday Countdown.  Things are about to get funky in the cul de sac.

I decided that the Mad Scientist is a recently thawed-out military officer who has been mutated into an insectile creature with the ability to control and summon bugs. Think Immortan Joe meets The Fly.  His mutation has driven him mad and he wants to overrun the world with insects.  He has to finish brewing a pheromone bomb which he intends to detonate under the cul de sac, sending the massive colony of bugs that live there into a killing frenzy, cleansing the world once and for all of the evil influence of man. The Mad Science tag led me to decide that he has been experimenting with human subjects, in order to make the pheromones trigger only a certain type of murderous behavior on the part of the insects.

The story elements were in place.  Now I needed stats for the Mad Scientist (that's next week's post) and a map.

I googled Post Apoc RPG maps, and found a few neat things (random ruins,random wasteland) but nothing really fit the bill for a pre-fab housing developmet. Then, it hit me: Google Earth was loaded with top down views of all kinds of places from residential areas to industrial and military complexes.  I started looking around my location and sure enough I found a cul de sac with several large homes perfect for the lair of the mad military scientist and his insect horde.

I took a marker, graph paper, and copied the layout.  Then I added details, including some random elements for exploration because you should be able to use and reuse a cul de sac map; they're all over the place and they're all similar. Here it is:

Not quite Sanctuary Hills

It's not the prettiest, but it's done and I can re-use it.  Random rolls can tell me which buildings are explorable and I can populate them with critters and loot via the Other Dust random tables as well.

How do you find make or find maps for your post-apoc games? Leave a comment below!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Art post!

This is an illustration I did for a Savage Worlds post-apoc idea a while back.  The character is named Charlie Crow, and he's a Nuid, a protector of life in Nu Earth. His companion is a four-eyed pig with a high Smarts and the Alertness feat.  Charlie could fit into any Post Apoc campaign, including the new Mutant Crawl Classics game by Goodman Games.  Here's a link to a larger image of Charlie and the rest of my Deviant Art gallery:

Saturday, January 21, 2017

An embarrassment of riches from a single video

This video provides so many cool ideas for PA rp'ing: Strong language: NSFW

My mind sparked off this, because it's such a ridiculous and simultaneously slightly dangerous situation.  Here are five ideas for PA gaming based on this amazing video:

1. A gear trap, that ensnares a valuable or essential bit of loot already in the PC's possesion, could be a fun or annoying challenge.  The passersby, were they approaching hostiles, would ramp up the situation and turn it from comic to tense.

2. The "damage" from the fence is light, but intimidating.  Single hit points wouldn't bother a hard character but minor conditions, or a -1 to all rolls per jolt, wearing off in time, could be interesting.

3. The "cool gear in a difficult to reach place" doesn't have to be a dungeon.  It could be half a motorcycle sticking out of a rubble pile or the aftermath of a landslide...or wrapped up in a an electric fence. This type of thing could be a random encounter.

4. The damage/challenge could be ambient: radiation, a la Fallout, with treasure on top of a mound of radioactive waste barrels, or in the midst of a lair of a swarming pest or insects, could provide a fun and recurring challenge. (You got the motorcycle out, but it's still radioactive or infested with radioactive ants.)

5. There could already be a group trying to extract the gear or treasure from the obstacle, providing an opportunity to role-play, parlay, or have a fight over something that could be damaged in the dust-up, preferably with a huge explosion (again, a la Fallout.)

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Adrenaline Dice

Adrenaline Dice

I love the Mad Max films.  Their action scenes are gritty, senseless, depraved and violent. Chaos rather than competence wins the day; the heroes are more lucky than skilled.
Adrenaline dice are a sub-system of vehicular combat that promote chaos and mayhem. Players roll the adrenaline dice at the beginning of each segment of combat (turn, round, whatever your system calls for.)  Each instance of doubles on the adrenaline dice allows the player to call for another driver to make some kind of roll.  It can be a save, a driving roll, whatever.  It has to be narratively consistent (no whales dropping from the sky) but it can be a result of anything that makes sense within the narrative framework of a post-apocalyptic world (including mutant creatures erupting from the ground, pits opening under the combatants, and the sudden appearance of dangerous road debris.)
The player rolls a number of d6’s equal to the sum of his driving skill and the Speed score of his vehicle.  (Speed here refers to an abstract number from one (a tractor) to three (a motorcycle) that abstracts the acceleration and handling of the vehicle.  This idea comes from Stars Without Number and Other Dust, in which vehicles can be improved by adding to their speed score.)  In games where skills are usually between zero and four, this means that better drivers in better cars are luckier than rabble in rat rods.  So be it.
If our hero, (let’s call him Max), is an exceptional driver (+4) and is driving a fast, black car with a speed of four, he will roll eight d6’s at the beginning of each turn.  Each instance of doubles will enable Max to narrate a check or save by one of his opponents.  Failure on these checks or saves usually means death or at least a crash that takes a vehicle out of the scene.  These crashes can provide the means for another check or save, if the player has enough adrenaline double to accommodate them. The purpose of these checks and saves is to create a sense that no one is in control of the combat once it starts; NPC’s also get adrenaline dice and can provoke other combatants to make checks and saves as well.
A faction of NPC’s would have only one adrenaline pool.  If a boss with a +2 to driving in a ground car +2 had four henchmen +1 on motorcycles +3, he would roll eight adrenaline dice.  Each NPC should not have his own adrenaline pool; NPC’s of a type can contribute their common scores for driving and Speed.
Since RPG’s often have player characters as passengers, they passengers also get roll Adrenaline dice (which are a narrative device and not a measure of anything.) Passengers can use their driving, Luck, Shooting, or whatever else would contribute to the likelihood of violence in a vehicular battle to total their adrenaline dice.  A passenger with a Luck save of +3 would roll three adrenaline dice.

These rules should be adaptable enough to use with many kinds of games; the Speed scores of vehicles can be assigned on the spot.  I welcome feedback on these rules, and I’d love to hear from anyone who uses them in a game.  Have a lovely day!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Twenty ways to have a lovely day

Use this table to make the next vehicular encounter unique and more fun.  The bonuses listed were imagined as low (+1 for games like Other Dust, Traveller, or FATE Acellerated or +2 for d20 mechanics) but they can be adjusted however you like.

1. Spikes. Collision damage die one type higher.
2. Hot Rods: bonus to speed
3. Heavies: bonus to armor
4. Boarders: Melee fighters, bonus to try to board your vehicles
5. Battle Rig: protected Semi, with heavy weapons, motorcycle and other light support
6. Convoy: Precious cargo (slaves, livestock, water, gas, artifacts, something weird and irreplaceable)
7. Crazies: High Morale, high-risk tactics
8. Muties: prevalent mutations used to attack.
9. Sharp shooters: bonus to all ranged attacks
10. Fragile: vehicles explode when go to half damage
11. Kamikaze: bonus to all maneuvers to force a collision, ¼ regular hit points.
12. Show-offs: bonus to “flashy” maneuvers and stunts
13. Natives: no terrain penalties
14. Kobolds: Traps, traps, traps
15. Night riders: bonus at night
16. Army: quantity x1d4+1
17. Hit and Run: low morale, all damage dice one type higher
18. Old School: All vehicles are cherry pre-catastrophe models
19. Hellfire: 1 super-weapon
20. Roll again twice


Thursday, March 3, 2016

Creepy details for real-feeling ruins

Details to spice up your ruins

1. Graffiti: Graffiti is a great way to make a ruin feel alive. Its presence tells the PC’s that they are not the first to encounter or explore this location, and that they need to be wary of whatever recent visitors have left behind.  Logic says that there will be more graffiti near population centers and less if any in remote areas.  Lots of graffiti in a desolate area should signal to PC’s that someone has taken pains to visit this location. What made it worth the trip? Graffiti is denser near the ruin’s entrance and dwindles as the PC’s explore.  A particularly spectacular or evocative room deep in the ruins might be the sight of a pilgrimage, filled with tags, murals, symbols and messages.
Casual or degenerate cults may use graffiti to document their presence, usually through poorly-drawn symbols or iconography. Graffiti can also entice delvers to go deeper, promising spectacular views or loot.  It can also attempt to ward away the foolhardy, warning explorers of lurking danger.

2. Standing, stagnant, water is always a problem.  It can range from ankle deep to chest high, even completely drowning sections of the ruin.  Water can obscure the floor and hide hazards such as pitfalls, jagged debris and predators or scavengers.  Stagnant water is also a vector for disease.  Populate your ruin with blind, diseased aquatic predators mutated from vermin, biotech or former residents.

3.  Former (or current) residents or visitors have left vehicles for safe passage through the ruins.  These might be small boats, a cache of security passes, hazmat or hard suits, or any other items that will provide safe passage through the fungual dark. The vehicle might have a map, compass or GPS on board. It might be moored next to a bit of string leading into the darkness.

4. Ruins are often piled with accumulated litter. It can be from the original occupants, from later occupants, or the ruin can have been used as a dumping site.  Garbage can be difficult terrain, an obstacle to be overcome (rubble to be cleared; debris to be burned; biomass to be…shooed), a poisonous or diseased hazard, a nasty (or helpful) creature’s lair, and/or a source of hidden loot.

5. Ruined or obsolete technology either found in the ruins or pictured in the ruin’s archive gives clues to past history or function of the ruin.  Such ancient tech might provide a source of loot or a discovery by opening a passage, revealing a view, or opening communication with another site. Dead tech may be the McGuffin of an adventure. Perhaps the PC’s have seen (or will see) an image or plan of the tech in its pristine state, but it is now rusty, dusty and possibly re-purposed.

6.  Giant virtual or actual maps of locales as they appeared at previous time are always fun. some information is valuable; some is dangerous because of how things have changed since the maps were made. Large maps can reveal the locations and original functions of other ruins, especially ones with a  related or complementary function.

7. Air becomes thinner, stinky, and stale…or unexpectedly clean and fresh.  Air can be a toxic or insidious hazard, or simply provide ambiance.

8. The ruin has an unexpected secondary or hidden functionality: medical, military, educational, re-educational, research, disinformation, surveillance, counter-espionage

9.  Darkness kills peripheral vision; bright lights kill night vision. Explorers can use red light to mitigate night-blindness; this could trigger beneficial or dangerous effects. Darkness hides hazards; darkness plus water is especially difficult and dangerous. Think Death Star trash compactor at ¾ light, and you’ve got it.

10. Decay, both of the physical building and the institutions that gave it meaning. Rust, burnt-out, broken or malfunctioning light fixtures; faded, discolored or peeling paint; dust--nano and mundane; broken or malfunctioning holo-projectors or screens; long-dead security measures; doors marked "restricted access" left open; emptied closets or other evidence of looting or flight. If these are absent, this indicates some agency (nano-scrubbers, maintenance automatons, a cargo cult) is keeping the ruin fresh either to continue its suitability for a defunct purpose or preparing it for a new one.