Archive for the ‘post apocalypse’ Category

Jury Rigged Weapons for Crawling Under a Broken Moon

January 15, 2018


Reid San Fillipo recently released the Umerica Survival Guide, based on his DCC fanzine Crawling Under a Broken Moon.  It’s a post-apocalyptic setting for Dungeon Crawl Classics, sort of a mix between Mad Max and Thudarr the Barbarian.

The Umerica rules add a new piece-meal armor system.  Instead of increasing Armor Class, armor mitigates damage.  Armor is represented by a die step (d3, d4, d5, etc.), which you roll to see how much damage is reduced by.  The really neat thing about this is that you can increase your armor die step by adding scavenged materials to it, and if you roll a 1 on the armor die, your armor degrades from the damage it’s taken.  It really gives the game a nice Mad Max vibe.

I thought a similar system for weapons would be cool, too.  What I propose is you start with some kind of base weapon.  In this case, let’s say it’s a wooden baseball bat.  Adding scavenged materials to the weapon increase the damage die by one step.  For example, say a bat starts with d6 damage; then you hammer some nails into it, increasing the damage to d7.  Then you find a strand of barbed-wire, and add that on, increasing it’s damage to d8.  After that, you wrap some duct tape around the handle, for a better grip, increasing damage to d9 (or d10, depending on how you follow the die chain), and so on.

However, each time you roll maximum damage on the die, it degrades a die step.  You swing the bat so hard, some of those bits and bobs you added break off.

A few weapons roll two or more damage dice.  In these cases, each modification upgrades all the dice rolled for the weapon.  However, if even one of the damage dice get a maximum result, the weapon degrades.  These are usually more sophisticated weapons which are more likely to break down in harsh apocalyptic conditions.

More advanced weapons with higher damage dice, like firearms and energy guns, are less likely to degrade, but they can still do so.  And players can add scavenged technology to try and repair or upgrade them in a similar fashion.  You could also use this as a system for improvised explosives.

You may or may not want to require a roll of some kind to see if the modifications are successful.  If you want to keep things simple, just assume that any character with an appropriate occupation, and the right tools, automatically succeeds.  Otherwise, require a Luck check, or an appropriate ability check vs. DC 10 for simple things (like baseball bats), DC 15 for modern firearms, or DC 20 for advanced technology, such as lasers and deathrays.


Out of the Vault – A Post-Atomic Funnel Crawl

August 25, 2016


Here’s a simple little funnel occupation table and an accompanying equipment table.  The idea is a Vault somewhere needs something and has to send a bunch of  expendable  citizens out to the wasteland to find it.  Death and hilarity ensues.

Mutant Crawl Classics Kickstarter – Last Call

July 16, 2016


The MCC Kickstarter is down to the last 3 days, so if you were thinking about jumping on the bandwagon, now’s the time.  The KS campaign has already cleared several stretch goals, plus there’s an add-on for the funky dice you need for DCC/MCC, as well.


I got the chance to play a little Dungeon Crawl Classics a few weeks ago, doing a 0-level funnel (Sailors of the Starless Sea).  The numerous charts for DCC had always been a turn-off for me, but I found in practice they weren’t so bad after all (for 0-level characters, at least).  Plus, the adventure just had a really cool, funky vibe to it: weird magic, non-traditional monsters, and lots of opportunities to get your 0-level funnel dudes killed off. 🙂  Alas, none of my characters survived, but I had a blast playing.

As I’m impatient for post-apocalyptic goodness, I’m already kicking around ideas for my own version of a DCC PA game, though it would be all-funnel, all the time.  I’m thinking 0-level wasterlanders with laser guns and atomic grenades.  Sure they can die fast, but they can also kill things fast.  Just don’t get too attached to your characters.


Mutant Crawl Classics Kickstarter is Live

June 24, 2016

For anyone who is interested, the MCC Kickstarter has (finally) gone live.  If you don’t know, MCC is to Gamma World what Dungeon Crawl Classics (DCC) is to D&D.   Here’s the cover:


I’m in for the full color hardback version.  I just hope they add an option for the funky dice, too – those can be hard to find sometimes.

And here’s the link to the Kickstarter campaign.  Cheers!

More Thoughts on a Mega-dungeon

February 7, 2015

First off, sorry for the lack of posts lately – real life interferes (not in a bad way, just busy).

I’ve started reading Metro 2033 by Dmitry Glukhovsky (I’ve also played the video games).  The short version: about 15 years after WW III, survivors live in the increasingly hostile environs of the Moscow Metro.  The stations were once united under a central authority, but are now factionalized and hostile to one another.  They’re slowly loosing their grip on civilization and technology, slipping into barbarism and mysticism, while mutants and other new forms of post-apocalyptic life threaten their very existence.  If you’re a fan of the post-apocalyptic genre, I recommend the book.

So, reading Metro 2033 has got me thinking again on mega-dungeon design.  A few weeks ago I thought about basing such a dungeon on the vast subterranean mega-cities built by the Soviets, designed to withstand direct nuclear attack.  However, after giving it more thought, for a number of reasons I think a Metro-like setting would actually make a better mega-dungeon than a post-apocalyptic bunker-city.

A map of the Moscow Metro

A map of the Moscow Metro

In my mind, the best reason to use a Metro-style layout is the flow-chart representation of the stations and subway lines allows one to compartmentalize the design and construction of the mega-dungeon as a whole.  Instead of writing the dungeon one vast level at a time, each station can serve as a mini-dungeon, connected to the greater whole by the rail lines.  I choose a starting area for the party and then design the closest areas first.  The rest can be filled in as needed, or as time permits.

I’ve also been thinking of late of the idea of setting an entire game inside of a dungeon.  There is no ‘outside’ to return to.  The PC’s home town is actually a refuge inside the dungeon itself.  The Metro concept fits this idea perfectly.  It may still be possible to go outside, but the surface environment would be incredibly dangerous and hostile…perhaps a fitting end-game challenge for experienced characters.

I’ve looked at a number of metro maps.  I found the New York City and Tokyo subway maps to be far to cluttered and complicated to use for a campaign map.  On the other end of the spectrum, the BART map (Bay Area Rapid Transit) was far too simple.  Two viable alternatives are the Washington DC metro map, and the London Underground.  Both are large and complex enough to be interesting, and yet remain manageable.

Still, the Moscow Metro map calls out to me.  Perhaps I’m biased from the book and games, but to me that map seems to have a perfect symmetry, for a mega-dungeon at least.  I can easily imagine each branch line controlled by a different faction: mad scientists on one line, robots on another, morlocks down there, mutant revolutionaries over here, human supremacists against them all.  And lets not forget the Mindflayers…gotta have Mindflayers.  And in the center, something approaching “civilization.”  Again, I’m probably biased by the book, as factionalism in the story is organized along the subway lines as well.

Lest you think this makes for a lot of “railroading” (pun partially intended), the blank spaces between lines are filled with all manner of maintenance tunnels, sewer connections, utility rooms and the endless infrastructure of the under-city.  None of this is shown on public maps, therefore it comprises a vast terra-incognito, home to the encroaching darkness.  And by braving these hazardous nether regions (or risking a trip on the surface), it may be possible to bypass the heavy security at the start of a faction’s line, to hit them in the rear where they may be more vulnerable.  Plus, who knows what unclaimed salvage may exist in the bowels of the metro, where few dare to tread?

A final note on the idea: Metro 2033 is a grim and gritty setting, probably not suitable for a long term campaign.  I’d want to gonzo-up the dungeon a bit, mixing a bit of rayguns and robots in with my swords and sorcery.  So it’d probably be a science-fantasy setting, rather than a straight up post-apocalypse setting.  I’m thinking of using something like Lamentations of the Flame Princess, or Swords and Wizardry, so the game would still be identifiable as D&D (ish).  What’s more, it wouldn’t even have to be an actual metro; it could be anything, any type of ancient, vast subterranean vault constructed to shelter survivors against some long forgotten cataclysm on the surface (instead of nuclear apocalypse, maybe it was the Cthulu-pocalypse?).  In fact, the dots on the map don’t have to be stations; they too can be anything: underground fortresses, temples, battlegrounds, hideouts, slaver bases, mining pits, catacombs and settlements.


5th Edition Mutations

October 6, 2014

5theditionmutationsThe following is a first pass at a list of mutations using 5th Edition D&D rules for a post-apocalypse setting.  Most of the mutations are beneficial, some are detrimental and a few are just benign.  Many are combed from monster and class abilities already present in the PHB and MM, others are inspired by other sources and a few I made up myself.

Please note, I’ve made no attempt to balance these mutations; some are vastly superior to others.  It’s not really intended that you slap these mutations onto standard 5th Edition characters, though you can certainly do so if you wish.  I may (or may not) eventually roll this out to a more fleshed-out PA setting…well see.

Here you go:  5th Edition Mutations



The Colony

September 25, 2014

Sthecolonynowmeggedon type post-apocalypse movies seem to be on the rise lately.  An interesting addition is The Colony (Laurence Fishburne, Bill Paxton; nothing to do with the TV series).  The Earth has frozen over due to misguided attempts to regulate the planet’s rising temperatures.  The few remaining humans survive in subterranean ‘colonies’ where they can grow hydroponic food, though disease is a constant worry for them.  A nearby colony has fallen off the airwaves, so Colony 7 sends a team to find out what happened.  As you can guess, it ain’t pretty.

The Colony features the claustrophobic isolation common in horror movies like Alien or The Thing, but ultimately the movie is about what makes us human.  To be sure, there is a good amount of blood and intense violence, so probably not one for the kids.  Also, Laurence Fishburne and Bill Paxton are the two big names in the movie, but they aren’t really the leads.  The rest of the cast does a decent acting job, the story is predictable but tight, and the special effects aren’t quite big-budget, but considerably better than your typical Syfy channel special.

If you’re in the mood for a decent post-apocalypse movie it’s worth watching on Netflix (instant view) or similar service.  The Colony could also make an interesting setting for a short post-apoc RPG campaign or one-off game; instead of a desert wasteland (ala Road Warrior), you’ve got a frozen wasteland with a whole new set of challenges for the PCs to face.


Mad Max: Fury Road

July 28, 2014

Needles at the Swords & Stitchery Blog brought this to my attention:  the first trailer for Mad Max: Fury Road.

1) It’s nice to see the last of the V-8 Interceptors again, even if only for a few minutes.

2) It’s weird not seeing Mel Gibson as Mad Max.

3) There’s some criticism that it looks “Michael Bay-ish,” and it sort of does.  None-the-less, I’m excited about the new Mad Max movie.  I’m looking forward to this one.


ABC’s of Scavenging, Pt. 2

July 23, 2014

You can read Part 1 here.

Something I forgot to mention in Part 1, ideally bits and pieces of salvage would be represented by cards, which can then be mixed and matched by the players with (hopefully) minimal fuss.  Also, the idea is to cycle through salvage cards at a steady pace.  The PC’s items should break down, and either be repaired with new salvage or replaced with completely new items using a steady supply of cards.

Also, the system is designed with something like Swords & Wizardry Whitebox in mind, where all weapons do 1d6 damage.


Weapon’s are classified by a stat called Weapon Class (WC – term I’m borrowing from old school Gamma World).  Each point of Weapon Class adds +1 to hit and damage (think magic weapon bonus).  So, just a base (B) weapon has a WC of 1.  Each additional piece of salvage added (A, C, D and/or E) increases WC by 1, to a max of +5.

However, when attacking, a result on the d20 roll equal to or less than the weapon’s WC means the weapon is damaged.  The player chooses one of the enhancements that breaks, fails, runs out of ammo, etc.  Obviously, the player will pick an A, C, D or E salvage over a base (B) salvage (otherwise, if the B item breaks, the whole weapon falls apart).

Example:  A character has an M-4 Carbine (B salvage).  Right now it’s essentially a club.  But they have some ammo (Consumable) for it as well, and a scope (Attachment).  The PC also welds on an improvised bayonet (Extra), and adds a touch of bling for style (Detail).  Now the weapon is WC 5, adding +5 to attack and damage rolls.  Should the player roll a 1 – 5 on a d20 when attacking, one of the pieces of salvage breaks (player’s choice).  If the player chooses the Base item, then the whole weapon breaks (because you always need a B item), so the player would probably choose to loose the A, C, D or E salvage instead.


As you’d probably guess, each piece of salvage increases Armor by 1.  At this point I’m undecided whether each +1 increases Armor Class (in the traditional D&D sense), or acts more as damage reduction.  I think it’d work well enough either way.

When attacked, if the attacker gets a Natural 20, one piece of salvage breaks off the armor, reducing its effectiveness.  Again, the owning player gets to choose which piece, and probably should pick A, C, D or E salvage over a Base item.


Tools could work in one of two ways, depending on your system:  1) each piece of salvage added to an item grants +1 on a relevant d20 skill roll over a target DC (the D20 mechanic); 2) each piece grants an X-in-6 chance of success at a relevant task (OD&D style).  Again, tools could break down on a bad roll, as weapons and armor above.


Compounds work a little differently.  They are made by combining only Consumable salvage, effectively representing one-use “potions.”

A minimum of three Consumables have to be combined to create a compound.  When any three Consumables or combined, roll to determine the result on the Lesser Compounds table.  Record the result, as this now becomes a permanent recipe in the campaign and can be replicated any time the PCs combine the same Consumables.

Combining four Consumables permits a roll on the Greater Compounds table, and 5 Consumables allows a roll on the Forbidden Compounds table.

Compound results include things like healing effects, toxins and anti-toxins, mutagens, various explosive compounds and the like.

At the GM’s discretion, the initial roll for a new recipe can be kept secret until the PCs have a chance to experiment with the new compound to see what it does; death and hilarity ensues. 🙂




The ABCs of Scavenging

July 18, 2014

Nearly two years ago I blogged about an idea for combining pieces of salvage to make items for a post-apoc RPG.  I have yet to actually put the system into practice, but I’ve been toying with the idea off-and-on.

I like the idea of using cards to represent salvage (or pieces of salvage) which the players then combine to make useful items, such as weapons and armor.  For one, my players seem to enjoy using props like cards, and allowing them to combine into items lets them flex their imagination and makes for a neat little mini-game.

However, one thing I wasn’t happy about was a certain lack of structure to the system.  Technically, you could combine anything to make anything, even if it didn’t necessarily make sense, or was redundant.

So, I’ve been tinkering a bit and think I’ve hit upon an idea that adds a bit of structure to the system and yet is still fairly easy to implement and use:  The ABCs of Scavenging.

The basic idea is that you can combine up to 5 pieces of salvage to create an item, but you can only use 1 each of 5 different categories of salvage (labeled A, B, C, D and E):

A items are Attachments, purpose built by the Ancients to attach to a Base item; for example, attaching a scope to a rifle.

B items are Base items, things that are already inherently useful; examples include guns, baseball bats, helmets, chainsaws, computers, medkits and the like.

C items are Consumables, typically used with Base items; for example, bullets for guns, batteries for electrical devices, gas for chainsaws…even bandages for a medkit.

D items are Details, basically bling added to an item for personalization, or a psychological boost if you prefer; things like hood ornaments, lucky rabbit’s paw, a favorite sticker and the like.

E items are Extras, basically non-standard customizations to make Base items better; an example would be adding nails to a baseball bat.

An item requires, at a minimum, a B card to start.  After that, other categories of salvage can be added in any order provided there’s just one of each type A, B, C, D and E.  You could, for example, have A, B and E, but you couldn’t have A, D and E (missing B card) or B, D, D, E (only one D card allowed).  Note that it’s possible for some pieces of salvage to fall into more than one category as well, and can be used to fill in for one of the category slots.

It would be up to individual GMs to decide how strict, or realistic, they want to keep things.  For example, if you’re not concerned about the details, you could allow any combination of A, B, C, D and/or E; use anything to make anything you need.  But if you want a bit more structure and “realism,” you might, for example, insist that scopes can only be attached to ranged weapons (and not melee weapons, or armor for that matter).

So, one nice thing about this system is you can play around with it a bit.  For example, you could have a Vault Dweller class that can attach an extra A card to an item, so they could have an A, A, B, C, D, E item (max of 6 cards), or a Wastelander neo-savage class that substitutes bling (D items) for A, C and E items, allowing an B, D, D, D, D item for example.

Anyways, more details in a few days.  Cheers.


And here is Part 2.

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