Sunday, May 17, 2015

NPC: Dug Makenzee

Dug Makenzee (Dedicated Hero 2, Smart Hero 1): CR 4; Medium Humanoid (pure strain human); HD 3d6+3 plus 1d6+1; hp 16; Mas 16; Init +1; Spd 30 ft; Defense 13, touch 13, flat-footed 10 (+1 Dex, +2 class); BAB +1; Grap +1; Atk +1 melee (1d3+1 nonlethal, unarmed strike), or +2 melee (1d6+special/20, stun baton) , or +2 melee (1d4+1/19-20, dagger), or +2 melee (1d4+1, pistol whip), or -2 ranged (2d8, laser pistol); SQ flawless, gene lock; AL Nubur, Peace Brigade; SV Fort +2, Ref +0, Will +3; AP 6; Rep +2, Str 12, Dex 12, Con 11, Int 12, Wis 16, Cha 11.
  Occupation: Technician (bonus class skills: Repair).
  Skills: Craft (Visual Arts) +4, Craft (Writing) +4, Decipher +3, Diplomacy +2, Disable Device +2, Gather Information +2, Listen +2, Read/Write Language (Ancient English), Read/Write Language (Merigan), Read/Write Language (Merabic), Repair +3, Research +3, Sense Motive +2, Treat Injury +2, Speak Language (Ancient English), Speak Language (Merigan), Speak Language (Merabic)
  Feats: Builder, Iron Will, Radiation Resistance, Simple Weapons Proficiency, Studious, Trustworthy
  Talent (Dedicated Hero): Faith
  Talent (Smart Hero): Plan
  Possessions: combat fatigues, dagger, laser pistol, medkit – fast use, power pack (32), stun baton
  Appearance: Dug Makenzee is a pure strain human standing 183 cm tall and weighing 81.5 kg. He is well built, but not overly muscular with jet black hair and a light complexion. Dug sports a short beard and wears his hair long and pulled back in a short ponytail. He has a small scar above his right eye; the only blemish on his chiseled and otherwise “perfect” face.
  Background: Dug Makenzee was a child when Nubur was incorporated into Derb Nigh, and grew up with a very romanticized view of what the world had been before and might have been had the town retained its independence. While still a teen he was recruited into the Peace Brigade shortly after that cryptic alliance’s founding and made his way to Bort Yuron where he became a revolutionary and propagandist answering to Keefas Jagor himself.

Dug served the Peace Brigade well over the years, but became disillusioned with what he perceives as a lack of ideological purity within the organization. Now, nearly three decades later, he has returned home to try to sway the settlement to the Peace Brigade’s cause as he sees it.

Since his return, progress on this front has been slow to say the least. The Nuburs appear to be content with their lot under the rule of the sultan, and realpolitik has caused even Makenzee to conclude that his home town is better off as a part of the Sultanate than either a “protectorate” of Bastion or a conquest of Bonparr. His only real success to date, the improvement of the town’s defensive palisade, was won over the objections of his kinsmen on the triad with the support of the town’s mayor, Faruq – who is a cousin of the Sultan!

Dug doesn't hide his allegiance to the Peace Brigade; on the contrary he is very vocal in espousing its beliefs. He has attracted a small but active following in town, made up primarily of Derb Nigh nationalists and zealous members of the reformed wing of The People of the Book – an irony which causes him no end of consternation and dark humor.

  GM's Information: Dug Makenzee believes in the traditional views of the Peace Brigade, subject to his own personal biases. Specifically, Makenzee believes that the ethos of Peace Brigade suggests – and perhaps even requires – that for settlements to achieve and maintain a higher standard of development that they also be independent and self-sufficient in every sense of the word. This worldview is contrary to the established practices of the both the traditional and reformed wings of the Peace Brigade itself, as well as the Sultan and the leaders of the more overtly militant cryptic alliances.

On the other hand, Nuburs who see the sultanate as their first line of defense against Bonparr and Bastion along with reform-minded People of the Book at odds with their more conservative fellows have embraced Dug’s call for stronger walls and a more robust defensive stance against “outsiders.” This effectively puts Makenzee at odds with just about everyone (especially his followers) and his cynicism about the situation is exceeded only by his paranoia.

Makenzee has some potent artifacts in his possession: a laser pistol and power pack with a nearly-full charge, a fast-acting medkit, and a stun-baton. Unfortunately for him, he’s a propagandist and agitator, not a fighter. While proficient with the stun baton, Dug isn't very well suited to hand-to-hand combat, and he’s an even worse shot with his laser pistol than he is a brawler.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

New Template: True Creature

“True creature” is an acquired template that can be added to any creature (referred to hereafter as the base creature) that has been genetically engineered or is the offspring of creatures genetically engineered to represent “the best” of its kind. The true creature template emphasizes the overall health, appearance, and “most definitive” traits about a creature at the genetic level to the exclusion of all else. A true representative of a given species has had a “gene lock” applied to DNA that regulate its “most essential qualities,” i.e.: those that govern the overall characteristics of an “exemplary” specimen.

Template Traits

“True creature” is a template that can be acquired or inherited depending on circumstances. It can be added to any living creature through gene therapy, resulting in a being whose DNA has been “locked” as a result of genetic engineering. The creature retains its original type. It uses all the base creature’s statistics and special abilities except as noted here.

Individuals who are born to two parents who both possess the true creature template possess it automatically; characters that are born to one parent with this template and a parent who is of the same type but who does not possess it has a one-in-four chance of inheriting the template from the parent that does possess it. Otherwise a character can acquire this template by undergoing gene therapy (d20 Future, pp. 89 -90). The regimen requires 25 successful Fortitude saving throws (DC 20).

     Challenge Rating: Same as the base creature +1

     Type: The creature gains the mutated sub-type

     Special Qualities: A true creature retains all the special qualities of the base creature and gains the additional special qualities listed below:

     Flawless (Ex): Trues are physically “perfect” specimens of their kind. They are always within 5% of their species height/weight norms, have perfect – albeit ordinary – senses, straight teeth, thick and lustrous hair (or fur or bark or whatever), unblemished complexions, and so on. The initial reaction of NPCs of the same base creature type whose attitude towards the character are not hostile react one category better towards the character than they would otherwise (unfriendly NPCs of the same base creature type become indifferent; indifferent NPCs become friends, etc.).

     Gene Lock (Ex): True creatures cannot acquire mutations through exposure to radiation or mutagens; instead they suffer damage per p. 81 of d20 Future. True creatures can be altered through gene therapy, though such processes are always impeded by their inherent genetic stability - all regimen DCs and required successes are double the guidelines presented on pp 89-90 of d20 Future.
     Saves: Same as the character, with a +2 bonus on Fortitude saves.

     Ability Scores: A true creature gains the following ability score increases: Cha +2, Con +2.

     Feats: Radiation Resistance, per p. 44 of d20 Apocalypse
     Advancement: By character class.

     Note: The true creature template is primarily intended for application to stock humans so that true men can exist as a distinct “race” in the game. While it is up to the GM to determine how prevalent the true creature template is in a given campaign, it is strongly suggested that a comparative handful of additional sentient creatures be given access to this template. On the other hand, it makes a good deal of sense for most non-sentient descendants of real-world, contemporary creatures to have this template. After all, the “gene-locking” process was created to prevent mutation; certainly pre-Fall humans would have wanted to preserve the “definitive” genetic traits in animals and plants that they valued, especially during a period when random mutation was epidemic.

Monday, February 9, 2015

New Community Rules

I’m a big fan of the Community Rules from the 6th edition of GAMMA WORD, and have always been disappointed that D&D/d20/whatever hasn’t done a better job of creating rules and/or standards for cities and nations in their core rules.  For all its many (many!) failings, GW6 addressed this need very well, IMO, and I’d really like to see similar rules for other d20/OGL RPGs.

New Community Feat: Archaic Aquaculture

The community understands and uses basic fishing technologies and techniques. Fishing is small-scale and consists of small boats, small ponds, small traps and cages, or some combination of the three.
     Prerequisites: Large nearby body of water.
     Benefits: The community can catch enough fish/amphibians/waterfowl to sustain itself on an ongoing basis. This feat also increases the community’s Wealth bonus by +1, or 50 TU under the d20 Apocalypse bartering rules.
     Signs: Fishing boats and related equipment, i.e.: nets, traps, etc. All fishing is done using tools that are either human- or wind-powered.

New Community Philosophy: Provincialism

The community is indifferent (at best) or hostile (at worst) towards the way of life or mode of thought beyond its people and their shared culture and traditions. Its people will put their own perceived good ahead of that of all others, including their fellow countrymen/members of their race/religion/whatever.

Community: Nubur


Community Type: Frontier Town
Population Level: 3 (187 adults)
Progress Level: 3
Force: 12 (+1)
Mobility: 10 (+0)
Resilience: 10 (+0)
Learning: 10 (+0)
Awareness: 13 (+2)
Command: 10 (+0)
Wealth: 16 (400 trade units)
Reputation Bonus: +3

Skills: Craft (textiles) +4, Craft (structural) +4, Diplomacy +2, Drive +4, Gather Information +6, Knowledge (technology: archaic) +2, Repair: +2, Survival: +4

Feats: Archaic Aquaculture, Archaic Engineering, Archaic Vehicles (boats, carts), Stockpile, Windfall

  • Abundant food supplies
  • Custom built archaic vehicles (boats)
  • News and information

Philosophy: Provincialism

Composition: 50% stock human; 20% true men; 20% mutants; 10% other


Nubur’s inhabitants are primarily unaltered stock humans and true men, the descendants of apocalypse survivors of comparative wealth and privilege compared to other denizens of Derb Nigh. So say the Nuburs (as they are called) anyway, though many of the ruins in the region lend credence to their claims.

Nubur itself is the northwestern-most permanent settlement in the sultanate. It is also culturally and religiously the least Merabic and Merislamic. Given the prevalence of fair-skinned and fair-haired residents among the populace, Nubur is not so much a part – or even an offshoot – of Derb Nigh as it is simply a community that came to be assimilated into it. Nevertheless a good deal of acculturation has taken place over the years and the Nuburs are generally loyal to, if not particularly enthusiastic about, their sultan.

The settlement is one of the two last outposts of civilization in the western reaches of Derb Nigh, the town of Dragon Wall to the south being the other. The western shores of Nubur Lake butt-up very near the intersection of two major ancient roadways that run deep into the northern and western reaches of Mitchgloom, making the town very popular with merchants and travelers doing business with or just passing through Derb Nigh. There are always 6d6 travelers and traders in Nubur, and there is 1-in-6 chance at any given time that a Derb Nigh caravan is also passing through town.


Nubur occupies an area that was once a part of the pre-Apocalypse city of Westland, Michigan. The small fishing community is built along the northeastern shores of Nubur Lake, which was once two separate, smaller bodies of water (the former Newburg and Nankin reservoirs), which have long since expanded and merged due climate change.

Before the Apocalypse the two reservoirs had been stocked with fish and provided a biologically diverse urban wetland environment; after the Apocalypse and the resulting floods the region became even more densely populated with fish and game. Survivors from the surrounding affluent neighborhoods converged along the lakeshore, took to fishing and hunting, and contemporary Nubur slowly came into being.

Since its inception, Nubur has been dominated by the Makenzees, a wealthy and politically powerful family during pre-Fall times that provided much of the impetus (and money and guns) that lead to the town’s founding and subsequent security and prosperity.

Nubur was peacefully integrated into the Sultante of Derb Nigh more than twenty years ago (2557), when the town’s former mayor, Laree Makenzee, married the previous Sultan’s spinster daughter, Jasmine. Laree was then appointed back into office until his death in 2577. Within a year a marriage was arranged between Laree’s youngest daughter from his first marriage, Kaitlin (Laree and Jasmine never had children of their own), and the current Sultan’s cousin, Faruq.

Because of the composition and location of the town, Nubur sees itself a bit apart from the rest of Derb Nigh and values its autonomy.


The town runs east-to-west along the northeastern shore of Nubur Lake, with the remains of ancient roadways separating the two. A low earthen wall approximately one meter high topped with a two-meter wooden palisade (Hardness 5; HP: 20) encircles the northern half of Nubur, and steel-reinforced gates (Hardness 8; HP 90) bisect the coastal road at opposite sides of the town proper. An extensive network of warehouse piers and docks jut out into the lake, most of which are owned and operated by Derb Nigh caravans, or are municipal properties rented out to private interests. The walled portion of the settlement is roughly two kilometers long and about three-quarters of a kilometer wide; because of space constraints large trade caravans often set up shop just outside of town, usually very near one of the two gates.

A handful of small farms dot the landscape within line of sight of Nubur, rounding out the community. Roughly half of the population lives on and works the land outside of the town’s walls. Between its farms and fishermen, Nubur produces about three times as much food as it needs; a large warehouse of emergency stores is maintained as a matter of course, and the rest is sold or bartered with the rest of Derb Nigh or friendly neighboring communities.


Nubur is governed by an elected council of three people (“the triad”) and a mayor appointed by the sultan. The mayor serves as the city’s chief executive as well as judiciary, though the latter role can be abdicated and deferred to the triad, who must hear and decide on all cases together.

For the past three years the mayor has been Faruq Alghanim, a cousin of the sultan and a figurehead content to leave the work of governing to his wife and in-laws, the Makenzees - who also happen to be the most prominent family in Nubur and who hold two of the three seats on the triad.

Unlike other settlements in the sultanate, non-human sentients are allowed inside the walls of Nubur and permitted to trade and barter without penalty.


     Archivists: Between the sultanate’s relationship with EDSEL and the pragmatic nature of the town’s inhabitants, Archivists are neither welcome nor legal in Nubur. Despite this, a small number are almost always skulking around the warehouses and trade posts looking for artifacts to steal and take back to hidden shrines outside of town.

     Bastion/Knights of Genetic Purity: Despite their largely human composition the people of Nubur don’t sympathize much with the views of the Knights of Genetic Purity camped-out on the other side of their lake. The People of the Book teach that all human beings are brothers and sisters, and there is little or no strife – and a lot of profitable business –conducted between true men, stock humans, and mutants in the sultanate.

The People of the Book also teach that moreaus are soulless are not entitled to the same basic rights and freedoms that “people” are. The Nurburs disagree as most moreaus – like all of Allah’s worthwhile children – usually have assets of some sort with which to trade or barter. Because the sultanate tolerates this heresy (for a cut of the profits), the Nubur believe life under the protection of the Sultan of Derb Nigh is preferable to the racist dominion of the Lords of Bastion, who would probably not be as flexible with their dogma about mutants. Consequently, Purists are outlawed here, as they are throughout the sultanate.

Representatives of Bastion and other foreigners who are members of this cryptic alliance are tolerated, however. They may travel and trade freely throughout Derb Nigh and the sultanate so long as they don’t proselytize or act on their racist ideology.

     Bonparr/Bonapartists: Moreaus and mutated animals aren’t accorded the same rights as humans and mutants under the law in Derb Nigh, and are an abomination according to the teachings of and beliefs of all but a fringe element of the People of the Book. This does not sit well with the Overlord of Bonparr, but given how few moreaus and mutated animals live within the sultanate there is little pretext for the Ranks of the Fit to try to do anything about it.

Nubur is an exception to the rest of the sultanate in that it allows moreaus and mutated animals within its walls and requires that all trade entered into with them be free and fair. Bonparr has seized on this policy by assigning Captain Gershwin, an overt canine moreau and his entirely human staff to Nubur on “special diplomatic assignment.” The leadership in Jospeen believes that this arrangement serves the twin purposes of keeping a line of communication open with the sultanate while thumbing its nose at its racist policies.

     Bort Yuron/Peace Brigade: The wooden palisade surrounding Nubur was only a meter high until three years ago, when Dug Makenzee – who is a member of the Peace Brigade and former member of Kefas Jagor’s original band of mercenaries – was elected to the triad. Makenzee is currently advocating that the wall be expanded to encompass more of Nubur’s immediate surroundings, but is facing stiff opposition from his cousin, Kaitlin.

Dug’s presence on the triad concerns the Sultan, who is not sure whether his ultimate loyalties lie with Nubur and Derb Nigh, or with Keefas Jagor and Bort Yuron.

     Brotherhood of Thought: As the only settlement in Derb Nigh that allows non-human sentients in, Nubur is home to a permanent cell of four members consisting of a married mutant/stock human couple, a katkin, and a shroom. The cell supports itself primarily through donations exchanged for “transcendental meditation experiences” with their shroom member, and is closely aligned with reformed members of the People of the Book in the community.

     Derb Nigh/People of the Book: Most of the residents of Nubur have no desire to be more tightly integrated into the sultanate than they already are, and there has always been disquiet about two generations of Makenzees wielding power through arranged marriages into the families of Derb Nigh’s elected leaders.

Another point of contention is the treatment of non-human sentients as second-class citizens within the sultanate in accordance with the traditional teachings of the People of the Book. While less racist than the Knights of Genetic Purity, the practice does not sit well with the Nuburs, as much for practical reasons (it’s bad for business) as philosophical ones (most Nuburs aren’t Merabs and don’t practice Merislam).

Nubur is a hotbed of activity for members of the reformed wing of the People of the Book; the largest farm outside of town is home to two dozen such believers, six of whom are moreaus! While this puts them at odds with the more traditional adherents of their beliefs, they despise the local Programmers every bit as much as their more conservative fellows.

     Created: It is believed that the created have no presence in Nubur.

     Followers of the Voice: In Derb Nigh, most Programmers are devotees of Isa and EDSEL, and are therefore from the reform wing of this cryptic alliance. They are tolerated but not particularly liked or trusted by anyone in Nubur, and are harassed and abused by the People of the Book whenever the latter group thinks they can get away with it.

Because EDSEL has shown its favor to Isa and his adherents, most Programmers are fanatical in their devotion and more than a little arrogant in their beliefs.

     Healers: The White Hand maintains a small, permanent clinic in Nubur that provides services in exchange for payment based on the patient’s means. Barter for drugs, medical technology, and information that leads to either is preferred to domars, and the Healers come by caravan to collect twice per year. The clinic is run by a particularly mercenary member of the alliance’s reform order who makes it a point to know everything she needs to about her patients to ensure maximum profitability.

     Iron Society: There is a great deal of sympathy for the Iron Society in Nubur, especially for its reform wing. Nevertheless, the alliance is outlawed, in large part because of the Knights of Genetic Purity garrisoned across the lake have made it clear they prefer things that way. Much like the Purists, foreign members of this alliance are free to travel throughout Nubur, so long as they don’t speak too loudly or act on their agenda.

     Radioactivists: Members of this group will sometimes attempt to trade, openly or clandestinely as appropriate, for radioactive materials and related technology with merchants and adventurers selling their wares in Nubur. Only trade in low-level radioactive materials is legal in the sultanate, so a Radioactivist presence in town is usually a clue that there’s more going on than meets the eye.


Nubur’s economy is based on food exports and, to a much greater extent, its role as a way station for Derb Nigh’s trade caravans and neighboring communities outside of the sultanate that don’t want to travel all the way to Derb Nigh proper to trade. Domars and writs are the preferred medium of transaction, though bartering under the trade unit (TU) rules per pp. 22 – 29 of d20 Apocalypse is commonplace (for ease of use, a TU should be considered the equivalent of 25 domars).

     GM’s Note: Nubur has been given the Windfall community feat to reflect its disproportionately wealthy and robust economy relative to its size.

     Writs: Large transactions occurring within the sultanate – including the annual tax assessment and tithe to the caliphate, as well as between the sultanate and other entities – are made with writs. These are contracts whose details are digitally encoded on special paper and/or data files that can only be created and processed by computer. Such writs are only available to the governments of Derb Nigh, other major powers (including many cryptic alliances), and very wealthy and/or prominent individuals. While writs themselves have little inherent value, the terms of the contracts they define are generally accepted – and honored – without question. Writs are great McGuffins, and the theft and/or recovery of one makes a great adventure hook.


The sultanate maintains a small, rotating garrison of a dozen members of the blujahadin (police) in a semi-permanent encampment outside of Nubur. The town itself maintains an equally large militia, with an additional 24 trained and equipped able-bodied reservists. This protective force is rounded out by 3d6 private security officers representing various economic interests with warehouses in or near the town that are also present at any given time. While some of these groups may work at cross-purposes to one another, all would defend Nubur to protect their own interests should the settlement come under attack from an outside party.

Prominent NPCs

  • Lieutenant Gershwin (Charismatic Hero 3, Fast Hero 2): CR 5; Medium Humanoid (overt canine moreau)
  • Dug Makenzee (Dedicated Hero 2, Smart Hero 1): CR 3; Medium Humanoid (pure strain human)
  • Faruq Alghanim (Tough Ordinary 2, Charismatic Ordinary 2): CR 3; Medium Humanoid (stock human)
  • Kaitlin Makenzee-Alghanim (Smart Ordinary 2, Charismatic Ordinary 2): CR 3; Medium Humanoid (pure strain human*)

Sunday, January 11, 2015

NPC: Lieutenant Gershwin

Lieutenant Gershwin (Charismatic Hero 3, Fast Hero 2): CR 5; Medium Humanoid (overt canine moreau); HD 3d6+12 plus 2d8+8; hp 33; Mas 24; Init +2; Spd 30 ft; Defense 17, touch 17, flat-footed 15 (+2 Dex, +5 class); BAB +2; Grap +3; Atk +3 melee (1d6+1 nonlethal, unarmed strike), or +3 melee (1d6+1/18-20, ceremonial cutlass) , or +3 melee (1d4+1/19-20, dagger), or +3 melee (1d4+1, pistol whip), or +4 ranged (2d6, dueling pistol); SQ scent, low-light vision; AL Bonparr, Ranks of the Fit, Rule of Law; SV Fort +2, Ref +4, Will +1; AP 7; Rep +2, Str 13, Dex 14, Con 16, Int 11, Wis 11, Cha 12.
  Occupation: Military (bonus class skills: Knowledge – Tactics).
  Skills: Escape Artist +3, Bluff +3, Diplomacy +2, Gather Info +7, Hide +2, Intimidate +1, Knowledge (Tactics) +2, Move Silently +2, Perform (Keyboards) +5, Read/Write Language (Merigan), Speak Language (Merigan), Survival +6
  Feats: Archaic Weapons Proficiency, Brawl, Combat Reflexes, Personal Firearms Proficiency, Simple Weapons Proficiency
  Talent (Fast Hero): Evasion
  Talent (Charismatic Hero): Coordinate, Inspiration
  Possessions: ceremonial cutlass, combat fatigues, dagger, dress uniform, dueling pistol, pistol shot and powder (12)
  Appearance:  Lieutenant Gershwin is an overt canine moreau with lupine features and a lean, wiry physique.  He has short, bristly, dark gray-colored fur with blue-black highlights.  He weighs 42 kg and stands approximately 156 cm tall.
  Background:   Lieutenant Gershwin is a straight-laced, by-the-book officer of the Ranks of the Fit.  He is extremely loyal to both his cryptic alliance and country, and rather naively believes the official “party line” coming from both.  He is the nephew of a high-ranking officer in the upper echelons of the Bonapartists, who hand-picked him for his assignment.

Moreaus and mutated animals aren’t accorded the same rights as humans and mutants under the law in Derb Nigh, and are an abomination according to the teachings of and beliefs of all but a fringe element of the People of the Book.  This does not sit well with the Overlord of Bonparr, but given how few moreaus and mutated animals live within the sultanate there is little pretext for the Ranks of the Fit to try to do anything about it.

Nubur is an exception to this rule in that it allows moreaus and mutated animals within its walls and requires that all trade entered into with them be free and fair.  Bonparr has seized on this policy by assigning Gershwin, an overt canine moreau and his entirely human staff to Nubur on “special diplomatic assignment.”  The leadership in Jospeen believes that this arrangement serves the twin purposes of keeping a line of communication open with the sultan while juxtaposing their own ideology with that of the sultanate.

Gershwin’s staff consists of four humans –one pure strain, one stock, and two mutants.  They work together efficiently, if not harmoniously.  He is genuinely fond of those under his command, albeit in a patronizing sort of way as they’re only human, after all.

The Lieutenant is generally well-liked by the Nuburs, and a regular guest of a splinter group of People of the Book who believe in total equality among all organic sentients who live on a nearby farm.  Gershwin meets monthly with Mayor Alghanim and the members of the town council at the mayor's residence to discuss official Bonparr business, and often plays an ancient piano for his guests after these meetings.

While Gershwin believes that he is in Nubur to show the people of Derb Nigh a shining example of Bonapartist ideology in practice, in reality he is there because his uncle has ambitions about seizing power in Jospeen that he believes his nephew would oppose and, well, family is family.

  GM's Information: Gershwin is the nephew of Colonel Egeon, Chief Strategist of the Ranks of the Fit  as described on pp. 13 - 14 of Bonparr: The Animal Sector from GWA2 The Overlord of Bonparr boxed set, and the likely leader of the coup d'├ętat that was suggested as the basis for a campaign on p. 56 of GWQ3 Home Before the Sky Falls.  He's been built so as to be able to take a level in the Lawbringer advanced class as described on pp. 84-85 of d20 Apocalypse upon achieving CR 7. There are several hooks in the background section above that I'll be expanding on in later posts.  Gershwin is idealistic and naive, but not stupid or weak.  If his uncle to were to lead a coup d'├ętat, he would seek allies to help remove him take down Egeon and restore a rightful ruler in his place.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Waste World: a Gamma World Campaign

No two roleplaying campaigns are alike, even when they start out with the same setting.  GAMMA WORLD is different in that setting the tone for a campaign is a lot harder than it is for most other RPGs.  The setting and the game are usually packaged together, and if the former emphasizes the "wild and wahoo" aspects of life after the apocalypse, the latter tends to reflect that bias, too.

Gamma World Through the Years

The first edition of the game gave us The Legion of Gold with its homicidal robots and sinister androids; the second edition gave us Famine in Far-Go and murderous, mutant chickens.  The third edition gave us a game mechanic completely divorced from AD&D and a darker setting and tone; the fourth edition foreshadowed d20, but asserted that Pumping Iron was one of the “holy books” of Bonparr and established the hamlet of Maybury, RFD as a canon part of the setting, complete with all the characters we’ve come to know and love(?) from the television series.

The ALTERNITY edition of GAMMA WORLD was fairly well received in terms of the underlying game mechanic, but panned for its watered-down setting and the conspicuous absence of rules governing the creation of mutant plant and mutant animal characters.  This edition was 100% compatible with all the other ALTERNITY supplements, which would have opened up an enormous amount of potential had Wizards of the Coast not cancelled the ALTERNITY line immediately prior to its release!

After the creation of the Open Gaming License and the successful release of Darwin's World and Jonathan Tweet’s popular OMEGA WORLD came the long-awaited, official d20 edition of GAMMA WORLD.  Big on concept, this version of the game introduced the horrific destructive potential of nanotechnology and biotechnology into the game, and even had its own hardbound PHB and GMG! 

Unfortunately version 6.0 turned out to be mostly hat and very little brutorz; there were only a handful of mutations scattered throughout all six of the books that were eventually published and the game’s innovations (including, unfortunately,  the excellent Community Rules) just didn't resonate with the fan base.

The seventh edition of GAMMA WORLD was marketed as campaign setting of sorts for 4th edition D&D.  I never played it, and heard few good things about it between its dependency on the unpopular 4th edition game mechanics, TORG-like setting, and trading-card based expansion packs that many players criticized as being a "gimmicky" way to get more money from enthusiasts.

Why So (Not) Serious?

In almost every edition of the game, the big question about GAMMA WORLD has been how “wild and wahoo” should it be?  In the fourth edition rulebook, the authors assert that in a wild and wahoo game the characters should experience “all kinds of situations and creatures,” that there should be “lots of artifacts from modern times,” that it’s OK for the characters to be overpowered, and that exploring real world locations like the Sears Tower and the Washington Monument is key to the feel of the game.  Further, adventures should be short and self-contained, with minimal character development.

If all that's true, then conversely a "serious" GAMMA WORLD game should be all about character development and roleplaying with recurring NPCs and at least one major story arc tying just about everything together.  The world should be completely alien, and little if anything from the present should even exist, much less be recognizable to the characters.

I reject this either-or approach as needlessly limiting and contrary to the genre.  Why can’t characters run across the Statue of Liberty in a dark and foreboding campaign?  In the original Planet of the Apes, Charlton Heston’s discovery of Lady Liberty up to her navel in sediment on a beach was the denouement of an eerie story about mankind’s fall from the top of the evolutionary ladder and certainly elicited more gasps than guffaws from the people seeing the film for the first time.

In the Mad Max movies, pop-culture references were about all that was left for society to reshape itself around.  "Break a deal, face the wheel" – it was all fun and games until you ended up bound, gagged, blindfolded, and sent out into the desert without food or water on horseback.  Another example from the same series: would you really want to be the one to explain to Lord Humongous just how ridiculous being introduced to his would-be subjects as the “Ayatollah of Rock-n-Rolla” sounds?

Adventuring in a Wasted World

I believe in trying to embrace both halves of GAMMA WORLD - the horror of life after the apocalypse and the "wild and wahoo" - without allowing the presence of one to diminish the other. There should be talking plants with deadly agendas, secret societies based on obscure 19th and 20th Century works of fiction, and alien vistas punctuated by the ancient ruins of amusement parks, national monuments, and famous civic buildings.  I call my campaign Waste World.

Waste World has a patchwork history and mythology built on the sometimes great, sometimes sinister deeds of beings and groups that may or may not have actually existed.  The fact that they are sometimes more fiction than fact doesn’t diminish the epic stories that have grown from the tall tales, misunderstood histories, and outright lies passed down generation-to-generation by the survivors of the Apocalypse and their descendants to succeeding generations.  Still, most myths have their basis in fact; even the most skeptical sleeth historian can’t completely discount the grandiose claims that every petty tyrant makes about his, her, or its lineage.  

Though much more has been lost than regained, the legacy of the Ancients is more than just the shattered remains of colossal cities and their contents; it is also the knowledge of how these wonders were created in the first place.  The rediscovery of the biodiesel engine by scientists and engineers in Bonparr has resulted in the creation of the first new railroad and assembly lines since the Apocalypse, and its parallel rediscovery (theft?) has allowed Bort Yuron to seize control of the eastern Gray Lakes by motorizing its fleet of privateers.

The State of the World

Earth is still known as “Earth,” but its inhabitants most often call it by other names – not all of which are fit for print.  “Gamma Terra” is common, as is “Omega World,” “Twisted Earth,” and “Waste World.”  These and other terms are used interchangeably.  

This GAMMA WORLD campaign setting is centered on what used to be the Midwest region of the old United States.  Appropriately enough, the people here cynically call the part of the planet they live in The Midwaste.

Despite the horrific weapons used during the Apocalypse much of what the Ancients built still survives, albeit as ruins or in great disrepair.  The great cities of old morphed into massive urban sprawls that spread out over hundreds of square miles before the Apocalypse.  A number of highly fortified, well-built structures still stand amid these ruins, and even now the remains of great skyscrapers stretch – literally – for kilometers into the heavens.  Neutron bombs and electromagnetic pulse weaponry killed-off the human inhabitants and artificial intelligences inside, however, leaving them hollow monuments to futility.  Still, there is life amid the ruins, albeit twisted and mutated beyond description in most cases, or simply too degenerate and barbaric for words in others.

Because of their size and the dangerous nature of their inhabitants, the sprawls are still rich sources of lost knowledge and working technology.  A few of the settlements that have sprung-up since the Fall have been built in their shadow.  These towns and villages are close enough for the occasional scavenging foray into the ruins, but far enough away that – hopefully – anything living there wouldn't find returning the favor worth the effort.

The inhabitants of these settlements consider living within proximity to the ruins to be a risk worth taking.  Some are close enough to the ruined sprawls to benefit from broadcast power, water and sewage services, or even the occasional food synthesizing facility or entertainment complex.  In these areas those with the means – financial or otherwise – are often able to enjoy some of the same conveniences that were commonplace prior to the Fall.  It should be stressed, however, that such settlements are exceedingly rare, the services extremely limited, and their nature very poorly understood.

The great majority of the inhabited towns and villages of the Midwaste have evolved from much smaller settlements that pre-date the Fall or have been built from the ground-up since then.  In any case, most beings prefer to live a healthy distance away from the ruins.  Initially this was necessary to minimize exposure to radiation and fallout and get as far away as possible from the mobs of displaced and homeless.  Of course, as temporary encampments gave way to permanent villages and towns, having access to large areas of undeveloped land was a necessary and relatively safe way of obtaining untainted food and water.

Creature comforts and working technology are much rarer in these settlements than in those that are on the fringes of the sprawls.  Although it took many generations and much hardship, the Fallen eventually rediscovered old survival skills.  Temporary shelters gave way to crude huts, which in turn gave way to buildings made of sod, wood, brick, stone, and scavenged materials.  

There have always been a select few who preserved the ways and knowledge of the Ancients.  Real understanding of computers and electronics, genetics and biotechnology, nanotechnology and robotics was never truly lost.  Instead, it was merely forgotten by all but a select few who didn’t have the luxury of being holed-up in a vault or being “born” an android, pre-programmed with huge chunks of the sum total knowledge of mankind.

While knowledge of this sort is the privilege of a few, many sentient species are making great strides on their own with simpler – but enormously empowering – discoveries.  Carbon fuels and internal combustion engines have been rediscovered, along with gunpowder, the printing press, and even electricity in some places.  Architects and skilled tradesmen routinely design and erect structures that are sound, practical, and even aesthetically pleasing.  The same can also be said of goods produced by tanners, furriers, weavers, blacksmiths, potters, cobblers, butchers, bakers, goldsmiths, silversmiths, jewelers, sculptors, painters, and a hundred other professions that have only recently had reason to come into being again.

The Apocalypse took a terrible toll on the world.  Fission weapons, fusion weapons, nerve gas, plague, genetically engineered viruses, combat robots, and automated laser weapons burned, blasted, and bombarded it into a strange, new shape.  Yet the world survived, and the seeds of civilization that survived with it have begun to take root and grow.  Nations – and heroes – are on the rise.  Will they restore the Gamma Terra to its former glory, or make its destruction complete?

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Great Eastern - the Last Victorian Leviathan

I came across this image (one of many, actually) of the Victorian leviathan steamship Great Eastern on Dark Roasted Blend this evening.  What sets this particular image apart is that it's an actual photograph of the ruined hull of the ship, and not just an illustration of it.

SS Great Eastern (Uncredited)

I don't want to take away from the awesomeness of the article, but apart from the terrific post-apocalyptic vibe of the photo, the ship's specifications are breathtaking, especially considering that it was constructed in 1858 - more than a half century before the Titanic was launched (unlike Titanic, Great Eastern was double-hulled, and survived a collision far worse than that which sunk the famous White Star liner).
  • Length: 207 meters (608 feet)
  • Beam (width): 25 meters (83 feet)
  • Crew: 418
  • Passengers: 4,000
  • Weight: 22,000 tons
Depending on the nature of the setting, a wreck like the Great Eastern could be a museum piece, a liner washed ashore during the cataclysm, a "ship of the damned," or even a long-lost shipwreck exposed due to radical climate and/or geographic upheaval as a result of the apocalypse.  In any case, the "how" isn't nearly as important as the "what."

Adventure Seeds

  • A tribe of water-breathing mutants are using a submerged shipwreck as a base to terrorize nearby settlements, but none of the victims are aware of their attackers' amphibious nature - or of the nearby wreck!
  • A massive storm blows through the area, beaching a long-lost wreck near a peaceful seaside or lakefront community.  The wreck was powered by a nuclear reactor that is now leaking - and various cryptic alliances are maneuvering to secure the wreck and/or its power source!
  • The adventurers stumble across a grounded ancient shipwreck and become trapped inside it with its hungry, mutant denizens!
  • Lost at sea, the adventurers come across a massive, floating wreck of a pleasure cruise ship.  The ship's malfunctioning AI is intent on keeping the party aboard to fulfill its entertainment directives - despite the fact that a massive storm that will sink the vessel is fast approaching!
  • A mysterious derelict vessel floats into view of a waterfront community; over the next several days locals begin to disappear.  A week later a scouting party from the community encounters and kills a hostile cyborg - and find that it's one of the missing townspeople!
  • Records unearthed by the Restorationists tell the tale of a vast trove of ancient weapons aboard the wreck of a great vessel that's fairly easily accessible - except for being several miles inside of hostile Knights of Genetic Purity/Ranks of the Fit/Friends of Entropy territory!