Apocalypse 1898 – Introduction

Here’s a quick introduction to the Apocalypse 1898 setting …

It has been almost a decade since the civilizations of man were laid low by the invaders, and man’s dominion over much of the Earth was brought to a close. The invaders came not like a natural disaster, blind and deaf, to the planet, but with a cold, calculating intelligence. They knew what to destroy and how to destroy it. They knew how to win, and they did win.

But victory does not mean survival. Though they cast mankind’s progress back 500 years, the invaders did not survive to enjoy their victory. Now, the remnants of human civilization struggles to reclaim its former glory. This is no easy task though. Mankind’s factories were largely destroyed and their rail systems uprooted. Canals, rivers and seashores are clogged with the red weed of the invaders, making travel by boat exceedingly difficult and slow.

The 10 or 20 percent of humanity that survived the apocalypse from Mars operate with Medieval technology amid the ruins of a much more advanced civilization, one of steam, gas light and telegraph. Many people dwell in small, fortified villages, trembling in the night at the sound of the wolves at their door. A surprising number of people, however, still eke out an existence in the urban ruins.

In New York, once one of the world’s mightiest cities, the boroughs are now ruled as baronies by ruthless political machines and criminal gangs that hold power with fear and violence (well, maybe things haven’t changed much after all). In the rubble clogged streets and amid the crumbling edifices of the Gilded Age, men and women struggle for daily survival while plunging into subterranean vaults in search of their own lost marvels and technological wonders left behind by the invaders. With these tools, brave men and women can forge a new civilization on the ruins of the old.

Welcome to Apocalypse 1898.

Apocalypse 1898 attempts to combine two popular adventure tropes: the Victorian era and its wondrous scientific romances and the concept of the post-apocalyptic world, where man has lost his tools and must live again as an animal. The notion of a Victorian apocalypse is not new, the genre having been invented by the Victorians themselves. Apocalypse 1898 focuses in particular on the ruins of New York that were left behind after the infamous invasion by Mars written about in H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds.

Apocalypse 1898 is a role playing game, in which a band of players take on the rolls of people attempting to survive and thrive in the post-apocalyptic New York of 1898. One player is the Referee, and he or she runs the adventures and adjudicates the rules when necessary. The game is primarily played with pencils, paper and a complete set of dice, including the traditional six-sided dice most often found in games as well as dice with four, eight, ten, twelve and twenty sides. A healthy dose of imagination is also required to bring the setting and the struggles of the characters to life.

This book explains the rules of play and describes the setting of New York in more detail. It also offers advice for the Referee in terms of running the game and writing adventures for the players.

After you have read the rules, gather your players, elect your Referee, grab some paper, pencils and dice and begin your exploration of Apocalypse 1898!

Image from OBI Scrapbook Blog – by Albert Robida, illustrating a European family going downtown to dine in a series of caricatures about war in the 20th century.

Apocalypse 1898 – I’m No Fool

Wow – within a day my last post becomes one of my most popular posts ever. I’m no fool, so it’s time to milk this a bit.

Apocalypse 1898 is the working title. Good / Bad / Whaddya think?

I’ll use a variation on Target 10 for the basic rules.

Here is my outline so far:

Ability Scores
Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, Charisma; roll 3d6 for each to determine the score (will run from 1 to 9).

Each ability score is tied to several “skills”. For each ability, based on your score, you get to pick a number of these skills as “class skills” so to speak (i.e. you add your character’s skill bonus and ability score to them when your testing them, as opposed to just adding your ability score.

Score / No. of Skills
1-3 / choose one skill
4-5 / choose two skills
6-9 / choose three skills

In addition, you choose one additional skill from your highest ability category as your specialty (an additional +3 to tests)


Strength: Pugilism, swordplay, resist disease, resist poison, resist pain and exhaustion, wrestling, breaking and bending, leaping, climbing, swimming

Dexterity: Archery, throwing, gunplay, legerdemain, duck and cover, lock picking, riding, creep silently, lurk in shadows

Intelligence: Scholarship, decipher codes and languages, invent device, concoct formula, appraise value, discover clue, survival, pilot ship, occult knowledge

Charisma: Size up opposition, play instrument, sing and dance, command, charm, suggest, resist domination, trickery

Roll 1d20, add bonuses – penalties – try to meet or beat a 10 (i.e. Target 10)

Difficulties impose a -3 penalty (cumulative) on a roll – determined by Ref, but I’d give some examples

Other Stats /Abilities
Hit Points: 1d6 per point of Strength (+3 for specialization with any combat-oriented skill)
Equipment: One roll on random equipment chart per point of Charisma
Armor Class: 5 + Dex + armor bonus
Languages: One per point of Intelligence (or 2 slots to become literate in a language)

You can start at one of three “levels”

Novice: Has a skill bonus of +3 and 3 luck points
Veteran: Has a skill bonus of +6 and 1 luck point
Master: Has a skill bonus of +9 and 0 luck points

As always in Target 10, luck points are used to get automatic successes on rolls, or impose automatic failures on your opponents. You can also trade them for things like extra equipment

This may change as I delve into the period literature, but for now …

Human: Gets 1 extra luck point
Freak: Get one mutation (see below)
Invader: Str -2, Int +2; gets “resist disease” as a bonus skill

The mutations are going to be inspired more by PT Barnum’s freak show than by what you find in most mutant games. Things like bestial appearance, horrific appearance, gigantism, pinhead, etc. No death rays. All of them would have a boon and a drawback attached to them.

You can work magic with this skill, but you must take it as a specialty.

There would be a list of magical operations with a Difficulty Class (DC) for each – like the psychic abilities in Space Princess. Maybe you would be required to have training in one to use it – perhaps you have as many “spells” as you have points of skill.

Character Packages
I’d probably include some sample character packages – if nothing else for use as quick NPCs. All of them would assume a “4” in three ability scores and a “6” in the fourth

Adventurer/Adventuress – explorers, doers of great deeds – Nellie Bly comes to mind

Gentleman/Lady – the gentry, educated and charming
Athlete – John L Sullivan comes to mind
Cowboy – Teddy Roosevelt, Buffalo Bill
Magician – Madame Blavatsky
Inventor – Tesla, Edison

An example might be …

Cowboy (Veteran)
STR 4: Pugilism (10), Wrestling (10)
DEX 6: Duck & Cover (12), Gunplay (12), Riding* (15)
INT 4: Discover Clue (10), Survival (10)
CHA 4: Play Instrument (Guitar or Harmonica) (10), Resist Domination (10)

Gangster (Veteran)
STR 4: Climbing (10), Pugilism (10)
DEX 6: Creep Silently (12), Legerdemain (12), Lurk in Shadows* (15)
INT 4: Appraise Value (10), Survival (10)
CHA 4: Resist Domination (10), Trickery (10)

This would probably be restricted to a few giant versions of animals – giant rats, giant spiders. Would replace Novice/Veteran/Master with Small/Medium/Large and otherwise use the same ability scores and a bunch of skills (common sense here, not using the same rules as character creation), with some special abilities added in where necessary.

The setting is New York. The game would describe the different boroughs and neighborhoods in the post-invasion setting. The main goal would be survival – food and water, not being beaten and robbed – as in “Warriors … Come hither and play!” type stuff. Of course, build up a reputation, a small army, some Invader weaponry and maybe you can knock down the doors of Tammany Hall and start running the joint.

To Verne or Not To Verne – That is the Question
The comments on the last post suggest people want some full scale Victorian Jules Verne sci-fi in this game. I’m not opposed to it, but it may occupy a separate chapter so people can either play a grim and gritty (though slightly tongue-in-cheek) romp through Victorian post-apocalyptic New York City, and others can include various sci-fi modules to make the game more in the steampunk vein.

Otherwise, the only “scientific romance” elements are going to be the surviving invaders and their weapons, and the supernatural abilities (which could be included as an add-on module as well, since some might prefer not to play Cabalists and Cowboys).

Cave Brawl – The Rules

Rules of Play

Flip a coin to determine which team starts out with the ball – or simply discuss and come to a decision. The team with the ball is the offense, the team without the ball is the defense.

The defense coach moves first. All of the players begin the game in the “tunnel” leading to the playfield, and thus each one must be moved from their goal cave. The light colored square counts as the first square of their movement.

Play proceeds in turns. The defense coach makes the first move, then his opponent, and so on.

On a coach’s turn, he may move all of his players.

A player can move as many squares as they have movement points and take one action. A player that has been knocked down can stand up and take one action, but cannot move.

All actions are resolved by comparing one of the attacker’s ability scores to one of the defender’s ability scores to derive a modifier. If the attacker’s score is higher, then the modifier is a bonus equal to the difference between the two scores. If the defender’s score is higher, then the modifier is a penalty equal to the difference between the two scores. The attacker rolls 1d20 + the modifier to resolve the action. If the roll is equal to or greater than 10, the action is a success. If not, the action is a failure.

The following actions can be attempted in Cave Brawl:

Block: A block is an attempt to push an adjacent opposing player. Compare the blocker’s BT score to the defender’s BT score to derive the modifier. If successful, the blocker may move the defender one square in any direction. If they have any movement left, they can follow up an end the turn adjacent to the defender. The victim of a successful block suffers 1d6 points of damage. Deduct this from their hit point total. If the roll is a failure, the blocker’s turn is over.

Tackle: A tackle is an attempt to knock an adjacent opposing player over, forcing them to drop the ball. Compare the tackler’s BT score to the defender’s BT or CD score (whichever is higher). If the tackle is a success, the defender is knocked down and loses 2d6 hit points. If they were carrying the ball, it bounces into an adjacent square chosen by the defender. If the tackle is a failure, the tackler is knocked down in the square they occupy and loses 1d6 hit points.

Pass: A pass is an attempt to throw a ball from a passer to a receiver. Compare the passer’s PK score to a difficulty class (DC) based on the range of the attempted pass. For each opposing player adjacent to passer, the d20 roll suffers a -1 penalty.

Short Range (1-5 squares) = DC 4
Medium Range (6-10 squares) = DC 8
Long Range (11-20 squares) = DC 12

If the pass is successful, it is on target and the receiver may attempt to catch it and then move. If the pass is a failure, it lands 1d6 squares away from the receiver, placed by the passer’s opponent.

Catch: This is the attempt by a player to catch a ball that has been passed to them. Compare the receiver’s CD score to the same DC as for the original pass. For each adjacent opposing player, the d20 roll suffers a -1 penalty. If successful, the receiver now holds the ball and can move their allotment of squares. If the catch is failed, the ball is placed one square away from the receiver by the opposing coach.

Kick: Kicking works as passing. The ball is aimed at the tiny hole above the goal tunnel of the opposing team. A successful kick instantly ends the game in victory for the kicking team. The DC of the kick is determined by range, measuring from the kicker to the goal square. For each opposing player adjacent to kicker, the d20 roll suffers a -1 penalty.

Short Range (1-5 squares) = DC 14
Medium Range (6-10 squares) = DC 17
Long Range (11-20 squares) = DC 20

If the kick is a failure, the ball is placed 1d6 squares away from the goal square by the opposing coach.

Pick Up Ball: A ball that is loose on the ground can be picked up by a player. The player must move to the square containing the ball and pick it up. That player’s movement ends in that square.

A team that scores a goal by kicking wins the game automatically.

By moving the ball into the opponent’s goal square, a team scores one point. The first team to score an agreed upon number of points (3 can be considered the default) wins the game.

When a point has been scored, the ball is given to the opposing team and play begins again with each team in their goal tunnel. As always, play begins with the defender.

Keep It Moving
Ungawa demands action! If the offense (i.e. the team with the ball) has not moved the ball for two turns, Ungawa’s priests release one of the following terrors from their animal pits. Roll 1d6 to determine the beast:

.nobrtable br { display: none }

Roll Beast POW DMG MV
1 Stirge Swarm 2 1d6 4
2 Smilodon 6 2d6 6
3 Stegosaurus 8 3d6 5
4 Giant Snake 4 1d6 6
5 Mastodon 10 3d6 5
6 Pteranodon 4 1d6 7

Special: The victim of a pteranodon attack must roll 1d6. On a roll of “1”, they are picked up and carried off the field of play, never to return. The victim of a giant snake attack must roll 1d6. On a roll of “1”, they are constricted and unable to move until they make a successful Block attack against the snake. Each round they are constricted, they suffer automatic damage. The victim of a stirge swarm attack must roll 1d6. On a roll of “1”, they lose one point from each of the ability scores (BT, CD and PK).

The released animal either emerges from the left cave or right cave (flip a coin). It heads towards the nearest player on the team that has failed to advance and attacks. After that, the animal moves toward and attempts to attack (if it moves far enough) the nearest player from either team. The animal does not leave the field of play until a point is scored or the animal is killed.

To attack, compare the beast’s Power value to the defender’s BT or CD (whichever is higher) and roll 1d20 as normal. The type of beast determines the number of hit points the player loses on a successful attack. The beast rolls a number of 1d6 equal to its Power value to determine its hit points.

Attempts to block or tackle a beast are made by comparing the attacker’s BT to the beast’s Power value.

League Play
League play can be accomplished by forming a number of teams and then having each team play each other team, recording wins and losses, during the season and allowing the two teams with the best win-loss records play a championship at the end of the season.

Alternatively, you can put the teams in brackets, allowing them to play an initial round of games, the winners playing each other in successive rounds until only two teams remain.

Players that do not survive a game are replaced by new players for the next game. Each player that survives a game can improve one of their ability scores (BT, CD or PK) by +1. No ability score can be improved higher than a score of “8”.

Cave Brawl – The Teams

As mentioned in the last post, Cave Brawl is played by two teams of nine players each (yeah – you can do 7 or 11 or whatever – don’t sweat it). There are five different factions (well, four really) that compete in the games. Coaches pick a faction and choose their player types and then roll stats for those individual players. Each team has to have at least five players of the “basic” type – i.e. an Amazon team has to have at least five amazons, the other four positions can be “special” players.

Each of the four main factions (I know I said five before – just keeping reading, you’ll see what I mean) has three player types each. Each player has five statistics to keep track of:

Block and Tackle (BT): This measures the player’s overall strength and ability to shove others around.

Catch and Dodge (CD): This measures the player’s overall agility, quickness and hand-eye coordination.

Pass and Kick (PK): This measures the player’s ability to put the ball where they want.

Move (MV): This is the number of squares the player can move each round.

Hit Points (HP): This is the amount of injury a player can take before they are removed from play. A player has 1d6 hit points for every point of “Block & Tackle” they have.

For each player, roll 1d6 to determine their BT, CD and PK scores, modifying the roll for the player type (see tables below). Once the BT is determined, roll for HP. A player’s MV score is determined by their player type.


The amazons are fierce woman warriors from the dinosaur-infested jungles. They are quick, agile and bloodthirsty.
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Player Type BT CD PK MV
Amazon (Basic) +0 +0 +0 5
Acrobat (Special) -2 +2 +0 6
Queen (Special) +0 +0 +2 5

Special: Acrobats have the ability to vault over opposing players. An acrobat can move to a space adjacent to an opposing player and attempt a DODGE roll (see tomorrow’s post for how you do this). If successful, place the acrobat on the other side of the opposing player and allow her to continue her movement.

The cavemen and their ape allies dwell in the hills. Frankly, they mostly show up in hopes of tackling some amazons.
.nobrtable br { display: none }

Player Type BT CD PK MV
Caveman (Basic) +0 +0 +0 5
Cave Ape (Special) +2 +0 -2 4
Monkey (Special) -2 +2 -2 5

Special: For an opposing player to attempt to BLOCK or TACKLE a cave ape, they must first test their courage by roll 1d6. On a roll of “1”, they quake in fear and lose their turn.

The cold-blooded reptilians venture up from their super heated vents beneath the ground to show their dominance over the pathetic mammals.
.nobrtable br { display: none }

Player Type BT CD PK MV
Lizard Man (Basic) +1 +0 +0 4
Kobold (Special) -2 +3 +0 3
Troglodyte (Special) +2 +0 -2 4

Special: Troglodytes are surrounded by a terrible stench. Any opposing player beginning their turn adjacent to a troglodyte must roll 1d6. On the roll of a “1” they are too busy retching to take a turn.

The witch doctors and their sorcerous spawn are not about to let a bunch of mundane warriors be Ungawa’s favorites. It’s a matter of witchdoctor pride!
.nobrtable br { display: none }

Player Type BT CD PK MV
Zombie (Basic) +2 -2 -2 3
Goblin (Special) -2 +2 +0 4
Witchdoctor (Special) -2 +0 +0 5

Special: Zombies, when “killed” are not removed from play. Each round after death, the controlling coach can roll 1d6 for each dead zombie. On a roll of “1”, the zombie re-awakens with 1d6 hit points.

Witchdoctors can cast one curse during the course of the game. This curse knocks 1d6 points from a designated target’s BT, CD or PK score (witchdoctor’s choice).

The final “faction” are the exiles – members of other factions who have been cast out for breaking one taboo or another. A team of exiles can choose its members from any of the other four factions, but must still have 5 basic players and only 4 special players.

Unfortunately, exiles don’t become exiles because they work and play well with others. Any time a member of one faction is adjacent to the member of another faction on his same team, and not adjacent to an opposing team member, he or she must roll 1d6. On a “1”, the player attacks the old rival with a TACKLE and otherwise loses his or her turn.

So, why not throw together a sample team of exiles to test things out. My 9 player team looks as follows:

#1 Boris the Zombie: HP 26; BT 8; CD 3; PK 4; MV 3; Special: Revive.

#2 Una the Amazon: HP 1; BT 1; CD 2; PK 4; MV 5; Special: None.

#3 Ook the Caveman: HP 26; BT 6; CD 1; PK 2; MV 5; Special: None.

#4 Sherp the Lizard Man: HP 29; BT 7; CD 1; PK 4; MV 4; Special: None.

#5 Bela the Zombie: HP 15; BT 5; CD 0; PK 1; MV 3; Special: Revive.

#6 Aurora the Acrobat: HP 13; BT 4; CD 3; PK 2; MV 6; Special: Leap.

#7 Tawa the Witch Doctor: HP 3; BT 0; CD 2; PK 3; MV 5; Special: Curse.

#8 Urg the Cave Ape: HP 11; BT 4; CD 4; PK 3; MV 4; Special: Fear.

#9 Vexxs the Troglodyte: HP 26; BT 8; CD 3; PK 1; MV 4; Special: Stench.

Looks like Una is going to be my default passer, but she’s going to have to be protected – Jim McMahon could take a hit better than her. Urg is a little disappointing as a cave ape, but on the whole it looks like I have some pretty stout bruisers on my team – they may be able to outlast their opponents if they can’t outplay them.

The game rules for Cave Brawl!

Image of amazon from PARS FORTUNA, drawn by Mike Stewart.

Other images by Jeff Preston, used via Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License

Are You Ready for Some Cave Brawl?

This idea sort of popped into my head the other day, so I ran with it …

Every year, in the Lost Valley of Dinosaurs, the various tribes and clans gather at the ancient stone arena to pay tribute to Ungawa, the Great God of the Valley. This involves a sacred religious observance in the form of a ball game, in which the various factions of the Valley test themselves in the arena, with the losers “passing through the sacred fire” to visit Ungawa in person. Strangely, most folk in the Valley prefer to avoid this particular honor.


The arena is a square pit, about 21 yards wide by 21 yards long and 30 feet deep. Four caves open into this pit. Two serve as the respective goals of the two teams that compete in the game, the other two link to animal pits, just in case Ungawa is feeling a bit squirrely and wants to spice up the game.

On the board above, the light squares represent the team goals, the black squares the caves to the animal pits.

The goal is simple – put the ball into the other team’s goal area. This can be done by carrying the ball physically into the opponent’s goal area, or kicking the ball into a fairly small hole (about 3-ft in diameter) located about 20 feet above the pit floor and directly above the other team’s goal cave. Carrying the ball over the goal is worth a single point – three points wins the game. Kicking the ball into a hole wins the game outright!

Tomorrow: The Teams – Amazons, Cavemen, Reptilians and Witchdoctors!

Queen and Kaiser – Some Thoughts


I know – I have lots of projects to work on, but when the muse kisses you on the forehead, you have to put pen to paper or risk forgetting everything. Thus, some notes on Queen and Kaiser.

Theme: Full-throated Victorian adventure. All the characters in a group serve a government – their success turns into success for that country in terms of expanding its empire, inventing new devices – etc.

Influences: Jane Austen, Bronte sisters, Lewis Carroll, Thomas Hughes, Rudyard Kipling, Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle, H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, H. Rider Haggard, Joseph Conrad, Edgar Allen Poe, Mary Shelly, Charles Dickens, Flashman (of course)

Replace the concept of “race” in most games with class – Low, Middle or High – maybe – might make the rest of the character creation concept too complicated

No classes – characters shaped by random experiences – kind of like Traveller.

Game set circa 1890

Roll experiences based on age of character – different tables for Youth (i.e. school days), 1881-1890, 1871-1880 and 1861-1870. Whatever age range you choose (youth, mature, middle-aged, old), you roll up to three times on a table, declaring the number of rolls before making the rolls.

The basic experiences involves adventures in Victorian England / France / Germany / Russia

One “experience” is called Bend Sinister – this sends you to a different table concerning crime and the underworld, a table one may never escape

One “experience” is called Foreign Service – this sends you to a different table concerning foreign affairs – spying, wars, going native, etc. This table can send you back home to the basic table

One “experience” is called Supernatural – this one goes into Victorian horror and science fiction – one roll, then back to the basic table and no more dips into the supernatural pool – can be ignored if the Referee does not wish to use this material in his or her game

Base the different eras on the literature and historical events of that period

Might restrict the characters in the basic game to English or German, maybe adding different groups in NOD articles – i.e. French, Russian, American, Japanese, Dutch, Ottoman

Characters can be male or female, though experiences might be different

Ability Scores – roll as normal for Target 10

Vigor (strength, fortitude, courage)

Dash (dexterity, quickness, flair for the dramatic)

Study (knowledge, learning, ability to think things through, common sense)

Charm (manners, etiquette, courtship)

You have “hit points” based on your Vigor and “charm points” based on charm, etc. to allow for different forms of combat – Dash can help in all of these things

Hit Point combat is normal fighting

Charm Point combat is about combat in the social sphere- getting the best of a person through being witty, using innuendo, out-talking people – wins people to your side

Horsemanship (riding tricks, charging, increasing daily movement, polo, steeplechase)

Fencing (swords, axes, spears, walking sticks, knives)

Ballistics (rifle, shotgun, pistol, maxim gun, light cannon)

Fisticuffs (boxing, wrestling)

Archery (bows, crossbows, slings, spears)

High Society (contacts in high society, waltzing, manners, witty conversation, negotiation, waltzing)

Sports (rowing, cricket, football, rugby, darts, billiards, bicycles, croquet, lawn tennis, roller skating)

Command (leading troops, morale checks, military contacts)

Climbing & Leaping (acrobatics, scaling walls and cliffs, leaping over chasms, balancing)

Decipher Scripts (decoding codes, reading ancient tongues)

Detection (finding clues, noticing things, sensing motivations)
Skullduggery (sneaking, cheating, lying, picking pockets, forgery, underworld contacts)

Occultism (uncovering frauds, divining the future, hypnotism, sixth sense)

Prestidigitation (escaping bonds, card tricks, sleight of hand, use of magical props)

Physician (first aid, more complex operations, etc)

Soldier (marching, camp life, cooking, resisting fear under fire)

Scholarship (basic knowledge from university life)

Invention (working with electricity, magnetism and chemicals)

Engineering (working with mechanical objects, building and repairing, clockworks)

Native (local customs and mores, finding one’s way, survival in the environment, native contacts)

Domesticity (managing books, managing servants, cooking, cleaning, first aid, contacts in the shops, commanding others)

Woodcraft (tracking, stalking, knowledge about flora and fauna, survival in home environment)

Husbandry (controlling animals, training animals, taming wild animals)

Seamanship (sea legs, climbing, swimming, gunnery, navigation)

Advance through skills as follows:
– Start at Acquainted (+1)
– Then move to Practiced (+3)
– Then Expertise (+6)
– Finally Mastery (+12)

At expertise, you may take one element of that skill set and advance it to specialization +9 (i.e. with expertise in soldiery you could become a specialist at resisting fear)

At mastery, your previous specialized skill becomes legendary (+15)

Foreign adventures and schooling tutor people in languages. For languages, it goes:
– Smattering (+1) – brief commands and a few words
– Conversational (+3) – can speak with others with no problem
– Literacy (+6) – can read and write in the language
– Fluency (+12) – can write well, have a knowledge of their history and lore and count as having a smattering of all related languages, including ancient dialects

The skills give variable incomes for expertise and mastery, based on the perceived value of the profession – this can be used to procure supplies for expeditions.

Each of the episodes in a life has a dark side as well, requiring one to make an ability check (DC 5, usually) or succumb to an injury, phobia, or some other flaw. The final character may be skilled, but will have some baggage he’s pulling around. Hopefully this makes the character breath and live in the mind of his player!

How about a war wound table?

– Lost limbs – major reduction of movement or dexterity
– Lost eye
– Wounded limbs – reduce movement or dexterity and such
– Permanent hit point loss (no more than 1) – minor wound and scar
– Dengue fever – yellow fever – malaria – reduced Vigor


The game concerns the adventurers being sent on expeditions by the Queen / Kaiser / Czar, etc.

Guides for different adventurers, but always focused on accomplishing a goal (first person to climb a mountain, discovering a lost city, recovering a stolen item, stealing an item, securing a fort, mapping a river, forging diplomatic ties with an aboriginal king or influential noblewoman, etc.)

There would also be a map of the colonial possessions of the empires of the period, and tables for how the world situation changes as adventurers succeed or fail at different tasks. There could always be the threat of a Great War, and the changing political climate could itself spur new expeditions (i.e. “After losing their hold on Rhodesia to the Germans, the Queen’s government has decided they need to obtain the plans for the latest German cruiser which is now stationed off the coast of Tanganyika.)

Drawn from the archetypes of Victorian fiction, but also from the Gothic romances and horrors, etc. Lions, tigers and bears, of course. Wells’ Martians, maybe.

First two images from Wikipedia

Strongman from the aptly named Olde Strong Men blog. No, I wouldn’t have ever known it existed if I hadn’t searched Google.

Waltz image from the Victorian Web.

First Playtest Characters for Space Princess

Last night, the kid and I rolled up some characters for Space Princess to test things out a bit. Thus were born these guys …

It was late, so there was no time to actually delve into space fortress and rescue a princess, but we did play out a couple of the “escape in a spaceship” scenarios.
Both went pretty well. In both cases, Crow was flying the Satellite of Love, a blockade runner. Lum was manning the light lasers and Zora the heavy lasers (and she was a crack shot), while Dr. Zaius was working the navigation computer – very slowly, I might add.

The first scenario pitted the blockade runner against four starfighters. After about six rounds of combat, the starfighters had been taken out of play – two having their weapons knocked out, the other two their engines. In essence, the escape was made. The starfighters had little ability to score meaningful hits on the blockade runner, so I might need to supe them up a bit.

In the second scenario, the SOL went up against a dreadnaught. This one was a bit more exciting. Initially, the SOL had no trouble out-maneuvering the dreadnaught. Crow is an expert pilot and the blockade runner is a quicker ship. Zora even scored some early successes with her heavy lasers. But as time went on, the firepower of the dreadnaught began to tell. The SOL‘s armor was degraded, then its weapons systems were taken out, the nav computer damaged (which prolonged making the jump to light speed). Finally, the artificial gravity was knocked out. It looked like Zaius had one shot left at making that jump into light speed and … he did. Just barely.

The kid was charged up over the battle, and even though the mechanics were very simple (pilot check, fire weapons, navigation check), the slow erosion of the blockade runner’s systems and the seemingly inevitable defeat made the process enjoyable. Mind you – one more round, and it’s very likely the SOL was, well, SOL.

Over the holiday I’m going to run the first official play tests of a space fortress, and I’ll post those results next week.

Ray Guns and Invizo-Screens [Space Princess]

The esteemed Jason Sholtis is now working on illustrations for Space Princess, so the game’s release is imminent. To keep the atomic fires of excitement for this game stoked, I thought I’d provide a sampling of the super science that scientists in the game can build, provided they have the skill and resources.

Super Science
Super Science is our name for high-tech equipment. The following list of super science is not exhaustive, and Referees and the players of scientist characters should feel to invent new items.

The name of each item is followed by a number in parentheses. This number is the test value for a scientist’s skill test when trying to fabricate the item.

Found super science devices can be salvaged for parts. A working super science device is worth a number of SCI (science points) equal to half its test value, rounded down. Thus, a working anti-gravity belt is worth 7 SCI. A non-functional device is worth 1d6 SCI.

Anti-Grav Belt (TV 15): An anti-gravity belt allows one to rise or descend through the air (or vacuum) at a rate of 10 paces per round. An anti-gravity belt can be used 10 times before needing a recharge.

Electro-Scrambler (TV 20): An electro-scrambler can be used to disrupt the electric brains of robots, androids and gynoids. The effectiveness of an electro-scrambler depends on the skill level of the scientist who created it. When used, consult the following table:

Find the skill level of the inventor and then cross reference the number of Hit Dice of the robot. The resulting percentage is the chance that the electro-scrambler works. When unleashed, an electro-scrambler affects all robots, androids and gynoids in a 30-ft radius unless they have specifically been given immunity by the inventor of the device (i.e. a scientist can choose to make the androids and gynoids that are his allies immune to his electro-scrambler). Making these modifications costs five Science Points per android, gynoid, or robot so modified.

Robots that are affected must flee (usually while bleeping loudly and smoking) for 1d6+1 rounds in the opposite direction. If they cannot flee, they simply walk repeatedly into a wall. If attacked while affected by an electro-scrambler, a robot goes berserk, fighting back with a +2 bonus to hit. Androids and gynoids receive a Mentality test to ignore the effects of an electro-scrambler.

Force Screen (TV 10): A force screen is usually projected from a belt or other small piece of equipment attached to a person’s clothing. The force screen grants a +2 bonus to DEFENSE against missile attacks. It can be used for 10 rounds of combat before needing a recharge.

Invizo-Screen (TV 20): An invizo-screen emanates from a helmet worn on the head, making the person completely invisible for up to 10 rounds before it must be recharged. An invisible person has their Defense Rating increased by 10 if they do not attacks, and increased by 5 if they do attack in combat. Invisible people can still be heard, felt and smelled.

Medi-Kit (TV 10): A medi-kit is a small box that can dispense chemicals that heal wounds (+2d6 hit points) and neutralize poisons. A medi-kit can be used 6 times before its chemical stores must be replenished.

Mento-Helmet (TV 20): A mento-helmet amplified a person’s natural brain waves and performance. It grants a +2 bonus to mentality tests and gives a person the ESP ability of mystics. The mento-helmet can be used 10 times before needing a recharge.

Ray Gun – Basic (TV 10): A basic ray gun fires rays of energy. Ray guns can be used 10 times before they must be recharged. All ray guns have a range of 30 paces.

Ray Gun – Freeze (TV 15): A freeze ray immobilizes a creature for 1d4+1 rounds unless they pass a test of Strength (TV 10).

Space Suit (TV 10): A space suit allows a person to survive in a vacuum for 1 hour before its oxygen supply must be replenished. It consists of an air-tight suit of plastic and rubber, a glass helmet and oxygen tanks that can either be external or worked into the lining of the suit.

Image found HERE.

Action X

Action X is an idea I had for a mini-game based on a team of highly trained individuals (mercenaries, soldiers, spies) a’la Mission: Impossible, G.I. Joe (no, not the movie) or the A-Team being sent on a mission to do, well, something action-y and dangerous. Basically – modernized D-n-D built around TV and movie tropes.

My idea for characters is to use the basic notion of Rookie – Veteran – Old Timer as in Space Princess, but to base all character abilities on a set of skills.

Taking the veteran level as an example, he might have five trained skills, three mastered skills and one specialty skill. The idea here, a’la G.I. Joe’s “primary speciality” or assembling an Impossible Mission team is that each character comes in with a specific expertise – the Electronics Expert, the Seduction Expert, the Intelligence Expert, the Demolitions Expert, etc.

The training level at which one takes a skill (ranging from acrobatics to electronics to the use of a specific weapon or martial art) corresponds with the bonus to use that skill/weapon: +3 for trained, +6 for mastered and +9 for specialty. The basic rules would be Target 10 (i.e. compare your ability to opponent’s or general difficulty level to find your die modifier, roll 1d20 and try to get a ’10’ or higher).

Each time a skill is used during a mission, there is a 1 in 6 chance that the character gets a +1 boost to a trained ability, a 1 in 10 chance on a mastered ability and a 1 in 20 chance on their specialty. Maybe after one mission, Mr. X gets a bump to his acrobatics skill and we now classify it as Trained +1. Qualified abilities cannot be bumped beyond +5 and mastered abilities beyond +8. One’s primary specialty has no limit to how far it can be bumped. Successful use of a skill/weapon the character is not trained in also carries a 1 in 20 chance of getting a boost (Untrained +1), with a max bonus there of +2.

Besides character creation and advancement, the major notion behind Action X would be random missions. I need to come up with a way the Ref could randomize the mission objective, the location, the key enemies and their abilities (there would have to be templates of stock villains), a complication for at least one of the characters and the place to be “invaded”. Not sure where to go with that yet.

Still plenty of work to do on this idea, which I would probably stick in an issue of NOD in 2012.

Alien Critter Generator

Any viewer of mainstream sci-fi has heard a few alien animal names that consist, usually of three elements. First, is their place of origin. Perhaps a planet orbiting the star Deneb. Then a descriptor – maybe this creature is slimy or dwells in slime. Finally, a noun – perhaps this irascible creature can best be described, like the well-known critter from Tasmania, as a devil. Hence Denebian slime devil. Okay, so how about a random table to do the same and stat the critter out.

1. Venusian
2. Martian
3. Jovian
4. Saturnian
5. Mercurian
6. Plutonian
7. Neptunian
8. Denebian
9. Altairan
10. Cygnian
11. Betelgeusian
12. Polarian
13. Andromedan
14. Cetian
15. Algolian
16. Pleiadeian
17. Rigelian
18. Aldebaran
19. Antarean
20. Arcturan

* Note, if you prefer your beasties to be from distant stars rather than planets, just re-roll if Martian or Venusian, etc comes up. Or make your own table you lazy bugger – what do you want for free? You might also want to alter the critter’s stats based on the conditions of the planet (i.e. high gravity, etc.)

1. OOZE/SLIME: Creature may be covered in slime, granting it DEFENSE +3 vs. grabbing or wrestling attempts. Otherwise, just lives in a slimy environment.
2. ROCK/STONE: Creature may have DEFENSE +2. Otherwise, simply lives in a rocky environment.
3. DEATH: Creature either has a deadly poison bite or +2 hit dice.
4. SHADOW: Creature surprises opponents on a roll of 1-3 on 1d6 in darkness.
5. DUST/DESERT: Creature dwells in the desert, enjoys STRENGTH +1.
6. TREE/FOREST: Creature dwells in woodlands, enjoys DEXTERITY +1.
7. GIANT/GREAT: Creature has double hit dice.
8. CRYSTALLINE: Creature has DEFENSE +2 against all attacks except those from bludgeoning weapons and DEFENSE +5 against ray guns.
9. ICE: Creature suffers half damage from cold attacks.
10. LAUGHING/HISSING: Creature makes a laughing or hissing noise when threatened.
12. SPECKLED/SPOTTED: Creature has speckled or spotted hide. Heck, you could do stripes as well.
13. ACID: Creature has an acidic bite that inflicts +2 damage.
14. FIRE/STAR: Creature suffers half damage from fire and ray attacks or has ray attacks from eyes (weapon rating +5).
15. FANGED/HORNED: Creature has +1 weapon rating to bite or horn attack and +1 to bite or horn damage.
16. VAPOR/MIST: Creature either surrounded by a weird fog (opponents -1 to hit with SHOOT attacks) or creature dwells in misty area.
17. STINK/MUSK: Opponents must pass a Strength test or suffer -2 penalty to hit this creature in combat.
18. SEA/RIVER: Creature dwells in the sea or rivers and is equipped to swim at its normal speed.
19. CLOUD/SKY: Creature has a flying speed one category faster than its land movement.
20. LEAPING/HOPPING: Creature’s land movement is one category faster.

* Other special abilities could include spitting (poisonous spit, like cobra), long-necked, long-legged (faster movement), dwarf (half normal hit dice – probably meaningless for animals with only one hit dice to begin with), burrowing (gains slow burrow speed) and hypno- (can paralyze with eyes)

Stats are for Space Princess – you can no doubt find stats for Swords and Wizardry or Dungeons and Dragons if you just snoop around a bit.

1. DEVIL/BADGER: HD 1; DEFENSE 9; FIGHT 5 (claws and bite +0); SHOOT 8; MOVE N; Burrow S; STR 10; DEX 17; MEN 6; KNO 2; DL 2; Special: Flies into rage when damaged (+1 to hit and damage).
2. CRAWLER/CREEPER: HD 1; DEFENSE 8; FIGHT 5 (bite +1); SHOOT 7; MOVE F / Climb F; STR 10; DEX 15; MEN 2; KNO N/A; DL 2; Special: Poisonous bite (1d6 damage).
3. BAT: HD 1; DEFENSE 7; FIGHT 1 (bite +0); SHOOT 7; MOVE S / Fly F; STR 3; DEX 15; MEN 4; KNO 2; DL 1; Special: See in dark with echolocation.
4. DOG: HD 2; DEFENSE 8; FIGHT 7 (bite +1); SHOOT 8; MOVE F; STR 14; DEX 15; MEN 6; KNO 2; DL 2; Special: None.
5. CAT: HD 1; DEFENSE 7; FIGHT 3 (claws and bite +0); SHOOT 7; MOVE N; STR 6; DEX 15; MEN 7; KNO 2; DL 1; Special: None.
6. BIRD: HD 1; DEFENSE 7; FIGHT 3 (talons and bite +0); SHOOT 7; MOVE S / Fly F; STR 6; DEX 15; MEN 6; KNO 2; DL 1; Special: None.
7. HOG/PIG: HD 3; DEFENSE 8; FIGHT 9 (tusks +1); SHOOT 7; MOVE F; STR 16; DEX 10; MEN 4; KNO 2; DL 3; Special: +2 to strength tests to ignore pain.
8. BEETLE: HD 1; DEFENSE 7; FIGHT 5 (bite +2); SHOOT 5; MOVE N; STR 10; DEX 11; MEN 7; KNO N/A; DL 1; Special: None.
9. LION/TIGER: HD 6; DEFENSE 13; FIGHT 16 (claws and bite +2); SHOOT 12; MOVE F; STR 20; DEX 15; MEN 6; KNO 2; DL 7; Special: Pounce (two attacks when it wins initiative).
10. BEAST/ELEPHANT: HD 11; DEFENSE 17; FIGHT 26 (tusks +7 or stomp +5); SHOOT 15; MOVE N; STR 25; DEX 10; MEN 5; KNO 2; DL 12; Special: Trample (all in melee combat must make a dexterity test or suffer 1d6 damage).
11. BEAR: HD 6; DEFENSE 12; FIGHT 19 (claws and bite +3); SHOOT 11; MOVE F; STR 23; DEX 13; MEN 6; KNO 2; DL 7; Special: Creatures hit must make a strength test or be hugged for automatic damage each round until a successful strength test is made.
12. PINCHER/CRAB: HD 1; DEFENSE 7; FIGHT 5 (bite +2); SHOOT 5; MOVE N; STR 10; DEX 11; MEN 7; KNO N/A; DL 1; Special: None.
13. MOLE/RAT: HD 1; DEFENSE 7; FIGHT 2 (bite +0); SHOOT 7; MOVE S / Climb S; STR 4; DEX 15; MEN 2; KNO 2; DL 1; Special: Bite may cause disease.
14. APE: HD 4; DEFENSE 10; FIGHT 12 (claws and bite +2); SHOOT 10; MOVE N; STR 18; DEX 15; MEN 7; KNO 2; DL 4; Special: None.
15. LIZARD/SNAKE: HD 3; DEFENSE 10; FIGHT 10 (bite +1); SHOOT 9; MOVE M; STR 17; DEX 15; MEN 2; KNO 1; DL 3; Special: May be poisonous.
16. ANTELOPE/DEER: HD 2; DEFENSE 10; FIGHT 6 (antlers or horns +1); SHOOT 9; MOVE F; STR 12; DEX 17; MEN 4; KNO 2; DL 2; Special: None.
17. SPIDER: HD 1; DEFENSE 9; FIGHT 4 (bite +0); SHOOT 8; MOVE N / Climb N; STR 8; DEX 17; MEN 2; KNO N/A; DL 2; Special: Poison (2d6 damage).
18. BRUTE/RHINOCEROS: HD 8; DEFENSE 14; FIGHT 22 (horn +5); SHOOT 12; MOVE N; STR 24; DEX 10; MEN 2; KNO 2; DL 9; Special: Charge for double damage.
19. SNAIL/SLUG: HD 2; DEFENSE 4; FIGHT 4 (bite +0); SHOOT 4; MOVE S; STR 6; DEX 6; MEN 2; KNO N/A; DL 2; Special: None.
20. FISH/SHARK: HD 3; DEFENSE 10; FIGHT 8 (bite +1); SHOOT 9; MOVE F; STR 13; DEX 15; MEN 2; KNO 1; DL 4; Special: Blood frenzy (+1 to hit and damage when blood is in the water).

* You might want to swap out toad/frog for fish/shark, maybe throw turtles in somewhere.

Some Examples …

ANTAREAN ICE CREEPER: HD 1; DEFENSE 8; FIGHT 5 (bite +1); SHOOT 7; MOVE F / Climb F; STR 10; DEX 15; MEN 2; KNO N/A; DL 2; Special: Poisonous bite (1d6 damage), half damage from cold attacks. I’m picturing a stark white centipede of great size that hides beneath the snow. It has pockets on it in which it stores bodily fluids sucked from victims. It draws sustenance and heat from the decay of these fluids.

POLARIAN SEA BIRD: HD 1; DEFENSE 7; FIGHT 3 (talons and bite +0); SHOOT 7; MOVE S / Fly F / Swim S; STR 6; DEX 15; MEN 6; KNO 2; DL 1; Special: None. Polarian sea birds resemble Earth penguins except they are as large as dolphins and have coloration and habits reminiscent of killer whales. They have horn-like crests on their heads that allow them to make a low-frequency rumbling that can be heard by other sea birds miles away.

CETIAN HORNED SLUG: HD 2; DEFENSE 4; FIGHT 4 (bite +0, horn +1); SHOOT 4; MOVE S; STR 6; DEX 6; MEN 2; KNO N/A; DL 2; Special: None, horn does +1 damage. These slugs are the size of lions and are covered by a shiny, pink segmented shell. The forward-most shell piece has curved horns that the beast can use to attack.

Image from HERE.