Category Archives: Game Design

Survival in GammaFinder

One of the core concepts of any post-apocalypse RPG is survival. This is definitely true in GammaFinder, as the world is full of poison earth, acid rain, toxic water, deadly environmental effects, baked earth, rusted, twisted metal… it’s harsh. Just traveling beyond a settlement, even if nothing rises to the level of an encounter, is dangerous.

And, as it happens, Starfinder has a Survival skill.

But making Survival rolls daily, and making people think about where their character sleep, find water, hunt, how they avoid heatstroke, dodge poison ivy, and so on gets boring.

So GammaFinder has a Weekly Survival Check.

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Weekly Survival Check

Each group makes a Survival check each week. The DC is equal to 15 + 1.5 x the average CR of hazards and monsters in the area, +1 per person in the group. (When in double, if there is a titan nearby, the GM can assume the average CR is within the Titans range. Otherwise if the area is not known to be particularly hazardous, assume an average CR of 2. Yes, 2. GammaFinder World is rough).

If multiple people make Survival checks, the highest check result is treated as the primary result, and each character in the group after the first who succeeds adds one to that highest result. The following additional factors modify the roll, as can previous rolls (see results, below).

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Weekly Survival Check Modifiers
Group begins week out of food and water: -5
Group has no wilderness gear: -2
Group has at least 1 piece of survival gear for each member: bonus equal to the highest item level of such gear every character has. (For example, if 4 people have a piece of 5th level survival gear, but one person only has a 1st-level piece of gear, the bonus is +1. If six people all have a piece of 3rd level gear, the bonus is +3).

Results
You not only need to know if the group succeeded or failed, but by how much.

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Success by 5 or More: Things went very well! You slept in protected spots, avoided unpleasant allergens and minor hazards, and found plentiful and quality food and water. You do not use up any of your carried food or water resources, and everyone in your group gains a +2 bonus to the next week’s Weekly Survival Check.

Success by 4 or less: You use up resources (such as food and water) normally, but manage to avoid being run down by the constant dangers of the GammaFinder World.

Fail by 5 or less: You didn’t manage ideal conditions, but it’s livable. You might be  sleeping in a cold, cramped space under a large rock, eating grubs, drinking water that’s slimy but not poisonous, or just dealing with gnat bites, rough terrain, sunburn, weariness, and so on.
Everyone in the party takes a -1 penalty to skill checks, including next week’s survival, until you succeed at a weekly survival check or you get a good night’s sleep and food in a settlement. This is cumulative if you fail by this amount in consecutive weeks.

Fail by 6- or more: Why did you ever leave your hovel?

Everyone in the party takes a -2 penalty to skill checks, including next week’s survival, until you succeed at a weekly survival check or you get a good night’s sleep and food in a settlement. This is cumulative if you fail by this amount in consecutive weeks.

Everyone temporarily has their maximum Stamina Points reduced by 1 per character level. This lasts until the group succeeds at a Weekly Survival Check by 5 or more, or get 2 good night’s sleep and food at a settlement.

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Want More GammaFinder?!
I now depend on my Patreon for more of my income and support than I ever expected to. If you find any value in my blog posts or videos, I could use help with the Patreon. If you can spare a few bucks a month, it’s a huge help. If not, even just sharing and linking to my blogs, videos, and the Patreon itself is a huge help that just takes a moment of your time.

Thanks, everyone.

Mega-Heroic Moments for GammaFinder

GammaFinder, the simple post-apocalypse rules and micro-setting for Starfinder, isn’t just about adventure in the ruined, glowing remains of a once-proud society. It’s also about those mega-heroic moments that all too often come only once every few campaigns. The wondrous, fist-pumping, yahoo-calling, better-than-a-natural-20 things that we all remember for years.

But given how harsh GammaFinder can be, those moments may be too rare. So we’ll cheat. We’ll add a few. (You can port this rule to any other Starfinder-compatible game as well, of course.)

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Every character can invoke one mega-heroic moment. If they do so and manage to reach 10th level, they regain the ability to use one mega-heroic moment, but that’s it.

Each mega-heroic moment can be invoked only once per campaign. If you use it, no one else can. Strike it from the list. Otherwise, any character who has a mega-heroic moment still coming to them can use any of the mega-heroic moments.

This is a short initial list of available mega-heroic moments. More may come later.

Do You Want To Live Forever?
When you are about to be knocked unconscious, killed, or made helpless, some unexpected force from your past saves you. Maybe a quantum valkyrie of your lost love deflects the deadly blow. Maybe a witchwarper version of yourself from another reality pushes you out of the way. Maybe ghosts of your fallen allies scream a warning at the last second.
Immediately negate all damage and conditions caused by one attack, trap, hazard, spell, or effect against you. If it is from an ongoing effect, you are immune until the beginning of your next round.

Fly, You Fools!
This is it. The big sacrifice. Everyone lives. You die.
For now.
All your allies in this encounter, living and dead, escape. Those who were dead turn out to be only mostly dead, and are instead unconscious and stable. You stay and hold the line, and die.
But when one of your allies next gains a level? You return, having also gained a level. Maybe you were literally resurrected. maybe it’s a version of your from another reality. Maybe all of reality is a simulation and your return is a glitch in the system. You get to rebuild your character as if you had used a mnemonic editor.

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How’d You Get Up There? – Wasn’t Easy!
Your allies are shocked at where you suddenly pop up. Perhaps you achieved the ultimate stealth route. Maybe you found a split-second wormhole and used it to your advantage. You might even have just run faster and further than anyone expected. The truth is you;re not 100% sure how you made it there yourself, so you are always going to be vague on the details.
Select any location within line of sight and line of effect of any ally. You are at that location.

I Want To Show You A Trick Mother Showed Me When You Weren’t Around.
It’s a secret you have carried with you until this moment, aware you can only do it once. Maybe you have a weapon from the Unburned World with only a single charge left in it. Maybe a sentient spell was been riding along with you, waiting for the one and only moment when it could be cast. Maybe you have a mutant power that takes 100 years to recharge. Whatever it is, it’s a surprise to everyone else, and it’s about to hurt.
Select one target within line of sight and line of effect. It takes an amount of damage equal to 1d6+4 multiplied by your character level. This may be of any damage type, and bypasses any resistance, immunity, or miss chance.

You Are Already Dead.
It seemed like no more than an ordinary attack, but you know better. You hit a secret pressure point, or slipped a grenade into their shorts, or smeared a single self-replicating nanite flesh-eater into the wound. That extra act has gone unnoticed, until now.
Select one foe, trap, or hazard within line of sight that you injured within the past 10 minutes, or that has an unhealed injury you inflicted on it. The foe must have a CR no greater than your level +1. It dies if living, is destroyed if undead, breaks if inanimate.

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Want More GammaFinder?!
I now depend on my Patreon for more of my income and support than I ever expected to. If you find any value in my blog posts or videos, I could use help with the Patreon. If you can spare a few bucks a month, it’s a huge help. If not, even just sharing and linking to my blogs, videos, and the Patreon itself is a huge help that just takes a moment of your time.

Thanks, everyone.

 

GammaFinder Index

GammaFinder is a post-apocalypse setting for the Starfinder Roleplaying Game. I have multiple articles that begin to describe and define GammaFinder, and this is the index to all of them.

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CORE RULES AND SETTING
The basics.

GammaFinder Rules. Simple rules for post-apocalypse gaming using Starfinder, along with just the hint of a setting *mostly to justify calling it ‘GammaFinder.’)

The Unburned World. A larger article that includes a quick description of the pre-apocalypse Unburned World, and the Chasm of History that separates it from the modern era.

Titans. Halfway between landmarks and gods, no one is sure where these motionless giants come from, or what their purpose is. But they have a real, if subtle, effect on the world around them.

PLAYER OPTIONS
Beyond the core rules, here are the things players can use.

Mega-Heroic Moments
You just get one, but when you use it, it’ll be memorable.

Themes
Alphite. You were raised in the domed city of Apha, before it was destroyed.
Brain-In-A-Jar and Murderous Toy. These stretch what themes are supposed to do to their limits, to give weirder character options.

GM TOOLS
Beyond the core rules, these are things the GM can use to help built the setting and its feel.

Halidoms.
Weird relics of the Unburned World, from before the Chasm of History. Presented conceptually in Part One, and rules for PCs trying to figure them out in Part Two.

Survival.
Survival is a key theme of post-apocalypse rpgs. Starfinder has a “Survival” skill. Making skill checks to survive every day is boring, and no one wants their game to end because everyone starved to death. And tents, even high-tech tents, tend not to actually make a difference to PC’s health and happiness.
These rules fix all those issues and brings them together.

MUTANTIARY
These entries are like a bestiary, but for weird mutant threats!

Hammerderm It’s a dangerous sonic shark-rhino mutant.

BOOMER EXTRAS
The spectacularly creative Clinton Boomer has done some additional material for GammaFinder, and we’re thrilled to link it here for folks who want Moar Weird!

Fist of the Gamma Star. Ready for Post-Apocalypse Martial Arts?

Footprints in the Burning Wasteland. Each blasphemous caress of your sorcery is, of course, a unique & terrible thing.

Omegamancy. Even after the world ends, some things are forbidden.

Reek of Corrupted Wasteland. You can smell what the Omegamancers are cooking!

 

GammaFinder Mutantiary part 1 (Hammerderm)

So we introduced some quick and easy rules for GammaFinder, a post-apocalypse campaign hack for Starfinder, introduced the concept of the Unburned World and its relics (Halidom), and then gave some Halidom game rules. We’ve done one pretty standard theme for the setting, and two really weird ones.

Since GammaFinder is remaining popular so far, I thought it was time for a Mutantiary (like a Bestiary, but for weird mutant threats). Of course, these can be used for any Starfinder-compatible setting.

We start, with the hammerderm.

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HAMMERDERM          CR 7          [COMBATANT]
XP 2,400 each
N Large Magical Beast
Init +4 Senses darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision, blindsight (vibration, 60 feet); Perception +20
DEFENSE     HP 125
EAC 17; KAC 20
Fort +11; Ref +11; Will +6
Defensive Abilities bounce off
OFFENSE
Speed 40 ft. (burrow 40 ft., swim 20 ft.)
Melee bite +15 (2d6+11 S)
Ranged ping +18 (2d6+7 So, deafen)
Space 10 feet; Reach 5 feet
Offensive Abilities ping
STATISTICS
Str +5; Dex +4; Con +0; Int -4; Wis +2; Cha +0
Skills Athletics +14, Intimidate +14
Languages none
SPECIAL ABILITIES
Bounce Off (Ex) When an adjacent character makes an attack against a hammerderm and misses, but misses by less than 5, the attack literally bounces off the creature’s hide and reflects back at the attacker. The hammerderm makes an attack roll with a +13 bonus and, if the attack hits, it does its base damage (not including Specialization, ability modifiers, or special abilities) to the attacker.
Ping (Ex) The vibratory sonar of a hammerderm can be focused into a massive damaging “ping”. This counts as a ranged sonic attack with a 30 feet range increment and the deafen critical hit effect. It can fire through a material the hammerderm is currently burrowing or swimming through, but not other materials in contact with it — a hammerderm can ping through the earth it is digging through, but not through a concrete slap or boulder sitting on the earth. A target hit by the ping must make a DC 15 fortitude save or be deafened for 1d4 hours.

Hammerderms are much feared alpha predators most common in areas with long stretches of uninterrupted soil or sand, such as planes, prairies, deserts, river deltas, and beaches. They appear to be some horrific blend of shark and rhino, though its unclear if they are actually a product of mixing the dna of these creatures of if the Unburned World process that created them simply followed the from of those natural animals.

Hammerderms have massively powerful passive sonar, able to sense virbations in soil, water, and even the air making them almost impossible to sneak up on. They also possess an offensive sonic “ping,” a deafening bolt of focused sonic energy projected from an organ known as the tintabulum that runs along the front ridge of their head. If a hammerderm is killed without using any bludgeoning or sonic damage, the tintabulum can be extracted and sold (making up treasure equivalent to the appropriate amount for the hammerderm’s CR).

Hammerderms travel alone or in mated pairs, except when the moon is visible in the evening sky before nighttime, when they gather in small herds of 7-12. Hammerderms give live birth to 2-4 “peens,” which emerge fully capable of fending for themselves. A typical hammerderm is 12-15 feet long and weights around 5,000 lbs.

This is Just The Beginning

If the Mutantiary proves popular, we can do so much more with it! If you are looking for more GammaFinder-appropriate mutant critters right now, you can check out the grizzly boar and rattle-cat, which were designed for Really Wild West, but also work great in GammaFinder!

Catbra

Want More GammaFinder?!
I now depend on my Patreon for more of my income and support than I ever expected to. If you find any value in my blog posts or videos, I could use help with the Patreon. If you can spare a few bucks a month, it’s a huge help. If not, even just sharing and linking to my blogs, videos, and the Patreon itself is a huge help that just takes a moment of your time.

Thanks, everyone.

Themes for GammaFinder, Part 2 (Brain in a Jar, Murderous Toy)

So we introduced some quick and easy rules for GammaFinder, a post-apocalypse campaign hack for Starfinder, introduced the concept of the Unburned World and its relics (Halidom), and then gave some Halidom game rules.

PA Mist Below

Since these have proven very popular so far, I thought I’d try some more GammaFinder stuff, and see how it goes over. Since my simple rules cover things like mutation, and ancient weird tech and magic is covered by Halidoms, it seemed to me the main thing we still needed were some GammaFinder-specific themes.

So I did the Alphite theme. I really like it. It’s a classic vault dweller/domed citizen/erudite lost-lore kind of theme. It’s important to have some useful, interesting options that are easy to pick and create typical characters. Lots of players want that.

But… it’s not weird. Some of the fun of GammaFinder-style settings is that it lets you play WEIRD characters and they don’t stick out like a sore thumb. If the world has cyberdinosaurs, cryptowizards, and psychic evil plants as part of the standard setting, you can do something a bit weirder than a human alphite and just be part of the quilt of crazy.

So, let’s do some crazy themes.

Brain in a Jar (+1 Wis)
You had one really, really bad day. You suffered a serious injury. Kind of the ultimate injury. You lost your body. Everything but your brain, which is now kept alive by a life support system using tech from the Unburned World, which no one really understands or can replicate. Maybe you remember that really bad day, and are driven to seek revenge on those who did this to you. Maybe your yearning to feel the wind on your face again defines your every choice. Or  maybe you just came to, a brain in a jar, and this seems entirely normal to you.
You are unlikely to appreciate “jarhead” jokes.
In addition, you gain an ability adjustment of +1 to Wisdom at character creation.

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Theme Knowledge (1st)
Although you are a living thing, determining your species is tricky. Because you are just a brain in a jar. Recall knowledge checks to determine anything about your biology other than “you are a brain in a jar” take a -10 penalty.
Note that your jay has mechanical limbs, sensory inputs, mobilizers, speakers, and so on. With the exception of a sense of touch or the ability to determine the ambient temperature, you can do all the things a person with a body can do. Since these systems all interact with your brain and need the basic of biology to keep your brain alive, you are also still subject to things like starvation, suffocation, injected poisons and so on. These systems may extend out from your brain, or even form telescoping armor around you as you move, but when you are stationary or asleep, it all folds back to reveal your brain. In a jar.
Medicine checks made regarding you also take a -10 penalty. However, anything that can normally be done with Medicine can also be done for you using Engineering (at no penalty), and you can benefit from any spell or effect (including healing) that can benefit a construct.

Upgrade (6th, 12th)
Your jar develops an upgrade. You gain one of the following feats as a bonus feat: Accelerated Recovery, Ambush Awareness, Arm Extensions, Blind-Fight, Climbing Master, Diehard, Dire Straights, Disease Rejection, Echolocation Attack, Environmental Adaptation, Fleet, Ground Fighting, Hauler, Improved Initiative, Improved Unarmed Strike, Jet dash, Kip Up, Living Ladder, Lunge, Masked Visage, Memory Access, Nanite Integration, Poison Rejection, Positive Conduit, Protective Fur, Solid Stance, Startled Scream, an Swimming Master.
You do not need to meet this feat’s prerequisites. You gain an additional upgrade at 12th level.

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System Check (18th)
You can run an internal diagnostic of your jar, and it’s various functions, to ready yourself for more problems. Up to twice a day you can take one minutes to have anyone (even yourself) make a DC 32 Engineering check to fine-tune your mechanical body extensions. On a successful check, you regain 1 Resolve Point.

Murderous Toy (+1 Dex)
You are a relic of the Unburned World, or at least of a process lost after the Charm of History, You are a heavily modified entity that was turned into a living toy, a literal plaything for the rich and immoral of the world that existed in ancient times. Your species is not changed–if human you are as human as anyone else–but every aspect of your body and appearance was modified, seamlessly, to make you appear to be something fun and innocent. But your mind? Your mind is your own.
You might have been found in your original mint packaging, and only activated once the vault of collectibles you were in was raided. Or you might have had a normal life once, or as normal as life gets in the GammaFinder World, and been transformed by a mad cybersorcerer, DigiDaemons of the Omega Invasion, or a Living Factory-God.

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Theme Knowledge (1st)
You are a small, doll-like creature.
You may look like a brand-new Theddi Ruffspin babysit bear (TM), or a worn, barely-together Bharbe Dholl (c), but you are definitely a toy at first glance. Recall knowledge checks to identify anything about you are at a -10 penalty.
The DC of Culture checks regarding toys and toy brands from the Unburnd World are reduced by 5.
You are literally Small. Nothing else about your race changes. If you are a kasatha, you are still a kasatha… but maybe with big bear ears and fuzzy hide and a cute button nose. You also gain the constructed trait, as and android. If you already have it, you instead gain one of the following alternate android traits of your choice you do not already have (without losing a trait): easily augmented, infosphere integration, multilingual, or nanite upgrade.
In addition, you gain an ability adjustment of +1 to Dexterity at character creation.

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Accessories (6th, 12th)
You gain additional android traits you do not already have, without losing any you do. You can select from those listed with theme knowledge, or gain  exceptional vision, flat affect, or upgrade slot.

Playtime (18th)
You may not like children… but you get a great deal out of playing with them. Up to twice a day you can take 1 minute to play with (innocently and safely) a child, or 10 minutes to meditate on a time when you did so. This cannot overlap with time spent regaining Stamina Points. You regain 1 Resolve Point.

Want More GammaFinder?!
I now depend on my Patreon for more of my income and support than I ever expected to. If you find any value in my blog posts or videos, I could use help with the Patreon. If you can spare a few bucks a month, it’s a huge help. If not, even just sharing and linking to my blogs, videos, and the Patreon itself is a huge help that just takes a moment of your time.

Thanks, everyone.

Themes for GammaFinder, Part 1 (Alphite)

So we introduced some quick and easy rules for GammaFinder, a post-apocalypse campaign hack for Starfinder, introduced the concept of the Unburned World and its relics (Halidom), and then gave some Halidom game rules.

Since these have proven very popular so far, I thought I’d try some more GammaFinder stuff, and see how it goes over. Since my simple rules cover things like mutation, and ancient weird tech and magic is covered by Halidoms, it seemed to me the main thing we still needed were some GammaFinder-specific themes.

PA Bike

Alphite (+1 Int)
You were born and raised in Alpha, the domed (and doomed) city that was the last bastion of order, technology, and science in the GammaFinder world–until it was destroyed by the Omega Invasion. But while you home was smashed, the broad education and basic understanding of how science and even quantum manipulation (called “magic” by the uneducated) function is still with you. It’s not that you are necessarily a scientist as a focus. It’s that you were raised to understand the power of intellect in all things, and given a firm set of conceptual tools you can apply to most problems.

Theme Knowledge (1st)
You received the benefit of an actual classic education. It wasn’t as broad and complete as it would have been in the Unburned World–too much was lost during the Chasm of History–but it was more complete and involved than is available anywhere else in the world that remains. That gives you a grasp of the scientific method, the psychic basics, and core problem solving. You reduce the DC of any skill check to recall knowledge by 3, and when you take 10 on a skill check, you gain a +1 bonus. Select Mysticism or Physical Science. The selected skill is a class skill for you, though if it is a class skill from the class you take at 1st level, you instead gain a +1 bonus to checks with your chosen skill.
In addition, you gain an ability adjustment of +1 to Intelligence at character creation.

Careful Consideration (6th)
The more time you have to consider how to solve a problem, the better you are at doing so. You gain a +2 bonus to skill checks when you take 20. Additionally, you gain a +2 bonus to your second and subsequent skill checks when trying to understand a Halidom.

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Intellectual Dispassion (12th)
Your understanding that everything makes sense if you know enough about it allows you to overcome emotional responses by leaning on your trust of a rational world. When you fail a saving throw against an emotion effect, fear effect, or effect that causes you to be confused, you make expend a Resolve Point as a reaction to immediately reroll the saving throw with a +5 bonus. You take the better of the two save results.

Contemplation (18th)
Sitting back and calmly thinking about your circumstance, your assets, various tactics and methods you can try to overcome your difficulties, and what you know that may assist you in future endeavors calms and centers you, leaving you feeling renewed. Up to twice per day, after you spend at least 10 minutes in deep contemplation (this doesn’t count as resting to regain Stamina Points, and during this time you take a -10 penalty to all Perception checks), you regain 1 Resolve Point.

PA Girl and Dog

A Request
I now depend on my Patreon for more of my income and support than I ever expected to. If you find any value in my blog posts or videos, I could use help with the Patreon. If you can spare a few bucks a month, it’s a huge help. If not, even just sharing and linking to my blogs, videos, and the Patreon itself is a huge help that just takes a moment of your time.

Thanks, everyone.

Halidoms: Relics of the Unburned World for GammaFinder (Part 2)

Okay, we’re still discussing Halidoms, for GammaFinder! We introduced the concept in yesterday’s article, and now we start looking at game rules.

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Halidom Game Rules

Halidoms are a form of item that come without instructions. The GM can replace 25% of all treasure given out with Halidoms, though they are most common as Moderate and Major items.

The good news for layers is that if you find a Halidom, getting it to work gets you a scaling item. A halidom upgrades itself as you gain levels (normally once every 5 levels, based on when a version of roughly the same item is available with a higher item level). The base news is, you may blow yourself up trying to figure out how to use it.

Halidom Key Skills

Every Halidom has a key skill that is the primary way it was designed to be interfaced with. In 70% of cases this is Computers, Engineering, Life Science, Mysticism, or Physical Science. In 20% of cases, it’s Culture, Diplomacy, Medicine, or Sleight of Hand. And in 10% of cases, it can be literally any other skill. That said, take it easy on Halidoms with Profession as their key skill–there are a lot of different Profession options, and no group can possibly cover them all. On the other hand, a quantum knife that keys of Profession (cook) is both reasonable and, if we are being honest with ourselves, funny. (I like the idea of “Soup’s On!” as a battle cry…)

A GM may pick the skill to match either the form of function of the Halidom, if desired. For example, a laser pistol that takes the form of a small remote control steering wheel (which is used to guide a targeting dot like a flying remote, with a gear shift to fire the weapon) might have Engineering (for the laser weapon aspect), Physical Science (for the general laws dictating how such a device works ), or Piloting (for the actual interaction with the device’s steering mechanism).

On the other hand, it might interact with Culture (to recognize the Unburned World toy name brand and marketing), Acrobatics (because you have to twist and turn the device to make its various functions work), or Bluff (because it constantly asks if you have parental approval to use it without the safety systems engaged).

A GM can also just roll on the table below to determine a Halidom’s Key Skill.

Roll 1d100 
01-14 Computers
15-28 Engineering
29-42 Life Science
43-56 Mysticism
57-70 Physical Science
71-75 Culture
76-80 Diplomacy
81-85 Medicine
85-90 Sleight of Hand
91 Acrobatics
92 Athletics
93 Bluff
94 Disguise
95 Intimidate
96 Perception
97 Piloting
98 Profession (Pick one at random)
99 Sense Motive
100 Survival

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Discovery Checks

A Halidom does not come with instructions, and it doesn’t work in a way that is obvious to adventurers of the GammaFinder World. Even if it looks like a gun, acts like a gun, and has a trigger, a Halidom gun may require you to think a mantra in praise to the Saint of Bullets before you pull the trigger, or might have a palmlock that requires you to fake only having 3 fingers, or might only work when held sideways.

And, of course, it might exactly like the serum of healing that requires you to place the gunlike object against your own thigh and pull the trigger.

There were reasons for all these odd things to exist, and they made sense to the society of the Unburned World. But those reasons were based on philosophies and conditions that are in many cases inconceivable to heroes of the world as it exists now, and the factors that caused such unusual designs are long-lost to the Chasm of History.

When a character first encounters a Halidom, they can make skill checks to try to determine its Key Skill. The base DC for any such check is 15 + 1.5x the Halidom’s item level. Any skill that is NOT a Halidom’s key skill has a -5 penalty to all checks regarding the Halidom.

Until a Key Skill is identified, all characters can do it pick a skill, and use it to interact with the Halidom. This can be done once an hour, unless a side effect deactivates the Halidom for a time. You cannot intentionally activate a Halidom until you make enough Identification results to gain that knowledge.

Halidom Interaction Skill Checks
Beat DC by 10. Make a Identification roll.
Beat DC by 5. Identify that if skill being is Key Skill. DC lowered by 1.
Meet DC. Identify if skill being used is Key Skill.
Fail DC by 4 or less. Minor side-effect.
Fail DC by 5 to 9. Minor side-effect. All DCs increase by 1 until Key Skill is identified.
Fail DC by 10 or More: Major side-effect.

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Identification Rolls
Roll 1d4. If you get a result you already know, you get the first result of a higher value you haven’t gotten yet.
1. Learn Item Level
2. Learn Item Function (Small Arm, Upgrade, Computer, and so on)
3. Learn Key Skill’s ability score
4. Learn Key Skill. +1 to all future rolls (cumulative with getting this result multiple times)
5. Learn a hapahazard activation. (Can activate Halidom, but suffer a minor effect when doing so unless you succeed at a Fortitude or Reflex save, DC 10 + Halidom’s item level). +1 to all future rolls (cumulative with getting this result multiple times)
6. Halidom mastered, can be used normally.

Minor Side Effects
Roll 1d6.
1. Item changes Key Skill. Any activation is haphazard (as 5, above) until Key Skill is identified.
2. Take damage of a random physical type, 1 point per item level.
3. Take damage of a random energy type, 2 points per item level.
4. Weird discharge. You are sickened for 1 hour per item level.
5. Weird discharge. You are confused for 1 round per 2 item levels.
6. Discharge. You are targeted by the item for its normal function (if it cannot affect targets, nothing happens).

PA Explosion

Major Side Effects
Major side effects function as a wonder grenade, but the area is a radius with a number of feet equal to the Halidom’s item level, rounded down to the nearest 5 feet. If that is less than 5, it only effect’s the triggering character.

A Request
I now depend on my Patreon for more of my income and support than I ever expected to. If you find any value in my blog posts or videos, I could use help with the Patreon. If you can spare a few bucks a month, it’s a huge help. If not, even just sharing and linking to my blogs, videos, and the Patreon itself is a huge help that just takes a moment of your time.

Thanks, everyone.

Halidoms: Relics of the Unburned World for GammaFinder (Part 1)

I introduced GammaFinder, a post-apocalypse campaign hack for Starfinder, yesterday. The response was… positive. 🙂

So, now I am exploring what kinds of rules we can add to that simple framework to help bring the PA flavor to a GammaFinder campaign. We begin with halidoms… which are going to need to be split into two articles. Here’s Part One.

PA Vault

The Unburned World

No one is sure what happened to create the GammaFinder World. Some say it was a war, fought with quantum reassignment projectors, x-ray-pumped lasers, and boson bombs. Others think there was a Great Disalignment, when magic flooded into the world, dragons awoke, demons rose, and common citizens turned into trolls, orcs, kasatha, and wizards. Other theories include a genetic virus, the Gray Death, luddite cults, social anarchy, and even a rogue comet. The records of the time of the Burning are muddled, contradictory, and confused, as if a half-dozen worlds got shoved together into a single shared disaster.

The Chasm of History

History, in short, has a Chasm. On this side, the GammaFinder World.  Before it, the Unburned World. And in the middle… anarchy, pain, horror, and disagreement. What is certain is that before the rise and fall of the great cities of Alpha and Beta, there was a very different place, able to do things no one can conceive of now.

Halidoms

There are… things… left over from the Unburned World. Or at least, from the time of the Chasm, if not the world before. Objects. Strange devices that use super-science, eldritch powers, or some combination of the two to create effects no one in the GammaFinder World can duplicate. They are often the thing that allows a town to survive in a harsh terrain, grant a petty warlord his power of metal men, or make cursed places seen as vaults of wonder and horror.

These are sometimes called relics, fragments, antiquaries, or crytobjects. But for whatever reason, the most common term for these Unburned Icons is “halidoms.”

Appearance

PA Toy

A halidom can look like… anything. Some are straightforward–a sword hilt which can project a sunblade. A vial of liquid you drink. A talking teddy bear which informs you of the ill intent of nearby creatures. Others are obtuse. A cube made of 27 smaller cubes which slide and shift into different configurations. A gnarled knot of roots and vines that are never observed to move, but constantly seem to be in different shapes. A tiny metal sphere with incorporeal lights orbiting it.

The problem is, form does not seem to follow function. A sword hilt may project a sunblade… or it maybe designed to be shoved into a rock that forms a mouth that gives medical advice. A vial of glowing liquid may be meant to be drunk, or it may hold the soul of a cryptowizard that casts one random technomancer spell a day. A spoon may full a bowl with soup, or it may project a sunblade.

A GM wanting a jumping-off point for the appearance of a halidom can roll 1d10 and consult the table below. It’s important to note that players don’t get to know what you rolled–if a haildom looks like a gun, that could be because its a kind of gun and you rolled a 1, or it could be a computer, and you rolled a 5.

  1. Typical appearance for its function (a gun looks like a gun)
  2. Representational appearance for its function (a gun looks like stone with a gun-shaped rune on it)
  3. Appears to be a puzzle with no link to its function
  4. Appears to be a toy
  5. Appears to be a typical appearance for an unrelated function (a gun that looks like a vial of serum)
  6. Appears to be a shifting mass of some specific material (a gun that looks like a ball of wires with tiny lights traveling along them)
  7. Representational appearance unrelated to its function (a gun that looks like a holy symbol)
  8. Appearance of a household object unrelated to its appearance (a gun that looks like spoon).
  9. Appearance of an item of apparel with some hint of its function (a gun that looks like a glove with a barrel on the wrist)
  10. Appearance of an item of apparel with no hint of its function (a gun that looks like a belt)

PA Engine

Most denizens of the GammaFinder World don’t risk trying to determine the function of a halidom once they realize what it is. But PCs are made of sterner (or dumber) stuff. So they tend to… experiment.

We’ll get into the rules for interacting with a halidom tomorrow.

A Request

I now depend on my Patreon for more of my income and support than I ever expected to. If you find any value in my blog posts or videos, I could use help with the Patreon. If you can spare a few bucks a month, it’s a huge help. If not, even just sharing and linking to my blogs, videos, and the Patreon itself is a huge help that just takes a moment of your time.

Thanks, everyone.

 

GammaFinder — Simple PA rules for Starfinder

I am a huge fan of Post-Apocalypse games. That may be why I wrote for Sword and Sorcery’s Gamma World line, and d20 Apocalypse.

PA Fallen Tower

Setting

The world ended. A few times. But for living memory, there were two Great Cities — Alpha, a land of ancient technology and highly-educated people living in a gentle, safe, totalitarian Bubble; and Beta — A huge, sprawling rough-and-tumble metroplex of rivers and bridges and canyons where mutants and rogues lived and traded and taught and sometime killed each other, but were free of most outside influences. Both had occasional visitors from a Third Great City — Gamma — but no one knew where ti was or what it was really like.

The Omega Invasion was unlike anything that had been seen in centuries. New horrors, new machines, new creatures, wiped out Alpha and Beta. The OI seemed poised to wipe out all life… until the Gamma Strike, which wrecked their bases and leaders, and left them in a scattered wreck of damaged robots and crazed ex-soldiers and experiments.

But there are Omega Invasion forces left, and they are trying to rebuild their armies. So heroes must seek out Gamma, and see if it can be convinced to once again save the world of the GammaFinders.

PA swirl cowgirl

Level

Characters start at 4th level. The GammaFinder World is a harsh place, so we start with more competent characters. And that means you are just one level of a nice ability score bump!

Starships

Not happening, don’t worry about them.

PA Wizard

Emphasis

Every character gets an emphasis. There are three available at the moment.

Mutations: Select one item of your character level -1, or two of your level -3. You gain the abilities of those items as mutations. If they use batteries or ammo, you can use the ability as often each day as one full load of ammo or batteries. As you gain levels, you can change these items. When you gain levels you can improve your mutations to higher-levels of the same thing, or switch to entirely different items your mutations emulate, to represent ongoing mutation.

Relic: Select one item of your character level +1 or less. You have an ancient piece of tech that does what that item does, though you can change its appearance. If it has batteries or ammo, you refill them each time you spend Resolve to regain SP following a 10-minute rest. If your relic is lost or destroyed, you get a replacement when you gain your next level. You can change your relic at each character level, to represent the shifting effects of this ancient technology.

Talent: You get one bonus feat at every odd level. You must meet the prerequisites. Alternatively, at each off level you can gain one additional spell slot of the highest-level spell you can cast at that level. If you select this latter choice, you are likely described as a “psionic” or “witch.”

PA raiders

Items

You get one item of your level (Major Item), one of your level-1 (Moderate Item), one of your level -2 (Minor Item), and one of your level -3 (Incidental Item). If it’s a consumable item, you can replace it when used at the beginning of each day (you may be able to make a new one, or find a new one, or have something that produces refills for it once per day).

These items don’t go up in level automatically, and if lost are not replaced.

PA truck

Level Advancement and Treasure

You gain a level every 12 encounters. Over 6 encounters, you expect (on average) to get one Major, one Moderate, one Minor, and three Incidental items. If you have the ranks in a skill needed to make an item, you can convert an items of the same type into a different item, once. Every time after that you convert and item, it loses one item level.

That’s it! It’s otherwise just Starfinder as a quick-and-easy PA setting!

A Request

I now depend on my Patreon for more of my income and support than I ever expected to. If you find any value in my blog posts or videos, I could use help with the Patreon. If you can spare a few bucks a month, it’s a huge help. If not, even just sharing and linking to my blogs, videos, and the Patreon itself is a huge help that just takes a moment of your time.

Thanks, everyone.

Social Distance Thoughts. GM-less 5e Gaming: Part One – Skills

Pandemic changes things. For everyone’s sake, we need to adapt. For our own sakes, we need to stay sane.

At least for the next few weeks, a lot of us aren’t going out and doing the things we normally do. That leaves us with only online options to interact with friends.

RPGs are a great way to spend time with friends. And if you are willing to go theater-of-the-mind, it works great just via chat or video conference.

But, no one may be in the mood to act as GM.

So, a group of 2-4 friends sure CAN run through a pre-generated adventure without a GM, or a map. Just treat it as a board game, deal with one encounter at a time, roll targets of attacks randomly, and don’t get too hung up on things like tactics or worrying about player knowledge. One Facilitator reads each encounter as you run into it (and maybe that role rotates), and players agree to deal with things cooperatively.

You can even use these ideas to run yourself through adventures on your own, a kind of Gaming Solitaire.

But… it might be nice to have some guidelines for things like skill checks interacting with encounters, when you don’t have a GM to make rulings. So:

GM-less 5e Skill Rules

This is just the beginning of a potential ruleset for playing through a published 5e module with friends, likely online and without a virtual tabletop, and without a GM. This is a first set of thoughts—the beginning of this idea, rather than the end.

Group Skill Decisions

When you want to try something the text doesn’t give you guidance on, the group needs to decide on a DC for the effort. The player proposing the action suggests an ability and related skill, and describes how the action would work. The group then sees if they can agree that the thing being proposed would be Very Easy to accomplish, Easy, Medium, Hard, Very Hard, or Nearly Impossible. The default DC of anything the group can’t decide on is 20 (Hard).

3d illustration of low poly mystical dungeon with a gate in the rock. Game locations with poisons. Above the stone gates is a dragon sculpture with glowing green eyes. Stylized art with bokeh effect.

Ability Checks Table: Typical Difficulty Classes

Task Difficulty   (DC)

Very Easy (5)

Easy (10)

Medium (15)

Hard (20)

Very Hard (25)

Nearly Impossible (30)

Each ability score lists the skills associated with it, along with typical results for success and failure of skill checks that aren’t specifically outlines in the adventure. Have fun with these checks. Describe the attempts, discuss how the story plays out. It’s a different kind of roleplaying, but no less fun or effective for being more cooperative.

For example, the adventure says there is a locked door. Kyla suggests her barbarian should be able to shoulder the door open with a Strength (Athletics) check. The group agrees that’s possible, but given it’s a sturdy, well-maintained door, it’ll be Hard. Kyla attempts a DC 20 Strength (Athletics) check. If she succeeded, she could bypass the obstacle (forcing the door open). As it happens she fails. The typical failure for Strength Athletics) is to take Damage equal to DC -20 -2d6. That’s a base of 10 (DC 20 -10) hp of damage. Kyla rolls 2d6, and gets a 7, which she also subtracts. She ends up taking 3 (10 -7) points of damage, and the door is not open.

Strength

(Athletics) – Success: Overcome one obstacle. Cause one monster to be unable to act for 1d4 rounds. Failure: Take damage equal to task DC -10 -2d6 (minimum 0).

Dexterity

(Acrobatics) – Success: Overcome one obstacle. Cause one monster to be unable to affect you for 1d3 rounds. Failure: Take damage equal to task DC -10 -3d6 (minimum 0).

(Sleight of Hand) – Success: Take one item of fist-size or less from the encounter. Cause one monster to be unable to use an item for 1 round. Failure: Disadvantage on defensive rolls for 1 round.

(Stealth) – Success: Escape an encounter. Examine an encounter without triggering it. Failure: Trigger an encounter, lose turn failing to escape the encounter.

Constitution

Endure a hazard or circumstance for 1d4 rounds without taking additional damage or penalties.

Intelligence

(Arcana) – Learn the details of one magic creature, effect, trap, curse, or similar item. Failure: False information causes you to be at disadvantage for your next check against the magic examined.

(History) – Learn the details of one ruin or established settlement, or item pertaining to it. Failure: False information causes you to be at disadvantage for your next check against the place or related item examined.

(Investigation) – Learn the details of one location you can examine unhindered. Failure: False information causes you to be at disadvantage for your next check against the location or a related item examined.

(Nature) – Learn the details of one natural creature, effect, hazard, location, terrain, or similar item. Failure: False information causes you to be at disadvantage for your next check against the natural creature or phenomenon examined.

(Religion) – Learn the details of one religion or a related creature, effect, trap, curse, or similar item. This specifically includes angels, demons, devils, and undead. Failure: False information causes you to be at disadvantage for your next check against the religious subject examined.

Wisdom

(Animal Handling) – Success: Overcome one animal-based encounter that has not yet become a combat without it becoming one. Cause one animal to be unable to affect you for 1d3 rounds. Instruct a friendly animal to take a specific action. Failure: Bad interaction causes you to be at disadvantage with your next check with the relevant animal.

(Insight) – Success: Learn the true intentions of one intelligence creature. If the creature intends to attack you, you may take an action to begin the combat before the creature does. Failure: Bad conclusion causes you to be at disadvantage with your next check with the relevant creature.

(Medicine) – Success: Learn the nature of one disease or poison. Stabilize a dying creature. Prevent a disease, bleed, or poison from affecting its victim for 1 round. Failure: target takes 1 hp.

(Perception) – Success: Learn all elements of an encounter. Failure: No penalty.

(Survival) – Success: Live off the land without using up supplies for 1 day. Avoid one natural hazard. Locate a natural encounter and observe it without setting it off. Failure: One random party member takes 1 hp.

Charisma

(Deception) – Success: Overcome one non-combat encounter with intelligent creatures. Gain advantage on your next check with one creature in a combat encounter. Failure: You are at disadvantage on your next check with the creature you attempted to deceive.

(Intimidation) – Success: Overcome one non-combat encounter with intelligent creatures. Gain advantage on your next check with one creature in a combat encounter. Failure: Creature attacks you.

(Performance) – Success: Gain advantage for the next check a party member makes in a non-combat encounter with intelligent creatures. Failure: Suffer disadvantage for the next check a party member makes in a non-combat encounter with intelligent creatures.

(Persuasion) – Success: Overcome one non-combat encounter with nonhostile intelligent creatures. Failure: No penalty.

A Request

I now depend on my Patreon for more of my income and support than I ever expected to. If you find any value in my blog posts or videos, I could use help with the Patreon. If you can spare a few bucks a month, it’s a huge help. If not, even just sharing and linking to my blogs, videos, and the Patreon itself is a huge help that just takes a moment of your time.

Thanks, everyone.