Even More Rules of the Apocalypse


Welcome back to the final content update for the Apocalypse Campaign Guide Kickstarter. We’re now entering the last week of the Kickstarter project.

In the previous two updates I talked a little bit about crafting, community building, and handling vehicle MPG for those who want fuel to be a sought after resource in their campaigns. This week we’ll go a little into things like genetic mutations and cybernetics, which use the same rules between them, and a new feature for characters called Values.

First up: the genetic mutations and other character altering stuff.

We went through several iterations of rules on handling genetic mutations and cybernetics. Some were very abstract; some were super-crunchy (bring your own salsa). Neither worked for what we wanted. So I started looking to different sources on how such things might be handled, primarily via role-playing games I have in my PDF and physical library. I have a ton. Way too many, in fact. I should probably sell some of this stuff eventually, because when Anna and I buy a home in the next few years (we currently rent), I’m not looking forward to moving all this stuff. Especially stuff like RPGs that I honestly will never have the time to play again. I’m talking AD&D 2e, TORG, the Marvel Universe RPG (the system that used the stone resource allocation), even the original Elfquest RPG from Chaosium.

Eventually I came upon Cyberpunk 2020. I read through the sections I needed, and the proverbial lightbulb went off. At some point after that in design, I also started looking through various Savage Worlds products for the same themes. I’d already decided to translate what I wanted from the Cyberpunk 2020 system into Savage Worlds terms, but then I discovered it had already been done. Now don’t get me wrong, I can’t say with authority that that’s where those designers got the idea from, but the similarities were suddenly no longer lost on me. I’d just never seen it before because I hadn’t cracked open Cyberpunk 2020 in almost 20 years. But I found similar systems for handling cybernetics in Interface Zero 2.0, the Science Fiction Companion, Rippers, and even in the gear catalogue for Deadlands Reloaded.

So taking in all the above, looking for common threads that were already prevalent in Savage Worlds, and adding in my own that I felt were needed, here’s the basic system I came up with.

If you’re familiar with various forms of cybernetic rules in Savage Worlds, you’ll see a common theme. Characters usually have a threshold, called Strain or something else, that governs the number of slots they have available for cybernetics. Going above that threshold causes Fatigue that cannot be recovered (except by removing the extra parts) and that can eventually lead to death. So, we already have that system spread between several different products by different publishers. Meaning: it’s likely a sub-system Savage Worlds fans are already very familiar with.

It also mimics the sub-systems of older games like Cyberpunk 2020, Shadowrun (Essence loss), and others.

Now, how you come about the Strain value varies. It might be a derived statistic from Vigor or Spirit, or something else.

I also wanted to use some sort of Psychosis rules, ala Cyberpunk 2020; and I also wanted to avoid a single “stat dump” mechanic to determine the thresholds.

So, here’s the basics of what I wrote.

Every character, PC or NPC, has a Strain (though I might change that term before it goes to layout) threshold equal to their Toughness. Edges that increase Toughness increase that threshold, and there are also specific Edges that can increase your Strain without increasing the damage mitigation of your Toughness. Meaning that you have a choice in creating your character, and wanting them to have a decent Strain doesn’t force you to also stat-dump into Vigor or take damage mitigating Toughness increasing Edges. You can be average in the damage mitigation and Vigor department, and still have a decent Strain.

Each genetic mutation or cybernetic, or what have you, uses a specific number of slots. Each slot costs 1-Strain. Go above that threshold, and you will take damage that can only be recovered by removing the extra slots, and take too much over the threshold and you’ll die. Of course some things like cybernetics are easy to remove, whereas genetic mutations are not.

This also mimics what we see in a lot of fiction where we have the super-cybered or seriously-mutated, hulking brute of a monster.

I also have another derived statistic besides Strain, and that is Empathy. The Empathy stat is determined by your Spirit. In addition to costing Strain, each slot used also reduces your Empathy. Once your Empathy reaches zero, you hit the point where further augmentation will affect your ability to interact with other living things. When your Empathy goes below zero, each further point of loss reduces your Charisma by -1, which means it affects your Persuasion and Streetwise rolls. Additionally, each point it drops below zero gives you a +1 bonus to Intimidate and Test of Wills rolls. You’ll also have to roll on a Psychosis chart to see what issues you’re going to take on.

Basically, the more you’re mutated, cybered, and so forth, the less and less human you’ll become on an emotional level, and the more chances for some serious mental and emotional issues to develop. Which, we felt, duplicated what we see in various novels, TV shows, and films.

Now, on to Values.

In an apocalypse setting, the most famous characters have things that are vitally important to them. It might be a child, a spouse, a photograph, a religious belief . . . the possibilities are endless. The Apocalypse Campaign Guide has an optional rule for characters called Values, and they represent those things about a character.

Players start with between 3 to 7 Value Points at character creation. What the player does is create one or more Values, which can be the notation of a simple item or even a phrase about something important to them, and assigns a numerical value to it from their point pool. The higher the numerical value, the more important it is to the character. During play, when one of the Values would directly inspire the character in some way, the player can use any number of the assigned points for that Value to gain a +1 to the roll per point spent. Points can also be spent to immediately recover from a Shaken condition instead of it costing a benny. Once a point is spent, it is checked off and is no longer available— so Values are not an unlimited resource.

Value points reset at the end of an adventure, not a gaming session. So use them wisely, and mainly during dramatic moments.

GMs can also use Values against the players. When the GM feels a Value would hinder a character’s action, he can opt to use the Value to cause the player a -2 or -4 to the roll. For each -2 the GM penalizes the roll, the player receives a benny. Alternatively, the player can deny the Value being used. To do this they have two options. As a free action (similar to getting rid of a Shaken result), they can make a Spirit roll with a modifier equal to the -2 or -4 the GM was trying to cause. On a success, they take only half the penalty to the Trait roll they were otherwise about to make (so -1 or -2) and still get a single benny. On a raise, they resist the penalty entirely. They can also simply spend a benny to deny the penalty entirely. The player only need spend one benny, regardless of the proposed penalty.

And that’s it for this update. It’s now entering the final week for funding, so feel free to check it out over at Kickstarter.