The end of the world happened as we expected, too many people squabbling over too many things. And with their super weapons, a new breed of terror was unleashed. Not only did the radiation spread, it became aware, it gained its own life. And what followed? I dare not say… All that is certain is the horrors of this war spawned all of them. Protect yourself at all costs, should you run into such a mockery of life.
The post-apocalypse, a staple of darker science fiction. There are few greater fears than not only one’s own death, but the death of the world we live in. Or at the very least, the death of civilization. In most cases, we wouldn’t have roaming raiders, so much as starved out and depressed barbarians. But, since science fiction gives some leeway, we’re able to explore the grittier side with the likes of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road to the more gonzo like Mad Max and all of the bootlegs and homages that it inspired! (And ’70s/’80s Italian post-apocalyptic bootlegs are simply incredible.) Or go even further with the likes of Adventure Time, especially in the more recent years as the old world was further expanded upon. Even if settlements are rebuilding the old world and some semblance of stability comes to the wastes, there are still many hazards that roam the blasted out reaches. Just like the dungeon crawls and treks of D&D fantasy, the world has regressed into an age of buried secrets, monstrous threats, lost knowledge and high adventure!
With that, today I’m going to focus on retooling some old ideas I’ve had for post-apocalyptic settings. Effects of radiation, as well as enfeebled equipment and ruins of buildings are given some spit and polish. Plus, I wanted to bring back a fair share of gruesome and ghoulish creatures I had worked on in the past. Whether it’s an elemental power of radiation itself or the many mutants that is probably created, there are tons of familiar faces. While I wanted to make a scrapping based craft mechanic, I couldn’t really settle on a base craft mechanic. To be fair, neither has core D&D really. And until we have an expanded idea, there are tons of concepts floating throughout the web. So, I’ll likely come back to that in the future.
Author’s Note: Here’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a while! In fact, it’s part 1 for that matter. Expect a heaping helping of horrifying mutants within the next couple of days to next week! Stay glowing, my radioactive muties!
Revised and New Rules:
Sometimes reality breaks down a little in sights of impossible occurrences. These events are called “anomalies”. Normally, these forces are completely invisible and lie until activated. However, people who are sensitive to the supernatural can detect its presence; either through a DC 13 Arcana check or a Detect Magic/Detect Evil and Good spell. (For games that deal with more science fiction elements rather than fantasy elements, I’ll return to this post later and edit an option for those not using Arcana.) Without the aid of powerful artifacts or magic, anomalies can’t be destroyed.
NOTE: There is a strong chance that this WILL kill a character upon contact. It’s recommended that you use anomalies sparingly. In addition, the following are examples based on the STALKER video games. Feel free to modify and alter as you see fit!
Should a creature step within 5ft. range of an anomaly, it triggers. The DM rolls a d100, with a corresponding anomaly for that roll.
- 1 – 10: A deadly force tries to rip you apart. The target must make a DC 15 Constitution saving throw. Upon failure, they take 55 (10d10) Force damage and is dragged to the center of the anomaly with halved speed while inside the anomaly; taking half on a successful save. If the target is dropped to 0 HP, they’re torn apart into bloody mist and die instantly. Creatures who start their turn in the vortex must save again versus more damage.
- 11 – 15: A bright beam gives way to a fiery pillar. The target must make a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw. Upon failure, they take 16 (3d10) fire damage and 16 (3d10) radiant damage.
- 16 – 25: A distinctly neon puddle oozes with malevolence. The target may also attempt a DC 13 Perception check to notice this. Any creature that fails to detect and enters it is immediately attacked by the puddle. It gains a +7 to hit, dealing 21 (4d8+3) acid damage. In addition, any equipment that isn’t a rare artifact or magic item gains the enfeebled property (see below) until repaired.
- 26 – 45: This area contains a faint glow, casting a wicked dim light. This area is heavily irradiated. It is always treated 1 level higher in terms of radiation exposure. Targets who die from radiation caused by this anomaly become Zombies 1d4 turns later. (At DM’s Discretion, they may use the Radiation Zombie I made.)
- 46 – 60: A see-through moss-like substance clings to surfaces and droops downward. In addition to tracking it through supernatural means, seeing it requires a DC 18 Perception. In truth, this substance is a physical energy that lashes out against living creatures. When a creature enters the area, it rolls a +8 to hit, dealing 14 (3d6+4) slashing damage and 11 (2d10) psychic damage. It may attack twice.
- 61 – 75: A cloud of red misty vapor hangs over the area. A DC 10 Perception allows a character to notice before entering the area. Should they still do so, they must make a DC 16 Constitution saving throw. Failure results in taking 39 (6d12) necrotic damage, success halves the damage. Any creature that starts its turn in the mist must make the save again. The target’s maximum HP is reduced by the total damage they take from this effect. Only a Greater Restoration spell or related spell that is more powerful can undo the lost maximum hit points.
- 76 – 85: A whirling invisible vortex unleashes powerful winds. While this anomaly can be felt up to 15ft. away from its zone of influence, any creature that gets within 5ft. of its zone must make a DC 16 Dexterity saving throw. Failure results in them getting sucked into the center and tossed around the vortex before spit out in a random direction. The tossed target will be thrown up to 30ft. unless stopped by a wall or obstructing surface. The target also take 36 (8d8) bludgeoning damage, which counts as magical for purposes of resistance and immunity.
- 86 – 93: A amorphous ball of energy shifts color and form. This anomaly can be seen by any creature who rolls a DC 10 Perception check. Creatures that interact with it directly are treated as if target of a True Polymorph spell. The anomaly is always concentrating on it and may do so to multiple targets.
- 94 – 100: A distortion of space warps all visuals nearby. In order to detect this anomaly, a creature must roll a DC 20 Perception check. Upon failure, the character must make an Intelligence saving throw upon interacting with this anomaly. Failure will cause them to be sucked into its distorted portal. The creature is now trapped in a bubble dimension outside of space and time, but observing everything around them. Escape is impossible, unless they are capable of planar travel. Artifacts that act as planar keys allow free travel though.
The Radiant Glow, a force of power. At the same time? It’s a force of unrelenting destruction! Radiation delivers, it consumes, it builds, it destroys.
Radiation – An irradiated area is highly dangerous, should a character remain there long enough. For every 10 minutes that a character stays in a radioactive zone, they must make a Constitution saving throw. If the character fails now or during subsequent times, they gain the exhaustion next time they take a long rest or 8 hours during a moment of recuperation. Creatures killed by radiation are likely to give off a radioactive signature, sometimes rise up as irradiated undead.
Radiation Damage – This new damage type is caused by irradiated creatures. Similar to being exposed to a radioactive area, too much radiation damage at once can lead to radiation poisoning. For the sake of weakness, resistance and immunity; it is a mixture of Necrotic and Radiant damage types.
Characters that are resistant to Radiation Damage also gain advantage on saving throws against radiation. Likewise, immunity to the damage would bring immunity to radiation poisoning.
|Table: Radiation Damage Severity|
|Total Radiation Damage Taken Over the Course of 1 Minute (10 Rounds)||Equivalent Amount of Radiation Exposure|
|0 – 9||None|
|10 – 20||Mild|
|21 – 40||Low|
|41 – 60||Moderate|
|61 – 80||High|
|Total Maximum Hit Points||Death|
|Table: Radiation Sickness|
|Exposure||Constitution Saving Throw DC||Resulting Damage|
|Mild||10||1 Level Exhaustion|
|Low||14||2 Levels Exhaustion|
|Moderate||18||3 Levels Exhaustion|
|High||22||4 Levels Exhaustion|
|Severe||26||5 Levels Exhaustion|
Campaign Option: Prolonged Environment Exposure – To add a more realistic approach, radiation might have a more latent effect on the victim. Depending on how long also depends how severe of an infection could be. This assumes the radiation is in a spread out area that on average stays at a level of radiation.
|Table: Time in An Irradiated Area|
|Level||1 round||1 minute||10 minutes||1 hour||1 day|
Incubation for after preliminary radiation exposure – 1 Round = 1 Day, 1 Minute = 4d6 hours, 10 Minutes = 3d6 hours, 1 Hour = 2d6 hours, 1 Day = 1d6 hours
Campaign Option: Fallout-Style Radiation – In this module, we assume you’re running a game closer to Fallout. Either that or you aren’t a huge fan of the D20 Modern style radiation tables. In this module, radiation checks are based on frequency to simulate how intense the radiation is. Instead of rising levels of exhaustion for higher levels, the player simply rolls saves more often. Failure results in 1 level of exhaustion. When in combat, engaged against a radioactive creature; the character must also save based on the level the creature gives off.
Level of Radiation in Area – Save Frequency
Light Radiation – Once every 2d6 rounds (1 minute – 10 rounds)
Moderate Radiation – Once every 1d6 rounds (1/2 minute – 5 rounds)
High Radiation – Once every 1d3* rounds (1/4 minute – 2 / 3 rounds)
Severe Radiation – 1 round
*If you lack “zocchi” dice, roll a D4 instead and reroll any 4 you may get.
Monstrous Radiation (How radioactive the monster is) – Save Frequency (This form of radiation is considerably more concentrated and thus more deadly)
Light Radiation – Once every 1d8 rounds (1/2 minute)
Moderate Radiation – Once every 1d4 rounds (1/4 minute)
High Radiation – Once every 1d2 rounds (Every other round)
Severe Radiation – Every time attacked by Radiation damage
Campaign Option: Medical Treatment – Due to the harsh power of radiation, afflicted require intensive treatment. Under normal circumstance, these infections will not go away with rest. During a long rest, someone trained in Medicine or in a healing kit can attempt to help a victim recover from 1 level of exhaustion (DC 20). However, Greater Restoration helps remove a level of radiation poisoning as well. Failure results in treatment being ineffective for that period. This cannot be tried again during the remainder of that rest. Alternatively, alchemical or medical cures could be created, similar to healing potions and poisons. A “RadAway” equivalent could be crafted to remove Exhaustion caused by Radiation.
Crumbling Infrastructure –
Old world ruins continue to weaken and break down as time goes on and they continue to lie in abandonment. As such, trekking through them tends to be extremely dangerous and can result in collapses. However, should enough people actively work with supplies, they could either scrap a building or re-purpose it back to working order.
The exploring character must make a Survival check (DC 12) to successfully find a way into a decrepit building. At the GM’s discretion, for every 250 – 1,000 feet that the player travels in a building (especially in a larger one) , roll another check. If the check fails to meet the DC, part of the building faces damage.
|Level of Damage||Post Apocalypse||Years Later||Decades Later||EONS LATER!||Survival Check DC|
|Slight Damage||1||1d4||1d6||1d8||DC 12|
|Heavy Damage||1d4||1d6||1d8||1d10||DC 16|
|Extreme Damage||1d6||1d8||1d10||1d12||DC 20|
|Falling Apart||1d8||1d10||1d12||Collapse||DC 24|
Additional Modifiers – Sometimes, certain parts of a structure face different means of devastation.
- Has previously surveyed a similar building in the last day: +2
- Takes time, moving half speed and observing surroundings carefully: +4
- Rushes, taking a dash action, hastily observing: -4
- Is completely oblivious to type of structure or does not know relevant building knowledge: -2
- Previously fought enemies in the area/took violent action in general: -2
- Reinforced/built with steel – bump down 1 die tier (1d6>1d4)
- Reinforced/built with concrete/full concrete – bump down 2 die tiers (1d10>1d6)
- Built with poorly treated wood/other materials – bump up 1 die tier (1d6>1d8)
- Close to source of destruction – bump up 2 die tiers (1d6>1d10)
- At ground zero – bump up to 1d12, otherwise automatic collapse
- Dusty Cloud: You kick up a noxious cloud of heavy dust, causing a cough fit. Similar to Stinking Cloud, the target must make a Constitution saving throw or spend their action retching and coughing.
- Moldy Smog: Like Dusty Cloud, but the target is also Poisoned for 1 hour.
- Hole Punch: The target is grabbed as a hand or foot is lodged into the building. Careless removal could cause more damage.
- Painful Hole Punch: The target is instead restrained, and take an additional 3 (1d6) bludgeoning and 3 (1d6) piercing as they hit against jagged edges, components and other damaging surfaces of the building in the process.
- Debris from Above: A piece of the building falls off, towards the target. They must make a Dexterity saving throw (equal to the DC). Failure results in taking 7 (2d6) bludgeoning damage.
- Slight Ceiling Collapse: Similar to the Debris from Above, except now exploring in this part of the building with Survival causes disadvantage and they suffer 10 (3d6) damage instead.
- Slight Wall Collapse: A wall falls on the target. They must make a Dexterity saving throw (equal to the DC above) or take 13 (3d8) bludgeoning damage. The target is also stuck (restrained) and must take 1d4 rounds trying to escape or have someone help them.
- Floor Collapse: The floor beneath the target gives way, causing them to plummet to the floor below them. They must make a Dexterity saving throw to avoid causing another mishap in the building.
- Total Ceiling Collapse: Most of the ceiling for that floor caves in on a the target. They must make a Dexterity saving throw or take 22 (4d10) bludgeoning damage. The area is now much harder to explore. All ruined area is difficult terrain.
- Total Wall Collapse: Like slight wall collapse, only they take 22 (5d8) damage instead. In addition, the structure increases in damage level (heavy damage becomes extreme damage). All ruined area is difficult terrain.
- Section Collapse: The entirety of an area falls apart, which takes 1d4 rounds to do so. The target must make a Dexterity saving throw or take 26 (4d12) bludgeoning damage and they are pinned down by debris. Like Wall Collapse, the target is pinned. They must take 1d10 rounds instead, taking 1d6 damage each round they are in the debris. If allies help to clear the area, this is significantly expedited. Nearby areas increase one level of damage. All ruined area is difficult terrain.
- Complete Collapse: The whole building gives up the ghost. The target suffers like they were subject to section collapse, except everyone in the building must make the saving throw. In addition, the damage from the collapse is 39 (6d12).
Like structures, eventually equipment begins to break down as well. As such, this equipment is considered “feeble” Overtime, ancient equipment loses its luster, becoming far weaker and worn out. Sometimes, it’s from exposure to bad environments. Other times, it’s from strange monsters capable of destructive power. In addition to weakened metals, arms and armory crafted from rock and bone are likely no where near as durable as stronger equivalents.
While wielding this weapon, targets that are wearing non-feeble armor (including natural armor or related bonuses) have resistance to its damage. Targets that have non-feeble armor that have resistance to non-magical weapons are immune to attacks from this weapon. Furthermore, rolling a Natural 1 on the die destroys this weapon. In addition, armor with the feeble property grants -1 AC penalty upon any armor above leather. If a target scores a natural 20 against your armor, it shatters. However, if either the target or attacker is wielding a feeble weapon and the other has feeble armor, this quality is ignored. However, the Nat 1/Nat 20 rule still applies.
Special Thanks to Ed Wilson, for inspiring a good chunk of this. Also, special thanks for D20 Modern RPG and Dark Sun Campaign Setting by TSR Inc/Wizards of the Coast, which provided some initial ideas for this. Also, a huge shout out to GSC Game World for creating one of my favorite franchises, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.!
Image Credit: Radiation Elemental – Soundlust; STALKER Anomaly – Llirik_13; The Glowing Sea (Fallout 4) – Bethesda Software; Wastelands – joakimolofsson; Ghoulish Perk (Fallout 4) – Bethesda Software; Weapon Break Screenshot (Breath of the Wild) – Nintendo