d100 Results of Drug-Addled Engineering

Rick and Morty Dot Com, Forever and EverAn engineer locks herself in a room with her tools, a ton of miscellaneous parts, and a fucking mountain of drugs. A week later she walks out holding __________ in her hands.

Any attempt to modify these devices after you come down from your high is completely fruitless. They are impossibly complex, relying entirely on drug-addled logic. You don’t have any idea how they work, let alone how to change the way they work.

I should note that this table was requested by one of my players, who plays an engineer with a drug problem.

  1. Goggles which replace everyone’s heads with emoticons.
  2. Goggles that make anyone under 12 years old invisible to the wearer.
  3. Goggles that monitor conversations for context clues. If you hear someone’s name, then the goggles heard the name as well, and will remember it. From now on, any time you see that person, their name will be displayed above their heads.
  4. A grenade which opens a hole to some eldritch place of tentacles, eyes, and eye-tentacles.
  5. A grenade filled with compacted birthday party accoutrements. Baloons, confetti, streamers, and cake will all explode outward when the grenade is thrown. There’s even a banner which attaches itself to the nearest wall.
  6. A sort of implosion grenade. When detonated, it compresses everything in a 10′ radius into a 2′ square cardboard box.
  7. Subdermal telescoping dick elongator. Produce painful, 1′ erections at will!
  8. Subdermal LEDs, allowing the engineer to produce glowing dots of red, blue, or green in a 5×5 grid on the center of their chest.
  9. Subdermal laser pointer installed beneath the finger, allowing the character to point much further away than they would normally be able to!
  10. A palm-size box with a digital monitor. Pressing a button causes it to display a random number between 1 and 10,000
  11. A palm-sized box with a speaker. Pressing a button causes one of a number of random sounds to play. There are several bird calls, shouted profanities, brief clips of synthetic music, and farts.
  12. A palm-sized box with a speaker on it. Pressing a button causes the box to wait for 10 minutes, then emit an ear-splittingly loud tone for 1 hour.
  13. Shoes which light up with every step you take.
  14. Shoes with a button on the side of them. When the button is pressed, the shoes cause the wearer to begin dancing–at least below the waist. Roll to determine the type of dance the shoe is capable of: 1. Tap, 2. Salsa, 3. Ballroom, 4. Ballet.
  15. Shoes which, when the heels are tapped together, produce a row of 4 wheels down the center of the sole. Rollerblades triple your movement rate over smoothly paved areas, although you may be forced to make saves versus Wipeout whenever you are struck, or the referee judges the terrain is unfavorable.
  16. A buttplug, attached via a wire to a wrist-mounted screen. This screen shows details of your body temperature, as well as numerical representations of your health, fatigue, etc. Essentially, this device allows you to view parts of your character sheet within the game world.
  17. A buttplug that vibrates.
  18. A buttplug with a button on it. If the button is pushed while the plug is in someone’s butt, it will attune to that person. If the button is pushed while not in their butt, and they are within 1 mile of the buttplug, it will turn to point in their direction.
  19. A 4×4 steel crate with mechanisms haphazardly welded all over it. Anyone kept inside of it for 3 hours will have their height modified by 1d4 – 3 inches.
  20. A 4×4 steel crate with mechanisms haphazardly welded all over it. Things placed inside of it are teleported to an unknown location. At least you think they’re teleported. That’s what the screen says is happening. From your perspective they just sorta…disappear.
  21. A 4×4 steel crate with mechanisms haphazardly welded all over it. Objects appear in it occasionally. Never anything very useful, just random crap. it’s unclear where it comes from.
  22. A pen that explodes when clicked three times.
  23. A pair of pens. Any motion made with the red one is duplicated by the blue one. By moving the red one, the blue pen can be made to stand up and write, however some part of the blue pen must always be resting on a surface. It doesn’t levitate or fly.
  24. A pen that will write in different colors based on the emotion the writer is feeling when they use it. Lies, notably, appear in a shade of pink.
  25. A device which can be fitted into the ear. Everything the wearer hears is autotuned.
  26. A device which can be fitted into the ear. Replaces some words with other words. The device is easily programmable by the user, allowing them to determine which words will be replaced, and which words they will be replaced by.
  27. A device which can be fitted into the ear. If a pin drops within a mile, you’ll hear it. It’s a pin-drop-detector, and it monitors the environment for pin-drop vibrations, and amplifies them accordingly.
  28. The engineer removed their fingernails, and replaced them with tiny monitors, each of which picks up a different television station.
  29. The engineer removed their fingernails, and replaced them with synthetic fingernails which grow and retract at will, up to 8″ in length!
  30. The engineer removed their fingernails, and replaced them with tiny percussion plates, allowing the force of a light punch to be delivered with the flick of a finger.
  31. A printer that produces maps of entirely fictional places.
  32. A printer that produces bad, but always unique, poetry.
  33. A printer with a microphone duct taped to the side of it. If a picture or mental image is described into the microphone, the printer will produce ASCII art of the thing you described.
  34. A glove which can be fired off of your hand up to 20′ with good accuracy. The glove has no substantial weight. Being struck by it is more offensive and annoying than it is harmful.
  35. A glove which cannot drop what it’s holding. It will move your fingers and hand for you if it feels something leaving its grip. You’ve actually got to hold down a safety button on the glove to do so much as set down a glass of water. Throwing or dropping an item in combat is next to impossible.
  36. A pair of gloves with 80mm computer fans mounted on the palms. It’s meant to work as a stabilizer for the rocket boots you plan to build later.
  37. A box on a strap, meant to be worn tightly against the throat. Makes the wearer sound like a robot.
  38. A box on a strap, meant to be worn tightly against the throat. Automatically performs a tracheotomy if it detects any evidence of throat or tongue swelling.
  39. A box on a strap, meant to be worn tightly against the throat. Whenever a randomly determined party member says “Bad [engineer’s name]!) you get an electric shock that prevents any activity for 1 round. You can’t seem to figure out how to get it off.
  40. A room-sized device of impossible complexity. Insert your finger into a hole, and 30 minutes of intense activity later, a small card will drop out of a slot. The card produces the perfect insult that will absolutely devastate you emotionally if ever directed at you.
  41. A room-sized device of impossible complexity. Insert your finger into a hole, and 30 minutes of intense activity later, a small card will drop out of a slot.The card lists everything you’ve eaten for the last week.
  42. A room-sized device of impossible complexity. Insert your finger into a hole, and 30 minutes of intense activity later, a small card will drop out of a slot. The card describes a random thing you’ve forgotten. Something like the name of your childhood friend’s pet mouse, or the combination to a toy diary you owned when you were eight.
  43. A head-mounted camera which creates 3D models of environments. Can be hooked up to software to create google-maps style walkthroughs.
  44. A head mounted camera that intelligently identifies moments that would make for good “Fail” videos. The device then automatically uploads them to youtube.
  45. A head mounted camera that saves instances of violence to a publicly accessible server. This way the public can determine whether or not your actions were justified, and you can be held accountable for them.
  46. A flashlight with a fleshlight hidden inside of it.
  47. An X-Ray flashlight. When directed at a person their insides become visible. The light also gives them a tumor that will kill them in 10 + 1d20 years.
  48. A flashlight with “strobe” and “disco” settings. The handle can be unfolded into a tripod.
  49. A gun that shoots good feelings. Makes people happy.
  50. A very small gun which fires a massive caliber of bullet. It deals a fuckton of damage if it hits (3d12), but the kick of it deals 1d8 damage to the wielder. Any time the gun is fired, it is sent flying out of the wielders hand and will need to be searched for to recover it.
  51. A gun which fires bullets in slow motion. It’s unclear how this is accomplished. Possibly via temporal manipulation, localized around the projectile. The bullet comes out of the barrel at a speed of about 1′ per minute, and goes forwards until it hits something. When it does finally hit something, it does so with all the force it would have had if it was firing normally.
  52. A hand held scanner attached to a briefcase-sized box. If you spend a few minutes thoroughly scanning a person, they will be digitized and displayed on a monitor mounted on the box. 20 buttons display different emotes for that animation.
  53. A hand held scanner attached to a briefcase-sized box. When an object is scanned, the box spends a few moments whirring before producing an origami copy of whatever was scanned.
  54. A hand held scanner attached to a briefcase-sized box. When a person is scanned, a screen on the box displays a list of their allergies.
  55. A heavy mechanical backpack. Adjusting the various knobs and levers on it allows you to produce several varieties of fountain drinks.
  56. A heavy mechanical backpack. When activated, it creates a 10′ air-conditioned bubble around the wearer. Ambient temperature is reduced by 10-20 degrees within the bubble.
  57. A heavy mechanical backpack. By turning a crank, you provide power to an extendible helicopter blade that pops out of the top. For every 10 minutes you crank, you create 1 minute of airborne time. A charge lasts for 1 day before it dissipates.
  58. A U-Shaped electronic headpiece which requires the wearer to shave their head. While wearing it, the wearer instantaneously knows the answer to any mathematical equation they read.
  59. A U-Shaped electronic headpiece which requires the wearer to shave their head. The device pumps the wearer’s brain full of confidence chemicals. They are immune to fear, but also to retreat. The device cannot be removed in less than 10 minutes without causing brain damage.
  60. A U-Shaped electronic headpiece which requires the wearer to shave their head. Allows the wearer to be sexually attracted to anyone or anything they want to be.
  61. A chair, covered in electrodes and leather straps to hold someone down. When a switch is flipped, whomever is sitting in it is affected by a brief, but intense, electrical shock. They pass out, and when they awaken, they have a new personality trait. (Roll this from one of the “On the NPC” tables, or just make it up if you don’t own that book for some reason).
  62. An all-terrain wheelchair. The treads move very slowly, but effectively cross most terrain.
  63. An egg-shaped chair which emits a low-level psychic radiation. Anyone within 100′ of the chair will feel a strong impulse to kill whomever is sitting in it. The moment that person leaves the chair, the impulse will end.
  64. A briefcase which contains random, non-functional parts duct taped all over the inside of it. The engineer is quite proud of their brilliant invention.
  65. A briefcase which contains a yellow light that shines into the faces of anyone who opens it. If the light touches your face, you must save versus Magic or be impressed with the value of the contents.
  66. A briefcase which can be quickly unfolded into plastic armor. The armor grants +1 to the wearer’s armor score.
  67. A coffin-like pod that will freeze anyone who gets inside of it. They are unharmed by the process, but will remain in cryogenic stasis for 1d1000 years. There is no way to extract them without killing them.
  68. A coffin-like pod. Anyone who sleeps in it will experience their dreams much more vividly, and remain in their dream world for 1d6 days worth of time.
  69. A coffin-like pod which gives a new accent to anyone who sleeps in it.
  70. An 8′ tall tesla coil. Anyone who approaches within 10′ of it is zapped 5 seconds back in time.
  71. A 8′ tall tesla coil. Anyone who approaches within 10′ is painfully electrocuted to death. A second zap produces an exact duplicate of the dead character, with identical memories to the previous one, except for any memories of the first character’s grizley death.
  72. A 2′ tall tesla coil which functions as a kind of thought-sink. Anything that you think while touching the coil doesn’t actually go through your brain, it’s diverted through the coil. Thus, nothing you think while touching the coil can be remembered later. Nor can it be read out of you by a telepath.
  73. A 15′ length of wire with exposed ends. If two people each hold one end of the wire, then they will feel one another’s level of hunger, as well as any particular food cravings the other has.
  74. A 15′ length of wire with a flat copper tab on one end, and a 3.5mm plug on the other. If you put the tab on a substance, and you put the plug in your mouth, then you will be able to taste whatever the tab is touching. You don’t actually get any sustenance from this exercise, but it does allow you to taste things from 15′ away!
  75. A 15′ length of wire with an USB connection at one end, and a drill bit at the other end. If the USB end is plugged into a computer and the drill bit is placed against your head, the bit will automatically drill into your brain. Once it is firmly in place, your neural pathways will automatically be transferred into the computer, and then erased from their original location. This process only works in a single direction.
  76. A drinking straw that filters whatever is drank through it. It cannot filter out poisons, but it will purify water that is contaminated by dirt, feces, or heavy metals.
  77. A drinking straw which makes anything drank through it taste exactly like a strawberry soda.
  78. A straw which somehow resonates with the skeletal structure of most camels. If rested on top of such a creature, it will spend a moment calibrating itself, then shatter several of the camel’s vertebrae.
  79. A game controller that partially plays for you when you hold it. Using it makes you much better at video games. The equivalent of having a 6-in-6 skill.
  80. A game controller with a 3′ long antennae. When you point it at a person, there is a 1% chance of that person being susceptible to control by this device. If they are, you can control them completely for 1 exploration turn before their brain re-calibrates itself to reassert control over the body.
  81. A game controller. When you hold it, you seems as though you are controlling a game. You hear sound effects, and the controller occasionally vibrates, but you can’t actually see the game. You have no idea what is happening in it.
  82. A quadcopter which has been programmed to move between 3 randomly determined locations. It will wait at each location for 17 hours before leaving to travel to the next.
  83. A quadcopter which is set up to follow its creator. Any time its creator does something, it will play an audio recording of an enthusiastic compliment. (In the creator’s own voice, of course). There’s no way to stop it from doing this without destroying it completely.
  84. A quadcopter which has been imbued with true intelligence. It decides that this place is fuckin’ bullshit, and leaves forever.
  85. A small device inserted into both nostrils. Lights are mounted on it which illuminate the wearer’s face eerily in the dark. Kinda like putting a flashlight up to your face, but wearable all the time!
  86. A small device inserted into both nostrils which allows the wearer to smell things from much further away by pointing an attached dish-gun at the thing they would like to be smelling.
  87. A small device inserted into both nostrils. Vibrates to let the wearer know when it has detected something it thinks the wearer will find funny.
  88. A humanoid robot with the personality and traits of an incredibly frail nonagenarian.
  89. A humanoid robot that is only interested in sexual gratification. It’ll fuck everything and anything but its own creator, because that’d be like fucking its own parent. Gross.
  90. A humanoid robot that tries its very best to be a homicidal psychopath. Fortunately, it is astoundingly inept at murder, and its attempts at homicide are mostly just comical.
  91. A program, on a floppy disk. Installs a virus, the only function of which is to copy itself into as many computers as possible. If it is installed on a computer, entering a complex series of keystrokes will cause it to create a dialogue that says “I’m here!” That is all the virus does.
  92. A program, on a floppy disk. When inserted into a computer, it will automatically open any files on the computer that have the word “secret” associated with them.
  93. A program, on a floppy disk. It’s 8-bit Flappy Bird.
  94. A shield which gives the wielder GPS style instructions on when to block incoming attacks. It’s pretty laggy, so it usually just tells you when you should have blocked.
  95. A shield with haptic feedback, allowing the wielder to feel the pain suffered by the shield as though they’d been struck by it themselves!
  96. A shield with a slight repulsor effect on the front, intended to make it better at blocking incoming attacks. It doesn’t, but it does allow the shield to make an effective hover-sled.
  97. A small device on a tripod which creates a light show production w/ lasers. The production responds intelligently to any music in the environment.
  98. A small device on a tripod which functions as an auto-surveyor. On an attached screen you can view measurements of the environment, as well as the number of people who entered the environment from each possible vector since it was set up.
  99. A small device on a tripod. When activated, it creates a holographic, wireframe environment by spinning really fast and projecting in all directions.
  100. (100) Roll on this table twice. Figure out how to combine the two things you rolled into one thing.

Bringing PCs Back as Cyborgs

MGS Meryl Shot, Sniper's Trap The ORWA campaign recently had its first character death. Umquat, of blessed memory, had her neck melted through by the Righteous Gaze of the Children of God. She fell to the ground a mere 15′ from the rest of the party. Even if there had been hope that she might be saved, there was no way for Umquat’s fellows to step out from their cover without sharing her fate. The dice foretold that she would gurgle and cough for 4 rounds before she was able to die, and all the party could do was watch. It was a death beautiful in its tragedy.

However, beautiful as it was, it occurred to me that there’s no reason for death to be the end of Umquat. After all, ORWA has long since moved beyond the technological limitations of its medieval beginnings. The setting has a very “Saturday Morning Sci-Fi” vibe, and characters already have the option of cybernetically enhancing themselves. Why not allow dead characters to be ‘resurrected’ through cybernetics? If fits the themes of the game perfectly.


The body of the character to be cybernetically resurrected must first be recovered. Your friends need to get your corpse back to the safety of a haven with Internet access. (By which I mean, a haven where the party can make contact with agents of the shadowy organization known as “The Internet.”) If the majority of your body is unrecoverable for whatever reason, then there is no hope for you.

Cybernetic resurrection is also expensive. It costs all the money of the person being reincarnated. All of it. They’re able to hold on to any material goods they might own, but any liquid wealth is confiscated by The Internet to pay for the procedure. If you didn’t have very much money, or no money at all, well then you lucked out. The Internet is feeling generous that day.

The Consequences

Cybernetics are great for enhancing the natural function of your body, but they’re shit at actually replacing those functions whole cloth. And unfortunately, you’re dead, which means some part of your body is so damaged that it could no longer function at all. That part of your body had to be completely replaced with cybernetics, and those cybernetics are gonna be a whole lot worse than your original home-grown human parts were.

I use Courtney Campbell’s Table for Avoiding Death. It is a very good table. One of its many benefits is that when a character dies, the table describes precisely what their means of death was. In Umquat’s case, her neck was melted through. Other deaths include a bone shard puncturing your femoral artery, the front of your face becoming frozen enough to shatter, and dozens upon dozens more. Like I said, it’s a very good table.

When a dead character is cybernetically resurrected, the part of their body that was destroyed during the death process must be replaced by a mechanical facsimile. The drawbacks of this are entirely at the discretion of the referee. They should be significant, but not so debilitating that the player wants to retire the character. For example, this is what Umquat will have to deal with:

Umquat’s new neck is good at allowing her to breathe, speak, and control her body with electrical impulses from her brain. However, it can’t handle food or drink. Umquat must now feed herself through a tube in her stomach, using special liquid rations which cost 3x the normal rate for rations. Even in dire circumstances, she cannot eat normal food. 

Also, she has to talk in a robot voice from now on.

As a corollary to this first point: since vital life functions are now managed by machines, the cyborg is vulnerable to EMP attacks. If all electronics would be shut down for any reason, then the cyborg is immediately reduced to 0 hit points until the effect is ended. (If they already were at 0 hit points, they gain 2 pain, as per the Table for Avoiding Death).

The second major drawback to being a cyborg is the consequences of brain death. In the real world, resuscitation has to occur within minutes of death, lest the patient’s brain be irreparably damaged. In the game, even ignoring the time it takes to recover, the actual process of being cybernetically reanimated takes nearly a month to complete. It is hardly surprising that cyborgs suffer from a variety of mental derangement. Roll on the table below to determine the way in which the cyborg’s brain is damaged.

  1. Gray Fox, Grey Fox, Cyborg Ninja, Metal Gear SolidThe cyborg is sexually attracted to spherical objects. They are a sphere-sexual.
  2. One of the many technicians who worked on resuscitating the cyborg has added secret instructions into their brain. The referee should write these down on a piece of paper, and place that piece of paper in an envelope. When the instructions become relevant, the player should be allowed to open and read the instructions.
  3. The cyborg becomes obsessed with a religion–either one that they already professed, or a new one determined by whatever means seem most expedient. The cyborg follows an arcane set of rules based on their extremist interpretation of the religion, and will find some way to bring every single conversation back to their faith.
  4. The cyborg is utterly disgusted by children. Any human that has not yet gone through puberty is profoundly offensive to the cyborg.
  5. The cyborg loses impulse control. Any time that the player mentions a possible course of action, jokes about something ludicrous that their character does, or even expresses a desire for something, the cyborg will do that thing.
  6. The cyborg becomes an absolute coward. Roll 3d6 to determine a morale score using the same chart hireling loyalty is generated with. Any time a hireling’s loyalty would need to be checked, the cyborg’s morale must be checked. On failure, they have to flee for their lives.
  7. The cyborg just doesn’t see why they would ever pass up a good time. If some pleasurable activity is available, they must agree to participate. There’s no way to keep the cyborg on task during a party, or in a red light district.
  8. The pleasure center of the cyborg’s brain has withered, and they are incapable of having a good time. Worldly pleasures just hold no draw for the cyborg, and they look down on any pursuit of pleasure they witness in others.
  9. The mood of the cyborg is completely disassociated from the events occurring around them. Rather, it’s a randomly determined fact established at the start of a game session. Roll: 1. Angry, 2. Cheerful, 3. Morose, 4. Silly, 5. Lethargic, 6. Anxious
  10. The cyborg becomes incredibly miserly, and will never spend more than 10% of their total net worth in a single game session or haven turn.
  11. The cyborg finds clothing incredibly uncomfortable against their skin, and refuses ever to wear it. They must be completely naked at all time, with the exception of jewelry. Jewelry is nice.
  12. Only one hand is ever available, because the other is constantly masturbating. Constantly.
  13. The cyborg develops a kind of narcolepsy. This usually isn’t too much of a problem, as companions are around to nudge them awake. If the cyborg is ever alone, however, then one of the results on the encounter die should indicate that they have fallen asleep, and will remain asleep for 1d4 turns or until awakened. Due to the adrenaline kick, the cyborg will never fall asleep in combat.
  14. The cyborg is given to passionate, flighty affections. Anytime a new NPC is encountered and engaged in discussion, the cyborg must make a 2d6 reaction roll for themselves. If they roll a 12, then they fall desperately in love, completely forgetting whoever they were in love with previously.
  15. The cyborg believes that they are more cybernetic than they actually are. Despite any evidence to the contrary, they do not believe anything remains of their human selves. As far as they’re concerned, they don’t have anything but circuits and disks in their heads. They will often attempt to “interface” with machines, which of course never works.
  16. The cyborg’s reality is almost entirely different than our own. Everything they see appears more colorful and simplistic than it actually is. Instead of people they see anthropomorphic animals, instead of blood and death they see silly slapstick comedy.
  17. The cyborg believes they are trapped at a certain age. They have all of the adult faculties and experience of their true age, but will act as though they’re doing an impression of a person of a different age. Roll to determine what age they think they are: 1. Four, 2. Nine, 3. Sixteen, 4. Ninety
  18. The cyborg becomes a serial doodler of graphic vulgarities. Any time the cyborg has a few free minutes, they scrawl dicks and tits and profanities on the walls. If they ever spend any length of time waiting somewhere, it will be clear to everyone that someone was there.
  19. The cyborg suffers from a literally paralyzing fear of the dark. If they ever find themselves in an area where they cannot see their surroundings, then they freeze in place. They are completely trapped until something illuminates their surroundings.
  20. The cyborg’s internal balance is messed up. They can usually walk okay (though they do stumble more often than most people). However, any time their balance would be in question, they fail automatically.
  21. The cyborg can’t quite control their eating, and they become immensely fat as a result. The added pudge requires that any armor be specially fitted for them. Their own fat takes up a full encumbrance worth of inventory space.
  22. The cyborg develops a depraved sexual fetish that even the most tolerant individuals are disgusted by. The cyborg must make a saving throw versus Poison during each haven turn. On a failure, they spend 1d6 x 100 money pursuing their strange fetish with a wild abandon, and they lose out on any opportunity to use their haven turn more productively. They will become well known in their community for their depravity, which will affect their reputation accordingly. (If the cyborg was in the middle of training, this does not interrupt that training. The training is merely delayed).
  23. The cyborg feels disassociated from their own flesh, and begins self-mutilating as a nervous habit. Any time that is not actively spent in some task requires a save versus Paralyzation. On a failure, the cyborg deals 1 point of damage to themselves.
  24. The cyborg becomes unbearably prudish about sex. Even something as simple as casual flirtation happening within earshot will prompt the cyborg to launch into a lecture about sexual morality. The cyborg is even uncomfortable around anyone who is a parent, because they know that such a person must have had sex at some point.
  25. The cyborg loves animals, and lacks impulse control. Anytime they see an animal they will run over to pet it and coo at it, without thought to their safety or any task they were previously performing.
  26. The cyborg refuses to ever bathe again. Their stench will make parley difficult, at least with any creature that has a human sense of smell.
  27. A new skill is created for the cyborg. It doesn’t matter what, so long as it is pretty much useless. Something like whittling, guitar hero, or macramé. The cyborg becomes obsessed with this new hobby, and cannot spend their haven turns doing anything other than training in this hobby until they reach the max level of skill.
  28. The cyborg refuses to acknowledge that they are affected by weather. Heat, cold, rain, or hail, it doesn’t matter. They will not make any attempt to protect or prepare themselves for dealing with environmental conditions. This will certainly end badly anytime they have to deal with these factors.
  29. Loud noises cause the cyborg to soil themselves.
  30. The cyborg is completely incapable of ‘negative’ emotions, such as anger, sadness, resentment, jealousy, suspicion, etcetera. They are dangerously naive because of this, and are absolutely convinced that everyone and everything they meet is a good friend to them.


How I Use the Skills I Hate

I really fuckin' hate this movie. When I started running my most recent campaign, I wanted to keep things simple. “It uses LotFP, rules as written.” I said. Naturally, my players rolled up their characters according to the written rules of LotFP. This, predictably, means that they have skill points in skills which I don’t really like. And now that the campaign seems to be sticking, I find myself in the frustrating position of running a game with a search skill. A fucking search skill. Blerg.

It would be easy to simply never call for the players to roll these skills. But that would be a shitty thing to do. The skill points spent on Search could have been spent on anything–like sneak attack or stealth. The player put them in search because its presence next to those options explicitly implied its usefulness. If the skill is secretly useless, that makes me a liar.

Alternatively I could tell my players that the search skill has been removed, and that they can redistribute those skill points as they wish. While this is appealing from my perspective, players don’t like it. I know, because I’ve done it before, and it kinda bums them out. Nobody likes it when the referee tells them to just erase part of their character sheet because that bit has been retroactively removed from the game. The rules start to feel completely arbitrary when the referee just tosses them out like that.

So what should a myopic referee do when he forgot to disallow the skills he hates? Rewrite the skills he hates!


Why I don’t Like it: In terms of pure mechanics, I love the LotFP climb skill. Particularly the bit about rolling percentile dice to determine how far along the intended climb the character was when they fell. Unfortunately, climbing doesn’t actually happen that often in my games. So while the skill is mechanically solid, it just sorta sits there gathering dust, which isn’t good.
Fortunately, there are several other niche activities which I think should be resolved by a skill roll, and aren’t in the RAW version of the game.
What I’m doing about it: The skill is renamed “Athletics,” which is suitable, if not very original. It is still used to climb, and when climbing it functions exactly as originally written. It’s only used to climb sheer surfaces without obvious handholds, everybody but specialists have to be unencumbered to attempt it, and on fail you roll d% to determine how far along the character was when they fell.
In addition, Athletics is rolled to move through space that is occupied by another person. If you fail while trying to pass an ally, you make it to your destination, but your ally is knocked to the ground. If failed while attempting to move past an enemy, the enemy may choose either to attack you as you pass, or grapple you and stop you in your tracks.
Athletics is checked when a character is swimming in disadvantageous conditions, such as during a storm or while encumbered. It is checked when attempting to balance in any situation in which that would be difficult (though it cannot be used to counter knockdown effects). Finally, it is checked when a character is attempting to leap forward more than 10′, allowing them to leap up to 30′.


Why I don’t like it: I imagine Bushcraft would make a ton of sense in a game with a lot of hex crawling. One where civilization is sparse, and settlements are far apart. I’d be really interested to run a game like that, but I never actually have. In fact, the last two campaigns I’ve run were set in a post apocalypse. Neither Dungeon Moon, nor On A Red World Alone had much use for the Bushcraft skill as it is intended to be used.
I have no problem letting the skill work the way it was originally written, but since that’s so unlikely to come up, it needs some additional utility.
What I’m doing with it: In addition to its function as a means of foraging for food and recovering from getting lost, Bushcraft can be used to gain animal companions. If the players have an encounter with a natural animal with a neutral or better reaction, a successful Bushcraft check will allow that animal to be tamed. A tamed animal will follow the character around, and perform simple, safe tasks for its master. If the character wishes to send their animal companion into combat, it must first be trained. This requires 1 month, and 200sp per hit dice of the animal.
When encountering a creature, a Bushcraft check can also be used to learn some basic information about that monster. It is up to the referee to determine if such information would be available, and the information provided may or may not be considered useful by the players.


Why I don’t like it: There are two reasons I really don’t like the architecture skill at all. First, if my players are walking down a slight slope, I don’t see any reason not to tell them that. Nor do I see any reason not to simply tell them about any of the information this skill is meant to reveal if they ask me about it.
This gets into my problem with search a bit. From my perspective, part of the challenge of D&D is figuring out what to look for in your environment. So if a player has correctly figured out what to look for–has succeeded in one of the game’s primary challenges–I fail to see the benefit in denying them that success based on a failed die roll.
Second, I don’t like the architecture skill because it seems to imply that I should know a lot more about buildings in my game than I typically know. Do you know what culture built your dungeon? Do you know what specific method they used to build it? Because I don’t know those things.
What I’m doing with it: First off, I’m changing the name to Engineering. It’s a skill less about the art of creating a building, and more about the science of creating a structure.
A successful roll can be used to direct the swift construction of basic structures. While any player can throw together a barricade, an Engineer can throw together a wall. (Or a bridge, or seige equipment). This may be particularly useful when setting camp at night. The reverse is also true; the skill can be used to quickly assess how to demolish a structure.
As a specific consideration for my ORWA campaign, Engineering is also used to move through dilapidated buildings safely. A successful roll indicates that you reached your destination safely; whereas a failed check may indicate that you’ve fallen through the floor, had a bit of ceiling fall on you, disturbed some vermin living in the walls, or had some other misfortune befall you.


Why I don’t like it: My distaste for the search skill is already long standing and well documented. The whole process of it feels deeply wrong to me. When a player asks me if a thing exists, and I tell them that it doesn’t because of a bad roll, I am betraying my position as referee. It makes me a liar, and I hate that.
I’ve read all the various ways of thinking about this, I’ve tried all the techniques, and I’ve only become more assured in the fundamental failure of this skill to provide anything but ruin to the game. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen players search for secret doors. Why, when the event is already so infrequent, would I lie to the players in the rare event that their search actually does coincide with the location of a secret door? I worked hard on the cool things behind that door, I want them to see it. Like hell am I going to let a die roll stop them when they’ve actually earned seeing all that cool stuff!
And then, of course, there are traps. “Haha, you were smart enough to ask me if there were traps, but you were stupid enough to believe me when I said no! Now you’re dead!”
Fuck that noise.
Knowing where to look for a secret door or a trap should be the challenge. Not whether or not to trust the die roll. And once a secret door or trap is located, it’s no guarantee of discovering the means by which that door can be opened, or that trap bypassed. There’s plenty of interesting challenge to be had here without muddying the waters with the hated search roll.
What I’m doing with it:Search rolls are not made with respect to a character’s ability to find something. Rather, the search roll is oracular. It is used in cases where the thing being searched for may or may not exist.
For example, a search check might be made to find clues of recent activity (or lack thereof). Success might indicate that the players find the spoor of a wandering monster. If another character came through recently, success might indicate that they left something behind which the players now find.

Search is also used when players are attempting to pursue someone by tracking signs of their passing. Each successful roll allows the players to follow 1 day worth of travel by their quarry.

Sleight of Hand

Why I don’t like it: I don’t even get this skill. It’s like…mini stealth? Really there’s no reason that any of this couldn’t be handled by the stealth skill, except for the fact that Stealth is already a very powerful skill. There’s some logic in wanting to break it up, I do get that.

Except nobody actually does any of the stuff that gets dumped into Sleight of Hand. I don’t think I’ve ever once seen a character pickpocket anybody. Maybe I need to start putting some maguffins in people’s pockets?

What I’m doing with it: Unfortunately, I have no idea how to make Sleight of Hand good. There’s no problem with allowing it to cover what it already covers: picking pockets, hiding small objects, readying a weapon stealthily, etc. To that list you could add cheating at gambling, performing simple magic tricks, and essentially any kind of stealth that is done with the hands rather than the feet.
But even thusly expanded, I actually don’t forsee people putting points into this skill. If I think of anything better, I’ll letcha know.
Edit: I originally finished writing this post on March 11th, and I haven’t really thought about it since then. But now as I’m re-reading it in preparation for it going live on the site tomorrow, I realize I came upon a good use for the Sleight of Hand skill just the other day!
Taking weapons from an enemy’s hands during combat can be accomplished with a successful sleight of hand check. If need be, the character may suffer a penalty to their check equal to the difference in hit dice between themselves and their target. However, I don’t think I’d use that penalty myself. I’m fine with my players being able to take the sword out of a big bad guy’s hand. If he’s really that big of a bad guy, he won’t be helpless without his sword. Not to mention all of the monsters who use natural weapons, and would thus be immune to having their weapons stolen.

Spending Money: Training

Rocky's Training Montage - Meat Punch!I’m still interested in finding new ways for players to spend their money.  Today I’d like to talk about the method I think is the most valuable, and perhaps the most controversial: training. The expenditure of money (and time) to make a character better.

Before I get into concrete rules, I feel some obligation to mention the giants whose shoulders I’m standing on. This post draws heavily on work done by Courtney Campbell for his Numenhalla and Perdition campaigns, as well as work done by John Bell for Necrocarserous. Further, I believe Courtney drew much of his inspiration from the writings of Benjamin David. I’ve taken these ideas and adapted them for LotFP, as well as adding some of my own refinements and twists to make them better suited to my own tastes. But I want to acknowledge that all the really heavy lifting was done before I got here.

There are four types of training: Skills, Weapons, Talents, and Spells.  Spell training might better be titled “research,” but it uses the structure of training, and so falls under the more general term. Regardless of type, training requires that the character invest both time and money before they receive any benefit.

Training is done during down time between adventures, when a character is free to avail themselves of the resources of civilization. What Brendan S. has eloquently titled the Haven Turn. While training, the character may break to continue their adventures, but must return to the same Haven at the end of their adventure if they don’t want to lose their progress (and money!). Training otherwise takes up all of the character’s time, and they are unable to pursue any other activities, such as carousing, until it is complete.

If the players wish, they are encouraged to roll an alternate character to play while their primary character is training. This will allow that character to focus entirely on their studies, and reduce the training time by 1 month. It also creates a handy backup in the event of character death.

Training provides a significant benefit to the PCs, one which cannot be regulated by funds alone. The need to spend time is an important factor. It allows training to be cheap enough to be afforded by low level characters, without the potential to be abused by wealthy, high-level characters. It is pertinent to paraphrase Gygax: You cannot use the training system if strict time records are not kept. Training works when time is a resource to be spent carefully; it doesn’t work when time can be handwaved away without consequence.

For players with excess funds, the referee may be inclined to offer accelerated training. The means by which this rapid training is accomplished should be thematic to the game world: cybernetics, magical implantation, brain matter grafting, soul mixing, etcetera. In any event it costs 3x the normal amount required. Training time is reduced to a single week covering the procedure, and recovery.

Skills Training

Skill training allows characters of any class to advance their skills beyond a 1-in-6 chance. However, increasing a skill beyond a 5-in-6 chance remains the sole purview of characters who receive skill points from their class.  Training must be undertaken for a specific skill, and each rank of ability must be achieved before advancing to the next. A character with 1 in 6 Tinkering may not pay 12,000sp & spend 6 months training to leap straight to Master level ability. They must first advance to Talented, then Skilled, and so on.

Sneak Attack is not considered a skill for the purposes of training, and remains available only to Specialists.

Talented – 2 in 6 – 1,000 silver pieces & 2 Month of training.
Skilled – 3 in 6 –  5,000 silver pieces & 4 Months of training.
Expert – 4 in 6 –  10,000 silver pieces & 5 Months of training.
Master – 5 in 6 – 12,000 silver pieces & 6 Months of training.

Weapons Training

All characters have a basic proficiency with any weapon they pick up. If a player wishes to train themselves beyond proficiency and achieve true excellence, they must specialize their training to a specific weapon family.

For each level of expertise, a character receives a +1 bonus to attack rolls when using weapons from that family. In addition, each level of expertise grants an Expertise Feat which is specific to that weapon family. The Expertise Feats gained by a character training with a longsword are the same for all longsword-wielding characters.

Expertise Feats may be combined with standard attacks at no penalty. However, only one feat may be applied each round. If an expert longswordist attempts to deflect an incoming attack, they forfeit their ability to use Disarm on the following round. Feats are never passive bonuses, they must be declared during each individual combat round.

Any saving throw called for by an Expertise Feat is a save versus Paralyzation.

Skilled – 2,000 silver pieces & 3 Months of training
Expert – 6,000 silver pieces & 4 Months of training
Master – 12,000 silver pieces & 6 Months of Training

Here are some of the weapon families I am using in On a Red World Alone. This list is truncated for the sake of brevity.


Close Quarters: Additional +2 to attack rolls when fighting in cramped conditions, or melees with 4 or more combatants in close proximity.
Swift: Can make 2 attacks per round against a single target.
Hidden: +1 to determine surprise when attempting a sneak attack.
Deflect: May attempt a saving throw to negate one melee attack each round.
Disarm: On a successful hit, target must save or lose their weapon.
Vicious: Roll damage twice, take the higher result.
Sunder: On a successful hit, target must save or their armor bonus from armor is reduced by 1.
Delay: On a successful hit, target must save or take only a half action next round.
Riposte: Once per round when struck in combat you may make a saving throw to attempt an immediate counter attack.
Hold Back: Once per round when a foe attempts to close to melee range, wielder may make an attack roll against them.
Push: Target must make a saving throw or stumble backwards 10′.


You might think of talents as a kind of “Miscellaneous Training.” Unlike other forms of training which allow you to improve within a given system (Skills, Combat, Magic), talents provide a wide array of character improvements touching on all aspects of gameplay.

Talents marked with an * may be taken multiple times, and their effects stack. Each talent requires 3 months of training time, and costs 4,000 silver pieces to acquire. If a talent is taken multiple times, the training time remains the same, but the cost is multiplied by the number of times the character will have taken the talent.

Charm School*: +1 to Charisma
Endurance Training*: +1 to Constitution
Weight Training*: +1 to Strength
Gymnastics Tutoring*: +1 to Dexterity
Attend Symposia*: +1 Wisdom
Academic Study*: +1 Intelligence

Bravery: Immune to Fear effects.
Penetrating Spells: Saving throws made against your spells suffer a -1 penalty.
Spell Resistant: Gain a +2 on any saving throws made against a spell.
Tough: +3 hit points per level
Innovator*: With a weapon group you have mastery-level expertise with, gain an expertise feat that the weapon would not normally have. (If taken multiple times, must be for a different weapon group each time).
Indomitable Armor bonus from armor is improved by 1.
Deflect Missile*: Negate one ranged attack per round.
Interceptor: Redirect one enemy attack per round to hit you instead of an ally.
Precise Shot: Fire into melee without any chance of hitting allies.
Criticator: You land a critical blow on a 19 or a 20.
Deadly Strike: Critical hits deal triple damage instead of double.
Good Opener*: Once per day you may re-roll a single die used as part of a reaction roll, and take the higher option.

Spell Research

A Magic User can expend a certain amount of time and money to pour through ancient texts, experiment with peculiar creatures, and test the cosmic energies. At the end of the indicated period, the character will have earned a new Magic Word which they can use to create spells according to the normal system.

2,000 silver pieces & 1 month: The MU learns a randomly determined Magic Word.
3,500 silver pieces & 1 month: The referee randomly determines 3 Magic Words, and the MU may pick one.
7,000 silver pieces & 2 months: The MU may create their own, new Magic Word.

For the majority of you, whom I assume are not using my magic word system, this can easily be modified to allow an MU to learn new spells outright. The time required is 1/2 the desired spell’s level with a minimum of 1 month. The same costs listed above determine whether the character learns a random spell of that level, chooses between 3 random spells of that level, or gets to choose their own spell from that level.
Why Training is Valuable
Obviously one of the core benefits here is that training gives players something to spend their money on. That is, after all, the whole point of this series of posts. But there’s more to it than simply balancing the game’s economy.
When you really get down to it, the primary goal of a PC is to improve. They’re on a constant quest for more experience points, and better gear. But the amount of experience they will gain is bounded by the opportunities they encounter during a play session. When the player sits down, they don’t know whether they’ll earn enough XP to gain 3 levels, or whether they won’t earn even a single point of experience. Magic items are likewise a matter of fate. They may occasionally be something the player can strive for over a long period, but in most cases they’re something the player discovers unexpectedly.
This unpredictability is all part of the adventure, and it should stay that way! But there is value in having a stable fallback. At the end of a hard session without a tangible benefit to your name, it’s nice to know that at least you’re a step closer to learning that cool new trick with your sword. In that respect, training is a different kind of character improvement; a new layer which compliments the others. It fills a valuable niche.
Furthermore, training allows for mechanical character customization done right. It’s easy to demonize the mechanical clusterfuck that official D&D eventually became, but it wasn’t all bad. The ability to make choices about your character’s mechanical progression can be great!
The problem comes when choices start to pile on top of one another. When you’ve got to pick a feat and assign multiple skill points, rather than a feat orsingle skill point. It comes when each individual choice has hundreds of possibilities, rather than a mere handful. More possibilities than even a passionate hobbyist can really consider in their mind all at once. It comes when the choices are attached to the leveling system, turning every gained level into an ever-increasing amount of paperwork.
Is allowing characters to train introducing power creep into a game? Yes, but given the cost and time required for training, that power creep is kept at a slow pace. Easy to adapt to.
Is allowing characters to train making your game more rules-heavy? Yes, but not so much as it might seem on the surface. Each layer of decision actually has very few options to it. And players who wish to spend their time and money on other things, avoiding what might be viewed as a source of confusion, are free to do so.
Training, as presented here, is far from perfect, I’ll readily grant. Weapon training in particular feels incomplete to me. Like the seed of a much better idea that hasn’t sprouted yet. But I can confirm from experience that all of these ideas are fun and functional in play–or at least, the systems I based them on are.
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