Category Archives: Technology in D&D

Cybernetic Augmentations in ORWA

Cybernetics in ORWAIn my On a Red World Alone campaign, there are two types of cybernetics. There are those which augment a function of the body, and those which replace a function of the body.

I’ve talked about replacements before. They’re used when some part of a character’s body has been damaged to the point that it stops functioning. (In other words, the character is dead). These cybernetics serve as the only means of resurrection in ORWA. However, the technology isn’t advanced far enough for these replacements to be as good as the home-grown originals. So while they do allow a dead character to return to life, they come with severe penalties.

Augmentations are different. They don’t actually replace anything, they add something extra. These extras help the body to do what it’s already doing, or do something new entirely.

But, the body can take only so many additions. Each character can have 1 cybernetic augmentation for every 3 points of Constitution they have. So, a character with 11 Con may have 3 cybernetic augmentations, while a character with 18 Con can have up to 6.

The number of mods is only checked against a character’s constitution when they want to install a new augmentation. So if a character’s constitution were reduced for whatever reason, that has no effect on augmentations they already have installed, just ones they may wish to install in the future.

So if a character with 18 Con has 5 augments installed, and their constitution is reduced by half, down to 9 (which would normally allow only 3 augmentations), they do not take any penalties for having more augments than they should. However, if they want to install another augmentation, they are now over their limit.

Characters who wish to continue augmenting themselves after they’ve maxed out may do so. However, it comes at a price. If a player installs an augmentation when they are already at or above their current maximum, both their Constitution, and their Charisma will be reduced by 2. Neither of these may ever go lower than 1, or the character will die.

While it may not be useful in your games, I should note that there’s some possible interaction here with the Training rules that I use. Specifically, I allow players to attend Charm School, or undertake some Endurance Training, to increase their Charisma and Constitution respectively. Each of these can be done as many times as desired, and each time will cost 4000cc, require 3 months of game time, and increase the associated stat by 1. In this way, it is theoretically possible that a character could modify themselves infinitely if they’re willing to spend massive amounts of time and money to keep their body in shape despite their over-modification. At the rate allowed, each new augment would require 1 year of in-game time for the character to earn the 2 Con and 2 Cha, which they would then lose upon installing their new augment.

Personally, I’m completely okay with this. It actually seems like an interesting possibility, that player would ever be so devoted to enhancing themselves that they’d invest such massive resources into doing it. But then, my game maintains some very strict time records. In 15 months of play, game time has progressed only 18 months. So your mileage may vary.

Possible Augmentations:

CyberLobe, (10,000cc) – A bit of computer hardware installed directly into the cyborg’s brain. Allows rapid mathematical calculation, and includes a port which the cyborg can use to directly transfer computer files to, or from their brain.

Reinforced Bones (25,000cc) – Roll hit points twice each level, and take the higher result. The character should retroactively reroll all their hit points from previous levels, and if the new total is higher, that’s they’re current HP.

MuscleTensos (Rank 1: 8,000cc)(Rank 2: 20,000cc)(Rank 3: 50,000cc) – Little electrodes embeded into your muscles. They detect whenever you’re trying to make a sudden, striking motion, and they shock your muscles at just the right time to intensify your intended movement. Adds +1 to melee attack rolls for each rank.

Head Tubes (6,000cc) – A sealed access which leads directly to the cyborg’s brain. They can pop the hatch open with a mental command, and pour up to 4 potions in with a single action. All of the potions have their full effect, starting simultaneously.

Roller Feet (20,000cc) – Little wheels pop out of the cyborg’s feet, and their movement increases by 60′ (20′). Comes with a complimentary pair of adaptive shoes, which have a little hatch for the wheels to pop out of.

Reinforced Back (50,000cc) – The cyborg’s carrying capacity is doubled.

Storage Compartment (4,000cc) – Some of your innards are squished, some of your organic redundancies are removed, and a nice little hidden compartment is installed right into your body. Anything you put in there can never be taken from you, because nobody will ever find it.

CyberEyes, (Rank 1: 2,500cc)(Rank 2: 5,000cc)(Rank 3: 10,000cc) – Gives the character perfect vision, and a HUD where they can see their own inventory, health, etc. Allows for the installation of eye modules. Characters with CyberEyes can have 1 eye module per rank of their eyes. Only the CyberEyes count against a character’s augmentation limit, don’t count.

Eye Modules

Night Vision (5,000cc) – Allows the cyborg to see in the dark. Their vision is black and white.

Recorders (5,000cc) – Allows the cyborg to record or photograph anything they can see, which can then be output via a small data port in their tear duct.

Lasers (20,000cc) – Requires the target to make a saving throw versus Devices, or take 2d6 damage.

Telescope (10,000cc) – Allows the cyborg to zoom their vision in crazy far. Anything within their line of sight can be zoomed in on. Even some celestial bodies can be observed with reasonable detail.

Microscope (10,000cc) – Enables the cyborg to see down to the microscopic scale.

X-Ray (20,000cc) – Not actually X-Rays. But it does allow the cyborg to see through 1 or 2 layers of pretty much anything that isn’t more than 2′ thick, or isn’t lined with lead.

Auto-Aimer (Rank 1: 8,000cc)(Rank 2: 20,000cc)(Rank 3: 50,000cc) – Allows you to automatically mark a target, which will cause geometric guidelines to appear in your vision, aiding you in hitting with ranged weapons. Provides a +1 bonus to attack rolls for each rank.

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Adding Smartphones to your Game World

Wizard Using a Smartphone

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The basic conceit of John Bell‘s Necrocarserous is that a mysterious force is siphoning off the dead from other campaigns. Everyone in the setting  once lived in some other game world, then they died, and while they were on their way to their proper afterlife, they got snatched up by the Necrocarserous Progragm, had all of their memories erased, and were dropped into the world of Necrocarserous. There, these countless kidnapped dead people spend their afterlives serving as unwitting cogs in an unfathomable machine.

Because the world theoretically drew from every other game in existence, you had knights in full plate wielding long swords, living alongside soldiers in Kevlar with guns. In other words, the game was technologically anachronistic, which was a big influence on ORWA’s “Swords, Cyborgs, and Floppy Disks” style. One of the most notable bits of technology in the game were the various phone plans. NecroTel offered a few choices, but once you had a treasure haul or two under your belt, everyone just went for the best one: smart phones. They were friggin awesome, so obviously, I included them in ORWA.

So, how does adding smartphones to your game change it? The most obvious thing is that long-distance communication becomes trivial. In some ways this might be considered a bad thing; for example, splitting the party is much less of a risk if the two groups can stay in communication with one another. But, the benefits to trivializing communication far outweigh the drawbacks, in my experience. (Plus, it was always a pain trying to force players sitting at the same table not to talk to one another).

In Necrocarserous, the existence of phones meant that NPCs basically never left the game. If we met people we liked, we could call them later for information or advice. This fundamentally changed the way we approached relationships as players. NPCs stopped being transient game elements that came and went with each new adventure. Each new person we met was a potential potential ally. It gave us grounding in the game world.

In ORWA, where only a small subset of the population have phones, this effect is less pronounced, but none the less present. If there’s one thing I would change about ORWA, it’s that I would like phones to be more universal. Fortunately, my players have recently set out to bring phone service to the masses (though, the masses only get Nokia NGage phones. No fancy smartphones for them). But, even before my players set out to do this, I could see the greater level of connection the phones gave them to the NPCs who had phones. In particular their boss, The Hangman, became someone they regularly consulted. Sometimes they called to ask her questions about what she wanted them to do. Other times, they just sent her selfies of themselves having killed a big scary monster. It’s gratifying to see my players make my NPCs a greater part of their experience.

I should note somewhere in here that I don’t personally think phone damage or phone battery life are interesting problems for the players to be thinking about. In ORWA, phones are made of futuristic materials which do not easily break, and use cold-fusion batteries which will hold a charge for 1000 years before they need to be plugged in. You may want to be a bit more stingy about this kind of thing, and I could see that being interesting. For my purposes, though, it’s not part of the system.

In its basic form, long distance talking is the only thing phones can do. If players want their phone to be more versatile, they’ll need to make purchases from the Appstore.

Each app improves the phone by adding software, or by unlocking the phone’s own existing hardware. Each app also takes up a certain amount of memory, and each phone can fit a total of 50 memory worth of apps before it’s full, and can’t take any more. (Rare phones with more memory may exist, and could be provided as treasure).

Players may own as many apps as they want, but switching out the apps on your phone takes a Haven turn. That’s purely for game reasons, but in ORWA I guess you could say that download rates are shit in the post apocalypse.


Text Messaging (500cc, 1 Memory): Allows silent, more casual communication. As long as a character has one hand free, they can text as a free action.

Camera (300cc, 1 Memory): Unlocks the camera hardware built into your phone, which can take high quality photos and videos. Thanks to HyperRawr compression technology, photos and videos functionally take up no memory on the phone. You can have as many as you want. Camera can also be used for facetime, or even just to peek around corners.

Zoom (1000cc, 1 Memory): Unlocks the Zoom Lens built into your camera, allowing it to function as a telescope. The zoom on these futuristic cameras is powerful enough to read the text on a book up to a mile away, if there’s sufficient line-of-sight.

Facial Recognition (5,000cc, 5 Memory): With facial recognition software, the phone can be set to flag certain people based on a photograph, or a detailed list of features. The phone will notify the user if anyone is flagged within the camera’s field of view.

GIMP++ (20,000cc, 5 Memory): A successful Tech skill check allows photos and videos to be modified to believably depict pretty much anything the user wants, so long as the key elements of the photo area real. (You can’t show a person being dead on the ground unless you’ve got a photo of that person, and a photo of someone being dead on the ground. Etc.)

Infrared Camera (15,000cc, 5 Memory): Allows the camera to capture infrared light. This functionally allows characters to see in the dark, as they can hold up their phones and look at the screens while the camera is open. It doesn’t attract as much attention as illuminating the environment would–though the light from the screen will still cause a small penalty to stealth in some situations.

Dragon Warrior Monsters GO (Free, 1 Memory): An augmented reality game which depicts monsters in the real world, which you have to fight with your own arms and legs. If you defeat a monster, it becomes your pet. The game is all the rage among Internet Operatives, and they may be willing to trade rare monsters for services.

LiveJournalMini (Free, 1 Memory): A microblogging platform, where each post is restricted to a maximum length of 200 characters. It’s used actively by members of The Internet as a means of releasing random thoughts out into the ether. Can be a good way to socialize with other Internet members, if one was inclined to do so.

Immediagram (Free, 1 Memory): A place for sharing photos, or short videos.

Hulu+ (Free, 1 Memory): The best way to keep in touch with cool people who make and do cool things.

Fantasy Calvinball (Free, 1 Memory): A game where players build teams, selecting real Calvinball players, then competing with one another based on the game-to-game performance of the players they chose. Obviously, Calvinball hasn’t been played since the apocalypse, but an archive with full data from hundreds of seasons was discovered a few years ago, and an enterprising member of The Internet set up a script to lock off all the data, only spitting out individual game results periodically. It costs 500cc to buy in to the Internet’s pool.

Light (1000cc, 5 memory): Serves as a lantern, with no chance to go out.

Peepl (3,000cc 5 memory): A site where people review other people. For each NPC encountered, there’s a 4-in-6 chance that the app contains some useful information about them.

Mars-O-Pedia(500cc Per Use, 1 memory): Various skills in ORWA (Bushcraft, Technology, etc.) are sometimes used as knowledge checks. If the check fails, players may pay to consult Mars-O-Pedia, which has a 5-in-6 chance of having whatever information they’re looking for. Whether the checks succeeds of fails, the player looking must spend 1d6 – 1 exploration turns looking.

Encounter Maps (Free, 5 Memory): The designer of this app has secretly tagged thousands of people within the dome, who are always passively passing data about the locations of potentially dangerous creatures and situations. This allows the app to calculate safe(ish) paths through the dome. For the price of 500cc, the next 5 encounter checks the players roll will have a reduced chance of resulting in an encounter. (a 1-in-6, instead of the usual 2-in-6).

Megaphone (2,000cc, 5 Memory): Sounds directed into the phone’s microphone will be broadcast by the phone’s speaker at a louder volume. Can be set anywhere from x1, to x10.

Voice Modulator (500, 5 Memory): Sounds directed into the phone’s microphone will be broadcast by the phone’s speaker in a different voice. The phone also produces a sound inverted to user’s actual voice, effectively muffling them, so that the only sound which can be heard is the modulated one.

By default, the voice is a robotic, “Microsoft Sam” style voice. However, additional voices can be purchased for 1,000cc each. There is a wide selection of voices, including specific accents, and famous people.

Soundboards (1,000cc Each, 5 Memory Each): A soundboard is a collection of pre-recorded audio samples, which can be played quickly in any order. Some common packs might be Movie Quotes, Fight Sounds, or Animal Noises.

Waterproofing (10,000cc, 5 Memory): Unlocks the waterproofing features on your phone. The phone can now be operated normally while underwater.

Guns in ORWA

Saturday Morning GunsAs I’ve discussed before, my ORWA campaign was meant to be a very standard fantasy game, with a post apocalyptic paint job. It’s only because the players managed to join a secret society of technologists, called The Internet, that I was thrust into the position of creating a more Sci-Fi world.

None the less, guns are heavily restricted. The players are meant to be relying on swords and bows, so I’ve made a point of keeping guns rare. The only way they can enter the game is during a Haven Turn, when there is a 2-in-6 chance that the Internet  has managed to find & repair a gun. When this happens, the gun is put up on eBay, where any member of the Internet can claim it. The cost is always exorbitant, to the point that players will usually need to pool their resources in order to afford it.

But after 14 months of running this game, with my players approaching level 9, that scarcity has begun to break down. Which is appropriate, the game should change as you reach higher levels. Nowadays, each player is wealthy enough that even the most expensive guns can be quickly snapped up. And there have been enough of the gun auctions that the party has quite the private arsenal on their hands. Not enough to equip every hireling, but certainly enough that every PC has a gun, or even two.

Because the game’s setting has a Saturday Morning Sci-Fi flavor, I like to get creative with the guns. They’re not normal equipment, after all. They’re more like magic items, which should have special abilities, and little peculiarities to keep them interesting.

So, seeing as I’ve now written this arsenal of ORWA guns, I figured I may as well share it.

The Spandau (Inspired by stories I’ve heard from WW2)
A fast-firing machine gun with poor accuracy. The Spandau attacks everything within a 10’x10′ hit box. Those within its area of effect must make a saving throw versus Breath, with a bonus of +2 to their save for each increment of 30′ away they are from their attacker. On a failed save, they take 2d4 damage. On a successful save, they take no damage.

Regardless of success or failure, any creature within the hit area must also check morale at a penalty of 2. On failure, they will dive for the nearest cover. They will not necessarily attempt to remove themselves from combat, but will move only very cautiously.

The Spandau and its ammo box are separate encumbering items. Each time the weapon is fired, roll 1d6. If a 1 is rolled, the ammo box is almost depleted and can be fired only once more before it is empty. Ammo boxes are sold for 50cc by The Internet.

The Uzi (Inspired by most video games where there are Uzis)
A weapon which fires so quickly it can be easy to run out of ammunition without even realizing it. Before making their attack roll, a player should announce how many d6s of damage they are going to deal. They can choose as few as 1, and as many as 6.

After their attack roll, whether it is a hit or a miss, they should roll a d6. If they roll equal to or lower than the number of damage dice they had announced, then they’ve used up their current ammo clip.

Each spare ammo clip the character carries is an encumbering item. They cost 50cc, and are sold by The Internet.

The Grappling Gun (Inspired by Batman: The Animated Series)
A small weapon, the size of a flare gun, with a folded grapnel protruding from the end of the barrel. When the trigger is pulled, the grapnel will launch out of the barrel, trailing a cord created by a liquid, micro-filament cartridge. When the trigger is released, the rope retracts into the gun, returning to a compressed liquid form, and pulling the wearer up to wherever the grapnel hooked to.

If time is passing in exploration turns, a grapple can be assumed on any location up to 25 stories high. If time is being measured in rounds, a hit roll is required. The armor rating of the shot is 1, per story of the target. (So, a 12 story building would have an Armor of 12 for this purpose).

If the gun is used to create a zipline, the grapnel and micro-filament rope may not be recoverable. In this instance, new ones may be purchased for 25cc.

The Auto-Crossbow (Inspired by a YouTube video)
Weaker than a standard crossbow, but that deficiency is compensated for by the sheer volume of bolts it can put out each round.

The wielder can make 3 attack rolls each round, which each deal 1d4 damage on a successful hit. Unlike normal crossbows, these do not ignore any amount of defenses from armor. After each round of fire, the wielder must roll 1d6. On a 1, the weapon is either out of ammo, or it has become jammed. They must spend 1 round reloading/clearing it before they can fire again.

(The Auto-Crossbow is not actually a gun. It was created by a player using the Tinker skill, after he found the above-linked YouTube video in an old archive. None the less, it seems an appropriate inclusion here.)

The Lasorator (Inspired by Star Trek)
An advanced weapon with many settings. Before making each attack roll, the wielder may choose how high the weapon’s energy usage is set. The higher the setting, the more damage is dealt; but also, the more quickly the battery will be drained.

If the weapon is set to deal 1d4 damage, then the player must roll a d12 after they fire. On a roll of 1, the weapon’s energy cell is exhausted. For each higher damage die the wielder sets the weapon to, (1d6, 1d8, 1d10, or 1d12); it has a lower exhaustion die (1d10, 1d8, 1d6, 1d4).

So, if the weapon is set to deal 1d8 damage, it will have a 1d8 exhaustion die. If it’s set for 1d12 damage, it will have a 1d4 exhaustion die, etc.

The Lasorator can be set to “Wide Beam,” which is ineffective in combat, but useful for silently melting barriers. Weak barriers such as glass windows require a d8 exhaustion die. While more robust barriers, such as those made of steel, require a d4 exhaustion die.

The weapon also has a stun setting, which requires the most energy of any of them. On a successful hit, the target must make a saving throw versus Paralyzation. On failure, they fall unconscious. The exhaustion die for the stun setting is 1d2.

Extra power packs for the weapon are encumbering items. They cost 150cc, and can be purchased from the Internet.

The Derringer (Honestly, Inspired by The Simpsons)
A small, easily concealable weapon with two barrels. The derringer deals 1d6 damage at a range of up to 30′. After 30′, attack rolls suffer a -3 penalty. After 60′, the bullets are moving so slowly, they would not cause any harm even if they did hit a person.

After every 2 shots, the derringer must be reloaded (which requires 1 round). Each time the weapon is reloaded, roll a d6. If a 1 is rolled, then the ammo pouch is empty, and the gun cannot be reloaded from it again. Ammo pouches are an encumbering item, and can be purchased for 20cc.

Because the derringer is so easy to conceal, it grants a +1 to any Sleight of Hand checks made with it.

Tranquilizer Pistol (Inspired by Metal Gear Solid)
On a successful hit, targets must make a saving throw versus Poison. On failure, they will fall unconscious after 1d4 – 1 rounds, and will remain unconscious for 1d6 + 2 turns.

Attacks with the Tranquilizier Pistol made from steal receive a +4 bonus to their attack roll. If the attack roll exceeds the target’s armor rating by 6 or more, then the target has been struck in the head or groin, and does not receive any saving throw. Instead, they fall unconscious instantly.

The gun can only hold a single round, and must be reloaded after each use. (As with all guns, reloading requires 1 round). A box of tranquilizer darts has an exhaustion die of 1d4, which should be rolled each time the gun is reloaded.

Some targets may be immune to being tranquilized for a variety of reasons, at the discretion of the referee.

The Bazooka (Inspired by classic FPS games)
A massive weapon which deals 6d6 damage on a successful hit. It ignores most forms of hardness & damage resistance, including personal armor and shields. This allows it to easily blow holes through most walls or floors. However, moving targets gain a bonus of 6 to their armor rating.

Functionally, this means that the base armor for a living target is 18, plus any bonus they may receive from dexterity.

Even if the bazooka misses, however, it will eventually hit something and explode. The referee should determine where this happens to the best of their ability. Anyone adjacent to the explosion must attempt a saving throw versus Breath. On failure, they take half the damage that was rolled. On success, they take only a quarter of the damage.

The bazooka can only hold one shot of ammunition at a time, requiring a reload after each shot. Each shot of ammunition costs 200cc, and counts as an encumbering item.

If the wielder jumps into the air and fires the bazooka directly beneath themselves, they will take 2d6 damage, and be launched high into the air, where they will hopefully find something to grab onto before they plummet back down to earth.

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