Nuclear Beasts Blog
Sunday, March 28, 2004
Ant Sutures
A cute bit from real-world primitive cultures... there are some ants in Africa that were used to suture wounds. Basically, you'd grab a soldier ant (one of the big, African ants about an inch long) and direct it to bite a pinched-together wound, pulling it tight.

Then you twist the ant's head off. The jaws will stay locked, holding the wound closed. The article I read implied that the jaws of the ant even caused some additional swelling, which helped keep the wound closed.

"Bullet" ants may well make it into Nuclear Beasts. They're large, tough and have a remarkably painful bite... the sort that's been known to cause folks to pass out from the pain.
Friday, March 26, 2004
Huge Move - No entry
No entries for awhile. We're finishing off the big move.

In fact, I'm going to try and break the "one entry a night" habit. It's not bad if I leave gaps... in fact, it's probably better than what I've been doing, which is leaving crappy, off-topic random commentary or fragmentary posts just to fill in for a day.

The blog needs to be a design aid, and I'm still working out what ways it works best.

My current goal is to lay off of entries until after we get moved in. Then I'll see about finishing off the Rules Blog instead of expanding this one.
Thursday, March 25, 2004
Multi-die Attributes
Something that Ironclaw allowed but which I initially prohibited in Nuclear Beasts was having attributes which consisted of multiple dice.

Basically, you could increase your Mind, say, up to d12,d4 or even 2d12 or higher. Since most actions were a stat and at least one skill, having a Mind of 2d12 was pretty unbalancing... it meant that your character had at least 2d12 to roll for any Mind-based skill.

In my own campaign, I didn't prohibit this since I didn't realize that it was liable to be a problem at first. It was only later, when several PCs climbed well above d12 and one wasn't bothering to buy skills anymore that the problem became obvious. Basically, since there were a lot of skills per stat and increasing a stat only cost 4x as much as increasing a skill, if you had, say, 8-10 Mind skills you were far better off investing in your Mind than trying to improve the skills individually.

Even if a skill couldn't be used unless you had at least a d4 in it, that just meant that you got the bare minimum and stopped there. I considered using the skill as a limit on the roll (meaning that other dice couldn't be larger than the largest skill die) but that was a bit of a pain to remember in practice and didn't make sense for every skill.

It's also worth mentioning that since having fewer dice makes you more likely to botch, someone with d12,d4 was pretty much 4x less likely to botch unskilled tasks than someone with a flat d12.

So in the first version of Nuclear Beasts, I threw it out entirely and said that stats couldn't consist of multiple dice.

Now I'm thinking that may have been too harsh. In my regular Ironclaw game, I ended up limiting folks to a max of d12,d8... later, I relented and said that you could continue boosting the stat beyond that point, but the cost jumped to 8x that of a skill instead of 4x.

I might end up doing something similar in Nuclear Beasts. There are a lot fewer skills in this game (and some of them are extremely cheap whereas in Ironclaw they all have the same cost) so it's just not as big of a deal. I'm thinking that I may just charge more per point once you add more dice. I'd probably still set a limit of 2 dice, though... I'm not sure yet.
Wednesday, March 24, 2004
Harpy Defense Mechanism
Heh. Just read a cute post about vultures in the wild and one of their emergency defense mechanisms.

Supposedly if a predator tries to attack a vulture while it's engorged and flying slowly, it vomits on them. It provides a bit of a distraction and has the added advantage that the vulture can now fly away more quickly.

I'll have to give them a zero-point Edge called "Can Vomit on Command".
Tuesday, March 23, 2004
Parts & Solid State
There are generally two kinds of ancient electronics or machines that Beasts can get working.

Solid state machines are the easiest- this refers to any self-sufficient gizmo, generally one that's sealed up and not intended to have any replacable parts. They don't have access panels and aren't designed to be repaired if they get damaged.

These have sometimes survived just because they're so tough. They're often intended for outdoor use, especially for the military. The advantage here is that if you find a gizmo of this type that hasn't been smashed up by someone, it may be usable as is.

"Parts", on the other hand, refers to the time consuming and problematic task of assembling a working gizmo from the least corroded components of multiple machines of that type. Basically, if you find a dozen slot machines and none of them work, you may be able to assemble one or two that do, just by cobbling together the best parts from each machine.

You may also be able to swap parts from a completely different kind of machine. Many components were designed to be generic and replacable such as batteries, lights, capacitors, etc.. It takes a good bit of technical knowledge to jury rig a working device out of parts, but once you have that knowledge it opens up all sorts of possibilities.

It's rare to find a non-sealed machine that still works. Basically, too much grime and dust gets into the system over the decades. It's not impossible, but you're far more likely to find enough working parts to assemble a complicated gizmo than you are to find a whole one that still functions.
Monday, March 22, 2004
The Big Gun
Hm. I like the idea of there being a small settlement which is primary protected by an ancient superweapon that they've learned to operate. Say some sort of giant laser turret. The town is a little oasis of civilization in an otherwise wild and dangerous area roamed by raveners.

People who have to cross that region can seek shelter in the shadow of their walled town, but are rarely allowed inside. They're very suspicious of outsiders. There are radioactive craters out on the plains that are supposedly the remains of ravener tribes who tried to attack the settlement.

Possible twists:
Sunday, March 21, 2004
The Beasts don't have access to many radio transmitters. The League of Free Beasts has a few short-range units... basically C.B.s, generally mounted in ancient military vehicles. The Verde has some walky-talky style units, also very short range.

There are some old radio stations that survived the Last War, but both the League and the Verde gave up trying to use them a long time ago. The entire continent is still under "Radio Silence" orders as far as the Exterminators are concerned... if a radio transmission is powerful enough to reach a flying Exterminator, it generally heads towards the source and attempts to destroy it.

A full-fledged radio station can send a signal across the entire continent if you know what you're doing, especially with how empty the non-military channels are these days. Radio stations that are put into use are generally levelled by flying Exterminators more powerful than any of the ones normally seen. These units spend most of their time guarding the coast against supposed enemy bombers but when a station makes an illegal transmission, one or more of them are generally called in to silence the source.

After the first couple of reactivated stations are levelled with missiles, the survivors generally wise up and stick to reactivating things that don't draw the attention of robot fighter planes.
Saturday, March 20, 2004
Low Beasts and Grenades
I was thinking about what sort of weapons Low Beasts could still use, and I starting wondering about grenades.

A typical hand-grenade goes off about a few seconds after you pull the pin. A Low Beast might be able to pull a pin by biting it and yanking really hard, but they couldn't throw worth a darn.

But there would still be a few ways in which a hand grenade could be useful.
Friday, March 19, 2004
Hyenas and the League
A cute bit I didn't know- they can actually digest bone, which most predators can't. They might ought to get an improved bite of some sort, since they're actually evolved towards munching bones as well as flesh.

Hyenas form the military arm of the League of Free Beasts. The League, for all of its democratic underpinnings, follows a kind of racist class-system. They believe (and encourage the belief) that different Breeds are better at different tasks and that they should stick to their "natural roles". They also tend towards Man-worship and generally regard Low Beasts as valued but secondary citizens. The Breeds are generally segregated here, with Hyenas handling military matters, Otters handling all water-based matters (particularly fishing and underwater farming), etc. Even when a community consists of different Breeds living together, they're generally expected to mostly socialize with their own kind and to stick to their own specialty.
Thursday, March 18, 2004
Possible Gap
I'm trying to keep up with this, but we won't have internet service in the new house until Tuesday. So it's entirely possible that I won't be able to. I'd still like to keep at least one entry per day (preferably real entries instead of off-topic filler) but it may not happen.
I think I'll probably implement poisons with a system similar to the diseases I discussed a couple of days ago, just faster.

After the onset time (generally ranging from rounds to minutes, although some poisons can take hours or even days), then the resistance roll. If you fail, you start suffering the minor symptoms (dizziness, weakness, vomiting, etc.). After a set period of time, you make another check. If you don't make this one, you get worse and suffer through the major symptoms, which often ends with death.

A regular success means that you suffer symptoms half as long and afterwards they go away. A crit means that you suffer only cosmetic symptoms (pain rather than damage, dizziness but not enough to penalize your actions, etc.). An extra shrugs it off completely.
Wednesday, March 17, 2004
Heroic Actions
There's another thing that I'll probably want to add to the optional Hero Points rules for Nuclear Beasts.

Basically, if you have a Balanced Trait that applies to a situation, then once per game you can use it to spend a "free" Hero Point.

For example, let's say that your character was consumed by a Hatred for the Dakros the Very Evil. You'd get a bonus to hit Dakros just because you hate him so much, but it wouldn't normally protect you from being damaged by him. Once per session, you could use your Hatred to spend a free Hero Point on something appropriate, such as a Dodge roll to avoid one of his attacks or to negate some damage inflicted on you by him.

This can be combined with the regular benefit of your Trait, too, so you could get a quite impressive bonus to a single roll.

This rule can't be used for tasks where your Balanced Trait penalizes you, only where you'd get bonuses. For example, you couldn't use your Hatred Trait to give you a bonus to a roll to heal Dakros.

As a counterpoint to this rule, I might expand that to say that you can never spend a Hero Point in a situation where one of your Balanced Traits is penalizing you, not even one of your regular Hero Points. That would tend to balance out the ability to get a bonus Hero Point occasionally.
Tuesday, March 16, 2004
The new Call of Cthulhu: Dark Ages book has a rather nifty way of handling diseases. The main part is the symptom list.

Basically, symptoms are grouped into two parts: first, there are the symptoms that you get early. Then there are the serious and possibly lethal ones.

So, the procedure would be something like this. First, you'd get a roll to avoid infection, which would probably be a CON check with a difficulty determined by the situation.

If you get infected, you start to suffer the symptoms off of the first list. After you've been hit with those, though, you get a final CON check to shrug it off.

If you succeed, those symptoms gradually go away and you're cured.

If you don't, though, then the disease progresses through the serious symptoms, often ending with your character's death. Medical aid might be able to treat the infection or give you additional CON checks, but without it you're going to suffer the full brunt of the infection.

I kind of like that, just because it's very realistic without requiring a lot of record keeping. I'll probably try to do something similar for Nuclear Beasts.
Monday, March 15, 2004
Well, our Maine Coon cat Loki underwent more cancer surgery today. They cut out the rest of the cancerous mammary tissue, but X-rays indicate that it may have been too late. He's got a suspicious mark in his lungs.

Which, of course, brings me to cancer in Nuclear Beasts. I really intend to de-emphasize it.

Sure, exposure to radiation should realistically take years off of your lifespan and often lead to painful death decades down the line, but what fun is that? I think that the most realistic that I'll make it would be something like reducing your age limit (how old you can get before you start losing stats).

Basically, I'm just going to say that Beasts are genetically engineered to be resistant to the longterm effects of radiation and that keeping track of stuff like tumors is no fun and should be avoided or abstracted. I'll only use rules for "slow" deaths when a Beast has suffered a lethal dose of radioactivity... and that'll be the sort that kills in days instead of months or years.
Sunday, March 14, 2004
Personal Computers
Most ancient computers are just spare parts these days. Most were smashed or burned along with everything else during the riots at the end of the Last War. The remaining ones are fairly useless to Beasts... sure, you can edit a word-processor file or look up the definition of an unknown word, but most programs either required an internet connection or simply aren't useful anymore. Spreadsheets could be very valuable to a community of Beasts, especially for keeping track of food stores and estimating the amount needed for the winter, but only the most technically sophisticated communities actually realize this.

Working laptops are easier to find. They're generally intended for portability and to run off of battery power. A precious few even have nuclear batteries. These can't be replaced (they're integral to the machine) but since they run for centuries there's no particular hurry. These were generally military models- they seal in the power source, transmit data via infrared instead of using actual CD-ROMs or such, and basically don't have any openings for sand or grime to get into.

Even the best, though, tend to be of limited use. So much data was kept on the internet or on remote servers that a single machine just isn't that useful. Unless you want to try your paw at an ancient video game, of course.
Saturday, March 13, 2004
Goals for March
Well, basically I first want to get us moved into the new house. I'm kind of hoping to have most of it done this weekend. Then we could get the placed cleaned out, and cleaned up over the week after that. We have to be out by March 31st, so the sooner the better.

Once that's done, I really want to sit down and make an attempt at finishing off the rules blog, which so far I've barely started. Getting it to display in reverse order (so that it reads in the order that the final PDF will be) would be cool, but hardly essential.

I'm also hoping to get a drafting table or some other sort of good drawing table for the new place. Hopefully that will encourage me to crank out a few new pics; lately I've been pretty short on inspiration. I've done a few simple pics to keep in practice, but nothing actually useful.

Basically, the house stuff has been a huge distraction. I've managed to keep up a blog entry per day, but they've been fairly short and pathetic... just token scribblings. So now I'm determined to get the rest of the move over as fast as possible... not just so we'll have the maximum amount of time to get the old apartment cleaned up before we leave, but so that I can actually start making real progress on Nuclear Beasts again.

I'd love to at least finish up the basic rules writeup by the end of March. I'll worry about add-ons like formatting, fonts, illustrations and example boxes later. I just want to get the basics written down by then.
Friday, March 12, 2004
Stereotypes III

Thursday, March 11, 2004
The Rabies Waste
On the southeastern edge of the Verde, there is a great, mostly circular dead zone that the local refer to as the Rabies Waste. Some sort of incredibly powerful nuclear explosion poisoned the ground and tore apart the hills for hundreds of miles in each direction.

The ground is rough, rocky and broken. Trees and other plants tend to be stunted and twisted. There are only a few sources of relatively clean water; the rest is contaminated with low-level radioactivity. A radioactive haze lies over the land, faint but visible to Beasts who don't have Radiation Blindness. A few mutant horrors still roam the waste, but these pathetic, twisted things are more frightening than they are dangerous.

Outlaws from the Verde often end up in the Waste, particularly along the border of the Verde. Almost nobody lives in the core of the Waste, where the radiation is lethal and nothing grows. Since the whole area is regarded as dangerous and accursed, most healthy Beasts won't pursue thieves or raiders into the radiation zone. This enables small bands of raveners and lone thieves to steal across the border, snatch up some food or goods and race back into the Waste before the Verde's soldiers can catch them. If you need to get out of the Verde's reach in a hurry, crossing into the Waste is an easy way to do it.

Zuba City occasionally mounts a major attack on the Waste, sending in a seasoned, well-armed squad with extensive stocks of uncontaminated food and water, but generally only to destroy a band of raveners that has gotten too bold. Most of the time, they're content to just post guards and patrols around the outskirts.

There are two known sources of fresh, relatively uncontaminated water in the Rabies Waste. Both are underground springs that apparently bring in fresh water from the nearer side of the Poisoned Wall (a prominent mountain range that cuts off the eastern edge of the Waste). And both are currently run by nameless mixed-breed tribes of raveners. Anyone who wants fresh water need only bring them some tribute and be properly subservient. It also helps if you aren't particularly healthy or attractive looking, as the raveners obey no law save "might makes right". Would-be purchasers are sometimes beaten, murdered or otherwise abused, especially if whatever tribute they've brought is deemed an insult instead of a worthy offering. Rulership among both tribes is established by strength of claw and ferocity in battle. It changes quite often; should the current Alpha show any weakness, they are liable to be challenged for their position.

The two ravener tribes officially hate each other, but each contains many Beasts kicked out by the other and their leadership changes too rapidly for them to maintain any kind of long-term war. Zuba City has occasionally sent soldiers to seize one spring or the other, forcing the raveners out into the hills, but since no sane soldier is willing to remain in the radiation zone for long they haven't been able to do more than temporarily inconvenience them.

Many small families and ravener packs live in the Rabies Waste. They tend to be dishevelled, primitive and exceedingly brutal and ruthless. They cower instantly when faced with superior force, but most of them would gladly slit your throat while you slept if they could. Since the Waste only produces a survivable amount of food around the two springs, most inhabitants live on the edges of the Verde, trying to steal enough food and gear to survive but not enough to attract military attention.

The edge of the Rabies Waste is lined with poison markers maintained by the major cities and skull markers (the skulls of raveners, mostly) maintained by small towns and individual families who collect the heads of would-be raiders.
Wednesday, March 10, 2004
More Stereotypes
Hm. Y'know, I could almost dump the northern mammals and make a decent set using only the African stuff like Lions, Elephants and Hyenas. I'm not sure that's worthwhile, though.
Tuesday, March 09, 2004
Racial Roles
It's probably worth producing a few stereotypes about the various Breeds. These need not always be accurate, but they'll help folks form an image of the society. That's a decent start.
Monday, March 08, 2004
What sort of competitions would Beasts engage in? Let me think really quick:I need more support for social interactions and festivities in the setting. I'll think about it further.

An amusing one: in one of the Zuba City casinos, there's an ancient pool table. The felt has long since rotted away and the players have to carve their own cues, and the balls are mostly plastic children's toys, but they play pool. Oh, and whenever you accidentally sink the cue ball, your opponent gets to scratch your upper arm with their claws. Die-hard players tend to have a lot of scarring there.
Sunday, March 07, 2004
Dangers of the Deeps
A quick brainstorming list of hazards to be encountered when you're investigating an unexplored deep. On the upside, there are rarely any electrical problems. Few deeps were extensively wired and most of those shorted out long ago.
Size as a Flat Adjustment
Another change I'm leaning towards is treating "Big" as a flat adjustment and a Balanced Trait. That will make the larger and more powerful Breeds easier to balance.

Basically, this means that every PC will have a Size rating, generally ranging from +1 to +10. This is added as a Bonus to all Muscles rolls. But it's applied as a penalty to skills like Dodge, Climb, etc. So if a Low Beast Elephant got a +10 size bonus, then the average Low Elephant would be Muscles d6+10.

Now this messes up my nice attributes scale, because it's possible to have a bonus and be under d12, but in some ways it's nicer because your Muscles die is based on what's normal for your species. And anyway, a d6+10 is nothing to sneeze at; his usual result vs difficulty 12 is to score a success. On a max roll (1 time in 6), he'll actually score a critical success vs a difficulty that most people can't do more than tie.

I'm also thinking that the bonuses should range from +2 to +10 for Low Beasts and +1 to +5 for High. I couldn't really see a High Elephant being as massive as the four-legged version... it just wouldn't work. Sure, a really big and strong High Elephant (Muscles d12+5) could reasonably beat a wimpy Low Elephant (Muscles d4+10) but even then it would be iffy. We'll basically justify it by saying that the human genes drag you back towards the "normal" rating of +0.
Saturday, March 06, 2004
Reverse Delayed
Ugh. The "reverse the order of blog entries" script is proving more problematic than I'd expected. Still, I know it's doable. It's just harder.

Anyway, we should have the keys shortly, so we're going to move some junk over to our new house. So no more time to work on it tonight... maybe not for awhile.
Friday, March 05, 2004
The folks that make Ironclaw have apparently gotten the rights to remake Albedo. That's kind of interesting because while Albedo was anthropomorphic, it was also high-tech sci-fi.

Apparently they aren't going to just port the Ironclaw system over... they feel it wouldn't be appropriate. Instead, they're working on a system that apparently emphasizes political and social interaction over combat. Or tries to, anyway. Certainly the Albedo comics weren't that oriented around combat... and the weapons were quite deadly.

So I'll have to check it out when it becomes available. I intend to sign up as a playtester as well, since I'm always interested in game design. I doubt it'll have anything appropriate for Nuclear Beasts, since the genres are quite different, but it might be worthwhile for its own sake.
Thursday, March 04, 2004
Super Generalized Nuclear Beasts
Today's amusing thought: generalize the whole system into specialties. So you'd start with your attributes and they could consist of multiple dice. But you could also put points into improving skills, which overlap between them or are more specialized. These are generally cheaper. Then you have specialized skills and trivial skills and each one get cheaper and cheaper.

I doubt that I'd be happy with it. That's a very loose system, probably too loose for my tastes. But there's something to allowing PCs who consist of just "attributes" and PCs who have a bunch of skills, too. You'd just have to make sure that each level was appropriately priced.

Say 16 points per level to boost a stat. 4 points per level to boost a major skill (try to keep it down to 4-5 major skills per stat). 2 points per level to boost a minor or specialized skill. 1 point per level to boost trivial skills.

So if you had a Muscles of d8 and wanted to be really good at arm wrestling, you could spend 16 points to boost your Muscles to 10... but you'd be much better off taking a specialized skill called "Arm Wrestling" and getting it at d12 & d8.
Wednesday, March 03, 2004
Rules Blog
I think it's about time to create a third blog. This one won't be a traditional blog, though.

What I want to do is just use the same editing functions to write up descriptions of the game rules. I like the convenience of being able to add to it whenever I have an internet connection, rather than having to be on a particular computer and load a specific file there.

I'm hoping that it may also help me concentrate on the writing, rather than the formatting. Since I'll have to copy all of the text out later, I won't need to, indeed, won't be able to, set up stuff like margins, illustrations, etc.. I won't have to worry about fonts or insert boxes. That'll all come later.

The hard part is that a blog isn't really the best format for this. I'm using it because I'm already familiar with Blogger's setup and it's easy. What I'll want to do, though, is to tweak the PHP script that displays it so that this new blog is displayed in reverse order... with the oldest stuff displayed first. That way you can read through it normally. I probably won't even display the dates, just the headings.

It may take some tweaking to get stuff in the correct order. If it's easy enough, I may add a "display in reverse order" button to all of my standard blog pages, so that folks can browse through them in either order. I kind of like pushing the boundaries of what Blogger can do.

Okay, it's begun. I still haven't reversed the text flow, but the new blog is here.
Tuesday, March 02, 2004
EasyOffice Insufficient
Well, I don't think that EasyOffice will work. You can get it to use chapters (which it does very nicely by tiling them) by inserting new ones, but otherwise it seems really limited. The image-handling code is really primitive. And no, bookmarks don't work in its PDFs, either.

Nope, no good. Back to hoping that OpenOffice adds better PDF support to the next version.
Monday, March 01, 2004
Off Topic: House Update Part XVII
Well, they finally got all of the paperwork together for us to sign today. It was close, though. Apparently they came within an hour of missing their deadline because some place in California didn't fax them the documents that they needed early enough.

But we're supposed to sign & pay & sign & sign again this afternoon. Then we should get the keys next Saturday.

When that happens I shall breathe a sigh of relief that will be audible in the next county.

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