April 01, 2004

Nuclear Beasts Rules

Welcome to the Nuclear Beasts Rules Blog. The rules below have been largely divorced from the setting, so that readers can concentrate on the system itself. While it's not a wholly generic system, the rules should be flexible enough to accomodate a wide variety of settings.

The system was originally inspired by Ironclaw, but it's picked up elements of Savage Worlds, D20, numerous freebie RPGs, and, of course, my own ideas.

There are Designer's Notes scattered throughout the text, usually at the end of an entry. If you've got Javascript completely disabled, you may not be able to see them.

Posted by Kiz at 11:49 PM | Comments (0)

April 24, 2004

The Basics

Nuclear Beasts uses pools of dice to represent most game traits. Character attributes (ratings that all player characters start with) always consist of a single die and range from d4 to d12. Higher (or lower) ratings are simulated by adding a bonus or penalty to the rating.

Skills are also represented by pools of dice and will often consist of multiple dice. For example, a pool of 2 twelve-sided dice and a six-sided die could be written as (2d12,d6) or 2d12 & d6.

The "level" of a die is how big it is. A d4 is considered level 1, a d6 level 2, a d8 level 3, a d10 level 4 and a d12 level 5. The level of a skill or other pool of dice is the sum of the levels of all its dice. Thus a rating of (3d6) is level 6, the same as a rating of (d12,d4), (6d4), or (2d8). This isn't used much, but it's good to know.

When performing a task, it's common to roll a single attribute and a single skill together. All of these dice are pooled together and rolled at once. The largest number rolled is the result of the roll. Dice are never added together unless the rules specifically say so. You'll normally use the highest single die as your result.

If a bonus or penalty is applied, it modifies the final result accordingly. For example, (3d6)+2 would indicate that you roll 3d6 and add 2 to the highest result, giving you a possible range from 3 (all three dice rolled 1, plus 2) to 8 (at least one die rolled a 6). The +2 is called a bonus because it's a positive number. If it were (3d6)-2, then the -2 would be considered a penalty because it reduces the final result. The parentheses aren't really necessary (you always add the bonus to the final result, even if it would normally only apply to part of the roll), but are included for clarity.

Attributes and skills are often represented by just their name. For example, you might be called upon to roll Muscles & Speed. That means that you roll your Muscles die and your Speed die and take the highest number rolled. Any bonuses or penalties that apply to one rating in a test will always apply to the final result. For example, let's assume that you had a Muscles rating of d12, a +1 bonus to all Muscles rolls (due to some special trait such as being unnaturally strong) and a Speed rating of d6. If you were called upon to roll Muscles & Speed, you'd roll (d12,d6)+1. Even if the d6 ends up rolling the highest number, it'll still get the +1 bonus, despite the fact that the +1 was associated with your Muscles trait.

If there are multiple traits involved in a test that have bonuses or penalties attached to them, apply them all. If the same trait is being included in the test multiple times, you'll include any bonus or penalty associated with it multiple times, too.

Note that the more dice you have available to perform a given task, the more reliable your results will be. The larger those dice are, the more difficult the task that you can accomplish.

As you get more and more skilled, your average result will move up towards 12. It is possible to roll above 12 (see The Rule of Twelve below) but it's very rare and requires an extremely high skill.

Posted by Kiz at 09:41 PM | Comments (0)

The Rule of Twelve

There is one special rule that allows the highly skilled to occasionally produce really extraordinary results. When you roll more than one natural twelve (that is, the die actually rolled a 12, ignoring all modifiers) on your dice, you get a +4 bonus for every additional twelve rolled.

Note that this can only occur when you've got at least 2d12 in your pool. If you roll 4d10 and get all 10s, your result is still a 10. Only multiple 12s give you the bonus.

Example: Oloki the Caretaker is rolling Speed & Melee to try and hit someone and he's so fast and skilled that he's actually rolling (3d12,d8) in total. He rolls 6, 12, 1 and 12. Because he had two natural twelves, he gets a +4 bonus, bringing the total to 16. If he had any other bonuses or penalties, they'd be added to or subtracted from 16.

So basically, if you roll 2 natural twelves your result will be 16; if you roll 3 it will be 20, et cetera.

Posted by Kiz at 09:42 PM | Comments (0)

Character Creation

To create a character for Nuclear Beasts, you'll have to go through several steps. These are listed below in the simplest order, but you should be able to do them in any order you desire.

  1. Choose a breed for your character. This is their species. There are a bunch to choose from, from three different generations. You should take a good look at their stats and limitations before making up your mind. In particular, the first generation of Beasts didn't have hands!
  2. Assign your attributes. Note that the breed that you chose may adjust or restrict your stats.
  3. Pick your starting Edge(s). An Edge is a special ability or gift that modifies your character in a positive way.
  4. If you want some additional Edges, you'll have to take some matching Flaws to compensate. Flaws are like Edges but they make your character worse in some fashion.
  5. Pick one or more Drives if you want them... a drive is a special trait that motivates your character but can also hamper them. Drives are optional. You are limited to (at most) one major drive and up to three minor ones, but you don't have to take any of them at all if you don't want to.
  6. Buy your starting skills. Note that the breed you chose will give you certain skills for free, but you can increase those too.
  7. Pick a name, description, gender and otherwise fill in your character's background.
    Posted by Kiz at 10:10 PM | Comments (0)

Character Attributes

There are six Attributes or Stats used in Nuclear Beasts. Each of these will consist of a single die and be rated from d4 to d12. Values above and below these limits are simulated by adding special bonuses or penalties later.

Musclesyour strength, build and sheer muscle power.
Gutsyour personal constitution and overall health.
Speedyour agility, dexterity and general speed of movement.
Perceptionthe keenness of your senses; includes your ability to aim ranged attacks.
Brainsyour mental prowess and general education and knowledgability.
Spirityour strength of personality; affects willpower, social skills, and any psychic powers.

At character creation, you'll get a pool of 6 dice for your attributes. One die should be assigned to each attribute. You have your choice of 2 starting pools.

  • Normal: 1d10, 2d8, 2d6, 1d4
  • Generalist: 3d8, 3d6
The "typical" rating in an attribute is d6, so starting characters are a bit above average.

Posted by Kiz at 10:48 PM | Comments (0)

Stat Checks and Similar Tests

Occasionally, you'll need to roll a test that only affects a single stat. Since rolling a single die is a bit too random (particularly for things like tests of strength), we use a Stat & Stat test instead. Basically, to roll a standard check for any attribute, roll that attribute's die twice.

For example, you might roll Muscles & Muscles for a test of pure strength and muscle power, such as lifting a heavy object or arm-wrestling.

If you have a bonus or penalty that applies to a stat that's included in a test multiple times, you should apply that adjustment multiple times, too. The most common case for this is being Big or Small.

Example: Jumdro the Elephant (d6 Muscles, Big +2) is arm-wrestling Kiolo the Mouse (d10 Muscles, Small -2). Since this is a straight Muscles & Muscles test, Jumdro rolls 2d6+4 (because he has a +2 bonus to his Muscles rolls, applied twice) and Kiolo rolls 2d10-4 (because of that -2 penalty from Small, applied twice). So Jumdro can roll from 5 to 10 and Kiolo's range is -3 to 6. Despite the fact that Kiolo is in much better shape than his opponent, he'll need a lot of luck to overcome Jumdro's enormous mass.

There are also three common combination tests.

NameStats IncludedPurpose
Survival TestMuscles & GutsRolled to resist physical harm, including poisons.
Reaction TestSpeed & PerceptionRolled to notice and react to something in time. Also determines Initiative in combat.
Willpower TestBrains & SpiritRolled to resist pain or temptation, as well as some psychic powers.

Note that there are some Edges and Flaws that modify Survival, Reaction and Willpower tests specifically, so while your pool of dice will start as listed above, it might be different in play.

Posted by Kiz at 11:06 PM

Edges and Flaws

An Edge is a special trait that your character might possess. It might indicate an exceptional attribute, unusual aptitude for a particular skill, or an ability that most folks don't possess. If you want your character to possess a psychic power, you'll need to take the Psychic Power Edge.

A Flaw is basically the opposite. These traits endanger or inhibit your character in some way.

Unlike skills and attributes, Edges and Flaws generally aren't represented as pools of dice. You either have a particular one, or you don't, although some of them are available at different strengths.

Both traits are generally rated as either Minor or Major. In general, a Major Edge or Flaw is considered twice as strong as a Minor one. Technically, there are two additional levels: Trivial means that the Edge/Flaw is so minor that it's hardly worth charging any points for, while a Dramatic Edge/Flaw is so strong that it's generally reserved for non-player characters.

You start with your choice of one Major Edge or two Minor Edges. If you want more, you can take another Minor Edge and a Minor Flaw, or an extra Major Edge and your choice of one Major Flaw or two Minor ones to make up for it.

Some Edges and Flaws are Restricted however, which means that they're normally only found in specific breeds. If your breed starts with that Edge or Flaw, you get it automatically; otherwise, you can't take it at all.

Don't worry if you want more Edges than that; you'll be able to purchase more with your experience points during play.

Posted by Kiz at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

April 25, 2004


There's a third category of special character trait: the Drive.

A Drive is something that motivates your character very strongly. This can provide benefits in certain cases, but it can also hamper you. If you don't want to start with a drive, you can pick one later or just not have one.

When a drive helps motivate you, you'll get a +1 bonus to appropriate tests. If the motivation is especially strong, you get a +2. Similarly, whenever you go against your drive, you get a -2 penalty... and if you're really violating it, the penalty climbs to -4. If you ever seriously violate a drive in a major way, you're liable to either lose it permanently or suffer minor penalties until you do something to atone for your actions.

Some example drives are listed below.

Loyal to X: your character is extremely loyal to a particular group or organization. You feel that it is your duty to serve and protect them. This grants a bonus to tests that directly involve the object of your loyalty, so you'll be better at defending it and at friendly social skills used with other members of the group. Whenever you engage in an act that your organization wouldn't approve of, though, you will suffer penalties and will generally be wracked with guilt.

Honest: your character abides by a personal code of honor. This entails always telling the truth and never engaging in deceptive actions unless there's a really good reason. You get a bonus to social rolls with folks who know you (because they know that you are always truthful and upright) and a bonus to resist any attempts to make you break your word. You're penalized whenever you do attempt to deceive folks, even when they deserve it.

Honorable: your character follows a warrior's code. You hate treachery and unfair fights. While you may lie or deceive folks if the situation calls for it, you will always keep your solemn oath. You get a bonus to social rolls with folks who know you (because they know that you are honorable) and to attempts to coerce you into doing dishonorable things. You're penalized when you do try to do something dishonorable.

Self-preservation: the drive of confirmed cowards, a character with this drive is primarily concerned with protecting their own hide. They get bonuses when fighting defensively, when fleeing from danger, and when desperately trying to persuade someone not to harm them. They get really nervous and incur penalties to their actions whenever they choose to take unnecessary risks. Unlike most drives, Self-preservation rarely causes you guilt if you seriously violate it; you're much more likely to simply lose the drive.

Charitable: a very selfless drive, your character has a soft heart and a weak spot for the unfortunate and downtrodden. You get bonuses when trying to help the less fortunate without more than token compensation. Such characters generally can't hold onto money and have trouble ignoring the misery of others. They suffer penalties when trying to take advantage of the less fortunate themselves and commonly suffer guilt penalties when they ignore a chance to help someone out.

Drives have game effects, but their primary purpose is as a roleplaying guide. If you're playing a character's drive properly, you'll hardly ever suffer penalties from it... you won't try to go against the drive, because that's not the sort of thing that your character would do.

You are limited to one primary or "major" drive at a time. Don't worry if you can't think of one right away; you can always pick on later.

Posted by Kiz at 12:04 AM | Comments (0)

Minor Drives

Minor drives work just like your primary drive, they're just weaker. Minor drives only have a game effect when the motivation is particularly strong, and even then the adjustment is +1 if the drive supports the task and -2 if it opposes it.

You can choose up to 3 minor drives for your character. Don't worry if you can't think of any; you can always choose them later.

If you find that you are paying more attention to one of your minor drives instead of your primary drive, you might consider swapping them. Your primary drive should be your character's strongest personal motivation.

Posted by Kiz at 08:58 AM | Comments (0)

April 26, 2004

Buying Skills

There are a number of skills available to characters in Nuclear Beasts. Most of these are quite broad in scope and many will occasionally overlap with other skills. This isn't a problem; when multiple skills apply to a single task, just pool them all together.

The number of skill points that your character receives, and the number of points that can be spent on a single skill, will be determined by your GM.

The suggested values are as follows, depending upon how experienced of characters your GM wants.

  • Beginning characters: 20 points, max 3 per skill
  • Experienced characters: 30 points, max 4 per skill
  • Very Experienced characters: 40 points, max 5 per skill
It costs one skill point to increase your current rating in a skill by one step. For easy reference, the costs are listed below.

You'll generally start with a handful of skills already granted by your chosen breed. If you choose to spend points to improve those, don't count their initial rating when determining how many points you can spend.

d41 point
d62 points
d83 points
d104 points
d125 points
d12,d46 points
d12,d67 points
d12,d88 points
d12,d109 points
2d1210 points
2d12,d411 points
Etc.+1 per die level

Example: If your character starts with a Wilderness skill of d8 from his breed and your GM limited to you spending at most 3 points on a single skill, you could increase your Wilderness rating up to d12 & d4, but no higher. A character who didn't start with the Wilderness skill at all could buy it at up to the d8 level, but no higher.

Optional Rule: Buying New Dice at WillIf you don't mind a little extra complexity, you can allow players to purchase additional dice for a skill even if their current rating is below d12. With this rule, whenever you spend a point on a skill, you can increase any of the dice that are below d12 or add a new d4 to the pool. So, someone who spends 3 points to acquire a new skill could buy it as 3d4 or d6 & d4 or just a single d8.

Posted by Kiz at 07:24 AM | Comments (0)

Skill List

Here is a list of the standard skills in Nuclear Beasts. Each one lists the stat or stats that it is most commonly paired with. A Restricted skill is only available to characters who qualify for it. You should read its description carefully for details.

If you don't see a skill that matches what you want, take a look at the Expertise Skill.

Acrobatics (Speed): Your agility and balance. Acrobatics is used to climb objects and to perform tumbles or rolls as well as general acrobatic manuevers. If your breed can fly, then you'll use Acrobatics to manuever in the air as well.

Ancient Lore (Brains): Your knowledge about the old times, before the Last War. This skill also governs your ability to read and write.

Ancient Tech (Brains): Your knowledge about technology and electronics. Used to try and jury-rig or repair ancient devices. Unfortunately, for many things, the tools necessary to repair them simply don't exist anymore. This is the primary skill of the Engineers.

Awareness (Perception): Your ability to notice things using your regular senses. Most commonly used for Spot checks, Listen checks or Smell checks, but Taste checks are possible too. Note that your ability to detect radiation depends upon your Awareness skill.

Charm (Spirit): Making friends, being socialable, using flattery or seduction, and otherwise ingratiating yourself with others.

Construction (Brains or Perception): Skill at constructing, appraising and dismantling large constructs like buildings, tunnels and bridges.

Contortionist (Speed): Your ability to squeeze yourself through openings that are too small for you and to wriggle out of bonds or wrestling holds.

Craft (Brains): Skill at hand-crafting tools, clothes and other useful items, especially ones that are woven. For large-scale projects like buildings, see Construction.

Endurance (Guts): Your ability to exert yourself for long periods without becoming exhausted; often applies to tasks such as manual labor or cross-country travel.

[Expertise (Any)]: This isn't a true skill as such. Basically, when there aren't any skills appropriate to what you want, you can take an Expertise in a particular area instead. The Expertise should apply to any reasonable task involving that subject. For example, if you took Expertise: Spears, then you could include that skill with Melee when fighting with a spear, with Ranged when throwing one, with Awareness when examining one, and with Craft when making or repairing one.

You can take as many Expertise skills as you want, but they all have to have different areas. It's common for the "Expertise:" to be left off of the skill name when you write it down, so if you see someone with the skill Ancient Vehicles, it's probably shorthand for Expertise: Ancient Vehicles.

Herbalism (Brains or Perception): Knowledge about what plants and fungi do what and how to find them. Often used to find food for herbivores in the wilderness, or to find cures for certain illnesses.

Leadership (Spirit): Skill at leading and inspiring others. Often used to convince others to follow your lead.

Melee (Speed): Skill at hand-to-hand combat, whether with natural weapons or artificial ones. Doesn't apply to actual grappling; see Wrestling instead.

[Psychic Skill (Spirit, Restricted)]: Every time that you take the Psychic Power Edge, you get a new Psychic Skill, named after the Power you chose. If you don't have the Psychic Power Edge, you cannot take any of these skills. See the Psychic Powers section for details.

Ranged (Perception): Skill at ranged combat, including shooting and throwing accurately. Note that ranged combat depends primarily upon your Perception stat, not Speed.

Stealth (Speed): Your ability to move silently and to conceal yourself from observers.

Swimming (Speed): Skill at swimming, diving and holding your breath for long periods.

Thievery (Speed or Perception): Skill at picking pockets, opening locks and general sleight of hand.

Tracking (Perception): Your ability to follow a trail, whether by spotting traces or following scents. Often used to find food for carnivores.

Wilderness (Brains or Perception): Skill at surviving in the wilderness. Covers not getting lost, finding shelter, predicting the weather, and similar tasks.

Wrestling (Muscles or Speed): Skill at grappling and other forms of combat where you attempt to grab and/or pin your opponent.

Posted by Kiz at 07:25 AM | Comments (0)

Task Resolution

When called upon to perform a task, you'll roll a pool of dice. This is generally a single attribute and one or more skills, but it can be two attributes, the same attribute twice, or any other combination.

Task ResolutionThe largest number rolled is your result. Apply any bonuses or penalties, then compare this to the target number you were trying to match or beat. The results can be interpreted as follows:

ResultRoll Required
BotchFail by 4+ or roll the Risk or less unmodified
FailureRoll less than the target number
Partial SuccessRoll the target number or higher
SuccessBeat the target number by 4+
Critical SuccessBeat the target number by 8+
Extraordinary SuccessBeat the target number by 12+

If the rules don't say what difficulty to roll against, you can assume that the target number is 4. That's the standard difficulty for tasks in Nuclear Beasts. Thus, we have the Standard Task Resolution table below.

Standard Task ResolutionIf the rules don't specify a particular difficulty, just roll against difficulty 4. Apply any bonuses or penalties, then check the table below for the results:

ResultRoll Required
BotchRisk or less unmodified, or less than 1 after modifiers
Partial Success4-7
Critical Success12-15
Extraordinary Success16+

Technically, if you beat the target number by 16+ (a 20 on a standard test), it's an Extra2 and beating it by 20+ (a 24 on a standard test) is an Extra3, but these won't come up much in play. The GM is encouraged to think up appropriate effects for such phenomenally high rolls.

Posted by Kiz at 07:33 AM | Comments (0)


When you look at the basic resolution tables, you'll see that failing a roll by 4+ or rolling the Risk or less is a Botch.

Failing by a lot is fairly intuitive, but what is the Risk of an action?

The Risk is the number that you have to beat with your unmodified die roll to avoid a Botch. That's important; bonuses and penalties don't apply to figuring out whether or not you beat the Risk- we only care about the actual numbers rolled.

The default Risk for any action is 1. Thus, you'll only roll a Botch if every die rolled comes up a 1. If the Risk for an action was 4, you'd suffer a mishap if the highest die roll was 4 or less. Obviously, the greater the Risk, the more dangerous it is to attempt the action.

A Risk of zero is harmless. No die can roll that low without modifiers, so you don't need to worry about it.

A Risk of 1 is pretty mild. If you're rolling even two dice, you're pretty well protected against a Botch. With three or four dice, getting all ones is really rare (it happens on 3d4 only one time in sixty-four). This is the default Risk for any action.

A Risk of 2 is a good bit more dangerous. For example, if you were rolling 3d4, the odds of scoring a mishap would go up to one in eight instead of one in sixty-four. That's an eight-fold increase.

And if the Risk gets up to 3 or 4, well... you'd better be prepared for a Botch unless you're rolling a lot of very large dice. Even if you were rolling 3d8, with a risk of 4 you'd score a mishap one time in eight. Worse, a 4 would no longer be a success when making a standard test... it would be a Botch. Try to avoid tasks with Risk ratings that high.

When you roll a Botch, it means that something went very wrong. Perhaps you accidentally shot an ally or said exactly the wrong thing. If the task in question doesn't specify what form a Botch should take, the GM should invent some sort of goof-up or complication that seems appropriate.

Posted by Kiz at 07:35 AM | Comments (0)

Opposed Tests

If something that you're doing is being opposed by someone else, you'll generally roll your pool of dice versus whatever pool of dice they're using to oppose you. Thus, the target number will vary depending upon how good they are at what they're doing and how well they roll.

Sometimes it's possible for either side to "win" the struggle. In this case, both sides roll and you treat whoever rolled higher as though they were the one performing the action. If the two rolls are identical, this is a Tie. This usually means that there's no clear winner; for the moment, it's a stalemate.

Posted by Kiz at 08:44 AM | Comments (0)

Target Numbers for Unopposed Tests

When you're performing a task that doesn't involve direct opposition by someone else, the target number you need to succeed will be determined by how difficult the task in question is. For predictable tasks, where random chance shouldn't play a large part, the difficulty should be a set value. On the other hand, if you want the task to always be beatable by anyone (but not necessarily easily), then you should set the difficulty to a random amount.

DescriptionSet DifficultyRandom Equivalent
Very Easy2d4 (ave 2.5)
32d4 (ave 3.13)
Typical42d6 (ave 4.47)
5d8,d6 (ave 5.23)
62d8 (ave 5.81)
72d10 (ave 7.15)
Hard82d12 (ave 8.49)
93d12 (ave 9.48)
104d12 (ave 10.07)
114d12+1 (ave 11.07)
Very Hard124d12+2 (ave 12.07)
Nigh Impossible13+4d12+3 and up

Posted by Kiz at 11:54 AM | Comments (0)

June 01, 2004

Combat Overview

Combat in Nuclear Beasts is handled by making a series of opposed rolls between attackers and defenders. Successful attacks allow the attacker to make another opposed roll, this time between his attack's damage pool and the defender's soak pool. The results determine what effect the attack has on the target.

The procedure for each combat round is as follows:

  1. If the order in which the characters will act isn't obvious, everyone has to roll a Reaction check (normally Speed & Perception) to determine initiative. Folks then act in order of their results, from highest to lowest.
  2. The attacker rolls his attack skill vs the defender's defense roll.
  3. If the attack succeeds, then the attacker rolls the damage pool of his attack vs the defender's soak (usually Muscles & Guts & Armor dice).
  4. The defender records the damage done, if any.
  5. Once everyone has acted (which may or may not have included making attacks), we reroll initiative and start over again.

There are 3 basic types of attacks. Melee attacks (punches, kicks, natural weapons and most melee weapons) use Speed & Melee. Wrestling (unarmed combat involving grapples, pins and throws) uses Speed & Wrestling. Finally, ranged attacks (whether thrown objects or firearms) use Perception & Ranged.

Parries are used to block Melee attacks. The defender rolls Speed & Melee, trying to overcome the attacker's roll.

A Fend is a variation on the Parry. Rather than trying to deflect an incoming attack, the defender intends to forestall any attacks by hitting their attacker first. This usually requires having a longer reach than your foe.

Blocks (using a shield or something similar) can block both Melee and Wrestling attacks. The defender rolls Speed & Melee (& whatever Defense Dice the shield contributes).

A Dodge is an attempt to avoid a melee attack by sidestepping it. The defender rolls Speed & Acrobatics. Dodging is best used when you have room to retreat and are willing to do so; using it to defend yourself while staying within melee range is more difficult.

Ranged attacks are more difficult to avoid, because you can't use Parry or Fend against them. Blocks are also problematic, because many ranged attacks (i.e.- firearms) will blow right through a successful block. Even dodging is difficult and requires something to duck behind.

On the other hand, even if you can't use any of the standard defenses against a ranged attack, you'll still get some defense dice based upon the range between you and the attacker.

Posted by Kiz at 05:47 PM | Comments (0)

June 02, 2004

Melee Combat

Posted by Kiz at 12:33 PM | Comments (0)

June 24, 2004

Psychic Powers

Beasts commonly refer to psychic powers as "Gifts" or "Powers". No one is quite sure where they come from; the very first generation of Beasts manifested some of the simpler abilities right away. Since those days, a number of different Gifts have been discovered, some of which defy easy classification.

Mechanically, a psychic power is represented by the Psychic Power Edge and a matching skill. This Edge can be taken multiple times; each one grants you a new psychic power. Each time that you take it, you acquire a new skill, which you can use to invoke or control that power. These skills all start without any dice, but so long as you have the appropriate Edge, you can still use them. Without the appropriate Edge, it's impossible to use a given power.

When you want to use one of your powers, you'll normally roll Spirit & the appropriate Psychic Skill. Note that while you can use a psychic power without having any dice in the skill, it's dangerous.

Most Gifts can be used to perform several different effects, which are discussed under the rules for each one. You can also push a Gift, making it do something above and beyond what it is normally capable of. When you do this, you'll often lose access to that power for a time. Pushing a Gift generally requires intense concentration and shouldn't be done lightly.

In extraordinary circumstances, you can even double-push a Gift. This generally means pushing it once, then pushing it still harder. When you double-push a Gift, you're asking for trouble. Double-pushing can accomplish extraordinary things, but you could lose your power for days or even see your skill at it permanently reduced.

Pushing or Double-Pushing a PowerIn order to push a power, you must first activate it normally. Then you have to spend a full action pushing it. Roll Spirit & Psychic Skill.

Double-pushing is simply the act of pushing a power that has already been pushed once. If you try to double-push, you'll have to roll on the Powerloss Table as well. A power cannot be "triple-pushed".

The Risk of this roll is 2 for a regular push and 3 for a double-push.

Botchyour power turns off and you cannot reactivate it until after you get a good night's rest.
Failureyour power turns off, but you can reactivate it normally.
Partial Successyou successfully push your power. Once it turns off, you'll lose access to it until after you get a good night's rest.
Successas Partial Success, but you only require one hour of rest to recover access to your power.
Critical Successas Success, but you don't lose access to your power when it turns off.
Extraordinary Successas Critical Success, but the time necessary is reduced to a half-action.

Special Note: the results of a double-push roll cannot be better than the results of the original push roll. If you pushed and scored a Partial Success, then any result higher than Partial Success on your double-push roll will be treated as a Partial Success.

Whenever you try to double-push a power, whether you succeed or fail, you'll have to roll on the Powerloss table.

The Powerloss TableRoll a d12 and consult the results below. Note that your Spirit and Skill ratings have no effect on this roll! Thus, it's not normally possible to roll an Extraordinary Success.

Botchyour skill with the power is reduced by 1 step permanently. If you have no skill dice for that power, your Spirit stat is reduced by 1 step, permanently. Double-pushing a power is dangerous.
Failurelose access to all psychic powers for 1d6+1 days.
Partial Successlose access to the power used for 1d4+1 days.
Successlose access to the power used for one additional full day.
Critical Successlose access to the power used for one additional hour.
Posted by Kiz at 03:21 PM | Comments (0)

June 26, 2004

Setting Specific Rules

The entries after this point are largely setting specific. They're intended for the Nuclear Beasts world and wouldn't necessarily apply elsewhere.

Of course, some of the rules already covered have setting-specific elements, but here it's getting more and more specific.

Posted by Kiz at 06:24 PM | Comments (0)

June 27, 2004

Psychic Power List

Here are the psychic powers commonly available in Nuclear Beasts.

Auguryyou can scry the past, present or future of an object or person.
Channelingyou have spirit voices to advise and instruct you.
Empathic Healingyou can aid others by sharing their injuries and taking them on yourself.
Empathyyou are sensitive to the emotional states of those around you.
Ghostwalkingyou can see the ghosts of the past and can sometimes interact with them.
Inner Focusyou can control your bodily and mental resources and can allocate them accordingly.
Inner Harmonyyou can place yourself in harmony with the universe, enabling you to avoid conflicts, withstand adverse environments and locate things that are lost.
Projectionyou can send a projection of yourself to a well known person or place.
Rendingyou can increase the damage done by your natural weapons.
Sendingyou can send mental messages to other people.
Sixth Senseyou are sensitive to danger, water flows, electrical current, and other subtle and hidden energies.
Tougheningyou can make your flesh more resistant to harm.
Posted by Kiz at 02:54 PM | Comments (0)

July 01, 2004

Picking a Breed

Your character's Breed is basically their animal ancestor. All Beasts were genetically engineered from ancient, pre-Apocalypse animal species. The species that you pick will give you special Edges, Flaws and other adjustments to your character. It will also grant you a default rating in certain skills that your breed is especially good at.

The Beasts appeared in three distinct "generations", with long gaps between each one. Naturally, they went on to have children of their own, but the term "generations" is still commonly used to refer to the three distinct types of breeds.

The first generation of Beasts consisted of large and powerful animals capable of pacifying the Verde and making it safe for cubs and smaller Beasts. These Beasts are physically powerful, but still move on all fours and lack hands. Since they can't use many tools and devices, they still need the aid of the later generations.

The second generation was of small and agile animals with dextrous paws who could use tools relatively easily. They are largely similar to their ancestors, just a bit larger, but nowhere near the size of the first generation beasts. Most of them can stand on their hind feet and walk around, but have to drop to all fours to run. While they can use ancient devices, they sometimes have problems because their hands are smaller than human hands.

The third generation of Beasts is the most like Man. These breeds are fully humanoid and stand upright. They have human-like hands and can use ancient tools and devices with ease... provided that they know how. Many of them see their kind as the natural inheritors of Man's authority, since they are clearly cast in His image.

Optional Rule: Other BreedsThe basic game assumes that PCs will be limited to choosing from the standard breeds, but other breeds exist in the setting. If your GM is willing, you may be allowed to take a non-standard breed, such as one from a foreign area or an entirely new one. If you want a "rare" breed (meaning one that isn't currently written up), you'll have to create it. The standard breeds are designed to be fairly well balanced against each other, so they should be used as a reference for making a new species.

Posted by Kiz at 02:47 AM | Comments (0)

The Breeds of Beast

Here are the breeds of Beast which are found in the Verde. There are other breeds elsewhere, but these are the ones normally available as PCs.

First Generation Beasts (Wolves, Cougars, Bears and Oxen)

Wolves (total 9.5)
Free Edges: Echoing Cry (1/2), Keen Nose (1), Pack Hunter (1), Very Fast (1)
Innate Flaws: No Hands (-4)
Starting Skills: Awareness (d10), Endurance (d10), Stealth (d10), Tracking (d10), Wilderness (d10)

Wolves tend to be gregarious, social folk and rarely deal well with continued isolation. They are not as physically powerful as other First Generation breeds, but they make up for it through cooperation and clever tactics. Their mournful howls keep packs in touch even at great distances.

It's a special point of pride for most Wolves that the First Folk (supposedly the very first clan of Beasts to enter the world and the guardians of the Sacred Hills) are Wolves.

Cougars (total 8)
Free Edges: Big +1 (1), Night Vision (2), Very Fast (1)
Innate Flaws: No Hands (-4)
Starting Skills: Acrobatics (d10), Awareness (d10), Stealth (d10), Wilderness (d10)
Fiercely independent and largely self-sufficient hunters, Cougars are more powerful than Wolves but rarely work well in large groups. A Cougar is generally happier with a small group of close friends than being part of a large pack. Even when they form into clans, they generally live far enough apart that they don't feel crowded. Most of them hate living in densely populated cities.

Bears (total 8)
Free Edges: Big +2 (2), Bloodlust (2)
Innate Flaws: No Hands (-4)
Starting Skills: Endurance (d10), Herbalism (d10), Wilderness (d10), Wrestling (d10)
While these huge grizzlies aren't as fast as the other first generation Beasts, they are immensely strong and powerful. The Bear clan known as the Mountain Fangs actually claims that they were the first Beasts and that the First Folk tricked their ancestors into committing a heinous crime so that they could take their rightful place instead. This brought down a curse upon the Bears such that they would always be ruled by their anger. While only the Mountain Fangs still blame the First Folk for their condition, even modern Bears still suffer from berserk rages when injured or angered.

Musk-Oxen (total 7)
Free Edges: Big +2 (2), Very Fast (1), Herd Defense (1), Cold Adaptation (1)
Innate Flaws: No Hands (-4)
Starting Skills: Endurance (d10), Herbalism (d10), Wilderness (d10)
These massive hooved Beasts sometimes seem out of place amongst their kin. Commonly referred to as just Oxen, Musk-oxen have long, heavy coats that leave them quite comfortable in even the coldest of winters. In fact, during the summers they sometimes suffer from heatstroke during the hottest days. Few predators can threaten a herd of Oxen, as they are skilled at forming an impenetrable defensive line around the weak and vulnerable. During the winter months, when heavy snowfalls hinder the travel of other breeds, the Oxen are still active and often act as messengers for less snow-worthy Beasts.

Second Generation Beasts (Mice, Squirrels, Bats and Otters)

Mice (total 11)
Free Edges: Small -2 (2)
Innate Flaws: None
Starting Skills: Awareness (d8), Burrowing (d8), Contortionist (d8), Craft (d8), Stealth (d8), Thievery (d8)

Most Beasts think of Mice as meek and placid, but really they're just very cautious around larger creatures. Among themselves they can be extremely vicious, although they rarely fight to the death. Unlike most Beasts, they prefer to live underground either in burrows of their own creation or in Man-made Deeps. Many suffer from actual Agoraphobia and hate being out in the open but most are willing to travel above ground.

Mice are extremely skilled craftsmen, and their clever hands produce a large proportion of all of the woven goods in the Verde. They are a gregarious and chatty folk; it's a rare Mouse who is actively unfriendly to strangers.

Squirrels (total 11)
Free Edges: Small -2 (2)
Innate Flaws: None
Starting Skills: Acrobatics (d10), Awareness (d6), Herbalism (d8), Stealth (d8), Thievery (d8), Wilderness (d8)
Much more acrobatic than Mice, Squirrels prefer to live in the treetops. They are very skilled climbers, often able to travel from tree to tree along branches that would break under the weight of a larger Beast. They tend to live in smaller groups than Mice and are often loners.

Bats (total 11.5)
Free Edges: Flight (2), Keen Ears (1), Night Vision (2), Silent Speech (1), Small -2 (2)
Innate Flaws: High Metabolism (-1)
Starting Skills: Acrobatics (d8), Awareness (d8), Wilderness (d8)
Envied by many other Beasts for their ability to fly, Bats have a privileged position as the fastest messengers in the Verde. Combined with their keen senses and ability to see in conditions of minimal light, they make extremely effective scouts, but their high metabolic rate means that they have to eat about twice as much as other Beasts of their size.

Some Bats look down upon their land-bound cousins, but most realize how difficult it would be for them to survive on their own. Their light-weight bodies are comparatively frail, making them easy prey for any predators that do manage to catch them on the ground. Because of this, most Bats prefer to nest hanging upside down from some high place difficult to reach without wings.

Otters (total 8.0)
Free Edges: Small -1 (1), Water Adaptation (1)
Innate Flaws: None
Starting Skills: Herbalism (d8), Swimming (d12,d4), Wilderness (d8)
If Bats rule the sky, then Otters rule the waters. Fast and graceful in the water, baby Otters generally learn to swim before they learn to walk. The few Otters who live in dry areas tend to long for open waters and take every opportunity to swim. They are extremely skilled at detecting poisons in the water, which is good; it doesn't take much oil (or similar sludge) to ruin the insulating effect of their fur.

Otters are notorious for their playful attitudes and light hearts, but in times of crisis they generally become as grim and serious as any other Beast in danger.

Third Generation Beasts (Hyenas, Lions, Elephants and Cheetahs)

Hyenas (total 7.5)
Free Edges: Echoing Cry (1/2), Improved Bite (1), Night Vision (2), Pack Hunter (1), Scavenger (1)
Innate Flaws: None
Starting Skills: Awareness (d6), Endurance (d6)

Fierce and independent as a whole but gregarious amongst themselves, Hyenas tend to chafe under the leadership of any breed but their own. They are skilled hunters and scavengers and are notable for their ability to eat even rotting meat without harm. Their powerful jaws can even chew bone, allowing them to devour their prey completely. They are notable as being the only Beasts able to survive by eating creatures and plants from the Blight.

Lions (total 6.5)
Free Edges: Big +1 (+2 for males), Echoing Cry (1/2), Night Vision (2), Pack Hunter (1)
Innate Flaws: None
Starting Skills: Awareness (d6), Stealth (d6) [females receive Wilderness d6 as well]
Fierce and proud but prone to infighting, Lions prize both independence and loyalty to the group at the same time. The males are generally bigger and lazier than the females. It's common for a pride to have a male Alpha but a female Lorekeeper, with the Lorekeeper being the power behind the throne.

Moreso than most other breeds, Lions often settle internal conflicts with hand-to-hand combat, usually wrestling. The loser submits and the winner gets their way. These conflicts rarely end in serious harm; low-ranking lions who injure or cripple a fellow Beast in such a combat will often be cast out of the pride, and they know it.

Elephants (total 7.5)
Free Edges: Big +2 (2), Echoing Cry (1/2), Keen Ears (1), Prehensile Trunk (1), Tusks (1)
Innate Flaws: None
Starting Skills: Endurance (d6), Herbalism (d6)
While Elephants are enormously strong and possess human-like hands, their massive size actually hinders their ability to use ancient human devices. Their fingers are often too large to use buttons or triggers, at least not without first modifying the device. Furthermore, since they walk upright they have lost a lot of their ancestors' ability to travel great distances.

Elephants are herbivores and require an enormous amount of roughage to survive. Most Elephants live in small families, often as part of a mixed-breed clan or tribe. There are very few all-Elephant tribes... they have too much trouble finding enough food to feed everyone for it to be practical. Elephants tend to be very soft-spoken and polite, but they can be very dangerous when crossed.

Cheetahs (total 8)
Free Edges: Burst of Speed (2), Keen Ears (1), Keen Eyes (1), Night Vision (2)
Innate Flaws: None
Starting Skills: Awareness (d6), Stealth (d6)
Over a short burst, even first generation Beasts can't match a Cheetah for pure speed. They are very skilled and independent hunters, sneaking up to close range with their prey, then running them down. Tribes and clans tend to consist of small, nuclear families scattered over a wide area.

Even the most well-fed of Cheetahs tend to be thin and lanky due to their metabolic rate. Most are quiet and thoughtful folk, preferring their own company to that of large groups.

[Cost note: Right now I'm assuming that a d6 is worth 1, a d10 is 2, and Edges are either 1 or 2. The totals are just rough guesses at the moment, since the values of various Edges may change. My original version said that a starting skill was always worth 1, regardless of how big it was... that may change. The idea is to eventually use these values to balance out the races. I want them all to be roughly equal, instead of using the Ironclaw method of having them cost different amounts.]

Posted by Kiz at 10:47 PM | Comments (0)

July 02, 2004

Example Edges

Big (Minor, Restricted): this Edge indicates that your breed is simply bigger than other breeds of Beast. If you don't have Big or Small, then your breed is roughly human-sized.

Big gives you a lot of bonuses and penalties. Add your Big rating to your Muscles die whenever you use it. Unfortunately, you also have to subtract it from the following skills: Acrobatics, Contortionist, Craft, Stealth, Swimming and Thievery. These adjustments happen all of the time, so you'll probably just want to write them next to the ratings in question.

Big can also penalize you under certain other circumstances. It's subtracted from your ability to use certain technological devices (ones where your oversized fingers would have difficulty using them), although you may be able to have them modified to accomodate your larger hands. Similarly, armor and food is liable to be more expensive.

Finally, it's subtracted from your defense rolls in ranged combat even if you aren't dodging (if you are dodging, just apply the penalty once). Big targets are simply easier to hit.

Burst of Speed (Major, Restricted): your breed is capable of incredible bursts of speed for a very brief period. You can use this ability to grant you a whopping +6 bonus to a single chase test or to add an extra d12+1 to a charge attack, but afterwards you won't be able to use this ability again until after you've had a chance to eat and rest for at least one hour.

Herd Defender (Minor, Restricted): your breed travels in herds and you instinctively know how to aid each other when defending against such attacks. You receive an extra d8 to your defense rolls against Melee attacks if you have a defending ally on one side and an extra d12 if you have one on both sides.

[For normal characters, this bonus is d6 for one ally and d8 for two.]

Improved Stat (Major): one of your stat dice is increased by a single level.

Keen Ears (Minor): you receive a +2 bonus to all Listen tests. You can also hear sounds too high or low pitched for normal Beasts.

Keen Eyes (Minor): you receive a +2 bonus to all Spot tests. You can make out small details (such as writing) at ranges that other Beasts cannot.

Keen Nose (Minor): you receive a +2 bonus to all Smell tests. You can even track normal creatures by their scent alone, which normal Beasts cannot.

Keen Taste (Minor): you receive a +4 bonus to all Taste tests, such as rolls to notice toxins in food or water or to identify chemicals by taste. You get a roll to detect even normally "tasteless" chemicals.

Night Vision (Major): so long as there is at least minimal lighting, you can see in the dark, ignoring penalties of up to -3. Your eyes are also extremely reflective and seem to glow if light is shined in them.

Pack Hunter (Minor, Restricted): your breed hunts in groups, and you instinctively know how to take advantage of it. You can include additional dice with all Melee attacks based upon how many allies you have aiding you against the same target. The bonus is d6 for one ally, d10 for two, d12 & d4 for three, d12 & d8 for four and 2d12 for five or more.

[For normal characters, the benefit is d4 for one, d6 for 2, d8 for 3, d10 for 4 and d12 for 5+.]

Psychic Power (Minor/Major): this Edge grants your character a new Psychic Power. This is a special skill, named after the Power chosen, which represents your skill at using that Power. A Psychic Skill starts with no dice.

This edge can be taken multiple times if desired; each time it grants you access to a new psychic power and a new psychic skill to use it. Your first Psychic Power is a Major Edge. Additional powers are Minor Edges. Someone without this Edge has no Psychic Powers or Psychic Skills at all.

See the Psychic Powers section for a description of the various powers available and how to use them.

Small (Minor, Restricted): the opposite of Big, having one or more levels of Small indicates that your breed is notably smaller than others. If you don't have Big or Small, then your breed is roughly human-sized.

Small gives you a lot of bonuses and penalties. First, it subtracts from your Muscles die whenever you roll it. Apply it as a bonus to the following skills: Acrobatics, Contortionist, Craft, Stealth, Swimming and Thievery. These adjustments apply all of the time, so it's probably easiest to write them down next to the ratings in question.

Similar to Big, sometimes you'll be penalized when your hands are just too small to effectively use some devices (standard-sized firearms, in particular, will generally have too much recoil for you). Armor and food are generally less expensive (although not as much as you might think; small critters often have to eat a lot more in comparison to their body-weight).

Finally, whenever you are rolling defense dice against a ranged attack, you can add your Small rating as a bonus to the roll even if you aren't dodging (if you are dodging, the bonus still only applies once).

Posted by Kiz at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

July 03, 2004

Example Flaws

High Metabolism (Minor): your character's metabolism is faster than normal. You need to eat twice as much as normal for a Beast your size.

No Hands (Dramatic, Restricted): your breed simply doesn't have hands. You can manipulate objects with your mouth or paws, but without thumbs (or even agile fingers), there are many things you simply can't do. Penalties range from -2 for actions where hands would help, but aren't essential to -4 for actions where hands are vital, to -8 where the task is practically impossible otherwise.

Phobia (Minor/Major): your character is deathly afraid of something. You will avoid contact with the source of your fear whenever possible. Whenever you are forced to interact with it, you have to roll a Willpower test (with the difficulty depending upon how strongly present the object of your fear is) to avoid freezing up or retreating. Even when you succeed, you'll often be at a -1 penalty due to distraction.

Whether this is a Minor or Major flaw depends upon what you are afraid of and how often it is likely to interfere with your life. Being terrified of something that ought to frighten you is more minor than being scared of something beneficial.

Some examples are:

  • Open Spaces (Major): you are afraid of open spaces and hate being exposed to the sky. If you have to travel in the open, stick as close as possible to walls or trees. Never go out into the middle of a flat, open area.
  • Fire (Minor): you are afraid of fire. A campfire or candle won't bother you so long as it remains under control, but uncontrolled fires terrify you.
  • Psychic Powers (Minor): you can't stand it when other people use psychic powers on you. Sendings terrify you and even Empathic Healing seems like a horrific thing to undergo. This doesn't apply to powers that you use on yourself, or powers that other people use on themselves, just the idea of someone else using a power on you.

Radiation Blindness (Major): unlike most creatures, Beast senses can pick up signs of radioactivity. Their eyes perceive it as a faint green glow, their nasal passages burn when there is radioactive dust in the air, and their very skin crawls when something dangerously radioactive touches them. This helps keep them alive in the wastes. A Beast with this flaw loses this ability completely. This can be quite lethal, because by the time you can feel the damage being done by radiation, it's usually much too late to save yourself.

Posted by Kiz at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

July 05, 2004


The power of Rending is the ability to disrupt flesh or other materials by touch. It was the first Gift manifested by the Beasts and proved instrumental in driving away the horrors that were ravaging the Verde. First generation Beasts tend to use Rending more than their fellows since they can't wield normal weapons.

Invoking RendingInvoking Rending can take up to a full-turn action. A really good roll can reduce the time required, but only the most skilled of users can depend on that. Roll Spirit & Rending.

Botchyou waste a full action but fail. You cannot try again until after you have gotten a good night's rest.
Failureyou waste a full action trying to invoke it, but fail.
Partial Success Rending is invoked, but it takes a full action and will only last until the end of the next combat round.
Successthe character can choose between taking a half-action to invoke it for one round, or they can take a full action to invoke it for the rest of the scene.
Critical Successthe character can choose between taking a free action to invoke it for one round, or a half-action to invoke it for the scene.
Extraordinary Successthe character can invoke it for the scene as a free action.

Once Rending has been successfully invoked, the character can include their Rending dice with the damage dice for any successful hit with a natural weapon (including plain old punches and kicks). They can even choose to lightly touch a foe (which would normally inflict no damage) and just roll their Rending dice. Even while it's active, doing damage with Rending requires a conscious act; you can still pick up items, scratch your head, touch a friend, etc., without using it.

When Rending is pushed, the normal effect (include your Rending dice with damage) works even when using a melee weapon. If you strike someone with a natural weapon, your Rending dice now inflict damage separately from your regular damage dice. Roll regular damage normally (not including your Rending dice). Afterwards, you'll roll your Rending dice vs the target's Soak, ignoring their armor dice. Even if your regular attack bounces off of them harmlessly, your Power may tear apart their flesh anyway.

Finally, Rending can be double-pushed by pushing again while it is still active. This grants you a +4 bonus to your Rending damage if you're using a natural weapon, allows you to roll your Rending dice separately even if using a melee weapon, and allows you to include your unmodified Rending dice with the damage of a thrown weapon (there is no way to make Rending work through a projectile weapon like a bow or firearm).

While the effects of invoking Rending are normally invisible to the naked eye, when you double-push this Power folks will actually be able to see a faint, flickering aura around your body and you will no longer be able to touch objects with your hands and feet without damaging them. Even your footprints will be burned into the ground.

Posted by Kiz at 03:40 PM | Comments (0)