Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Apocalypse 1898 - I'm No Fool

Wow - within a day my last post becomes one of my most popular posts ever. I'm no fool, so it's time to milk this a bit.

Apocalypse 1898 is the working title. Good / Bad / Whaddya think?

I'll use a variation on Target 10 for the basic rules.

Here is my outline so far:

Ability Scores
Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, Charisma; roll 3d6 for each to determine the score (will run from 1 to 9).

Each ability score is tied to several "skills". For each ability, based on your score, you get to pick a number of these skills as "class skills" so to speak (i.e. you add your character's skill bonus and ability score to them when your testing them, as opposed to just adding your ability score.

Score / No. of Skills
1-3 / choose one skill
4-5 / choose two skills
6-9 / choose three skills

In addition, you choose one additional skill from your highest ability category as your specialty (an additional +3 to tests)


Strength: Pugilism, swordplay, resist disease, resist poison, resist pain and exhaustion, wrestling, breaking and bending, leaping, climbing, swimming

Dexterity: Archery, throwing, gunplay, legerdemain, duck and cover, lock picking, riding, creep silently, lurk in shadows

Intelligence: Scholarship, decipher codes and languages, invent device, concoct formula, appraise value, discover clue, survival, pilot ship, occult knowledge

Charisma: Size up opposition, play instrument, sing and dance, command, charm, suggest, resist domination, trickery

Roll 1d20, add bonuses - penalties - try to meet or beat a 10 (i.e. Target 10)

Difficulties impose a -3 penalty (cumulative) on a roll - determined by Ref, but I'd give some examples

Other Stats /Abilities
Hit Points: 1d6 per point of Strength (+3 for specialization with any combat-oriented skill)
Equipment: One roll on random equipment chart per point of Charisma
Armor Class: 5 + Dex + armor bonus
Languages: One per point of Intelligence (or 2 slots to become literate in a language)

You can start at one of three "levels"

Novice: Has a skill bonus of +3 and 3 luck points
Veteran: Has a skill bonus of +6 and 1 luck point
Master: Has a skill bonus of +9 and 0 luck points

As always in Target 10, luck points are used to get automatic successes on rolls, or impose automatic failures on your opponents. You can also trade them for things like extra equipment

This may change as I delve into the period literature, but for now ...

Human: Gets 1 extra luck point
Freak: Get one mutation (see below)
Invader: Str -2, Int +2; gets "resist disease" as a bonus skill

The mutations are going to be inspired more by PT Barnum's freak show than by what you find in most mutant games. Things like bestial appearance, horrific appearance, gigantism, pinhead, etc. No death rays. All of them would have a boon and a drawback attached to them.

You can work magic with this skill, but you must take it as a specialty.

There would be a list of magical operations with a Difficulty Class (DC) for each - like the psychic abilities in Space Princess. Maybe you would be required to have training in one to use it - perhaps you have as many "spells" as you have points of skill.

Character Packages
I'd probably include some sample character packages - if nothing else for use as quick NPCs. All of them would assume a "4" in three ability scores and a "6" in the fourth

Adventurer/Adventuress - explorers, doers of great deeds - Nellie Bly comes to mind

Gentleman/Lady - the gentry, educated and charming
Athlete - John L Sullivan comes to mind
Cowboy - Teddy Roosevelt, Buffalo Bill
Magician - Madame Blavatsky
Inventor - Tesla, Edison

An example might be ...

Cowboy (Veteran)
   STR 4: Pugilism (10), Wrestling (10)
   DEX 6: Duck & Cover (12), Gunplay (12), Riding* (15)
   INT 4: Discover Clue (10), Survival (10)
   CHA 4: Play Instrument (Guitar or Harmonica) (10), Resist Domination (10)

Gangster (Veteran)
   STR 4: Climbing (10), Pugilism (10)
   DEX 6: Creep Silently (12), Legerdemain (12), Lurk in Shadows* (15)
   INT 4: Appraise Value (10), Survival (10)
   CHA 4: Resist Domination (10), Trickery (10)

This would probably be restricted to a few giant versions of animals - giant rats, giant spiders. Would replace Novice/Veteran/Master with Small/Medium/Large and otherwise use the same ability scores and a bunch of skills (common sense here, not using the same rules as character creation), with some special abilities added in where necessary.

The setting is New York. The game would describe the different boroughs and neighborhoods in the post-invasion setting. The main goal would be survival - food and water, not being beaten and robbed - as in "Warriors ... Come hither and play!" type stuff. Of course, build up a reputation, a small army, some Invader weaponry and maybe you can knock down the doors of Tammany Hall and start running the joint.

To Verne or Not To Verne - That is the Question
The comments on the last post suggest people want some full scale Victorian Jules Verne sci-fi in this game. I'm not opposed to it, but it may occupy a separate chapter so people can either play a grim and gritty (though slightly tongue-in-cheek) romp through Victorian post-apocalyptic New York City, and others can include various sci-fi modules to make the game more in the steampunk vein.

Otherwise, the only "scientific romance" elements are going to be the surviving invaders and their weapons, and the supernatural abilities (which could be included as an add-on module as well, since some might prefer not to play Cabalists and Cowboys).


  1. Interesting. Personally, I would want the full-on Verne/Wells sci-fi included...who else caused the apocalypse if not the Martians!

    [fwiw I believe C7 will be coming out with their War of the Worlds supplement for their Victoriana RPG soon...with much the same premise. Because of that Apocalypse Victoriana might not be the best name?)

  2. I'd call the gangster something more Victorian as gangster sounds too 30s pulp, to me.

  3. While he's more 1920s that Victorian proper, The Abominable Dr. Anton Phibes and His Clockwork Wizards just HAVE to be lurking around somewhere.

  4. True - I'm stuck on a name so far. And yeah - trying to find a better name for gangsters as well.

    Apparently, Phibes is in the public domain, so I guess he would be fair game.

  5. Little research - what about Ballum Rancum. It's slang from the period for a ball or dance where all the attendees were thieves and prostitutes. It's really obscure, but it sums up the concept of people trying to survive in a ruined city that's fallen back into the dark ages.

    Also - looking around, it seems like the 1890's term for a gangster might have been ... gangster.

  6. Or ... Apocalypse Rag ... man - that's obscure as well. I don't know - any ideas out there people are willing to share?

  7. Found a good site for Victorian Slang:

  8. How about Fin de Siècle as a title?

  9. Your a monster, a horrible evil monster...I can't keep up...stop making kewl stuff....


  10. Yeah - my problem on slang is that it's set in New York rather than London - most of the Victorian slang people know comes from London.

    As for titles - I want it to deliver two pieces of information to the prospective buyer (1) Apocalypse RPG (2) Victorian Era. I'm now thinking of going with ...

    Apocalypse 1898

    I'm going to post a draft of the introduction to the setting at some point today.

  11. I think Verne-esque sci-fi is fine, but it should be limited to mad scientists and their lairs, which is also verne-esque. You can not just go down to the store and buy an atomic submarine for example.

    Also, consider how far post disaster you want to be, as that will help to guide how various countries and regions change as a result of the disaster.

    Another point is where you want to have your disaster start. By 1898 you already have a ton of technologies (phone, movie camera, records, machine guns, magazine fed guns, breach loading cannon, turbine powered ships, primative airships, and internal combustion). Slightly earlier may be better.

  12. Agree - check the introduction to the setting I post later today. It makes things clearer. I'm taking the 1898 date that War of the Worlds was written as the history of the conflict, which took place about a decade earlier.


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