Fallout Chems as D&D Potions

Last game session, part of the loot recovered after a dangerous three-way battle (PCs, orks, and a wyvern) consisted of stimpacks, a staple of the Fallout series. Although the concept and delivery differ, the stimpack's function is identical to that of the healing potion: consumable instant healing that anyone can use. All of the Fallout chems work this way, and if you ignore the side effects, it isn't hard to find D&D equivalents.

Buffout grants the effects of a Potion of Bull's Strength and a Potion of Bear's Endurance.
Jet functions like a Potion of Haste.
Med-X functions like a Potion of Stoneskin.
Mentats grant the effects of a Potion of Fox's Cunning and a Potion of Owl's Wisdom.
Psycho functions like a Potion of Rage.
Rad Away functions as a Potion of Neutralize Poison, except it cancels the effects of radiation poisoning.
Stimpacks function like a Potion of Cure Light Wounds.
Super Stimpacks function like a Potion of Cure Serious Wounds.
Ultra Stimpacks function like a Potion of Regeneration.

Rad-X is the only common chem for which I can't find a close equivalent. Until I think of a direct comparison, we'll say it grants a +5 bonus to fortitude saves vs. radiation poisoning.

"Critique My Mini Painting" Follow-Up... A Long Way to Go

Last week, while working on the literal look and feel of Spectrum Shock, I posted about how I was painting my first miniatures since I was in middle school and got some great feedback (my thanks, Tom and MJ Harnish). One of the first bits of advice I followed was reading some tutorials on how to take better photographs of miniatures, and I was blown away by the number of imperfections that I could barely make out but that the camera highlighted quite nicely. To the naked eye, many of these are almost imperceptible, but they are quite obvious in the pictures. I haven't read much on how to improve my painting skills yet, but you can tell by the following image that I have a loooooong way to go before I can claim any bragging rights.
Despite the crudeness, I like the way these look on the game table. They don't look terrible alongside D&D Miniatures, and they're certainly better than plain gray plastic. Unfortunately, now that I've seen the imperfections, I won't be satisfied until I fix them. I'll definitely be taking some time this summer to work on my painting techniques.

Spectrum Shock: Campaign Log #1, Part Two (with pics)

After nearly dying at the hands of super mutant orks, the party returned to town to rest and resupply. They traded in the orks' gear for more equipment and then asked around town for information about the orks they fought. Unfortunately, few had any valuable information to provide. None of the townsfolk gave them anything more than what I already revealed here.

During their next foray into the wilderness, the party stumbled upon a cave entrance guarded by two shaggy beast-like humanoids. The beast men weren't hostile, but didn't speak a known language and made it obvious through body language that the characters were not welcome inside. In response, the party started to leave peacefully, but just when they were a few dozen yards away, Eric turned a lobbed a grenade at the beasts. One was nearly killed in the blast and the other took minor damage, but both died to gunshots before they posed much of a threat.

Exploring the cave proved much more deadly as the group found itself in an old sewer system. A fair amount of exploration took place before the party encountered anything at all, and this likely lured them into a false sense of safety. Suddenly, an undead horror rose up out of the muck and paralyzed Alex (Eric's character). It ignored the first few shots it took from Korbynn (Matt's character) as it chewed on its helpless victim, then turned and managed to paralyze him as well! Two rounds of helplessness followed as the horror chewed on them before Alex came out of it and was able to finish it off. Battered and barely conscious, they retreated to town again. With hopes of returning to the sewers at some future time, they decided to focus more intently on the task at hand: finding the hunting party.

Fortunately, their next expedition was a little more successful. The party stumbled upon a camp with four orks and two prisoners. After defeating the orks, the party was able to speak to the prisoners and learn that they were part of the missing hunting party. The others, apparently, were taken farther north...

Next time: Will the heroes be able to rescue the rest of the hunting party... or is it too late? Will they search for a cure for Old Starshine? Will they try to figure out why in the world a pair of beast men were guarding an undead-infested sewer entrance?

Spectrum Shock (D20 Modern/Future/Fantasy Campaign)

It isn't my intent to turn the blog into a wiki. However, I've tried the wiki thing before and I could never keep it updated because I'm too lazy to log in to two different sites (pathetic, I know). In any case, I do want an easy way to keep up with campaign info, so this is basically just an index for all of the campaign information that has appeared on the site thus far. I intend to keep this updated, but I can't make any guarantees (laziness and all, you know).

Campaign Setting Overview:
  • If Rifts and Fallout made a baby and they dressed it up in D20 clothes, its name would be Spectrum Shock. The goal is to create a multi-genre post-apocalyptic setting, with more fantasy than the Fallout series and more rules balance than Rifts. Hopefully these ideas will mesh together well and turn into the best campaign we've played thus far.
  • Why call it Spectrum Shock?
  • Campaign Setup (Pics)
  • The Big Picture
Books Available:
  • D20 Modern
  • D20 Apocalypse
  • D20 Cyberscape
  • D20 Future
  • D20 Future Tech
  • D20 Urban Arcana
  • Anything from D&D (3E or 3.5) with prior approval
Other Materials:
  • AT-43 Miniatures
  • D&D Miniatures
  • Warhammer 40K Miniatures
  • D&D Dungeon Tiles
  • Warhammer Terrain
  • Model Train Scenery
Significant Rules Modules and House Rules:
  • The Dodge feat grants a static +1 bonus to Defense (none of that "choose an opponent each round" mess). You lose it whenever you lose your Dex bonus.
  • Movement (when not using a grid) follows Warhammer 40K rules. In other words, we use a ruler. 1 inch = 5 feet. Easy to calculate. Difficult terrain affects movement the same as in Warhammer 40K.
  • "Purchasing" equipment follows the rules for bartering on page 23 of D20 Apocalypse. This will change when the party makes it out of the wasteland and encounters "real" civilization.
  • The first level class feature of the Field Officer advanced class has been replaced with the Leadership feat.
  • The mage and techno mage advanced classes now grant "+1 level of existing arcane spellcasting class" if the character had one. Otherwise, the class grants spellcasting ability as usual. The acolyte advanced class functions similarly, but replace "arcane" with "divine."
  • A character with the Favored Enemy class feature (or a similar feature by a different name) can choose organizations instead of creature types if he/she chooses, just as detailed in the 3E Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting.


Campaign Logs:
Want to read everything on Spectrum Shock? Click here.

John Madden, Dungeon Master

I was just goofing around on YouTube (wasting away my life, I know) when I found this clip. Imagine John Madden showed up to play D&D. It isn't roll-on-the-floor-and-laugh-till-your-stomach-hurts funny, but it is amusing.

Poll: Critique My Mini Painting

I've been on a sci-fi miniatures kick lately because of the new Spectrum Shock campaign we started Tuesday night, and I'm painting miniatures for the first time since middle school. I just wanted to share one of the miniatures I used on the first night and see what others think.
(Click for larger images)

I thought I would have more time to work on painting but we played a week earlier than I expected, so I didn't do as much detail as I would have liked. However, I'm considering leaving them as-is because my players were impressed. However, I want to see what others think.

Spectrum Shock: Campaign Log #1, Part One (with pics)

Spectrum Shock has been awesome so far! If you missed my last post (which RPG Bloggers Network didn't pick up for some reason), you may want to check it out by clicking here. In that post, I covered some unconventional rules we're using for the D20 Modern game and went into a little more detail about our terrain. Today, I'll cover what actually happened in-game... or at least the first part of the game. Matt and I didn't have to work Wednesday so we ended up meeting around 8 PM (which is fairly typical) and playing until close to 6 AM (about 8 hours past typical). None of us have played an RPG for so long at one time since I was in college, and I don't think Matt ever has. Needless to say, a lot happened, so I'm splitting this up into two posts (maybe three... we'll see how descriptive I get).

Note: It would be cool to be able to post pictures of us actually playing, but I wasn't thinking about the blog at the moment. Thus, all of the pictures you see here are actually recreations (reenactments?). That's why there aren't any people in the pictures. No plastic people were hurt in the making of this post, although some bit the dust during the actual events of Game Night.

As I explained earlier, we began the night with some modeling. Eric and Matt created their own miniatures using Warhammer 40K pieces. Of course, the first night they didn't get to use painted minis, but I'll take care of that before next week's Game Night. Here are the figures they assembled:

We kicked off the campaign with a fight just to get back in the swing of pre-4E D20 combat. The heroes witnessed a young girl near the river (played by a Lidda figure) with a giant crustacean beast (played by a chuul figure) sneaking up on her.

Although the monster did knock the girl unconscious before Alex and Korbynn put it down, a successful Treat Injury check saved her life. When her father arrived, he was grateful but could offer no reward. However, he did unintentionally offer advice through a side comment. "To have shown such heroism, it is amazing that Killian hasn't put you to work yet." It only took that slight nudge to get them to look back at the campaign handout and find Killian, who is tied to two of the four potential plot hooks on the handout (more info on Killian and his family can be found here).

The conversation with Killian was the real kick-start of the characters' adventuring careers, as there were several problems Killian needed help solving (finding a cure for his father and finding a missing group of hunters). The party decided to hunt down the hunters, who were heading to the Brewerton ruins. They never actually made it to the ruins. On the way, they battled a swarm of radroaches* and then had an interesting encounter with some orc savages and some super mutant orks.

First, I had to prepare the table. Up to this point, we were still using Dungeon Tiles. For the big orc & ork battle, I asked everyone to clear the table, rolled out the fake grass, and set up the scenery. My players had no idea it was coming. As they checked out the terrain, I started setting up orc savages in the forest.

"You hear gunshots off in the distance, then screams. A few moments later, a dozen or more orcs charge toward from the forest ahead. Roll initiative." The orc savages charged while the PCs picked off a few from a distance. However, the orcs were fleeing something even more terrifying, and charged right past the PCs. A pair of mutant orks appeared from the forest, gunning down the nearest savage. More fell between the gunfire of the orks and the party. When the last of the orc savages passed the PCs, the party found itself with a newer and tougher opponent, as two more orks appeared from the tree line.

The battle turned from a massacre of crudely armed savages to a run-and-gun shootout and finally a bloody melee. The PCs emerged victorious, but so badly injured that they had to return to town and rest before continuing their quest.

To be continued...

*If you didn't already know, I'm a huge Fallout fan... and finding the Rad-Roach entry in the D20 Apocalypse supplement made it impossible for me to leave them out of the campaign. 

Spectrum Shock: Campaign Opener (with pics)

This week, I introduced my players to the Spectrum Shock campaign with a little bit of modeling. Of course, we didn't parade ourselves down a runway. The players built their own miniatures from Warhammer 40K pieces. Of course, they'll have to be painted later, but the guys enjoyed creating their own figures. I wish I had purchased several different sets of people, but Games Workshop stuff is expensive. This is definitely a collection that I'll have to develop over time. So far, I only have these items:

Between these three sets (and the paints) I blew a hefty chunk of my supplement check, but the fun I've had painting and the awesome gaming experience were well worth it.

New Rules
As I started picking up Warhammer 40K miniatures and added them to my collection of RPG miniatures, I decided to mix in some wargaming house rules into my D20 Modern/Future/Urban Arcana/Apocalypse setting. Since I was already throwing in everything but the kitchen sink, I might as well add this as well. In the end, I found that they meshed together quite well. Since distances in D20 Modern are measured in units of five feet and each 5' x 5' square is also 1" x 1", it was a simple switch to drop the grid altogether and use the long 18" rulers that came with the Assault on Black Reach set. Movement now functions just like a wargame, and range is much easier to calculate (probably more accurate, too).

Without the need for a grid, my Dungeon Tiles took the backseat, replaced by a 3 foot by 3 foot sheet of Woodland Scenics ReadyGrass, which is more commonly used for model train dioramas but is also perfect for turning any flat surface into a grassland. To continue the model train scenery, I also picked up a few packs of trees and added them to the mix. When all was said and done, we ended up with this gaming table:

All of the trees can be rearranged, of course, to create different scenes and battlefields. This 3D terrain was a huge step up from just Dungeon Tiles, although I will likely still use the tiles for indoor settings. This change went over quite well with the crowd. I don't think I'll every buy Games Workshop terrain again, though. The Citadel Wood box (currently, leafless trees with just a brown base coat of paint) stick out like a sore thumb beside the model train scenery. They could compete, but I don't have the time or patience to get them to that point. The model train scenery is cheaper, requires much less assembly, and doesn't need painting at all.

Overall, Spectrum Shock has received glowing reviews from my players. My brother, who has played RPGs with me since he was just a wee boy, claimed that it was the best game we've played so far. He's been playing since the days of 2nd edition AD&D. He liked 3rd edition better than 2nd, 4th better than 3rd, Rifts better than any version of D&D... and told me as we were wrapping up the game that Spectrum Shock was even more fun than Rifts. I'm taking that as the highest compliment.

I'll be posting more about the events of the campaign itself soon, and hopefully I'll find the charger for the camera so I'll have better quality photos than my cell phone camera can take.

Spectrum Shock: Campaign Handout

Tonight, the Spectrum Shock campaign begins. I've prepared a campaign handout that I will share with my players today. Unfortunately, I'll have to actually print it out because the closest thing to my players checking the blog is usually Matt's wife, who doesn't really understand everything but skims just about everything I write anyway. She does play Magic, though. That's a plus.

Sorry... got sidetracked.

In any case, if you've been following the creation of the Spectrum Shock campaign here on Outsyder Gaming, the majority of the handout will be stuff you've already seen. However, if you haven't, this is a great way to check out the setting without having to read more than a page of text.

Check out the campaign handout here.

Spectrum Shock: Future Tech With Fantasy Figures

How's that for alliteration in a title?

Sorry... the English teacher in me got carried away... onward to the topic at hand. I've been scrounging around for fantasy miniatures that I can use for a futuristic setting and I've gotten a little discouraged. Sure, the monsters make great adversaries, but when I need to represent humanoids, what will I use? They can't all be carrying swords, can they? Of course not!

This figure is the one that triggered the light bulb.

Is that a magical staff he's carrying? Probably, but not anymore! I'm stealing a bit of technology from one of my favorite television shows, Stargate SG-1. That's not a magical staff... that's one of those laser staff weapons that the Jaffa use! If you haven't seen Stargate and want to see one of these weapons in action, check out this short clip:

Suddenly, I have a bit of technology that my players won't expect to see and a host of figures who already have the weapon. Ironically, the Cormyrean War Wizard even has a kewl metal hat sort of like the one Bra'tac wears. We'll say it functions like a laser rifle (3d8 damage, 80 ft. range increment) with the alternate weapon gadget (quarterstaff, 1d6 damage and can be used as a double weapon). This gives it a purchase DC of 24. However, because it is shaped so oddly for either weapon, I might require an exotic weapon proficiency for characters to use it effectively. We'll see how that goes. I guess it will depend on how lenient I feel when the players first find themselves in possession of one.

Tomorrow night, the Spectrum Shock campaign begins (a week earlier than anticipated). Let's hope the gaming experience is as fun as the creation process has been!

Spectrum Shock: New Syracuse (Home Base)

I've developed enough of the Spectrum Shock setting at this point that I feel like I have a pretty good grasp on the big picture. Now it is time to zoom in on a suitable location to begin the campaign (which I'm hoping to actually begin playing on June 23rd).

New Syracuse
The name may be a bit misleading, as the town of New Syracuse is not located in the same location as the Syracuse of old and actually consists of several small settlements instead of a single town. The three settlements are located just north of the ruined city, each on a piece of land surrounded entirely by water. The largest (and farthest east on the Erie Canal) is made up of humans and the second largest (and farthest west) is made up of various nonhuman races. The humans and nonhumans are allies when emergencies arise but otherwise have little contact beyond trade. The third island is the smallest, run by a family of half-elves that is considered an abomination by local human and elves alike. However, their mixed heritage ensured their usefulness as diplomats, merchants, and intermediaries between the two groups.


  • Old Starshine is an aging elf who spent the majority of his many years in another dimension. He has never named his homeland, attempting to make sure that no one from this world ever find it and bring their guns and machinery to ruin its beauty, but he has mentioned that it is similar to Rivendell of pre-cataclysm literature. Old Starshine is the father of many children, some half-human and others fully elven, but only his half-human children (and their families) have remained with him instead of returning to the elf community or striking out on their own. His health is failing, and he rarely emerges from his home, having left the affairs of trade and diplomacy to his oldest half-human son, Killian Starshine.
  • Killian Starshine runs the closest thing to a general store that New Syracuse has to offer. His inventory stays in constant flux because there are no merchants who travel this far northwest on a regular basis and he often has to rely on scavenged goods. Killian also handles diplomacy between the human and nonhuman communities of New Syracuse.
  • Dizzy Delgado is the leader of the human settlement. He is a massive man, a stout former adventurer with quite a few pounds of retirement weight accumulated over the years. He has a short fuse but is more forgiving than one might expect and has a soft spot for his 12 year old daughter that she exploits. Lately, she has been asking for more and more exotic pets. Her latest acquisition is a winged house cat she calls Tress that is harmless and playful but scared most of the townsfolk for months before they trusted its nature.
  • Vanya Elmbraid is a young elf who had leadership thrust upon her when her father was slain in an ork raid less than a year ago. With a taste for adventure, Vanya feels confined by the protective nature of the bodyguards she inherited from her father. She is always on the lookout for someone worthy of leading the nonhuman settlement of New Syracuse, but won't hand over the reins until her successor has gained both her trust and the love of her people. If she cannot find a successor, she would settle for a few bodyguards who aren't so boring and overprotective.

Locations of Note

  • Starshine's General Store, where anything under the sun can be found... periodically
  • Town Hall, where Killian, Vanya, and Dizzy meet monthly to discuss current events
  • Guard Posts, located every few hundred yards around the perimeter of each settlement, where townsfolk keep a lookout for monsters and raiders
  • Boathouses, where those traveling between settlements dock

Spectrum Shock: Super Mutant Orks

Calling themselves orks, these beings have been terrorizing human settlements and harassing DC patrols for years. They attack with reckless abandon, killing and looting before retreating to the west. The few orks who have been captured have been questioned about the origins of their race, but such interrogations have revealed little. Apparently, even the orks don't know from whence they came. They freely admit that the ork name came from the pre-cataclysm literature of mankind rather than their homeland, and seem to have no history to speak of aside from a vague oral tradition of events that happened on Earth. Indeed, even the elves admit that these creatures are not true orcs even if they do bear some resemblance to the orcs of old.

Scholars argue over the origins of this aggressive race. Most agree that these beings are most likely descended from humans, although the agreements end there. Some say that the orks are the descendants of super soldiers that the American government was testing just before the cataclysm. Others say they are merely humans who were warped by a magical surge of energy or strong radiation. Still others claim that they are human slaves who are forced to undergo genetic mutations that warp their minds to such an extent that they don't remember their previous lives. The truth is unknown, and no one has proven brave enough to venture to their homeland to seek the answer. What is known is that such a journey would likely be disastrous, since the orks tend to make their lairs in areas where radiation is abundant and such locations are dangerous to humans even without having the orks to contend with.

Although there are many variations among these mutants, certain characteristics are common to nearly all of them. All orks have the following mutations:

  • Ability Decay (Intelligence)
  • Ability Decay (Wisdom)
  • Ability Decay (Charisma)
  • Unnatural Skin (Green)
  • Enlarged Form
  • Thick Hide
  • Radiation Resistance
Otherwise, orks are treated as humans as far as stats go. Orks gravitate toward the strong hero and tough hero classes, and their leaders often have levels in the soldier advanced class. They favor fighting with two weapons, often an archaic melee weapon in one hand and a gun in the other.

From left to right, we have an elite soldier, a chopper pilot, a grunt, a leader, and a heavy weapon specialist. Click on the name for stats.

Where I'll Be Buying Miniatures

I have recently jumped into the creation of this Rifts D20ish setting called Spectrum Shock and I've been on the lookout for usable miniatures ever since. I wanted to share some places I've found quality sci-fi and cyberpunk miniatures as well as ask for a little help. If you know a company that sells futuristic miniatures that I have omitted from this list, please comment and let me know about them so I can check them out.

Star Wars Miniatures: I'm not entirely sure yet, but I'd be willing to bet that our PC miniatures will come from some of the not-quite-iconic figures in this game.

AT-43: I believe the Boston Conventional Military will use U.N.A. figures for standard troops and the Boston Supernatural Military will use a mix of monstrous figures. I'm not sure about the other factions.

Warhammer 40K: I'm not crazy about painting miniatures, but the Orks would make perfect Fallout-style supermutants. Also, the Space Marines would make cool power armor troops for the DC Defense Forces. Assault on Black Reach is looking more and more tempting...

Reaper Miniatures: The Chronoscape line has some cool sci-fi minis, and they have some superhero minis too, which I wasn't initially looking for but I might work into the setting. I really like this guy.

eM-4 Miniatures: These sets of prepainted miniatures are tempting, especially the group of mercenaries.

D&D Miniatures: I'll be using these mainly for monsters, but the party might include (or find themselves battling) a mage once in a while. Basically, this is only on the list because I already own a ton and I want to scavenge as much as possible before I spend any money.

Rifts Miniatures: I doubt I'll actually buy any of these because they just look inferior to almost everything else on this list, but I haven't forgotten about them. Perhaps I'll find a need for one of these and purchase a pack.

Spectrum Shock: Regional Maps

These are maps of the northeast region of what is now called the United States. Note that many of the cities labeled on this map lie in ruins and/or are overrun by monsters.

I've already established Boston and Washington DC as the major centers of power for humans in the region and New York City as an ongoing battlefield that the two superpowers fight over. I believe I'll have the characters begin near Lake Ontario, which should be close enough to the Boston/DC conflict to get involved soon but far enough away that the first several levels of play can feel more like Fallout than Rifts.

Customizable Maps in the Public Domain

Maps aren't difficult to find these days. Unfortunately, most of the good ones (including Google Maps) are copyrighted and you can't republish them without worrying about said copyright. In looking for some maps for my new Spectrum Shock campaign setting, I stumbled across this collection of sites that feature public domain maps. From there, I found www.nationalatlas.gov , which is a perfect resource for a D20 Modern game set in the United States. From this site, you can customize maps (zoom, layers, labels, etc) and then either save or print them.

They still aren't quite as good as Google Maps, but they're free to reuse however you see fit.

EDIT: Clarified second sentence to avoid further confusion. See comments.

Spectrum Shock: Boston

Although the government and population of Boston are primarily human, they barely hold the majority with about 55% of the total. The remaining population is a cultural mishmash of dozens, perhaps hundreds of nonhuman races. Elves, dwarves, goblins, and ogres are the most common, but nearly any race can be found in the city, even the occasional dragon.

Through their trade with so many dimensional travelers, the citizens of Boston have access to technology even as high as PL 9. However, they don't produce anything more advanced than PL 5, so the truly high tech items one finds in Boston are never found in large numbers are are usually considered an oddity. However, what the citizens of Boston lack in technology, they more than make up for in magical might. With so many intelligent supernatural creatures passing through the city, rudimentary arcane knowledge is common even among the young.

Boston doesn't have much in the way of manufacturing, but their reputation as a dimensional marketplace keeps money flowing in and out of the city. Most citizens make a living either in the armed forces or in service professions, protecting the city or selling their services to the many merchants and shoppers who frequent the marketplace.

There are two distinct branches of the Boston military, the Boston Conventional Military (BCM) and the Boston Supernatural Military (BSM). As their names imply, he conventional branch consists of regular infantry and mechanized units, while the supernatural branch can bring all sorts of magical and psionic terrors to the field of battle.

Dragon Age: Origins Trailer

For those interested in computer RPGs, Bioware will be releasing Dragon Age: Origins in November. It looks awesome. I just hope the playability is as great as the graphics...

Spectrum Shock: Washington DC

Washington DC citizens are notorious for their distrust of nonhuman lifeforms other than those that they know are native to Earth. Beyond this stereotype, however, is a society of decent hard-working folks who just want to reclaim what they feel is rightfully theirs: control of the planet. Fortunately, the days of racial prejudices among humankind has long passed, humanity having long ago realized that banding together was the only way to survive. Because of this mindset and the many mixed race marriages that have occurred since, distinct human races (African, Asian, European, etc) are much less distinguishable. In fact, some traits (red hair, for instance) have become so rare that a child born with one of them is seen as an omen.

The typical citizen begins school at age five and continues there until age fifteen, spends four years in the District of Columbia Defense Forces (DCDF), and then decides whether to stay in the military or return to civilian status.

Between the technology salvaged from one of the most well-defended locations in the United States and alien technologies its citizens have been able to reverse engineer, Washington DC would be considered the most technologically advanced human society in the known world even if they had never made any developments of their own. However, while the level of technology is high, most of the funding is dedicated to maintaining the military forces and developing new technologies to fight the beasts of the wilds. Thus, while the military operates at PL 8, anything not directly related to the defense of the city will be PL 5 or 6 at best. While one might regularly spot a squad of soldiers in full power armor buzzing through the sky, civilian technology is not much more advanced than what is on the market today.

Washington's citizens still call their currency the dollar, although no transactions are conducted in paper. Instead, cash cards (similar to the debit cards of today) are used. The chief export is military equipment, and even though Washington only sells models that it considers obsolete, they are often still more advanced than anything other cities can produce.

The primary defense of Washington is its army of teenage soldiers. The actual number is never made public, but visitors are often overwhelmed by the sight of so many patrols. In addition to the infantry, power armor units make up a sizable portion of the troops, and robotic battle drones round out the DCDF.

Queen of Ants and Vampire Nocturnus (Magic 2010 Previews)

These two cards were previewed in Lotus Noir (a French magazine) recently. I don't read French, but the good folks over at MTGSalvation  always translate these preview cards quickly.

Both of these cards look great. Queen of Ants is a 5/5 for five (which kind of sounds like an Arby's commercial, doesn't it?) with the ability to produce an insect token for 2 mana. Vampire Nocturnus is a 3/3 for four that gets +2/+1 and flying as long as the top card of your library is a black card (which shouldn't be difficult to accomplish).

Oddly enough, if these translations are 100% accurate, the insect generating ability on Queen of Ants reads "into the battlefield instead of "into play." That is an odd-sounding difference, but I guess it makes sense considering we already have "the library" instead of your deck, "the stack" as an imaginary zone where cards (and effects) wait for responses, and "the graveyard" instead of a discard pile. Now we just need a new name for your hand and we'll have a game with a whole new vocabulary for new players to learn.

Oh well.

Free PDF of the Week: Black Idol

0one Games* has a huge dungeon adventure locale called The Dungeon Under the Mountain. While most regions of this megadungeon cost a few dollars to download, you can get a one room preview for free.

In this free sample, you'll find:
  • One map tile with a 1 inch grid
  • A description for the location, with D&D 3.5 stats
This is definitely worth downloading if you're running D&D 3.X or Pathfinder. If not, it can still be a source of inspiration, but the crunch (a significant portion) will be useless. Check it out by clicking here.

*I really wish I knew how to do the strikethrough like they have in their logo.

Spectrum Shock: The Big Picture

A great cataclysm has stolen mankind's control over the earth. Years of struggling to survive in a world beset by monsters have left Washington DC and Boston as the superpowers of the American Northeast. Many claim to know what happened during the cataclysm, but the stories of those who claim to know vary wildly so the truth may be something altogether different. All that is agreed upon is that the age of man's domination of the earth is long gone and other civilizations, some similar to those detailed in pre-cataclysm fiction, have risen to challenge mankind for control of the planet. Seemingly endless tracts of untamed wilderness exist between beacons of relative safety and civilization. Washington DC and Boston are the largest beacons of human influence but are polar opposites in their methods of ensuring the safety of their citizens.

The citizens of Washington DC insist that the cataclysm was merely a setback for mankind and that the monsters now inhabiting their lands should be either destroyed or driven back to wherever they came from. They believe in the purity of humanity and fight to keep the race pure, embracing psionics and advanced technology. While this might seem a lofty stance, critics of DC accuse its population of racism toward other intelligent life forms and an intolerance even for humans with disabilities or incurable diseases (seeing them as impure).

The citizens of Boston believe that in order to survive, humanity must adapt to its new neighbors. Thus, they still fight against the monsters that cannot be reasoned with but readily accept non-hostile intelligent life forms as equals. They fight for the survival of mankind at any cost, dabbling in all sources of power with equal interest, including magic, psionics, and the technology of humans and nonhumans. Critics of Boston accuse the city of becoming too tolerant by allowing nonhuman cultures and evil magic to gain too much influence.

The two cities have fought many battles over the years, but neither side has the resources to defeat the other without leaving itself vulnerable to the monsters in the wilderness. At present, they maintain a state of cold war with each side worried that the other will strike at any time and continually seeking the upper hand just in case.

Other bastions of humanity may exist, but explorers have gone as far south as Georgia, as far west as the Mississippi River, and as far north as the Hudson Bay without encountering more than tiny settlements of humans, and even these small settlements often owe allegiance to one superpower or the other and would not otherwise survive. A few exceptions exist, but none have the power to challenge Boston or DC.

For the daring, there are settlements of nonhumans dotting the landscape. Elves, goblins, ghouls, mutated humans, dragons, and a multitude of other races are all known to have settlements in the region. However, because of the aggression and racism of DC, many of these settlements are not particularly trusting of humans and approaching one could yield anything from a warm greeting to a shot from a sniper rifle depending on the attitude of the inhabitants.
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