Notes regarding the development of our games.

I’ve talked a bit about making characters and the nuts and bolts of the game system. Today, I want to talk a bit about missions and advancement. In PunkApocalyptic: The RPG,your team goes on missions. You might help fortify a settlement against a murderous biker gang, root around in the ruins of an old town for a critical piece of salvage while contending with mutant bastards that want nothing more than to make a meal of your friends. You could tangle with weird cultists dedicated to the god, Tex’co, or go to war against a cell of V Reich fuckers in the ruins of an old shopping mall.

When you complete a mission, you get something for your trouble. At certain mission numbers, you get to make a path choice. You choose a novice path when you finish your first mission, an expert path after your third, and a master path after your seventh. Each choice lets you develop your character in new and different ways, such that you might become a builder after your first mission, then become a wastelander after your third, and go all out road hog when you finish your seventh. Paths have no requirements, so you can develop your character in whatever makes sense in your story.

To give you a taste of the supreme hotness lurking inside this game, here are a few pieces of the builder path. The text hasn’t been edited yet, so be kind!

There’s a fair bit of Demon Lord hiding inside PunkApocalyptic. If the engine works, it works. No point in reinventing the beer can. Now are there changes? You bet. Of course there are. My job as the designer is to make the system support the setting and that’s what I set out to do. I’ll talk about some changes in a bit, but I wanted to give you the chapter opening first along with the basics about doing stuff in the game.

The Rules

This chapter covers all the rules you needed to play this game. The main thing to keep in mind is that this is a game focused on telling stories and you’re expected to use your imagination to make it work. Most of the time, what you want your character to do in the game simply happens without you having to refer to the rules at all. Your character might walk down a road, crack open a can of beets and start eating, or bed down inside of an old dumpster where they’ll be safe from the feral dogs sniffing around for easy meat. These things usually happen without you having to pick up your dice or make a note on your character sheet. They just happen. And that’s the way it’s supposed to be, damnit.

     As much as I would like to tell you to toss the rules out the window and have fun telling stories set in a weird post-apocalyptic wasteland, we both know that some stuff can’t be solved by talking and hopeful thoughts. This is a game, after all, and games have rules. The difference is that these rules won’t handcuff you or dictate how you play: they help you when you get stuck in the story because you’re not sure what should happen next. And so, here we are, me writing an introduction to another rules chapter and you reading it.

     Before we dive into the nitty-gritty about the rules, I want to remind you that everything in this chapter relies on common sense and your responsibility to use it. If you can solve a scene without having to resort to rolling dice or referencing something on your sheet, don’t roll the dice and don’t bother with your sheet.

     For example, unless you character has some sort of weird-ass mutation that lets him or her walk through walls, your character’s going to bounce off that wall when you try it. Dumbass. You don’t need a rule to tell you this. Similarly, you can’t shoot the moon with your rifle from the surface of the Earth, swim up a waterfall, or do any of the other goofy shit that might be rattling around in your head right now. Likewise, you don’t need rules for getting pregnant, pooping, walking around, or anything else that you’d expect a normal, capable individual to be able to pull off, so you’re not going to find that shit in this chapter either.

     Although, your character being knocked-up in this god-awful world might be pretty fucking interesting…

     What you will find are things to help you through the tough spots in the story. Does your shot take off the mutant’s head? Can you kick down the door? Can you get away from the gangers? You need these things to tell the story. So, pay attention, think about what makes sense for the story, but don’t sweat the small shit. Make sense? Good. Let’s do this thing.

Doing Stuff

As a player, you decide on the kinds of stuff your character does in the game. Sometimes, you tell the Gamemaster what you want your character to do, and other times you tell the GM how your character reacts to a situation. Whenever you describe something your character does in the game, the GM determines whether the thing you attempt happens (success), doesn’t happen (failure), or might happen (decided by an attribute roll).

Success

A success means that the activity you described more or less happens as you described it. You might succeed from describing something just about any asshole can pull off or you might have gotten a success on an attribute roll that only the most special fuckers make.

     The GM might decide you need multiple successes to do some activity. This can happen if you’re fighting against the venom coursing through your veins or you’re trying to hotwire an old car. In these and other situations, you just keep trying to get successes until you get the required number. Normally, you don’t have to get them all in a row. You can fuck around a bit in between your successes and still succeed once you get the last one. Rolling failures while attempting multiple successes, however, will probably result in some kind of setback, usually bad. Either way, the GM will keep track of the successes and failures. Good luck.

Failure

Failure means you suck.

     Nah, just kidding. Failure means the thing you wanted to do doesn’t happen. It might not happen because you tried to do something ridiculous or impossible and the GM just shut that noise down by telling you no.

     Or—and more likely since you’re a gamer of discerning taste and culture—you got a failure from a particularly shitty roll.

     When you fail, you might be able to try again or you might not, depending. If you’re rolling to see if you can pick a lock on a door and it turns out you can’t, you can’t. If you’re trying to smack some fucker with a crowbar and you get a failure, you can swing again next time you have a chance.

Attribute Rolls

The rules sometimes tell you to make an attribute roll to see if you can do a thing. The GM might also ask for a roll. In either case, you figure out if you can do the thing by roll a d20.

     Attribute rolls are called what they are because they all use one of your attributes. The rules typically tell you what attribute to use or the GM determines.

     There are two kinds of attribute rolls: basic rolls and rolls to hit. You use basic rolls to see if you can do something and rolls to hit when you would see if you can do something to someone else. So, if you want to shake off being drunk, you’d make a basic roll. If you wanted to shoot some asshole through a window, you’d roll to hit. Make sense?

     To make a basic roll or a roll to hit, just follow these steps.

     Roll the Die: Roll a d20.

     Add Modifiers: Add to the number you rolled the modifier from the attribute to that best applies to the activity you are attempting. The rules or the GM tell you which attribute to use.

     Apply Other Adjustments: Add any other adjustments to the die roll, such as bonuses or penalties, assetsor complications.

     Find the Target Number: If you’re making a basic roll, the target number is always 10. If you’re rolling to hit, the target number is the target’s Defense score, or the score of the attribute you would hit.

     Determine the Result: Compare the total of all the numbers to the target number. If the total is equal to or greater than the target number, the result is a success. If the total is less than the target number, the result is a failure.

Adjusting Rolls

Circumstances, talents, spells, and other effects can apply adjustments to your attribute rolls. Adjustments are bonuses and penalties or assets and complications.

Bonuses and Penalties

Some shit might grant you a bonus or impose a penalty on a roll you make. Bonuses represent advantages, while penalties describe disadvantages. A bonus is always a positive (+) number, while a penalty is always a negative (–) number. In both cases, you add all the bonuses and penalties that apply to the roll, provided those bonuses and penalties each come from different sources. So, if you have –1 penalty to a roll of a d20 and you roll a 5, the total would be 4. If you have a +2 bonus to a roll and a –3 penalty, you would add –1 to your roll.

Assets and Complications

Many effects can improve or worsen your chances when you make an attribute roll. You might have a talent that makes performing a task easier, or be afflicted by a disease or poison, which just fucking sucks all the way around. Positive circumstances grant one or more assets to the roll, while negative circumstances impose one or more complications.

     Assets improve your d20 rolls and one or more assets might apply to a given roll. For each asset, you roll a d6 and then add the highest number rolled on all the asset dice to the d20 roll. For example, if you roll a d20 with 3 assets, you would roll 3d6. If the dice come up as 3, 5, and 2, you would add 5 to the d20 roll since 5 is the highest number.

     Complications hinder your rolls similarly and, like assets, one will apply to a given roll. For each complication, you roll a d6 and then subtract the highest number rolled on all the complication dice from the d20 roll. For example, if you roll a d20 with 2 complications, you would roll 2d6. If the dice come up as 4 and 1, you would subtract 4 from the d20 roll since 4 is the highest number.

     Assets and complications cancel each other out, die for die, so you never roll them both at the same time. So, if you have 3 assets and 1 complication that apply to a particular roll, you’d make the roll with 2 assets (1 of the complications cancels 1 of the assets). Similarly, if 2 assets and 4 complications apply to the roll, you would make the roll with 2 complications since 2 assets would cancel out 2 complications. Savvy? Good.

Stacking Assets and Complications

All assets granted and complications imposed apply to a roll provided those assets and complications come from different sources. For example, if you have a talent that grants you 1 asset and a different talent that also grants you 1 asset, you’d make the roll with 2 assets. If, however, you are sickened after being hit by an arrow smeared in poison and then get sickened again after being pumped full of venom by a nasty mutant, you’d only make your roll with 1 complication from the condition of being sickened since the source of the complications come from the same affliction, “sickened.”

Luck

Your characters are a cut above the rest of the fuckers in the world. Your characters possess unique talents, special training, secret knowledge, and other traits to help you survive in the Wasteland. In addition to your capabilities, your characters also have more luck than do others, which helps you escape from deadly situations, avoid failure, and turn what would be a glancing blow into a deadly one.

     However, as lucky as you and your friends can be, your good fortune is not without its limits and sometimes, when you need it most, your luck might just run out.

     The game tracks your luck with luck tokens. At the start of each adventure, the GM secretly determines how many luck tokens your team has by rolling 1d6, adding the number of your team’s completed missions to the roll. The GM keeps the total number of tokens available a secret from you, so you never know when your luck will run out. Fun, right?

     At any time, you or any other player can announce that you’re spending a luck token. If the GM tells you there are no tokens left to spend, you are quite literally shit out of luck. If there is one to spend, you can use it to produce any one of the following effects.

     Grant Boons: You can make an attribute roll with 2 boons. You can decide to use luck after you have rolled and after the GM has told you the outcome of the roll.

     Heal Damage: You allow one character to heal 2d6 damage.

     Maximize Damage: You cause one creature that would take damage to take the maximum amount of damage. You can decide to use luck after the amount of damage has been determined.

Using Attributes

Making an attribute roll involves using one of your eight attributes. The rules and the GM determine which attribute applies, but the following guidelines give you an idea how you might use them.

Muscles

Muscles describes physical might, athletic ability, and brawn.

     Score: Your Muscles score is the target number for any effect that would force you to move, restrain you, or prevent you from exerting force.

     Attribute Rolls: You make Muscles rolls when you attack with a melee weapon, throw a weapon, use brute force to break an object, to overpower another creature in some way. You also make Muscle rolls when you would perform an activity related to athleticism such as when you would climb or swim.

(c) 2019 Bad Roll Games

Meat

Meat describes durability, overall fitness, and the ability to tolerate pain and injury.

     Score: Your Meat score is the target number for any effect that would directly harm your body.

     Attribute Rolls: You make Meat rolls when you would exert yourself for long periods, withstand the effects of hunger, thirst, and exhaustion, and when you would fight off the effects of disease and poison.

Hands

Hands describes balance, manual dexterity, aim, poise, and steadiness.

     Score: Your Hands score is the target number for any effect that would unbalance you.

     Attribute Rolls: You roll Hands when you would attack with ranged weapons and when you attack with some melee weapons. You might also make Hands rolls when you would perform some sleight of hand or other physical trick that involves dexterity.

     You also make Hands rolls when you would move across many forms of challenging terrain, squeeze through a tight place, escape bonds, or perform a task that involves steady hands and dexterity such as picking a lock or disarming a trap.

Feet

Feet describes reflexes, swiftness, and ability to escape harm.

     Score: Your Feet is the target number for attacks made against you that you could possibly dodge.

     Attribute Rolls: You make Feet rolls when you would jump, leap, or perform any other task that involves speed. You also make Feet rolls to escape danger when caught in an explosion or to avoid a sudden danger, as well as when you would pursue a fleeing creature or escape your pursuers.

Brains

Brains describes cunning, wit, memory, knowledge, and intelligence.

     Score: Your Brains score is the target number for any effect that would deceive or confuse you.

     Attribute Rolls: You make Brains rolls when you would recall obscure information, use logic to solve a problem, or perform any other activity that involves knowledge. You also make Brains rolls when attempting to outwit or deceive another creature, and when you use certain mental mutations.

Eyes

Eyes describes the keenness of all your senses, such as sight, hearing, touch, smell, and so on.

     Score: Your Eyes score is the target number for any effect that would deceive your senses.

     Attribute Rolls: You make Eyes rolls when you would listen for sounds or notice details in your environment. You also make these rolls when you try to find a hidden creature or recognize an illusion for what it is.

Mouth

Mouth describes strength of personality, insight, and the ability to communicate with others.

     Score: Your Mouth score is the target number for any effect that would alter your personality or take control of your body.

     Attribute Rolls: You roll Mouth when you would interact socially with other creatures in order to befriend or threaten. You might also make Mouth rolls when you use and resist certain mental mutations.

Guts

Guts describes determination, courage, discipline, and willpower.

     Score: Your Guts score is the target number for any effect that would erode your confidence.

     Attribute Rolls: You make Guts rolls when you would use determination to overcome a challenge, when you would fight to stay alive, to overcome stress, and maintain your sanity in the face of horrifying situations. You also roll Guts when you would use certain mental mutations.

Defense

Defense describes how hard you are to strike with a weapon or some other object. Your Defense score is the target number for rolls made to attack you with a weapon.

Health

Most people and creatures have Health scores. The score tells you the most damage it can take before becoming incapacitatedor destroyed. A creature or object’s Health score can benefit from bonuses, which means it can take more damage, or suffer from penalties, which means it can take less damage. If a penalty reduces a creature’s Health score to a number equal to or lower than its damage total, the creature becomes incapacitated, while an object is destroyed. A creature whose Health drops to 0 dies, while an object whose Health drops to 0 is destroyed.

Grit

Grit describes your ability to recover from injuries. You can use an action to recover, which lets you spend grit to heal damage. You might also lose grit when you start dying or you suffer from hunger, thirst, and exhaustion.

Speed

Your Speed score tells you how far, in yards, you can move on your turn in combat. Various effects can increase or decrease your Speed score.

Size and Reach

Everything has a size score, which tells you about how much horizontal physical space it takes up. Most player characters are size 1, meaning they occupy a square of space, 1 yard on a side. Smaller creatures might be size 1/2 while larger ones could be size 2, 3, or even larger. Size does not account for height, which varies a great deal.

     Size also usually describes how far outside of your space you can reach. Your reach equals your size. Some creatures have a longer reach due to their anatomy.

Hey there! Welcome to the Apocalypse’s after party! Today, I’m going to slip you some sick info about making mercenaries for my brand new game. You’re playing mercenaries, or mercs, who take on shitty jobs in return for bullets, food, and other increasingly scarce supplies to survive in a world that has gone to hell. Now, before we move on, I should mention that the Demon Lord Engine powers this game. If you know how to play Shadow of the Demon Lord, you should be good. If you have no clue about Demon Lord (what, pray tell, are you waiting for? Go out and snag a copy! Each copy sold helps feed starving cats!), the game system uses familiar elements so you should be pick up the system without any trouble. OK. We’ll slip into that warm mayonnaise bath later. For now, let’s look at making characters.

Step 1. Attributes

PA uses a set of eight attributes to broadly describe the kinds of shenanigans you might get yourself into. They are Muscles, Meat, Hands, Feet, Brains, Eyes, Mouth, and Guts. Using these should be pretty self-explanatory. You want to lift something heavy? You’re going to use Muscles. You want to run away from Mungalunga chasing you? Feet is your attribute. You want to keep the warlord from cutting off your head before you get a chance to explain what you were doing in her liquor cabinet? Mouth.

Each attribute has a score and a modifier. The attribute score is the target number for rolls made against you and the modifier is the number you add to your d20 roll when you want to do something and it’s not clear if what you want to happen will happen. Scores are numbers between 1 and 20. Modifiers are scores minus 10. If you’re playing it safe, you can use the default scores of 13, 12, 11, 10, 10, 10, and 9. Stick one in each attribute until you’ve placed them all. The game also includes a random method for folks who feel lucky.

(c) 2019 Bad Roll Games19

Step 2. Background

Everyone on your team is going to be a mercenary, but before you start rooting around the wasteland, beating the shit out of gangers, mutants, and V Reichers, you were somebody. The main book includes eight backgrounds such a drifter, ganger, and muscle. Here’s a sample just wait for a kiss from your eyeballs.

You’ll see from the above that your background boosts one of your attributes, gives you some languages (draw them from the languages currently spoken), a talent, and some starting gear. Junk, in this case, is a bit of fun, randomly determined that might give you a quirk, something weird, or something funny (or not). For example, as a starting piece of junk, you might have a stack of porno mags, a DIVX player, a dongle, or a rubber mask of a dead president.

Step 3. Other Stuff

Here you’re going to fill in your character sheet. You start by plugging in your modifiers. Remember, these are the scores minus 10. It’s not hard math. You also have a Defense score, Health score, Grit (use this to heal damage), Education (which gives you access to specialties that reflect the shit you’ve learned to do), Speed, Size, Mutagen (to determine if you get mutations), and Missions (think levels, but sexier).

Step 4. Character Details

This optional section includes a slew of tables to help you flesh out your character. These tables cover age, looks, distinguishing features, and some names (samples include Lips, Hog, Nugget, Crow, and filthier names).

That’s it. Fast and simple. That’s it for this week. Next time, we’ll take a look at the rules.

This August, I’m launching the Kickstarter campaign for a brand new roleplaying game entitled PunkApocalyptic: The RPG based on the miniatures game by Bad Roll Games. This game promises a hardcore, fast past, down and dirty, vulgar descent in to ultra-violence, in which you play mercenaries fighting for bullets in the Wasteland of post-apocalyptic Earth. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be showing off sexy previews of what you can expect from this bad-ass game. Full warning, though. This game is ugly, full of cursing, and a whole hell of a lot of fun to play. Here’s a taste:

The Wasteland

The world as we know it is gone. The why and how of is subject to debate, but there are few left who have the time or ability to wax philosophical about it.  All that’s left is an extremely dangerous place, which, depending upon your point of view, is either a reeking open sewer, a radioactive shithole rife with wasting disease and lingering death, or a desperate place of hunger and want where anyone will trade anything just to survive one more day.

     Actually, your point of view doesn’t matter. It’s all of these things.

      Deadly and violent, much of the world has become a deserted, barren land dotted with the remnants of whatever came before. The Wasteland, as it’s called, though, is not as empty as it might first appear.

     Here live the wretched descendants of the undesirables, the impoverished, the castoffs, and everyone else deemed unsuitable for entry into the great and mythical Megalopoli: fabulous cities built during civilization’s collapse that became more myth than reality to most of the rugged shitkickers trying to scratch out a living in the Wasteland. Unless you’re one of those privileged few living in one of ’em, you’re pretty much fucked and have to figure out some way to survive in some of the worst places you can imagine, alongside all the other poor dumb bastards who will just as soon tear out your throat to get their mitts on your rusty can of beets as give you the time of day. Not that anyone has a working watch or really gives a shit about what time of the day it is. Beets, though? That’s another story.

     But as unpleasant as the world has become, opportunity abounds for anyone with the grit, determination, and moral flexibility to stay alive and maybe even thrive—well, at least by comparison to the other slags around you.

     In the Wasteland, resources are quite scarce. Electricity is nearly nonexistent, and those few who know how to build or even repair complex devices are rarer still. Therefore, just about everything has been reduced to the most of basic items, assembled from whatever can be dug and salvaged out of old landfills, plundered from the ruined cities of the Before Times, or simply robbed from some other weak, stupid bastards.

     Digging out salvage is no easy task as most ruins are overrun with roving gangs, mutant abominations, murderous cannibals, or fanatic disciples with insane beliefs. When you’re offered a few bullets to put an end to a local warlord, fuel to fill up the car you’ve kept running with bubblegum, duct tape, and hope, odds are you won’t have much choice other than to take the job.

     As tough as things are in the Wasteland, one can still find small settlements, often fortified, which somehow manage to survive the neverending hardship. Some outposts serve as commercial hubs, while others represent the best chance for the weak and feeble to survive. Some settlements have greenhouses and water collectors for growing crops and supplying clean water, while many host murderous gangs who trade only in bullets instead of goods and foodstuffs that would actually make life more livable. Go figure.

     Then there are roving hermits who collect odd pieces of useful junk and technology, or bands of mystic nomads in search of some arcane “truth” that often involves blood sacrifice (usually yours or that of your teammates), or the odd religious cult dedicated to bizarre gods of their own invention, bent on forceful conversion of any who they meet (also, usually you and your teammates).

     Anything and everything is possible in the Wasteland and you’re bound to discover something truly strange that would shock even your seriously desensitized and cynical world-view before you punch your ride ticket and call it an end to the miserable fucking life you’ve lived in this world of shit.

(c) 2019 Bad Roll Games

For the last three years, I focused on creating and expanding the first roleplaying game from my company, Shadow of the Demon Lord and I’ve managed to publish over 170 titles, aided and abetted by some of the best writers, editors, proofreaders, graphic designers, and artists in the business. I intend to continue to support this game with additional releases by adding titles to the growing lines of Monstrous Pages, Lands in Shadow, and other popular series. Plus, we’re going live with  Occult Philosophy as a Kickstarter campaign in November. So rest assured, Shadow of the Demon Lord is here to stay. I have more stories, more options, and more bizarre, mind-blasting content for you and should for years to come.

D&D Land

Before I launched my company and the game many of you have come to love, I worked as a game designer for Wizards of the Coast. You can find my contributions in three editions of Dungeons & Dragons such as Elder Evils and Tome of Magic for 3rd edition, countless books and articles for 4th edition, and in the Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and Monster Manual of 5th edition, not to mention Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, and the forthcoming Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica. I have dabbled in Greyhawk, explored the wastelands of Athas, walked the tortured lands of Faerûn, and hung a shingle in Eberron. Heck, I even played around in Gamma World for a bit. There’s D&D in my DNA and the game will always have a place in my heart.

Putting in a Toe

For the last year or so, I’ve been thinking about making an unofficial return to Dungeons & Dragons. Yes, I have continued to contribute to the game here and there, but banging around in my head are ideas that might never see publication in an official rulebook. Thanks to the Open Gaming License, I don’t have to wait for the perfect project on which to foist my sinister designs; I can publish them myself.

Bor Bwalsch and Other Horrors

Under the Max Press imprint, Schwalb Entertainment will publish a series of short, focused supplements to add a bit of gloom to the otherwise sunny and upbeat worlds of D&D. Starting with the Blasphemies of Bor Bwalsch, which add more than twenty wicked spells to the game, Max Press will continue by producing new options for the various character classes and find other ways to inject a dose of darkness into your games. Whether you want to play a character who walks in the shadows, binds demons to your dark will, or commune with alien entities of staggering power lurking just beyond the bounds of reality, Max Press has what you need. And if you’re a GM looking to spice up your games with a few nasty surprises Max Press promises to deliver the goods.

 

You have questions. Here are some answers.

Does this mean you’re giving up on Shadow of the Demon Lord?

Hell no! I still plan to release supplements for the game at least once a month going forward and might increase the release schedule to two or more. Furthermore, the Kickstarter campaign for Shadow of the Demon Lord: Occult Philosophy launches November 12. Based on how the campaign goes, we could have oodles of content coming for the game.

Will Max Press support older editions of D&D? What about different versions of D&D?

Not at this time. My focus is on bringing the darkness to D&D in its current form. As for OSR, Pathfinder,and other variants, we’ll see!

How dark is dark?

While I intend to explore sinister themes and all that, Max Press aims at offering content to every fan of D&D and so the material will remain firmly PG-13. If you want nastier stuff, SotDL is the game for you.

How are these priced?

Like most releases for Shadow of the Demon Lord, these are priced to buy. I want to keep these products bite-sized so that you can grab them all without breaking the bank.

When’s the first one?

We’re aiming to release the Blasphemies of Bor Bwalsch in November.

What’s up with the Cat?

I named my imprint after my late, great cat Max. He was the first cat to join my wife and I, and I liked the play on Max. Press from AD&D. I’m a creepy cat man. Don’t judge me!

Shadow of the Demon Lord? What the heck is that?

Oh my sweet summer child… go here.

About Schwalb Entertainment

In 2014, Robert J Schwalb founded Schwalb Entertainment, LLC to publish tabletop games, beginning with the critically acclaimed Shadow of the Demon Lord. Since its release, Schwalb Entertainment has published nearly two hundred products including adventures, character options, settings, and more. Schwalb Entertainment is based in Murfreesboro, Tennessee (home of the world’s largest cedar bucket!). For more information about Schwalb Entertainment, send a query to info@schwalbentertainment.com. Schwalb Entertainment can be found on Facebook and Twitter.