Roll Charts: The Intimidation Method

There seems to be one in every group. Your party of adventurers are searching for information about such-and-such, and instead of following clues and leads, some brute in the party grabs the first random NPC he can find and threatens them with violence if they don’t tell him where the evil wizard is hiding. Sure, the warrior may succeed at his Intimidation check against this poor defenseless farmer that has never even HEARD about the evil wizard, but what does a success mean? “He doesn’t know” is a common answer. Let’s add a little flair to this random strong arming.

If the Intimidation check succeeds, roll 1d6 to see how the NPC responds:

1. Terrified. Soils clothing. Cannot respond.

2. Confused. Answers incoherently, or gives incorrect information.

3. Stonewall. Refuses to answer.

4. Flees. Drops 1d20 silver at your feet and runs away.

5. Apologetic. Has no specific answer, but may provide some other type of information or service.

6. Lucky. Somehow, this stranger has the exact information you are looking for. Celebrate your good fortune.


If the Intimidation check fails, roll 1d6 to see how the NPC responds:

1. Short Fuse. The NPC immediately attacks the player that tried to intimidate them.

2. Reports. The NPC alerts the local authorities that a stranger in town is starting fights with innocent townspeople.

3-5. Nothing happens, other than the NPC is not impressed.

6. Misdirection. The NPC gives false information, purposely misleading the party.


Roll Charts: Holidays and Observations

While tending to my holiday obligations this year, I began contemplating the conception of holidays and celebrations within a given culture, and how vital they are in providing a cultural identity. Observed holidays can speak volumes about the values, history, and priorities of a group of people. Therefore, providing such “window dressing” when introducing a new culture to your players in a home game can help an unknown city of mindless NPCs take that leap into a living breathing community of believable people. Perhaps the townspeople are busily preparing for upcoming festivities, or maybe they are already in full swing. What is the feeling in the town? Is it pulsing with excitement, or are the people somber and reflective? Holidays can help you set a mood, quickly provide narrative exposition, or give an interesting backdrop for quest hooks. Of course, sometimes a party of adventurers steamroll their way off-script into one of these locations, so having a roll-chart ready to pull up can help an unprepared GM look like a clairvoyant. So for those that want some extra details about their towns, here’s a randomized chart.

* NOTE: This is designed for a fantasy setting, but a couple tweaks could make it work for other genres.

What kind of holiday is it? (Roll 1d12)

1. A seasonal festival. Spring planting, Summer or Winter solstice, or Fall harvest.

2. Birthday of a local leader (king, governor, tribal chief, mayor’s eldest daughter)

3: Anniversary of the death of a local hero, king, or town founder.

4. Religious high holiday, marking the adoption of a specific Deity as the town’s patron.

5. A public wedding celebration, perhaps of a notable person or persons.

6. Observed day of remembrance for a great battle, end of a war, or liberation of the town or realm from foreign control.

7. Local election, perhaps for mayor, sheriff, or judge. Public debates or voting may occur.

8. A great tournament, contest, or other organized leisure event.

9. Anniversary of some mystical or magical event that helped shape the town, such as a portal to another realm opening up , or the sudden appearance of a magical object or creature.

10. Anniversary of some natural or catastrophic event that helped shape the town, such as a great earthquake, tidal wave, or meteor that fell from the sky.

11. Strange custom. Perhaps completely superstitious, or based in religion or cultist beliefs. A day where everyone wears buckets on their heads to keep the corn-eating spirits away, for example.

12. Apocalypse celebration. According to legend, an Oracle, or the local calendar, this is the day that the world is supposed to end.

How is it celebrated? (Roll 1d20)

1. Traditional feasting.

2. Dancing, singing, and live music.

3. Courting and the admission of love for a secret object of affection. All remaining singles are randomly and forcibly coupled.

4. The granting of a boon upon the townspeople. Perhaps extra food rations, gold and treasure, or practical items.

5. With a day of silent meditation, where no business may be conducted and nobody may verbally communicate.

6. A public execution of the town’s most hated criminal.

7. With the sacrifice of an animal, where each townsperson is required to drink the beast’s blood.

8. With the sacrifice of an innocent person, virgin, or elder, in order to appease the gods or devils.

9. By exchanging gifts with strangers in the street.

10. With a huge bonfire where everyone brings an equal amount of fuel to signify unity.

11. With the juggling of geese.

12. With the choreographed mass suicide of each and every member of the town.

13. With a battle to the death between two armed combatants.

14. With the personal blessing of the town clergyman upon every citizen, including a fortune reading or prayer for luck and prosperity.

15. By sacrificing an object of personal value or importance.

16. By throwing food and excrement at all outsiders until the sun sets.

17. By participating in a seven-hour chant while holding hands in town square.

18. With the release of 1000 chickens into the village, which must be collected alive in the highest amount in order to crown the Festival Champion.

19. By marching to war on a neighboring city.

20. With a 24 Hour “purge-style” day of lawlessness with no legal ramifications.

Enjoy, and happy holidays!

This Is Madness / Oh The Humanity [Distant Earth]

Characters in Distant Earth must keep track of two additional ratings that can affect their actions and outcomes: Madness and Humanity. Although they can affect each other, or both be affected simultaneously by the same actions, the two ratings are independent from each other.

Humanity represents how closely you resemble/act/identify as a Clean Human (which is a Human that has no mutations or cybernetics, and follows the commonly accepted social rules of the Human Race.) It is both a representation of how others perceive you and how you relate to fellow Humans. Your Humanity rating affects how certain groups treat you. Clean Humans may not deal with you if your Humanity rating is too low. Mutant gangs may decide to kill you on sight instead of talk if your Humanity is too high. It is not meant to represent good/evil or right/wrong, only how you “fit in” to the many diverse populations of Distant Earth.  A very human-like android may have a higher Humanity rating than an actual human with tons of cybernetics, and on the other hand the alien-yet-humanoid-looking Droog may seem more relatable to a Clean Human than a metal Utilibot with no appendages.

Madness on the other hand represents a character’s sanity and control over their actions. The world can often be a desperate and horrifying place, and maintaining a balanced outlook and a grip on reality can be a challenge. Cybernetics or mutations have the possibility of creating a sort of body-horror in the character, even if obtaining them was a conscious choice. Spending days without food or sleep will push you to the brink of your emotional capabilities. Killing innocent people for no reason can cripple you with guilt. Witnessing the slaughter of an entire village by renegade robots can spiral you into depression. These things can all increase your Madness rating, which may affect how well certain abilities and skills are performed, as well as affect outcomes and responses by others that encounter you. It’s hard to focus on hacking that computer when you’re laughing maniacally and desperately wanting to attack the console with a steel pipe instead.

Humanity is tied to Charisma, but may also affect Willpower, Wisdom or Luck. Madness is tied to Wisdom, but may affect Awareness, Stamina, or Charisma.

Modding Away The Weakness [Distant Earth]

While most Clean Humans take pride in keeping their bodies and minds natural and unscathed, Modders are willing to go to extremes to perfect the human condition. Why settle for plain sight when you could swap an eye out for a targeting sensor, or install a thermal retinal overlay? A simple non-intrusive data port in your skull can make navigating computer systems marginally faster. You don’t really need ALL of your fingers, do you? One or two could probably be replaced with a useful tool, or perhaps even a weapon.

Implants, replacements, and cybernetic modifications of all types can be found in Modder communities, and it’s one of the most profitable businesses on the planet. The adjoining of flesh and machine is a hobby for some, a lifestyle for others, and even a religion to an extreme few. You can dabble with minor improvements, or completely overhaul your inferior natural body; the choice is yours, as long as you’ve got the Creds.

Just make sure that you remember to take your Fix regularly, because mutations and cybernetics have a bad reputation for not mixing well in the same body. In fact, better just get that Mutagen Scrubber upgrade for your circulatory system, because who can be bothered to take Fix every day?




My Life As A Mutant [Distant Earth]

Viruses and diseases are nothing new for Humanity, but alien mutagens brought by a species from some foreign world? Penicillin doesn’t quite cut it.

There are three distinct strands of mutagens that haunt the peoples of Distant Earth, and left unchecked they can cause a wide variety of mutations to occur.

Hideous deformations are the most common effect, but super-human resistances and vulnerabilities can occur as well. Combinations of the three strains in different amounts can create new and unexpected effects, such as rapid muscle growth, developing a new body part, or secreting a poisonous toxin from your glands.

While most sane people do their best to avoid succumbing to mutation, there are certain gangs, communities, and cities that embrace–or even encourage–acquiring a mutation.

For everyone else, there’s Fix.

Fix ensures that mutagens can’t take root in a healthy human, and can even reverse the process if used early enough. In the Droog, it cures disease and the negative effects they bring (the Droog cannot mutate.)

Humans that are firmly against mutation and cybernetics are self-proclaimed Clean Humans, and keep a steady flow of Fix coming into their exclusive communities.

Of course, not everyone can afford Fix, and some remote areas of the Outlands don’t have access to it at all. Don’t be surprised to encounter more mutants in these areas, both docile and feral.

And if you don’t take your daily dose of Fix, don’t be surprised if you wake up with an extra arm.








The Droog Decide [Distant Earth]

“We don’t have time for decontamination. We land now, or we die.”

The Droog had fled to this corner of the galaxy with everything that remained of their civilization aboard one ship. Their enemies had claimed their homeworld after decades of battle, and now the Droog population–a little less than 700–faced total extinction, not from war, but from disease.

“We don’t yet know how the native inhabitants of this planet will react to the mutagens,” one voice spoke up from behind the captain.

Anguish crossed his grey face, and after a long silence, finally he spoke. “We land.”

And with this decision the Droog sentenced Earth to an eternity of mutations and violence.

Showing Your Skills [Distant Earth]

Technology is vast and exciting in the world of Distant Earth. Still, some people don’t have easy access to it due to their social standing or locale, and others simply don’t trust it. Thus, mechanical locks for doors and containers are still commonly used. And for everything else, there’s hacking.

Lockpicking and Hacking are two common Skills that an adventure-bound explorer, cyber-rogue, or Credit-seeking ne’er-do-well can possess. A character’s Skill set is determined by a collection of dice, that varies based on attributes, gear, and training. An urban systems analyst may roll 4d12 for a Hacking check, while an outland farmer might only roll 1d4. Perhaps this console had a DC of 6-6 (needing two rolls of 6 or higher to succeed.) Our outland farmer would be stumped, but there is a good chance the systems analyst has what it takes to hack his way in.



A desk has a lock with a DC of 4-4-4 (roughly simulating how many tumblers must be bypassed and how elaborate the lock is.)

A petty thief has a Lockpicking Skill set of 4d8s and 1d20.

He has: 2d8s from his natural dexterity modifier, one d8 from his specific training in lockpicking, 1d8 from his special stabilizing gloves, and 1d20 from a high-quality lockpick set that his father passed down to him.

He rolls all five dice. The results are 2, 6, 1, 4, and 13. He successfully unlocks the desk, because he needed to roll a minimum of 4 on three dice.

The same theory applies when trying to bypass the security on a computer system, or deactivate a guard turret. Depending on the difficulty of the Hacking Skill Check, a target set of numbers must be met at a minimum to succeed. It does not matter if you roll seven 1s and one 12 if the DC is 12 to pass, the one 12 makes it a success. Additional dice in your “set” represent your natural abilities, your training, and your special gear, all of which improve your odds of succeeding, but individual dice failures do not count against you.