Kronocalypse Design: Relics are Born not Made

From magical swords, to cloaks of invisibility, magical gear is a common trope in fantasy fiction. Thus its not surprising that such items are also common in fantasy roleplaying games. Unfortunately, this can go a little overboard, and sometimes in RPGs characters end up decked out with so much magical swag that the individual items lose their specialness.

What’s more, unlike fantasy fiction, fantasy games have rules attached, and sometimes game logic trumps story logic. A character might start with his family heirloom, an ancient sword forged with the blood of the first kings, but then he finds one that gives him an extra +2 to hit, so he takes the new one into battle.

I want to avoid this with Kronocalypse. I want characters, especially those from the fantasy age, to wield magical swords and wear magical rings, but I wanted them to be more than just bonuses with trappings.

So I decided that, except maybe a few minor things like potions, magic items are not for sale, and characters will not find them lying around a random treasure pile. Indeed, the magic that surround the items cannot be easily transferred from one character to the next.

Magic items, relics in Savage Worlds parlance, are forged through characters’ actions. That means that instead of finding a magical sword, there are certain things that the characters do that imbue their mundane swords with magic. The most common example that characters from the Iron Age have heard is to “bathe thy blade in dragon’s blood.” There are many other ways, and the effects they produce vary with the source of the magic. Some might make the blade incredibly sharp, while others might enable it to burst into flames.

The first opportunity the heroes have to enhance their weapons comes when they try to close a dimensional vortex spewing arctic cold into the normally balmy jungle. As they shrink the portal, characters can stab it with a weapon. This is dangerous, and characters run the risk of destroying their weapons and injuring themselves. However if they endure the process, they discover that their weapons can now deal cold damage, and sometimes freeze their foes in a layer of ice.

Kronocalypse Blog Ideas

Four Settings in One
Stone Age
Iron Age
Steam Age
Cyber Age

Summoners
Wizards
Cybernetics
Weird Science?

Cybersaurs

Races
Tree People
Cat People

Edges?
Setting Rules
Magic Items
Bennies
Ripped From the Headlines
What is the Kronocalypse?
Welcome to the first Kronocalypse design blog. I plan to put these out every Tuesday and Thursday at least through September. For the first one, I figure I should start at the beginning and answer the basic question, “what is the Kronocalypse?”

Say you’re a caveman out hunting dinosaurs…

Or you’re an elven wizard tracking a band of orcs…

Or you’re a sky pirate boarding an enemy zeppelin…

Or you’re a cyborg mercenary on a job for a shadowy corporation…

…when the meteor strikes.

It throws you into a different time with challenges you can barely comprehend: from fire-breathing dragons, to clockwork robots, to giant beavers (yes, those are real). You hop from era to era, and by the time you return home, you realize there is something greater going on. You are not the only one traveling through time. There’s something else, pulling the strings of other time travelers, disrupting the flow of time: an evil that wants to destroy time itself.

And the only ones that can stop it are you and your misfit friends.

That’s what the Kronocalypse is from the character’s perspective: the end of everything that ever was and ever will be.

From the player’s perspective its a setting for the Savage Worlds rules system, with new races, edges, hindrances, powers, monsters and more. Of course the plot-point campaign is a major part of it, and there’s also plenty of side quests.

From a designer’s perspective it an attempt to make a high-action time-travel setting that does not bog down in quantum paradoxes.

And yes, it’s also an homage to one of the greatest console RPGs of all time.
Four Settings In One
The Kronocalypse plot-point campaign is based on traveling through time to four different eras. But we also want the setting to be more than just a time-travel gimmick. One major design goals for Kronocalypse is that each era can stand on its own as a compelling and viable campaign setting.

Each of the four eras takes place on the world of Kron, a place that has many similarities to Earth, but also many important differences (like the existence of magic, and the fact that humans and dinosaurs lived side-by-side). We’ll go into more depth on the various settings in future blog posts, but for now here is a quick overview of each era.

Stone Age
The earliest era in the Kronocalypse setting begins at the dawn of man. Humans have only recently mastered language and fire. They eke out a meager existence hunting dinosaurs or woolly mammoth. The saurian, humanoid dinosaurs, are slightly more advanced, having developed basic metal working and discovered how to channel arcane energy to cast powerful spells. The two species frequently clash, and a cabal of saurian spellcasters seeks a way to exterminate the human threat forever.

Iron Age
Humans, elves, and dwarves live side-by side in an age of knights and wizards. Lomia has made peace with its neighbors, but that does not mean the kingdom is safe. Orcs still live in the hills and raid human settlements. Deadly spirits haunt the dark places. Worst of all, the dragons have grown restless and fly from their island home to destroy and dominate civilized lands.

Steam Age
The sun never sets on the Lomian Empire. With its fleet of airships, it has colonized continents far and wide, bringing gifts of civilization to the “barbaric cat people” and the “backwards treefolk” who inhabit those far-flung lands. Of course nobody from Lomia asked the natives want the “gifts.” The other colonial powers of Palon and Druska scheme to break Lomia’s grip on the skies.

Cyber Age
National governments are a thing of the past. Corporations are the real powers in the world. When global see levels rose, those with sufficient credit moved to higher ground. Those who couldn’t… let’s hope they can tread water. Human have merged with machines, enhancing their bodies and minds, while replicant slaves toil away for their human masters.

That’s all for now. Let us know what you think, and which era would like to hear more about first.

Miracle of Miracles
There are plenty of Arcane Backgrounds in the Kronocalypse setting, including Magic, Miracles, Weird Science, and Cybernetics. One of our design goals is to give each of those backgrounds its own distinct feel.

To that end we’re creating both mechanical and story differences between the backgrounds, something more than just spell lists. Just as the general premise Kronocalypse is partly inspired by a certain Japanese console RPG, the final inspiration for the Miracles background came from JRPGs. In this case, however, it came from the Final Fantasy series, and in particular Final Fantasy X.

The priests of Kron are summoners.

In the stone age tribal shaman call on great spirits of nature to protect their people. By the iron age this has evolved into a codified religion called the Faith. In Kron, all things have divine spirits or Kami within them. Some places in the world have such strong natural power that great kami dwell there. As the final step of their initiation, all priests of the Faith must seek out one such great kami and prove themselves. If they succeed, they gain the right to summon a fraction of that spirit’s essence to aid them in battle.

In Savage Worlds terms, this means that everybody with the Miracles Arcane Background begins with the summon ally power. We are completely redoing the list of creatures characters can summon. Initially a character can only summon one Novice tier spirit. As they adventure they encounter more, and if they can prove themselves to a great kami, they gain more options for the summon ally spell.

I’ll end this blog post with a sneak peak at one great kami a character might begin knowing how to summon. Let us know what other kinds of summons you’d like to see!

Cairngorm
Cairngorm appears as an animated slab of granite in a vaguely humanoid shape. He values strength, endurance, and above all, patience.
Rank: Novice
Power Points: 3
Era: Medieval
Attributes: Agility d4, Smarts d6, Spirit d8, Strength d8, Vigor d8
Skills: Fighting d6, Notice d6
Pace: 5, Parry: 5, Toughness: 10 (4), Charisma: 0
Special Abilities
Armor +4: Stone skin
Elemental: Elementals suffer no additional damage from called shots, do not suffer from fear effects, and are immune to disease and poison.
Slow: Cairngorm has a d4 for his run die.
Stone Fist: Str+d6 damage.

One World with Four Ages
In a previous development blog I talked about how one design goal for Kronocalypse is that each era could be a compelling setting on its own.

While the settings could stand on their own, another important design goal is for the different eras to feel connected and seem like the history of a living world.

Empires Rise and Fall
Locations play a major roll in unifying the setting. Play begins in the country of Lomia. While it does not yet exist in the Stone Age, by the Iron Age it is a thriving Kingdom.

Lomia reaches its peak in the Steam Age. It is an empire with colonies throughout the world. Empires do not last forever, though, and by the time of the Cyber Age, the name Lomia refers only to the physical island. It is no longer a unified country, but has been cut up by various corporations.

Family Lines
The non-player characters inhabiting Kron also connect the ages. While very few live long enough to survive from one era to another, the family line does. In the iron age, Duke Galen Flynn rules the southern part of Lomia from Aberwyvren Castle. Later in the Steam Age, Chief Constable Gwendolyn Flynn maintains order in the city of Aberwyvern. Later after sea levels have risen and flooded the coastal city, Kat Flynn, better known as Citizen One leads the Community, a clandestine organization devoted to overthrowing the corporate overlords.

The Faith
Kron has a single religion, called the Faith. The Faith believes that everything in existence has some level of divine spirit, though some spirits are more powerful than others.. It exists through all the time periods, but like most everything else it evolves through the ages.

Before it’s even named the Faith, the people of the stone age worship local spirits, and each tribe worshs spirits in their own way. The Faith reaches its apex in the iron age. It grows into an organized religion with many different orders. Miracles are commonplace, and priests are some of the most popular heroes throughout the lands.

By the steam age, people still follow the Faith, but most believe that the “miracles” described in ancient texts are exaggerations or fairy tales. The Faith is important for its moral and philosophical teachings, not for any tangible rewards. The Faith has grown even weaker by the cyber age. Many have forgotten it all together, and most who remember it consider it a superstitious relic of the past. Only a few people on the fringes of civilization still keep true to the Faith.
I am Troog!
Through the ages, many sapient races have appeared on Kron. One early design goal was to include different iconic races for each age. The stone age was easy with its dinosaur people. The iron age was even easier with its elves and dwarves.

When it came to the steam age, the first thought was clockwork automatons, similar to Block in Ug See Big Thing that Fly. Automatons are still in, but as I continued to develop the setting, the steam age also developed major colonial themes. The far off continents unknown to the humans of the iron age could have been populated with just another brand of humans, but in the end I decided to create two new races to inhabit the far-off lands. One is a species of humanoid plants called treefolk. (It’s a working name, let me know if you have a better one.)

The treefolk lived in peace before humans came to their land. Many still retain their peaceful ways, but others violently resist the humans that have come to “civilize” them.

Though the treefolk are most prominent in the steam age, that is not where their story begins. To discover more, characters must visit their continent before the age of steam.

Oh, and any resemblance to a comic book hero appearing in a recent blockbuster movie is purely coincidental.

Here’s a peak at the treefolk’s racial edges and hindrances.

Bark: Treefolk have thick bark that grants them +2 armor.
Plant Anatomy: Treefolk do not suffer additional damage from called shots. They are immune to poison and disease.
Photosynthesis: Treefolk do not eat food, but if they go for more than 24 hours without at least an hour’s exposure to direct sunlight (or powerful UV lights) they suffer effects of hunger. They still require the normal amount of water (which they absorb through their feet).
Tall Like a Tree: Treefolk have a +1 Size, which also adds to their Toughness.
Strong as an Oak: Treefolk begin with a d6 in Strength.
Big Strong Hands: Treefolk have powerful fists and a crushing grip. They can deal Str+d6 with a natural attack.
Flammable: Treefolk are especially susceptible to heat and fire. They suffer a -4 penalty to Vigor checks to resist heat, and take +4 damage from heat or fire-based attacks.
Slow: Treefolk have a pace of 4″ and a d4 for their run die.
All Twigs: Treefolk have the All Thumbs hindrance.

Wibbly Wobbly, Timey Wimey Stuff

Time travel is a common plot device throughout science fiction. Just about everywhere it appears it follows different “rules.” Sometimes you can change the past, sometimes you can’t. Sometimes you can change the past unless it’s a “fixed point.” That sort of thing.

Early on I decided I needed to codify some rules for how time travel worked in Kronocalypse, and to do that I needed to decide what the point of time travel was. In no particular order, here are some of the things I wanted to do with time travel.

Allow for a range of different hero archetypes from different ages.
Create fun mash-ups like cyborg dinosaurs.
Create time travel puzzles.
Tell an epic story that stretches across the ages.

At the same time I knew I did NOT want time travel to do the following things.

Create amount of extra work for the GM.
Act as a reset button to get the heroes out of danger.

So here are a few of the rules I’ve set down for time traveling in Kronocalypse and my justifications for creating them.

1. You can only travel to specific eras: the stone age, iron age, steam age, and cyber age (as described in this blog post).

This rule is mostly meant to remove headache for the GM. All the ages are described in the main book so the GM will never need to scramble to figure out what is going on in a particular year. I figure that it’s better to have a few ages described in detail than a lot of time periods that are just sketched out. The in-fiction justification for the limited eras is that the time-meteor that causes the Kronocalypse strikes only those ages.

2. Time moves at the same rate in all eras. If a day passes in one era, a day passes in all of them.

No reset button. If heroes mess up in one age, they’re stuck with it unless they can find a way to change it hundreds, thousands, or even millions of years in the past. This also helps tell a continuing story as events push the narrative forwards in all the ages at once.

3. Time travelers can change the past, but there’s no “butterfly effect.”

Altering the past enables time travel puzzles, but if the heroes were worried that just stepping on a bug could lead to human extinction, it would bog down what is supposed to be a light-hearted game. Thus only deliberate actions by the heroes can change the past, and only in specific ways. Heroes might bury their weapon in the iron age to sneak them past guards in the steam age, but it won’t set off a cascade of reactions beyond that.

4. Time travelers are immune to changes in the time line.

Once heroes step into the past, they become fixed as they are. If somebody accidentally causes his mom to fall for him instead of his dad, the time traveler doesn’t have to worry that his hand will fade from existence right in the middle of his rocking guitar solo. Even if heroes kill their direct ancestors they do not fade away. They remain as they were because they exist “outside of time.” However if they travel back to their own time, nobody will remember them, because in the new time line they never existed.

This last rule is especially important in the plot-point campaign, because the heroes aren’t the only time-travelers in Kronocalypse.

Kroncalypse Design: It’s Magic!

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about what gives miracles its own flavor in Kronocalypse. Today we’ll take a look at miracle’s sister arcane background: magic.

Like miracles, magic is available to characters from the stone age and iron age. Rather than harnessing the spirits, however, mages study arcane spells and rituals to manipulate the world around them.

There are two big influences that led me to Kronocalypse’s spin on magic. I remembered my first wizard from the Mentzer Basic Dungeons and Dragons, and how excited I was finding scrolls that let him master new spells. Finding a new spell sometimes was a quest on its own.

The other influence is console roleplaying games that utilize different elements for spells, such as final fantasy’s fire, thunder, and blizzard. In particular I enjoyed figuring out what monsters are vulnerable to which elements, and using mages to deal out massive damage.

I thought briefly about letting mages learn any spell (power) they came across, but I decided that could get out of control quickly, so I found a middle ground between how characters normally learn powers in Savage Worlds, and how they learned them in classic D&D.

In Kronocalypse mages have base spells that correspond to powers in Savages Worlds, and all of these base spells have different sub-spells, which are their trappings. Mages start with three base spells and learn new ones by taking the New Power Edge. For every power, mages begin with one trapping, however, for every power they know they can learn multiple trappings. Characters gain new trappings not through leveling up, but through roleplaying. They might learn it from another wizard, find a spell scroll, or unearth an ancient tablet. This gives wizards potential flexibility but still imposes some limits. Because time travel is key to the setting, some trappings will only be found in the stone age, while others are only in the iron age.

To make the different trappings useful, they are designed so none is clearly the “best,” but there are some situations where one trapping is better than another. One way I’m doing this is by including a range of enemies with different vulnerabilities. Saurians are vulnerable to cold, while robots are vulnerable to electricity. I’m also trying to give the trappings different tactical effects. Fire has a higher damage potential, while cold hampers movement.

I’ll leave you with a few examples of trappings for the ever-popular bolt power.

Bee Bolt
Era: Stone age
On a raise, the target also suffers a -2 penalty to Parry until its next action.

Fire Bolt
Era: Stone age or iron age
On a raise the target also catches on fire. It takes 1d10 damage each round until the fire is extinguished

Lightning Bolt
Era: Iron age
The bolt has AP 3 against metal armor.

Frost Bolt
Era: Iron age
On a raise, the target cannot move during its next turn.

Kronocalypse Design: Mindsets

While I was playtesting Broken Earth, the players let me know that they sometimes had a hard time separating their real world knowledge from their character knowledge. It was even harder than in a standard fantasy game, because Broken Earth was set in the real world. For instance, what would somebody born 50 years after the apocalypse make of a robot drone flying overhead? Would want to rebuild a ruined hydroelectric dam?

There’s a lot of details in the Broken Earth book about the various cultures that the heroes might come from, and I could write a lot more. Some players are really into reading these histories, but others just want to show up at the table and roll some dice, so in the end I put together mindset lists for the three communities that the heroes are likely to start in. The bulleted lists highlight the core ideas of what the community are and what somebody from the community believes.

With that experience in mind, early on I created some similar mindset list for the different eras of Kronocalypse. I’m sure these will evolve as the playtesting and writing continue, but they have already helped my players grasp who their characters are and where they come from.

So what do you think? Here is a mindset list for the Iron Age. Does it tell you what you need to know?

Most people are farmers. A few make their living as craftsmens or merchants.
Kingdoms are ruled by various feudal systems, where allegiance and taxes are traded for protection.
Knights, wizards, and priests are heroes of the land.
Magic is typically passed down from master to pupil.
The Faith is a single organized religion, though there are several orders with differing priorities and philosophies.
The human kingdom of Lomia, the elven kingdom of Ardria, and the dwarven kingdom of Carglan live in peace with each other, and they trade regularly.
Across the sea there are several other kingdoms, including the human nation of Palon, and the dwarven Kingdom of Midrel.
Orcs and goblins are common threats in Lomia. Angry spirits, werewolves, and the risen dead are less common, but more terrible. They say the dragons are flying forth from their island home, but none have yet set foot on Lomia.

Kronocalypse Design: Humans through the Ages

It all started with the cavemen.

As I fleshed out the eras in Kronocalypse, I decided that humans of the stone age have not developed reading or writing. In Savage Worlds terms, this normally translates into the Illiterate Hindrance. I thought briefly about adding a caveat that while cave people don’t start knowing how to read and write, unless the heroes selects the Hindrance, they learn quickly to do so once they are exposed to written language.

No, I decided. Too complicated. Let’s just give all cave people the Illiterate hindrance.

Of course I didn’t want to inflict an extra Hindrance on them without also giving them some benefit, so I asked myself what advantage cave people might have? With the harsh conditions and lack of medicine, I decided to give them bonuses to Toughness and to resist disease and poison.

From there I decided that if the stone-age humans where getting tweaks, humans from all the other eras should get tweaks as well. For the other eras, there were no obvious drawbacks like the Illiterate Hindrance for cave people, so I ended up giving them each a slight bonus.

Iron-age heroes are familiar with hand-to-hand combat so they get a bonus to Parry, and they’re exposed to a lot of races, so the get extra languages.

Steam-age heroes are in the golden age of humanity, so they get extra starting money and they get an advantage in the Kronocalypse’s benny synergy system (more on that later).

Cyber age heroes have technology to beam information directly into the human brain, so they gain additional skill points at character creation.

Of course all humans still receive the standard bonus Edge, and because humans have a few more features than they do in the standard Savage setting, we’ve also tweaked the other races, and our new races like the treefolk are a little more powerful than average.

Kronocalypse Design: Evolution of the Steam Age

Of all the Ages in Kronocalypse, the Steam Ages has undergone the most evolution during the design process.

I started just knowing I wanted steampunk.

So what images does that conjure up? First the superficial images: clockwork, top hats, goggles. Digging a little deeper, I think steampunk is about the bright side of technology. The telegraph lets us instantly send messages to people across the country, mass production allows us to buy all kinds of new consumer goods, and steam engines enable us to travel around the world in eighty days. Anything us is possible.

This image of the steam age is the one I focused on in the preview adventure Ug See Big Thing That Fly, with Baron Vanderwile’s zeppelin and Block the clockwork man. The forthcoming We’ve Got a T-Rex takes these ideas further with a Millennial Fair (based largely on the 1893 World’s Fair), which shows off great advances in technology like the lightning gun, and horseless carriage.

But there’s a dark side to progress. I knew I wanted the cyberpunk age to focus on the wealthy exploiting the teeming masses, so for the steam age I looked to a different kind of exploitation: imperialism.

After centuries of being confined to a few small continents, Lomia (the nation where the PCs start), and other nearby human-dominated countries finally designed ship able make long voyages across uncharted seas. They discovered whole new continents teaming with natural resources. There were native inhabitants, but they were conquered with wonders of technology.

While this design was going on, I started playtesting the core plot point campaign, and one of my players asked if she could play a sky pirate.

“Of course.”

Now I hadn’t planned on there being sky pirates, but once she put the thought in my head it was a no-brainier. It allowed me to add in a few more of my favorite RPG tropes without designing a whole additional age. Continuing with the pirate theme, I eventually decided firearms technology in Kron’s steam age was at least a century behind transportation. While biplanes soar through the sky, you still need to muzzle load your flintlock musket.

That’s the short version of how we got to where we are with Kroncalypse’s steam age. It might evolve further based on internal playtesting or your feedback. For now I think it’s a pretty solid vision:

The light of industry casts a shadow of imperialism. Zeppelins fire cannons to fend off raiders. And goggles. Lots and lots of goggles.

Kronocalypse Design: Mobius

As I’ve mentioned before, two major goals of Kronocalypse are making each era feel like a compelling setting by itself, and at the same time making them feel like a unified whole. Last time we looked at the details of one era, the steam age, so today we’ll looking at one of the elements that binds the ages together: Mobius.

The Mobius company begins in the iron age with John Mobius, and inventor who travels through Kron trying to sell his services to rich patrons. His great achievements are complex water clocks that not only mark the passing of the hours, but also track the movement of the stars, play music, or move wooden figures.

The heroes meet John Mobius early in the plot point campaign. He is a mysterious figure who wears a mask and never reveals why. Some people say he was terribly burned, other say he was born disfigured, still other say it’s just a clever gimmick to sell clocks. Whatever the reason it becomes a tradition for the head of the Mobius company to wear a similar mask whenever conducting business.

Despite his eccentricities, John Mobius is generally friendly towards the heroes. He is looking for a few brave souls who can escort him through orc infested lands, and if they accompany him, he asks them much about their travels.

At some point John Mobius starts a family, and the leadership of the Mobius company passes from father to son for generations (though never to a daughter, which is odd for the egalitarian Kron). The Mobius company is a thriving business by the steam age. Not only does it make the most extraordinary pocket watches, it also is the first to create truly sapient automatons, along with a host of other clockwork devices. Despite his busy schedule, the current head of the company, Cedric Mobius is more than happy to meet with heroes. In fact he asks them to help retrieve the contents of a lost airship.

By the cyber age, the Mobius company has dropped out of the spot light. The only reason somebody might have heard of it is because Mobius maintain the quantum clock that all other devices are synched to. Zeno Mobius leads the company during the cyber age, and considers himself a student of history. He is one of the few people that believes the “quaint” stories of elves and dwarves, and would love to meet one in person.

Through all the ages, the Mobius family is extremely well informed, and knows much more about the possibility of time travel than others. To avoid spoilers, their secret will remain a secret for now, but I’ll let you know that more clues can be found in the stone age.
Kronocalypse Design: We Have the Technology
In previous blog posts, I’ve talked about Magic and Miracles in Kronocalypse. Today I’ll talk about the Arcane Background of the future: cybernetics.

Arcane Background? But in the Sci-Fi Companion, don’t they have rules for cybernetics already?

Yes, they do. So why reinvent the wheel? A few reasons. First and foremost I want cybernetics to be part of the character concept, not just another item you purchase. Also I want characters to be able to start with some cybernetics. The prices in the Sci-Fi Companion are beyond the reach of a starting character. I could lower the price, but if I did that, it would be too tempting for everybody to just load up on cybernetics as soon as they can afford them. I also don’t want Kronocalypse to center on finding loot to buy cool stuff. (You’ll see that philosophy again when I talk about how we handle relics in Kronocalypse).

So once I decided I wanted to make cybernetics an Arcane Background, I needed to figure out the details. I decided to do something along the lines of how powers work in the Super Powers Companion. You never make a skill roll. Instead, you use your points to purchase features, and once you have them they always work.

When I started playtesting, I just gave the players the Supers Companion and asked them to use those powers, though of course they started which much fewer power points.

That worked as a stop-gap, but there were a couple of problems. First there was no built-in story element to kick start the players’ imagination. They had to both think of a concept for their cybernetics, and then find rules to match. It was also pretty clear that given all the flexibility in the Supers Companion, there was no reason not to take cybernetics. If nothing else, you could use it to boost your skills more efficiently.

With those lessonsĀ  in mind, I went back and wrote some customized cybernetics descriptions for the setting. In order to leave in some flexibility, I decided that most forms of cybernetics have multiple tiers. If you want you can purchase a few different low-level upgrades, or you can focus on one kind of implant and have the best you can get of that. There are many cybernetic systems that effect Traits, but to make them feel different from the standard Trait increase, cybernetics grants a static bonus instead of increasing the die type.

I’ll leave with an example of where we’re at right now. This is brain spike, the implant taken by my playtest party’s resident skill monkey.

Brain Spike
You have a computer implanted in your brain. You can wirelessly connect to other computers, and store zettabytes of data in your wetware.

Add-Ons

Skillware (2)
Requirement: Brain spike level 2+
Choose one Smarts-based skill. Gain +2 bonus to that skill. Only the highest bonus from cyberware applies. You may take this add-on multiple times. Each time it enhances a different skill.

Advanced Skillware (3)
Requirement: Brain spike level 5.
Choose any one skill. Gain a +2 bonus to that skill. Only the highest bonus from cyberware applies. You may take this add-on multiple times. Each time it enhances a different skill.
Kronocalypse Design: Stealing from Geography

First of all, we launched the Kronocalypse Kickstarter campaign yesterday. If you haven’t done so, go check it out! Now on to the design blog.

Roleplaying games have some pretty fantastic locations, from floating cities to crystal forests. Though it turns out Earth has some pretty cool locations too. Some of them are so cool that I had to incorporate them into the Kronocalypse setting.

The first, I admit, I only stole after somebody else stole it first and more prominently. If you’ve seen the Pixar movie Up, then you’ve seen the tepuis of Argentina. Their involvement with Kronocalypse started when I wanted a waterfall spirit for prehistoric cave men and women to worship. I could have done a wide waterfall like Niagara, but decided instead to do a high one like Paradise Falls from Up, or (as I soon discovered) like the real-life Angel Falls.

Reading Angel Falls’ entry on Wikipedia soon lead to a to other articles about the tepuis. One sentence in particular caught my eye, “The plateau of the tepuis is completely isolated from the ground forest, making them ecological islands.” In other words different kinds of animals live on the top than at the base. And since the tops are higher altitude, they’re cold too. Almost makes you want to grow fur.

That’s right, in Kron, the tops of tepuis are dominated by prehistoric mammals like mammoths and saber-tooth tigers, while dinosaurs rule the lands below.

My wife suggested a second location, when she found a YouTube video about Catatumbo lightning. The short description is that above the Catatumbo river, there’s a lightning storm that rages every night for about half the year. It’s so bright and so predictable that sailors used it to navigate and referred to the storm as the “Lighthouse of Maracaibo.”

Now that’s cool enough on its own, bur this being Kronocalypse and all, I’ve decided to make our version of the storm home to a powerful kami: huitecocoatl the lightning serpent. This kami is especially powerful and capable of a devastating lighting blast, so heroes will need to be at least heroic tier before they can befriend it.

Kronocalypse Design: Relics are Born not Made
From magical swords, to cloaks of invisibility, magical gear is a common trope in fantasy fiction. Thus its not surprising that such items are also common in fantasy roleplaying games. Unfortunately, this can go a little overboard, and sometimes in RPGs characters end up decked out with so much magical swag that the individual items lose their specialness.

What’s more, unlike fantasy fiction, fantasy games have rules attached, and sometimes game logic trumps story logic. A character might start with his family heirloom, an ancient sword forged with the blood of the first kings, but then he finds one that gives him an extra +2 to hit, so he takes the new one into battle.

I want to avoid this with Kronocalypse. I want characters, especially those from the fantasy age, to wield magical swords and wear magical rings, but I wanted them to be more than just bonuses with trappings.

So I decided that, except maybe a few minor things like potions, magic items are not for sale, and characters will not find them lying around a random treasure pile. Indeed, the magic that surround the items cannot be easily transferred from one character to the next.

Magic items, relics in Savage Worlds parlance, are forged through characters’ actions. That means that instead of finding a magical sword, there are certain things that the characters do that imbue their mundane swords with magic. The most common example that characters from the Iron Age have heard is to “bathe thy blade in dragon’s blood.” There are many other ways, and the effects they produce vary with the source of the magic. Some might make the blade incredibly sharp, while others might enable it to burst into flames.

The first opportunity the heroes have to enhance their weapons comes when they try to close a dimensional vortex spewing arctic cold into the normally balmy jungle. As they shrink the portal, characters can stab it with a weapon. This is dangerous, and characters run the risk of destroying their weapons and injuring themselves. However if they endure the process, they discover that their weapons can now deal cold damage, and sometimes freeze their foes in a layer of ice.

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