d20 Apocalypse Excerpt
by Eric Cagle, Darrin Drader, Charles Ryan and Owen K.C. Stephens

MUTATIONS

Mutations are common in apocalyptic settings. Mutants vary from horrid brutes maddened by radiation burns to creatures with psionic powers - whole new species arisen from the ashes. The basic rules for mutations are presented in Chapter 12 of d20 Future. This section expands those rules and provides some alternatives, both for more realistic mutation effects and for the over-the-top mutations seen in some apocalyptic scenarios.





Table 2-25: Mutations

d% Mutation Type MP Cost
01-02 Extra digit Cosmetic 0
03-04 Fins Cosmetic 0
05-06 Forked tongue Cosmetic 0
07-08 Horns Cosmetic 0
09-10 Scaly skin Cosmetic 0
11-12 Thin fur coat Cosmetic 0
13-14 Unnatural eyes Cosmetic 0
15-16 Unnatural hair Cosmetic 0
17-18 Unnatural skin Cosmetic 0
19-20 Unnatural voice Cosmetic 0
21-22 Acidic saliva Minor 1
23 Adrenaline jolt Minor 3
24 Chameleon skin Minor 1
25-26 Claws Minor 1
27 Darkvision Minor 3
28 Direction sense Minor 1
29-30 Energy diffusion Minor 2
31-32 Fangs Minor 1
33-34 Force barrier Minor 3
35-36 Gill Minor 2
37-38 Great horns Minor 1
39 Hypersensitivity Minor 3
40 Leaper Minor 1
41 Living furnace Minor 3
42 Psionic talent, minor Major 2
43 Radiation resistance Minor 3
44 Scaly armor Minor 3
45-46 Scent Minor 2
47-48 Second wind Minor 2
49-50 Smokescreen Minor 1
51 Tail Minor 1
52 Thick fur coat Minor 1
53 Thick hide Major 3
54 Trip attack Minor 3
55-56 Ultra immune system Minor 2
57 Wall crawler Minor 2
58 Webbed digits Minor 1
59 Adaptive body Major 6
60 Blindsight Major 5
61 Danger sense Major 6
62 Dual brains Major 5
64 Echolocator Major 5
64 Elasticity Major 5
65-66 Energy absorption Major 4
67-68 Enlarged form Major 6
69-70 Exoskeleton Major 5
71 Extra arms Major 6
72-73 Gazing eye Major 4
74 Pheromone attraction Major 6
75 Plant traits Major 5
76 Prehensile tail Major 4
77 Prickly pear Major 4
78-79 Psionic talent, major Major 6
80 Psionic talent, moderate Major 4
81 Quadruped Major 4
82 Radioactive Major 5
83 Shocker Major 4
84 Skeletal reinforcement Major 5
85-86 Stinger Major 4
87-88 Telekinetic mind Major 5
89-90 Telepathy Major 5
91-92 Tentacle Major 6
93 Venomous bite Major 4
94 Very thick hide Major 6
95-96 Vexing voice Major 4
97-98 Wings Major 6
99-100 X-Ray vision Major 6

Fantastic Mutations

The basic mechanisms for fantastic mutations are presented in Chapter 12 of d20 Future. Mutants can be far more common in postapocalyptic campaigns than standard futuristic settings, and so here are some additional rules options (and additional mutations) to expand the types of mutants a GM may include in his game.

More Realistic Mutations

The rules for mutations here and in d20 Future present fantastic, story-driven options that allow amazing and inhuman abilities. They are not even close to a realistic examination of mutation. They aren't meant to be. That's because, realistically, most mutations are negative, unpleasant, or lethal.

A setting taking a more serious look at mutation may do so in many ways. First, exposure to radiation can be limited to unfortunate consequences such as sores, tumors, and disabilities.

Second, the offspring of creatures exposed to mutagens may have actual mutations, but 90% of such offspring die at birth, and 90% of those that live suffer distinctly negative mutations: drawbacks (limited to those that can reasonably be considered to not require psionics or magic), tumors, disabilities, or other weaknesses.

The 10% of creatures born with benign mutations are limited to cosmetic changes or relatively "normal" new abilities (not magical or supernatural abilities). A creature might gain low-light vision, for example, but not energy diffusion. Radiation resistance one level higher than the parent's is also a possible positive mutation.

There are no hard-and-fast rules for applying these realistic effects. The best option is to limit the negative effects to NPCs and creatures, mainly for story flavor, and to limit player characters to purely cosmetic mutations, perhaps allowing a character to take one of the more believable beneficial mutations in place of a feat.

The most important thing when dealing with mutants is to decide how characters gain mutations. (This is separate from the explanation or rationale for the mutation in your game.) A GM may only allow mutant characters, or may require characters to pick up mutations during game time. A GM may allow players to have starting characters that are mutants (with drawbacks earning Mutation Points for beneficial mutations), or gain mutations as rewards during the game.

A campaign should have one or more defined sources of mutation. Though radiation doesn't give people superpowers in the real world, a GM may allow it to do so as the conceit of an apocalyptic campaign. Alternatively, mutation could come from nanites, genetically engineered retroviruses, strange energies created by matter beyond the bounds of the laws of physics, alien experimentation, mad-scientist experimentation, the supernatural energies of beings from beyond our plane of existence, or even raw psionic energy. Of course, characters in a campaign world may not know what causes mutation (especially if much technology and knowledge have been lost), but a defined source helps a GM create a consistent world.

A GM should also make sure players know how common mutants are and how they are treated by society. This information establishes a baseline that players can use to form their characters' attitudes. If mutants are hated and feared, players can reasonably expect their characters to be at least cautious when encountering one. If nearly every individual is a mutant of some kind, the same reaction is far less likely.

Mutation as Reward

A GM can pass out Mutation Points (MP) as a reward for successfully overcoming one or more encounters. This is particularly appropriate in campaigns where wealth and goods are rare and a GM rarely wishes to pass out useful items as rewards. Using mutation (from being exposed to radiation, nanites, or DNA-altering goop, or being bitten by a radio-active spider) allows a GM to grant players new powers and options for their characters without making resources any less scarce.

There are drawbacks to using mutant points as treasure. First, not everyone wants to play a character with mutations, and not everyone wishes to play an obvious mutant character. A GM should be sure players are happy with mutant characters before using MPs as rewards.

Second, the GM should allow players some choice on what mutations their characters gain. The easiest way to do this is to give characters MPs and allow players to spend them however they wish. A player may decide to give a character a new drawback at the same time, earning extra points to buy mutations worth more than the MP award given.

As a guideline, a GM should give out MP equal to half the wealth bonus he would have given as an adventure reward (as determined in Chapter 7 of the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game). Thus, if a group overcomes an EL 6 encounter and would receive a +9 wealth bonus according to the standard d20 Modern Roleplaying Game rules, the GM instead hands out 4 MP. If there are 4 PCs, each gains +1 MP, which may be combined with MP earned previously, or with MP from new drawbacks, to buy a new mutation.

Not all players appreciate gaining mutations as rewards for their adventures. Players can instead spend MP on bonus feats (5 MP per feat) and increases to ability scores (10 MP per point of increase).

Table 2-26: Drawbacks

d% Drawback MP Value
01-03 Ability decay 4
04-05 Achilles heel 2
06-10 Blood hunger 1
11-15 Brittle bones 4
16-20 Combat fear 4
21-25 Cybernetic dependency 6
26-30 Festering sores 2
31-35 Frailty 3
36-40 Heat/cold susceptibility 1
41-45 Lethargy 2
46-50 Light sensitivity 1
51-55 Lost arm 3
56-58 Mindslave 2
59-60 Monocular vision 2
61-65 Neutrad dependency 5
66-70 Pheromone repulsion 1
71-75 Poisonous blood 6
76-79 Rapid aging 2
80-85 Reduced speed 3
86-90 Thin skin 5
91-95 Ultraviolet allergy 3
96-100 Weak immune system 1

Mutation as a Template

A GM can use mutation as a template that can be applied to PCs and foes alike. This template simply grants 8 MP in return for a +1 level shift or CR boost. (For rules on how to handle PCs with a level shift, see the entry for the weren in Chapter 13 of d20 Future.)

A GM can stack as many MP as she's comfortable with, adjusting effective CR and character level as appropriate.


1995-2005 Wizards of the Coast, Inc., a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Wizards is headquartered in Renton, Washington, PO Box 707, Renton, WA 98057.