Saturday, 16 January 2021

Structural Automatons

In building larger vehicles I have been struggling with the nature of hit points. The largest automatons can still be damages by a sword. Yet when I read the rules for Galleon SHP are used and these can only be damaged by specific sources. Also, Visitor vehicles in BCK follow an advanced form of SHP that makes them significantly more resilient than their hit dice implies, could such rules be applied to an Automaton?

Automatons cannot take immunities to weapons by their nature, they are not magical. But there is a logic to larger automatons potential being immune to normal sized weapons by being a large structure in nature. 

But this “bonus” should also come with a cost, Galleons have restrictions on repairs and movement. A vehicle of this nature would not be a standard automaton in nature. Also to consider, the vehicle rules used on flying saucers and balancing the differences between technological vehicles and automaton vehicles. 

What is SHP?

SHP is mentioned in the sea combat rules in the ACKS core rules and in domains at war. Here I am considering it more in terms of a galley rather than a fort. Under the standard rules a galley can be damaged by artillery (in full) in addition to Gigantic or larger creatures and magic at a rate of 1 damage per 5 hit points of normal damage. This sounds very similar to the visitor vehicle structure rules I explored in the Visitor Trader post. But repairing a galley in the field is limited to repairing 1 SHP per turn with 5 people and can only repair half the damage.

Repairing technological vehicles is not as difficult as repairing a galley. But then advanced material repair options would be available with Alien Parts that make this less concept breaking.

Damage to a galleon with SHP reduces its movement rate proportionately. As such any vehicle using SHP should have its speed reduced at some point, though calculating rates as damage is taken can be a pain in normal play so maybe a threshold would be easier.

Damage from magic weapons is tricky. Structures receive damage from specific sources, and personal scale weapons are not listed. But technology weapons are not considered either. As such I would say the rules I apply to technological vehicles would apply to a mundane structure, that being 1 damage per 5 for a personal scale technological weapon. A squad of visitors blasting at a stone wall with plasma rifles would certainly make a dint. But then in play fighting a flying saucer the question came up “would a magic arrow damage a flying saucer” they are magic but also a personal weapon. I ruled that magic weapons can do 1 damage per 10 to go a little way in between none and zero. This way mundane characters without technological weapons can do something against alien tech, but it’s still very little. I would only apply this rule to vehicles with SHP.

Overall, these rules should not apply to personal scale automatons, only the largest vehicles would have it available. But how large? Using my rule of 5 from the discussion on large sized automatons I would say the limit should be that required to get the maximum weight of an automaton in the gigantic category from L&E +1HD. That is 800 stone at 9HD lifted to 10HD giving 1,000 stone (7 Tons) or 10 HD for a normal automaton.

The Reinforced Structure ability (granting VHP)

As this is not quite the same as the SHP rules from domains at war and applies to automatons, I will refer to it as Vehicle Hit Points or VHP. Applying the rules for VHP to vehicles should be viewed as an optional rule as follows.

At its most basic this is a positive ability costing a full special (*) called reinforce structure. To take this ability the automaton must weigh over 1,000 stone or 7 tons. This grants the damage immunities as follows:

The reinforced structure of this automaton/vehicle is difficult to damage. Primitive personal weapons deal no damage as does any natural attack from creatures of huge size or smaller, though enchanted weapons deal 1/10th damage. Advanced technological weapons, natural attacks from gigantic creatures or larger and magic deal only 1/5th damage. All artillery or technological vehicle mounted weapons and spells that do direct SHP damage do full damage.

A vehicle with reinforced structure that takes up to half its hit points in damage is restricted in its movement and has its move rate reduced by half.

Automatons with reinforced structure can be repaired in the field only up to half their maximum hit points. This requires the assistance of 4 people in addition to the mechanist to perform but otherwise follows the same rules as repairing standard automatons. Full repairs can be performed in a workshop to the value of the automaton following the normal rules.


The following table summarises these resistances for SHP types into two categories for vehicle to represent two different tech levels. VHP is used to signify SHP used on a vehicle/automaton hit points. THP is for technological vehicle hit points used in Vistor vehciles.

Damage source






Personal weapons - low tech



Personal weapons - enchanted



Personal weapons - tecnological



Artillary - Wood



Artillary - Stone



Artillary - Technological



Creature - Huge or smaller



Creature - Gigantic



Creature - Colossal



Magic - Spells



Magic - Spells doing SHP



Applying this to current automatons

This ability is easy to add to a current automaton build that weights over 1,000 stone as you are just adding a major ability. Given this is an optional rule consider the nature of the vehicle, this would logically apply to a tank, but should it apply to a wooden frame aircraft? Either way the current design just adds the following to hack this ability onto it:
  • +5000 cost
  • +5 days to build
  • +1 difficulty to build

Saturday, 9 January 2021

The Warrens of Mystery, Zone B

Continuing with the Warrens of Mystery, with over 200 rooms their is a lot to cover...

Zone A creates a natural bottleneck resulting in two choices - the door to the south and the open passageway to the west. In both my playthroughs players have opted to go west as their first choice (the open passage invites another step where a door is a choice), leaving the south door unopened.

This next zone, Zone B, I refer to as The Junction. At its centre is a crossroad on what my players have referred to as the top corridor. This natural passage on the top of the map allows players to quickly traverse multiple map zones to reach deeper into the warrens.

The theme here is Visitors. A small Visitor group have occupied most of the rooms in this area and seek to hack into the Vault in this region. They have a guard post setup right in the middle of the junction that allows them to control traffic through the top of the map. They can be reasoned with but tend to be hostile to Humans and Endjinns (their hated enemies that caused the worldship to crash).

My first group to play through this area went with open assault, attacking the group at location 1, then the reinforcements from 2 then 6 in a glorious rolling battle. They then advanced through to 4 and eliminated the leader. The second group set an ambush, quickly cleared the main group, and went north before reinforcements could arrive. Both groups had recovered the vault key from Zone A which opens the Vault on this map. I describe the vault entries as a 10ft square raised platform with a pedestal in the middle. Placing the key within opens a hole in the roof and activates this flying platform (as an elevator) that rises rapidly upwards and takes them to the Vault. Zone A and B effectively teach the players about the vaults and gives them an understanding of how finding and opening them works.

Friday, 8 January 2021

Modifying automatons (A.K.A. Junk Bots)

While most mechanists use blueprints and libraries to create perfect designs which they then inflict upon the world some choose a different path. Many have no grand design or form for their automatons and instead cobble together designs based of the works of others to create uniquely new and undocumented automatons. Often samples drawn from destroyed designs are used as insiration leading to cluttered and messy workshops full of broken and junked automatons in various states of disrepair.

Following these rules, a functional automaton must exist that is the primary recipient of the modification. The secondary design may be a sample (destroyed automaton that is usable as a blueprint) or an intact and functional automaton (that won't retain this status for long). If the secondary automaton is functional it becomes destroyed through the modification process and usable only as a sample in future projects. For secondary automatons that are already a destroyed sample they become unusable junk once the process is complete.

Through the modification process the mechanist “designs” a new automaton following the guidelines below, though no blueprint is created. Instead the primary automaton in the process is modified to reflect the nature of the new design. Once completed, this new automaton may be used as a sample for future projects and used as a “blueprint” under the normal rules for samples.

Step 1: Designing the modified automaton

A primary automaton and secondary automaton must be declared, these are the base models. The new hybrid design is referred to as the new design. Once the new design is approved by the judge the primary automaton will receive the changes to make it reflect the new design.

All three designs must have a HD that is equal to or less than twice the mechanist’s level. Additionally, they must all have a number of special abilities less than the mechanist’s level. 

Only special abilities from either of the base designs are available, though they may be removed or reduced as required. Either step through the full design principles or this simple approach from the crossbreeding rules framework:
Hit Dice: The new design must have a hit dice at or between the base models.
Movement: The mechanist may assign the new design the movement capabilities of either or both the primary or secondary automatons.
Armor Class: While the automatons base AC is determined by its Hit Dice it may take AC modifiers up to the maximum of either of the base models.
Attacks: The new design should be assigned the attacks of either or both progenitors. If either or both have restricted or no attacks this should be reflected. The final damage inflicted by the attacks will be scaled up proportionate to the increase in Hit Dice.
Special Abilities: The new design may have the special abilities of one, both, or none of its base models but may only draw on those present in the base models. 

The final design will not be converted into a blueprint but will still require judge approval and should reflect an addition to the primary design or a hybrid design to honour the nature of these rules. The build class level, build penalty time taken and cost should be determined as per a normal blueprint. No test is required to create this new design as a blueprint once created, it moves immediately to the modifying phase that consumes these progenitor automatons.

Step 2 Apply the modifications 

To complete the modification process the mechanist spends time in their workshop modifying the primary automaton to the new design through a build throw. This throw uses the following modifications to the normal build process, and failure destroys both automatons used and any additional parts:

Workshop: The mechanist must have a workshop suitable for the new design, with bonuses to their throw following the normal rules using the new designs full cost as the benchmark.
Cost: The cost increase from the primary design to the new design and reduction of the secondary design to sample or junked. 
Build throw penalty: From the new design. Additional quality materials may be expended through the modification to gain a bonus to the throw as per normal, the limit refers to the total cost of the new design.
Modification time: Half the time required to fully build the new design.

The "junk bot" house rule: Generous judges may allow the secondary design to be “in spirit” only. Using destroyed robots as inspiration for the new build to allow grafting of modern and old designs into a hideous amalgams of technology. The difficulty here is the robot being used was never built as an automaton so strong guidance is needed. I leave this one up to the judge.

Example build: Ballista mounted clockwork stevedore (B-POCS)

This takes the Clockwork Auto-Stabilizing Light Ballista and mounts it on a Pilot-operated Clockwork Stevedore (POCS). This gives an Aliens like power suit with an over the shoulder light ballista mount! Both are covered in machinery to the max, jump on the Autarch Patreon to grab a copy.

We allocate the POCS to the primary and the Ballista to the secondary.

We will use: 
Hit Dice: 5 hit dice, as the POCS.
Movement: as the POCS.
Armor Class: as the POCS.
Attacks: add Ranged attack (10’ multiplier) ##; remove Reduced attack (Half) ####.
I’m hoping that the extra damage covers us for the ballista… The added attack is - 
Attacks: 1 light ballista bolt (1d10 damage, +2 to hit, ROF 1/2, range 120’, effective damage 6). 
add Requires ammunition (light ballista bolts, 1lb/1gp count as an item) ## (not a full #### from the secondary automaton as it only applies to less than half the damage, yes I’m being tight here as its 6 damage not 7.5).
The POCS punch does 8, which is half 15 rounded up, so the full 15 will definitely fit that.
Special Abilities: No other changes applied. 

Final design:
Ballista Mounted Pilot-operated Clockwork Stevedore (B-POCS)
Hit dice: 5 (20 HP, save F3)
Armor class:
Move: 60’ (20’)
Weight: 250 st. (1.8 ton)
Carry: 125 st. (1 passenger, ammunition for ballista)
Attacks: 1 fist (1d8) and 1 light ballista bolt (1d10 damage, +2 to hit, ROF 1/2, range 120’, effective damage 6). 
Positive abilities (total): Automaton immunities *, Increased AC (+3) ###, Passenger (1) #, Ranged attack (10’ multiplier) ##. (* #### ##)
Negative abilities (total): Requires ammunition (light ballista bolts, 1lb/1gp count as an item) ##, Requires operator (mechanist, learned or labor (stevedore)) *. (* ##) 
Cost (net abilities): 12,500 (####)

The upgraded B-POCS design can be built by a 3rd level machinist at a +3 build penalty taking 20 days with a base construction cost of 12,500gp.

The modification requires:
Workshop: to the value of 12,500 minimum.
Cost: 2,500 gp in mechanical materials, if the ballista is functional the remaining parts after modification grant the player a non-function sample for later use. 
Build throw penalty: a build throw at +3, modified by additional workshop value and quality materials.
Modification time: 10 days in the workshop (half the new design).

You now have an artillery mounted POCS perfect for those dungeon explorations where you open up with a ballista then wade into melee… Ahhh the joys of automatons in dungeon explorations.

Saturday, 26 December 2020

The worldship arrives in your world...

I was once asked which ‘world’ my setting was in and to be honest I use my own. But it got me thinking, how would you use it in another world?

For this thought I’m going to assume the ship is and has been in poor repair for an extended period. This allows you to use my map below as is. I only really use one deck of the whole ship as I assume lower decks are buried and upper decks extend beyond the atmosphere of a world.  Your can simply run with it being the only pressurised deck if you don't crash it. Assume the Visitor kingdoms are intact, but the human occupants would be optional to use.

Maybe I will explore an undamaged map in the future with multiple decks. Though if you did this the whole ship would likely follow the rules for the visitor territories I currently use.

So how does it did the ship arrive in your world?

The world scar

Like in my world the ship crashes onto your world. You will need to consider how the crash didn’t destroy your world, be it local magic or technology on the now crashed ship. This could have happened a long time ago or it could be a recent campaign event. Where did it crash? What did it destroy? It is big enough to wipe out all or part of a whole kingdom. In Kanahu this could be directly off the map in the sea to the west or south west or in the unknown lands to the east.

The district nine problem (but bigger)

The ship arrives and is floating a mile above the terrain. It’s still functional gravity systems maintain it in a static position over your world. Or maybe it drifts following some pattern? What happens to the terrain underneath? The worldship is massive and would block out the sun killing all plant life underneath! If this is a recent arrival and kingdom underneath will be rushing to have it moved assuming their people haven’t already fled. If it has been there a long time a dark land underneath will be dead and decayed, maybe becoming a place filled with long dead cities to plunder.

The new moon (it's really a space station)

A more distant arrival, a new moon arrives in the heavens and strange visitors arrive stealing resources and people for purposes unknown. With the aid of an astronomer the moon is identified as a vessel of some kind, do your players explore it? They could use a teleport spell or kidnap a visitor ship to arrive onboard. Do they encounter humans from a distant world or are the Visitor remnants the only survivors?

Combinations (the Sokovia solution) 

Combining world scar with a new moon above. Is a solution to a world ending event in your campaign one where your players or some other force deliberately seeks to crash the ship into a kingdom or location with the intent to destroy it? How would they do this? what are the implcations? 

Maybe the crash is going to occur in a year, the new moon will fall! Can the players stop it? 

My efforts to revise the map

I have been playing with worldographer recently and have made a few icons to differentiate the workshops terrain. They have started doing small updates and the recent changes have improved the user experience for me, though I think more is needed still. Asside from the new icons below I have also added some fungus areas as a forest proxy in the map to give it a bit more texture. For these fungus forests I focused them away from the more inhabited front of the ship. The new hexes are explained below the map.

My current progress is as follows:
The Worldship 6 mile hex revised map

plaza hexes are dominated by giant mile high and wide corridors with natural terrain beneath. They are often illuminated with sun lamps and make natural passageways through the vessel. They are similar to the blank machinery areas but are dominated by the plaza terrain types.

Hab-cylinder: these giant cylinders six miles wide and high provide unique terrains from alien worlds within. The map icons show them as fertile or conducive to human life or as zones that are infertile or hostile to life. These were originally detailed in my first map here with the starting city of Avril being in a prominant cylinder.
Hanger bay:
these massive open structures have access hangers to the outside world where visitor fleets once berthed. Many opens underneath the vessel and if it has crashed landed will now be filled with dirt and are mainly inaccessible.

Tuesday, 22 December 2020

Power is money

For my setting the players are adventuring on a crashed giant spaceship. As such standard gems seemed a little out of place. What I did was replace gems with crystals as a major form of treasure and currency. This is reflected in the treasure allocations from last week's map.

Energy crystals in this setting are abundant given most items were powered by them when the ship was fully operational. But the secret to their creation is restricted to the Visitor admirality and as such they are a limited resource. This makes them the perfect currency. Most quests will be for crystals, they are in strong demand and are the main form of exchange outside of silver based coins minted by the various kingdoms.

Aside from the standard fully charged crystal in BCK I include half and quarter full crystals. Their value decreases disproportionately to their charge with less charged crystals having value lower than their charge. This reflects their lack of endurance when used in technological items, and from a game perspective choice for the characters. All crystals use the same weight categories as gems, so you can carry 1,000 of any type for one stone of encumbrance.

Energy crystal type, charge and values:
  • Dim, quarter charge, 5 gp value
  • Luminescent, half charge, 25 gp value
  • Incandescent, full charge, 100 gp value

To facilitate this in play I altered the coinage and gems tables on the treasure table in ACKS as follows using three terms for crystals in place of the gem types:

Worldship adjusted tresure table



Avg. gp

1000s of Slivers

1000s of Grands

Energy crystals




35% 1d8


30% 1d4 stashes




80% 2d6


70% 1d4 stashes




50% 3d4


40% 1d6 caches




80% 3d8


80% 1d6 stashes




80% 3d10

15% 1d3

60% 1d4 stashes




35% 1d8

15% 1d4

40% 1d6 caches




80% 3d20

15% 1d3

50% 1d6 stashes




80% 5d12


80% 1d6 caches




40% 1d6

25% 1d6

50% 1d8 caches




80% 4d20

40% 1d6

50% 1d6 caches




30% 2d8

25% 1d8

25% 1d4 troves




80% 5d20

55% 1d8

60% 1d6 caches




35% 4d6

35% 1d10

30% 1d6 troves




70% 8d12

80% 1d6

80% 1d8 caches




80% 6d20

70% 2d6

30% 1d4 troves




35% 4d6

30% 2d6

40% 1d4 troves




70% 5d12

75% 4d6

60% 1d6 troves




60% 7d6

75% 8d6

70% 1d4 troves

The three types of crystal treasure types are:

Crystal Stash

1d6 dims
1d2-1 luminescent 

Crystal Cache

1d4 dim
1d10 luminescent 
1d2-1 incandescent 

Crystal Trove

4d20 incandescent

Simplifying coins

My players like hordes of treasure but can be terrible bookkeepers at times. As such I greatly simplified coins for my game. Looking at the historical coinage from Guns at War made me consider alternative coinage. 

The silver Grand replaces the gold coin. This is a large silver piece with the same value as a gold coin (maintaining gp as the standard term to partly avoid confusion). Gold is not easy to find onboard an alien vessel and tends to be reserved for non-coin uses. These coins follow a 2,000 gp to a stone in terms of weight. 

The silver Sliver fits between copper and silver, being worth 1/20th of a gp. Slivers can be tiny minted coins or Grand coins cut into half, or quarters, but they are always reflected in an sp value regardless of their size. They follow a 40,000 per stone weight value similar to the soldi in GoW. This means they follow the same weight to gold value found in gold coins.

The convenience of this is that all coins can be recorded as 2,000 gp per stone, So the value can be used instead of the number, this helps later on to just enable the recording of a single amount.

Tracking treasure

Combining these two changes allows characters to just track four things for most treasure, the gp value of coins (2,000 gp per stone), and the three crystal types (1,000 crystals per stone). This has greatly speed up my inventory checks and maintenance in game. 

This allows me to have vast hordes of treasure in my game and simplify the tracking. Treasure is fun and treasure for XP drives my sandbox style games very nicely. So, the thought of removing this elements completely is not something I want to do. I have played many different games over time that reward attendance for XP, missions for xp and treasure for XP. All create their own style of game and for sandbox play I find the treasure for XP model works really well. To simplify it on my end i keep a running tally on a piece of paper of using the gp value of treasure and monster xp then add and divide the amounts when they get to town, this takes less effort than i originally thought it would once you get in the habit, again the key is to keeping it simple.

Another element common to these treasure types is that many different items enter play through these random tables. In the past I thought of that as a negative, but my players are loving it. Many items are discarded, handed to henchmen or sold off. But the items themselves become a part of the characters advancement. They become prized possessions with a story that help build the characters.