EXTERMINATE!

The tagline of this site is “Old School Attitude, Modern Rules”. (Not, as some would have it, “Updates on a roll of 18+ on 2D10”) A big part of the feel of “Old School” is “Anything that’s cool is included”, and “cool” usually meant whatever was in the movies or at the top of the nerd reading list for that week. Dungeons & Dragons campaigns in the 1970s and 1980s were full of wookies and kzinti, phasers and lightsabers, aliens and predators, ninjas and more ninjas. A lot of that great and glorious wahooness has been lost in recent decades, or is brought back only so that it can be snickered at with a superior attitude and/or played purely for laughs (see the execrable “Castle Greyhawk” module published by TSR for AD&D 2e, as repugnant an attempt to piss on Gary’s legacy as I can imagine).

Me, I prefer unironic, unexamined, embrasure of the 14 year old within. Since Doctor Who hadn’t made it across the pond in most of the early era of D&D, or was sneered at by the kind of Very Serious Fans who might have heard of it (if they watched anything British, it would be Blake’s Seven), there was very little inclusion of Dr. Who material in things like Arduin or All The World’s Monsters. So, we set the gaming TARDIS to take the “That which is cool, rules” attitude of the 1970s and merge it, via a chronal transpacial rift in idea space, with the mechanics of the 2010s, and I present the first of several Daleks, statted for 4e. (There will be at least one solo “Dalek Commander”, and probably a non-elite, maybe two, but I wanted to get one mid-range “model” out first.)

Dalek

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3 Responses to EXTERMINATE!

  1. “Me, I prefer unironic, unexamined, embrasure of the 14 year old within” – That just made my week (and is a line I can’t wait to steal and slip into conversation).

    I grew up watching Doctor Who on TVOntario (my dad was a big sci-fi nut, so gathering around the television each week was a family event), so the Daleks have a special place in my heart. When I try to explain to my friends who never watched the show why Daleks are cool and scary all they see is a shambling garbage can with a toilet plunger. Needless to say I really appreciate this monster.

    •Immune, resist and vulnerable are all mechanically sound and fit with the material.
    •Resolute is an interesting trait – I’ve never seen modifiers to Diplomacy or Intimidate in a monster stat block before (it actually made me go and read the skill descriptions again), but I like it – it’s one of those examples where the mechanics of something can open up the possibilities for an encounter.
    •Enemy of the Daleks is a great trait and full of flavour.
    •Blaster is great – I wasn’t sure what type of damage you were going to make the Dalek’s trademark attack, but I think the triple combination of damage types is both a good simulation, and will prevent the attack from being resisted (the penalty to death saves is also a nice touch – since it’s supposed to be nigh impossible to survive)
    •I like how the Dalekanium grenade trades off AC for an attack – I can see using something similar for all sorts of monsters (or a good simulation of reactive armour)
    •Plunger of Doom made me laugh – while the blaster hasn’t changed all that much over the years; it seems like every writer of Doctor Who leaves their stamp on what the hell the ‘plunger’ does… this is a good power though. Great human shield image and useful for artillery

    One last thing. You have exposed my lack of technical knowledge – I had to look up what COBOL was.

    • Lizard says:

      Well, what language would the most evil race in the galaxy speak? PERL? 🙂

      I just wanted to say I really appreciate your feedback on mechanics, et al. You hit a lot of the design intent correctly, which tells me I did something right. Yes, the “blaster” was pretty much a “Resist THIS, human!” combo, and also reflected the types of effects often seen on the show (remembering this is an abstraction of 30+ years of various Daleks, continuity being a total mess on Dr. Who, probably due to everything being all wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey).

      I had toyed with a variety of ways to increase lethality, such as having them coup de grace as a minor action, but I tend to dislike those mechanics because they take some of the decision making power out of the hands of the DM when it comes to killing PCs. The “harsher death save” mechanic increases tension while still giving other characters a chance to act, and makes a heal check to stabilize much more important.

      The Plunger-o-Doom was inspired by the episode “Dalek” in the first season of the reboot/revival. I loved the line “What are you going to do, plunge me to death?”, but I wanted a mechanic which worked in 4e combat and would be simultaneously sort of slapsticky and yet need to be taken seriously.

      The “Resolute” trait is there because while it’s really, really, hard to negotiate with Daleks, it’s not impossible, as we’ve seen the Doctor manage to get them talking plenty of times (usually right before he does something clever and they all explode). Threatening or bullying them never works, but if put into a situation where victory seems impossible and they see a chance to survive and return to fight again (or to stall until more daleks arrive), they just might stop shooting for a second. (Sontarans, on the other hand…). 4e lacks any kind of formal “morale” system, so these decisions tend to be purely DM calls, but I think if a creature or species is known to be “cowardly” or “brave”, above and beyond the norm, that there should be a mechanical component to reinforce their behavior. (The DM can always apply whatever other modifiers he sees fit; the game ninjas won’t come and take away his DM license.)

  2. sarah penguin says:

    I like your Dalek mechanics, and I hope at some point you post the rest. I’m not a 4E fan and have never bought any of it, other than the Gamma World Boxed Set (because, you know, Gamma World! Who can resist?) So I’m not entirely sure how it would play, but it looks awesome.

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