• The VOIDRUNNER'S CODEX is LIVE! Explore new worlds, fight oppressive empires, fend off fearsome aliens, and wield deadly psionics with this comprehensive boxed set expansion for 5E and A5E!

Weird Wastelands - 3rd Party Review

Sparky McDibben

Howdy friends!

Ages ago, I backed WebDM's Weird Wastelands because I really like WebDM, really like sandboxes, and really like supporting 3rd party creators. So it kind of checked all my boxes. Now, the book's finally here, and I'd like to go over it in my usual way-too-much detail. As usual, I'll be confining my review to just what's on the page, and I won't be going over any ancillary material (like the Weird Wastelands Workbook, which looks like a fun little supplement).

Weird Wastelands is a book on creating postapocalyptic sandboxes for gaming. Think Mad Max, Fallout, etc. There's no real setting, and the lore is all implied but never said outright. It's solid, scalable, and gameable material. The book includes:
  • Character options, includes postapocalyptic subclasses for every class but artificer, and a brand-new psion class
  • New equipment, including vehicles, survival gear, magic items, and settlement rules
  • Rules for exploring and navigating the wastelands
  • Six new factions, from the weird science of the Arcanotech Cabal to the full-on fascism of the Infernal Recruiters
  • Eight wasteland locations, scattered across all tiers of play, that explore a bunch of great tropes and fun ideas on how apocalypses work in a fantasy world
  • New monsters to bedevil your players with
I plan to review this on a chapter-by-chapter basis, about once a week, finishing with my recommendation on whether or not you should buy it, and any issues I had with the work.

So to start: Introductions! Once you get past the foreword (by Monte Cook), and all the great art

Seriously, don't sleep on the art 'cuz holy cow...

You get into the Introduction section. For reference, this is the first piece of text you're hit with:

Buckle up; it only gets weirder from here.

The Introduction does a great job setting up the book's structure and what we can expect from it going forward. In particular, it spends time examining what a sandbox is, how it functions in play, and why you should get your players on board before you start running it. There's a delightful page on various postapocalyptic inspiration, including a lot of stuff you'd expect to see, and some stuff you might not (ex. She-Ra, STALKER, Waterworld). From there, we get into the best section I've seen in an introduction.

How to Build Your Own Apocalypse!

This goes into depth on the shifts from cataclysms to apocalypses (how things go from "It's real bad, but we'll get through," to "Nothing will ever be the same again"), and how many variants there are on this trope in fantasy, so you can see exactly how your society broke. There are 5 tables going from d10 to d12, and covering everything from pre-existing societal flaws, to ecological consequences, to the actual initial cataclysm itself! This is great - my rough math on the combinatorics is that there are 207,360 different apocalypses in this book.

This is friggin' great, y'all. Honestly, this section sold me on writing a review, because I was blown away at just how outside-the-box some of the thinking was:

Sample apocalypses include:
  • The moon suddenly becomes psionic and angry, which causes a theocratic despot to rise to power even as the moon caused massive flooding (and therefore famine).
  • 100 tarrasques attack, causing mass militarization and a huge draft, even as an ideologically divided society becomes embroiled in civil war over whether to use or destroy the tarrasques
  • And many more!
This is awesome and I love it. Well done! Next time, we'll go over the character options in Chapter 1!

log in or register to remove this ad


I'm reminded of how there was a series of 3.5 sourcebooks made by Malhavoc Press detailing campaign-shattering events, such as Requiem for a God (death of a deity) and When the Sky Falls (meteors falling to earth).

Speaking of 100 tarrasques, there's a DM's Guild product called Invasion from the Planet of Tarrasques where Halastar Blackcloak attempts to destroy Waterdeep by creating a portal to Falx, a Spelljammer planet home to entire families of tarrasque-like beings.

I'm sure this book can stand on its own, but I was reminded of prior sourcebooks that did this. I dunno if you also read those, but it'd be interesting to compare if possible.

I definitely like the idea of an angry psionic moon; Atropus was one of my favorite Elder Evils from 3rd Edition, so it'd be neat to see a take like that for 5e.

Sparky McDibben

I'm reminded of how there was a series of 3.5 sourcebooks made by Malhavoc Press detailing campaign-shattering events, such as Requiem for a God (death of a deity) and When the Sky Falls (meteors falling to earth).

Speaking of 100 tarrasques, there's a DM's Guild product called Invasion from the Planet of Tarrasques where Halastar Blackcloak attempts to destroy Waterdeep by creating a portal to Falx, a Spelljammer planet home to entire families of tarrasque-like beings.

I'm sure this book can stand on its own, but I was reminded of prior sourcebooks that did this. I dunno if you also read those, but it'd be interesting to compare if possible.

I definitely like the idea of an angry psionic moon; Atropus was one of my favorite Elder Evils from 3rd Edition, so it'd be neat to see a take like that for 5e.
Invasion of the Planet of the Tarrasques is specifically mentioned in the inspiration section, I believe! And the authors are pretty big fans of Mr. Introcaso's work, so that 100% tracks.

Alright folks, let's get started with a brand-new class in this book, the psion! Buckle up, kids. This one's very unique.

So the psion is drawing from a bunch of different sources, only instead of the designers saying, "How do we make X in D&D?", they're asking, "How can D&D handle X?" That's a subtle distinction, but you'll hopefully see what I mean in a minute. But basically, the psion is a midranking jack-of-all-trades utility and support caster with wildly different mechanics that draw heavily from DMG variant rules.

Rather than run down the class, let's look at how it would go about behaving in combat. For one thing, you use power points to fuel your wacky abilities. These are a bit like spell points in the DMG, except weirdly crossed with ki points. Power points refresh on a short rest, and you can burn more of them to apply specific effects to various abilities.

Those abilities are determined by your disciplines, and there's only like six disciplines, each with four levels (the book says five, but all of them have four levels, so I'm assuming that was a typo). You get up to 10 total "discipline levels" across your career, so you have some severe opportunity costs here. The disciplines are things like Telekinesis (which starts out with moving objects, size determined by how many power points you spend, and proceeds from there up the "hurt things creatively" ladder). Psychoportation, for example, lets you teleport (distance determined by how many power points you use), switch places with folks, and lock down bad guys.

These abilities are fascinating, but are still carefully balanced to let you use your abilities roughly in step with more normal casters. Sure, you can use Psychoportation to teleport 500' at level 5 with the right discipline selections. That sounds OP, right? You basically get dimension door three levels early! Except 1) You can't take anyone with you (one of the best uses of dimension door), and 2) You zero out your power points to do that, so I hope you didn't need to do anything interesting once you teleported. So yeah, some of these might look OP, but it's never a clean, 1:1 comparison. I think that's a strength of the design, honestly.

However, a weakness of the design is that it's going to throw anyone who's used to 5E class designs for one helluva loop. I get that they're trying to create the "Build-A-Bear" psionic class, because they don't know how you want to play it, but it's going to be confusing for new players and old ones alike. That may be enough of a break for some people to avoid it, but honestly, if we're playing in a sandbox with beetles who are sentient only in the sunlight, uh... well, you should probably brace for weirdness.

The subclass options revolve mostly around how you channel your psionic power, and include everything from honest-to-God crystal psychics to a full-on Sith Lord subclass. That sounds great, until you realize that the class only has a d8 Hit Die, so have fun not dying. Maybe.

Also, one more thing: the humor / references. As an example, there's literally a discipline ability called "Sight Beyond Sight."

Thundercats GIF

These might get a little much for some DMs. Personally, I figure that these are actually pretty important to the material. One of the biggest things I'm looking for in a class ability is, "How am I supposed to adjudicate this at the table?" So that's a huge clue to me, right there in the ability name! You run it like friggin' Lion-O. Moreover, the designers have included sidebars and footnotes that help detail their thinking about how this ability should play at the table, and that's extraordinarily helpful, too.

Alright, folks, Sparky's moving slow these days because the kids are on summer vacation, but I want to get to the next twelve (12! XII!) subclass options in the book, where they go wrong, where they go right, and everything in between. Until next time, friendos!!!

Sparky McDibben

Alright, friends, sorry about the slow pace on these, but I'm afraid I have some work travel coming up and I'll be out of town for next week. So I wanted to knock out a quick update about the subclasses included in Weird Wastelands!

There are 12 new subclasses in this bad boy, so let's see how many we can get through before I have to pull one of my kids away from playing with the acetylene torch.

Barbarian: Path of the Monster Heart. You eat the hearts of your enemies and derive power from them. This subclass gives you lots of options for "stuff that happens when you rage," all deriving from the kind of monster's heart you ate back at level 3. So if you went Construct, while raging you're immune to poison and the poisoned condition. Or if you ate a fiend's heart, you gain darkvision even through magical darkness. These are pretty cool, and you can gain another monster-heart benefit at level 6. At level 14, you can change the two you have every long rest. These are cool benefits, but they seem a little lackluster compared to something like Zealot. Also, humanoid is not on the list. WHY CAN'T I DO MAGICAL CANNIBALISM, WEBDM????

Bard: College of Bones. I was full-on snickering until I read that "This subclass is an homage to both epic storytelling and the inherent (and oft forgotten) value of those who can butcher." Oooooookay, then, I guess I was thinking of the wrong kind of boning. This class' big deal is that they can use Bardic Inspiration to roll 1d8 on this table:


And then either keep that benefit or give it to someone else. That ain't bad, but at 6th level, if someone with your Bardic Inspiration hits with a weapon attack, you can turn that hit into a crit. Ooooh damn - hope you didn't have any rogues or paladins in the party, DM!

This is incredibly strong, but I think it's balanced for most parties.

Ascetic Cleric. This really ought to have been renamed the exhaustion cleric, because it's whole deal is that it can swap levels of exhaustion with people, and gets to carry some exhaustion (levels equal to your proficiency bonus) without penalty. Now, inflicting exhaustion on others means you have to have it yourself first, and inflicting it requires a use of Channel Divinity. However, you can only inflict exhaustion on an enemy up to half your proficiency bonus, and the enemy gets a saving throw (Constitution). So you can't kill anyone outright with this ability, but you can make a bad guy hate life. Given that this book is all about surviving in the wastelands, this is one cleric you really can't afford to sleep on.

Druid - Circle of the Broken Land. First off, the art for this subclass is metal AF:

That druid is clearly going to either kick ass or an AC/DC concert. Either way, I don't want to be any where near them when they get there. This druid is a barbarian-inspired monstrosity that looks at shillelagh, cracks its knuckles, and goes, "We can do better." It's a druid that likes being in melee just as much as Circle of the Moon, and smacks a fool with violent, horrible glee. naughty word love this, well done.

Fighter - Reaver. This is your Mad Max fighter. The book literally says so. One of the abilities is called "Witness Me!" You get bonus damage based on your movement, the ability to Disengage as a bonus action, and a bunch of bonuses related to vehicles (which are covered later in this book). There's also an optional fighting style that gives you +5 feet to your movement speed, and the ability to stand up from prone by using 5 feet of movement.

Monk - Way of the Wanderer. Hey look, it's One Punch Man! That's not sarcasm; their capstone subclass ability is called "ONE PUNCH!!!" This subclass shifts your martial arts damage up one die size, starting at d6 and capping at d12. You get an ability that's basically Deflect Arrows but for melee, and the ability to bypass all damage resistances. Finally, your ONE PUNCH! ability lets you spend ki to add Martial Arts dice to damage on a 1:1 basis. So up to 20d12, ignoring damage resistance. That's 130 average, assuming you hit, ignoring crits, and holy naughty word this monk don't naughty word around.

Alright, y'all, I've gotten halfway through the subclasses. We'll pick up with the other six when I'm back! See ya!

Sparky McDibben

Alright, sorry folks. I had to put this down for a while 'cuz things have been kind of crazy in the McDibben household. I'm back now, and WE'RE DOING THIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Next up, the other six subclasses:

Paladin - Oath of Pilgrimage. This paladin is all about playing an escort mission. Their abilities are less focused on combat (although it's still a paladin, so they're no slouch), and more about easing the journey. Your spell list includes longstrider and passwall, and your Channel Divinity options let you use Lay on Hands as a reaction at range, or turn (as Turn Undead) someone who just dealt damage in the last turn. Your paladin aura gives advantage on Dex saves (in addition to your Aura of Protection, so good luck landing a fireball, DM), and your capstone feature lets you give yourself and any allies an out-of-combat fly speed of up to 300 mph (or up to 300 feet per round in combat). It's an odd-feeling mix; this paladin fills the ranger's niche better than the ranger does, it would seem. Speaking of rangers...

Ranger - Scavenger Archetype. This archetype is all about making stuff to kick bad guys' butts. It's an artificer ranger, rooting around in the ruins of the old world to kit-bash a grappling gun out of a hairdryer and dental floss. Good times. You get five extra spells, including speak with dead, Tenser's floating disc, and passwall. After that, you get to the meat of the subclass at level three. As part of a rest, you can forage for junk and use it to craft something from the Adventuring Gear table in the PHB (note that this is the same table that has basic poison, potions of healing, and alchemists' fire on it). Initially, you're limited to 10 gp worth of stuff, and none of that stuff can be a weapon. Also, when you forage, you find more stuff than usual. As you increase in level, you can craft stuff worth more. At level 7, you get to craft weapons, and your gp limit increases to 50. Moreover, any weapon you create, you can add your proficiency bonus to the damage. (That would be nuts on anything but a ranger, but it doesn't come online till level 7, and it's on a ranger, so I'm less freaked out than I would be on a fighter or something). Still, at Tier 4, you get up to +18 to your damage per round (one of the features lets you attack as a bonus action). Yikes. They also have a replacement for Natural Explorer that's less of an "automatic win" for wilderness survival and more of a "You can keep the party alive...mostly." Good stuff.


How can you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat???

Rogue - Enforcer Archetype. It's a Strength-based rogue, y'all! This particular rogue gets to Sneak Attack with light bludgeoning weapons, and can try to stun a target. If you're thinking, "Oh no, they gave a rogue Stunning Strike," then the answer is mostly yes. But, they can only do it once per turn, not up to four times per turn like a monk can, so it's reined in. The DC is 8 + PB + the rogue's STR modifier. If you're trying to stun a target, you no longer deal Sneak Attack damage, so it's a little (heh) hit or miss, if you will. The meatier interaction is that at 3rd level, you no longer need advantage or an ally within 5 feet to use Sneak Attack, and you can Sneak Attack someone you're grappling. That's...incredibly strong. The multiclassing shenanigans you could do with that boggle my mind. The rest of the options here are OK - you get +10 to movement speed when hidden at 13th level, and at 9th level you get advantage on Perception checks as long as you haven't moved for the last minute. At 17th level, your grapple gets upgraded. Anyone grappled by you is restrained, and your attacks against a grappled opponent crit on a 19 or a 20. This is a very strong (hehe) subclass - I would not allow this outside of a wastelands campaign.

Sorcerer - Sun-Hollowed Soul. This sorcerer has been affected by the angry sun, burning it's way into your very being. It gets some nasty spells that we'll get to in the spells chapter (gamma burst, hollowed husk), but also contagion, hypnotic pattern, and flame strike. At first level you can convert your damage to radiant with 2 SPs and spend 1 SP to light yourself up (dispelling any magical darkness). But at 6th level, you can, if you've spent an hour in natural sunlight, spend a HD to regain sorcery points (you just roll the HD, no modifiers, and add the result to your SP pool - 1x per long rest). Also at level 6, you're resistant to radiant damage, and can spend a SP to blind anyone of your choice within 30 feet. That's a pretty strong suite so far, and we're only on level 6. At level 14, you basically get a smaller-radius spirit guardians that also inflicts the poisoned condition for as long as someone remains there, and at level 18, you can go Supernova. While in this form, you get a ton of benefits, but at the end of it, you explode (20d6 radiant, 20d6 fire) and die. You come back the next morning with all your stuff (this ability only works once per 10 days). Soooo...yeah. 1x day spirit guardians AND meteor swarm? That's good (not broken - note you're getting that spirit guardians at level 14), but really good. By the way, if you want to know what one of these things looks like:


Like a Kardashian with a better skincare routine
Warlock - Apocalypse Patron. With this subclass, the apocalypse hasn't run its course yet, and it wants you to help it finish the job. This subclass has four different sub-pacts (Pollution, Ruin, Disaster and Despair), each with their own bonus spell lists. At level 14, you get Summon Cataclysm. This is a d6 table of absolute chaos, as you open a portal back in time to when the apocalypse was still happening. You can dump, for example, a swimming pool's worth of alchemical badness on someone (14d6 of any damage type you like), or 5,000 gallons of magma. It's completely insane and I love it. Highly recommend.

Wizard - Technomancer. OK, so this is an interesting subclass. The fluff of it is that you're basically an artificer (except that's not Open Content, so the writers can't make an artificer class), tinkering around with stuff from the old world. You can imbue spells into your arcanotech panoply (fancy magic focus) and ignore verbal and somatic components (these both get better at higher levels). Any constructs you create get [wizard level x2] extra hp. It's a neat idea, and it stays within the bounds of a wizard's thematics, but I can't see someone breaking the world with this thing if you get the wrong player playing it, which is what I want from a wizard subclass.

Next up are Backgrounds! And if you thought they were just going to reskin the existing ones, hoo boy. Nope. In fact, several of these have two background features! And none of this, "You can get room and board because we don't want you to have to actually keep track of anything" nonsense. Some allow you to invoke a banner of parley to avoid being attacked, others let you predict the weather (a real nice touch in a world where "acid rain" is much, much worse than it is today), carry extra stuff, and come up with small items that will help out in a pinch (but not in that kender-y sort of way; it's flavored as part of you being a wastelands trader).

These backgrounds are great, and I strongly recommend using them over the normal PHB backgrounds in a wastelands game. They delightfully breathe life into the idea that this is a bad place, and we're all just trying to survive.

Alright friends - I've got to go deal with the miniaturized demonic entities that are my children, but y'all stay frosty! Next time, we're going over feats!!!

Sparky McDibben

Howdy folks! Ol' Sparky here, ready to rip back into Weird Wastelands. Today we're starting with feats!

There are only six of them in the book, taking up less than a page. Three of them are aimed at the Psion, granting some additional benefits like extra psionic points, increased range of influence, etc. Another has a bunch of minor benefits to driving, and the last two deal mostly with traveling. The first, Seasoned Traveler, gives you the ability to carry more, and advantage on a bunch of checks made during travel. The second, Survivalist, lets you avoid some of the hurdles of making it in the wilds, which we'll be going over later.

These are broadly useful, and require your players to spend a valuable resource (the feat) to gain a leg up on the wilderness. Well done, no notes.

Now, onto the spells! There's like 18 of them in here, and they run the gamut from cantrips to 9th level. Living up to the title, there's a pretty eclectic bunch! One of the first we see is assemble scrap golem, which lets you assemble a construct from junk as a 3rd level spell (casting time 1 minute) that follows you around for 24 hours. Another one is evaporate, which is just create / destroy water applied to a creature (deals 3d8 necrotic damage if the target fails a save, gains two levels of exhaustion, and has disadvantage to accrue more levels of exhaustion - and it's a second level spell!), and it's a bit strong, but also a great way to ensure the folks you cast out to die in the wastes definitely die.

One of the strangest spells is the cantrip, flagellate. The only cantrip in the book, it's only for clerics. The spell conjures a barbed whip that'll smack a fool for 1d6 slashing damage, and if you take a level of exhaustion, deal an extra 1d6 damage. Now, that sounds completely bonkers, right? Under what circumstances is taking a level of exhaustion for 1d6 damage a good deal? Well, it's a pretty good deal for their new cleric domain, the one that gets to transfer levels of exhaustion to bad guys. This patches a gaping hole in that subclass' kit (generating exhaustion as an at-will ability), and does it without making the spell a multiclassing nightmare! Hurray!

I don't want to go through all of these, so I'll hit one more: searing saber. Yes, it's a lightsaber. Well spotted, clever clogs. But it's also a fixed version of flame blade, making the spell conjure a simple melee weapon that you can use your casting stat for attack and damage rolls with. It deals 3d6 damage, casts as a bonus action, and can be resummoned as a bonus action on your turn if you drop it. So, it's flame blade, but your eldritch knight can use it for all of their attacks, and add their Strength, Dex, or Int modifier to the attack and damage rolls, whichever's higher.

The final section in spells is one that modifies PHB spells to be more inline with the survivalist mode of play. If you have questions about how PHB spells could possible mess with that, see this video by Zee Bashew:

If you don't know who Zee Bashew is, do yourself a favor and go check out his playlist. Absolutely outstanding work.
Indeed, the authors take Zee's suggestion and make goodberry consume it's material component (we're never told, but good luck finding a berry in the blasted hellscape of the Wastelands). Purify food and water requires a pound of charcoal (to filter, presumably), also consumed when cast. But my favorite change of all is what they did to Leomund's tiny hut. It can no longer be cast as a ritual, and requires a 10 pound hearthstone from the caster's home!

God, I hope WotC's taking notes.

Honestly, I really like what I've seen of the player options from WebDM so far. Very few duds, a couple of real bangers (especially in those subclasses), and generally interesting without locking out other options. That's hard to do, and kudos!

Alright, next time we'll talk about Settlements, Equipment, and Magic Items!!!

Sparky McDibben

Alright folks, let's pick up with Settlements and Trade! A lot of this chapter is fluff - reskinning the traditional D&D economy to use different standards of value, for example, takes up about a page and a half. Sure, you could use gp as a standard, but what about valuing items in gallons of water? Or buttons? Cowrie shells?

However, there are some real gems in here. There's about two pages on different trader personalities, and a random table of reactions to the party. So if your trader is dramatic, and rolls a 12 on their (2d6) reaction roll, they take a shine to the PCs, and talk them up for the next week (which might be inconvenient if there's someone looking for the PCs). There's also a d20 table of Trade Goods, which range from "Scrap metal" to "Rare Arcanotech Components." This could be either what the merchant has on them, or what they're looking for. Either way, plenty of adventure fodder here.

This section also continues the book's tradition of killer art:

Grubs for supper, anyone? No? Well, more for me...

And great worldbuilding. For example, all of the beasts of burden in the "default setting" are actually magically altered goats:

"Mortal Goatly Coil" needs to go on a throw pillow, y'all

This is a good example of the book's advice in general: just wacky enough to push the boundaries and preserve the author's voice, but not so out there it becomes unusable. There's also this gem in the "Wasteland Food" section:


Enter the Slave Palace of the Twinkie Overlord!!!
There's great advice for hireling rates, including how much it costs to Rent-A-Skeleton or repair your vehicle, as well as how much sages, astrologers, oracles and the like will charge for their services. All of this is great fluff, and for a GM looking to nail the post-apocalyptic vibe, this is all great to keep in mind. I could see perusing this section for a while just looking for ideas!

Next time, we'll go over Wasteland Gear! See y'all then!

Sparky McDibben

So one quick thing from my last post - what we went over was the sum of the settlement interaction material. Now, that's great, as far as it goes, but it ain't what I expected when a game designer sayeth unto me: "And lo! We hath brought forth SETTLEMENT RULZ!!!! Go forth, and play thy game thus empowered!" I figured the settlement rules would have, I dunno, rules for how settlements can interact in the wastelands, including how the PCs could maybe found their own? It's not the biggest thing, but a note of concern.

Alright, let's dig into this gear section!

The first thing to come up are a bunch of mundane equipment. These are 16 items that exist to help you navigate the wastes. Some of them (like binoculars) are relatively easy (they double the distance you can see). Others, like cooling salve, help relieve the sunburnt condition. What's the sunburned condition, you ask? Well, hang on till we get to the next chapter, friend, 'cuz it's a fun time! Another fun item is literally bottled lightning. It's basically shocking grasp, but does 2d8 damage, and has a 30 foot range. It costs 50 gp, and you can use it once. Neat idea, but I'd have preferred some way to recharge it.

One other thing I want to call out is the role the art plays in giving you great ideas for how these items can be more fantastical. Here's art that's right after the filter mask item:

Look, Steve, we've all got problems. Shinji had to get in a robot, you've got to put on the facehugger gas mask, and I've got to listen to you whine. Now let's go hunt down those Vault dwellers!

Zoinks, Scoob.

The items presented here are great for inventive players who want to solve the problems they'll face in the wastelands. For players used to relying on their character abilities, this is useless (right up until they die of exhaustion).

After that, we get a section on variant mounts. This does not include entries for "mule" or "riding horse" (points!) but does include sections for "pack dinosaur," "necromantic steed," and "giant spider" (POINTS!). This is great, no notes.

Following the mounts section, we get vehicles. Vehicles are essentially monster statblocks the PCs get to customize and ride around in - a similar approach to Descent into Avernus, if I recall correctly.


However, PCs are allowed to add "modules" that give their ride signature capabilities. There's also variant rules for the damaged condition (a condition that can apply to vehicles, and acts much like exhaustion), and fuel consumption.

These are interesting, but I'd have preferred a full example of vehicular combat. On my reading, it looks like the vehicles get their own turn in the initiative order, while creatures also act in the same initiative order. So if I'm on a vehicle manning a harpoon gun, for example, does it fire on my initiative count, or the vehicle's?

The actual modules for the vehicles are great, and include everything from Monster Pheromone Spray (attracts wandering monsters) to Flame Throwers, to Wheel Spikes (Ben-Hur style!). My players are going to have some real fun with these!

The section I'd like to close out with today is Arcanotech items. These include everything from an Animated Alchemy Lab to a Disruptor Gun. Unfortunately, there's also stuff like this:


Help, I can't decide if this is amazing or terrible!
It's a little bit of a mixed bag, but for every "What the hell?" item, there's like two or three with big "Saturday morning cartoon" vibes. Good stuff.

Finally, there's a section on Arcanotech Wonders, which are insanely powerful, inconvenient, and wacky (there's a d20 + d12 table of "Arcanotech Malfunctions" that tops out with "The arcanotech wonder reveals insight that causes personal growth. All creatures within 20 feet of the arcanotech wonder when it malfunctions must attempt a DC 10 Wisdom saving throw, gaining a level on a success.")

One example is this:


Players who enjoy a good puzzle are going to have fun figuring this thing out, then coming up with a use for it. It's also a great way to give your players a tool they have to work to use, since they can't just take it with them. Personally, I love these, and they all follow in the same vein.

Alright, y'all, next time we're going to get into these Survival rules, and see if WebDM has finally cracked the code for fun exploration in a Wastelands environment! See ya then!

Sparky McDibben

Alright folks, been a week and a half, so here I am with some whiskey in hand and a bunch of exploration rules to review.

So let's DOOOOOO THIIIIIIIIISSSS!!!! (This might not be whiskey, on second thought)

(Nope, definitely not whiskey)

Anywho, Weird Wastelands is trying to spell out exploration rules for folks who've never run exploration-centric games before. This is good, because a zero-base approach is awesome for identifying where holes in your toolkit are. And I have got such holes, you guys. Holes like you wouldn't believe.

The first section in Chapter 3 (Exploration & Wasteland Survival) covers variant survival rules. This is broken down further:
  • New conditions
  • Item Wear & Tear
  • Food & Water Consumption
  • Resource Dice
  • Slot-Based Encumbrance
Basically, the goal here is to slow player's regeneration of their resources, while letting the wasteland itself be a source of attrition. Let's take a look at those new conditions. There are six (comfortable, dehydrated, encumbered, heavily encumbered, miserable, and sunburned). Comfortable is a new condition you have to have to get a full long rest. You're comfortable automatically in a settlement, but in the wilds you need some kind of shelter, food, and security. If you aren't comfortable, you get anything back from a long rest you ordinarily would, but crucially, you do not recover expended Hit Dice, hit points, or remove any levels of exhaustion. Those can rack up fast as we'll see.

Being dehydrated immediately gives you two levels of exhaustion, and disadvantage on any further saving throws to resist exhaustion. That's...ouch! Being encumbered gives you disadvantage on any further saving throws to resist exhaustion; being heavily encumbered gives you an hourly Con save (DC 10) to avoid gaining exhaustion. Being miserable gives you disadvantage on Wisdom and Charisma checks, and rolls made to resist gaining exhaustion, and two levels of exhaustion.

If you're thinking, "JFC, my players better pack water and good vibes!" you are spot on! Also, this is where the kit we mentioned before comes in handy, with items specifically crafted to help alleviate these problems.

Regardless, this also means that your players are going to treat the wastelands as a serious threat...which is exactly the point.

Item Wear & Tear gives items saving throws to avoid breaking. I don't like this - it's too fiddly for me, even with the light-as-hell implementation here.

Food & Water Consumption is mostly just the rules from the DMG, but hot weather is the norm.

Resource Dice are really interesting. Basically, instead of tracking each individual shot, you assign any expendable resource a die size. So ammunition might start at a d8. After every encounter, you have the person who was carrying that ammunition roll the resource die. On a one or a two, the die drops in size. So if you pick a fight with some gnolls and shoot a couple, you roll the resource die. If it decrements, you now have an ammunition die of d6. You can boost that back up by looting arrows, buying some in a settlement, etc. If you get a 1 or a 2 on a d4, you're out of the item. Now, some of you are already going to say, "This was pioneered by Giffyglyph!" Actually, I think it was pioneered by Savage Worlds. But regardless, I'm super happy about D&D creators using different systems. This is how we get nice things, y'all!

Finally, we have Slot-Based Encumbrance. So basically, the max of your Strength or Constitution determines how much stuff you can carry, and there are some decent rules around how many slots a thing should take. So your PCs aren't adding up the pounds of all the torches they have - they're saying all their torches take up one slot, and moving on. Now personally, I love math, so I think this is weak sauce. I am willing to consider, however, that my position is considered extreme by all you namby-pamby types who don't sing lullabyes to your Excel. So I will concede that for most people...this is an OK compromise.

Ya weirdos.

What these optional rules do, though, is place some hard limits on the party. You can't just loot everything that ain't nailed down - you've got a finite inventory. And if you do slam everything you can into that inventory, you're going to wind up exhausted and out of food and water before long! So you're heavily incentivized to engage with the other systems in the book, especially vehicles, hirelings, etc., to get what you want. This is great! Personally, I think this is a fairly lightweight implementation that cuts down bookkeeping to the bone, and then makes those bones dance.

Next up are the Hex-Based Exploration and Turn-Based Exploration rules. These combined cover 31 pages, so they're a hefty pair of boys.

Notably, they are designed to be used together, but can be used either/or if you need them to. Hex-Based Exploration walks you through, step-by-step, how to make a hex map. It's intuitive, simple, and interesting. Each type of terrain has easily-used landmarks, default DCs, and descriptors. Solid work! After that we get into hex-based weather. This uses a hex-grid system to randomize daily weather events, which is great for when you need to know if the party's getting melted by the hell wind. I would have preferred if the sample hex grid provided was larger and more easily printed, but you can't have everything, I suppose. The weather effects are terrifying, and include everything from a basic sandstorm to heat lightning to the cinder haze (a firestorm, basically).

Nice work!

Turn-Based Exploration chunks up time the way Hex-Based Exploration chunked up space. Every 8 hours, there's a procedure of play:


If this looks like a board game's instructions to you, that's the point
Presumably, the PCs are not out in the wastes farting around because the wastes are dangerous. Instead, they have a clear goal and a driving urge to get there as fast as they can. So, these rules help you adjudicate what happens when the PCs run into wasteland perils. When do you run into dangerous predators? When that result comes up on the Hunting activity for the current wilderness round! Simple, and seems pretty easy to run - there are literal pages of random tables that detail the kinds of threats you could run into, the mishaps you could have, etc. Just dropping some of these in your players' laps is going to generate drama and consternation. For example, if you screw up finding the campsite, you might camp on a fire ant nest, which means everyone needs to make a Con save to get a decent night's sleep.

These rules borrow a lot from Adventures in Middle Earth, but then expands on and reinvents the source material. It gets inventive about applying postapocalyptic tropes to journey fiction, and then slaps on a more grounded layer of problems so that your players are salivating over Mordenkainen's magnificent mansion. While I don't love everything in this chapter, I think it's a damn good attempt, and I can't wait to implement in my games.

Sparky McDibben

You know what the fun part of anxiety is? Trying to go to sleep. You just lay there, blood thundering in your ears, imagining your utter doom drawing ever nearer in an unstoppable cavalcade of woe, staring at the ceiling. So when I get anxious about stuff, I do analysis! One time I did a full dive on Microsoft's 10K. I didn't really find anything unique or original, but I sure as Hell slept better after that!

Sadly, the Q2 financial results aren't out yet, so I get to vent my analytical spleen upon RPG products! W0000000000000000tt!!!!

In particular, tonight we're going to be looking at Weird Wastelands chapter four: The GM Toolkit. Really, this should have been called the "All Other" chapter, because it's where they put everything that didn't fit neatly anywhere else.

In particular, it covers:
  • Monster reskins
  • Wasteland factions
  • Wasteland encounters
  • Supplementary tables
So without further ado, let's reskin these monsters! This takes up all of a paragraph, and a full-page chart. Basically, this is how the authors give you wasteland-specific monsters without having to throw out most of the Monster Manual. They have a column for the MM name, the reskin name, stat block subtractions, and stat block additions.

So the stirge in Weird Wastelands is called the giant tick. It uses the stirge statblock except it loses the flying speed, and gains a walking speed of 20 feet, and a climbing speed of 10 feet. These are largely just that simple - only a handful have anything more complicated. I really like this setup; it adds value to my existing purchase and gives me a bunch of examples to work from when I want to do this myself.

What I'm not as big a fan of is that in all the random tables, it refers to the reskinned monster name. They do call out which ones are new monsters introduced later in the book, so process of elimination makes it relatively easy to figure out that this is a reskin of something else, but it adds an extra lookup during play that I'd rather skip, especially because the promise of these exploration rules is that you can layer them on top of your regular game.

After we get the reskins out of the way, it's on to the factions:
  • Arcanotech Cabal - loosely allied groups of scholars focused on rebuilding civilization
  • Blood Harpy Legion - militant cult of ecstatic warrior types focused on establishing order from the chaos
  • Enduring Aristocracy - society of feudal undead
  • Fellowship - wasteland druids trying to regrow life in the wastes
  • Infernal Recruiters - fascist devils securing an important site, but also because they think the wastelands are pretty nice compared to Hell
  • Wastelanders - everybody else; section notably includes reference to Yolo Swaggins
These are fairly brief - only two or three pages, including a random encounter checklist, three NPCs each, goals, resources, and suggested abilities for individual members. For example, there are sample spell lists for various members of several factions. Big Planegea vibes from this section (which is high praise; Planegea's one of my favorite settings of all time!).

Moving on, we get advice on building wasteland encounters. Right off the bat, the book tells us that "The creatures on the following encounter tables vary in difficulty and weren’t crafted with balanced encounters as a priority. These are the predominant monsters for their terrain type, and a reckless party can easily find themselves in over their heads."

You Got This Harry Potter GIF by Sky

Translation: "Murder hobos should bring backup characters."
But there are a bunch of great tools in here. For one, there's an awesome table that lets you bring random encounters to life by giving the monster something to do when the party encounters it. There's 20 options, and it covers the gamut from "twitching erratically" to "marking territory." Good stuff!

We also get encounter hazards, such as earthquakes, necrotizing sand, radiation, and friggin' volcanoes. Have fun with that on the encounter table, son!

There's also this art piece, which really captures the mood of this section brilliantly:


"Look, when they said, 'Stomp the Yard,' I assumed they were being metaphorical!"
Goals. Honestly, just goals.

After that we get into the encounter tables by terrain type, and this is where I have a gripe. Some of these are great, but some of them refer me to a faction encounter table, or a hazard, etc. I'd strongly recommend either doing some collation work to make sure you have all the tables together, and know exactly what you need to roll and when, or pre-rolling everything and hoping your players don't change course or get lost.

Also, this:


Above: The actual definition of the phrase, "Gilding the lily."
So be ready for what happens if your PCs walk into a tarrasque. My recommendation is to simply have them encounter it way in the distance and have a guide just say something like, "Yeah, avoid that thing." I'm totally OK with having a tarrasque on the encounter table; it was the "Deadly" piece that made me go, "Gee, ya think?" :)

In addition to having daytime and nighttime encounters, plus hazards by terrain type, we also get several high quality maps for each terrain type that would do very well on VTT.

Finally, there are several supplemental tables that focus on building a wasteland settlement, as well as a d100 "Loot the Body" table. These are all great and I love them.

My impressions on the GM Toolbox is that it's mainly a continuation of the previous chapter, but it's giving you an embarrassment of riches. You're not going to be able to effectively leverage all of this at the table; I recommend picking the tools you want to use and running with those first. Note that this is not a bad thing; if anything, the authors are giving you even more value for your money.

Next time, we'll go over the Wastelands Locations - 115 pages of absolutely gonzo fun!!! Until then, y'all!

Voidrunner's Codex

Remove ads