DUST Tactics: Zverograd Rat Swarm

Rat-Swarm-smallerBiological experiments in the SSU – and preceding it the Soviet Union – were largely abject failures. Thanks to the terrible cost of Lysenkoism and the effect of its adherents on soviet science. Stalin’s demands have been unrealistic – the creation of hybridised ape soldiers for example – and many leading scientists have been purged or exiled.

Access to VK and the living example of the German gorilla soldiers has, however, galvanised research in many fields and the terrible toll of violence in Zverograd upon SSU forces has leant even more impetus to the research. Academician Ilya Ivanov, son of the late Doctor Ilya Ivanovich Ivanov, has been placed in charge of these new programs and between vivisection of captured German undead and ape soldiers and experimental applications of VK he has had numerous successes.

Rat Swarms

Rats breed in large numbers and are eminently expendable, plus they are the only creatures still in ready supply in Zverograd after the long siege. Ivanov’s experiments have produced a number of ‘intelligent’ rat swarms, controlled via a modulated VK signal, which can be sent crawling through gaps and rubble to reach enemy soldiers and overcome them through sheer numbers.

Move: 2
Type: Soldier 1
Special Abilities: Agile, Charge, Squirm*.
Health: 6
Bite: Close Combat only Troop 1: 6/1, Troop 2: 5/1, Troop 3, 2/1, Troop 4: 1/1
Bite: Close Combat only Tank 1-7: 1/1
Cost: 15AP
Cover Save: Blank
NB: The bite-line is for the whole swarm and remains the same until the whole unit is eliminated.

*Squirm: Troops with the Squirm ability can pass through cover, friendly troops and enemy troops as though they were not there. they can co-occupy a space with friendly or enemy troops and can make close combat attacks from that same space. While occupying the same space as a group of soldiers or a vehicle, if they come under attack from outside that space the attack dice are halved (rounding up) and are then rolled as normal for damage against both the rat swarm and the troops or vehicle they share a space with.


Anti-Tank Dogs

Move: 2
Type: Soldier 1
Special Abilities: Agile, Charge.
Health: 1 (3 dogs per unit)
Bite: Close Combat only Troop 1: 3/1, Troop 2: 2/1, Troop 3, 1/1, Troop 4: 1/1
Bomb: Close Combat only (3) Troop 1-4: 2/1, Tank 1-7: 2/2 (Each bomb blast eliminates one dog)
Cost: 15AP
Cover Save: Blank



Rumour has it that the half-breed experiments have been restarted using samples taken from German enhanced apes. With a maturation period of at least fifteen years it is unlike this will bear battlefield fruit for some time…

(Knock-off planet of the apes figures would work well for this and you could always retcon that the original experiments worked. I’d make them troop 2 with some special abilities or enhanced cover abilities to reflect toughness, bolster their hand-to-hand a little and use themas anti-infantry troops with – maybe – some very weak anti-tank capabilities).

Machinations of the Space Princess: Tarot Preview



The Empress represent rule, legitimacy, tradition, motherhood and strength of character.

Her presence indicates tradition, prosperity, continuity and security while her inversion indicates poverty, conflict and directionless disorder. Inverted, though, her presence indicates novelty and a chance for things to change.

In games, drawing The Empress for inspiration might prompt you to bring in a leadership figure, an older woman or imperial (or similar) forces.


Review: FATE Core

This is a review of the current version of FATE, recently finished on its Kickstarter, by Evil Hat.

FateCoreBookCoverI’ve had a lot of time for the FATE system, writing a fair bit for it (Agents of SWING) and playing it even more in the forms of Starblazer, Dresden Files, Legends of Anglerre and some others. I couldn’t really not back the game and have – as a consequence – gotten a copy of the book.

At 300 digest pages it’s still a hefty tome for a game sold on its ‘lite’ system, especially in hardback. About half that is actual, core rules and much of the rest of it are options, introduction and the expansive explanations for which FATE was already known.  Those 150 pages of core content could probably be slimmed down to half that again – or even less. This is a much lighter version of the game than previously published and a large part of that is down to the fact that characters’ stunts are now much more generic, making it much easier to make up your own and doing away with much of the need of writing down a whole bunch of them in any sourcebooks.

It’s hard to quite put one’s finger on what exactly it is that has changed but the whole character of the game has been shifted further away from traditional roleplaying than FATE already was. Conflicts and exchanges end much more quickly (leaving less room for tactics, showboating and creating scene aspects). Things are much more freeform and characters are weaker in one sense (Stress) while being stronger in other ways (skills seem much more effective than they have been.

We played a modern crime game idea I’ve been working on for a while, using the rules pretty much ‘straight’ from the book to see how it worked out. Not especially well when it came to street-fighting and physical opposition, great everywhere else. I can see how it’s fixable but that feels a bit like I’d be working backwards and it might work better to simply use the older versions of the rules set.

Other Comments

It’s laid out well, the explanations are clear. The skills are, perhaps, a little too broad and some areas seem to be missing (healing) – though it’s also possible I’m being a bit blind. It’s a solid game and easily adaptable. It does have a few issues in its default incarnation, especially if you want to do something a bit more gritty or where fights are more than a couple of quick exchanges. You can work around these by adapting it but substantial modification runs the risk of undoing all the changes in the current edition – for better or worse.

The major disappointment for me was the art. It’s competent, but it’s not exciting or engaging. The best art in the book was on the bookmark. The rest just felt a bit dull and didn’t seem to fit the spirit of the game either as an Indie darling or as a fun, freewheeling, heroic rules set.


A solid core game that provides the basis of a toolkit that you can adapt to your own purposes. The downside is that you’ll need to. The book is great for reference but not for inspiration. It’s an engine, but it’s an engine for a car that will need spoilers, airdams and a catalytic converter before it’s really usable. It has lost an ineffable ‘something’ from other incarnations of the game.

  • Style: 2
  • Substance: 4
  • Overall: 3

Misery Loves Company? Kickstarter Project

So a couple of guys have decided to create what should – in theory – be an Indie Darling. This is a set of one-shot story-game type scenarios that are each centred on difficult and controversial topics from rape and abuse to views of welfare claimants and all things in between. There’s shades of the ‘New Style’ games of old there as well as various other games that try to address controversial topics. My own Little Grey Book would seem to be the type of thing they’re angling for here, but with more structured play.

These kind of one-shot ideas aren’t really the kind of thing that I like to play myself, though it might be fun to write one-shot, hyper-specific game scenarios, but it was brought to my attention in a blatant attempt to use my controversial reputation to aid the project. It’s controversial topics that interest me, more than the controversy itself, but there does seem to be an interesting level of hypocrisy and panic going on here.

People associated with the project have been bullied because of their association and threatened with loss of work. The predictable and usual suspects have gotten their panties in a bunch. At this point it’s a familiar dance. What makes this odd is that these games are not, even remotely, interpretable as glorifying any of these topics (though a fictional setting that did could be interesting to explore). They’re Indie games – which are usually given more latitude – and, though I hesitate to mention it, one of the chaps involved is a Person of Colour.

Given that hysteria about game content has reached such stupid heights that the inclusion of a succubus-like monster in Numenara is enough to set RPGnet off, maybe I shouldn’t be quite so surprised that they’re now eating their own.

Anyway, it’s not tempting enough for me to back as I’d get no use out of it whatsoever, but I admire the attempt, the goals of the project and the attempt to stay reasonable with critics. Unflinchingly tackling difficult concepts is a worthy thing to try to do.


Machinations of the Space Princess: CarcharoTek Novelty Byte-Gun

53583552.SharkHologramatSentosaUnderwaterWorldCarcharoTek makes hopelessly over-engineered guns for armchair soldiers and would-be bounty hunters across the tri-galactic area. Every weapon has a tendency to have a flaw, too much recoil, leaking batteries, something that makes them the laughing stock of serious mercenaries and soldiers everywhere. After a trend emerged for more serious buyers to purchase CarcharoTek weapons as a joke a novelty division was created in order to cash in on this trend by making deliberately weird and stupid weapons.

Ironically, the novelty division appears to have, entirely by accident, come up with a weapon that actually works.

The Byte-Gun uses a high-powered laser to trigger and energise a complex set of force-fields with the shape of a Gleisean Mondo-Shark which then ‘bites’ the target.

This is obviously ostentatious and utterly ludicrous but has, nonetheless, found a place with genuine assassins who use the gun to fake animals attacks.

futuristic_laser_pistol_prop_4_by_enguerrand-d2yhpxuByte-Gun MkI
Type: High Calibre Pistol
Damage: d10
Range: Medium
Ammo Save: 10
Cost: 625 gp
Features: Armour Defeating 1, Damage Type: Bite, Inaccurate -1, Reduced Capacity, Vicious.