Saturday, September 7, 2013

Radiation rules

Well, radiation certainly rules in the wasteland, but I'm talking mechanics here. I've been going over the radiation rules as I wrote them down a few years ago but the system strikes me as too complicated. The radiation rules in Savage Worlds on the other hand are too basic for the importance of radiation in the Fallout universe. So I've been tinkering with the rules and here's the result. Instead of Rad Resistance being a die type to check against a static number of radiation intensity, it is now a static value (like Toughness) against variable types of radiation damage. Checks are now made every minute of in-game time, instead of at variable intervals.

I've also rethought the effects of radiation poisoning, and while the result is more complex than the -1 penalty to all rolls , just like wounds or fatigue, it is now closer in line with how radiation poisoning works in the crpgs, and perhaps a bit more distinct. Also simplified is the Incapacitation due to radiation; it's now a straightforward Vigor check, with any more bizarre results (like becoming a Ghoul, Glowing One, etc) relegated to the Harder to Kill edge from standard Savage Worlds.

Finally all items, Hindrances and Edges to do with Rad Resistance have been changed accordingly.

I'd be interested to know what you guys think!


Rad(iation) Resistance reflects to what extent the character is shielded from the detrimental effects of exposure to nuclear radiation. Rad Resistance functions as a Toughness value for radiation damage. The base value for a human character is Vigor divided by 4, rounded down. Ghouls have a high radiation resistance, and can withstand Low or Medium radiation area’s, but do experience negative effects from High or Lethal doses of radiation. They have a base Rad Resistance of 6. Super Mutants are immune to all forms of radiation. Characters can additionally have Edges, Hindrances, items or chems that modify Rad Resistance.


There are 4 levels of radiation intensity: Low, Medium, High and Lethal. Characters take a certain amount of radiation damage every minute (10 rounds of combat) they spend in an irradiated zone. The effects from radiation are tracked in a different Incapacitation track, called Rad Poisoning. If the radiation damage received equals or exceeds the character’s Rad Resistance, he/she receives 1 level of Rad Poisoning. Some creatures emit or have attacks which cause radiation in such doses as to be hazardous.


Radiation damage should be rolled in secret by the Overseer. Characters can find out the atmospheric radiation level by using a Geiger Counter, PipBoy or similar devices. Glowing Ones can sense variations in radiation level as a feeling of warmth.


Radiation level
Radiation damage


A human or Ghoul character can get 3 levels of Rad Poisoning before they are Incapacitated. When a character becomes Incapacitated he/she must make a Vigor check. Success indicates the character survives; failure results in death. Characters with the Harder to Kill Edge may survive in case of a failed Vigor check; a human character becomes a Ghoul; a Ghoul character randomly gains the Glowing One or Feral Hindrance.


The effects of Rad Poisoning are as follows. The effects of multiple levels are cumulative. A lowered Trait affects linked attributes such as Toughness and Encumbrance Limit as well.


Rad Poisoning level
Very nauseous, fatigued; Strength drops 1 die type
Vomiting, hair loss; Agility and Vigor drop 1 die type
Skin loss; All Traits drop 1 die type, -2 Charisma
Intense agony; Incapacitation


The only way to reduce Rad Poisoning is by taking RadAway or visiting a clinic in a major town for radiation purge treatment. There are also said to be certain rare, edible fungi and fruits that absorb radiation.


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  2. These radiation rules look much better than your previous ones.

    I think this will allow for a more immersive roleplay experience. This also will add more decisions to character development.. where Vigor (in my experience) tends to be less of a priority.

  3. One question I have about this is, how would this effect some of the items you have listed such as Rad-X. Also, have you thought about adding in radiation from food and drink?

  4. A question I have about this is, how does this work with some items you list such as Rad-X. Also, have you thought about doing radiation for food and drink?

  5. Thanks AJ. You're right that it puts more of an emphasis on Vigor. It hews closer to the crpgs that way as well.
    @Greg: these kinds of items would now give a flat +x bonus to your Rad Resistance. I've put up a new version of the guide with these changes. I haven't done any rules for irradiated food yet, good point!

  6. These rules work well for me. :)

    That's been updated in your pdf right?

  7. Hmm, thought I'd already posted...

    I like the rules, have they all been updated in the pdf (save me going through them both line by line)

  8. Hey Angry Ghost,
    they have, after the feedback here I've put them in the various PDF files!

  9. So, just for clarification, this means that in a light radiation zone, anyone with Vigor below d8 is guaranteed to gain one level of Radiation sickness within the minute? I dunno, I feel that 1/4 +1 would be a little bit more fair to the players, though I guess it takes a small amount of emphasis off of the items (though they still make a massive difference; a +2 or +3 to rad resistance is enormous).

  10. So, just for clarification, a character below d8 is guaranteed to gain a level of Radiation Sickness after a minute? I dunno, I feel like a 1/4+1 would be a little more fair to the players.

  11. Oh, and I haven't seen these rules in the PDFs, at least not the ones linked in the sidebar.

  12. Geez, my apologies; it doesn't appear the Rad-X or RadAway have been updated in the Wasteland Survival Guide; just that it increases your Rad Resistance die type by however many steps (I really wish I could've just edited that first post)

  13. Hey topsecret:
    -re: rad sickness: yes, your example is correct. If you want to make the chance of rad sickness a bit lower, you could for example: take the value as Vigor/4, rounded up. In that case only characters with a Vigor score of 4 are guaranteed to get rad sickness. Or as you mentioned, Vigor/4+1. It all depends on how severe you want radiation to be.
    -re: the PDF: you're right, it seems I forgot to put the update for that online! Corrected that now.

    Merry xmas!

  14. I just started working a Savage Worlds conversion for Fallout myself. Kind of glad I might not have to anymore. Looking forward to reading through your site!

  15. I'm sure you'll find things you want to tweak David. ;) Let me know how it works out, always interested to hear about other conversions!

  16. Absolutely love the new radiation rules. I've got a new campaign starting up and am very appreciative of all the content you've posted!

  17. I have enjoyed this blog, and I'm using your great pdfs for my own prep. Are you still running this game?

    1. Hey Bryan, thanks very much! Unfortunately the group disbanded, but you can still read some old session summaries on the blog if you're interested. How's your game going?

  18. Well, I just ran a few sessions of Savage Fallout with my gaming group, they're all extremely hyped about the setting, especially those who are just dipping their toes into the irradiated wastelands for the first time. I'm working on a blog post to highlight some of the house rules I've incorporated in modding the system (basically just some character sheet changes), but in the meantime there are three actual plays on my blog at

    1. Thanks for the link David, the play recordings are very neat! Looking forward to that post.

  19. So. it has been a long time. Just started working on my own and hope you still see these comments. Can Rad Damage Ace? I would tend to say yes, just so you could "simulate" at some point simply tipping over a threshold, even if you are oretty immune.

  20. Hi Marcus, good question as it seems I forgot to mention this point... the way it is presented here, rad damage does not ace. Basically this is to mimic the games, where you would not take any radiation as long as you had a decent enough resistance. So this is to prevent situations like where a character has popped Rad-X and is wearing power armor from still getting radiation damage because of an unlucky die roll. Hope that makes sense.

    1. Jep it does, so no Acing. Thanks for the reply! I expanded it to include a d10 damage Tier and gave Gouhls a 9 Resistance to account for that. I like this separate mechanic/track bettern then simple Fatigue. Thanks for sharing the hard work!

  21. Hi There, I've been using your stuff as the basis for a 'Savage fallout' game based in Utah. The content has been a great help, I reworked a lot of the stuff - monsters, items, skills etc. Thanks a lot for all the work you've put in!

  22. Thanks Ben, if you've got something you want to share be sure to let me know!