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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Radiation in DnD

    So after rewatching Chernobyl, a friend pointed out that radiation would make for an interesting world building element in my game set in a post apocalypse of Techno magic.

    Now, the real question is now.. What type of damage should Radiation be reflected as?

    I have 3 candidates :

    - Poison
    - Necrotic
    - Radiant

    Poison is obvious. Straightforward, but also a bit weak ass. Easy to get resistance and immunity to compared to other damages.

    Necrotic makes more thematic sense. The idea of a corrupting force that destroys the fabric of life is a good representation of radiation.

    Radiant damage.. I just like the idea that the Divine Energy is actually radiation. Makes for a fun subversion. Also could make for the best example of the Ancient Technomagic empire corrupting what is essentially as the "good" magic energy. Maybe even sucking from godly sources.

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    Default Re: Radiation in DnD

    My guess would be Radiant, and that is mostly because laser weapons in the DMG do radiant damage. You could have it do radiant damage, but inflict a poison status and have it block healing like some necrotic spells. Best of both worlds perhaps?

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    Default Re: Radiation in DnD

    Sequence them. Radiant comes first, pretty clearly, unless you're in shelter or something. Poison makes sense as a lingering environmental effect. Maybe have the poison inflict the poisoned condition, and while they're poisoned they take necrotic damage. Gate behind saves to your taste.

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    Imp

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    Default Re: Radiation in DnD

    Why not Force? It's hard to resist & damaging.
    From the SRD:
    Force is pure magical energy focused into a damaging form.
    Last edited by bored_acel; 2020-02-25 at 03:37 PM.

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    OldWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Radiation in DnD

    The Sickening Radiance spell is basically Fallout-style "green glow" radiation for D&D.

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    WolfInSheepsClothing

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    Default Re: Radiation in DnD

    Quote Originally Posted by Cikomyr2 View Post

    Poison is obvious. Straightforward, but also a bit weak ass. Easy to get resistance and immunity to compared to other damages.
    real world dangers are a bit weak ass for d&d. even a supernova could easily be negated with immunity to fire + ghost form - which would also work against a black hole

    and radiation is really not all that dangerous. the reason we are so scared of it is that the damage it causes (cancer) is one of the few we cannot easily fix with modern medicine. you may also notice that areas heavily polluted with radiation are teeming with life - because what would be considered an unacceptably high risk of tumor by western world inhabitants is negligible for all other living species.
    i myself considered using radiation and carcinogenics for some applications, but given the ease of getting a restoration spell...

    speaking of which, low doses of radiation should force fortitude saves against cancer. if you want it to be serious, you can treat cancer like a special disease (DC 10, -1 to STR, DEX, CON. special: damage taken from cancer never goes away as long as you have cancer; you never get healed from cancer by succeeding saving throws; you roll cancer damage once per week instead of once per day), but a special one that cannot be healed by the 4rd level spell but needs special means. either a full restoration or even a heal.

    high doses of radiation deal acute radiation poisoning. in acute radiation poisoning your body loses the capacity to regenerate, and it decays quickly. if the dose is high enough you are doomed to die within a few weeks, and nothing can be done about it. it works like poisoning, though it's not actual poison, it should go by different immunities. if you fail the saving throw, you take -1 to STR, DEX, CON every day until you die, no further save.
    Or, to have something more complex to account for different dosages: make a certain number of saving throws depending on the amount of radiation. note how many you fail. You take -1 to STR, DEX, CON for every saving throw you failed, and every day the amount of -1 gets reduced by 1. for example, you establish that a certain exposure deserves 10 saving throws. 6 are passed, 4 are failed, so the victim takes -4 to all physical stats. second day he takes -3, third day -2, fourth day -1, but if he's still alive he can heal afterwards. this allows to have some negative effects while surviving afterwards. saving throw against cancer have to follow, though.

    really high doses of radiation can destroy matter by burning it. an undead may be immune to cancer, but enough radiation would reduce it to a pile of ash, though the amount required for it is really crazy - and enough to kill any living creature by acute radiation poisoning on the spot, even the most resistant bacteria, no save.
    i wouldn't know what kind of damage it could represent. it involves having your molecules ripped apart at the atomic level. perhaps magic damage is the best fit, as disintegrate works on a similar principle. or you could consider it a new category (which would also allow to research a protection from radiations spell). or you could consider it unstatted damage against which there is no resistance - it breaks stuff on a molecular level, there is really nothing you can do to resist it besides adding more layers of protection.
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    Default Re: Radiation in DnD

    Loosely:
    Radiant for burst / Big Gamma - the one that burns you
    Necrotic for fallout/bgr/ "alpha/beta" - the one that causes tissue breakdown and makes zombies.
    Poisoned condition or Exhaustion for radiation poisoning.
    Force for EMP. I'd prefer to go psychic here, but a lot of "mindless" critters - the things closest to automatons - wouldn't be affected. This also makes helmed horrors hardened systems. Pair it with Area dispel magic or an AMF if you want your nukes to fry magic items like they were tech.
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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Radiation in DnD

    It depends if you want radiation to be super dangerous or easily negatable.

    Radiation shouldn't deal damage, since that isn't how it works. It's more like a non-magical curse that causes a disease to crop up. No matter how much you try to apply Remove Disease, it just rears its ugly head again as the atoms keep reacting.

    It can penetrate most magical defenses, is hard to detect and by the time it starts breaking your body it is too late and you will rapidly lose ability scores until you die.

    But that is just one way of doing it.

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    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: Radiation in DnD

    Quote Originally Posted by Cikomyr2 View Post
    So after rewatching Chernobyl, a friend pointed out that radiation would make for an interesting world building element in my game set in a post apocalypse of Techno magic.

    Now, the real question is now.. What type of damage should Radiation be reflected as?

    I have 3 candidates :

    - Poison
    - Necrotic
    - Radiant

    Poison is obvious. Straightforward, but also a bit weak ass. Easy to get resistance and immunity to compared to other damages.

    Necrotic makes more thematic sense. The idea of a corrupting force that destroys the fabric of life is a good representation of radiation.

    Radiant damage.. I just like the idea that the Divine Energy is actually radiation. Makes for a fun subversion. Also could make for the best example of the Ancient Technomagic empire corrupting what is essentially as the "good" magic energy. Maybe even sucking from godly sources.

    as others have pointed out, it doesn't have to be either/or

    poison: i wouldn't have radiation cause poison damage. the poisoned *condition* yes, but not damage. radiation itself =/= poison

    radiant: now, while this makes some *thematic* sense. as in, radiation = radiance. However, what radiation actually does to a body, is not the same as what radiant damage does.

    Necrotic: This is, literally, the effect that radiation has on a body. It kills cells, destroys DNA, **** like that.

    Now, here's the thing, radiation doesn't actually *kill* that quickly. not unless you're talking about *huge* amounts of it, and even then its can still take several minutes. How i'd treat a radiation focused effect would be:
    a fairly mild amount of necrotic damage+poisoned condition+some kind of ongoing 'disease' effect. the *contagion* spell has a few options to help get an idea for this. filther fever, seizure and blinding sickness all can fit the theme fairly well. Mummy Rot is also solid (due to ongoing necrotic damage/max hp reduction). but something along those lines.

    If you want to go even deeper into it, you can also look at different *types* of radiation. Not because they overall have largely differing effects, but defending against them changes. (for example, lead is *significantly* better against gamma radiation than it is against neutron radiation.

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    Default Re: Radiation in DnD

    Quote Originally Posted by King of Nowhere View Post
    real world dangers are a bit weak ass for d&d. even a supernova could easily be negated with immunity to fire + ghost form - which would also work against a black hole

    and radiation is really not all that dangerous. the reason we are so scared of it is that the damage it causes (cancer) is one of the few we cannot easily fix with modern medicine. you may also notice that areas heavily polluted with radiation are teeming with life - because what would be considered an unacceptably high risk of tumor by western world inhabitants is negligible for all other living species.
    i myself considered using radiation and carcinogenics for some applications, but given the ease of getting a restoration spell...

    speaking of which, low doses of radiation should force fortitude saves against cancer. if you want it to be serious, you can treat cancer like a special disease (DC 10, -1 to STR, DEX, CON. special: damage taken from cancer never goes away as long as you have cancer; you never get healed from cancer by succeeding saving throws; you roll cancer damage once per week instead of once per day), but a special one that cannot be healed by the 4rd level spell but needs special means. either a full restoration or even a heal.

    high doses of radiation deal acute radiation poisoning. in acute radiation poisoning your body loses the capacity to regenerate, and it decays quickly. if the dose is high enough you are doomed to die within a few weeks, and nothing can be done about it. it works like poisoning, though it's not actual poison, it should go by different immunities. if you fail the saving throw, you take -1 to STR, DEX, CON every day until you die, no further save.
    Or, to have something more complex to account for different dosages: make a certain number of saving throws depending on the amount of radiation. note how many you fail. You take -1 to STR, DEX, CON for every saving throw you failed, and every day the amount of -1 gets reduced by 1. for example, you establish that a certain exposure deserves 10 saving throws. 6 are passed, 4 are failed, so the victim takes -4 to all physical stats. second day he takes -3, third day -2, fourth day -1, but if he's still alive he can heal afterwards. this allows to have some negative effects while surviving afterwards. saving throw against cancer have to follow, though.

    really high doses of radiation can destroy matter by burning it. an undead may be immune to cancer, but enough radiation would reduce it to a pile of ash, though the amount required for it is really crazy - and enough to kill any living creature by acute radiation poisoning on the spot, even the most resistant bacteria, no save.
    i wouldn't know what kind of damage it could represent. it involves having your molecules ripped apart at the atomic level. perhaps magic damage is the best fit, as disintegrate works on a similar principle. or you could consider it a new category (which would also allow to research a protection from radiations spell). or you could consider it unstatted damage against which there is no resistance - it breaks stuff on a molecular level, there is really nothing you can do to resist it besides adding more layers of protection.
    A supernova would be radiant damage. It's the same kind of damage the sun deals.

    A black hole would be something else entirely. I'm not not sure what will save you from a black hole once you're in it [maybe force damage, or bludgeoning damage], but with teleportation you could definitely escape it.
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    Default Re: Radiation in DnD

    From memory, sickstone in the underdark is basically magical uranium. you got constitution damage from touching it.
    Atomic laser breath!

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    Planetar

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    Default Re: Radiation in DnD

    TLDR: if you just need a damage type, and don't want think to much about it, take poison. It just works.

    Our table use radiant.
    Radiant = Radiation, those two words look alike, so that's easy to remember.
    Radiant = "Aggressive use of powers liked to regeneration and life". And effect of real life radiations include cancer, which is roughly when cells use their regeneration abilities in a way negative to the body. And our main DM is a biologist, so he likes this explanation.

    Another interpretation is "every magical energy is a kind radiation". Indeed, the rules of detect magic (stopped by lead, ...) are alike an approximation of real life detection of radiation. So radiation damages is essentially the same "damage from being nearby a powerful untamed magical source". I'd say Force damage is the best representation of this interpretation.

    Necrotic makes sense in "technology = destruction of nature" kind of world, where technology corrupt stuff, etc...

    Poison does not make that much sense to me lore-wise, but is perfect in kind of mechanical effects. Creatures you want to be immune to radiation (skeletons, constructs, ...) are immune to poison. That's a kind of damage players can reasonably obtain resistance or immunity from homebrew artifact without unbalancing encounters.

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    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: Radiation in DnD

    Technically I see nothing wrong in stating that Radiation deals both Radiant and Necrotic damage, with the potential to cause a condition that is effectively same as Poisoned, without calling it Poisoned (because otherwise everyone would make only Stout Halflings and Dwarves or other races immune to Poisoned condition).

    Looking at Destructive Wave for a precedent case, it's not too far-fetched. Maybe have scaling damage for different levels of radiation, starting from 1d4 radiant and 1d4 necrotic, increasing by either the amount or size of dice.
    Last edited by Arkhios; 2020-02-26 at 07:27 AM.
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    PirateCaptain

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    Default Re: Radiation in DnD

    I like a lot of the ideas here. I'd probably go Gamma World on them, too. I suggest picking some type of staged damage, as has been suggested above.

    Low level background: make a DC5 save daily or contract a deadly debilitating disease. After leaving the area, DC15 or get something that shows up in 2d20 years.

    Acute radiation: DC25 or 30 every hour - that way it is avoidable, technically, but not in practice, to avoid a deadly debilitating disease. Then apply poisoned condition stats and some radiant+necrotic damage, no save. That way, you are unlikely to have resistance to both.

    Eating refined plutonium or the equivalent dosing: DC20-35 every day or lose S, Con. Only reincarnation or resurrection heals you. Healing is ineffective, restorations only give you another day, and you may need a wish to stop the daily saves (but not heal anything without a second wish or other magic). People like this could be interesting villains... needing the blood of the living to survive... or souls... whatever, to power temporary respites.

    In-between: That's where the fun starts. Gamma World used to have charts for all kinds of mutations. In the original AD&D DMG there was a section on randomly-generating a lower planes being with tables for noses, ears, skin, etc. Bottom line: Give a save, take some damage, if you fail.... could be something good, could be something bad...

    Examples: gain darkvision, double darkvision, lose darkvision, slitted eyes, double-size ears with a bonus to hearing checks, grow a tail, grow extra fingers, grow extra whatevers, grow wings, lose your nose, skin becomes scaly, skin becomes leathery (small AC bonus and CH loss), nose becomes sensitive to magic, maybe you learn a few cantrips, maybe you can absorb radiation and use it to power a spell slot (although it causes you damage so there's a trade-off). You can come up with lots of things - just keep them "small" - provides some advantage with some disadvantage.

    Also, if the world has been like this for a while, then you should have magic spells to counter or use radiation, creatures that are immune to it or which feed on it or use it as a weapon, etc. These new spells would then of course be designed to heal those deadly diseases, and so while 'heal' might fail, 'heal radiation damage' would work.

    Good luck! You have a lot of homebrewing to do!

    EDIT Or maybe all undead are fueled/created by radiation... not magic.??
    Last edited by CapnWildefyr; 2020-02-26 at 08:07 AM.

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    PirateCaptain

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    Default Re: Radiation in DnD

    Oh, and you need a cool name--not 'radiation sickness.' A cool name so you can have NPCs say, "Ye gods! He's got the flesh blight!" or "the glow rot" or ??

    You can even have flesh blight zombies: create undead from corpses who died from radiation. Regular zombie, but 1x/minute they can vomit gross goo in a 5 foot stream. Zombie HP max goes down 1 or 2 hp as it is spewing its own insides at you, but you get irradiated and possibly mutated. (This way it is a limited-use attack.)

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    BarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: Radiation in DnD

    Quote Originally Posted by Mordaedil View Post
    Radiation shouldn't deal damage, since that isn't how it works. It's more like a non-magical curse that causes a disease to crop up. No matter how much you try to apply Remove Disease, it just rears its ugly head again as the atoms keep reacting.
    I agree. Radiation exposure should function as a kind of debuff. It makes you vulnerable to certain damage types (poison, necrotic?) and maybe puts a cap on how much you can heal regardless of the healing source. The duration of these effects would depend on the amount of radiation. Or perhaps you can shrug off the effects with a periodic Con check where the DC is based on the amount of radiation.

    It's essentially a curse.

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    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: Radiation in DnD

    Quote Originally Posted by Mordaedil View Post
    It depends if you want radiation to be super dangerous or easily negatable.

    Radiation shouldn't deal damage, since that isn't how it works. It's more like a non-magical curse that causes a disease to crop up. No matter how much you try to apply Remove Disease, it just rears its ugly head again as the atoms keep reacting.

    It can penetrate most magical defenses, is hard to detect and by the time it starts breaking your body it is too late and you will rapidly lose ability scores until you die.

    But that is just one way of doing it.
    i mean, acute radiation exposure does damage. like radiation sickness leading to death is actually a thing. its not *just* cancer.

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    Default Re: Radiation in DnD

    Consider adding in a new damage type for radiation? Not everything needs to slot into D&D perfectly, and a new damage type is a really easy thing to implement. Add perhaps a couple spells like "Inflict Cancerous Boils" or "Irradiate", give some monsters radiation attacks, resistances and immunities, you're good to go!

    But, for my two cents, I think Necrotic is a better fit, because Radiant is inherently tied to sources of positive energy, and I hardly think that nuclear power comes from heaven! Necrotic, however, is sort of a catch-all for harmful life force effects, which I think radiation easily falls under. Plus, like some people above surmised, it explains undead pretty well too!
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    Default Re: Radiation in DnD

    In terms of gamma radiation the existing typing is roughly Fire damage for infrared, Radiant damage for everything else (although in earlier editions it was fire for everything).

    Alpha and beta radiation are a bit harder to quantify, as I remember beta radiation is mainly composed of electrons while alpha radiation is more like a helium nucleus. Radiant or Force are probably the best, the question becomes what you want to resist radiation more than whats most accurate as either fits.

    The bigger danger with radiation is the Constitution saves versus cancer which mount up the longer you spend in areas of high radiation, but there's a good chance that it won't matter in a campaign's time scale. The exception is intense quantaties of radiation, say hanging out a fewradii from a G-type star, where the main danger is burning up before you have a chance to develop cancer.

    As a side note, any spell that protects from fire can probably be altered to offer protection from radiation. Possibly not to the point we can with our current technology, but good enough that you won't be taking actual damage from intense sources.

    For fantasy radiation please make a DC18 Consitution save against mutation.
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    Default Re: Radiation in DnD

    Quote Originally Posted by kazaryu View Post
    i mean, acute radiation exposure does damage. like radiation sickness leading to death is actually a thing. its not *just* cancer.
    I think you have to decide how to slice it, in terms of abstraction. If a feature exposes you to something less than "acute" radiation, the damage is subtle and is the kind of thing that will affect you over the long term, rather than something you necessarily feel in the moment. In that case, you gain the "irradiated" condition which has some kind of debuff effect to healing, and perhaps inflicts vulnerability to certain damage types.

    If you suffer an acute exposure, you still get that condition but you also suffer some immediate radiant damage.

    Cancer isn't really something that needs to be modeled in a game like D&D. I mean just like any other long-term degeneration, it's not really what the game is about, and it's easy to handwave that a single swig of a magical healing potion repairs all that cellular damage anyway.

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    Default Re: Radiation in DnD

    Quote Originally Posted by CapnWildefyr View Post
    I like a lot of the ideas here. I'd probably go Gamma World on them, too. I suggest picking some type of staged damage, as has been suggested above.

    Low level background: make a DC5 save daily or contract a deadly debilitating disease. After leaving the area, DC15 or get something that shows up in 2d20 years.

    Acute radiation: DC25 or 30 every hour - that way it is avoidable, technically, but not in practice, to avoid a deadly debilitating disease. Then apply poisoned condition stats and some radiant+necrotic damage, no save. That way, you are unlikely to have resistance to both.

    Eating refined plutonium or the equivalent dosing: DC20-35 every day or lose S, Con. Only reincarnation or resurrection heals you. Healing is ineffective, restorations only give you another day, and you may need a wish to stop the daily saves (but not heal anything without a second wish or other magic). People like this could be interesting villains... needing the blood of the living to survive... or souls... whatever, to power temporary respites.

    In-between: That's where the fun starts. Gamma World used to have charts for all kinds of mutations. In the original AD&D DMG there was a section on randomly-generating a lower planes being with tables for noses, ears, skin, etc. Bottom line: Give a save, take some damage, if you fail.... could be something good, could be something bad...

    Examples: gain darkvision, double darkvision, lose darkvision, slitted eyes, double-size ears with a bonus to hearing checks, grow a tail, grow extra fingers, grow extra whatevers, grow wings, lose your nose, skin becomes scaly, skin becomes leathery (small AC bonus and CH loss), nose becomes sensitive to magic, maybe you learn a few cantrips, maybe you can absorb radiation and use it to power a spell slot (although it causes you damage so there's a trade-off). You can come up with lots of things - just keep them "small" - provides some advantage with some disadvantage.

    Also, if the world has been like this for a while, then you should have magic spells to counter or use radiation, creatures that are immune to it or which feed on it or use it as a weapon, etc. These new spells would then of course be designed to heal those deadly diseases, and so while 'heal' might fail, 'heal radiation damage' would work.

    Good luck! You have a lot of homebrewing to do!

    EDIT Or maybe all undead are fueled/created by radiation... not magic.??
    Radiation won't cause you to grow an extra arm. The "mutations" it causes are at the cellular level, so it's basically just cancer and birth defects. You might get mutant creatures after multiple generations of living in a high radiation area, but the only mutation you will get is cancer.

    If you get a lot of radiation at once, you'll do something like throw up until you die because rather than mutating it's actually just killing your cells, or if you really get exposed to a lot of radiation, you'll turn into a shadow on the wall.
    Last edited by LordCdrMilitant; 2020-02-26 at 08:21 PM.
    Guardsmen, hear me! Cadia may lie in ruin, but her proud people do not! For each brother and sister who gave their lives to Him as martyrs, we will reap a vengeance fiftyfold! Cadia may be no more, but will never be forgotten; our foes shall tremble in fear at the name, for their doom shall come from the barrels of Cadian guns, fired by Cadian hands! Forward, for vengeance and retribution, in His name and the names of our fallen comrades!

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    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Re: Radiation in DnD

    Currently working on implementing this in my game.

    It's poison. It's simple, but the danger in radiation isn't the fact that it's simple. It's the pervasive nature. It passes through wood, stone and most metals. If you keep uranium in your back pocket you'll get cancer in your rear. If you keep uranium in your kitchen it'll affect you in the bedroom. But....you may not notice the effects of being around a radioactive object for some time. High doses of radiation can be treated as a lot of poison, requiring multiple checks to overcome. You might walk into an area that is highly radioactive and not realize how poisoned you are until it's too late.
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    Default Re: Radiation in DnD

    Exhaustion. It can get incrementaly worse, the effects are much more serious than Poisoned condition, it's pretty hard to get immunity to it (unless you're construct or undead, which fits, as neither would suffer from radiation sickness), and it can kill you if it stacks enough. All you need to do is to make it unremovable by rest.

    As for the damage, radiant and necrotic both make sense. Poisoned doesn't.

    We've already got Sickening Radiance which does radiant damage and causes exhaustion.
    It's Eberron, not ebberon.
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    Default Re: Radiation in DnD

    Honestly, don't be afraid of combining types if need be. Unless it's a huge amount of rads, the damage will be small, over time anyway. That tempers the inherent strength of a dual type. I'd go with radiant/poison. Since radiation is pretty much both. I would also add a disease simulating rad sickness or cancer as a corollary. Exhaustion is also something you'll want to consider, and whether or not rad-caused exhaustion requires special methods to remove.
    Sometimes, I have strong opinions on seemingly inconsequential matters.
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    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: Radiation in DnD

    It's good question.

    Radiant damage is no longer just divine.

    I saw on TV special just how hot a lightning bolt really is.... I'm not sure anyone can be resistant to like the face of the sun's energy. Crazy.

    I might treat it like poison because it is toxic. A dwarf might be resistant to toxins when smelting stuff.

  26. - Top - End - #26
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    OldWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Radiation in DnD

    Quote Originally Posted by JackPhoenix View Post
    We've already got Sickening Radiance which does radiant damage and causes exhaustion.
    I mentioned that way upthread, but nobody seems to have noticed. I think they are too busy trying to reinvent the wheel.

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    PirateCaptain

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    Default Re: Radiation in DnD

    Quote Originally Posted by LordCdrMilitant View Post
    Radiation won't cause you to grow an extra arm. The "mutations" it causes are at the cellular level, so it's basically just cancer and birth defects. You might get mutant creatures after multiple generations of living in a high radiation area, but the only mutation you will get is cancer.

    If you get a lot of radiation at once, you'll do something like throw up until you die because rather than mutating it's actually just killing your cells, or if you really get exposed to a lot of radiation, you'll turn into a shadow on the wall.
    Yes, but where's the fun in that? From Godzilla to Marvel our culture is filled with examples of "radiation" causing mutations (which = cancer, really, but that is totally not fun either).

  28. - Top - End - #28
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    LordCdrMilitant's Avatar

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    Default Re: Radiation in DnD

    Quote Originally Posted by CapnWildefyr View Post
    Yes, but where's the fun in that? From Godzilla to Marvel our culture is filled with examples of "radiation" causing mutations (which = cancer, really, but that is totally not fun either).
    Because fun and whimsy are not allowed at this table.

    Now, finish computing the primer vector for your transfer orbit, and have fun dying of gangrene from a minor wound in the last encounter. :)
    Last edited by LordCdrMilitant; 2020-02-27 at 05:17 PM.
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