Section 7 - Hazards

Besides the ordinary combat risks of swords, guns, and spells, adventurers commonly face other hazards.


Acids range from extremely weak to extremely strong (e.g., hydrochloric, perchloric, nitric, and sulfuric acids). Most laboratory acids are dangerous only to the eyes, but strong or highly concentrated acids can “burn” through equipment and flesh. For game purposes, treat strong alkalis just like strong acids.

If the victim is splashed with strong acid, he suffers 1d-3 points of corrosion damage. If the acid splashes on his face, he must make a HT roll to avoid eye damage. On a failure, or on a direct hit to the eyes, the damage is to his eyes. Use the Crippling Injury rules (p. 420) to see whether he is
blinded – and if so, whether the blindness is permanent. On a critical failure, permanent blindness is certain (acquire the Blindness disadvantage, p. 124).

If the victim is immersed in acid, he takes 1d-1 corrosion damage per second. If his face is immersed, he must also roll for eye damage (see above) every second.

If the victim swallows acid, he takes 3d damage at the rate of 1 HP per 15 minutes. A successful Physician or Poisons roll can halt this damage; treatment requires 2d minutes.

Used against a lock’s pins or other small, vulnerable items, acid requires 3d minutes to eat through the item.

A vial of acid powerful enough to produce these effects is a TL3 item, and costs 10 CR.


An “affliction” is a harmful effect other than direct injury or fatigue, usually the result of an attack, hazard, illness, magic spell, or toxin. In most cases, the victim gets a HT roll to resist, and only suffers the affliction on a failure. Duration depends on the cause; see the relevant disease, hazard, poison, spell, or weapon description for details.

Irritating Conditions

Coughing or Sneezing: You are at -3 to DX and -1 to IQ, and cannot use Stealth.

Drowsy: You are on the verge of falling asleep. Make a Will roll every two hours you spend inactive. On a failure, you fall asleep, and sleep until you are awakened or get a full night’s sleep. On a success, you have -2 to DX, IQ, and self-control rolls. Drunk: You are highly intoxicated: -2 to DX and IQ, and -4 to self-control rolls except those to resist Cowardice. Reduce Shyness by two levels, if you have it.

Euphoria: You have a -3 penalty to all DX, IQ, skill, and self-control rolls.

Nauseated: You have -2 to all attribute and skill rolls, and -1 to active defenses. As well, roll vs. HT after you eat, are exposed to a foul odor, fail a Fright Check, or are stunned, and every hour in free fall or in any situation where you might suffer motion sickness. A rich meal in the past hour gives -2; anti-nausea remedies give +2. On a failure, you vomit for (25 - HT) seconds – treat as Retching, below. Pain: You have a penalty to all DX, IQ, skill, and self-control rolls. This is-2 for Moderate Pain, -4 for Severe Pain, and -6 for Terrible Pain. High Pain Threshold halves these penalties; Low Pain Threshold doubles them. Tipsy: You are slightly intoxicated: -1 to DX and IQ, and -2 to self-control rolls except those to resist Cowardice. Reduce Shyness by one level, if you have it.

Incapacitating Conditions

All of these afflictions prevent you from taking voluntary action for the duration. In addition to their other effects, you’re effectively stunned (-4 to active defenses). In combat, you must Do Nothing on your turn. If an affliction lets you drop, you can sit, kneel, go prone, etc. if standing, or go prone if kneeling or sitting. If it lets you stagger, you can drop, change facing, or step or crawl one yard. In all cases, you are still effectively stunned.

Agony: You are conscious but in such terrible pain that you can do nothing but moan or scream. If standing or sitting, you fall down. While the affliction endures, you lose 1 FP per minute or fraction thereof. After you recover, anyone who can credibly threaten you with a resumption of the pain gets +3 to Interrogation and Intimidation skill rolls. Low Pain Threshold doubles the FP loss and torture bonus. High Pain Threshold lets you overcome the agony enough to function, but at -3 to DX and IQ.

Choking: You are unable to breathe or speak. You may do nothing but drop. While the choking endures, you suffer the effects of suffocation (see Suffocation, p. 436). If you have an
object lodged in your throat, a friend can try a First Aid roll to clear it; roll at -2 before TL7. Each attempt takes 2 seconds. If you have Doesn’t Breathe or Injury Tolerance (Homogenous), you cannot choke!

Daze: You are conscious – if you are standing, you remain upright – but you can do nothing. If you are struck, slapped, or shaken, you recover on your next turn.

Ecstasy: You’re incapacitated with overwhelming pleasure. Treat as Agony, but neither Low Pain Threshold nor High Pain Threshold has any effect – and instead of a bonus for torture, someone offering to continue the pleasure gets +3 to any Influence roll! If you have Killjoy, you’re immune.

Hallucinating: You can try to act, but you must roll vs. Will before each success roll. On a success, you merely suffer 2d seconds of disorientation. This gives -2 on success rolls. On a failure, you actually hallucinate for 1d minutes. In this case, the penalty is -5. The GM is free to specify the details of your hallucinations, which need not be visual. On a critical failure, you “freak out” for 3d minutes. You might do anything! The GM rolls 3d: the higher the roll, the more dangerous your action.

Paralysis: You cannot move any voluntary muscles, and fall over if you are not in a balanced position. You remain conscious, and can still use advantages or spells that require neither speech nor movement.

Retching: You are conscious but vomiting (or suffering dry heaves). You can try to act, but you will be at -5 to DX, IQ, and Per, and automatically fail at any action that requires a Concentrate maneuver. At the end of the retching spell, you lose 1 FP. Yougain no benefit from recent meals or oral medication – you’ve thrown it up.

Seizure: You suffer a fit of some kind. Your limbs tremble uncontrollably, you fall down if standing, and you cannot speak or think clearly. You can do nothing. At the end of the seizure, you lose 1d FP.

Unconsciousness: You are knocked out, just as if you had suffered injury.

Mortal Conditions

Coma: You collapse just as if you had been wounded to -1xHP or below and passed out; see Recovering from

Unconsciousness (p. 423). You get a single HT roll to awaken after 12 hours. On a failure, you won’t recover without medical treatment. Until you receive treatment, roll vs. HT every 12 hours. On any failure, you die.

Heart Attack: Your heart stops functioning (“cardiac arrest”). You immediately drop to -1xFP. Regardless of your current HP, you will die in HT/3 minutes unless resuscitated – see Resuscitation (p. 425). If you survive, you will be at 0 HP or your current HP, whichever is worse. Missing HP heal normally. If you die and it matters what your HP total was, treat this as death at -1xHP or your current HP, whichever is worse. Injury Tolerance (Diffuse, Homogenous, or No Vitals) grants immunity to this affliction.

Atmosphere Pressure

Regardless of its composition, an atmosphere may be difficult or impossible to breathe if its pressure is wrong.
We measure air pressure in “atmospheres”
(atm.); 1 atm. is air pressure at
sea level on Earth.

Trace (up to 0.01 atm.): Treat an atmosphere this thin as vacuum (see Vacuum, p. 437).

Very Thin (up to 0.5 atm.): The air is too thin to breathe. Earth’s atmosphere becomes “very thin” above 20,000’. If you lack protection (e.g., the Doesn’t Breathe advantage, or a respirator
and oxygen tanks), you suffocate – see Suffocation (p. 436). Vision rolls are at -2 without eye protection.

Thin (0.51-0.8 atm.): Earth’s atmosphere is “thin” between 6,000’ and 20,000’. Thin air is breathable if oxygen is present in Earthlike percentages, but it is hard on unprotected individuals. Increase all fatigue costs for exertion by 1 FP. Vision rolls are at -1 without eye protection. Finally, anyone who breathes thin air for an hour or more must check for “altitude sickness.” Make a daily HT roll at +4. Critical success means acclimatization – do not roll again. Success means no effect today. Failure means headaches, nausea, etc., giving -2 to DX and IQ. Critical failure means the victim falls into a coma after 1d hours; see Mortal Conditions (above). Roll against Physician skill once per day to revive the victim before he dies.

Dense (1.21-1.5 atm.): The air is breathable, with some discomfort: -1 to all HT rolls, unless you have a pressure suit. If the air contains more than 50% oxygen, you must wear a “reducing respirator” that lowers oxygen partial pressure, or suffer -2 to DX due to coughing and lung damage.

Very Dense (1.51+ atm.): As “dense,” but a reducing respirator is required if the air is more than 10% oxygen. Usually quite hot from greenhouse effects.

Superdense (10+ atm.): As “very dense,” but the atmospheric pressure is so great that it can actually crush someone who is not native to it, unless he has Pressure Support or an armored suit that provides this advantage; see Pressure (p. 435). Visitors to Venus, or deep inside Jupiter, experience hundreds of atmospheres of pressure! Such atmospheres are often poisonous, which presents a separate problem.

These rules assume you are native to 1 atm. and can function normally at 0.81-1.2 atm. If your native pressure differs from 1 atm., multiply all the pressure ranges above by your native pressure in atm. For example, if you’re native to 0.5 atm., a “dense” atmosphere for you would be 0.61- 0.75 atm. and a “thin” one would be 0.26-0.4 atm.


Cold can be deadly, but only magic or superscience can produce cold quickly enough to cause damage in combat. Armor offers its usual DR against such “instant” cold attacks, but it must be insulated or heated to shield against prolonged exposure to ambient cold.

Make a HT or HT-based Survival (Arctic) roll, whichever is better, every 30 minutes in “normal” freezing weather. For most humans, this means temperatures below 35°F, but see Temperature Tolerance (p. 93). In light wind (10+ mph), roll every 15 minutes. In strong wind (30+ mph), roll every 10 minutes. Additionally, strong wind can dramatically reduce the effective temperature (the “wind chill factor”). Also see the modifiers below:

Situation Mod to HT Roll
Light or no clothing -5
Ordinary winter clothing +0
“Arctic” clothing +5
Heated suit +10
Wet clothes additional -5
Every 10° below 0°F effective temperature -1

Failure costs 1 FP. As usual, once you go below 0 FP, you will start to lose 1 HP per FP. Recovery of FP or HP lost to cold requires adequate shelter and a heat source (flame, electric heat, body warmth, etc.).

Thermal Shock: Sudden immersion in icy waters (e.g., any of Earth’s oceans far from the equator) or a cryogenic environment can cause death by thermal shock. Note that impure water (e.g., saltwater oceans) can be below the usual freezing temperature! If you are wearing a completely waterproof “dry suit,” you are only affected as per normal freezing. Otherwise, roll against HT once per minute of immersion. Do not modify this for clothing. On a success, you lose 1 FP. On a failure, you lose FP equal to the margin of failure. Don’t forget to check for drowning as well!

Collision & Falls

When a moving object hits another object, this is a collision. Use the rules below for ramming attempts, accidental crashes, falls, and dropped objects.

Damage from Collisions

An object or person’s Hit Points and velocity determine collision damage. Mass only matters indirectly: massive objects usually have high HP, but it would hurt more to collide with a locomotive than with a pillow of the same mass! HP take into account both mass and structural strength.

“Velocity” is how fast the character or object is moving in yards per second (2 mph = 1 yard per second). Velocity could be anything up to Move. It might exceed Move when diving or falling; see High-Speed Movement (p. 394).

An object in a collision inflicts dice of crushing damage equal to (HP x velocity)/100. If this is less than 1d, treat fractions up to 0.25 as 1d-3, fractions up to 0.5 as 1d-2, and any larger fraction as 1d-1. Otherwise, round fractions of 0.5 or more up to a full die.

If an object is bullet-shaped, sharp, or spiked, it does half damage, but this damage is piercing, cutting, or impaling, rather than crushing.

Falling Velocity Table

Fall Velocity
1 yard 5
2 yards 7
3 yards 8
4 yards 9
5 yards 10
15 yards 18
20 yards 21
25 yards 23
30 yards 26
35 yards 28
40 yards 30
50 yards 35
60 yards 37
70 yards 39
80 yards 42
90 yards 45
100 yards 47

Alternatively, calculate velocity in yards per second as the square root of (21.4 x g x distance fallen in yards), where g is the local gravity in Gs (g = 1 on Earth). Round to the nearest whole number.

Immovable Objects

If a moving object hits a stationary object that is too big to push aside – like the ground, a mountain, or an iceberg – it inflicts its usual collision damage on that object and on itself. If the obstacle is breakable, the moving object cannot inflict or take more damage than the obstacle’s HP + DR.

Hard Objects: If the immovable object is hard, use twice the HP of the moving object to calculate damage. Clay, concrete, ordinary soil, and sand are all “hard,” as is a building, mountain, or similar obstacle.

Soft Objects: If the immovable object is soft – e.g., forest litter, hay, swamp, or water – damage is normal. However, elastic objects (mattresses, nets, airbags, etc.) give extra DR against collision damage, ranging from DR 2 for a feather bed to DR 10 for a safety net, trampoline, or airbag. When striking water or a similar fluid, a successful Swimming roll (or vehicle control roll, if “ditching” a vehicle) means a clean dive that negates all damage. This roll is at a penalty for velocity; use the speed penalty from the Size and Speed/Range Table (p. 550).


A fall is a collision with an immovable object: the ground. Find your velocity when you hit using the Falling Velocity Table.

Example: Bill is pushed out a fifthstory window. He falls 17 yards. When he hits the street, his velocity is 19 yards/second. Bill has 10 HP, but he uses twice this because he hit a “hard” surface. Damage is (2 ¥ 10 ¥ 19)/100 = 3.8d, which rounds up to 4d crushing

Falls and Armor: All armor, flexible or not (but not innate DR), counts as “flexible” for the purpose of calculating blunt trauma from falling damage. Thus, even if the victim has enough armor DR to stop the falling damage, he suffers 1 HP of injury per 5 points of falling damage. See Flexible Armor and Blunt Trauma (p. 379).

Controlled Falls: If you are free to move, you can use Acrobatics skill to land properly. On a success, reduce falling distance by five yards when calculating velocity. If falling into water, you can do this or attempt a properdive (see above) – decide which first!

Terminal Velocity: “Terminal velocity” is the maximum speed a falling object can achieve before air resistance negates further acceleration under gravity. Air resistance is relatively negligible for distances shown on the table, but increases drastically for longer falls.

Terminal velocity varies greatly by object. For human-shaped objects on Earth, it is 60-100 yards/second. Use the low end for a spread-eagled fall, the high end for a swan dive. For dense objects (e.g., rocks) or streamlined objects, it can be 200 yards/second or more!

The terminal velocity rules assume Earth-normal gravity (1G) and atmospheric pressure (1 atm.). Multiply terminal velocity by the square root of gravity in Gs. Then divide it by the square root of pressure in atm. Thus, gravity under 1G, or pressure above 1 atm., reduces terminal velocity; gravity over 1G, or pressure below 1 atm., increases it. Note that terminal velocity is unlimited in a vacuum!

Damage from Falling Objects

If an object falls on someone, find its velocity on the table above and calculate damage as for an ordinary collision. To hit someone with a dropped object, use Dropping skill (p. 189). Most dropped objects will have Acc 1. Your target cannot avoid the object unless he knows it’s coming. If he’s aware of it, he can dodge.

A falling object with a Size Modifier equal to or greater than that of whoever it lands on impedes the victim’s movement. He may move only one yard on his next turn, and his active defenses are -3. These penalties result from bulk, not mass, so ST is irrelevant.

Collision Angle

The angle at which you hit adjusts velocity, affecting damage. This is especially true in collisions between two moving objects!

Head-On: In a head-on collision between two moving objects, collision velocity is the sum of the objects’ velocities. The slower object cannot inflict more dice of damage than the faster one.

Rear-End: If a faster object overtakes and strikes a slower one, collision velocity is that of the striking object minus that of the struck object. The struck object cannot inflict more dice of damage than the striking one. someone who doesn’t get out of the way. This rule does not apply to falls.

Anything with a ST attribute can deliberately trample as well; see Trampling (p. 404).

Whiplash and Collision

Anyone inside an object that comes to a sudden stop in a fall or a collision (a falling elevator, a crashing car, etc.) takes damage. Find the speed lost in the “stop” and work out falling damage for this velocity. Seatbelts or straps give DR 5 vs. this damage; airbags give DR 10. In a collision involving an open vehicle, also work out knockback from this damage for those who weren’t strapped in. This is how far they fly …


If an uninsulated person is exposed to electricity, he may receive a shock. The effects of electric shock are highly variable, ranging from momentary stunning to instant death! This section helps the GM assess these effects if a character receives a shock during an adventure. If a specific attack or scenario gives different rules, they override the guidelines below.

All electrical damage falls into one of two classes: nonlethal or lethal. Against either, metallic armor (e.g., plate armor) provides only DR 1 – and if the wearer is grounded, he actually attracts electrical attacks, giving the attacker +2 to hit.

Nonlethal Electrical Damage

High-voltage, low-power shocks are unlikely to kill, but can stun the victim or even render him unconscious. This is called “nonlethal electrical damage.” Examples include electric stun weapons, realistic electric fences, and static shocks on a cool, dry day. The GM should require an immediate HT roll whenever someone is zapped.

Modifiers: From +2 for a short circuit in a battery-powered gadget down to -3 or -4 for a specially designed stun weapon. Nonmetallic armor gives a bonus equal to its DR – but surface shocks (e.g., from a cattle prod) tend to flow over armor rather than
through it, and have an armor divisor of (0.5), while energy weapons designed to arc through armor have an armor divisor of (2) or even (5).

On a failure, the victim is stunned. An instantaneous jolt (static electricity, electrolaser, etc.) stuns for one second, after which time the victim may roll vs. HT once per second to recover. A continuous shock (stun gun, electric fence, etc.) stuns for as long as the victim is in contact with the source, and for (20 - HT) seconds after that, with a minimum of 1 second. After this time, the victim may roll vs. HT each second to recover. The basic HT modifier for the strength of the shock (but not for DR) applies to all recovery rolls.

Electromuscular Disruption (EMD): Some ultra-tech weapons deliver a more powerful current that induces convulsions. The HT roll is at -5, and if the victim fails, he is knocked down and paralyzed instead of merely stunned. Otherwise, the effects are as above.

Lethal Electrical Damage

High-power shocks cook flesh and inflict real damage; they can even stop the victim’s heart! This is called “lethal electrical damage.” Examples include power mains, lightning bolts (natural and magical), and cinematic electric fences.

Lethal electric shocks inflict burning damage: only 1d-3 to 3d around the house, but 6d on up for lightning, transmission lines, etc. A victim who suffers any injury must make a HT roll at -1 per 2 points of injury suffered. On a failure, he falls unconscious for as long as the current is applied, and for (20 - HT) minutes afterward, with a minimum of 1 minute. He will be at -2 DX for another (20 - HT) minutes when he recovers. Failure by 5 or more, or any critical failure, results in a heart attack; see Mortal Conditions (p. 429). Lethal electrical

damage also causes “surge” effects in victims who have the Electrical disadvantage (p. 134).

Localized Injury: Attacks that don’t affect the target’s entire body – including most magical electricity attacks –cause pain and burns, but not unconsciousness or cardiac arrest. Treat this as normal burning damage, except that the victim must make a HT roll at -1 per 2 points of injury suffered. On a failure, he is stunned for one second, after which time he may roll vs. HT once per second to recover. If the injury is to the arm or hand, he must also make a Will roll or drop anything carried in that hand.


Exposure to flame inflicts burning damage. See Wounding Modifiers and Injury (p. 379) and Hit Location (p. 398) for wounding effects. Below are some additional special rules.

Adventurers often encounter flaming oil (see Molotov Cocktails and Oil Flasks, p. 411), high-tech weapons, Innate Attacks, and battle magic (see Fire Spells, p. 246) … not to mention the burning rubble these attacks leave behind!

If you spend part of a turn in a fire (e.g., running through the flames), you take 1d-3 burning damage. If you spend all of a turn in a fire of ordinary intensity – or if you are on fire – you
take 1d-1 damage per second. Very intense fires inflict more damage; for instance, molten metal or a furnace would inflict 3d per second! Use Large- Area Injury (p. 400) in all cases.

Continued exposure to a fire can result in intense heat that can rapidly fatigue you even if the flames themselves cannot penetrate your DR. See Heat (p. 434).

Incendiary Attacks: Any attack with the Incendiary damage modifier (p. 105) does one point of burning damage in addition to its other damage; in effect, it has a one-point linked burning attack. Examples include torches (see Torches and Flashlights, p. 394) and flaming arrows (see Flaming Arrows, p. 410). High-tech tracer bullets also qualify.

Catching Fire

A single hit that inflicts at least 3 points of basic burning damage ignites part of the victim’s clothing. (The Ignite Fire spell does this at its third level of effect; see p. 246). This does 1d-4 burning damage per second and is distracting (-2 to DX, unless the damage simply cannot harm the target). To put out the fire, the victim must beat it with his hands. This requires a DX roll, and each attempt takes a Ready maneuver.

A single hit that inflicts 10 or more points of basic burning damage ignites all of the victim’s clothes. This does 1d-1 burning damage per second and is very distracting (-3 to DX, except when rolling to put out the fire). To put out the fire, the victim must roll on the ground. This requires a DX roll, and each attempt takes three Ready maneuvers. Jumping into water takes only one second, and automatically extinguishes the fire.

If a wooden shield takes 10 or more points of burning damage in one second, the bearer is at -2 to DX, and takes 1d-5 burning damage per second until he gets rid of it.

In all cases, remember to apply shock penalties to DX if the flame inflicts injury!

The above guidelines assume ordinary clothing. Armor is good protection against fire; clothing worn over armor (e.g., a surcoat) might burn, but the armor’s DR reduces the damage normally. Clothing that is wet or worn under armor is almost impossible to ignite, and won’t stay lit. On the other hand, fancy dresses, lace cuffs, and so on, ignite if they take even 1 point of burning damage!

Remember to divide damage from tight-beam burning attacks by 10 when applying the rules above.

Gravity & Acceleration

A change in gravity can be harmful. These rules describe health effects; see Different Gravity (p. 350) for the effects of gravity on common tasks.

Space Adaption Syndrome ("Space Sickness")

Those who are not native to microor zero gravity (“free fall”) may become nauseated and disoriented by the constant falling sensation. Roll against the higher of HT or Free Fall when you first enter free fall. The Space Sickness disadvantage (p. 156) gives -4.

On a success, you are unaffected. On a failure, you are nauseated (see Afflictions, p. 428), which may trigger vomiting. If you begin to retch while wearing a vacc suit, you may choke; treat this as drowning (see Swimming,p. 354). Roll against the better of HT or Free Fall every 8 hours to recover. If you suffer from Space Sickness, you cannot adapt!

High Acceleration

Make a HT roll whenever you experience a sudden acceleration (“Gforce”) of at least 2.5 times your home gravity. Treat a home gravity under 0.1G as 0.1G for this purpose.

Modifiers: -2 per doubling of acceleration (-2 at 5x home gravity, -4 at
10x, and so on); +2 if seated or lying prone, or -2 if upside down.

On a failure, you lose FP equal to your margin of failure. On a critical failure, you also black out for 10 seconds times your margin of failure.

A sudden acceleration may throw you against a solid object. If this happens, treat it as a collision with that object at a velocity equal to 10 x G-force of the acceleration.


In ordinary hot weather, you will experience no ill effects if you stay in the shade and don’t move around much. But if you are active in temperatures in the top 10° of your comfort zone or above – over 80°F, for humans without Temperature Tolerance (p. 93) – make a HT or HT-based Survival (Desert) roll, whichever is better, every 30 minutes.

Modifiers: A penalty equal to your encumbrance level (-1 for Light, -2 for Medium, and so on); -1 per extra 10° heat.

Failure costs 1 FP. On a critical failure, you suffer heat stroke: lose 1d FP. As usual, if you go below 0 FP, you start to lose 1 HP per FP. You cannot recover FP or HP lost to heat until you
move into cooler surroundings. In addition, at temperatures up to 30° over your comfort zone (91-120° for humans), you lose an extra 1 FP whenever you lose FP to exertion or dehydration. At temperatures up to 60° over your comfort zone (121-150° for humans), this becomes an extra 2 FP.

Intense Heat: Human skin starts to burn at 160°; see Flame (p. 433) for damage. Even if no damage penetrates your DR, you will rapidly overheat if the ambient temperature is more than 6 x your comfort zone’s width over your comfort zone (e.g., in a fire). After 3 x DR seconds, make a HT roll every second. On a failure, you lose 1 FP. Your DR provides its usual protection against burning damage, but it has no effect on this FP loss.

Sunburn: After a day of full sun on unprotected skin, an albino will be near death and a light-skinned Caucasian will be very uncomfortable (1d-3 damage). Darker-skinned individuals may itch, but aren’t in much danger. Details are up to the GM.

Armor: Armor prevents sunburn and provides its full DR against burning damage – but only armor that provides Temperature Tolerance (through insulation or a cooling system) can prevent FP loss due to heat. This feature is standard on battlesuits and TL9+ combat armor.


Adventurers are most likely to encounter extreme pressure in superdense atmospheres (see Atmospheric Pressure, p. 429) or deep underwater (where pressure increases by about 1 atmosphere per 33’ of depth). Pressures in excess of your native pressure – 1 atm., for a human – are not always immediately lethal, but present serious risks.

Over 2 x native pressure: You risk “the bends” (see below) if you experience over 2 x native pressure and then return to normal pressure. With Pressure Support 1, the bends are only a risk when returning from over 10 x native pressure. With Pressure Support 2 or 3, you are immune to the bends.

Over 10 x native pressure: You may be crushed! On initial exposure and every minute thereafter, roll vs. HT at a basic +3, but -1 per 10 ¥ native pressure. If you fail, you suffer HP of injury equal to your margin of failure. If your Size Modifier is +2 or more, multiply injury by SM. With Pressure Support 2, read this as “Over 100 x native pressure” and “-1 per 100 x native pressure.” With Pressure Support 3, you are immune to pressure.

The Bends

When you are breathing air that has been compressed (e.g., using scuba gear), your blood and tissues absorb some of the nitrogen gas in the compressed air. When you return to normal pressure, or “decompress,” this nitrogen escapes, forming small bubbles in the blood and muscles. This can result in joint pains, dizzy spells, possibly even death. These symptoms are known as “the bends.”

You risk the bends if you return to normal pressure after experiencing pressure greater than twice your native pressure (or 10 times native pressure, with Pressure Support 1). To avoid this, you must decompress slowly, spending time at intermediate pressures to allow the nitrogen to escape harmlessly.

Divers and mountaineers use precise tables to determine decompression times based on time spent at a given pressure. For game purposes, at up to 2 atm. (about 33’ underwater), a human can operate for any amount of time and return without risk. At up to2.5 atm. (50’ depth), a human can safely operate for up to 80 minutes and return without requiring slow decompression. Greater pressures reduce the safe time without slow decompression: at 4 atm. (100’ depth), it’s about 22 minutes; at 5.5+ atm. (150’ depth), there is no safe period.

Safe decompression involves slowly lowering the pressure, either naturally (e.g., a diver deliberately taking hours to reach the surface) or in a decompression chamber. The time required increases with both pressure and exposure time. It can be several hours – or even days.

If you fail to decompress slowly enough, make a HT roll. Critical success means no ill effects. Success means severe joint pain, causing agony (see Incapacitating Conditions, p. 428); roll vs. HT hourly to recover. Failure means unconsciousness or painful paralysis; roll vs. HT hourly to regain consciousness, with each failure causing 1d of injury. Once conscious, you suffer joint pain, as described above. Critical failure results in painful death. Recompression to the highest pressure experienced lets you roll at HT+4 every five minutes to recover from all effects short of death.

An instant pressure reduction can also result in explosive decompression; see Vacuum (p. 437) for details. All effects are cumulative!


Radiation threatens high-tech heroes in the form of solar flares, cosmic rays, nuclear accidents, radioactive materials, and lethal weapons (nuclear bombs, particle beams, etc.). Exposure is measured in rads. The more rads received, the greater the chance of ill effects.

Whenever a character is exposed to radiation, the GM should note both the dose and the date. Each dose diminishes separately from all others; it starts to heal after 30 days, at the rate of 10 rads per day. However, 10% of the original dose never heals (except via ultra-tech, magic, etc.).

Example: A reactor technician spends a day in a “hot” environment and receives a 200-rad dose. After 30 days, that particular dose starts to heal at 10 rads/day. After another 18 days, the remaining dose is 20 rads – 10% of 200 rads – and stops healing.)

Effects of Radiation on Living Things

When a living being accumulates at least 1 rad (but no more than once per day, for continued exposure to a given source), he must make a HT roll. On the Radiation Effects Table, below, find his current accumulated dose in the “Accumulated Dose” column. Apply the modifier in the “HT” column to his HT roll. Then roll the dice. Use the first result in the “Effects” column on a critical success, the second on a success, the third on a failure, and the last on a critical failure.

Radiation Effects Table

Accumulated ** Dose HT** Effects
1-10 rads +0 –/–/A/B
11-20 rads +0 –/A/B/C
21-40 rads +0 A/B/C/D
41-80 rads -1 A/B/C/D
81-160 rads -3 A/B/C/D
161-800 rads -4 A/B/C/D
800-4,000 rads -5 C/D/E/E
Over 4,000 rads -5 D/E/E/E

–: The dose has no obvious effect, but doses continue to accumulate.

A: Radiation burns and chronic “somatic” damage. HT hours after irradiation, suffer 1d of injury and gain Low Pain Threshold for one week (those with High Pain Threshold lose
this instead). If you recover, make two more HT rolls with the modifier on the table: one to avoid sterility, the other to avoid gaining the Terminally Ill (1 year) disadvantage. Gain either condition only on a critical failure.

B: Hematopoietic syndrome. As A, but as well, after HT hours you arenauseated (see Irritating Conditions, p. 428) for a further (40 - HT) hours; lose 1d each from DX, IQ, and FP; and acquire the Hemophilia disadvantage. Each day, make a HT roll with the modifier on the table. On a critical success, you heal 2 points each of DX, IQ, and FP; on a success, you recover 1 point of each; on a failure, there is no improvement; and on a critical failure, you lose 1 point of each and are
nauseated that day. After recovering all lost DX, IQ, and FP, you no longer suffer from Hemophilia or need to make daily HT rolls.

C: Gastrointestinal syndrome. As B, but in 1d/2 weeks, you also lose all body hair and must make daily HT rolls. On a critical failure, you suffer 1d points of injury; on a failure, 2 points of injury; on a success, 1 point of injury; and on a critical success, injury stops and normal recovery can occur (and hair starts to grow back). Until injury stops, you have Susceptible to Disease -3 (p. 158) and suffer from nausea. If you lose more than 2/3 of your HP to radiation, your teeth and nails start to fall out.

D: Terminal radiation sickness. As C, except HP loss begins in 1d/2 days, and even a critical success won’t stop daily HP loss – it only postpones it for a day. Death is certain.

E: Rapid cerebrovascular death. After one hour, you lose 1d from each of DX, IQ, and FP; take 1d of injury; gain Hemophilia, Low Pain Threshold, and Susceptible to Disease -3; and are nauseated. Make an hourly HT roll. Critical failure means instant death from brain hemorrhage; failure means loss of another 2 points of DX, IQ, and FP, and 2 more points of injury; success means 1 extra point of each; critical success mean no decline that hour.

Other Effects: In addition to these effects, a single dose of 200+ rads causes sterility and blindness for 1d months; a dose of 500+ rads makes it permanent. An accumulated dose of 100+ rads increases the risk of birth defects. Should you become a parent, make a HT roll, at +3 if you are male. On a failure, the child has some sort of birth defect (GM’s option).

Radiation and Nonhumans

The above effects apply to humans and most other mammals. Other creatures may have Radiation Tolerance (p. 79).

Machines are not affected unless they have the Electrical disadvantage (p. 134). Each time such a machine accumulates a dose of 100 rads, make a HT roll at a basic +4, -1 per 100 rads accumulated dose. On a failure, it ceases to function until repaired. On a critical failure, it is destroyed (any data stored on it is also lost).

++Radiation Protection
Any material between you and the radiation source grants a Protection Factor (PF) that reduces your received dose. Divide your dose by PF; e.g., PF 100 means 1/100 the dose. Half an inch of lead, 1.5 inches of steel, or 750 yards of air has PF 2; a yard of water has PF 8; a yard of earth has PF 27; and a yard of concrete has PF 64.

Shielding protects differently against certain types of radiation. Radiation from solar flares and planetary radiation belts (like the Van Allen belt) is mostly free electrons and alpha particles: multiply PF by 20. Against cosmic rays, divide PF by 100!

Radiation Treatment

All costs below are per treatment. At TL7, drugs are available that can halve your effective rad dosage if a dose ($500) is taken 1-3 hours in advance. Chelating drugs are also available to get radioactive fallout out of your system; a dose ($500) halves exposure after 3 days and eliminates it entirely after a week. This has no effect on radiation already absorbed!

At TL8, advanced chelating drugs ($500) encapsulate and remove fallout in 12 hours.

At TL9, advanced anti-radiation drugs or cell-repair nanotechnology ($1,000) can give +3 to all HT rolls vs. radiation for 2 weeks.

At TL10+, cell-repair nanotech or rejuvenation technology might be able to completely repair the ravages of radiation, provided the victim is still alive.


Those aboard a seagoing vessel (excluding large, modern vessels with roll stabilizers) must check for seasickness on their first day afloat. Use the rules for the Motion Sickness disadvantage (p. 144) – but if you lack that disadvantage, you roll at HT+5, and with a success by 5 or more, or a critical success, you suffer no ill effects at all.


If you completely lack air – see Actions After a Grapple (p. 370), Choke Hold (p. 371), and Holding Your Breath (p. 351) for examples – you lose 1 FP per second. If you are drowning after a failed Swimming roll, you can get some air, but you also inhale water: roll vs. Swimming every five seconds; failure costs 1 FP (see Swimming, p. 354).

At 0 FP, you must make a Will roll every second or fall unconscious. You are likely to die unless rescued (see Lost Fatigue Points, p. 426). Regardless of FP or HP, you die after four minutes without air.

If you get clean air before you die, you stop losing FP and start to recover FP at the usual rate (see Recovering from Fatigue, p. 427). If you are unconscious, you awaken once you have 1 FP. If you were drowning, a rescuer must also make a First Aid roll to get the water out of your lungs in order to save you – see Resuscitation (p. 425).

If you went without air for more than two minutes, roll vs. HT to avoid permanent brain damage: -1 to IQ.


Vacuum is the absence of air – but these rules also apply in trace atmospheres, where there is almost no air. If you are exposed to vacuum without protection (e.g., a vacc suit or the Vacuum Support advantage), the following rules apply.

Breathing Vacuum: You can’t hold your breath in vacuum – and you may rupture your lungs if you try (1d of injury). If you exhale and leave your mouth open, you can operate on the oxygen in your blood for half the time listed under Holding Your Breath (p. 351). After that, you begin to suffocate (see Suffocation, p. 436).

Explosive Decompression: When an area suddenly goes from normal pressure to little or none (a “blowout”), body fluids boil, blood vessels rupture, and eardrums pop. Take 1d of injury immediately, and roll vs. HT to avoid the bends (see The Bends, p. 435). Also roll vs. HT+2 for each eye; failure means One Eye or Blindness, as appropriate. Finally, roll vs. HT-1 to avoid Hard of Hearing. Use the Duration of Crippling Injuries rules (p. 422) to determine how long these disadvantages last.

Extreme Temperatures: Vacuum itself is neither “cold” nor “hot,” but in the absence of air, surfaces in shadow will eventually grow very cold, while those in sunlight will become extremely hot. For example, on the moon – with its month-long “day” – the temperature can range from -243°F (at night) to 225°F (at noon).

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