Apocalypse Never

Sam W

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This is system prep for my Apocalypse Never Game. This is a combination of several systems: Knave, Maze Rats, Vaults of Vaarn, Cairn, and Liminal Horror.


Something bad happened. Catastrophic. The world seemed like it was ending. Things were seen in the confusion; unnatural things that should never be able to walk, or crawl, or whatever they were doing.

That was several years ago now. The world didn’t end, just any semblance of a safe and comfortable life. Now refugees from every time and place have banded together to survive. Some survivors are from a mythic past, with sword and shield, some are from a time like ours, and some are from a far distant future where humanity has radically changed.

You have been driving for days, looking for food, gas, and a place to rest. You aren’t heroes, just survivors.

Game Style

This setting and gameplay style will be played OSR/NSR style. That means:

If you want more explanation, link, link, and link.

The rules are meant to be light, and your success at an action depends on your ability to describe it. Expect dilemmas and hard choices, not checks and hard rolls. This should feel more like improv than a movie.

I hope this doesn’t sound like I want to kill you. I don’t. But I want a dangerous world with consequences so that you can be pushed to do things more interesting than “I swing my sword.”

Character Management

Your character has 6 abilities: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. Roll 2d6 and take the lower roll for each of them to get the scores bonus. Add 10 to the bonus to get that stat’s defense. You can then swap two ability bonuses and corresponding defenses, or re-roll one ability.

Roll 1d8 for starting hitpoints and add your constitution bonus.

Everyone starts with 3 days rations, 3d6 x 20 dollars, and a flashlight. Then roll as directed in Section Equipment. If the total of your skill bonuses is less than 16, you may roll on an additional table of your choice.

The party also starts with a vehicle of their choice (nothing crazy).

When a new campaign starts, choose an XP method: gold, stunts, or artifacts (these methods give XP per PC). For gold, 1000 gold recovered gives 1 XP. For stunts, XP is awarded at the end of a session, 1 for showing up, 2 for a clever use of tools, and 3 for defying the odds. For artifacts, every artifact sold after adventuring gives 1 XP. The XP table is shown below:

Advance to Level at XP
2 6
3 12
4 30
5 84

When leveling up, roll your new level’s number of d8’s for new HP and add your constitution modifier (if you roll below your current HP, increase HP by 1). You may also increase the ability bonuses and corresponding defenses of three different abilities by 1.

You have a number of inventory slots equal to your Constitution defense. Use them sensibly and wisely.

You have a number of skill slots equal to your Intelligence bonus. You may fill one by memorizing a spell, training a combat or tactical skill, or a cybernetics implant.

You also can have the condition deprived. This may happen by not eating or sleeping properly. If you are deprived, you cannot regain any HP until you have a good night of sleep or a meal, as needed.

You also start with a skill. Choose one of the following:

  1. +1 to any ability bonus and defence
  2. A spell
  3. Specialty:

Record your character attributes in a manner of your choice.

Saving Throws

There are no ability checks in this system, simply saving throws. This is more than a renaming convention; if you aren’t saving against an immediate danger, you should not be rolling.

To roll a save, roll 2d6 plus the relevant ability bonus. If the result is greater than 10, you succeed; otherwise you fail.


Spells are held in skill slots. If you choose not to generate a spell a particular day, you lose the ability to generate spells. However, if you gain the ability to cast two spells, you may forego generation of one spell without losing both.

If you choose a spell, use Liminal Horror to generate it.

When you cast a spell, roll 2d6. On a 2, you suffer a magical catastrophe. Roll from Liminal Horror.

Spells can only be cast once, and regenerate after a restful night of sleep.


Combat is mostly freeform. There is no fixed initiative order, no standard actions, just your descriptions. If there is a competition between who does what first, roll a Dexterity Save.

Roll 2d6 and add strength bonus for melee weapons, wisdom for ranged weapons, add the weapon’s attack bonus, and subtract the defender’s armor bonus (bottoming out at zero). This is the damage dealt.

When attacking and doubles are rolled, special effects take place. Consult the Following table:

Doubles on a Miss Doubles on a Hit
PC -1 weapon quality double the roll
NPC automatic miss -1 armor quality or scar (if no armor)

For a scar, use Section Scars

If an item reaches 0 quality, it is unusable. Repairing armor costs 20% of its store price per quality.

If you want to attempt a combat maneuver (stunts in Knave) such as tripping, disarming, grappling, or stunning, it is resolved with a relevant save against the opponent’s relevant Defence. These may not directly cause damage.

You can only use ranged weapons from a distance, and melee weapons up close. You may sacrifice a shield to absorb all the damage of one hit.


Compare damage taken on the critical hit to the following table.

1 Lasting Scar: Roll 1d6: 1: Neck, 2: Hands, 3: Eye, 4: Chest, 5: Legs, 6: Ear. Roll (Level)d8. If the total is higher than your max HP, take the new result.
2 Rattling Blow: You’re disoriented and shaken. Describe how you refocus. Roll (Level)d8. If the total is higher than your max HP, take the new result.
3 Walloped: You’re sent flying and land flat on your face, winded. You are deprived until you rest for a few hours. Then, roll 1d6. Add that amount to your max HP.
4 Broken Limb: Roll 1d6: 1-2: Leg, 3-4: Arm, 5: Rib, 6: Skull. Once mended, roll (Level)d8. If the total is higher than your max HP, take the new result.
5 Diseased: You’re afflicted with a gross, uncomfortable infection. When you get over it, roll (Level)d8. If the total is higher than your max HP, take the new result.
6 Reorienting Head Wound: Roll 1d6: 1-2: STR, 3-4: DEX, 5-6: Charisma. Roll 3d6. If the total is higher than your current ability score, take the new result.
7 Hamstrung: You can barely move until you get serious help and rest. After recovery, roll 1d6. If the total is higher than your max DEX, take the new result.
8 Deafened: You cannot hear anything until you find extraordinary aid. Regardless, make a Charisma save. If you pass, increase your max Charisma by 1d4.
9 Re-brained: Some hidden part of your psyche is knocked loose. Roll 1d6. If the total is higher than your max Charisma, take the new result.
10 Sundered: An appendage is torn off, crippled or useless. The Warden will tell you which. Then, make a Charisma save. If you pass, increase your max Charisma by 1d6.
11 Mortal Wound: You are deprived and out of action. You die in one hour unless healed. Upon recovery, roll (Level)d8. Take the new result as your max HP.
12 Doomed: Death seemed ever so close, but somehow you survived. If your next save against a scar is a fail, you die horribly. If you pass, roll (Level)d8. If the total is higher than your max HP, take the new result.



Armor items have ratings. (r). Use the following formulae:

Armor bonus = r

Inventory slots = r

Quality = 1 + r

Roll 2d6:

Roll Rating Armor Item
2 0 No Armor
3-5 1 Robes/Hoodie
6-7 2 Gambeson/Sturdy Coat
8-11 3 Brigandine/leather jacket
12 4 Chain/Kevlar Vest

Helmet and Shields provide additional armor bonuses (added on top of armor).

Roll Rating Item
1-7 0 None
8-9 1 Helmet
10-11 1 Shield
12 2 Helmet & Shield


All weapons have quality 3.

Choose whether your weapon is ranged or melee.

Inventory Slots Damage
0 +0 (unarmed)
1 +1
2 +2
3 +3

For the specific form of your weapon, roll from Knave, Liminal Horror, or Vaarn equipment lists (or choose).


Roll 3d6, then roll for gear on the tables corresponding to your individual die rolls.

Table 1

1 Air Bladder 6 Fire Oil 11 Manacles 16 Rope (25ft)
2 Antitoxin 7 Grappling Hook 12 Pick 17 Spirit Ward
3 Cart (+4 slots, bulky) 8 Large Sack 13 Pole (10ft) 18 Spyglass
4 Chain (10ft) 9 Large Trap 14 Pulley 19 Tinderbox
5 Dowsing Rod 10 Lockpicks 15 Repellent 20 Wolfsbane

Table 2

1 Bellows 6 Cook Pots 11 Grease 16 Net
2 Bucket 7 Crowbar 12 Hammer 17 Saw
3 Caltrops 8 Drill (Manual) 13 Hour Glass 18 Sealant
4 Chalk 9 Fishing Rod 14 Metal File 19 Shovel
5 Chisel 10 Glue 15 Nails 20 Tongs

Table 3

1 Bottle 6 Horn 11 Mirror 16 Soap
2 Card Deck 7 Incense 12 Perfume 17 Sponge
3 Dice Set 8 Instrument 13 Quill & Ink 18 Tar Pot
4 Face Paint 9 Lens 14 Salt Pack 19 Twine
5 Fake Jewels 10 Marbles 15 Small Bell 20 Whistle

Table 4

1 Night Vision Goggles 6 Handcuffs 11 Flashbang 16 Spray paint
2 Zip Ties 7 Grappling Hook & rope 12 Directional Microphone 17 Laptop & Printer
3 Binoculars 8 Body bag 13 Glass cutting tools 18 Kevlar rope
4 Chain & Lock 9 Tactical Flashlight 14 A box with no seam 19 Good Camera
5 Ancient Tome 10 An ivory necklace (+1 Charisma) 15 Lockpicks 20 Bolt Cutters

Table 5

1 Flashbang (5)
2 Magnetic Boots
3 Grappling Hook & Rope
4 Glare (5)
5 Smoke Bomb (5)
6 Flask of Oil
7 Portable Stove
8 Caltrops
9 Vial of Acid
10 Animal Trap (3)
11 Handheld Drill
12 Chain & Manacles
13 Hand Mirror
14 Motion Sensor
15 Crowbar
16 EMP Grenade (3)
17 Skin of Wine
18 Tube of Omni-Glue
19 Ball Bearings (LOTS)
20 Glowstone

Table 6

1 Sleeping Gas (3)
2 Oxygen Mask
3 Cast Iron Skillet
4 Black Clay
5 Loaded Dice
6 Raucous Whistle
7 Luminous Paint
8 Drug
9 Poison Pill
10 Autoglot Translator
11 Lock Picks
12 Mortar & Pestle
13 Strong Liquor
14 Hourglass
15 Chisel
16 Anti-venom
17 Welding Torch
18 Thermal Goggles
19 Fungicide Bomb
20 Canary in Cage

Additional Equipment

Lists can be found on Liminal Horror site, Vaarn site, and Cairn site.