The critters rules is where BHAW starts to get a little weird. Not new paradigm weird or anything, but I would consider the critters rules among the signature mechanics of BHAW in that with just a Critter Rating, a few Stress Points and variety of Toppings BHAW allows the GM to create a crazy variety of encounters on the fly.
Critters is the generic term of anything in the Atomic Wasteland that might want to stab, shoot or eat you. Outlaw gangers are critters, feral robots are critters, even rival Bounty Hunters might be critters. And of course critters are critters. The fella’s in picture below? You bet they’re critters!
The recommended way of handling critters in BHAW is with a bucket or other opaque container full of multi-coloured, regular six sided dice. When your Bounty Hunters come up against, say, a pack of hungry desert bloodstalkers or a group of toxic zombie or even just gang of outlaw desperados the process is the same; the GM sticks his fist into the bucket of dice blindly and whatever he pulls out from the bucket is the encounter.
More specifically each die is a critter. The colour of the die represents it’s Critter Rating and maps to the ladder as follows:.
Green = Mediocre
Blue = Fair
White = Good
Yellow = Great
Red = Superb
There are rules that determine how many of each kind of dice go into the bucket as well as a set of table to generate the same effect when you don’t have a massive pile of dice at hand.
The Critter Rating describes the general level of threat the critter poses. A critter with a Critter Rating of Fair is deemed to be Fair at pretty much anything the critter is likely to do, within reason. The value shown on the die is its Stress Points.
So for example let’s say your Bounty Hunters are ambushed while searching a seemingly abandoned farmhouse by a pair of hungry desert bloodstalkers, You may find that the first critter has a Critter Rating of Good and 2 Stress Points while the other desert bloodstalker might have a Critter Rating of Mediocre and 5 Stress Points. Clearly the first desert bloodstalker is a stronger, more experienced hunter than his companion, but it is also less resilient than it’s partner. Maybe it’s been wounded recently, maybe its just older and get’s tired faster. The point is, same species, different range of abilities.
This approach of course makes even more sense when facing human opponents. It is easy to imagine a group of gangers consisting of mix of seasoned killers and scared rookies.
But does that mean a hungry desert bloodstalker is no different from a toxic zombie or an outlaw desperado? Not really because on top of the Critter Rating and Stress Points, critters also get Toppings.
Toppings allow you to personalise a particular kind of critter with a Stunt or some other codified behaviour. They can apply to all individuals of a specific critter type or just to selected ones.
Some example Toppings might include:
All hungry desert bloodstalkers have the Life Drain Stunt.
All toxic zombies have –1 Reflexes and always lose initiative.
Any individual outlaw desperados with a Critter Rating of Great can use the Two Gun FIghting stunt.
Toppings can also be used to direct tactical options. For instance:
Members of The Biker Chicks gang always target male Bounty Hunters first.
Neo-Soviet Troopers with an odd number of Stress Points will tend to hang back and use ranged attacks, those with an even number of Stress Points will tend to close in to fight.
I fully accept this last topping makes little sense, but it works.
Astute readers have probably already figured out that done this way the critter dice also work nicely as improvised miniatures. You wouldn’t necessarily lay them out on a gridded map but it is a quick way to show where everyone is during combat.
Speaking of combat, as the critters get taken out by the Bounty Hunters, the GM should set the dice to a side. At the end of the encounter the GM uses the dice to calculate how much Rep (XP to you and me) was earned that encounter and returns the dice to the bucket.
Finally, I should mention this applies to your faceless kind of critter. Important opponents like Cymbeline, leader of I Cyborg should be created like a full blown characters.
And no, I have no idea what a hungry desert bloodstalker is either.
Updated to mention that the ratio of different coloured dice in the bucket are stated in the rules and that there are alternative rules to generate the same effect with tables for those who don’t have enough mulit-coloured dice at hand..