Tech Levels


In the post-apocalyptic world, technology levels vary greatly. Some settlements and groups will be little more than animalistic humanoids or primitive tribesmen, while others might possess an understanding of advanced ancient technologies. The tech levels described below are designed to manage the technology of characters in the campaign. These tech levels by themselves do not grant additional abilities, but rather open up opportunities to learn or use technological skills and talents.

  • A primitive-tech character has the ability to understand pre-industrial technologies. Examples include archaic weapons, blacksmithing, carpentry, herbal medicines, leatherworking, and stonemasonry. Primitive-tech characters (like your PC) suffer a -4 penalty on all Attribute checks related to Ancient relics.
  • A retro-tech character has the ability to understand some modern technologies. Examples include basic mechanics, modern firearms, and physical sciences. This does not mean the character can learn how to create such technologies, but it does mean he may learn how to use or repair them. Retro-tech characters automatically understand items of Complexity 10 or less, but suffer a -2 penalty on all Attribute checks related to more complicated Ancient relics.
  • An advanced-tech character not only has the ability to understand the secrets of the Ancients, given sufficient training and resources he can even learn to recreate such lost technologies. Advanced-tech characters automatically understand items of Complexity 20 or less, and suffer no penalty on Attribute checks related to more complicated Ancient relics.

The Ancients produced forms of technology that were beyond anything created before or since. Nanotech is the best example of this level of advancenment – for all intents and purposes, it is indistinguishable from magic. Unfortunately, the capability to produce the artifacts of the Ancient no longer exists in Scorched Earth.

Figuring Out Tech Items:

In Scorched Earth, few people remain who can use, let alone recognize, the technology of the Ancients. Theirs was a way of life intertwined with technology and electricity, detached from the honest, earthy, and savage way of their mutant descendants today. Using complex items of a technological nature, beyond the most basic of items, is a major challenge for most characters.

Throughout the campaign, your character will have to interact with artifacts or situations from a higher tech level than his own. Each Ancient relic will have a ‘Complexity Rating’ (either given by the rules or set by the GM). Some sample Complexity Ratings are given on the table below:

Sample Artifact Complexities

Item Complexity Rating
Can Opener 5
Calculator 10
Photocopier 15
Automobile 20
Power Armour 25
Supercomputer 30

When a character finds a new item, he must make an Intellect check to understand how the item is used. This check is modified by your character’s Tech Level (as explained above). The DC for this check is equal to the device’s Complexity rating. Success indicates the character understands the item and can operate it. Failure indicates its use eludes him. Also, if the item has charges, a single charge is used up per attempt (successful or otherwise).

You can’t take 10 when trying to figure out an item, and if you roll a ‘natural 1’, something bad will happen. Also, you can only make one attempt per day per item.

Even once you have figured out how to use an item, your character suffers tech level penalties on Attribute checks related to the item. In many situations, the GM may disallow the check entirely (a primitive character trying to repair power armour, for example).

Exceptions: Scavengers with the Disable Device class ability do not take a tech level penalty when figuring out and disarming high-tech traps. Also, some characters possess the ‘Tech Familiarity’ talent, which reduces any tech level penalty by half.

Important: Tech level penalties apply to Attribute checks only, not to attack rolls made with high-tech weapons such as firearms and blasters. In this case, primitive characters will still receive the -4 non-proficient penalty (-2 for enforcers), but suffer no additional tech level penalties.


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