The Dinosaur Protocol: Design Blog 2

The post-apocalyptic genre has always been an interesting one, but to my mind at least, rather depressing. I love a good end-of-the-world scenario; there is, perversely, something rather attractive about having everything we have built torn down. I think it’s related to the same urge we get when we see a Jenga tower – you just want to push it over and see the whole silly thing collapse.

Once the actual apocalypse itself is done with, however, the genre usually boils down to people being horrible to each other, and it all gets rather grubby. There’s a lot of fighting for resources, moral compromises and generally recreating the mistakes of the past. I honestly can’t remember how many seasons in to The Walking Dead we are now, because as great as that show is, the story is basically “people fight people, and occasionally get eaten by zombies”.

The Dinosaur Protocol is that rarest of beasts, an optimistic post-apocalypse tale. Yes, the vast majority of humanity is dead, and yes, the vast majority of our civilisation has been swept aside by time. I’m a book nut more than a people person – the thought of shattered libraries full of books rotting in the rain makes my heart ache. But in our absence, planet Earth has been reborn, reverting to an earlier, more primal state. Our mistakes have been largely erased, food is plentiful, the air and water are clean. Resources are not an issue. Those few who have survived have been given a second chance, on what is to all intents and purposes a brand new world. Instead of asking “what would you do to survive?”, The Dinosaur Protocol asks “If you could start over from the beginning, what would you do differently?”

There are limits, of course. Technology is restricted to what can be scavenged from the ruined cities (home to packs of raptors, monstrous insects and arachnids, and worse), recovered from the shelters or reconstructed using what information has survived. There simply aren’t that many people left, which makes the population extremely vulnerable to environmental factors. Disease is an issue in the tropical climate, and mankind is no longer at the top of the food chain. Hostile plant and animal life make every trip outside the settlements an adventure. And then there are those people who have brought their petty hatreds and thirst for power with them into the World Reborn. And on top of all of that, there is the mystery of what exactly happened to make the world the way it is?

What would you do differently?


The Dinosaur Protocol: Design Blog 1

It’s quite a relief to be able to talk about this project, as it’s been making me bounce up and down with excitement for some time. It’s also an awesome excuse to buy books about dinosaurs, re-watch some superb documentaries, and pick up some very cool toys. In fact, it’s allowing me to revert to the age of five – which in actual years is quite a distance from where I am now, but as anyone who knows me will attest, in terms of mental age it’s not very far at all.

Everyone loves dinosaurs. Heck, even creationists love dinosaurs, performing some impressive mental gymnastics in order to fit them into the biblical timeline. I don’t think there’s a child in the world who doesn’t become fascinated with the idea of giant saurian as soon as they’re introduced to the concept. They were this planet’s first masters, perhaps the single most successful form of life aside from viruses and insects. They dominated the world for millions of years, and would almost certainly still dominate it today had it not been for an extinction event so massive that it wiped out 75% of all life on Earth. Even so, their descendants are all around us, in the form of birds – a testament to the enduring nature of their clade.

Ever since the idea of the dinosaur became widely known, we have imagined ourselves alongside them, measuring their magnitude against our own fragility. It’s a natural instinct to use yourself as a biological yard-stick, after all. This urge has produced some fantastic (and not so fantastic) fiction, pitting humans against dinosaurs. Only twenty years after the clade Dinosauria was officially recognised, Jules Verne had his subterranean explorers encounter plesiosaur and ichthyosaur survivals in his 1864 novel Journey to the Centre of the Earth. Further dinosaur survivals were discovered in the Maple White Land of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, in the Pellucidar of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ At the Earth’s Core and the Caspak of his The Land That Time Forgot. Dinosaurs were there at the very birth of cinema, menacing cavemen in D.W. Griffiths’ 1914 film Brute Force (a film that began a trend of depicting early man and dinosaurs existing side by side that lasted well into the 1970’s), and have continued to thrill movie viewers right up to the present day in blockbuster franchises like Jurassic Park.

Authors like Ray Bradbury, L. Sprague De Camp and David Drake explored the idea of bridging the gap between the ages of man and dinosaur via time travel, allowing humans to hunt monsters in the fetid swamps of the Cretaceous era. Others preferred to explore the idea of dinosaurs in the modern age in novels like Greg Bear’s Dinosaur Summer. Some even speculated about a “dinosaur invasion” of the present, as portrayed in James F. David’s novel Footprints of Thunder and its sequels Thunder of Time and Dinosaur Thunder. The BBC’s most eminent Time Lord (in the form of Jon Pertwee) encountered an Invasion of the Dinosaurs in 1974, with time-displaced saurians causing havoc in an evacuated London. TV shows like Primeval and Terra Nova pitted man against dinosaur on the small screen, and even trading cards got in on the action with the 1988 release of the cartoonishly violent (and awesome) Dinosaurs Attack!

We’re still not tired of them. As I write this, the media machine is gearing up for the release of the movie Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, sequel to the blockbusting Jurassic World (the fourth highest-grossing film of all time) and the fifth film in the Jurassic Park series. Frankly, dinosaurs are awesome, and the world knows it.

Now it’s our turn to play. The Dinosaur Protocol, written by myself and Jonathan M. Thompson for the Savage Worlds game engine, is a genre mash-up that presents dinosaurs and humans trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic setting.

65 million years have separated the ages of man and dinosaur…until now.

Stick around, folks. This is going to be fun.

Gaming, Press Release

The Dinosaur Protocol: Kickstarter now live!

SHREVEPORT, LOUISIANA, 13th March 2018 – Battlefield Press Inc. is thrilled to announce the Kickstarter launch of The Dinosaur Protocol for the award-winning Savage Worlds roleplaying game.

The Dinosaur Protocol is post-apocalyptic table-top roleplaying with a difference, a game of adventure and discovery in the jungles and plains of a world grown wild and strange.

Sometime in the 21st Century, something broke the world. Mankind fled the surface, retreating into vast underground shelters where they could wait out the centuries until the earth was habitable once more. But when we emerged from the darkness and prepared to retake our world, it was not as we remembered it. Something has happened to the world that once was. In the centuries without man, nature wound back the clock, returning the planet to an earlier, cleaner, more primal age. An age of dinosaurs.

Now humanity must choose – do we fight to reclaim our past, or do we make peace with the present and embrace a simpler future? Armed with the skills and technologies of our ancestors, do we struggle to recreate past glories, or will we use the second chance we have been given to avoid the mistakes of the past? Will human nature even give us the choice? Will we exterminate the reborn dinosaurs, enslave them, or something else? What will be your Dinosaur Protocol?

Written for Savage Worlds by Chris Halliday and Jonathan M. Thompson, The Dinosaur Protocol is a game of mystery, exploration, discovery and adventure. Players take the role of explorers, scientists, scavengers, hunters and traders, trying to survive a world whose first masters have returned. Will they stay at home and build their settlement, or blaze new trails through the saurian jungles of a World Reborn? Will they extend the hand of friendship to other settlements, or war for valuable resources? Will they hunt the dinosaurs, or study them? Where did the dinosaurs come from, and what other mysteries lie hidden in the ruined cities, dense jungles and empty deserts? Just who – or what – else is out there?

The Dinosaur Protocol will present a bestiary of prehistoric life, rules for encountering, battling and wrangling dinosaurs, details on how to carve your own settlement from the primeval jungle, rules for scavenging ruined cities and ancient installations, and a guide to the World Reborn… everything you need to create your own Dinosaur Protocol campaign.

65 million years have separated the ages of man and dinosaur. Until now.

About Battlefield Press

Based in Shreveport, Louisiana, Battlefield Press is a publisher of table-top roleplaying games such as Pulp Fantastic, Gaslight Victorian Fantasy, Warren C. Norwood’s Double Spiral War, Eldritch Skies, Agents of G.A.I.A., Kaiser’s Gate, Sherwood: The Legend of Robin Hood, Terran Trade Authority: The Proxima War and many others.


Space Carrot, A Thing for Cryptworld

Space Carrot

STR: 7 (105) — WPR: 6 (90)
DEX: 3 (45) — PER: 3 (45)
AGL: 3 (45) — PCN: 3 (45)
STA: 7 (105) — PWR: 45
ATT: 1/75% — WND: 18*
MV: L 100†

* Like a zombie, space carrots only take damage from current Stamina, and have no wound boxes.

Experience: 800


“Its development was not handicapped by emotional or sexual factors. No pleasure, no pain… no emotion, no heart. Our superior in every way.”

The space carrot is a tall, powerfully-built humanoid creature with a large bald head, taloned hands and horny protrusions on its finger joints. It is usually dressed in a one-piece jumpsuit of some tough, dark material. Though humanoid, the creature is in fact an advanced form of plant life; highly intelligent, independently mobile, capable of drawing nourishment from the soil, sunlight and – disturbingly – blood. The creature is extremely tough and robust, and does not appear to have any vital organs, unlike an animal organism. If frozen, it will revive as soon as the temperate rises to a reasonable level, and each part of the creature can grow into a separate entity given the right conditions and nutrients.

Like a zombie, space carrots only take damage from current Stamina, and have no wound boxes. When a space carrot reaches zero Stamina, it will be inactive for 1d10 minutes, after which it will be replenished to its full Stamina and will revive. If a character succeeds in doing damage to the corpse equal to its full Stamina while it is dormant, the creature is destroyed.

Space Carrot Powers

Desiccate: A space carrot may grasp an opponent with a successful attack and drain all of their blood and bodily fluids to leave a dried husk. The damage is resolved as for armed combat using column 5, and the space carrot uses 20 WPR. If a victim is drained to zero Stamina points, he dies instantly, becoming a fragile desiccated husk.


The space carrot is an extra-terrestrial life form, first encountered frozen in the ice after its spacecraft crashed near the North Pole in 1951. It appears to have evolved to feed on the blood of animal organisms and may have a parasitic component to its life-cycle. The creature produces seeds under its fingernails, which it may deposit within the bodies of its victims to germinate and grow into new space carrots.

No one knows what the species refer to themselves as. The facetious name “space carrot” came from the revelation that the creatures are plant life rather than animal life.

Space carrots are an intelligent alien species, capable of crafting and using high technology. They appear to have no interest in communicating or cooperating with humans and seem to regard all animal life as little more than food. The sole specimen so far encountered was likely injured and operating in a hostile environment. What a creature like this might be capable of in a temperate or even tropical environment is unknown.

Sources: The Thing from Another World (Movie, 1951)


Atomic Zombie, A Thing for Cryptworld

Atomic Zombie

STR: 6 (90) — WPR: NA
DEX: 3 (45) — PER: NA
AGL: 3 (45) — PCN: 3 (45)
STA: 6 (90) — PWR: NA
ATT: 1/68% — WND: 0*
MV: L 45†

* Like normal zombies, atomic zombies only take damage from current Stamina, and have no wound boxes.

Experience: 700


The form of undead known as the “Atomic Zombie” (or sometimes the “Radiant Dead”) is a recently dead corpse – usually human but sometimes animal – that has been exposed to certain low-level radioactive compounds and toxic chemicals that have re-activated portions of its nervous system. These creatures are virtually mindless, driven by a seeming desire to destroy all life that crosses their path. They are beings of rage and instinct, incapable of reasoning, seeking to use their unnatural strength to tear their victims apart.

Unlike many forms of zombie, the victims of an atomic zombie will not themselves rise as zombies, and so incidences of these creatures are easier to contain. However, the force that re-animates them has a lengthy half-life, and drives every part of the creature to destroy. Atomic zombies are not deactivated by the destruction of the brain, and even dismemberment will not stop their separated parts from attacking.

Atomic zombies can only be stopped by complete destruction (through flame, acid or electrocution), or by suppressing the radiation within them by using an inhibitor, like a control rod from a nuclear reactor. Zombies rendered inert through the latter method must be destroyed, as they will reactivate should the control rod be removed.

Like normal zombies, atomic zombies only take damage from current Stamina, and have no wound boxes. When an atomic zombie reaches zero Stamina, it will be inactive for 1d10 minutes, after which it will be replenished to its full Stamina and will revive. If a character succeeds in doing damage to the corpse equal to its full Stamina while it is dormant, the creature is destroyed.

Atomic zombies do not decay – their inner radiation kills off all putrefactive bacteria – and appear much as they did when their corpse was first exposed to radiation. Their skin takes on a slight silvery sheen in daylight and appears faintly luminous in the dark. Atomic zombies exposed to high degrees of radiation may cause burns to those they touch and may cause radiation sickness or cancer in those who are exposed to them for long periods.

Atomic zombies are capable of acts of superhuman strength and use this to tear their victims apart. If an atomic zombie succeeds in an Unskilled Hold (Cryptworld, p36), it can tear a limb clean off on its next action. Dismembered characters will bleed out or die of shock unless they receive immediate hospital treatment.

Sources: The Corpse of Charlie Rull (Short story, Joseph Payne Reynolds, 1959)


More Things for Cryptworld

So, I’ve been getting back into my game writing groove by posting monster write-ups for Goblinoid Games excellent re-boot of Pacesetter horror, Cryptworld. I’ve been reviewing some old movie and literary favourites and then attempting to write up the various creatures within as faithfully as possible. I’ve done seven so far, and I plan to keep going until I run out of inspiration., at which point I’ll probably bundle them together in a PDF as a free download.

The reason I’m posting this is to find out if anyone has any particular favourites they’d like me to tackle? Drop me a note in the comments with the creature and the name of the movie, book, video or whatever, and I’ll see what I can do. What I won’t be doing is conversions of monsters from other games, so please don’t ask for those unless you actually want me to use sarcasm.

Things already in the works are;

  • Haunted U-Boat
  • Space Vampires
  • Atomic Zombies
  • Brain Slugs
  • Murderbots

Contagious Metamorph, A Thing for Cryptworld

Contagious Metamorph

STR: 8 (120) — WPR: 8 (120)
DEX: 3 (45) — PER: NA
AGL: 4 (60) — PCN: 5 (75)
STA: 5 (75) — PWR: 130
ATT: 1/98% — WND: 15 MV: L 75†

Experience: 3000*

*Experience is awarded for eradicating the creature entirely. If all of the creature is not wiped out,no experience is granted. This thing could absorb the world, there are no half-measures.


“You see, what we’re talking about here is an organism that imitates other life forms, and imitates them perfectly. When this Thing attacked our dogs, it tried to digest them. Absorb them. And in the process, shape its own cells to imitate them. This, for instance, that’s not dog. That’s imitation. We got to it before it had time to finish.”

The contagious metamorph is a shape-shifter, capable of infecting and assimilating other life-forms. Once absorbed, the creature can reproduce the biological forms of its victims in any way it desires, becoming an exact duplicate, or a hideous amalgam of different physiologies according to its needs. Each cell of the creature is capable of infecting and subverting a host, eventually becoming another part of the creature as a whole. Further, the metamorph absorbs the memories and skills of its host, allowing it to flawlessly mimic them. While physically powerful, the metamorph prefers to operate by stealth, gradually assimilating a population until it has enough of an advantage to act openly. The creature is intelligent and cunning, and is fully capable of using (and building) advanced technology.

All parts of an contagious metamorph are effectively the same creature, sharing the same mind and memories. While not in telepathic contact with each other, all parts of the creature will automatically recognise each other, as well as those who are unknowingly infected. Each host retains its own memories and intelligence in order to maintain its charade.

Having absorbed a host and their memories and skills, the metamorph is virtually undetectable, and will only reveal itself if there is no choice. Metamorphs can be detected though blood tests, and through the use of the Sense Things paranormal talent. The Read Thoughts paranormal talent will only reveal the surface thoughts of the creatures “disguise”, as it uses their absorbed personality to further its pretence, and the creatures own thoughts are too alien to detect. If discovered, the creature immediately transforms and attacks in an attempt to infect those around it.

The cells of the metamorph are highly contagious, and even the briefest flesh to flesh contact carries a chance of infection, increasing dramatically if the victim has any open wounds. If direct contact is made with the creature, the victim must make a basic LUCK check to avoid infection (LUCK/2 if they have any open wounds or the creature does Armed Combat Damage). If they fail, they are infected, and will be completely assimilated by the creature in 1d10 hours minus 1 hour for each wound they have suffered, during which time they are unaware what is happening to them. Kindly CMs may rule that the infection may be purged from a victim before completion through the use of alien science, paranormal talents, electrocution, or magic (if it exists in your campaign). Once a character has been fully assimilated, they are dead, and their appearance and memories are just a mask for the creature to hide behind. They become an NPC under the control of the CM, though the CM may choose to take the player aside and explain what has happened, then allow them to continue to play the character and continue the cycle of infiltration and infection.

The creature prefers to infect by stealth, and will take steps to achieve this by contaminating food, water and medical supplies whenever possible. Consuming contaminated materials leads to immediate infection, as above, with complete assimilation in 1d10/2 hours.

As what is effectively a colony creature composed of robust cells, the metamorph is extremely difficult to kill. While it is affected by normal damage, every part of it must be destroyed to prevent it from surviving in some form. Attacks such as fire, ionising radiation, acid and electrocution will destroy the viability of the cells sufficiently that the creature cannot survive, but even then care must be taken that the metamorph has not secreted a small part of itself somewhere to allow it to continue. The metamorph is vulnerable to extremes of temperature, and cold conditions will slow down its cellular activity enough that the creature becomes dormant – a state in which it can survive for thousands of years.

The stats above apply to the creature regardless of its form. Until a host is fully assimilated, it uses the hosts stats. The creature can move at its full speed across any surface, including walls and ceilings.

Contagious Metamorph Powers

Absorb Flesh: The metamorph can use the tissue of other creatures it is touching to heal itself. This ability takes 1d10/2 rounds,and has a flat cost to the metamorph of 10 WPR. Absorbing the body of a creature will restore the metamorphs wound score to maximum. Once the tissue has been absorbed, the metamorph can assume its form. If the victim was alive, the metamorph will now possess all their memories, instincts and skills (and paranormal talents if they had any). If the victim was already dead, the metamorph can still take their shape, but will not have any of their memories, instincts, skills or paranormal talents (for example, it could absorb a dead bird, and take on its form, but would not know how to fly) and is detectable on a basic PCN check. The creature can only absorb tissue in this manner (i.e. flesh, bone, hair and nails). Clothing, dental fillings, prosthetics, jewellery and implants will be left behind and must be disposed of.

Colony Creature: Every part of the metamorph can become an independent creature in its own right. The metamorph can choose to separate parts of itself in order to escape or provide a new infection vector at a cost of 10 WPR per separation. This takes 1 round, and the metamorph will normally try to conceal wha it is doing. Separated parts are effectively new metamorphs, and share the same stats as the original though their initial wound score is only 25% (rounded up) of the original metamorph, but they can increase this by using the Absorb Flesh power. Typically, separated parts will attempt to either infect a new host or flee the area as fast as possible. Small amounts of cells (such as those contained within a blood sample) are too small to reason, and will instinctively flee any threat.

Merge: Different parts of the metamorph can merge together to create a larger form when necessary. Normally the creature will only do this under extreme threat as it cannot remain disguised in this form. When it does so, the basic stats of the creature remain the same. However the creatures Wound scores and Penetration Bonuses are added together, to reflect the robust nature of the combined form. Merging costs 10 WPR per creature.

Rapid Regeneration: The protean nature of the metamorph allows it to heal damage from any attack that does not destroy the cells (acid, heat/flame or radiation). The creature automatically heals at a rate of 1 wound per round, and can double this at will, for a cost of 10 WPR per round.

Unnatural Weapons: The metamorph can transform parts of its body at will; growing claws, tentacles, fangs or other natural weapons as required. This transformation takes 1 round, and costs the creature 1d10 WPR. Once transformed attacks by the creature do Armed Combat Damage, and incur a risk of metamorphic infection.


The contagious metamorph is an alien nightmare, a creature that hides within us, turning friend against friend and using our own fear and paranoia to defeat us. It is cunning, ruthless and dedicated to its own survival above all else. First encountered in Antartica in 1982, there have been no reports of the creature since, but others of its kind may lie dormant beneath the ice, waiting to be freed by global warming or the probing of unwary scientists. Worse, they may already be free in the biosphere, creeping unseen around the planet like an unsuspected disease, waiting until it has enough of mankind in its grasp before abandoning the charade. Some have speculated that the creature may be the reason we have yet to detect alien civilizations, and that it has infected every inhabited world we might reach. If this is true, then our future may be to become nothing more than a passing disguise for a sapient alien disease.

Sources: Who Goes There? (Novella, John W Campbell, 1938), The Thing (Movie, 1982), The Thing (Movie, 2011)

Writers Note: Use this Thing at your own risk! I’ve tried to be as faithful as possible to the source material. As written, it’s an almost certain TPK in a box, so don’t use it with characters your players are fond of. There’s a very good chance none of them will make it out alive, or uninfected. You have been warned!