Character Tumbler for the Anomalous Subsurface Environment

During the Lulu 40% Off Fall Madness sale, I picked up Patrick Wetmore’s Anomalous Subsurface Environment, a megadungeon sleeper-hit getting rave remarks in every review I’ve read (the notoriously harsh critic Bryce Lynch, of tenfootpole, called it “an absolutely amazing setting and a wonderful dungeoncrawl. It hits all of the points I’m looking for: evocative & terse descriptions, imaginative settings, tricks & traps, new monsters, great multi-path maps, ‘naturalism’, factions, vermin. I could go on and on.”)

The critics are entirely right. If you buy one OSR product, buy this one. Buy it ahead of Stonehell, even, or Swords & Wizardry. I laugh out loud reading ASE. I laugh like the first time I read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It’s all amazingly fresh, astoundingly creative. Go. Buy. This. Book.

To match my words to deeds, I decided to rewrite my character tumbler for Basic Fantasy for ASE (and for Basic D&D). The layout is the same, but the professions are all fresh and are, dare I say it, cleverer and more likely to produce amusing gameplay. I also took the liberty of crafting logos and slogans for the two pre-apocalyptic corporations that (SPOILER) unearthed the Anomalous Subsurface Environment—check all this out after the jump.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, a character tumbler (or funnel, as the genius inventors at DCC RPG call it) starts each player off with four sadsack 0-Level characters who are forced into a dungeon. Each has -100 XP, and most will die quickly. But those who survive to 1 XP attain Level 1, and become full-fledged PCs. For a fuller explanation of why character tumblers are awesome, see my Basic Fantasy version.

I ran this ASE Tumbler last night, with my three doughty players and their twelve Oligarchs, Moktars, Beggars, etc. taking on the Moktar Lair mini-adventure from ASE1, and the first half of the gatehouse. We all had a riotously good time, though my players are cleverer than I’d hoped: Only 4 out of 12 have perished so far.

The Moktar lair makes a decent character funnel, though your players will need to be quite clever to penetrate its depths. Mine were lucky enough to have an actual Moktar PC, who negotiated and bullshitted well enough to persuade the other Moktars to release the merchant (a certain amount of leverage was provided by the butchering of two Moktar guards just outside the mouth of their den). The players went on to murder Terry & Phil, and barter their way through the western end of the Gatehouse. Well done, gentlemen!

Even if you’re not running ASE, this character tumbler ought to fit in well in any other gonzo/science-fantasy game—while I’ve tried to evoke the flavor of ASE as much as possible, there’s precious little material that’s exclusive to it. You could also just use the Professions table to generate random NPCs (although ASE includes a massive number of fantastic NPC tables already, so why do you need this one?).


ASE Character Tumbler: The character tumbler, in standard PDF.

ASE Character Tumbler: The same character tumbler, in convenient booklet format.

Image Credits
“Four Races” by Brian “Glad” Thomas, ASE2–3, p. 9
“Dynamt Logo” by me
“IMES Logo” by me