The Eco-Post-Apocalypse That Wasn’t

Image found HERE

I was reading today about some of the dire predictions made around the time of the first Earth Day in 1970 about the world we would be living in today. Grim stuff … but not a bad premise for a post-apocalypse game that does not involve nuclear destruction, and one that escapes many of the norms for games of that type.

A few of the key predictions that we can use:

* Civilization will end in 30 years (i.e. by 2000)

* Between 1980 and 1989, 4 billion people will starve to death, including 65 million Americans | The world population in 1990 was 5.2 billion and America’s was 250 million. That would leave the U.S. with 185 million people in this alternate 1990, and the world with only 1.2 billion people. If we continued these death rates to 2000, we might be left with only 270 million people in the world, and 137 million of them in the United States! This is about as many people who lived in the U.S. in 1940.

* Pollution is so bad that people have to wear gas masks to survive. Nitrogen build-up in the atmosphere is bad enough that the world exists in perpetual twilight.

* New York and Los Angeles (and presumably other cities) become “smog disasters” by the 1980’s, killing hundreds of millions of people.

* Oxygen in rivers is used up by decaying life, killing off all fresh water fish.

* Life expectancy for Americans is only 42 years (I’d have died last year!)

* Earth has run out of crude oil, copper, lead, tin, zinc, gold and silver. | No new copper, silver or gold pieces!

* 75-80 percent of all animal species are extinct.

* A new ice age has begun.

So, what are we left with.

Civilizations as we know them have ended – Western Civilization, China, India, etc – all gone. Most of planet Earth is empty of human habitation and most animal habitation, the exception being the country formerly known as the United States of America. With crude oil gone, most internal combustion engines are useless, though presumably coal is still used and so some machinery could be in use … but … so many other materials have run out, that I’m not sure how useful they would be. Most people are probably hunter/gatherers, while “civilized” people live with Medieval, Renaissance or maybe early Victorian technology.

Food is universally scarce, which means that cannibalism probably exists everywhere. People don’t live very long. An ice age grips the earth, with glaciation pushing into the northern United States and Asia. An ice age also means increased desertification – the Sahara would expand, as would the Gobi desert, and the Great Plains are probably back to being a Great Desert. Most humans are going to live in the tropics and sub-tropics, which I guess means that those Americans who are still alive are concentrated in the Southeastern United States, where the climate is still rather cool. Fires burn almost constantly, because there’s so little light and so little warmth.

The old cities are ruins, having been cleared out by deadly smog. The poisons might still lurk, but the engines that created the pollution is now silent. Pollution will take the place of radiation here for the universal mutagen, because what’s the point of running post-apocalyptic fantasy if you don’t have mutations?

I’m envisioning scenarios of survival on the fringes of the sub-tropics – Mad Max-style nonsense, perhaps, or maybe bands of adventurers from what small civilizations still exist (could Atlanta be the largest human city on earth, with maybe a giant population of 25,000 people?) delve into the icy, poisonous ruins in the northern hemisphere in search of ancient knowledge and machinery. Perhaps we mix both – those explorers use armed vehicles that run on whatever small amounts of fuel are left to delve into the icy north.

Hopefully there are a few gameable ideas for people here. After I get Grit & Vigor published, I want to do an expansion book for post-apocalyptic gaming. I plan to include my Mutant Truckers of the Polyester Road idea, as well as Apocalypse 1898 … and now this one. I guess I need to get my butt in gear and finish up G&V.

Keep on Trucking!

A while back, I posted and then published a campaign idea and mini-game called Mutant Truckers of the Polyester Road. Illustrator Aaron Siddall is running a campaign based on that idea, and he has produced a nice map and character sheet to go along with it. Samples below, but proceed with all due haste to his website (CLICK HERE) to see more, and for all sorts of stuff related to Blood & Treasure (he’s done some nice work on doing something like Spelljammer with B&T) and Grit & Vigor (and I haven’t even published it yet!). Good stuff – well worth checking out.

Mutant armadillo / bullette – perfect for moonlight strolls through post-apocalyptic deserts

Way prettier than my map!

 

Never thought of using the madflap girls – how did I never think of using the mudflap girls?

Once I get Grit & Vigor out there, I want to do a post-Apocalypse supplement book that will hit on Mutant Truckers, No Mutant’s Land (WW1 that never ends, with weird chemicals subbing for radiation) and Apocalypse 1898 (my idea for a post-Mars invasion New York during the time of Tammany Hall and the notorious street gangs). Until then, check out Siddall’s stuff!

Star Apocalypse

Image by NASA via Wikipedia

The universe (or should that be Universe) is going to die someday. Well, maybe – I’m no physicist – I don’t even play one on TV. But let’s assume that all the stars in the sky will someday cool or collapse, and leave a universe very short on energy. All the star empires and rogue traders will be left to scavenge what they can from self-sufficient star bases and colonies, plundering once fertile planets that are now cold and almost lifeless, etc.

In other words – Star Apocalypse.

The idea here is to combine the two gaming genres of Traveler-style sci-fi and Gamma World-style post-apocalyptic gaming. The main point would not be the gathering of power, but of just keeping ahead of the cold, entropic embrace of Death. Every alien species and human star empire and god-like superbeing in the universe is dying, and the players are just trying to outlast them.

The best rules for such a campaign would probably sci-fi rules modified to allow for scarcity and the idea that the best and brightest are gone and those who remain maybe do not understand the technology they use quite as well as they should.

Where would the adventures take place? Isolated colonies (under glass domes, of course) and star bases eager for trade, but wary of strangers (think in terms of isolated towns in Westerns), ruins of ancient civilizations, and drifting hulks (as in spaceships) in deep space. The play would often be dungeon-style – exploring a physical space and battling monsters and traps, but the drivers would be the need for supplies – energy, fuel, food and water, replacement parts for the spaceship. Of course, there could also be a meta-driver – the belief that some super-scientist somewhere built a portal that allows one to leave the dying universe for a parallel universe that remains young and vital. This Shangri-la could be the overall focus of the campaign – something akin to Battlestar Galactica‘s plot of a caravan of spaceships seeking Earth.

Just a thought – and probably not an original one at that.

After Earth RPG

I got an email a few days ago from Jeremy Penter asking if I’d post about a game he and some other folks are working on called After Earth. Now, I’m always a bit squeamish about promoting things not directly tied into old school gaming on this blog – I don’t want to invoke eye-rolling from the core audience. On the other hand, plenty of folks out there have been nice enough to mention my nonsense and drive readers/customers to me, so I figure I should return the favor.

After Earth sounds like its a fantasy, post-apocalypse RPG that uses playing cards for task resolution. The Kickstarter page has some nice art on it as well as a bit more description of the rules and the game setting.

If you like post-apocalyptic settings, you might give this game a look-see.

Atom Age Tech for Space Princess

A couple devices from Atomic Annihilation for the Space Princess adventurer.

AEROCYCLE (DC 30)
If you need a super science vehicle to move you through the air while still leaving you vulnerable to ray guns, bullets and rocks, you can’t do better than the aerocycle. I mean, sometimes it’s about looking good, right?

The aerocycle can get you about 20 feet above the ground, max. and can lift two people at a time – for example a primitive swordsman and his space princess holding him tight.

Aerocycle: HD 3 | DEF 12 | SPEED Normal

RAD-SUIT (DC 15)
The rad-suit provides a +1 DEF and a +3 bonus on STR tests against radiation. It is a must for adventurers plumbing the depths of ancient fortresses that were once powered by primitive atomic piles.

After London, the RPG Campaign Book That Wasn’t

Having recently stuck my toe in the concept of a Victorian post-apocalyptic game (Apocalypse 1898, to be precise), several folks pointed me towards a few 19th century tomes about such a world. One was called After London, by Richard Jeffries. Written in 1885, this is the book that should have been in Appendix N but wasn’t (at least, I don’t think it was there).

The book is set after much of the population of England has, for some reason (it is never explained, though the narrator posits some notion of a comet being involved and then discounts it), moved on. Over the centuries, England (and perhaps the entire world) has fallen back to a level of Medieval technology and society. The first chapters read like a campaign setting – describing how the villages and towns and fields went back to the wilderness, and how the dissolution of London itself created a stinking, deadly morass. The fall of London’s bridges and the build-up of wreckage carried by the Thames has flooded the heart of England, creating a great lake around which much of the English population dwells. They are beset by the warlike Irish (in their ships) and Cymru, fear that the Scots will one day invade, and have to deal with the savage bushmen (descended from the criminal classes) and wandering Gypsy tribes. Jeffries also covers domestic animals going wild. There is no supernatural or paranormal element here – no magic, no mutations, no steampunk – just the world they knew disappearing and a new, more primitive world rising in its place.

After the “campaign setting” is discussed, we get into the story of Felix. For our purposes, Felix is a 1st level fighting-man who hasn’t enough wealth to marry his dream girl, Aurora. Like any other good PC, he decides to go out into the wilderness – in this case out on the Lake in a canoe – and score some treasure (and XP, of course). His journey has a few hang-ups and a few dangers – he gets to see “modern” warfare first hand (and is unimpressed), ventures into the stinking ruins of London, and finally finds some friends in the wilderness. Does he ever return to Aurora? Who knows – Jeffries ended the story in what lots of folks would consider the middle. And maybe, for the old school crowd, this is the best way it could have ended. One adventure over, others on the way.

Should RPG fans read After London? Absolutely. Although it describes a world more akin to Glorantha than Greyhawk, it does a fine job of making that world real and does an equally good job of describing what needs to be described to “run the game”. It also has a score of ideas that can be used when running a medieval campaign, especially the importance of status and the very frightening plight of people without it, who can be seized under any pretense, stripped of their wealth, and made a slave. Felix despises this world, but also knows enough that he cannot change it and has to work within it if he ever wants to wed his lady love.

About the only thing I missed in After London – and possibly only because I was reading a version from Project Gutenberg on a Kindle – was a map of future Britain. I was sorely tempted while reading to produce a hex map of the future isle … and maybe if I get enough goading, I’ll actually do it.

For the Apocalypse Lover in You

Two links for the Mutant Futurists amongst you …

NUKEMAP

What would happen if your hometown was hit by an atomic bomb (or ICBM, if you prefer)? This is the site to find out. Pick the place and pick the yield, and let GoogleMaps do the rest. Also useful for dirty bomb-using terrorists in an Action X or Mystery Men! game.

Would have been very handy when I was doing Mutant Truckers.

ATOMIC ANNIHILATION

This blog is all about images from the atomic age – lots of good material here. In particular, Mutant Futurists might like the plans to the missile base!

I’ve already found a few images there that will come in very handy when I produce Action X – in fact, some of the public domain finds I’ve acquired recently should make that a pretty groovy little product. Expect some previews in the coming months …

RETRO FUTURE APOCALYPSE

Most post-atomic war apocalypse games assume a higher level of technology from the ruined civilization of the past. How many use the wondrous technologies of the “retro-future” I wonder? Here are some images to inspire you, from an article at UltraSwank.

And check out this public domain film while you’re at it …

http://www.archive.org/embed/isforAto1953

Apocalypse 1898 – Introduction

Here’s a quick introduction to the Apocalypse 1898 setting …

It has been almost a decade since the civilizations of man were laid low by the invaders, and man’s dominion over much of the Earth was brought to a close. The invaders came not like a natural disaster, blind and deaf, to the planet, but with a cold, calculating intelligence. They knew what to destroy and how to destroy it. They knew how to win, and they did win.

But victory does not mean survival. Though they cast mankind’s progress back 500 years, the invaders did not survive to enjoy their victory. Now, the remnants of human civilization struggles to reclaim its former glory. This is no easy task though. Mankind’s factories were largely destroyed and their rail systems uprooted. Canals, rivers and seashores are clogged with the red weed of the invaders, making travel by boat exceedingly difficult and slow.

The 10 or 20 percent of humanity that survived the apocalypse from Mars operate with Medieval technology amid the ruins of a much more advanced civilization, one of steam, gas light and telegraph. Many people dwell in small, fortified villages, trembling in the night at the sound of the wolves at their door. A surprising number of people, however, still eke out an existence in the urban ruins.

In New York, once one of the world’s mightiest cities, the boroughs are now ruled as baronies by ruthless political machines and criminal gangs that hold power with fear and violence (well, maybe things haven’t changed much after all). In the rubble clogged streets and amid the crumbling edifices of the Gilded Age, men and women struggle for daily survival while plunging into subterranean vaults in search of their own lost marvels and technological wonders left behind by the invaders. With these tools, brave men and women can forge a new civilization on the ruins of the old.

Welcome to Apocalypse 1898.

Apocalypse 1898 attempts to combine two popular adventure tropes: the Victorian era and its wondrous scientific romances and the concept of the post-apocalyptic world, where man has lost his tools and must live again as an animal. The notion of a Victorian apocalypse is not new, the genre having been invented by the Victorians themselves. Apocalypse 1898 focuses in particular on the ruins of New York that were left behind after the infamous invasion by Mars written about in H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds.

Apocalypse 1898 is a role playing game, in which a band of players take on the rolls of people attempting to survive and thrive in the post-apocalyptic New York of 1898. One player is the Referee, and he or she runs the adventures and adjudicates the rules when necessary. The game is primarily played with pencils, paper and a complete set of dice, including the traditional six-sided dice most often found in games as well as dice with four, eight, ten, twelve and twenty sides. A healthy dose of imagination is also required to bring the setting and the struggles of the characters to life.

This book explains the rules of play and describes the setting of New York in more detail. It also offers advice for the Referee in terms of running the game and writing adventures for the players.

After you have read the rules, gather your players, elect your Referee, grab some paper, pencils and dice and begin your exploration of Apocalypse 1898!

Image from OBI Scrapbook Blog – by Albert Robida, illustrating a European family going downtown to dine in a series of caricatures about war in the 20th century.

Apocalypse 1898 – I’m No Fool

Wow – within a day my last post becomes one of my most popular posts ever. I’m no fool, so it’s time to milk this a bit.

Apocalypse 1898 is the working title. Good / Bad / Whaddya think?

I’ll use a variation on Target 10 for the basic rules.

Here is my outline so far:

Ability Scores
Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, Charisma; roll 3d6 for each to determine the score (will run from 1 to 9).

Each ability score is tied to several “skills”. For each ability, based on your score, you get to pick a number of these skills as “class skills” so to speak (i.e. you add your character’s skill bonus and ability score to them when your testing them, as opposed to just adding your ability score.

Score / No. of Skills
1-3 / choose one skill
4-5 / choose two skills
6-9 / choose three skills

In addition, you choose one additional skill from your highest ability category as your specialty (an additional +3 to tests)

Skills

Strength: Pugilism, swordplay, resist disease, resist poison, resist pain and exhaustion, wrestling, breaking and bending, leaping, climbing, swimming

Dexterity: Archery, throwing, gunplay, legerdemain, duck and cover, lock picking, riding, creep silently, lurk in shadows

Intelligence: Scholarship, decipher codes and languages, invent device, concoct formula, appraise value, discover clue, survival, pilot ship, occult knowledge

Charisma: Size up opposition, play instrument, sing and dance, command, charm, suggest, resist domination, trickery

Roll 1d20, add bonuses – penalties – try to meet or beat a 10 (i.e. Target 10)

Difficulties impose a -3 penalty (cumulative) on a roll – determined by Ref, but I’d give some examples

Other Stats /Abilities
Hit Points: 1d6 per point of Strength (+3 for specialization with any combat-oriented skill)
Equipment: One roll on random equipment chart per point of Charisma
Armor Class: 5 + Dex + armor bonus
Languages: One per point of Intelligence (or 2 slots to become literate in a language)

Levels
You can start at one of three “levels”

Novice: Has a skill bonus of +3 and 3 luck points
Veteran: Has a skill bonus of +6 and 1 luck point
Master: Has a skill bonus of +9 and 0 luck points

As always in Target 10, luck points are used to get automatic successes on rolls, or impose automatic failures on your opponents. You can also trade them for things like extra equipment

Species
This may change as I delve into the period literature, but for now …

Human: Gets 1 extra luck point
Freak: Get one mutation (see below)
Invader: Str -2, Int +2; gets “resist disease” as a bonus skill

Mutations
The mutations are going to be inspired more by PT Barnum’s freak show than by what you find in most mutant games. Things like bestial appearance, horrific appearance, gigantism, pinhead, etc. No death rays. All of them would have a boon and a drawback attached to them.

Occultism
You can work magic with this skill, but you must take it as a specialty.

There would be a list of magical operations with a Difficulty Class (DC) for each – like the psychic abilities in Space Princess. Maybe you would be required to have training in one to use it – perhaps you have as many “spells” as you have points of skill.

Character Packages
I’d probably include some sample character packages – if nothing else for use as quick NPCs. All of them would assume a “4” in three ability scores and a “6” in the fourth

Adventurer/Adventuress – explorers, doers of great deeds – Nellie Bly comes to mind

Gentleman/Lady – the gentry, educated and charming
Athlete – John L Sullivan comes to mind
Doctor
Soldier
Sailor
Gangster
Cowboy – Teddy Roosevelt, Buffalo Bill
Investigator
Magician – Madame Blavatsky
Priest
Inventor – Tesla, Edison

An example might be …

Cowboy (Veteran)
   STR 4: Pugilism (10), Wrestling (10)
   DEX 6: Duck & Cover (12), Gunplay (12), Riding* (15)
   INT 4: Discover Clue (10), Survival (10)
   CHA 4: Play Instrument (Guitar or Harmonica) (10), Resist Domination (10)

Gangster (Veteran)
   STR 4: Climbing (10), Pugilism (10)
   DEX 6: Creep Silently (12), Legerdemain (12), Lurk in Shadows* (15)
   INT 4: Appraise Value (10), Survival (10)
   CHA 4: Resist Domination (10), Trickery (10)

Monsters
This would probably be restricted to a few giant versions of animals – giant rats, giant spiders. Would replace Novice/Veteran/Master with Small/Medium/Large and otherwise use the same ability scores and a bunch of skills (common sense here, not using the same rules as character creation), with some special abilities added in where necessary.

Setting
The setting is New York. The game would describe the different boroughs and neighborhoods in the post-invasion setting. The main goal would be survival – food and water, not being beaten and robbed – as in “Warriors … Come hither and play!” type stuff. Of course, build up a reputation, a small army, some Invader weaponry and maybe you can knock down the doors of Tammany Hall and start running the joint.

To Verne or Not To Verne – That is the Question
The comments on the last post suggest people want some full scale Victorian Jules Verne sci-fi in this game. I’m not opposed to it, but it may occupy a separate chapter so people can either play a grim and gritty (though slightly tongue-in-cheek) romp through Victorian post-apocalyptic New York City, and others can include various sci-fi modules to make the game more in the steampunk vein.

Otherwise, the only “scientific romance” elements are going to be the surviving invaders and their weapons, and the supernatural abilities (which could be included as an add-on module as well, since some might prefer not to play Cabalists and Cowboys).

Inspirational Nonsense = Victorian Post-Apocalyptic RPG

I was checking out Yesterday’s Papers today and they had several scans from American comic weeklies – essentially illustrated newspapers. This particular image caught my eye:

A nice mash-up of Victoriana and Medieval armor and weapons. Perhaps we’re looking at a Victorian Post-Apocalypse in New York City – Escape from New York meets Gangs of New York meets The Age of Innocence (Lord, now I sound like a Hollywood producer pitching a movie).

What would be the foundation of a Victorian Apocalypse? Perhaps an early ice age? Or better yet – an invasion from Mars (i.e. H.G. Wells’ martians from War of the Worlds)! Yes – I can see it now. The Invaders come, deliver terrible destruction, and then mostly die off, leaving the world in tatters. Food supplies are choked off by the Martian weed (the same stuff they lived on on Barsoom until the coming of the Invaders to that planet and the final destruction of the native Barsoomian civilizations), and now people live like barbarians amid the shattered remnants of the Gilded Age.

Imagine – Steam-driven privateers in NY harbor, gang leaders and Tammany Hall fight over control of the buroughs and seek out the canisters of Black Smoke left by the Invaders, occultists (from demon summoning Golden Dawn-ers to golem-making esoteric rabbis to your run-of-the-mill fortune tellers) as powers behind the throne, people mutated by the Martian weaponry and the strange radiations they brought with them (since it’s the 19th century, maybe we’ll call them freaks instead of mutants), Tesla cobbling together wonders from scavenged Martian technology (this could be an era where the surviving Victorians go straight from steam to atomic power – locomotives to the space age in one giant leap), etc.

I could also profile such heroes of the age as cowboy Teddy Roosevelt, adventuress Nellie Bly and inventor Nicola Tesla (and Lord, what kind of secret empire would Edison control?).

I’ll slate this project for a late 2013 release. Should be fun!