Dead... and Back is a survival horror Role Playing Game. The Anarchy Zones is its official setting - aliens, reanimates, and the ruins of 2055 America.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Last Post of 2010

Thank You everyone who has read this blog.

2010 hasn't been such a good year for me. It was supposed to begin with some oral surgery to remove broken wisdom teeth, which then got delayed until April. Both my parents have received bad news about their employment status,  and my dad had surgery. A much beloved Aunt died, as did a cat that has been in the family for 18 years. Opportunities to role-play or test my games were all but non-existent, and projects that I hoped to work on remain undone.

This electronic document, and the fact that I've been able to mostly keep to schedule with nearly eighty posts stands out as one of the highlights of the year.

So what do I want for this game in 2011?
  • I want to make the branching choice about what the next edition should be like
    • 1.5 simply means cleaning up what is already present.
    • 2.0 is a more thorough overhaul more thoroughly, including the 1-7 stats with two aim attributes I've discussed before.
    • Chapter names will become more thematic: "Rise, Move, Attack, Evolve, Reflect, Analise, Archive" - the last four being room for optional rules, in setting info, encyclopedic facts, and GM tools like adventures and NPCs.
  • In either case, I must begin to prioritize to figure out how much must really be in the book. 
  • A more finalized version of the supplement will become available.
  • The search for an artist must begin as this should go beyond just text to a publishable work.
  • Hopefully comments and traffic on this site will increase, and the feedback can drive further creativity.
Hopefully, some of my other projects neglected in the wake of D&B should see the light of day again:
  • Dead EISS anime war game
  • Mosquito Fleet educational game about PT operations in WWII
  • Edge Knights medieval cyberpunk
  • Six Gun - a reconstruction era wild west game
  • Of G-Men and Supermen needs a supplement
  • Gangland Triage - the expanded and complete edition of my old Gangland Rules
  • Emperor's Edict - an indie style game about being the thought police.
  • 24 hour RPG projects
  • A game that fits in a CD case about spies working undercover as a rock band and its roadies.
May you new year be filled with intriguing projects, joy, and chances to play games around the table with friends.

And don't let the zombies bite you.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Back at the Radio Station

"How are the repairs going?"
"Not so well Mr. Hobbes."
"You're being formal. You're never formal unless your angry. What did I do and how do I apologize?"
"Am I supposed to just accept that you invited a bunch of aliens to our studio? Its not a bunker, its not even good quality plywood for the most part! The most important part of our safety is that no one knows where it is!"
"Its a civil defense shack surrounded by a fence, next to a highway, with a 46 meter tall antenna topped with airplane warning lights and the only structure aside from that gas station in fifty something miles of flat plains. We're not exactly hidden."
"Still far enough out no one comes here unless they've got business."
"You still have something against the aliens, don't you? We've done multiple interviews, and they've been quite genial about it."
"Sooner or later, people are going to want to do something about them. having a radio network wouldn't hurt - as would not displaying overt sympathies."
"It'll be a long time until that's much of a factor. Besides, if they've got com units to keep in touch with the ships orbiting the moon, they can certainly triangulate one of the few high powered transmitters in the Rockies."
"I know that on the balance our fellow human beings are a bigger threat than the reanimates and citizens both. "I just don't like people who won't speak to you face to face. My father never had actual encounters it was always a courier, intermediary ... or hit man... "
"Yeah, I check some historical archives for Mexico - so your really related to that De Zufingia...?"
"This conversation ENDS NOW. Wait - so you hear - what the hell is that shreik?"
"Aircraft engines - outside and close."

Diego and Thomas rushed outside, just in time to see a large cargo jet touch down on the highway and break hard. Two engines glowed on either side of the high T-tail, and two more hung from supports on the wing. It didn't match any transport operated in the US and if the marks on the tail were an ID number - they weren't Arabic numerals.

"It seems our visitors have arrived Tom."

The rear loading ramp dropped to the ground, and an Incubus armor stepped out, followed by a truck sized cargo container, and then two more pushing the over-sized dolly.
"Good AftERnoon gentlemen. We bring you gifts."
"Well, um, thank-you. Normally its the broadcasters who reward guests for appearing on the show..."
"We found some other transMITters in ill repAir, and thought they could be set up as repEAters to extend your range."
"I couldn't be happier to receive new equipment" Diego started, "but the fact is we're at a power deficit already. We only broadcast from eight to eight any given day so the batteries have time to charge. There is no local power grid to run anything much in the way of ancillary equipment."
"We can PROvide the needed enERgy.  It will just take a little longER to set up.
"Moving from my sound-man's technical objections, I must ask if there is something you want in return - why the sudden philanthropy? I was under the impression you were skirting regs already."
The armor gave the alien shrug sign - "skirt regs?"
"You were breaking the rules or close too it."
"Not sanctioned, but no rule against it."
"And there is still no rule against supplying us this equipment?"
"If a citizen remains here with you it is a field study and transMISsion experimENt dealing with human techNOlogies, and thus officially encouraged and paid for with group funds." 
"Well, if nothing else - that kind of politics proves we have more in common than than anyone realizes."
"Interesting point, Diego - but are you not going to object?"
"Can we have one on those E-cady things?"
"EE-KAI-EYE-DEE. And no. It would not fit a human. OF course for the citizen who remains here it would be fitting protection..."
"You were just talking about how poorly protected this place is you know..."
"This can't be a good idea."
"That isn't a no."
"Can I think about it?"

"This is SING-SING with the Morning Swing! We've got some big bands to start your day! Later we'll have contemporary music, and for for lunch you can chew on some academic discussion of nano-batteries and the types of power-cells. This is 104.3 WJMK - live from the wasteland!"
"You know - that thing is surprisingly good at this - though might it have picked a better name?"
"Its actual name is a musical chord whistled at a pitch that shorts out speakers - I'd say this is a pretty good compromise."
"OK, but I'm not going to lower everything to half height for it."

Monday, December 27, 2010

Welcome to Tesla 1

15:03 Current Time
Ah welcome, welcome! Can I get you a cup of coffee?

Those bewildered stares, the incredulous responses, the patent certainty that there is no fresh coffee to be had on this continent since trade with Brazil, Columbia, and Myanmar stopped. Elsewhere, city state and anarchy zone, that may be true. But its also true you probably meet a lesser caliber of person there. But here in Tesla - we have the will! That is what it is all about!

We live in an underground man made cave system that is fully controlled in humidity, temperature, and lighting. If we want to make a tropical room to grow coffee tree in - we can do it. With the will, we could make the same set up in Antarctica, or on the moon! I'm sure the Mars colonies have made their own coffee supply - or committed suicide by now. With the desire to see something, and the desire to see it through, anything is possible.

Ha, ha - NO. Money and resources are not necessarily impediments. If anything - they're an abstract measure of will - how much currency you're willing to acquire to make it happen, how many people you're willing to negotiate with. In theory, with enough will, you could acquire all the material you need for free - by force of rhetoric or arms. Tesla is a society of people who want to see things get done!

You're sadly predictable you know. I keep hoping someone is going to avoid asking that question, about how do you govern a bunch of strong willed anarchists, and while not always, I'm usually disappointed.

Simply put - you don't. Really - what the hell is government? Some guy who makes lies and promises about the old values and lowering taxes, and keeping out foreigners pandering to his base, and then stuck on a committee making choices about farm-subsidies when he's never handled a bag of fertilizer and deciding standards of elementary school education without any knowledge of childhood developmental psychology. There might be a few who aren't corrupt soulless monsters, but nine times out of ten, they're making rules for a game they don't play.

In Tesla, we have savants. We're all connected to the sphere augmented reality system, we can all receive real-time updates and vote. And all the debates are lead by people who are actually competent in the area up for discussion. Want better farms - talk to a farmer, not the defense industry puppet.

Right -there you go - a combination of meritocracy and direct democracy assisted by a computerized hive mind. Well, not hive mind yet. Soon maybe.

Yeah - I liked that TV show too, but for all its forward thinking, there's a bit of sour gapes in there too. Humans aren't immortal, but hey - immorality sucks so its fine. How would the writers know if they haven't tried it? If you only watched all the movies that came out each year, you'd probably kill a few decades without getting too board, and all the languages to learn, beautiful sights to see, the advance of society as it goes on... Just think of how much the world changed in the 20th century alone.

We're a little more grounded than immortality of course. But that doesn't mean we can't make lives longer and free of pain. Why force a woman to carry a defective parasite for nine months and spend years caring for it, when we can use nanotech to modify its genome and grow it in an artificial womb? You're not a parent if you don't want whats best for your child, and who wants the kid to be autistic, or asthmatic...

Here we go - the usual revulsion about us playing god, about ignoring ethical constraints and old international laws. Its not even worth the waste of breath to explain. Walk around for an hour. Anywhere you want. See if we're a bunch of crazy mad scientists for yourself. GO! Go - shoo!


So we meet again mister... what was your name again? Right, right. Enjoy your walk? What did you see?

Yep - too be expected. Everyone is quite generous. Can you have theft if nothing is owned, and if its just a matter of desire to acquire, then acquiring again is simply needing the same desire. We realize there are limits to resources and thermodynamics but was anyone a right bastard - besides Charlie? Didn't meet him? Well, you didn't miss too much.

The people are nice, we have a common goal such as it is, we just don't feel the need to have a centralized government or stick to certain two thousand year old edicts.

Naughty, naughty outsiders. Always seem to notice that. As I said before, we can control temperature to the point of growing coffee in in the Northern US seventy five meters underground. There is no weather unless we say so, and in turn, clothes are more a convenience than a necessity. Obviously, most of us don't indulge in that freedom - but if you're so afraid of your own skin that you can't see if uncovered, how can you have the bravery to face tomorrow?

If you're still intrigued, I can set you up with a coffin and you can stay a while.

Yes, I said coffin. Do you really need ten or fifteen cubic meters of space to lie down and go comatose for eight hours? A little alcove two and a half meters long, one and a half wide, and about that tall will suffice, put a few personal items in a nearby locker and its all good. Saves space for more important functions around the arco too.

I've got some work to do, and you're eating into my flex time to finish it - so find another guid for a bit, or mediate in one of the halls, and we'll meet again in Indigo seven...

Thats the second big dining hall.

No, that's the meeting room. Go around the spiral clockwise inward two levels...

Screw it, just make your way to the entrance about six and someone will lead you down.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Welcome to New Birmingham 2

Sorry about the abundance of vegetables and lack of pie. As you imagine, the meats and the treats disappear pretty quickly. We can still stop by my place for some warm cider and vittles if you want. No, I'm afraid we don't have any coffee or tea - they just don't grow in this climate. I'm sure the only ones happy with this lack of caffeine are the Mormons, and even they must miss it a little.

Are you sure you don't want anything? I mean you really don't have to act like the place is on fire and you must leave now. Southern hospitality is still alive you know. This is a good place...

Hey - keep your voice down! And watch your language - people are rather touchy about that around here. And especially in reference to That! We don't talk about that program in polite company! At  least not here. I'm not too comfortable with it either - if you insist we'll talk about the reanaimate troopers later, and in doors. Please, don't make a scene right now - you're lible to get asked to leave after another outburst like that. A crowds forming - lets duck into this shop.

Yes, this is a tobacconist's shop. Some of the residents who live here are surprised we have one too. Officially, New Birmingham outlaws just about every addiction - alcohol, gambling, pornography, marijuana, the only thing you can get high on here is the love of Jesus. However, we still need to trade to get some of what we need, and frankly many of the outside scavengers want worldly pleasures and demon rum. At least the alcohol production can be used for cleaning and powering engines. This shop is mostly here because its enclosed and has that certain feel to it - better than selling them in the open at the actual bazaar.

No, it is not okay to talk about it now - please, just drop the subject. I'm sorry that you ran across a couple of them. Wasn't my idea, I don't know whose it is. I guess god gave us the ability to tame them for some higher purpose. Do you have questions about anything else - please?

I've heard that name before, but I've never understood why they pronounce it so oddly. Abraham is not that odd, its in the bible... Advanced Biological Emergency Research Hospital and Active Medicine Facility - abER-Ham. Oh. I guess that does make sense now. But what is active medicine isn't all treatment an activity? ... Oh that nano stuff. I've never been quite comfortable with being injected with bags full of pink goo. How does that stuff work, and how do they know its safe? Ther've been alchemists and doctors for century, but there's no way to know the long term effects of the nano stuff. Besides, it was endorsed and supplied by a government that also endorsed abortion and gays and gambling and... No, I don't know anything about that place, and if that is where the robot goo come from, I don't want to know anything more.

Yes, I did mention we need to defend the women earlier - that's what the bible says too after-all. I mean, they aren't disallowed from learning to use a gun but that isn't why they're here. We need the man -er person-power so female soldiers and police officers are kind of "grandfathered in" but we aren't training more of them. Obviously, some object to that policy, but um, I don't really have an opinion on that, I try to stay out of those debates. They get rather loud.

Look, you can call our policies backwards - some of us can even agree with you. But an outsider just does not come into our fold and then start critiquing. Its not good manners, and its not going to make you any friends. I think we might best part company for a while before things get ugly. I'll meet you again at the bazaar after we've both had a chance to cool down.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Welcome to New Birmingham 1

A quick aside - I've finally gotten around to updating some of the information pages! Getting the stores and rules ideas done have been of rather higher priority, and most of these elments are introduce in the PDFs, but that is really no excuse for not giving new comers more background about what has been happening in the world of Dead and Back.

13:10 Local Time
Hello brother scavenger! Do you feel well today - it looks like your packs are full. Please, please - my hands are open! I mean you no harm! I'm sure you've had some unfortunate encounters in the past judging from your response - but I propose something far more mutually beneficial. I happen to be scout for Galilee.

Yes, I understand your suspicion about not seeing anywhere with that name on a local map. We have had slightly more pressing things to do than update the old street signs mind you. But I assure you its a real place. All the enclaves of New Birmingham are name for sites in the holey land. Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth, Jericho, Mount Tabor, Hevron... um... Tel Aviv - no thats a modern city... there are currently fourteen at any rate, even if my memory fails me on all the names.

My comrades have a vehicle, and if you like, you may accompany us back. A chance to get off your feet, sell your finds in a civilized place, and stock up on new supplies. At the very least have a good supper - my wife makes wonderful chicken and dumplings and pies one would almost sin for.

Not such a long trip, was it? But there you go, the double gates of Galilee. Yes, you're not the first to have likened those double chain liken fences with barbed wire on top to those dreadful pictures of camps and prisons of wars past. But really - they look like freedom to me - if you don't focus on the links you can still see through them - we're not cowering on the upper levels of some old building or hiding in welded together shipping containers. This enclave alone is about eight city blocks that one can walk about freely. Provided you're not carrying a rifle anyway- you're going to have to turn in that long arm at the guard house between the fences. 

You may continue to keep that pistol, though. Its your right, nay - duty -  after all as an adult male to cary arms to protect the women and children. The unfortunate rifle limits is simply because we don't like the risk of something over-penetrating a wall and putting others at risk. If there is a need, you'll get it right back - or even one of ours. All the churches act as a second line of defense with their own gates and stocks of supplies should the outer fences be breached. God protects the prepared faithful and the faithfully prepared.

As you can see, we still have our own homes and shop lined streets. Over there is the main park - we're a little late for the usual pot-luck luncheon, but it takes a while to clean up after-wards, so there should still be some leftovers to tide us over. Ah look - Father Bartholomew and Mayor Swan are still there - come, let us give them a kindly hello. Bartholomew is one of the pastors in this enclave, and local leader of the Council of Inquiry - the local internal enforcement of peace and righteousness, while  The Sheppard's Hand is our general military and what I'm subordinate too. I'm sure he won't mind delivering a short benediction over the food again before we eat - he is one of the nicer Inquisitors I've met - they do have quite the important job and its all to easy to become a little short tempered from the strain.

How can you find it odd that we have such a service? Don't you think a bit of religion is what this world of gangs fighting over scraps and walking abominations needs? I, I admit that sometimes they are a little overly intrusive - or a lot overly intrusive.  I wasn't too religious before the event. But the chance of aliens showing up is trillions to one, and the dead walking - only god has that power. I don't think Jesus is going to show up in another two years leading an army of angels. But these times - they do seem to stretch beyond human hands. This is a test of some sort - one of faith, or at least one where faith will help see you through.

But please, please - don't tell the father I said that. He is nice, but some of his underlings are less understanding, and it is his job to pass on such conversations...

Monday, December 20, 2010

Welcome to the Strip 3

It is a bit of a hassle getting a room - the city can only hold so much transient population at a time, and if we want to keep things constitutional, we can't just force the residents to give us some space. So several of the big hotels are taken over entirely by soldiers, and another is split based on service, and then there are always a few scattered every where else to be posted near their emergency deployment areas. Its possible to get a room, even a very nice one - though a good number are still set aside for big-wigs, generals, and for rewards given to people who bring in a big haul. As I hinted before - bring a cattle drive here, and you could get a tower suite pemamently. Course, its been how many years since anyone's seen a cow?

OK, here we are - 527 - thumb your biometric please - and we're in. So much more convenient than those old key cards, right? Lights! Lights? Not set up for verbal commands - shouldn't be surprised. That window looks over a parking lot if your luck, but what do you expect for free?

Ignoring the lack of modern technology - its a hotel room. About the fanciest thing here is the low water use bidet and that is mostly here because we don't have a forest to clear cut for TP. The shower is on a timer, and you basically need to pay for that - in case you haven't noticed, we're a city in a desert. As per usual - the entire wall facing the bed is a media screen backed by flat panel directional phased speakers so no one else has to hear it. I doubt the channel selections anything of note, and the interface dongle for your personal computer is by the alarm-clock radio.

Aside from the fact you're staying here alone and haven't had a chance to add some personality to the room, this is pretty much how all the troops in Vegas camp.

Its already past curfew, and while rank has its privileges, you're not worth abusing them over. Sorry to break it to ya kid.I'll have one of my troopers pick you up around breakfast. Sleep well now.

Yew da one Hardcastle is lookn fer? Good, we gotta see im soon as yer done. What yew gots der anyways? Goat cheese, bell peppers, fresh bread - add two shots and dat'll be the standart strip breakfast right dere. Pretty standart in Isreal too - though it tasted better over der. Back wen der was still coffeh - we all miss dat. Surprising how few things in dese united states contain caffeine naturally - and soda just don taste rite widout it. Yewd dink specially out in the desert an xanthine alkaloid pesticide wud be a good way to safeguard precious wader from insects. Ilex vomitoria grows much fader East den here.

What? I'm on da intelegence staff, not sum ignint grunt.

Anyhew, dis is bout where Hardcastle would say sometin like "We can't stay here, this is bat country!" an try to hurry yew on up. If yewd be so kind, we do have dings to do.

That boy's accent is so thick you can cut it with a knife, but he's a good one. Just don't get his started on horticulture - he'll talk your ears off on anything doing with botany. He's braved ebola, malaria, and a few other diseases we only discovered ten, fifteen years ago so he could study plants for his thesis. Nearly had a doctorate, then gets brought back into service due to the state of emergency. Sad really - I'm sure he'd like noting more than to see some of the plants the aliens brought with them. We don't see any shrimp in this state, up north are some - they ain't so bad - but California is just crawling with them, and those ones are bastards. Its really hard to make runs down the highway when there's laser towers and air cover.

Which of course brings us to why you've gotten the royal treatment so far. A full company is one thing, but they don't dispatch much force to deal with individuals. If you're willing to scout into California, or act as a courier to places back East, there some good rewards to be had. This notepad contains a list of some of the standard deals we make, and items we're looking for. Of course, you'll have to sign an NDA first and agree to a test of character before we get too far into this process. Knowledge of our supply shortages and needs is a matter of military intelligence and could be valuable to the wrong sort of people you know.

I'll give you some time to think about it of course. But we aren't going to take much in the way of freeloaders out here - not when tens of thousands of people need to ration showers. You didn't come here with much, but its going to be time to turn you back out into the desert soon. It would probably be in your best interest to enlist with us.

Let the lieutenant know when you've made a decision.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Welcome to the Strip 2

"OK, that took a little longer than expected, but you're clean, so it should be pretty quick from here on out. You have signed everything in triplicate - right? Your belongings are in one of the banks, and will be returned upon leaving the city. We're under martial law here, and keep petty tight tabs on the populace, and even tighter ones on new comers. I'm sure you're a bit hungry and tired after your journey here, but this would be the best time to get a tour - curfew is at eight PM. Yeah - another thing you'd never expect in Vegas.

The Streets are pretty much the same as they've always been and you can look up the exact names on the SPHERE later. However, what you should know is that its been divided up into sectors with transport terms for reference and admin purposes. The Strip is still the main thoroughfare - though not quite as fancy as it once was. Gambling was officially established here in the early 1930s so that part of town is still traditional, but the real upper class area is the Cloverleaf. Its two big ramps going up, then curving back and circling around with tall buildings in the loop they form together, and even more areas underneath. That's where most of the post 2020 construction and big names went.

The "interchange" and "off ramp" are the code names for much of the city proper. Parkway is where all the greenhouses are. No one gets in there without permission and clearance given how vital that is, even the generals need to call ahead. Turnpike on the north end of town is where the major transit hubs are - notably the maglev station and one of the smaller airfields. However, that is the only one we've left open to civilian flights - all the others are basing military craft. McCarran International Airport has become the largest deployment of bombers in this hemisphere, so far as I know. Don't go near there.

We've got functioning buses, which I would recommend using even if you just want to get across the street. Otherwise you're going to hit a security checkpoint about every 200 feet. Its not like we've literally paved the roads with gold - but we need to do something with all the solders we've got here. The actual mechanics of all these deployments are bit much to explain on an empty stomach - but i know a few good restaurants.

Foods good huh? Nobody's been stuck eating noting but MREs for years now. Admittedly, we haven't so much made the desert bloom as create an entire town of green houses but if you don't mind the near meatless diet, its not so bad. There is some good money to be made if you can start a cattle dive and bring fresh beefs to any city.

Hold on - over your shoulder. No, the other one. See the gal with the yellow beret that has one black stripe down the center? That is a crossbow. Do Not antagonise them, hell if you ever end up in 20 feet of one offer to buy them a drink or otherwise be as polite as possible.

As if three regiments, four aircraft squadrons, and the local police weren't enough, there are three special forces groups in Vegas. Commando Platoons one through five are akin to police special response and help break up problems non-lethally or doing covert ops if necessary. They're drawn from all branches of Special Operations Command since we don't have an abundance of any one group - there's even two or three guys with odd accents from the Special Air Service in the group. Its not like they were going to get home anytime soon, so they decided to help out.

Unlike the all volunteer World War Two Special Service force, ours is anything but. Not to mince words - its a penal battalion. However, since everyone is alike in a willingness to act in an unconventional manner, thinks on their feet, and knows how to get around security - those that survive two or three missions develop a certain esprit de corps that makes the group very effective - especially in their main role of scavenging for supplies.

And of course, the aforementioned crossbow. Eighty Five percent of SLAASH is bureaucrats and technicians who plan out and make ready for nuclear war. Ten percent are the actual pilots and misileers who carry out the strikes. The last five percent are the ones who guard all that stuff and recover it if necessary. It takes a special kind of loyalty to personally move live plutonium pits and cary launch codes - and these guys are fanatical. Try to steal a weapon, and they will beat you down, then pump you full of artificial adrenaline so you can't pass out as they proceed to rip your your eyes, break your legs, set you on fire, and then dump your charred carcass in the desert.

Well, with that lovely image - hurry up and finish your food. Curfew is fast approaching, and we need to get to your accommodations for tonight.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Welcome to the Strip 1

13:45 Local Time

"Get down -Down, Face on the road hands out, legs spread! Don't move - Don't-"
"Stand down soldier! I don't think they're going to try anything with a pair of vehicles pointing 35milis at 'em."
"No Sir, uh yes sir..."
"Don't strain yourself too much. Right now. You OK son? You have to forgive the zealous welcome. Anyone who crosses the desert must be a bit crazy, and they react accordingly. I'm sure we'll resolve this quickly and then I'll be off giving you the ten cent tour.

Not everyone out here is so hair trigger - regardless of the rumors about mutinous officers you might have heard. Its hogwash, mostly, and you'll be just fine with me as your guide - I'm Ian Hardcastle Executive officer to General Robin. Just so long as you don't make any hundred acre woods jokes around the general. Do so and you'll be hiking through death valley naked. Hey! Don't take me so seriously, the generals really not a bad guy. He'd let you keep your boxers.

 Welcome to Vegas boy.
"Sorry about all those needle jabs son - but its for everyone's good. Vegas might of had a reputation for certain kinds of disease back in its seedier days, but right now we got handle on our health and its the rest of the world that's a problem. And its easier to quarantine a handful of visitors than a whole city. If the test show you've got functioning nano-vac, you'll be out of here in an hour and in clothes not made of paper. I think I can take this time to introduce you to a bit of the who's who.

Vegas is run by a council of Seven people. Three of them are the ground-pounder generals - including my boss. He commands the second Armored Calvary Regiment - Two A.C.R. General Teach runs the 53rd Infantry and General Dodgson the 308th. You'll see patches for other units here and there - but all the miscellaneous platoons and companies that arrived piecemeal just go a bit folded in. Number four is Brown from the air force, and Five is Hackett – of SLAASH - Strategic Laser, Air, Atomic, and Space Headquarters. Be careful of him and his troops – any weapon that can destroy an entire city with three or fewer is their domain, and they take that responsibility almost too seriously. Most of those guys will shoot on sight – even if they're asleep.

The final two people on the council are civilian authorities – Ms. Stevenson is city's mayor proper, and Dr. Denghazi is a former secretary of the interior and the local representative of the USA Civ-Gov. Yes we still listen to them, and are part of the proper United States sworn to protect them from all threats foreign and domestic. Problem being those two are kinda overlapping at the moment since a number of places have effectively seceded from the union – like that place down in 'Bama. Not sure why its new Birmingham – the old one should still be standing but its been a while since I was in that part of the country.

Hope I'm not going to fast for you. There's really no easy way to get through Vegas politics cause the council is mostly there to argue or rubber stamp approval retroactively something that already happened. Not that they're powerless mind you – its just that their power comes more from the, well I guess the polite term is  "machinations", of their lieutenants working the scenes outside the chambers. Each has their own agenda and is all but running autonomously.

Yes, it sounds like I'm betraying my boss by telling you this, but generally it causes more trouble when an outsider gets recruited to do someone's dirty work without knowing the bigger picture. At the end of the day, they're all good people. Except Hackett. Even then, he's better than some who could be in charge. We've go the so called “Stangelove” faction round here – its a reference to a piece of cinema, wonderful really – a classic – but they'd be willing to use nuclear weapons on just about anyone. Certinly, we don't have the manpower to really pacify a city any other way but those bombs would really defeat the point of trying, and their effects would ruin the three things we want most – food, computers, and nano-vac. Hackett keeps them in line, so we think he's good.

Those are the seven big names - but you'll hear a bunch of others - a mix of councilmen, NCOs and go-fers that help manage the water supply, food distribution, power and most of that other stuff. But miserable as that host can make you - they're not the ones who can order summary executions under martial law. 

If you'll excuse me, I've got a bit of other business to attend to, but I'll be back once the doctor clears you to help find a place to put you.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Number One - with a Bullet

Guns are fairly complex machines, designed to high tolerances to contain explosions for the purpose of propelling the bullet and working the mechanical parts in a (semi)automatic. Its an exacting science which can sometimes lead to a bit confusion. For example, 7.62x25mm, 7.62x39mm, 7.62x51mm, 7.62x54R, .308, and .30-06 - all head space on an approximate three tenths of an inch, and yet none are really interchangeable.* Yet a revolver chambered for .357 Magnum is backwards comparable with .38 revolver-rounds. (The reverse isn't possible - magnum rounds are longer so they don't get stuck in the wrong gun)

Its for reasons like this that Dead and Back has its simple ammunition rolls. Despite my lack of hunting, police, or military training - I'm pretty familiar with all this, but  its rather unreasonable to expect everyone interested in table-top games is as well. Furthermore, trying to keep track of every single bullet can be rather complicated, and not particularly fun.

Dead and back's combat system only tracks effecive hits - its a matter of description rather than mechanics if the hit is twelve rounds tearing thrugh the torso or one bullet going thrugh the left eye socket - while a filed roll means etheir a clean miss, only stirkes to armored areas, or no shot presented itself and no bullets fired. Hence, another reason for the simply ammo management is that the number of rounds fired isn't really counted. A reload is simply enough ready ammo to fill the gun back up.

The upshot of knowing about ammunition differences (excuse the pun) is that it gives the GM a of moderating tension within the rules. At the lowest level one simply has generic reloads by type - ie rifle, pistol, and gauss ammo. However, the GM could rachet up the tension by being more specfic with ammuniton loads - by claiber or even by gun type (a SIG P-226 and Glock -17 share the same bullets but not the same magazines - so ready ammo can't be exchanged between them in a firefight). This in turn means people might get weighted down with multiple types of weapons to use every bullet found, or find they have plenty relaods but no weapon to put them in. Bullets, bullets every where and not a shot to fire...

To mix things up a little more, the players might be offered the option of partial clips. They treat the ammo die as a size smaller then normal, but still don't require actually counting bullets. This allows something between the standard OK or no relaods availble options of the rules.

The Website Modern Firearms is an invaluble resource for learning about the types and histories of many weapons in current and prior military use.

Although the actual guns don't really matter under the D&B system, this is a good way to establish character. Just as a car or clothing style can speak volumes about a person, their choice of weapon means something as well. Going for every acessory possible or prefreing something lighter and less battery intensive, Chosing the most recent manufacture possible, or holding on to a family member's war-trophy from decades back. Wanting a WW-II Lee-Enfield because its cool isn't going to hurt them, and a 2048 M-42 gauss rifle isn't going to make the character invincible - so let it be a point of intrest for the character.

*For those of you wondering the difference is:
  • 7.62x25mm: Pistol round - used in Soviet WWII sub-machineguns and TT-33.
  • 7.62x39mm: Assault Rifle Round of AKM & SKS
  • 7.62x51mm: NATO ammunition for machine-guns, and a rifles like the FN-FAL
  • 7.62x54R: Russian from from 1880s, yet still used in the SVD, Machine-guns 120 years later!
  • .308: Reduced power 7.62x51 for hunting - probably won't cycle a military automatic, and the NATO round may be over-pressure for a hunting rifle.
  • .30-06: WW -I & II high powered rifle round

Friday, December 10, 2010

Some Options to Consider

A few more ideas for rules have come up - a new way to handle creature damage, handling items, and some alternate ways to use altruism points.

Necrotic Threshold (NT)
A compromise between NP acting as straight hit-points, and  the current exponential difficulty. It determines the minimum number of successful dice needed to inflict a point of damage. At the most basic, a rating of one means any hits will remove NP, while each additional level of NT means more damage must be done - ie 2:1, 3:1 etc. Thus something can be hard to hurt, but easy to kill, or easy to injure, yet surprisingly resilient.

Thus a game master could use a NT 1 - NP15 monster in a situation where the players could use hit and run tactics against a creature, wearing it down while moving through a built-up area. Meanwhile something NT 4 -NP 4 would need a skilled person or a heavy burst firing weapon (like an Anti-Aircraft gun) to have chance of damaging it consistently - which in turn limits the game to a set piece combat location..

Useful Life - UL (Alternately: Durability [DUR])
Much like how guns don't count individual bullets - using the ammo roll mechanic instead - potentially expendable items might have a rating as well. This could be applied to battery powered items, the integrity of body armor, or the strength of a door.
  • A few Min/1-5 uses 1d4
  • A few Hours/10-20 1d6
  • 12-24 hours / 20-40 uses 1d8
  • Two or Three Days// 40-80 1d10
  • A week or more / 80+1d12
Anything more durable is resilient enough that its unlikely to break unless deliberately attacked, and should be assigned a DR and NP/Animus - depending on if it is instantly ruined or breaks down in stages. For example, cars effectively have animus as they degrade in stages - from pristine, to trouble prone, to spare parts, to unidentifiable scrap. while a length of fence either prevents intrusion or doesn't - so its NP.

Old Kevlar body armor is not designed for constant punishment, in fact its often meant to only be used once. Long term storage hasn't helped either. Thus old body armor would be either 1d6 or 1d4. Newer armor types include other materials, or even nanorheological fluids that react to impact and can last longer, though long term storage or environmental exposure still isn't OK, and it requires a power source to stiffen the fibers. Thus these suits might be rated as 1d8 or 1d4.

Altruism Points:
No real guidelines are given in the main text for how many AP to give out each session. I don't mean to give a non-answer, but this really depends on how you want the game to run. More AP means better survivability, however, it also means becoming rather more attached to the characters - so the players may become less happy with high body count games. Fewer AP means more hoarding, but easier replacement.

Generally speaking, the advancement options of AP are usually best served at the end of a session or during a long period of downtime. However, one might allow characters to find hidden depths or come to an epiphany at a crucial moment for a few points extra.

Healing, on the other hand, can take place during a session. Once again, however, it may help set the tone by including a surcharge for spur of the moment healing compared to waiting until the end.

AP Equipment Boosts:
Another possible use for AP would be to get around rolls for ammunition, useful life, or add bonus dice to a roll. AP spent this way allow extra dice to be rolled - either added straight to an attack, or the best result being used in a test of durability/ammo consumption.

AP Group Resources:
To help encourage group activities further, or to reward overall success, a pool of AP for the entire party. Points in this pool can be used to improve group resources. For example - everyone pitches in with the work, and these AP could level up a vehicle as a van is turned into an armored truck. Or it could be used to work towards GM set break points, which in turn would get the group something nice. So perhaps the group creates a small camp - and the more points they put in the collective, the greater number of adherents to their cause, and thus they can create their own outpost or even city state. Of course, this could also just be a sign the GM should give them a break and let the players find something good in the ruins, or an easy mission.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Protected Discussion

"Hey, I found some power armor. Any Idea what the market price is?"
"What kind?"
"Power Armor"
"About fifty bucks - you know, some ammo, a few days food."
"You're kidding me right? I know its got to be worth a hundred times that at least."
"No positive ID - not worth the effort to retrieve."
"I can tell you exactly where it is off my INS system, and what it is."
"I'll speak slower so you can understand..."
"You want to end up eating that sandwich through a straw?"
"Like that is going to make me any more receptive? Do you have any idea how many types of power armor are around here?"
"Try ten. Some of the other nations tried to help out, and brought their own units. So of course we have Canadian stuff which is tactically similar to our own, but doesn't have compatible parts or software architecture. The Mexican military has both a Forrest optimized type and an underwater hard suit with built in pump-jets for hunting narco-running subs and ambushing people near lakes."
"I'm pretty sure it was American."
"North or South?"
"USA. You're killing me man."
"Three types of combat armor, plus FARPS - Forward Air Resupply Powered System. No actual armor, but over-built hydraulics for moving heavy aircraft components. One load master can push around an entire palatalized load, or clip an 800 pound four-shot anti-tank launcher to a he-lo without help. That's what I did during the war, not that you asked."
"And here you are running a black market off your former army."
"We parted on cold terms. It was an ugly war. In modern combat you got to cut the power to cut the ability So its either EMP or street fighting."
"Did i ask for a history lesson?"
"No, you asked for a summation of the price for a unit of power armor. However if you don't know what type it is, how its used, or if there are spare parts, then its really not worth my time. As for actual prices - they're still lower than you would expect, because the armors are rather limited. MacArthur assault units are heavy, slow, and who has the supply chain to keep the motors, auto-cannons, and missiles on hand? If you're luck, you can get enough spare parts in exchange to get an old car working again, a week or two of supplies, or a few rifles - but money wouldn't be more than a few thousand - a working car is worth more. FARPs have no armor, no armament, no sensors, and a hard to maintain hydraulic system, so while there are plenty out there since they weren't in active combat no one wants them. Donovan stealth uits are hit or miss. They're really useful, but a pain to keep in operating condition and not so good in a stand up fight - I'd say worth the same as the Mac, but more likely to fluctuate in price. A baseline Eisenhower that you can expect a bit more for, but it depends. An old pick-up truck can more, faster, and farther, and outfitted as a technical with some machine-guns is a decent match in firepower. But it doesn't go the same places or have the integrated sensor suite."
"So its simply not worth the trouble I went through?"
"That's the facts son - scavenging can keep yourself supplied, but unless you have a patron commisioning a specific search - its not going to turn a profit."

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Beatnik Heat Pic

Heat shimmers rise from the desert sun baked pavement, lending everything a wavering and surreal appearance. The normally ever-present soldiers are gone from the boiling roads, nothing but dust devils and parked APCs from one end of the strip to the other. All you can hear is the hum of power lines and the occasional click of a door followed by rapid foot steps as someone tries to minimize their exposure.

Inside, its not much louder. Everyone's played the games of chance a hundred times, everyone has developed their on system for finding a winning streak, and everyone knows its futile - even if they make a fortune, what is there to spend it on? Almost every story has been told, the veterans tired of rehashing the Southern Drone War and the new recruits too awake to let BS just slip by.

Lights still pop and flash, electric music jingles, and wheels spin on automatic, beckoning someone to put down a couple of chips. But most of the card tables are covered with springs and gun oil or magnets and solder. Troops field stripping their weapons for the tenth time that week, dislodging sand and keeping busy, ready for the next run down the road to Barstow, Saint George, Paradise or Hurricane.

Civvies just scuttle by, like over-caffeinated crabs. There are a lot of bored people with guns who would be willing to start a civil war for a simple break from monotony, ideology be damned.

"Red Irish" Drinks whiskey sours in back. Not his real name by a long shot - its one of those old country words that has twelve extra letters in the original tongue - but he has the shock of hair and other characteristics that would make him the dictionary definition image of a Gaelic stereotype. Even has an amazing accent so thick you need to beat it down with a Shaleighleigh to understand - doubly amazing since all his kin were through Ellis island by 1908. He's a "ranger" which is a dangerous thing to admit to in Vegas. Most of the military types think you shouldn't co-opt the name of a special forces group and claim to uphold the ideals of the army, when you could actually be in the army - even if service mostly consists of pointless patrols and the occasional midnight tank drag race down route 66.

Least he's quite this morning. Sometimes things just explode. Someones got a bit of peyote growing in one of the rooftop greenhouses, and some mighty fine hash indeed. Usually these harm no one - but synesthesia and rumors of undead in the sewers don't always mix.

Even without the drugs, that seems to be the word of the year. Synesthesia. It all seems to blend together - after a while you taste the strip, you hear the camouflage, and smell the boredom.

They all know the country they swore to protect doesn't really exist. Its city states and new frontier now, with tenuous UHF contact between the Rockies and Alleghenies. Guns and tanks can unite the lot - the question is how and who. A military campaign isn't going to last long without factories, and factories aren't going to exist without a campaign. Should the aliens be the first target, or an ally against the others? Is it the open hand or closed fist that will restore the republic? How about those angry fission bombs growling in their silos - unchain the atomic dogs or neuter those puppies before they flash on American soil?

In another casino more whiskey sours are being lifted to dry lips. One general has the control codes in his breast pocket, the other half a mind to shoot the first.

Just another day.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Another Unseemly Presence in Daley Plaza

Gotta-catch-my-breath. Some of those half mechanical monsters are near by. Hawk like vision, adsorb Gauss slugs like a sponge, and just smash through concrete barriers without noticing. Fortunately, they can't see through walls. At leas not yet I don't think... well, they didn't follow after I lost them in that hall way and ducked up two flights of stairs.

I guess this is why Chicago seems to be unofficially off limits. Lots of advanced reanimates, coupled with old ramshackle restored buildings lacking sphere based maps. Yeah, they say anyone not born in the windy city will pick up the grid pattern of the roads real quick. But when most of them are chocked with old cars, rubble, even some tanks and crashed helicopters - ducking in and out of buildings throws off your sense of place real quick.

So where am I? Oh hey - thats a good landmark. I guess god is on my side for once - I couldn't ask for a more famous marker.

 The Chicago Picasso.

What is that thing supposed to be anyway? A woman with pony tails? A cross-eyed Aardvark? Though you know, from this angle it kind of looks like one of the aliens. Yeah, definitely one of the aliens. The kind of snout like head, and the antennas bent backward, the compound eye like structures on either side of the snout. Even the color is kind of right, though the ones I've seen were a bit more mottled green and pink, with darker plates - a bit like armor. Don't think it was armor - since it was under those smocks they wore.

Head on top, with a pair of antennae, neck, shoulders, chest, the odd part is when the abdomen curves backwards and kind of curves back up for the lower torso and two sets of legs. I know they're not insects or crabs at all - but they do kind of skitter about like them. Course, I'd be full of nervous energy when talking to a gun wielding person twice my size too. Really squeaky voice, like a cartoon character or someone breathing helium. Still, nice enough when they want to talk to you.

Huh - that the reanimates out there?

Don't hear anything. But these ones can move all quite like, it just the basic ones that sound like elephants tripping down a flight of stairs. Course, just running isn't going to help much if they are close. Need a plan. There are supposed to be laser towers at Northerly Island on the lake front. That's about two and a half miles from here, south east - along the water front, near the historic buildings. I can do that. Wont be easy to make through all the old traffic remains, but they won't be going so directly either. OK, can do. The aliens hate the reanimates as much as we do - I just hope the defenses can tell a live human from a type three.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Supplement One Alpha

"The best is the enemy of good enough" - a common Russian saying, often used by Mikhail Kalashnikov when discussing his famous invention.

After more delays than I should have allowed, this is a draft update to the basic game D&B. Actually, its not so much a declared up date as a few clarifications, some ideas about bringing Players together and managing NPCs, along with a large chunk of information about the Planetary citizens.

I hope this give you a feeling for where I want to take the game in its next version. Elements of the setting should become one with the rules, rather then separate addendum. Unclear rules should be updated to easier to read forms, and the glossary expanded. A few major overhauls (new way of reading attack dice/changed stat range) may be in order if I get some feedback.

D&B Suplemental Alpha

Monday, November 29, 2010

Ambush Predator

Shchuka. An ambush predator carnivorous fish - known in English as the Pike, because it resembles a pole-arm. In every generation a Russian submarine has carried the name, from the 5th sub to enter Russian under the tsar service in 1905, an 88 boat strong type in world war two, and both the the project 671 and 971 attack boats (NATO Victor and Akula respectively)

Today, that proud tradition Hull number 409, GRU Designation 9K0108, known to NATO as the "Nikta Class" Submarine Cruiser. Nominally a very large attack boat for hunting other subs, it also carried a dozen anti-ship cruise missile conformal launchers, and four intermediate range ballistic missiles - more firepower than some 20th century navies. All under the watchful eyes of 83 crew, and the head of that compliment - one Yuri Deatalov.

"Surface Contact Sir. Range is 15,000 meters, probably a cargo vessel."
"Is it the one we've been trying to track?"
"Yes captain - definitely has the banging pistons of a fuel burner."
"Must be something good if they're risking something that old and large in the Baltic winter. Yes. But a bit too good - clear tube four to launch an airborne reconnaissance drone."
"Aye sir."

A few English sub-hunters were still out there, and an old piston cargo vessel would go a long way to mask their pump-jets. They usually kept themselves to the channel and north sea - but this was excellent weather for a chase - clear yet cold enough to cut down on thermal layers that could distort sonar. Certainly, a rare combination around here, and no good captain would miss this chance.

"Unit telemetry confirmed - it should get a fly over in a few minutes."
"I know your not much of a gambler Mr. Chuikov, but do you care to wager on what the drone might find?"
"Uh, not really sir."
"Why not?"
"Not in my religion to do that Captain."
"Ah, yes - we've been over that. However, I have no interest in debating Islamic dogma - I just wanted a guess about what vessels are out there."
"Sergi is better at this than I."
"All the more reason you need the practice. Its bad enough I needed to take a sonar man from a surface ship - an incompetent and un-cross trained one would be unbearable. I can ask the others to leave the bridge if you would be embarrassed by your answers."
"Well then, captain Deatalov, I'd say its safe - just the freighter. Prior to this, they've been mostly milk runs encountering smaller vessels. Something this large is operating out of a different port - which may not be allied, and would take a lot of resources and manpower to get working. The military bases are covered by our surface combatants and its unlikely they'd store arms at a commercial facility. It takes a certain level of expertise to move a multi-tone explosive tipped weapon from its stores to a train, and cranes positioned just right and trained to load them."
"Not a question of should it be escorted, but are they able to?"
"Right. Most of the coastal fuel bunkers are drained, and the ones further inland probably not known to or unfriendly with the English."
"I don't know how you're so sure of that, but you at least have a point."
"And what would be the captain's stance?"
"It doesn't really matter. Fortune favors the bold after all. If there is a warship, then we shouldn't be bringing our other precious fleet units into harms way. If there isn't - then we get the glory of this capture all to ourselves. Set Condition Red! Intercept course! WE're going to eat well when we return to port."

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thankgiving

If there is one thing I'm thankful for, its the ability to appreciate irony.

I remember food shortages. During the 30s and 40s when we were supposedly at the height of our civilization. To say we were starving would be a horrid over reaction, but there were times when certain foods fifteen or twenty times more than they had a few years prior, and it was damn scary.

For a while back there, fuel supplies were so low, international shipping was all but stopped. Fresh produce was all but impossible to find, in the winter, and even in the suffer, expensive. Nuclear powered naval ships we're used to transport a few extra necessary materials like lithium, titanium,platinum, and a few others.Environmental regulations and feed supply problems decimated the captive cattle herds - and that before you not the virulent cattle disease that sprang up in those decades.

You know, thats kind of funny. All those diseases are why live stock were bigger users of nano-vac than humans. Yet you never see reanimate cows. Or any cows really. I haven't had beef in five years.

Sorry about the aside, where was I oh yeah. Limited food supplies, even chicken and Turkey were a bit hard to find. Radio stabilized food packets became far more the norm than fresh food for a while. Pretty lucky for us right now, since those things last fifteen years or more.

With so many fewer people, there is a lot more food to go around. Coffee is damn hard to come by in the states, just like cinnamon and a few other spices - but the choicest farm land is up for grabs, and wildlife is extra plentiful for those with a good eye. Unless you're on the road and rationing your supplies, we eat pretty well and its not all that expensive. Well, when you consider time is money it takes a lot - but its not like I need to show up at the office at nine AM to manage patents - so I've got time. And I swear - without restaurants, people have learned to cook again. My son Calvin was a pretty picky eater, but now now he is a lot better about it, at least when we can find him. That boy always seems to be off in his own little world.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Urban Exploration

I try to stay away from cities. They taste broken. Even before you can see the place, the winds carry particles too you. Concrete dust, UV exposed plastic, flakes of rust and paint - without a filter mask you could get sick from just the decay, much less anything else that has been leached out from years of neglect.

Between abandoned meals, forgotten vending machines, and broken freezers - its a biohzard too. Make sure you're up to date with nano-vac injections. Speaking of refrigeration - keep some chem handling gear on your person at all times. Things like methylisocyanite need refrigeration and hermetic seals to be stored safely - and  that doesn't happen without people. Now chances are the toxic clouds have dispersed - but residues can abound on the undersides of protrusions.

When it comes to weapons in the city, you can't go wrong with a pistol. Light weight means more loot, small size leads to quick reaction and no getting caught in tight corridors. A silence will protect your hearing, because shots echo something fierce, and its hard to notice reanimates when your half-deaf. Besides, you don't need the power of a rifle - so long as you hit the head, it doesn't matter with what - and rifle bullets over-penetrating interior walls can be a hazard to your comrades.

Someone with a rifle to look down the concrete canyons and thin out the groups seems like a good idea, but its not the best practice. High-powered rifles are loud and tend to attract more attention than they eliminate. Reanimates are neither blind nor deaf, and it draws the attention of humans as well. There are few things people like less then snipers, and since its often hard to determine where the attack comes from until someone dies, they often take a proactive stance about hunting them down. So regardless of if you're seeking to attack other people or not - they're probably going to pick a fight.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Reanimate Tactics

One of the more distressing aspects of the reanimates, is that they are not as mindless and unfeeling as the ghouls seen in the movies. A sense of self-preservation seems to permeate each one, though in mass they can somehow make the choice to sacrifice a few for the good of the many. More advanced types can avoid the more obvious pitfalls, at least some of the time. They are unlikely to simply mob a fortified position, or even a well armed group - unless they have a notable advantage in numbers. Fire and water will hold them at bay if they recognize it as a an impediment between them and prey - but they will make their way through if its an escape route.

Alphas have been know to occasionally use weaponry or tools. Sometimes it seems to be simple mimicking - they will use weapons if they see other people or reanimates using them. Other times, they will go so far as to intentionally cripple humans or open new door ways to allow other reanimates in. What else they can do is often a matter of rumor - as they are strangely paranoid about displaying these behaviors. Indeed, they are quite often very cautious and will attempt to blend in with their lesser type one brethren to avoid preferential targeting. They are well aware of the confusion that ensues with an attack, and will wait until defenders are distracted by their other brethren to sneak past and ambush.

The intelligence seen in twos and betas focuses on the use of space, rather than the use of tools and distractions. They are worryingly adept at finding ambush sites, alternate entrances, or simply the higher ground. Betas have been cataloged hounding targets like wolves, and leading the prey to a seemingly safe place, that is in fact a nest of yet more reanimates. Failing this, they can follow a mark for days, or hide out near observed routes of travel.

Threes and Kappas are at the very least, aware of their impressive abilities, if not always putting it to the best use. Although the latter are often capable of throwing around small cars, they generally don't do so in a manner to block an exit or to cripple a human. A dissenting opinion states its a case of them choosing not too, as they prefer the target un-crushed. However, they fact that they will smash building supports even when they're still in the structure may argue against this - or at least that they can be provoked to berserk levels.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Eyes and Ears

"Jake, check this out. Jake. Jake! Oh, god...bless him." With a curse cut short and more than a slight annoyance, Jacqlyn left her spot on the firing line and made her way to the observation deck. As usual, the armorer was defeating the point of a sound proof room by playing music overly loud and not looking out the ballistic glass. Heaven forbid something go wrong on the line.
"You should be paying more attention! Especially to the one on the far right - AB-3097.."
"The one in red?"
"What is so imporatant - its a reanimate just like the rest."
"And its using a bolt action rifle."
"So? Thats what we normally do. Its hard enough to teach a human proper care, fire discipline, and how to clear a jam in a fight - you expect those half dead things to use an assault weapon?"
"I know standard procedure Jake. What I don't know is how it can do that. I haven't thought it anything!"
"Its using a rifle on its own?"
"I don't know if it somehow already knew how to use a weapon, or if one of the others decided to teach it. It was just supposed to be here to get used to the sound, and see the guns are not some sort of club. There it is again - working the bolt, checking down the sights - is it trying to adjust them?"
"They're teaching or already know. Too smart for their own good, just like the aliens. Pretty soon the radio is going to interview them too."
"Interview the aliens, yeah right"
"No, they already talk to the aliens - I mean the reanimates on the radio. Dead from New York its..."
"Where did you hear aliens on the radio?"
"Recordings are being circulated, its from somewhere out West."
"You're not supposed to be listening to that stuff."
"I'm just trying to get some news of the outside world."
"The outside world isn't worth knowing about. What you're listening too could be spiritual corruption in audio form. How do you know its safe?"
"Because I'm me, I know my self."
"But do you know your spirit? That would be something to ask a minister about. Doctors and scientists thought they knew themselves, can look ingot their minds, and with advanced imaging techniques into their patients. Look what happened from their hubris. That thing over there, that can use a rifle instinctively, and never needs to compensate for heavy breathing disrupting its aim."
"Buying into the party line much?"
"Jake - I'm willing to accept not everyone is comfortable here. But I'm not willing to see the Committee of Right Thought coming down on my friends, and then turning upon me and my family because they are wary of how far such opinions have traveled. Part of me says, don't threaten the guy who can remove the firing pins from all of my weapons before a mission - but lets be abundantly clear - I'm not going to get dragged down with you."
"Loud and clear commander, loud and clear."
"Speaking of firing pins - think I should use a 38 to wipe AB-3097 back to factory condition?"
"I'd go for a .45, but this might be worth watching. Waste not want not."

Monday, November 15, 2010

Space Travel: Citizen

No Human has been inside a Citizen vessel - or at least done so and returned to tell about it. However, since most of the fleet stays in either high earth or lunar orbit, they can be seen easily at night - as moving lights to the naked eye or clear structures through a telescope. Currently there are at least twenty smaller vessels and five larger ones present, though initial reports upon arrival announced up to forty units, and only eight were confirmed destroyed.

Alien ships from any given SF movie are far more odd than what the PC vessels actually look like. Quite frankly, they look like large bricks wedged in the center of a skeletal hourglass. The interior block is the general useful area of the ship - living quarters, command centers hydroponics and so forth. Reactors are held away on hundred meter booms with interposed shadow shields for safety. Latticework structures surrounding the fulfill three important functions. They act as radiators for reactor and living quarter's waste heat, electromagnetic field generators to deflect charged particles and small debris (thus keeping the central area safe, and magnetic thrust nozzles for the plasma based drives.

Even the smaller vessels are huge, with the central habitat comparable to an aircraft carrier in size, with their EM generators stretching about three times that distance further. In numerical terms - approximately 340 meters long, 50 meters wide and high - though the extended "tail" with shadow-shield and reactor adds another 60 meters or so. The Lattice would then extend nearly a kilometer in total length - the midpoint attached to the mid point of the habitat. Larger vessels might be two and a half times these figures.

The outer surface of the ships seems to be a light gray, though close analysis reveals they were white but suffer extensive pitting and wear, reducing the albedo. Meanwhile, the metal lattice seems to be polished silver, though often shows shimmering colors when the plasma jets are in action or charged particles are captured - just like the Aurora Borealis. (Indeed, its the exact same effect, just on a smaller scale.)

Aside from the complications of sheer scale most of the technology of the ships is within human understanding. Human Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR) propulsion units are quite similar to the aliens, just far smaller. Analysis of destroyed remnants reveal the ships are made from high strength steel alloys displaying a crystalline internal structure which in turn  implies the metals were smelted and forged in micro-gravity. These are backed by other materials to provide insulation, radiation protection, and crew comfort.

The need to isolate the reactors from the crew areas by several dozen meters would imply that they are fission units with dangerous levels of output. Fortunately, none of these power sources have crashed to earth - the aliens have taken great care in keeping them safe, even when the rest of the ship is compromised.

Of course, the most outstanding element would be the Citizen faster than light mechanism. Little is known about it, even by the aliens that have been interrogated so far.

Suspected Interiors
The ships are seen to rotate on their longitudinal axis, implying that they lack artificial gravity and thus must simulate it centripetally.Following such logic, educated guessing would place living and recreational areas in the outer protions of the ship, while machinery and storage that doesn't suffer ill health in micro-g would be closer to the core. It is unknown if the very center holds a protected storm shelter to mitigate cosmic rays for the crew, or if the ships EM generators can deflect solar flares, eliminating the need for such precautions.

At the extreme front of the vessels is a loading bay for docked sub-craft (shuttles and maintenance units) as trying to leave by a side exit would throw them into the EM lattice work. There are no exits at the other end due to the dangerous reactors.

Population density of the vessels is still an unknown. Some PCs have divulged that the ships are designed to operate for generations in event of a drive failure and to allow the creation of new colonies - thus implying up to thousands of people - crew and civilian aboard. Low Range estimates for the fleet's population is around 600,000 while four times that is considered the upper range- not including the possibility of either cloning or cryogenic storage of colonists.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Scouting the Other Side of the World

Four hydraulic fingers closed in around the object, then abruptly stopped. A second set of motors then slowly ratcheted them closed for finer detail. The attached elbow and shoulder constructs than gave a quick jerk, pulling the object from the snow bank.
"I've got a left arm - any one need a left arm. Kept on ice and fresh!"
"Left arm of what, Sasha?"
"I can't tell in this light - both our suits and the aliens look pretty similar from the elbow down."
"Its an alien."
The commander's armor gestured to an oddly rectangular snow bank a kilometer away. "Ruined tank hull on the ridge. Shrimps probably got ambushed by a number of tanks. They don't do so well against thirteen-point-five centimeter cannons - which explains why we're only finding fragments of armor."
"Its not like our armor does any better."
"We've got IFF transponders that tell the tanks not to shoot us."

Shasha's suit dropped the alien part and began to lumber forward again. To most observers, it looked like a bipedal cockroach, with its arcing rounded back and overlapped plates in front.  It didn't have the agility of the smaller units - it could barely bend at its waist - but this unit was optimized for firepower, and surprisingly, speed. With the pilot mostly in the torso in a half-sitting, half-standing position, the legs were entirely mechanical, then freed from the exertion of the pilot. Its systems were actually quite closely related to both the American Schwarkopf heavy armor, and by dint of convergent evolution, the alien eekaide.

"Patrol One. Anything out there?"
"Infrared and visuals are clean, though Sasha found the remains of a battle."
"Between who?"
"I'm sending Sasha forward to see if he can find some unit markings on the tanks. Invader remains at our feet."
"Any salvage."
"Won't know until he figures out what killed the tank. Given that their energy weapons can't do much against something as heavy as tracked armor, it was probably a missile. Without knowledge of the warhead and if it could penetrate to the munitions carousel - could be mostly working, could be melted scrap."
"Forecast is calling for storms tonight, better start pulling back."
"Anything good for dinner?"
"Probably worth returning for."
"Are you sure about that Katya?"
"When you can find a tropical banana tree growing in a Tajikistan Pine forest we'll make something that tastes better. Same standing deal for everyone else."

Peter attempted to stretch as best he could within the close confines. His thoughts turned to the usual pattern - he had gone over this so many times it might as well be zen meditation.  What was he doing here? Supposedly he had family father south - but what was he to do - walk up to goat farmers in a power armor and ask if they knew the directions? Command Headquarters was back in Russia of course, and probably hit by some form of orbital bombardment. So here he was, stuck in the rolling hills of a land locked central Asian republic living on gruel with no goal but to wake up and eat some more porridge.

"Boss - I reached the tank!"
"Total War Reserve unit - T-95 bis. Mobility Kill - the active defenses did well. Its an old diesel."
"So it gets what One kilometer per every five liters of fuel - thats more than we can produce all year just to get it to the nearest city."
"We can come back later and strip it for munitions and materials. Might have some working optics to fix the ones on my suit."
"Right. Back to base then."
"We might want to wait - the markings are Russian - not local. This is pretty far from home, and inconvenient for a tank to get through the territory to get here."
"What - someone airlifted a 47,000 kilo vehicle over the mountains?"
"Or there is one hell of a tunnel from china - its from the 85th regiment."
"Set an INS way point, we'll be back after the storm."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Playtest Breakdown

Back in June 2010 my youngest sister tried to be nice, and get a couple of her friends to play my game. This gesture did not go as well as any participating would have hoped. However the questions raised still helped give direction to a game I had been neglecting for a while, and have provided the inspiration for a number of the posts on this blog.

Blame where its due, I was at fault for a number of the problems. My GMing skills were out of practice, and followed a rather different style then the players were used to. The scenario didn't really allow for much freedom - basically just some plot hooks to get them to explore ruins and try fighting some reanimates. Really, all I wanted was a test of how quickly characters could be made, and how fast combat involving multiple people might go along.

Still, I can maintain at least some indignation when looking at player behavior. Notable elements:
  • A white panel van shows up near where the players are staying. Although the driver is friendly, one player insists on removing his head with a shotgun and stealing the van. This in turn roused reaction from the guy's friend in the back, who had a power armor, though that was kind of a moot point, as a grenade thrown under a van full of explosives pretty much ended up with a TPK in the parking lot where the session started. Note to self: Never, Ever, try to offer player's weapons as an incentive.
  •  Resetting to a more normal contents of the van - an old Highway worker's vehicle - they found road-salt, cigarette cartons, and a jack hammer. They decided to return to where they came from and sell the contents for stuff. (I thought I had already allowed them a considerable arsenal just starting - gauss rifles, shotguns, and pistols, plus some grenades. It seems these people presumed "Doom" rather than "Resident Evil".)
  • Upon acquisition of the van - they turn around and head right back to the NEST that gave them their original assignment. Arriving at a giant building at 2 am, the guards are reluctant to let them in.  Upon being stymied as such, two of them start looking for alternate ways in, one tries to bribe the guard with a pack of cigarettes, and the last tries to ask where they can find the black market. (This then explains that each entrance is either welded shut, or guarded with snipers, and the guard asks for two packs to let them in.)
  • Upon meeting the groggy guy who handles trade negotiations, they keep demanding prices. when those are not forthcoming (gee - a chance to you know - role play bargaining) someone asks about how to find the black market - not realizing this is the black market. The first player to ask for a bullet proof vest got one because they were the only one who actually tried to deal. 
I really should be more charitable about this. I certainly did pick up on elements that were needed. From a game play standpoint:
  • A player was mystified about the difference between special abilities and skills - and wondering why a military character couldn't have two SAs has lead to a current drive to clarify that element. 
  • Complaints about how hard certain creatures are to kill has lead to my consideration of either upping the chance of a weapon's power (ie top two numbers rather than maximum roll, to bring it in line with all the the other dice pools).or going up to seven. This also cuts down on derived stats being so similar.
  • Comments that hand to hand and melee weapons seem too powerful lead to the current idea that human SID should be boosted up a point. (This also helps close the instant kill rifles problem. Yes, the next stuf up is lethal - but the next step up is 30mm cannons which are rather less common.)
  • Complaints about the "contrived" nature of the setting lead to a new introduction about the genre and how the game is emulating video games and movies, not a real life simulation. 
On the upside, I did learn about some of the simpler overhauls needed. A number of the earlier posts have been direct answers to questions the players asked including:
  • Why humans have not gone genocidal on the aliens
  • What its like inside a NEST, how hard it is to break into one, and a better sense of size.
  • The aliens are not completely evil, and more pieces telling their side. (Everyone seems to assume arthropod like aliens with demonic power armor are evil. I blame television for these hurtful stereotypes!)
  • Notes about trading, way of life, and setting up your own settlements.
  • Ideas for quick "how to GM" chapters.
Overall, it was a much needed impetus to get back to work, and I probably wouldn't have started this blog if I hadn't uncovered so many problems.

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Modest Proposal (that might not involve antrhoprofagia)

I'll admit that this project is proceeding at a rather glacial pace. The problem stems from matters of sequencing (ie chicken and the egg problem) I don't really want to proceed without feedback and encouragement, but I'm not getting too much of either until I produce something...

I started this blog to solicit comments to help my focus my work. Its a bit difficult to maintain concentration on a long project without feedback, or learning something new each day, and I'm prone to go off on tangents without others commenting. (As mentioned in a prior post I knew nano-vac was pink before I commented if it has game effects.)  As TV tropes explains - I seem to have "Attention Deficit Creator Disorder" and this is only one of around 15 projects I've started. (Also, my habit of reading TV tropes probably doesn't help either...)

So far the only comment on this blog is "when will this be finished?".

Secondly, I really haven't had the chance to play test - or roleplay anything really - in some time. I've had a few people try character creation, and tried to run one game - which was a bit of a disaster from a playing if not game standpoint. (I'll rant about that at some point in the near future for those interested.)

Frankly, the changes I need to make are split into four categories:
  1. Clean Up - easy to do things like improve the glossary, add a skill list, add a section on genre for those who don't get it, some more examples, a few NPCs.
  2. Major Changes - a few things seem like they might need some overhauls on a bigger scale, but need some testing first. For example, is the AIM attribute too powerful/all encompassing and should it be split into close and ranged abilities? Would such a change be more necessary if the range becomes 1-7 to acknowledge the presence of dog sized aliens and strength boosting power armor that were not in the original rules?
  3. Sort the Stories - I really enjoy thinking through the logic of the world, and find it an interesting place if not one where I'd actually like to live. However it might be a bit excessive to expect everyone to read my entire collection, so I need to prioritize which setting elements are needed first.
  4. Combine - From my standpoint, this is supposed to be a cohesive book somehow rather than a collection of PDFs entailing a rule set, a short story collection, and a dissertation on future trends for city living.
So I'm going to make an offer. Before the end of the month, I'll have a draft of various rules changes if not the 1.3 version of the main document ready. I also want to make a contract with those who are interested in the project. If you're willing to test and provide feedback, I'm willing to include NPCs or locations you suggest as part of the game. There will be some limitations of course - I have plans for some areas of the world, but most of the others don't even have one of my infamous notebook outlines.

I've tried setting deadlines, I've tried positive reinforcement via gummy worms based on word count, and it hasn't worked all that well. So for now, I can't say how long it will take, but hopefully this will help.

Isaac Asimov has been quoted "If I was told I have five minuets to live, I wouldn't fret, I'd just type a little faster." Lets hope it doesn't come to that.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Nano Medicine in Play

So nano stuff is pink, comes in two forms, is found in hospitals, university, and occasionally convoys, and is apparently a much in demand good, even if it may possibly be linked to the reanimate phenomenon. What does it do for the players?

The main boon is that is immunity to disease, or at least, a notably lessoned severity.  While the outposts try to maintain sanitation, supplies of safe water, detergents, and population mans a lot is overlooked. Furthermore, everyone has been operating under stress, and often without adequate food. If the reanimates were not already a pandemic, humans in this state would be ripe for one. Overuse of antibiotics in the 20th and 21st centuries has rendered a number of pathogens immune, and somewhat warmer wetter weather patterns in much of the US means tropical diseases have spread into the states.

Without functioning nano-vaccine, the GM would have extra book-keeping, as it becomes vital to think about what disease the players might come in contact with and their hygiene habits. Although a long list of symptoms and a little research can add some role playing and urgency, for ease, the specifics are as simple as reducing skill rolls to 6s only - just like low deadening/lucidity. Any disease - mental or physical - taxes ones ability to concentrate and operate at peak performance.

Nano-medicine in hospitals can restore functionality to damaged limbs and organs - even add cybernetic replacements if necessary. Access to such facilities is a strong reward, and can allow characters to continue their adventures, rather than be retired due to ailments.

Bionic technology seeks to augment abilities, but can not super-power them. There are no cyber-limbs with built in weapons or super strength. The human skeleton could not withstand such stresses, and the quest to keep weight, cost,  and power requirements to a minimum means that in a number of cases, artificial replacements are inferior to the original. (And the best still have minimal gains.)

Similarly, gene replacement therapies can create biological uber-soldats (yet) but do allow doctors to edit out some neonatal problems and reduce certain risks. Research into genetic longevity has not created any immortality serums, but 150 has become a lot more attainable than before.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Wasteland Ettiquite

Rule Number One - this is the Zone, not the jungle.
If nothing else, keep that in mind. We are not going to fall to a kill or be killed, survival of the fittest mentality. There are still cities and towns out there, and fellow human beings in need. The country still exists to be rebuilt.

The boy scouts once believed you should leave the land as you left it before, if not better. Well. for now the land can take care of itself. Leave signs of where you stayed. You probably chose to sleep there because it was safe or well stocked. If others can find that area, they can benefit as well.

Note dangerous areas. Warn others.

Keep an eye on those aliens. Not all of them shout "destroy all humans" constantly - but there are plenty of unfriendly ones out there. If they're causing trouble, let others know and help put together a response.

Wave and call out. Let others know you're human. Fratricide is nothing but tragic.

Ruins are fair game, but stuff others are using is not. Sociopathy is repaid in kind - you steal and murder, others will hunt you down.

Stay a while. A lot of you are pretty anxious to roll into town, trade, restock, and then get back to exploring. You'll be a lot more welcome and get better prices in the future if you help out around the town. Repair the walls, plow the fields, mend clothes - whatever you can do to enrich the town will help.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Using -1 Difficulty

Some people have asked me about the long range shooting rules. Using a gun in close combat is just fine - at a bonus even due to closeness, but calmly lying sown with a scoped rifle on a bench rest risks breaking the weapon in addition to range penalties.

The answer is: That isn't part of the genre.

Dead and back is not so much a simulation of a real life-outbreak of flesh eating ghouls, as a chance to star in your own personal horror film. Of course, movie logic is quite different from what occurs in real life.

-1 difficulty is for actions that are ill advisable - either from sheer danger, or because they don't fit with the Game Master's story. Its not a blanket excuse to openly antagonize players, but a chance to bring in complications and new scenes.

How often do characters in a show call the police, rather than take justice into their own hands? Use a handgun with a proper two handed grip at only a few feet range? Of course they have to split up and give the serial killer a better chance - or it wouldn't be much of a danger. And then there are all the ways explosives are misrepresented.

On a less general note - it rarely proves possible to eliminate all the ghouls at range, regardless of how one tries. If fact, the noise of the shooting is likely to bring several more for each one that goes down. Thus failure indicates that simply more creatures have show up. Or perhaps, the new guest is a human opponent who notices the precision shooting, and decides they want that sniper weapon for themselves.

Depending on the situation, any failed rolls with -1 should help lead to new sub-plots. If a failure leads to a team mate getting injured - then finding  medical supplies, or a doctor becomes a new goal. Perhaps wading back into the horde to rescue them is a chance for good roleplaying and a heroic scene. Getting lost might lead to new locations of potential friends, except for the fact they have their own problems they need help with first.

Of course, a game master could discuss their expectations for the game beforehand, and hopefully everyone is on the same page about genre expectations, meaning -1s don't need to come up much. conversely, they can acquiesce to the players' desire for action and not penalize stunts - even reverse the situation and punsih those who are being repetitive and boring..

Monday, October 25, 2010

Yet we keep trying and the tapes rolling (Part II))

"I hope this isn't too embarrassing to ask, but do citizens wear clothes? I mean, we never see you without that power armor."
"Of course we wear clothes Mr. Hobbes. The upper parts are rather similar to your own. Of course the other half goes on rather diffeREntly than how you wear them with two sets of legs. Most things have fabric hook and loop faster strips to allow a little pressure to couple Even where we can't quite reach. Generally over the back and tail is one garmEnt that fits around the belly and tail, with leg coverings Either omitted or separate garmEnts, depending on the weather."
"If you don't mind the comparison, it sounds like a combination of shirts and a something akin to a horse's saddle, with optional leg warmers."
"Reference: Horse not in database - see Mustang, 57. No, No [squeal!]... I will say yes, then move on to my question. How many humans were there before we arrived?"
"Somewhere between nine and ten billion people. The national area we are in had about 450 million. At least 80% of the USA was urban or suburban, though its a large country, and thus not as crowded as some of the others. Single family homes were still common, though apartment towers, or even single building cities were becoming far more the norm.Continuing the clothing questions - is there much difference between what males and females wear? For that matter, is it common for females to be using those power armors?"
"Clothing is rather similar, more a matter of traditional colors and symbols asso-ciated with each gender, age, and rank rather than diffERent cut or cloth. FE-males tend to be kept at home due to slow rate of re-production and thus need to protect them, though this is more historical. FE-males using Eekaidie is com-mon. These units are more gen-eral pur-pose used in con-struction though can be weapon-ized. Military mostly male, but there is little difference in ability. Is there much division between human genders?"
"By law, there is no difference, women can hold any position a man can for equal compensation by law - though in some places older habits of discrimination exist."
"Who is the leader of the human government?"
"We never had a single world leader, the United Nations tried to work out differences between governments peaceful, to some extent. The United States was a democracy of elected leaders, the last election for president being in 2052, and the next one scheduled for 2056. If you hadn't arrived right now we would be in a rather heated contest because the incumbent had served two turns, and thus it would be a contest between two new people. As is, its supposedly under martial law. However your disruptions of communication, large scale mutiny by certain parts of the military, and groups of survivors declaring independence means only a little of the country is nominally under control. Parts of California, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, the Dakotas, Illinois seems loyal, as are NEST arcos along the coast - but generally they act alone, and simply are under contract to rejoin the union no questions asked when that happens, then actually following central directives."
"That is distressingly similar to our current government situation. We are loyal to home-world, and nominally the fleet, but individual settlements are dealing with humans as they see fit." 
"Certainly explains why sometimes the aliens help and others they attack. Is there something we can do to foster better relations?"
"Try to communicate before attacking for one, and listen to directives a patrol might give you."
"You hear that loyal listeners? Use some common sense and courtesy, and and you might have make a laser wielding friend!"
"How many people listen to you anyway?"
"I really don't know. We've got a big tower, plenty of power, and we're using lower fidelity but longer ranged AM channels - depending on weather, you could probably hear us over most of the country. Getting feedback or play-list requests however, is rather problematic."
"Are your transmissions typical compared to a pre-arrival broadcast."
"Not in the least. AM, or for that matter signals weren't used much compared to either satellite or Internet based communication, and we don't play much in the way of what would be called "contemporary" music -  from our individual tastes, and because we feel that modern music will be rather associated with the tragedy of the last few years - so we want something more up-beat. It was also common for stations to specialize in certain formats, while we have music, interviews, news - or what counts as such."
"Some of our leaders are worried your transmissions are used to organize attacks, but I for one am impressed that you chose to do this."
"Thank You. We are quite grateful you agree to these interviews to clear up these sorts of misunderstandings."