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.

Saturday, July 31, 2010


"Welcome back listners! I'm happy to say that once again we have the infamous Mr. Cats in our studio."
   "And once again I need to remind you, its just KC."
"If its not the sound guy, its my guests, if its not the guests, if its not them... it had better not be anything else because there's no one within fifty miles of here."
   "I get that feeling a lot in my travels."
"Speaking of which, I'd like to know - what is the scariest place you've been?"
   "Las Vegas, Nevada."
   "Vegas? Vegas! That's one of the major government zones, its where most of the US leaders and army is, its got to be one of the safest places in North America."
   "Best protected perhaps, safeset, that is another matter entirely. And for the sake of argument, its a couple of senators, a secretary of something or two, and a bunch of military brass, but where the bulk of the US government is, its kind of hard to tell."
   "I know, I know, but I just can't see how Vegas is your top pick. I mean, haven't you been inside an overun arcology before?"
   "NEST zero one, zero seven, and zero eight. Certainly hazardous, and unsettling. Your listeners would probably love to hear about those some time. But I stand by the idea, Vegas is the worst."
   "I'm sure they would, but you're going to need to give a good reason why a controlled zone is the worst."
   "First of all, I was in Vegas, before. When I was young, my parents went through there while on a trip to California, and I got to see it in its full glory before the oil crisis. Went back after I turned 21, and even with the new restrictions on long distance travel and power use, reduced water consumption, and generally less tourism - it was still a sight to behold, it kept that city of lights and free shrimp cocktail mystique. Go there now, and its black. Sure there are more important facilities than the casinos, but I mean even the street lights are out, the only illumination is the headlights of the military vehicles blocking the roads in and an occasional lantern at a sector post.
   If you have any concept of Las Vegas from before, this alone would just take you as completely wrong. There is more automated ligihting in an abondend arco-tower.
   Even if that old spirit is gone, something else is there. You can feel it in your teeth, crawling about your spine. Part of it is that you can't go ten feet without seeing pointing a gauss rifle in your direction. Every one of those soldiers has a symbol of their unit on them, and then a larger version of it, and a larger one still. They want to show off their allegiance. There is a definite pride, and a sense of purpose and heroism in belonging to a pre-event battalion. However, the resources of Vegas just won't support them all, and there is going to be a demobilization and disbanding of units.
   Its like being around 10,000 captains who want to go down with their ship.
   There are nightly fistfights over who gets to guard the quietest place in the desert and who gets to stop wearing out boots with pointless street patrols after a curfew everyone follows. It is by the grace of god that things have gone so well up until now, but there will be a reckoning amongst these soldiers."
  "Couldn't they be sent on longer range patrols or reinforce other G-zones? Why keep them there?
   "You would probably need to interview an actual soldier or his commanding officer. Part of it, is that everyone wants the credit and cushy job of protecting the city. Secondly, where would they go? The desters and mesas are a lot like the alien's home world, so to the south is quite a few of their outposts. North of them is the free city of Tesla and Rubuy Ridge - groups that don't want the govenment to interfere with their new societys, and would probably activly fight them. California was hit hard by the plague, and little short of a nuclear weapon would thin their numbers.
  Speaking of which - as you might know, several A-bombs were used in the defense of Vegas five years ago, and there is good reason to believe they have more. To say this is a point of - conflict - is an understatement. With no nations surviving fully intact, they could go ahead and vaporize every other world capital and see no retaliation. A few generals believe this would be a good thing - part of America's manifest destiny to rebuild the world under its own image when we pull out of this dark age. A few more moderate ones only want to use ICBMs on the aliens, but still... So forces need to be kept around to either back this "stranglove" faction, or to oppose them if they made a play for power.
   "I... I don't knwo what to say about that."
   "And you shouldn't. A basic part of human decency is not wishing devastation upon others- and certainly not acting upon such. If it scares you, you're a good person."
   "With bombshel... revelations like this, I think we need a few minuets to think about this and then a lot more information about the government in exile."
   "Take your time. The Zone isn't going anywhere without me."

Friday, July 30, 2010

Crimes Against Inhumanity?

Our history is a litany of violence, a shopping list of atrocities, mass murders, and other crimes against our own kind. The Planetary Citizens are a truly alien "Other", at least partly responsible for are current sorry state of affairs. In some areas they are actively taking over the planet, expanding their territory behind a wall of laser towers and missile batteries. It would seem that humanity would not only fight back, but do so with extraordinary zeal and no Geneva Convention to limit the possible tortures. There should simply be no more aliens

So the question has been occasionally posed - why are there still aliens? Shouldn't they have experienced  the untold fury of the Human race and been wiped out within days of setting foot on the planet?

Logistics is a big part of it. Reanimates, disease, starvation, and internal conflict have taken a toll on our numbers. By some figures, if it was the EMP alone and the after affects of losing most of our food and energy distribution networks, a 30% population drop wouldn't have been unreasonable. Add reanimates and open warfare, and one understands why most estimates state the world has only five percent of the human numbers from before! Manpower is at a premium these days as well.

Nor can we count much on the inorganic parts of war. Munitions and Material are inadequate to equip a major army the size of the old national forces, and its unlikely that more weapons will be produced anytime soon. The experts needed to maintain or build the systems are gone or focusing on more immediate survival concerns.

Political disunity must be considered as well. Many of the remaining city states are hostile to one another. One of the most powerful remaining armed forces on earth is the viking like raiders comprised of remnants of the various Baltic navies, under the banner of the Kola Collective Admiralty. Even those on friendly terms are unlikely to send preciousness manpower hundreds of kilometers away to help against long term threats, when there is danger closer to home.

Since we never encountered hostile (or otherwise) space faring civilizations, we didn't have much in the way of anti-space-ship weapons. Of course there were anti-satellite missiles and lasers, but those are designed to eliminate objects that are intentionally built in the flimsiest manner possible as every kilogram saved is hundred of dollars saved in launch fees. Using these against an 800 meter long alien vessel is rather akin to trying to sink the Queen Elizabeth VII cruise ship with a hunting rifle. Nuclear weapons were not a real option either. Between treaties against nukes in space, and ICBMs are already amazingly complex and expensive weapons, giving them the ability to hit targets in orbit or beyond would have been a ludicrous technical and financial undertaking.

Hence, retaliation is still an issue. Their remaining ships are may be capable of deploying orbital weapons. Even a large rock dropped from lunar orbit would carry the power of an atomic bomb. This also means they have a way of quickly moving and concentrating forces when we do not. Sub-orbital jaunts could be the ultimate blitzkrieg.

One can't discount the difficulty of fighting them on the ground either. Summer blockbuster movies seem to make out all alien races as having a fatal flaw, and mankind's ingenuity and plucky heroes win out in the end. However, realistic thinking is that if they're advanced enough to build space ship, they probably have at least gotten to the late 20th century military wise. Indeed, while lasers in atmosphere are out ranged by mass-drivers, and none of their vehicles were heavily armored by our standards, they do have actual tactics, camouflage, guided missiles, aircraft, and other non-line of sight weapons. Although the laser towers have a fairly short range (if you consider a dozen km short - some estimates give them up to a several hundred megawatt power source) solid state phased array lasers can fire fast enough to shoot down incoming missiles..

For that matter, we have little proof that this was a significant fraction of their fleet. We don't know when or if more are going to arrive. Pissing off a few hundred thousand aliens when billions of reinforcements may be on the way - probably not a great idea.

Turning from the practical to the philosophical - we should keep in mind that the PCs are thinking sentient creatures. Depending on your school of thought, it could be argued they have a natural right to exist, or have established such a right through their society and technology. It is quite possible that they can be reasoned with and that we can work together against our problems. Most of them are quite willing to accept an attitude of live and let live, and with so much suffering on our part already - starting a war seems like a bad idea. It would also be far easier to reverse engineer their technology if some of the orginal builders are around to explain it.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Luther's Day

Red checkerd tabel cloths, buttermilk battered fried chicken, all the atmosphere of a church picnic. Well, it is a church picnic, despite the horrors my teammates were dealing with not more than a dozen clicks away. A broken leg had gotten me out of border patrol for a few days while the nano acreted extra calcium.
  "Excuse, who is that?"
  "What?" I asked, turning the the auburn haired woman who had appeared beside me.
  "That guy, the statue, all the hanging pictures."
  "I take it you're one of the scavangers we let in recently."
"Caravans and mechanic. I don't pick over other's bones." Feisty one, needs a husband.
"Right. That is Reverend Luther Powel. He is the one who made this all possible."
"The man behind New Bimingham."
"Our founder yes, but he is in god's hands now, not long after it was all settled."
"Can I ask how he managed that?"
"Of corse my dear, you don't learn if you don't ask. In the years before, he was dedicated to fighting back against the fall of society. He started a program to get every church in the area its own radio transnission towrer -afterall the sphere was full of distracting filth, but we colud have channels dedicated clearly to the lord. When the event happened, for a while the only things still on the air were national guard broadcasts and our ministry, and soon even the former stopped. For the better, it was their fault.
"I harly think the national guard planned on the country falling apart, in fact I;m almost sure their job was to prevent it.
"Certinly didn't act that way, considering how many people still made it across the borders, how they supported heathen rulers, and made such a poor showing againt the crime and corruption."
"You;re saying the aliens and reanimates are a second biblical flood huh?"
"Apt perhaps. Anyway, Reverend Powel worked himself to exhaustion helping organise communities, and despite his age, even led efforts back into infested areas to rescue more good christians. It was ar the point where some would think his vissions came more rom the lack of sleep than divine inspiration. He laid down clear rules while others were still realing - his military experince from he 2000s wars made him a take charge sort of man. But eventually it all caught up with him, and he went to join the lord."
"So who is in charge now may I ask?"
"We have both an eclisastical and secular council governing us. Mary Power, our founder's widow, and his son Duncan hold seats on the former. The secular gov is elected and helps with distirbution of goods, managing defense, organising repairs. The othe maintains veto power and controls the law and judges."
"In that case, would you knwo where anyone from the secular council is? My group still has some business to take care of today."
"See that guy in  a red shirt under the rotunda? I think thats one of them, though I can't tell since his back is to us."
"Thank you."
"Of course, ma'am. If you haveany further questions or need an escort I'll be here."

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Getting Around Part 1

If you want to have success in the waste land, the most essential equipment is a good pair of boots. Multiple pairs more likely, because you have to treat your feet well. They are really the best option for trasportation.

There are plenty of vehicles to be found. No more than two or three dozen nukes went off after all, so most cites are intact, if a bit over grown and infested. Old highways are chocked with cars deadlocked from the exodus from the cites when the reanimates started showing up. Of course someone spins out, the crash squeezes traffic, more slow downs, another crash, traffic piles up into a big cluster, then reanimates catch up...

Maybe your better off checking old parking garages - a lot less depressing at least. Still won't do much good though, because there isn't anything to make the cars run.

Everyone was either running away, or killed outright, which meant the distribution systems fell apart pretty quickly. Surge protectors tripped from EMP were only partially reset. When the world is going to hell in a handbasket, clibing utility poles kind of takes a secondary importance, which when coupled with five years of snow and stroms, means that despite the dozens of green plants and at least a hundred still fuled fisson units, electrcity isn't going to flow anywhere.

In turn, no electricity impacts the capacity to refine other fuels. There are personal facilities for making plant based hydrocarbon fuels in the G-zones occasionally, but without major farms or commercial throughput, there isn't much to convert. (Trust me, you do not want to refine what has been sitting in an abandoned restaurant's grease trap for five years. I still can look at a yellow M without retching.) Nor do we have huge refiners churning through sugar cane, corn, or plant waste.

Considering most oil wells ran dry 15-20 years ago, you're not going to get any museum pieces running.

Five years of neglect hasn't ruined the roads quite as badly as the power lines. After all, the stress of thousands of cars hasn't been pounding them everyday now. Still, its been a while since anyone has fixed a pot hole, replaced a road sign, or cleared stalled vehicles. Vehicles not meant for off roading are going to be stymied a lot.

Bikes are a bit of a mixed bag. Uneven terrain and the aforementioned road issues make them uncomfortable. They offer no protection from the elements or the walkers, and limit what you can load up and how for balance reasons. Lacking other options however, you can count on finding a good number of riders if you're following a well used route.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

NEST Logic

Consider for a moment, the Empire State Building. It is in an expensive and crowded part of town so the average person who works there must either live in an extremely expensive condo, or wake up two hours before they go to work to allow for transit, and finding parking. Just getting lunch will require more transit thrugh a busy city, and finding a spot again, and then of course there is the trip home.

Now change the layout a bit. Instead of 85 stories of commercial space, about half of that is offices,and  the remainder is split between shops, restaurants, an internal utilities center, hydroponic gardens, a hospital complex, and the rest is apartments. (For more exact numbers, something like  40 stories commercial, 25 stories residential, 13 for a mall, movie theaters etc, five dedicated to wind turbines, water reclamation, etc.  and a two story medical center.)

A person who lives and works in the building doesn't need a car. That saves perhaps two hours or so of driving each work day - which adds up to an extra 40 hours of time over a month! Furthermore, that is a savings of perhaps 600 dollars on a vehicle lease, 400 on the auto insurance, plus gas, maintenance, and parking garage fees. This also militates some traffic congestion and pollution for the city as a whole. While rent would in theory be very high, this is offset by the fact at least part of the utilities are self supported, and the building might have its own sales tax on the stores within.

This second concept is very close to what the NEST is built to do, but on a far greater scale. The base of one of these towers is equal to siting together four baseball stadiums, and the central spire rises 150 stories. While the real Empire State Building has 21,000 tenants, a NEST can have over half a million. Dedicated fields of wind farms and wave turbines to assist the panels and regenerative systems (a piezoelectric unit under a floor panel might only put out the voltage of a watch battery, but when 100,000 people step on that spot daily, it adds up) are often built concurrently. Each NEST has its own hospital and outpost emergency rooms, police, fire department, and even a national guard post with surface to air missile batteries internal amusement parks, radio stations...

To put it plainly, if you took all of Seattle Washington, Sheffield  UK, or Oslo Norway, and poured it into a giant tube - you would end up with something like like one of these structures.

Amazingly expensive to create of course. But eliminate that many cars, shift all those people out of older less efficient structures, save all that horizontal space that would otherwise be eaten by by a sprawling urban mass... It might take a while, but the rewards would pay for it eventually.

Monday, July 26, 2010

104.3 and FIRE

"Good Morning Waste Land!"
   "Uh, boss, could you not do that you know how [beep] hard it is to get the old [beep] parts for this analog equipment. Also, could you not play with my [beep] buttons while I'm talking. Oh come on, that last word wasn't even obcene!"
   "I know, I know, but we got to let our listeners know we're having fun! If we have any new ones here - I'm Thomas Hobbes, he is Diego de Zúñiga, and this is 104.3 WJMK, your source for wasteland interviews,  survival tips, and night music. Today we have an audio essay about creating freeholds, a practical discussion of radiation - detection and what to do about it, instructions for a small hyroponics system, a two hour block of of 1980s dance mix... What? Don't look at me like that Diego, you're the one suggested we foster appreciation for classical music."
   "Stravinsky, not The Scorpions"
   "But you like "Winds of Change" more than "Rite of Spring," don't you?"
   "Well, yes... Shall we just get on with the listener submissions already?
   "Always the business like one. Well, our first portion of our settlement dialog is an essay titled "Fire"

Mankind gained dominance over the environment through the use of fire, and we shall do so once again. In this case though, its a useful  acronym rather than rapid oxidation - Friends, Intelligence, Restraint, Environment. Keep these four things in mind whenever you're trying to make an outpost in the zones.

Friends seems self explanatory - always have others to watch your back and share the work load. But it also goes a bit deeper. Keeping sane, cohesion, and trust are really important out there. You're better off with a good buddy who has a genral clue of what is going on than trying to put up with the perfect expert who's a [beep]ole.

["You know the FCC probably isn't going to fine us for broadcasting asshole in a documentary feature."
   "We've discussed this before, if we're going to convey to the people we're a serious station and not two guys that found an old transmitter, we need to follow the rules, no matter how archaic."
   "I agree to the professionalism Mr. Hobbes. The morning announcer act... OK, but we need to give the banter a bit more work. But I do feel uncomfortable with the censorship."]

Intelligence. There is a lot more to building a fort that throwing up a palisade, cutting some firing ports, building a barracks. You have to think both out side with fields of fire, and inside for things like sewage disposal, or escape routes. Old steel plates are great against reanimates, but not so much for shrimp radiation guns - so have an escape plan or a source of shielding in case they show up.

Restraint seems to be the odd one out. Don't you want go-getters, pioneers, those who give one-hundred-ten percent? Unfortunately, most people over estimate what they're capable of, and when they injure themselves from over work or become disillusioned with the lack of perceived progress, everything begins to grind to a halt and tensions flare (especially if you ignore the first part). You have to drill into your psyche that the world is not going to be conquered in a few months.

Environment. Choice locations are not all that obvious. It seems like a good idea to take over an old microfactory, fortify the premise, and get it running again. But most of those are nowhere near water sources, or good farmland, and are often in the more heavily infested areas. Nor is there much point in trying to establish a trade route if you don't have goods. Try for a place that will support a group first, and allow resource exploitation second.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Nano Vac

Most of the time, world changing innovations become part of the everyday language. Even technical terms like Tetracycline, petraflop, and SCHISM (Situated Collective Heuristic Internet Selection Mechanic - ie the Sphere  augmented reality system) were fairly common in casual conversation. And yet nano-vac always seemed to be taken for granted. Almost no one refered to the secondary bio-mech immune system by its real name.

Semi-Volitional Internal Agent 325 mark 1.3** might not roll off the tongue, but that is the label in the lab, the patent office, and billions of ampules sent around the globe.

I can't quite bring myself to feel shame about the negatives. Yes, there were riots when distribution was delayed. Yes, some despots rose to power by promising it to those who supported their revolution,  and some companies exploited people as virtual slaves in exchange for the stuff.

But it spread every other way too. Whether people bought it directly, recived  it as part of an employee benefits package or government health-care, the stuff spread like wild fire. SVIA 325 mk1.3** was the subject of the biggest charitable drive and vaccination effort since small pox or polio.

And the effect was quicker than either of those efforts - remember the Salk vaccine predates commercial jet aircraft, and only treated one disease. This is not really a vaccine despite what everyone called it, but a complete second immune system. It can hunt down infections of all types, help mend broken bones,  and even suture minor internal cuts to limit bruising. A modified form could remove cancer from the body, another could break down toxins (though tese types were only available in hospitals).

In fact, there were very few limitations. It wasn't so useful against grievous injuries - brain trauma, gunshots etc. High radiation destroyed it so replacement doses were needed after X-rays or if working in the nuclear power field. Nor did the agent really fight pain itself (even if it attacked the causes quickly), and I'm pretty sure the rumors about the military developing a type that acted on neurotransmitters to act as a painkiller are just that - rumors.

My part in all this might have been small, but I know something I made is everywhere from Albania to Zimbabwe.I think the Lord was smiling on me the day I was transferred to the research hospital down in Alabama where it all started.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Rethinking Ruby Ridge

Ruby Ridge began as an homage to the Holnists from "The Postman" by David Brin. A commune of survivalists and anti-government, who don't necessarily want to see the pre-event status-quo return. In theory it would be a mix of the idealized wild west where everyone has a gun, and a foil to other efforts to reunify the government, such as the remaining military to the south in Las Vegas.

More recent thinking, however,  has made me doubt the aptness of this concept in my game. New Birmingham (albeit with a different source of motivation) is already on an anti-democracy crusade, making RR a bit redundant. Secondly, while such fears have not fully gone away, these sorts of militarism really more of a 1980s/90s concern than what might be an issue decades from now in the 2050s. I don't want to give the impression I support the kind of people who read "The Turn Diaries" or otherwise feel the government is a source of evil. Indeed, as I explicitly disagree with them, its a bit hard to write about the ridge - making caricatures and wrongful assumptions is all too likely.

I don't intend to eliminate the hold outs entirely. As is constantly reiterated in "The Postman" its more often people resiting relief efforts and internal division that can prevents rebuilding than the fallout of the event itself. Keeping some elements around help continue to make the setting "The Anarchy Zone" rather than "The New USA".

Instead, I'm transforming it to a bit more of an up to date 2050's concern.

If New Birmingham saw the old world as too permissive, then what of the people who saw it as too static? Who needs the old forms of government, when you can have direct polling via the internet in a matter of hours (kept honest by good encryption - code can outpace breakers quite easily), or gather flash mobs in minuets to address a task informed of what to do in real time? Why burden society with the less able when genetic screening and alteration means everyone can have perfect babies? When energy comes free from the sun and everything else from garage size nano-facs, what good is an economy based on scarcity?

The Free City of Tesla - home of radical TransHumaists.

Friday, July 23, 2010

KC Kats

KC is the self proclaimed advocate of the anarchy zone. He is the archetype of a man who saw society crumble, the panic in the last government areas, and decided to wash his hands of the whole thing and live for himself. Although KC doesn't speak much about his life pre-event, hisuncanny ability to acquire goods that were once kept in safes and high security hints that he may have been outside the law even before the aliens arrived.

Somehow he finds the time and transit to cross the entire country, write books about his experience, and deliver recordings to the few working radio stations to help educate listens about the beauty and dangers of the wilderness. ("He is Robert Prisig and Sal Eden as envisioned by Romero" according to Thomas Hobbes, one such radio station manager)

Despite several years of life in the wild, KC can be quite altruistic. If he found something good to trade with a city state, he is willing to give it for a fairly ow price. However, he prides himself on not being mercenary, and thus won't take orders to find something specific. He lives by the adage "violence is the resort of the incompetent"  and avoids conflict when possible.

  • Aim: 2
  • Quick: 4
  • Tech: 4
  • Strength: 3
  • Wits: 2
 Secondary Attributes
  • Animus: 8
  • Deadening: 5
  • Lucidity: 6
  • Pack: 6
  • Up-rise: 7
  • Burglary
  • Access
  • Scavenging
  • Medicine
Physical Description

Fond of wearing button down shirts and cargo pants full of odds an ends under a worn leather jacket, KC has the distinct visage of hells angel who teaches literature night courses at the local community college. Physically he is a well taken care of round faced man in his 50s, though seeming much younger due to the maintenance nano-antibodies provide. Slightly graying hair is usually kept under a green bandanna, and he often wears wire rim sunglasses.


Given that he pretty much literally wrote the book on how to get by in the zone, its safe to presume he has just about any survival tool necessary and a spare to lend should the players need it. KC is also an avid scavenger and trader, and will most likely have something of value to trade.

As for some of the less standard items: Multiple fuel turbine Motorcycle, Lock Picks, Professional video recording equipment

He prefers non-gauss weapons, his defenses of choice consisting of an AK-101 5.56x45mm assault rifle, P-226 9mm pistol, and a claw hammer. KC is quite non-confrontational and will do all he can to avoid violence.

Game Hooks
KC is an explorer and can function as an expert guide, a source of useful information, or a supplier of equipment pilfered from hard to reach places.

He is willing to offer a substantial reward to anyone who can find a nano-blueprint of his motorcycle, as he wants to make this model to be manufactured again, allowing more people to explore the zone.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Alpha Skill List

The first few drafts of the game didn't include a set list of skills.In part its laziness - I don't like coming up with lists of abilities and then trying to balance them so you don't have any "must have vs useless" arguments. I also felt the individual GM would be a better judge of what is allowable in their game. Furthermore, no guidelines would lead to bad choices, and the crux of a horror game is being unprepared.

However, my initial play test group didn't like the free form skills. Nor did they understand the difference between skills and special ability, and at least one tried to make up skills identical to an ability and asked why a solder can't have both tactics and heavy weapons.

Before displaying the new list, let me reiterate how the skill system works. Every character has five attributes - Strength, Tech, Quick, Wits, and Aim. These are very broad areas of ability, and measure a person's general aptitude. A high tech character is a born engineer, a low tech rating means fairly bad at understanding systems.

Skills represent specialization within an attribute that might indicate vocational school, some degree of college, or an out of control hobby.

Special Abilities, are just that - special. These are things that require a license to know (explosives handling), a PhD (surgery) or otherwise years of commitment to some cause (Security clearance).

So for example, a solder would not have the tactics/strategy special ability, and the ammo conservation ability together, because one indicates time spent in West Point learning to lead, and the other is from field experience, and its been 150 years (George Patton excluded) since generals lead from the front.

I'm trying to make a 15-20 item list, and expand the choice of special abilities as part of my general overhaul of the character creation chapter. (For the most part, I need more foot notes, since elements like lucidity and altruism points are explained in chapters other than creation)

So far we have:
  1. Negotiating
  2. Medicine
  3. Burglary (Lifting wallets, finding fences, etc.)
  4. Access (Free-running, climbing, navigation)
  5. Investigation (Finding clues, tracking people)
  6. Scavenging
  7. Repair
  8. Programming/Hacking
  9. Driving (Cars - pilot's licenses etc is an SA)
  10. Construction
  11. Camping/Wilderness Survival
  12. Wood Working and Fabric Construction
  13. Welding/Metal Fabrication
  14. Organic Chemistry
  15. Nanotech Integration (probably an SA is available at all)
  16. Animal handling/riding
  17. Swimming & Boating
Since the aim attribute is handled a bit differently from the others (its a gestalt of ranged and close combat ability) I'm reluctant to have any skill that affect it. I also need more skills that might conceivably fall under "strength" since I'm trying to avoid any single super stat or dump stat.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Electromagnetic Weapons (part one of ?)

By 2050, many armies are making use of electromagnetic propulsion for weapons. Despite demanding power requirements, they are in some ways simpler to service than conventional weapons.

Common fascination lies with the Rail Guns used by a number of military vehicles. Magnets flanking a conductive projectile use Lorentz force to accelerate it to phenomenal speeds. There is an upper limit to the velocity of chemical rounds, and these guns surpass that. In fact, the mostly steel rounds need a ceramic coating so they don't melt or vaporize en-route to the target. Due to energy requirements, and the force involved, these weapons are limited to fairly small calibers - 30 to 60 millimeters - but for armor piercing a smaller cross section is ideal.

Large coil guns or conventional cannons are used for more general purpose ammunition.

Gauss Rifles, the infantry weapon, are somewhat less impressive. They are best thought of as the 21st century Kalashnikov assault rifle. Like the AK, they are exceedingly simple to repair and train with - the US M-32 rifle has only four moving parts (Magazine follower, Chamber loader, Trigger, and fire mode selection switch.) and since it lacks propellant - the any barrel fouling is due to the environment. Also like the AK, gauss rifles tend to have poor ergonomics - the length and weight of the magnetic coils make the weapons rather unwieldly in close combat.

Two main kinds of gauss riles exist. Full-Mag guns rely solely on magnetic propulsion, while Assisted-Mag weapons have some propellant giving the initial impetus to the round. The latter allows for less energy consumption, shorter lighter barrels, and the ability to operate without batteries in an emergency. However, they maintain most of the weaknesses of conventional weapons.

Generally speaking the mode selector allows the user to chose between rate of fire, and the power of individual rounds. Using the American M-32 as an example there are three fire modes. Setting S: fires quickly, but at subsonic velocities, in theory allowing for close quarter combat and stealth. (Remember, the gun is as long and heavy as an old M-14, so its not quite a good substitute for a SMG.) Next is A, Assault rifle - operating at velocities and rate of fire very similar to the old M-16. Third on the dial is D, for designated marksman, in which case the rifle operates semi-automatic only but charges until the rounds carry the power of a 7.62mm round, capable of engaging point targets at up to a kilometer. .Finally, L stands for locked - the gun is disarmed.

Its also worth noting there are heavy gauss riles that operate as squad support weapons. Like their lesser brethren, they have multiple fire modes to change their role in a fire team. These guns tend to have three modes - light machine-gun with a high rate of fire (similar to an M-249 SAW), Slower firing General Purpose MG (like a 7.62mm PKM) or semi-automatic anti-material rifle. (Like a Barret M2A2).

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Means of Infection

Surviving reports from the initial uprising infer that the old movies we right. Any wound inflicted by a reanimate might be considered mortal, and lead to rapid death and than reanimation. However, more recent accounts seem to countermand these concepts.

In fact - we seem to lack any accounts of spontaneous reanimation. Numerous interviewees recall seeing former comrades reappearing a few days to weeks later, but none have seen the transition. Whether they were dragged down or killed by other means does not seem to matter. These sessions also note that reanimates have a tendency to clean the field of all bodies - theirs and fresh corpses, unless means are taken to prevent removal of the bodies. Cremation, or isolation in guarded compounds will work, but burial does not seem to deter them.

All due caution should still be expressed, of course. Given the lack of hygiene reanimates exhibit, any wounds they open are likely to be septic - but don't seem to spread the condition.

We have discussed several mundane explanations for this. The easiest would be to say the old reports are in error - made hastily, in fear, and thus prone to exaggeration. Or perhaps given the strange nature of the enemy, the error was deliberate - to help enforce a cautions mind set amongst those reading the reports. Standard procedure in a dangerous outbreak would presume someone is infected until proven otherwise for the safety of the responders.

More radically - it could be the incubation time is longer than the in field observation, or only affects those who die in short order after the wound. If desth is not immediate, the body eliminates the agent.

My personal hypothesis is that this has to do with the concentration of said agent. In the early days of plentiful hosts and fresh release - rapid reanimation was possible. Five years of environmental exposure and a geometric decrease in the number of potential carriers - the process has now changed. Either it is quite slow - taking weeks to months, or bodies must be brought to an area of higher concentration. Rather than casually passing on the disease, the reanimates must actually put effort into augmenting their numbers.

I do not have information on how this process might work, unfortunately. It may involve the rumored Type IV, or perhaps is subclass (following the standard nomenclature, a Delta.)

Monday, July 19, 2010

In the Begining

This all began several years ago when I had a spark of inspiration. Contrary to my usual story first approach to game design, a mechanic without setting occurred to me. A quick combat system that only required one roll, yet incorporated user skill, weapon power, and target's armor.

Of course, if you want to showcase a combat system, you need a target rich environment to give it plenty of use.

Cue zombie apocalypse. Dozens, if not hundreds of moving and dangerous opponents, and plenty of justification to use whatever force necessary.

I couldn't allow it to remain that simple for long however. To stand out from other uses of the undead, I wanted to add a bit more to the story. Rather than being contemporary, it would be set several decades from now, in the wake of a society drawing closer to a technological singularity. Instead of holing up in a few places, the bastions would be problematic, and wandering the wastes freedom for those who dared.

Unfortunately, as with most of my projects, I've had little chance to actually play this game. Quite a bit of testing is still required - to see how well it works, if the directions are written cogently, and if people find sufficient motivation.

So hopefully this blog and forum will be a chance to garner commentary, and move this work from thirty pages of rules and two journals full of notes into a game worty of mainstream publishing.

Thank you for your interest and feedback.

Chainsaw Aardvark.