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.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Zone Demographics and Lifestyle

So far I haven't given as much thought to absolute population numbers and named leaders as I should. Actual population mechanics is pretty difficult, and just making up numbers feels unscientific and may come back to haunt me later. I've seen games that come up with some very hard to explain numbers - including one where:
  • Advanced front line troops with no support made up 50% of the population
  • Only 10% of the people could read in a high tech society
  • None of the listed city populations added up meshed with the listed state demographics
  • The armory listed enough flying power armors to give everyone in the country two and a half suits.
Furthermore, the question comes as to what exactly are reasonable numbers, and what makes for a good story. On one hand, the idea that even the G-zones are undermanned and desperate is a fitting touch to the genre, but on the other hand, keeping them large means more conflict between them, more oppression to hold together such population, and prevents the frontier from seeming so heavily inhabited.

My base assumption for the world is that the casualty rate between 2050 and 2055 is 90%. Nano-Vac was invented because epidemics were getting worse due to weather shifts, moving populations, and opening up virus reservoirs. So when electricity and most of modern medicine goes down, there are going to be problems. Add to that the inevitable looting, military actions against PCs with orbital bombardment tech, and of course the walking dead - and 10% survival almost seems generous.

Most of the remaining population, from 60-90% will be living in the Anarchy Zones. Most populations are clustered around some form of resource extraction - for a rather inclusive definition of resources. An auto manufacturing plant that can provide parts to return vehicles to working order is a more likely option than a mine. Functional hospitals, university labs that can produce nano-vac, nuclear power plants - "Boom towns" form around old technology rather than silver lodes.

Depending on the risk or the resources, the size of a settlement can vary wildly. A few dozen people might fortify parts of an old skyscraper in the infested Chicago Loop and seek out data files. A less over run area might have a few hundred or even thousand people people starting a commune or restoring an old farming town to agrarian society. Rarely is any non-government area going to run much larger than a town however.

The AZ is not open desert or radioactive wasteland like a nuclear holocaust film, but is overgrown and unmaintained. There are a few places, however, where containment breaches at chemical or nuclear handling facilities have made areas dangerous - but its like the Chernobyl exclusion zone, not B-movie mutants. Its more the absence of state or national level government that defines an A-Zone.

The 1850s are a good metaphor when you think about it. The remaining G-zones are much like the colonial empires of the time (France, Belgium, Germany, Great Britain, the USA to a lesser extent). There is a search for coaling stations and other resources, while considering themselves part of something greater and bringing unity to the world. A-zone settlements are more like western homesteads, boom towns, or far flung colonies.

As to some actual numbers, which may be subject to change:
  • NEST was a sequence of ten arcologies, at 500,000 apiece.  Presuming three totally lost, and an average of 50% attrition at the others (more like some got through fairly unscathed, while others are 300,000 reanimates separated from 50,000 survivors by a few fire doors and elevators): 4.25 million people - spread across the east coast between Main and Virgina.
  • The LasVegas metropolitan area had a population of 1,865,746 in 2010, with about a third in the city proper. I would expect the post crisis numbers to be a little lower than this, but still a problem because the city is obviously not all that independent.
  • Central Gulf/Lone Star is an incomplete project, and but is also close to what was once a major facility for refitting nuclear caries and cruisers in the Gulf of Mexico 
  • Ruby Ridge and The Free City of Tesla are rather outliers for G-zones, having somewhere around 300,000 combined numbers.
  • New Birmingham might have over 2.5 million

All together, the G-zones might account for 8-10 million people in the United States of America. The estimated population of the country in 2050 would is forecast to be around 440 million, so that means 36 million people are in the non government recognized areas.

Moving to matters of life style, things are probably at a 1940's level. There may be central frozen food stocks, but individual refrigerators are rare, and electricity is generally rationed or limited to certain uses. Computers are still rather ubiquitous - low energy requirements of modern machines (remember, they are woven into clothes now and charged by walking or induction from a closet rack) means they are easy to keep charged. Long distance communication, requiring high-powered microwave transmitters or satellites is of course not possible even with wireless networks still running in some places.

Frankly, there isn't so much a danger of society collapsing into "Mad Max: Beyond the Thunderdrome" Territory, as there is a standing question of will institutions like the USA return, or will new nations take its place. The machines of industry will run again, but who is at the helm is an open debate.

Caravans might connect villages, but leaving is hardly a casual thing. Most places are still run by what is effectively a provisional government or emergency council. Some are elected, and others have had elections canceled by more despotic leaders.

Food grown in the commune is generally safe.  Civil water systems are only running in the G-zones however, so one needs to be careful about quenching their thirst. Nano-Vac is good against pathogens, whether they be parasites, fungi, prions, virus, or bacteria - but can't really do much about toxins or radiation. Without a boost at some point in the last few years, the average secondary immune system is at 25-30% effectiveness, so even that might be in question.

Life is  not up to the level of leisure expected in the late 20th century industrialized world, and certainly not the mid 21st century. However, there is a general unease about what will come, and political ideas can become uncivilized very quickly. Most places in the AZ are not constantly under siege, and those that are have a reason for it (ie outposts in old cites looking for valuable artifacts)

This is something that is going to need a lot of work in the coming weeks.

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