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, 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."

Friday, October 22, 2010

Yet We Keep Trying and the Tapes Rolling (Part One)

 "Hey Thomas, I had an idea. Since, we've set a pattern of never quite finishing a line of inquiry, lets try a new technique."
"Have you ask the questions?"
"Yeah - NO! Neither you nor anything else is going to get me closer than six meters from one of those things - sixty if I'm unarmed."
"For shame Diego. This kind of racism is why we can't get along."
"And the EMP, and the orbital bombardment, and the reanimates..."
"You're Not making me more receptive to your new approach."
"Haven't made it yet. Lets go question and answer, tit for tat. Let it... Her - have a chance to inquire about us and human society. Observe what they want to know, questions can be as revealing as answers."
Hobbes paused a moment. "My god Diego, that's brilliant! You have any specific questions you want to use?"


"So what do citizens eat?"
"Not EE-nuf. In my opin-ion. Supp-osed to be mostly in-sects, some plant matter and small-er animals. Farms contain plants well EE-nuf. But insects might EE-scape - leaders don't want that. So main course is only small port-ion brought from ships. "
"Can you eat terrestrial food?"
"Not supposed to, but can. Tastes fun-ny, often get a little sick - but not bad. Potato chips are very good."
"I don't think Diego wants to share his, sorry. Now what question do you have for us?"
"What can you tell me about your selves? How did you start a radio sta-tion?"
"I was born January 28, 1997, making me just over 58 years old. I'm the youngest of three children - my older sisters are Tabitha and Terry. I studied medicine in Chicago, though my internship was at the ABERHAM research facility down south because my father had family there. I originally worked with nano-treatments, but moved on to neonatal care and obstetrics since I felt that was real medicine rather than telling machines what to do while watching a screen. My in demand specialty granted me the funds for numerous hobbies and classic analog radio happened to be one of them. Luck or fate, I stumbled across this place by chance, and felt it was a more direct way to help people. I could work with one mother at a time, or give advice and solace to everyone in a few hundred miles. As mixed up as lives are now, people still know they can wake up to classical music. Diego?"
"I was born in Southern Mexico, April 26 2006. I have held numerous jobs from from waiting tables, working a motor taxi, serving in the national guard, and doing voice acting for cartoons - the last being why I know so much about recording equipment."
"Can you demonstrate any voices?"
"I am quite positive you did not watch Spanish Saturday morning cartoons, and reasonably sure the alien didn't either. You wouldn't recognize anything. So, no."
"Are you all ways so un-helpful?"
"I don't need aliens getting on my case. I did not get along with my father or the company he kept. He was a criminal, and I walked away from an illegally amassed fortune because of my beliefs. My life is mine, and I don't like talking about the past."
"I under stand, I am sorry. What would you prefer to speak of?"
"What did I want to ask, um, alien families - no, not right now, what you eat, how do you pilot that thing, who programs that vocorder, whats inside those ships... ehh, the vocorder question is probably the easiest, and probably keep this record of twenty minutes without a loud screech going. So who programs them and how do you learn - the quality has gotten a lot better since our first interview."
"They're programed by a bunch of lazy basterds - that is correct english word? 
"Depending on what you want to say - yes."
"We have five years to commun-icate with humans, and they only adjust the thing now? We can listen to some trans-missions, have some friends like you, have tried to decipher computer EE-ntries. Prob-ably the way you would try to learn about us."
"Who else is helping you?" asked hobbes.
"I don't know - we still communicate with each other and exchange some information - mostly. So we get this from citizens across the world. A few don't help - those near spring-field are quite anti-human."
"You have no idea how many "Springfields" we have could you be more specfic?"
"Near the big north-south river"
"That could be a problem - between Chicago and the Lincoln Towers megastructure complex. Not much we can do from this far west though."
"So what do you plan for the future"
"For now", began Diego, "take a break and continue this session. Honestly, I don't have too much more planned than that."

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Power Tower Hour

In the darkest hours of July Ninth, adults scurry around hiding fluorescent tubes on top of the ventilators or along the agriculture domes, at the base of the wall, and so forth. Starting noon the next day, children race around to see how many they can find. Come 11 pm on July Tenth, Nikola's Birthday of course, we switch on the giant Tesla coil. Everything lights up, wonderful show, the children who came the closest to getting the right count gets a prize, and then we kick in some fog machines and lasers.

That would be the only time of the year we actually turn on the giant electric transmitter atop our home. But not the only reason of course. Its a symbol. There are more efficient means of getting electrons from one place to another, we probably wouldn't have wanted a series of Wardenclyffe Towers around every city for various reasons. But the point remains.

For over One-hundred and Fifty years now, we have had the ability to make free electricity rain from the sky. And that, is awesome.

In fact, the greatest limit on what Humans can do is humanity itself. We could have made changes to our bodies and lives that would have eliminated the need for nano-vac in the first place, but that was too "expensive", or "controversial".

The Silbervogel was conceived in world war two. NASA's 2046 space plane? Pretty similar, just with detail improvements so it actually works - Sänger kinda underestimated the heat of reentry for one. We had track launched payloads, with giant lasers super-heating fuel from beneath for thrust. Russia finally got a Mars base together, and a couple others followed, but by now we should have city sized orbital habitats made from materials we mined out of the Trojan asteroid fields.

Power armor - thirty percent of the modern army - 1950s novel. Electromagnetic Rail-guns - US patents in 1919 and 1922.

I could list these things for days, but I think you get the idea. It people clinging to old manufactured  ideas like religion, privacy, or the sacred form of the human body that are the biggest stumbling block. Our failures and disasters are not so much malicious intent, as mere not foreseeing all the consequences.

So that big AC transmitter up there? That is a reminder that the human condition can be transcended. However this whole crazy time with aliens and reanimates pans out, one thing must be for certain. Trying to restore the old world is a step backwards. We're not going to put the old governments back up just so they can turn around and pass laws limiting what we can do. Hell, they've already overstepped what should be an election year and still call the same man president - how can we respect those who won't even follow their own constitution?

Don't take this as me reveling in the misfortune of the billions who, didn't make it to this day. Far from it. But this is the shake up we needed, like how recovery from the black plague helped with workers rights and the revolution of cities and guilds. Like a plant pruned back before winter, we can grow to greater heights. Stop living on past glory and make something new.

Nothing I can say about our appreciation for life without boundaries or gods besides ourselves is going to change most minds. We're going to come off as new age hippies or atheists inside a giant rabbit warren playing with gene-splicers and creating new Frankenstein Monsters while refusing to help rebuild. But remember, once Alice got through the rabbit hole, she found a most interesting place. Stick around for tea, and learn just where we're going.

Monday, October 18, 2010

KC Tesla Interview

"Welcome back KC, welcome back."
"You run a good show Mr. Hobbes, and I'm glad to contribute to it."
"Where have you been in the past few months? We haven't had an interview in a while."
"I've been heading North a bit, wanted to see around the border before winter set in much, then go in the opposite direction. Motorcycles and unmaintained icy roads don't mix all that well."
"I had a brother that learned that the hard way. Took a whole week for the stain to get him up and going, but he insisted on getting another bike anyway."
"Its great stuff, isn't it. A few more years and surgeons like you would be out of a job."
"It can't deliver babies, so OBs, like me will probably be the only ones who stay employed."
"Not if the people in Tesla have a say, they go for iron wombs and cloning in a big way! I stopped there on my journey over here."
"We've heard all sort of rumors about that place, but haven't gotten anyone to come and visit. What's it like?"
"It doesn't look like much from the outside, and on the inside they do everything they can to freak out visitors. People less open minded than I should probably keep away."
"So the rumors that they'll actually - in public?"
"Yes. I only loosely followed the who transhumanism debate,  but they go well beyond anything... well, lets hold on if you don't mind me monologuing for a few minuets, they should get a fair description before we dive into racy details.

To began - Tesla was started in 2030 or there about as a San Paulo style arcology. It was supposed to be all recycled materials and green living and one with the environment in a way the exact opposite of a NEST. Everything began blended with the land and rounded, rather than a hundred eight story brick, it even went in the opposite direction, and is mostly underground. Its a fairly non nondescript hill as first approach, though there are various entrances and sky lights sticking out, a few buildings, and a giant tesla coil at the apex, though thats a modern addition, as is the surrounding wall and moat. Mount Suribachi or one of those hidden elf villages from fantasy novels comes to mind for aesthetics -its  mostly grass a nice four hundred foot tall hill or so. There are out buildings, including three- no, four large round geodesic domes that serve as green houses and "outside" space as it were.

If the outside is elves, the inside is definitely an old role playing dwarf dungeon. The passageways tend to slope up and down, rather than run completely level with stairs,  an there is a grand spiral too it, with main areas like the mess hall or meeting rooms being direct offshoots of the main way, and rooms for individuals small and central. In theory there is a holistic way to determine where you are at any moment - different light fixtures, the colors used, a certain style of furniture - but for all practical purposes I just plugged floor numbers into my virtual overlay and didn't play their game. The floor is all bamboo matting or some fancy type of carpeting, and there are plasticized screens everywhere, so acoustics are a lot more private than you'd expect in a giant cave - but they aren't too big on doors.

I'm pretty sure the place has everything it needs for self-sufficiency though I'm not going to declare its inhabitants first generation morlocks just yet. Obviously, they didn't show an outsider the internal workings, but I seem to recall some news broadcasts about installing their water purification from years ago.

"Do you recall when it opened for habitation?"
"Sometime in the 40's. There was a big deal made about how it was a lot cheaper, done quicker, and with less government help than the NESTs or any other arco, which began to raise a big stink in the political sector. If an arco is a planned community, then shouldn't it be planed by its community and keep big gov out of it... In retrospect, it seems a lot of people wanted these things to be independent city-states, even before it became an actual necessity."
"I remember some pretty violent demonstrations."
"I wasn't in a position to attend them at the time, and try to keep away from large groups of police but thats neither hear nor there."
"So did they explain how the current mind set came about?"
"Who explains how a car works, every time you let a new passenger in? Nah, they just kind of give the impression its always been a home of free love and tech."
"You know you're not going to get through an interview without explaining that."
"Of course, of course. One of the weirder aspects of their society is that  they believe in "Radical Transparency." As it was explained to me "If my body is a work of god, then there is nothing sinful I can do with it, if it is a secular organic machine, then then it is built the same just as all the others." If something must be private, its encrypted, or there are personal storage areas, but otherwise you can't have theft if nothing is owned, and everyone is entrusted to be part of the police due to personal recording tech. Exchanging privacy keys for software is a sacred bond to these people, while marriage is a an old relic of times when you traded goats. That said, they do understand personal space and the old social mores and the rumors and occasional public act are more about teasing outsiders than standard practice. If anything, its to point out how silly we are about making such a big deal about it."
"So us having this conversation is just playing into their hands."
[Really boss? Really? For a surgeon you can be so immature.
"Thats not what I meant Diego, get your mind out of the gutter"
"Am I allowed to play with the mute and private buttons too?
"I didn't realize there was one on that side of the console - did you Diego?} 
"I'd guess so, but its not like they're trying to take over the world like New Birmingham. Stay independent of the government forces to their South certainly, but they didn't strike me as expansionist. More live and let live."
"Care to expand in another interview?"
"Its not like I've got anywhere else to be?"
"Well thank you again for joining us, this has been Thomas Hobbes interviewing KC Kats on 104.3 WJMK up next is our 80s at eight rock block."

"And we're good. We actually finished an interview without interruption. I'll go get the champaign."
"We're not that bad!"
"I have to agree with your sound technician - how many separate interviews did you have with those aliens?"
"Somewhere between too many and not enough considering the boss agreed to another one on Friday."
"Diego, just start the program and get the booze."

Friday, October 15, 2010

Getting Around Part Three

Animal Power
Walking is, and will remain for the foreseeable future, the main way of trans-versing the world.

A dog pulled travois is beginning to replace wearable computers as the required personal accessory. Canines have a number of useful attributes, even even when they're not being used for transit. Hunting to supplement food, keen ears to warn of danger, warmth and companionship are all noble traits. Their size means its easier to protect them by bring them inside a shelter, and transport if a vehicle is found. Furthermore, a lot more people are capable of caring for dogs than large farm animals.

Speaking of dogs, cats and terriers are also common pets - because they hunt common pests, rather than their use for transit.

Horses and other draft animals are rarely used in the zone. Not many people have the resources to care for them, and such large creatures are rather inconvenient when scavenging in a city. Given that 90% of the US population was living in cites - riding animals for extended periods could be considered a lost art. Furthermore, there is the difficult process of taming a wild animal, as most of the domesticated ones are gone. They might have starved in their paddocks when their handlers disappeared, or escaped to the country side and reverted to their wild state. Rumors persist that reanimated animals exist. While there was certainly heavy usage of nano-medicine in some animals, nothing has confirmed these stories so far.

Animal powered farming is making a small comeback, but machines are far preferred even when considering fuel shortages - they don't get sick, go lame, while allowing a greater amount of territory can be cultivated. Unfortunately, without GPS satellites in orbit, they tend not to work as automated units like before - but some creative people have set up transponders to get around this, adding yet another advantage.

Other Transit Means

In some places electric or high-speed rail lines are still functional. The USA took a while to introduce fast train service, but was a few branches eventually materialized. The main ones are:
  • Colonial Road: a straight shot up and down the east coast from Florida to New York
  • Death Valley Express: California, Nevada, Texas - wider gauge, slower, and optimized for cargo, provides the east coast access to the Gulf of Mexico without needing a ship to go through the panama canal.
  • "Chi-Ny": NEST 2 in New York state (but not far from the city) to Chicago
  • Winter Line: Trans-Canada rail, not actually connected to US system however.
Smaller lines branch off, but the ARRT (American Rapid Rail Transit) was established amongst a few key air-line routes to compensate for a reduced number of usable aircraft rather than everyday commuting.

Following older rail lines is still a common tactic amongst scavengers, as they obviously lead somewhere, and rail hub warehouses are often full of useful supplies.

Although bikes might be limited, motorcycles offer speed, fuel economy, and the ability to maneuver around abandoned vehicles making them quite popular.

Military Multi-fuel vehicles are a two edged sword. Their ability to run on even the poorest home-refined products is a great boon, as is their rugged construction. On board electronics including internally guided navigation systems, night vision, drone support, military map databases, and powerful radios are all much sought after (and more likely to have been emp shielded than their civilian counterparts). Unfortunately, the many powerful abilities make them so sought after they often end up stolen either when the owners are away or when the original users are liquidated. Some people have taken to explicitly avoiding military gear because its used as bait in traps, or attract the wrong kind of attention.

Military exoskeletons are unlikely to be used as transport. Although designed to simplify long marches, most of the ability is due to weigh distribution systems, making a heavy load seem much lighter, but not adding speed, or making normal walking any less tiring. Despite their environmental systems wearing one for more than a few a dozen hours will rapidly lead to chafing and discomfort. Without charging their fuel cells every two or three days, they rapidly become immobile.

The few cars and trucks that are still working are often used in a convoy manner - some running, others being towed. Mobile fuel processing plants are sometimes employed, but more often a central base is established, scouts are sent out, and then the group exploits from there.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Homebuilt Hotrod

Power plant?
"Two 450 fuel cells, driving an class eighty motor on each wheel can make 0-60 in five."
"Very impressive."
"Four seats, designer color, infinite gearshift for any terrain"
"All quite impressive, but what are the fins on the back for?"
"I'm not really sure. A number of the vehicles in the museum had them."
"They don't really seem to add to the aerodynamics."
"I guess it has something to do with the high levels of gloss and how humans recognize shapes and movement."
"But they aren't on any of the cars we've recovered from the cities."
"It does look kind of nice, and its roomy inside - maybe its a mark of royalty."
"That could explain the rearing animal - but I don't think you needed to replicate that on yours."
"You can critique aesthetic choices or you can do the actual work I asked you help with."
"And I know how to how to convert a control scheme for two feet to four?"
"Replicate the suits you work with."
"Doesn't have the right sort of seats, and we don't use our feet to control those, we're just kneeling."
"You figure it out, and I'll let you drive it first."

Monday, October 11, 2010

Living on the Outside Part One

Its dark.

The same way a lot of people notice nanovac is pink before they think about what it can do, you really notice that in the outside, its dark. We've been a society that is obsessed with illumination for the past few decades really. You can't just stick people in dark little boxes and expect them to live, much less be happy. So new apartments always included skylights, or lines of fiber-optics to bring in natural light - heck some places mixed bundles of glass fibers into concrete to make brick widows! From there we would have bank after bank of artificial lights. You can't decorate an interior twenty-by-thirty NEST box much with real furniture, but there were strips of lights at four different levels so you could set up mood lighting at any level you choose. And then there were the thousands of indicator lights on every sleek little piece of tech you owned, down to the buttons and screens built into your own clothes for the wearable computers.

In retrospect, we've forgotten what comfortable clothing is like. The built in tech might have been somewhat flexible, but still stiffer than pure cotton by a long shot. I don't think I've had a shirt as good an soft as the one I'm wearing now back in the day. People have been getting kinda sneaky about that you know. As much as we used to love our virtual world overlays of everything, now we avoid them. Either our clothes aren't charged - or analog fashions - there is no sphere connectivity, and the ever present danger that our in vision apps are going to distract us from some environmental threat. Of course, this means those who do have networks are at a bit of an advantage, and can leave hidden notes for people. Not easy though - you need a local server because we don't have the satellites to bounce it off of.

Sorry if I'm rambling and getting off topic. I never really liked public speaking, I I've always stuck to the back room of the shop you know

Out of doors, its actually pretty good. We put in a lot of solar powered outdoor lighting to avoid the hassle of running wires everywhere, and the subsequent loss due to inefficient transmission (resistance heating is todays ten-dollar term) so its actually kind of eerie - you'll be traveling along and notice this glow through the forest. Over the hill is one perfectly illuminated back country road, and not another human in sight.

Indoors we use a lot of batteries and dynamos. You don't see candles and oil lamps though - despite the old images we somehow still have rattling around, no one really has those. Besides, they're dangerous - most outposts are either cluttered old buildings, or keep the rooms small and people in groups for safety -wouldn't want to knock one of those over onto someone now would you? And we have better use for the materials - if you've got spare oil, better making bio-gas for vehicles then a low powered lamp.

Thats another thing that got reversed. The more people in the shelter, the busier you are, as opposed to the old many hands make light burdens type of thinking. When its just a half dozen people exploring a buildings for cans and guns what do you need? A fire starter, a deer to shoot, some herbs and its all good. Get together 40 or 50 people, and suddenly you need to rotate between agriculture, construction, defense, cleaning - we're always constantly cleaning to avoid infection - none of this dirty and rusted grunge you see in classic movies from the 80s you know - my personal favorite is "The Usual Suspects" or "Grosse Point Blank" thosugh I know those aren't post apoc or zomb...

There I go again. I'm sorry, I'm sorry.. I really miss those moves though. Its not like every hour is filled with activity, but when you're actually doing stuff, you just get so tired. I don't know if its stress or we've just breed a bunch of lazy people over the last century adapted to offices in symbiosis like Necktie Ramoras on cubicle sharks.

OK, where did that come from? I don't partake mind you - but some of the others do relax in ways that the federal government would not approve of if it still existed. We keep an eye on them - don't want someone having flashbacks or hallucinations at the wrong time, but the temptation for escape is certainly there. Some things never change.

Now where was I? And do you have the time? That late already? I'm sorry, but I've got wall patrol soon, and I don't like doing that on an empty stomach,We'll need to continue this conversation later - perhaps tomorrow morning? OK, good, see you then.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Arcology Apartments

No two arcologies are quite same, not even the NESTs which are semi-standardized. Any building project is going to need to acquiesce to the demands of the environment its built in, and megastrucutres all the more so. However, it can be safely said that any given area of an arco embodies a certain ethic about the role of the home and family.

In the low income areas of a NEST, the standard is "Life is outside the home". Individual apartments are often only four to six hundred square feet, with some beds, closets, a counter with sink and induction stove top, and a tiny bathroom. Most occupants are expected to remain within for a few hours to sleep, and to store their belongings. Otherwise they can expect to socialize in the hundreds of stores, cafes, bars, arcades and parks within the structure. Maintenance staff and police would be very concerned if someone remained in their apartment for an extended period.

Apartments with windows are actually fairly rare. Usually the outer area is reserved as walkways and parkways - with sunlight access for everyone, even on mostly residential floors there are communal dining areas and entertainment parlors. On many levels, there are even plants, landscaping, and grass fed by drip hydroponics to give the appearance of a park wrapping around the entire building. Living areas are set up in blocks of 20-40 grouped together. If one could look through the ceiling and outer structural elements, any given level would look quite a bit like a normal city block, just sectioned off at a three meter level. Hallways are kept quite wide - usually about five meters (14 feet) for ease of access, and to account for people standing outside and talking. Lighting in hallways is dimmed for night time, but does have constant signs. Large doors can be found every few hundred feet and in an emergency the various levels can be locked down tighter than a prison to contain fires, riots, or other problems.

Despite the tiny and seemingly temporary nature of the apartments, they are designed to be very livable, rather than depressing little boxes. Even those in the inner core of the building can receive natural light through fiber-optic "sun tubes". Programmable strips  lights are built into the walls at floor, chest, head, and ceiling levels to let the users customize exactly what level of illumination they desire at any given moment. Floors are usually bamboo-hardwood for ease of cleaning and a calming natural appearance - though the occupant can request different coverings. Projectors or screens are often built in to allow entire walls to be used for as a television or monitor.

A great deal of effort has been made to insulate the apartments - both due to the noise of so many things going on in a large building, and efficiency standards. Despite the normal connotations of block housing, sharing walls is often rather rare, as there are a great deal of passage ways between the various living areas. Part of this is structural - each tier is a bit offset to allow structural members through and the massive reinforcement needed for structures over twice as tall as any 20th century building. The other reason is the need for maintenance access for all the electrical tech - and to allow emergency services non-standard ways to move through a crowded building in an emergency. It is actually possible to traverse the entire building without seeing another person even at peak occupancy if one has the right key-cards.

More affluent areas of the NEST (ie Lower Down) are of course, notably larger. They are still not large penthouses, but something that separates the sleeping area from the dining room, or has an actual office in addition to the standard area is worth bragging about. Decoration is often more lavish as well.

Conversely, communities like the Lone Star Complex believe that the home is the center of one's social life. Although the bedroom and kitchen areas are often tiny - open floor plans lead to huge dining and living rooms so that many friends may gather to share food and entertainment. Multiple couches are such a part of this mindset that doors are specifically made wider than the long time 3 foot/90cm standard to ease moving them in. Although there are still nearby blocks of commercial areas, the overall effect is less metropolitan. Much the same lighting and sound amenities are present, but the larger space makes them more of a way to accent the space then a requirement tot make the tiny areas livable.

There are places that take both these elements to other levels. In the underground city of Tesla, most people store what they cant carry in banks and only use coffin like areas for sleeping. Meanwhile, other arcos are designed around traditional homes, but built in rounded or half buried forms for efficiency.

Places that are not arcologies are usually quite similar to 20th century apartments. The big difference is that most are adapted for new technology and living standards. Almost every surface is fitted with induction charging pads so one needs to simply set down a device and it powers up. Even closets contain power supplies as many garments incorporate semi-flexible wearable computers.

The use of electricity is heavily encouraged in future living. natural gas or oil are limited resources, and require special means to pipe them around. Electricity can be produced two thousand kilometers away by the tides or on the roof by the sun and works just the same. Water however, is quite often rationed or highly expensive due to the difficulties of piping and supply.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

We Call Ourselves Rangers

I wasn't in any sort of special forces unit, I don't think I even met one of their members before the event. Just another grunt processed through a boot camp in Alabama. No history of service in my family and no great belief in the causes behind Argentina conflict or great patriotism. It was all about me - the chance to use machine-guns, pick up some college money, and maybe gain a useful skill or two that would look great on a job application.

But then the world fell apart around us. The army however handled itself well. Mostly. There were those who abandoned the ranks to seek out loved ones, and who simply broke under the stain of fighting the reanimates. Spit in the ocean compared to what the civies did.

You had outright looting when the police were busy elsewhere. People breaking through cordons and compromise security in their own desperate attempts to escape when they didn't believe we were doing an adequate job of protecting them. Highways became kill zones as crashes started multi-mile jams and the running reanimates caught up and ripped the roofs off cars. Neighbor turned on neighbor.

Orders from the top became fewer and fewer, supplies shipments smaller, but the chain of command remained. Even that eventually snapped, and we were on our own. A good number of people declared the USA dead, took their equipment, and wandered off.

Ye still, some of us remained.

Ranger is what an English major might call a "loaded term" around the military. Everyone knows the mottoes "No one left behind." and "Rangers lead the way". They're famous for their espirt de corps and toughness. They're the guys with camouflage skills, special equipment, and wolf companion - at least in the 12th edition of the fantasy game we play on Saturday nights - got to keep the moral up.

Experience Point or Point du Hoc what I'm getting at is these are the special people, and we try to hold up their banner. There are less than 50 million people left in the states, out of a one time population of about 460 mil, and most of those are living a hand to mouth existence without thinking about the declaration of independence. The portion of that group who have their needs met seem to be thinking of starting over under their ideals.


We may be overdue for an election. Most of congress are probably man eating abominations, or have become reanimates. We haven't gotten commands in months.

But the sign over there still says Washington avenue. There are still coke machines everywhere. This is still America.

I am a solder, sworn to uphold the constitution and the nation it governs. That document still reads "We the people..." and I am going to make a more perfect union. Others may have given up, but there are still soldiers out there who believe in this nation and are wandering the wastes helping to protect what is left of it.

There is no nation of NEST, there will not be a State of New Birmingham or Protectorate of Tesla.

America once and for all.

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Nice Warm NEST

I don't know what it is, but there is just an ass-load of wackos out there that seem to like a broken down society. They keep trying to convince themselves that the NEST arcos are some sort of tenth circle of hell. An overcrowded tower of victims mingling with a few million reanimates.

Just let them keep deluding themselves, no skin off my nose. I'm very comfortable thank you.

That high population everyone complains about is our greatest strength. We have more accredited union pipe-fitters than some outposts have total residents. They need to get the entire town to improvise ditches for irrigation and suffer though water born parasites. We have a working hydroponics farm in the sunlight outer offices. Decorative koi ponds and Olympic swimming pools support aquaculture.

All around is is a gold mine of high tech relics. Tens of thousands of reanimates too, but what does it matter? We have marathon runners and former Olympic athletes amongst our population who can work out in still functional health clubs. The neighbors aren't so dangerous if they can't catch you.

From what I've been told, most settlements are pretty small - the less area they cover, the easier to protect. Our building was created at the height of humanity's golden age. There are soaring four story atrium 600 feet off the ground one third of the way up the structure. Outsiders uses scavenged sheet metal, and we're behind walls of nano-diamond fiber reinforced concrete. We have movie theaters, radio stations, sphere servers, hell this is probably one of the few places where you can get a decent hair cut and a disease free tattoo if that is what you want.

Electricity is rationed, energy chits are often used as currency - but at least we have it. And with that comes power tools and video cameras. There might be literally hundreds of above and below ground entrances to this place, but we've got them covered. Even have trained riot police and national guardsmen to back up the defenses and clear areas once the enemy has been trapped. What you think the best trained, prepared, and equipped people would be the first to go in the event?

Since the population is down from maximum capacity by a bit, most of us can have private apartments if we chose. Quite a few prefer to huddle together in the shops or in the pseudo parks, feeling that being alone in an enclosed box with one exit is a problem. ( I can emphasize with that, but I'll keep my living room and dinette set thank you very much.)

OK, so I don't go outside much, and I'm not reclaiming the abandoned lands of the country in a repeat of manifest destiny. Didn't go out much when society was functioning and there was a lot to see. Kinda counter to the whole point of the arco if you think about it. We're supposed to telecommute or use the stairs rather than thousands of cars.

It might not be a happy little family, but I've got a couch, stove, 600 square feet, a three TVs, a great Eastward vista of the coast, and rent control. You have rocks, a sleeping bag, and a dream about repopulating the world with your own little pioneers.

I've got it good, and you've got delusions.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Building a Zone Adventure

"The important things are always simple; the simple are always hard. " - Murphy's Laws of Combat

Most people do not plan to go on an adventure. They have a a goal in mind, a plan to achieve it and seek to minimize their exposure to the dangers of the zone. Yet life seems to seek excitement, and things get complicated quickly.

Its OK to have an occasional milk run - perhaps even recommended. First of all, the players gain a sense of achievement to overcome difficulties easily. Secondly, it can lull them into complacency, making the transition to a problematic state all the better.

There are quite a number of degrees when it comes to setbacks. Simple ones might be the item in question not being in the expected place, requiring extra exploration, or greater than expected reanimate presence. Greater complication comes if someone has gotten there first and laid claim to the goods, or is simply using the place as a base of operations.

Having more than one possible adventure ready may prove prudent. There are some people who try to remain on task and won't bite.

Sample Prompts
  • Along the road players find the remains of a convoy torn apart by vicious attack. A lone survivor asks for help in either recovering important goods,or missing members of the group.
  • Someone flags down the group to ask for assistance. An alien task force has asked them to evacuate their current living area. Its up to the players to assist the move, find a new place, negotiate with the aliens, or organize a defense.
  • Reanimates ambush them, but an alien power armor assists in removing the threat. However, it asks that they repay the assistance somehow. Such as asking a small settlement to move out of a PC claimed area, or finding a missing PC scout.
  • The players find a wrecked military truck is found at the side of the road, with two safes. One is bolted to the floor and has dimensions of approximately four meters long and 50 centimeters wide marked B61-mod 19 and has at least two locks. The other is roughly wide enough to hold a beach ball (1.3 meters square) and is marked with a radiation hazard symbol and the term "Physics Package".
  • A storm delays their travels, forcing them to make temporary shelter. Unfortunately, the most convenient site is already occupied by either type three reanimates or a few survivalist style raiders who are going to hit an run the group all night.
  • Someone is trying to track down and arrest the players. This may be a case of mistaken identity, or they could have a legitimate grievance.

Disruptive Player Characters
There are some who are going to refuse to help, or even actively derail adventure prompts. Many people are tempted to take advantage of the broken social order to play sociopaths who can get away with what they want. Indeed, the major problem I had during one play test was a PC inditing on shooting the old man who tried to peacefully talk with the group. (They then stole his truck and tried to break into an occupied NEST arco when the guards didn't want them entering at 2 am...)

Antagonistic gaming should not be the first resort. Instead, a reasoned approach should be started - explaining why such a character does not fit well in the game, or why it is less fun for the group.

However, if this continues to be a problem, you should make it clear that the character could receive retribution. Many people in the zones have taken to the habit of "Sousveillance" -carrying personal visual recording devices at all times to let them record important locations, odd behaviors, and crimes in progress due to the lack of other government intervention. Anti-social behavior will eventually be learned about, and in turn people will be less willing to trade, or assassins might be after them.