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

Friday, December 31, 2010

Last Post of 2010

Thank You everyone who has read this blog.

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

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

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

And don't let the zombies bite you.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Back at the Radio Station

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

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

"It seems our visitors have arrived Tom."

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

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

Monday, December 27, 2010

Welcome to Tesla 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thats the second big dining hall.

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

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

Friday, December 24, 2010

Welcome to New Birmingham 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Welcome to New Birmingham 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 20, 2010

Welcome to the Strip 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 17, 2010

Welcome to the Strip 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Welcome to the Strip 1

13:45 Local Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Number One - with a Bullet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 10, 2010

Some Options to Consider

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Protected Discussion

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

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Beatnik Heat Pic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just another day.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Another Unseemly Presence in Daley Plaza

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

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

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

 The Chicago Picasso.

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

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

Huh - that the reanimates out there?

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

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Supplement One Alpha

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

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

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

D&B Suplemental Alpha