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.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

I Find Your Lack of Achivement... Disturbing

I can't help but feel its been a disappointing year, and that I should apologize to my loyal readers. What has been accomplished seems small compared to the grand plan I had for the time between January 2010 and now.

It always seems close. Topics of discussion are often self-evident - more about internal conflicts, government structures, power sources, the SPHERE, and other establishing the Planetary Citizen Factions. With so many tags, making a collection and editing shouldn't be that hard, right? Nor should it be so difficult to actually go through the text released back in February to pick out errors, revise samples, and check understandability.

Being a moderator for a game design forum lends itself to actually finishing games, yes? Apparently not.

Yet it appears that fairly little of what I set out to do this year got done. No new games, no artist, fairly little feedback, no new books. Struggling with simply sitting down and writing made me change the update schedule to only twice a week, and I probably still need to do a five or eight post make-up marathon.

Really, if anything - my focus on trying to come up with some new rules for vehicles has set me further behind as I consider new options like scale modifiers so ships don't end up with several dozen animus columns.

Victory, such as it is...
There have been some small victories. Another 129 posts have been added to the story of the Anarchy Zones and the development of "Dead... and Back". That brings the total entries on this site to over two hundred. Twenty-five have been ideas for new rules or entirely new settings. I've also released the FFS edition, containing numerous changes to the rules.

And onwards?
I can tell you now, the first post of the new year will be a long list of topics. My current notebook lists fifty-five subjects to address, and at least a few of these are open to multiple posts. Producing another supplement or edition by February (the anniversary of FFS MK1) or late spring ("April is the cruelest month..." after all) seems feasible with a bit of motivation.

Beyond that, its a ongoing mystery. "Dead and Back" is going to rise from the virtual grave to haunt actual bookshelves one of these days. The question is only one of how decayed will the author be by that time.

Enjoy your new year, be safe, thanks for reading, and don't use fire - the undead may be flammable, but so are you.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

So, What About... Magic?

The Anarchy Zones is based on hard science, well crunchy at least - it gets soggy if you leave it in milk too long. But not all horror settings are that way, and D&B is supposed to handle suspense in general, even if the blog is mostly for the AZ.

To keep things simple, there are three main concepts for the magic system.  First, is to keep things simple - rather than adding another attribute or pool to look after, D&B magic uses the resources already on hand. Secondly, it is based on the idea that like affects like. And finally, magic is an extension of the caster.

These ideas are untested prototypes, so use at your own risk - then tell me about it.

The First and Second Ideas

Casting magic and fighting the will of the universe is fatiguing, so the basic currency of supernatural abilities is Deadening. However, like affects like, and if you want to affect a living thing - blood and Animus must be spent. Anything that is going to last more than a few moments is a mighty contest of the character's will against the universe, so spending lucidity increases the duration.

Magic tends to be at the same scale of its cater - so a magic attack is probably not going to destroy a tank, but an illusion will fool the crew. Attempts to use strength at a distance will simply mirror the magician's muscles. Lucidity can be spent to increase the power - but that is limited.

In more concrete terms, spending a point of deadening will let you affect some inanimate object at a distance, for a few seconds. Spending multiple points will add to the effect, but don't affect duration. To harm or heal a person, a point of animus is spent (wounding the caster) and with additional animus spent adding two extra dice to the roll. (Drawing from you own body is powerful stuff!) Either way, the effect occurs for only a short period of time - about a combat round. Lucidity can be spent to successively increase the duration by a factor of four. (10-40-160 (two min+) - 640 (ten min+) and so forth) At the tenth iteration, the effect simply becomes permanent, though the caster is probably gibbering insane by that point - since all of it needs to be spent at once.

Circles and wards have a place in this system as well. An area consecrated to the user, and set up symbolically of its purpose allows a magician to combine the attributes of multiple people. For example, a room set up to look a bit like a surgical theater with overhead lights, some metal trays, and something that looks like an anesthetic canister and the appropriate symbols would allow a medically inclined mage to preform healing spells drawing on the animus of others without loosing an excessive amount of blood after the first two patients. This combined effort ability also means that a coterie is the far more sane (literally and figuratively) way to permanently enchant an item.

The Third Idea
Although no relation to Anderi Shakharov's Third Idea (ie the Teller-Ulam device at the core of Hydrogen Bombs), it is a a great power not to be underestimated.

From a mechanics point of view, a characters attributes are the base skill for using a type of magic. Exerting force at a distance - use Strength, Wits is used to create an illusion use Wits, and Technique to preform surgery without tools.

Perhaps more important is the affect on role play. No two casters magic can take the same form, there is no generic "magic missile" or "cure light wounds". They can do the same thing but never the same way. Perhaps one person sings songs that command bones to heal and the other has little men jump from their hand to stitch the wounds together.

So for example, Dominic wants to make a lethal guardian to block an entrance-way. To harm living things, it takes animus, and since he wants this extra dangerous, he spends two instead of the only one required. Drawing from the depths of his will and sanity to fight the universe, he spends five lucidity to have it last for (10x4x4x4x4x4 =10,240 seconds/170 min) just under three hours. Being a big and physical guy, the apparition is formed from strength and appears as an angry poltergeist - light and motion banging about the corridor waiting for anyone to enter and be attacked by and attack equal to three dice of aim. (At d8 for human scale, since its a human casting.)

Gregory is trying to get a small passenger aircraft repaired quickly. He reaches for his guitar and sings a song about flight and freedom, the refrain begging the spirits of air to assist. Two others join hands and sing along. Spending a point of lucidity to work on the scale of the aircraft, he then borrows four more - two  from the each of the others in the circle for more time, and two points of deadening. Little faeries spring into existence. They work together for about three hours (the same as Dominic's poltergeist, but with less drain on the individual) with a profeciency equal to Gregory's tech plus two. However, they need the proper parts to work with - actually wishing a replacement engine into existence would've taken at least twice as much lucidity.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The New Range

"We have met soldiers, wanderers, police officers, and even the occasional alien. Today, is the first time we have an actual cowboy in our studio. Welcome to 104.3 Mr. Steven Light."
   "I'm as amazed as you are Thomas. I though this whole ting about a zone wide radio was joke. People can fake recordings, and the call number is all wrong - 104.3 isn't an AM frequency and W is a call letter for East of the Mississippi."
   "Smart man. I know its misleading, but well, its a tribute to a radio station I used to listen to. Furthermore, just calling it "Hobbes on the Radio" would be self-serving and unprofessional. As the old broken window theory goes - if people see order, they act more orderly, and when they see transgressions they excuse their own more frequently."
   "You some kind of doctor before The Event?"
   "Yes actually. OB, Pre- and post- natal care. How about you?"
   "Physical Therapist - a lot of it centered around nature and animal therapy with horses and dogs. I would've much liked to help all the people hurt by The Event. But that wouldn't have been too likely to put food on the family's table. Catching some wild longhorns, or roping up wild bison - that helped the family and bunches of others, more than one on one sessions."
   "Wonderful to meet a philanthropist."
   "Thank you"
   "Its got to be a lot of hard work though."
   "'Pends on the animal really. Emu aren't native to the area and need a lot of watching to keep alive. Bison  are large enough to take care of themselves really. Actually, with the exception of birds, everything is too {bleep] independent...?"
   "That was another reason I didn't believe this was real - you really bother with that? Well. anyhow, the short version is, we're dealing with wild stock here. None of it has had the stringiness or ill temper bread out of it.Domestic cattle is pretty much gone. Yeah, the rumors about some sort of conspiracy of cow reanimates are d... really persistent. Simpler explanation is that you can't have packed to the gills factory farms without nano-vac and antibiotics to stop a burning pandemic in a cow tinderbox. No people, no computers - and very quickly - no cows.
   "Well, the flip side is - we have a goodly bit of attrition in our herds from natural causes, and are hard pressed to do much about disease besides quarantine or culling. Another big problem is the unnatural causes. For the record - this group of aliens doesn't seem to be big on abductions and mutilating cattle. But there are humans who will. Some are just raiders out to steal a moving food supply. Others might well be our competition trying to get a leg up on us. So long as there are two dollars to go around, someone is going to try and get both of 'em."
   "So, how has ranching changed?"
   "It hasn't - that would be the problem."
   "Seems like a pattern these days. Only the things you want to change stay constant."
   "Amen brother. We don't have radio tags, we don't have barbed wire in most places - its pre-civil war life really. Of all things, its rope that proves to be the biggest hurdle. I'm not sure is Sisal grows in the country - and most people are probably using the land for food crops and those who aren't are too busy to braid anyway."
  "Another problem of our age. Everybody things about water, food, and bullets. No one considers the worn out gears, sprockets and bearings that aren't being replaced."
   "To add to that Mr. Hobbes - I practiced what I preached about joint and bone health. I was in pretty good shape for The Event. But I'm certainly feeling it. I'm worried we might lapse into some sort of able bodied only society."
   "Fighting reanimates isn't much of a desk job, is it?"
   "How do you get away with running a studio and interviewing people in bars?"
   "The music is all pre-recorded, so if I'm not actually hosting a show - it runs independently like your bison, and I'm weeding in the hot house. Deigo and I take turns driving the old jeep to local towns. I help with medicine, and he is genius with machines and irrigation."
   "Where does the name DeZufingia come from anyway - the only other person I've heard of with a name like that..."
   "I assure you he has no ties to that organization. Of course, that is off topic, so lets take a break and get our questions back in order."

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Diego's Father

It was a bit hard not to laugh. A barely four foot tall semi-arthopod like alien standing with its arms crossed and tapping its front right foot. Its small stature and inability to replicate human facial expressions making it seem like either a child poorly mimicking a parent, or a cartoon character. Almost cute, though Diego would be loathe to admit the alien had grown on him, and Sing-Sing did not like being viewed as less than serious.
   "Is something bothering you?" Diego asked.
   "Its been a long time."
   "A long time since what?"
   "You said you would be more willing to talk about your family at a later date. I've been quite cooperative talking about my clan - why not you?"
   "Mostly because I've really hoped that if I just ignore them, they'll go away."
   "Is this common with human families?"
   "My family is anything but common. I'd also be rather reluctant to call my father - human."
   "There are other sentient species here?"
   "Plenty - but if you're looking for the word sapient, then no, we're the only ones. What I mean is that he is not someone I'd use as an example of a good person."

Hobbes looked up from his book. "So, you really are related to Emilo DeZufingia?"
   "A-hem - I seem to be missing something here" the alien shouted.
   "I know that the Citizens drink methanol, and really love potato chips - but you've never mentioned if there is much of a drug abuse problem - hallucinogens, uppers, downers, whatever. Probably something you're not allowed to talk to us about, though I'd imagine that being stuck here surrounded by hostile natives has driven more than a few to unhealthy escapism. Well, for various reasons, a lot of humans abused drugs and those who controlled the markets, the smuggling, and the security of such would end up rich men indeed.
   My father, even before the event, was the de fato ruler of Mexico through a combination of military force and money. He couldn't have won an outright war with the federals, but but he'd destroy enough infrastructure and assassinate enough politicians that there wouldn't be a nation left for the army to defend afterwords. There was a joke - 'how do you identify an honest politician? He says please and thank-you when receiving his payments from Honcho DeZufingia.'
   Well, I do exaggerate some - but he was a force. Everybody worried about warming and crop failures in the USA and Europe, but a nation farther south that already had water problems - too many people who were willing to turn to a non-government authority to find some escape. Made himself out to be a new Zapitista - though it is a grave dishonor to that man to compare them, especially when you consider the great man of the nineteen twenties fought against serfdom and haciendas, while Emilo owned ones larger than small towns."
   "Sap-pie what? How senda?"
   "Not important at the moment. What is, is that I didn't want to be a spoiled rich kid living on the money papa gave him, because the father was too busy profiting from suffering to notice the boy existed. I would've had a nice house - several - all the chauffeured cars I wanted, whatever. Hell, with the collapse of the government following your arrival, I'd probably be a literal king ruling a fiefdom in Monterrey. 
   But I came across writings of people like the Buddha, and decided this wasn't right. I took u odd jobs after leaving the house, joined the US national guard in exchange for citizenship, and haven't looked back."

   Hobbes shot an aside glace. "You walked away from all that so easily? Just a religious awakening? Amazing!"
   "Well, the fact that I literally had thirty brothers, sisters, and mothers killed in various trade related violence was a bit of incentive too. And that is just blood relatives! Nano-vac can counter a lot more than just the flue and tropical diseases if you know what I mean, and Papa took full advantage of that."
   "Wow, and all the US news about how he was a murderous psychopath painted such a kind picture of him."
   "I'm not going to talk about that part. Ever."
   "Won't hold that against you."
   "Satisfied Sing Sing?"
   "I would like to know more about this Mexico place, but I will respect your desire to remain silent."
   "Thank you."

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Lost SEC Part One

With the rise of the Brazilian nuclear navy, Argentina and Chile beginning massive armament programs, drug enforcement issues, and climate recovery operations gaining ever more urgency, and the need to safeguard the few remaining productive oil platforms - a new naval base in the gulf of Mexico was desperately needed.

Hence a new Naval base was built in Southern Texas to cover the gulf with greater force than ever before.  Once completed, it would be capable of maintaining multiple atomic powered cruisers, submarines, and carriers.It was even built in concert with an archaeology complex further inland which would provide housing for off base families, education, and recreation. The new complex would also receive power from naval style reactors, allowing for training of technicians, and fuel reprocessing.

Construction proceeded slowly, partly due to the plans grandeur, and mostly due to lobbying. Many felt that current bases could maintain capital ships, which could move to the gulf on their own power, while small coastal patrol vessels didn't require a massive base the Lone Star Sea Enforcement Complex was turning into. In an attempt to limit funding cuts, the largest parts of the project - including satellite hide shelters for carriers and a dry-dock capable of holding a Nixon class carrier - were built first. By that point, the firms responsible hoped, that people would either accept it as a sunk coast and continue, or that the facilities could be used for other large projects like oil rig recovery should the base deal fall through.

Although the project would not be canceled, these huge berths never got the chance to host a carrier either. The most it ever played host to was a half dozen Morton class destroyers, while the largest was the USS Green Bay of the San Antonio Cruiser class.

The citizens did not attack the base during The Event. Ironically, the lack of warships present apparently had them misidentify it as a non-military port, and thus of low targeting priority. Once the alien fleet began to suffer from power loss and in-fighting, the base became a haven for a few of the remaining units of the Atlantic fleet.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Posible Revised AP System

Almost all role playing games have an experience point system - players like to see their avatars change and grow as the game progresses. "Dead... And Back" tries to add a new twist to this concept by giving the players a hard choice on how to use Advancement Points - to heal a character, or to save up and advance someone else - thus balancing short and long term goals, as well as matters of trust. However, the schedule of the reward remains unexplained, and I think there are few permutations that could help modify the game experience as the GM sees fit.

Option: Temporary AP (Last Second Saves)
Most games hand out AP at the end of the session, or at least don't allow it to be used until either the end of the night's gaming, or until a chapter break where the characters have down time to train. This is the general model I've envisioned for D&B. However, at the expense of a little extra bookkeeping, AP can take on a new use, and become another critical resource.

Under this concept, AP is given out on the fly, and is tracked with tokens or a different part of the sheet. These points may be spent at any time, for things like:
  • Healing a point of damage
  • Adding a die to a roll 
  • Negating the -1 penalty modifier
  • Improving odds of a scarcity Roll
Points not used before the end of a session are written down as normal, and can be used for healing (two points per), recovering lucidity/deadening, and advancing characters.

Option: Group AP Pool (Settlement Advancement)
Long term games, especially those in the Anarchy Zone setting, involve trying to (re)establish some form of society or secure area. Of course, much of this depends on what the players are able to find through innovation, and who they recruit through role-play. But it may be ideal to introduce a point buy system for upgrading a homestead, giving players a choice between working on personal improvement, healing, or granting their time and labor to communal projects.

In this variation, at the end of a session, the players may spend AP as normal, or place them in a group pool. This mutual bank can in turn be used to acquire upgrades to facilities, vehicles, or equipment used by everyone. "Town Stats Part One" gives an overview of what might be involved - Required attributes like population start cheap, but go up exponentially (recruiting a half dozen people easy, a few hundred - less so). Helpful ones have a more linear progression in cost, but are caped by the required attributes. (You can't have more soldiers than total population after-all.) Advanced settlement attributes would be quite expensive, but could pay some sort of dividend over time.

Reinforcement Schedules
So how often are AP to be handed out, and for what? It depends on if any of the above options are used, and how long the campaign should last. One constant, however, is that points should be handed out for actions of the players, not the characters. AP are a reward for quick thinking or good acting, not luck in rolling.

As stated in the rules, a new skill costs three points, and advancing a skill costs twice the next level (ie two to three is six, three to four is eight). Three or four points a session is going to be rather slow advancement, especially if there is a focus on healing over advancement, but scarcity is the name of the game. Giving about six points a session gives a bit more breathing room. If either or both of the rules above are used, eight or ten points might be advisable to keep players leveling up with some regularity. Conversely, five to six points can keep them struggling for a while.

Generally, it is the game master that hands out AP, but they should be open to suggestions from the players. If the others appreciate the plan, or respect the depth of role-playing, then they can certainly recommend their comrade for recognition.

Friday, November 25, 2011

MacArthur Power Armor (Part Two)

The Eisenhower is said to look like "a space suit on a diet" and the Donavan with its flowing cloak of IR and radar absorbing mesh seems like an anime hero of some sort. However, the best short description of the MacArthur I've found is "like a six-year-old trying to draw a robot from a 1950's movie".

This is actually a fairly appropriate and accurate appraisal. Its torso is large and boxy, the head a sensor turret that looks like an inverted fishbowl made of smoked glass (actually, a strong polymer), its hands fairly crude manipulators, its legs and feet over-sized, and a hump on its lower back. Squared off pauldrons cover the shoulders and upper arms - acting as a mounting point for over the shoulder launchers and rabbit-ear antennas wich beak up the otherwise smooth lines. The legs are thick, with feet described as "duck-like" to help distribute the units rather considerable weight.

It is hardly surprising that the unit gamed the nickname "Might Mac" from its physical presence. Most armors add a few centimeters and kilos -  but the Mac adds some 50cm and 60 kg. Indeed, it is often thought of as a single person armored fighting vehicle rather than worn armor.

Most TASC units use standard infantry carried weapons, but the armor's ability means their weight and recoil is far less noticeable, while sensors improve effectiveness. The MacArthur carries heavy infantry support weapons to start with, and goes up from there.

Fifty caliber machineguns are some of the lighter loads used by the armor, though semi-automatic weapons of that caliber are more common, since the sensors and recoil systems for for accurate, yet rapidly mobile sniping. (Even with other armors, .50 sniping is best done prone) 20mm cannons are also popular, though these usually have a very low rate of fire to off set limited ammunition payload, and the still considerable recoil and bulk of the weapon.

"Boom Tubes" are a common choice for anti-armor work. Much like a "roman candle" firework, they are a series of charges in line along a tube. However, each is an electrically actuated shell, and the pilot can select the number of rounds fired with a simple switch. Smaller versions in 40mm are general purpose, while 65mm or 88mm tend to be used with shaped charge or thermobaric rounds for anti-vehicle and structure use.

Of course, the main reason for the existence of the SMAC is to carry weapons too big for augmented humans. Up to four tube launched missiles can be attached to the unit's back, each containing a 180 kilogram missile of either anti-aircraft or anti-tank variety (or more often, the new multi-purpose multi-fuse missiles that can do both jobs). A second super heavy option is a breech loaded 90mm motor, with revolver shell feed. Somewhat less common is over the shoulder nine-tube rocket pods containing 70mm rockets, similar to those used by attack helicopters.

Although the Mighty Mac is a bit ponderous, it is quite strong in a melee fight. However, despite what modern media would have you believe - there are no purpose built power armor swords, maces, flails or other melee weapons. There really isn't much point, as fighting another armor hand to hand would be anything but stealthy with the sound of motors and crunching hard armor. An Ax exists - meant for utility purposes, but does quite nicely, and an entrenching tool/shovel is sometimes used as well. Indeed, due to the potential damage to the armor's manipulators, any weapon, improvised or not, is preferable to a simple punch. The mechanics of the balance systems generally prevent kicks from being delivered as well.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

MacArthur Power Armor (Introduction)

Since about the middle of the nineteenth century, the power of an infantry squad has made a great leap every twenty to thirty years. The 1860s were mostly single shot muzzle loaders and bulky cannon support. By the first world war, magazine fed rifles and machines appeared, while world war two brought in wide spread light automatics and man portable rockets. By the 1960s, it was guided projectiles for anti-tank and aircraft use. Beyond that - body armor, smart munitions, personal radios...

Powered Armor was a way to ease the burdens

The United States army operates four main types of Tactical Augmentation exoSkeleton Carapace -TASC units, known far more often by the colloquial "power armor" designation. One of these - the TASC-83 Colin Powell, is a field engineering unit of minimal combat ability. Meanwhile the other three ( TASC-79 Eisenhower, TASC-80 (EVANS/Donovan PA), and SMAC-90 MacArthur) are front-line combat vehicles.  These three share share a well known "Rock-Paper-Scissors" relation, and this paper seeks to elaborate on history, developments, and deployments of these systems.

This was made possible by grants and contributions from the following...

Development Background:
The "Mighty Mac" was one of the first specific purpose armors to be created. It was meant to seek and destroy other armored assets - conventional and personal exoskeletons, quite a tall order. 

Other PA only needed to protect soldiers against shrapnel and the occasional low caliber bullet. Armor was considered initially a liability, as it could lead to over confidence on the part of the solder, and drastically increased weight, which in turn increased wear on- and complexity of - motive systems.  More of the focus was on payload and electronic systems that would allow the soldier to shoot first and farther. This new unit would have to be able to face heavy caliber machine-guns or even light cannon rounds.

Two concepts came forward, nicknamed the assassin and the linebacker. One was a stealth unit - able to evade other units and strike when the time was right. The other could simply rush the enemy lines and fight on even terms. Although those in favor of the prior system argued that stealth had it place in more than just tank hunting, a loud segment pointed out that in open terrain or an ambush situation, hiding an eight-foot tall half-robot suit would be difficult or impossible.

Strangely enough, both sides won. The stealth design would evolve into the EVANS, the other Power Augmentation Unit - MacArthur. Of course, the two units would go on to work well together, but for now, we will focus on the Soldier Mobile Assault Carapace.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

And let those that play your clowns speak... (Draft)

Most RPGs tend to advise the GM to minimize the number of non-player characters in the party. After-all, the story is supposed to be about the PCs, and there are far too many horror (or humor) stories about novice GM showing unfair favor to their "sock-puppets". But for the purposes of "Dead... And Back" it may be in the game master's best interest to have multiple NPCs in the party.

Non-players can help bring the group together. Perhaps they're a shared friend, to allow otherwise separate characters to meet.

Conversely, if the players are somewhat loathe to begin inter-party tension of their own accord, the NPCs can be the discordant party.

Killing players is hard, both because they're crafty, and because it takes them out of the game, the whole reason why everyone is together in the first place. Killing and NPC can illustrate danger, without ruining the night, or provide an in-situ back-up for the player who does see their avatar murdered.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Talk Like a Citizen

First of all, don't try to replicate a citizen's actual speaking voice. They're rather high-pitched and "screechy", so the effort would quickly become painful for other listeners and your throat.

Aside from that warning, its actually fairly simple to act like a citizen:
  • Crouch or kneel to barely look over the table.
  • Look about rapidly - they are quite nervous around "giant" humans.
  • Exaggerate the size of most things
  • Use multiple-word descriptions rather than proper names
  • If it won't confuse things too much, switch around word order a bit
    • A Citizen's natural speech is The car, which is red, is owned by Jason, the author.
    • (Subject, descriptors, verb, descriptors, actor, description)
  • Citizen gestures, notably the citizen shrug (scissor hands horizontally, palm up)
  • A Text to speech program replicates the vo-corders most use for communication quite nicely.
As for some vocabulary the most notable word used is "abomination" in place of the human term reanimate. These are further divided into the slow (One), Fast (Two), and Hard (Three) with no sub-type divisions. Citizens are rather less focused on the question of if type fours and fives exist, but will refer to these as unknown or mystery abominations.

Otherwise there is:
Carapace: Human Power Armor (they refer to the Ekaide by name of course)
Defense Spire: Laser Tower
Rolling Fortress: Tanks or other heavy vehicles

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Choosing Ideals

There certainly is a place for "Run and Gun" adventures and the catharsis of both killing zombie swarms and role-playing an anti-society misanthrope. But in all horror based games, and the Anarchy Zone in particular, it is often best to focus on something more. Breathing is nothing special, its what you continued respiration lets the character aspire too that matters.

Player ideals are not a singular item, but an entire tool chest to build with. For one, they help make the character more realized - a person rather than a set of stats.

Secondly, they provide interplay between the people behind the characters.

Ideals present a way to induce risk, with minimal initial threat to the characters. Many characters would probably leave an otherwise safe situation to fulfill one of these obligations.
  • A former paramedic might never be at ease if there are other in danger near by, or attract others seeking their expertise.
  • An archeologist seeking to archive the past would break ingot old museums because preserving the art in more worthwhile than their safety
  • One who enjoys freedom would not appreciate attacks on the fuel supply that let them travel.

Most of the Anarchy Zone City states are also set up around various ideals, and other settlements can as well. Tesla believes in evolution, in changing yourself to meet the problem, and in creating a new order to replace the old ones. Conversely, Vegas is about competition between those who would use brute force to shape the world back into the old order, and New Birmingham seeks an even older way of life. New Birmingham, however, is for all its reto appeal is a sort of theological communist state, while capitalism is alive and well in the NEST structures.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Planetary Citizen Gestures

Please note: As of 11/4/2011 I am in India for my Sister's wedding, so content for the next few weeks may be light.

Trying to get information from Planetary Citizens usually a hit or miss affair. (And not simply because they might open fire on interlopers.) On one hand, they're faces simply aren't human. Many of the expressions they do have are subtle or unknown to humans,or are accompanied by sounds that h. Sapiens can't hear. On the other, they have a range of body language even more diverse than humans, and a number of tics that can reveal quite a lot.

Citizen main eyes don't notably blink - they have a clear membrane and multiple semi-transparent inner lid that slide into place.  The number used depends on the light level, but they are adapted to rather bright enviroments. Citizens don't notably smile or frown the way a human would either.

Since the upper arms are the most used, humans are capable of replicating many Citizen hand gestures. Convergent evolution means that in some cases, humans and aliens indicate things the same way - pointng at something universally indicates a point of interest.

Many actions have a positive and negative form in Citizen nonverbal communication. For example, if the Citizen holds its hand with the thumb meeting the last fingers and the other two in a V shape (akin to the human "peace sign") and moves their arm in an arc like waving, that is a greeting - "hello". The same movement with a closed fist is the opposite - "good bye." Touching two fingers to their opposite shoulder is an emphatic greeting - "Nice to see you/come here/ Come here, we have something to share". Making such a gesture with a closed fist means "I have nothing to say to you" or "piss off".

Of course, the most common gesture for humans to see is the citizen shrug. The upper arms scissor across each other, palms upwards -taken by humans as "I don't know/can't understand" As such, it comes up quite often with matters of vocabulary or places the citizen is unaware of. As a point of etiquette, its generally best a human not replicate this movement, as its in fact, a rather minor curse. Palms downward is the alien analog of "Amen" or "so it is the planet's will" meaning upwards more accurately translates to "Not of this world/ what is this accursed thing?"

Another common gesture with the V or Fist dichotomy is to touch the hand to either their nose, or antenna base. This is an indication of noticing or failing to notice something nearby (nose) or far away (antenna).

Although not an intentional gesture, a citizens antennas can sometimes indicate their mood. Most easily visible is rapidly moving around, searching for something, which indicates distress or fear of someting.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

16 Tons - Another Day Older and Deeper in Debt

I hai't gonna have to tell Saint Peter my soul belongs to the comp'y store. But there will be a rekon, soon. These things, they don't taka care of themselves you know. Whole machine, it be rustin away, some already be gon. How we gonna get the country back toghetha when everythangs gon?

Basements, subways, mines - all gotta be pumped out or they fill up. Metal expands and contracts in the heat, breakn way the concrete cladding. Lubricants break down to sludge, plastics become brittle.

Round the pit face, we'd replace steel el'vator cables more often than most a you replace shoe laces. Drills get taken apart every few hours, sometimes less if its a hard face. "course, to mine coal, first you need tugstun and diamond for the bit heads - right? Plus some nitro or amfo for blasting.

Here in Stockton, we be tryin to keep everything clean, and ready for work. Its hard some days - all the prep and little of the work. There isn't much else in this valley sides the mine, we be of half a mind to pack up and move away. But then what will run the power plants, and with out the plants - what starts the factories, or moves the tractors, produces the platiks?

Longer we wait to get started again, the longer getting started again will take. We can fuss and feud about things later, right now, we got a nation to rebuild - yes?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Disection Notes, WD-3-900-A-656487, Selected Exceprts

The Eyes show a greater proportion of rods to cones than a baseline male of approximately the same age. Furthermore, the absolute number of cones is some 50% less, while rod cells are present in in larger than average numbers, and show an odd clustering phenomenon, rather than even distribution. It is possible that a Whiskey Delta is partially or mostly colorblind, with limited visual resolution, but good low-light acuity.

...the visual cortex displays unusual crowding by a new neurological structure of unknown origin and purpose. It does appear to be of human neurological tissue and DNA matches to the host. What process could spark growth of neural tissue over the course of weeks is unknown, but could have excellent benefits compared to current technology...

...Inner ears and brain are quite intact. Little physical reason for the subjects lack of intelligence seems apparent. It is as if most higher order functions are simply turned off or in standby rather than removed or damaged. Poetically, it seems the soul has left, but the body is on auto-pilot... reports from [Redacted] seem to indicate function returns with time, but to what degree...

Other Physiology
Subject shows elevated presence of metals, most notably iron, in body. Subcutaneous structures appear on arms and legs in form of thin metal spirals. Unlikely to be armor, but does show a pastern remarkably similar to flexible antennas found in wearable computers...

Also shows high presence of biological agent [Redacted] possible exposure due to Sierra Alpha Indigo activities...

...vocal cords seem to have been removed entirely... 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Dr. Anita Jurez, Day 27, Observations on WD-3-900-A

Day 27

Subject: Staff Sargent Michael M. Major
Catalog Number: WD-3-900-A-656487
Classification: Whiskey Delta, Subclass Alpha
Date of Birth: 10/31/2015
Date of Death: Mid 2050, Actual Date Unknown, approx. between 7/14/2050 and 8/1/250 (Records lost)
Sample Collection Date: 11/12/2050
Recovery Point: Chicago IL, near Devon Avenue

Collected quite intact, despite rumors of sever mutilation seen in victims. Recovery was difficult due to heavy presence of other. [Whiskey Deltas]  Dirty and unkempt, but still mobile. Typical of victims from early part of event, when reaction to calls required quick reaction.

Personal Observations: [Time Stamp: 19:37]
It might not be professional of me to record this so casually. But I can't keep this clinical atmosphere going. I think the others who listen to this might take comfort that actual human beings were here, and not just automatons divorced from what is happening.

My god, what is happening. I've had two days to memorize a bookkeeping system for tracking -Whiskey Deltas. Reanimated Things - people. W.D. code for responder status: One civilian, Two police or EMS, Three National Guard, Four Regular military: a three digit code indicating how intact the specimen is - pristine being about 950, and a sub-class. Rumor has it, there may be different types of these...

Uh, no. No. You're more professional than this. Don't just repeat what they already know... aw chis- turn off the recorder when you talk to yourself...

[Time Stamp: 19:45]
Again. Staff Sargent Michael is a typical example of Guardsmen responders. Unaware of the true nature of the threat,and most regular military deployed elsewhere, much of the recovery effort is carried out by reservists. Unfortunately, for the time being, expedience of deployment and movement provided them with only limited armor, and many that were issued chose to forgo it due to weight and lack of weapon carrying adversaries.

Its just like our predictions for any other outbreak, or NBC scenario. Expediency and the rush to save people quickly clash with best practice, placing unreasonably large tolls on first responders...

According to reports, SSG Major went down heroically, acting as rearguard as civilians were evacuated from a housing block in Chicago...

It seems everyone dies heroically these days, just to keep spirits up. Not a one by blind chance, or overwhelming numbers...

Reports say he was beaten and dragged down by between five and eight humanoid assailants in a hallway intersection. Once on the ground, several bites were inflicted. Signs of sever blunt force trauma are present on the head, ribs, and left arm. However, these are mostly healed and revealed through regrowth patches. Skull shows severe yet healed fracturing - despite standard issue Kevlar helmet. Light scaring does reveal biting.

WD-3-900-A-656487 was recovered some ten kilometers from the last point SSG Major was seen, further into the urban areas of the city, by a special action group assigned by the CDC to collect samples for analysis.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Across the Pond

Yeah, I suppose you hear about the American G-zones the most. With the US have an astounding number of guns per-capita, and Mexico in the middle of a damn near civil war - you'd expect the population to be up in arms and able to resit everything from aliens to reanimates. You think tiny place, uncoordinated response, zero survivors,' cept for those thrice damned Soviet Vikings.

Well, I wouldn't approach most of the major cities of continental Europe, nor the radioactive craters of major cities in the British Isles. Look to the outskirts, the countryside - hell, even the castles - they make a damn fine fortress against the 'mates and the 'imps - and you'll find quite a bit more population than expected.

Shrimp knew to attack military bases first. But they had no idea how many bunkers there truly were scattered across Europe, many dating back to the cold war days. Weapons aren't so hard to come-by now, but trained soldiers, like chickens teeth. So valuable, that free companies can demand almost anything - a return to the reign of the mercenary army, like the pre-gunpowder and model army days. 

They aren't all cut throats, indeed, many are quite deserving of our respect. European armies were generally kept closer to home than US ones, so they put up quite the fight when then aliens landed. Fighting stopped as much because both sides ran out of fuel. Yes, you heard that correctly, even the aliens. Hasn't it occurred to you that they could have done a lot more with those spaceships in the last few years than just leave them parked near the moon? We might have blown up fiver or eight of them, but there are still around fifty.

Well, the up shot is, the aliens aren't too aggressive. Heck, there is at least one free-company of aliens doing much the same work as the other mercs to try and get on the human's good side. They don't seem to be too keen about attacking other aliens, but I've heard rumors they will for the right price. Otherwise, they stay hidden behind their big lotus laser towers.

As to the 'mates - they're all accounted for, we've got the same types as everywhere else. Well, I don't buy the stories about type fours and fives. Ants have Castes and directives but no general commanding it all, just instinct and pheromones. Why would these things need them either - any single one of them is smarter than an ant. Most of the time. Type five super soldiers? Probably just rumors spread by the free companies to either make themselves legendary, or feel needed. The Human body can only do so much and a few pin-head sized robots aren't going to change that. Most of the people I've met with cybernetics are less strong than they used to be - so yeah.

We're trying to get our act together. With less space to work with, we might get the links before the USA does. But there are still squabbles, and people who want the new Europe to be their Europe. Even I think we need less co-operation and more some new Napoleon to take the continent by storm. Just don't let it be that damned Gorgon, or Greegon, or Grigori - who ever that bastard in command of the KCA is. I've got this horrid feeling it might be. Russia probably had more of those bunkers the aliens overlooks than anyone else. You know them, got planes hidden under the Siberian permafrost in case Hitler ever returns from the grave and tries to re-stage operation Barbarossa. Who knows? We've seen enough other dead people walking...

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Minor Anoyances and a Major Hazard in the Zone

Most injuries accounted for in the Dead and Back combat system are ones that (usually literally) take a chunk out of someone - enough to impair their ability to keep running. However, not all injuries in life are those that will permanently cripple a person. Fortunately, only a very few do that.

One of the easier ways to model relatively minor injury, is to apply the same impairment as when low on fatigue or lucidity - die rolls use only six as the target number. At the Game Master's discretion, this is further limited to only problems where the pain might come into issue. A hurt hand doesn't impair thinking, an injured leg has little to do with aim and sense of direction.

Standard Nano Vaccine does not protect against chemical hazards. A specialized form of the stuff can remove toxins, but can't actually prevent them from acting. For one, it can't act fast enough (generally the micro robots need an outside way of identifying the toxin) and often blocking a chemical entirely is problematic, since a great deal of poisons are analogs for internal chemistry. Blocking a neurotoxin, for example, would probably end up with the nano affecting the hormones that are supposed to be acting on the receptors as well. Internal surgeons do at least mitigate the damage and speed up recovery.

 As with minor injuries, many chemical effects can be modeled by either role-play or assigning higher difficulties to tasks.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

PC Education

Hobbes did not keep to a daily exercise regimen as well as Diego, and it showed. Hauling lumber and loads of tools to repair the wall and roof damaged in the recent storm had left him panting and a bright shade of red. Setting down his hammer for a moment, he crawled to the buildings edge, and looked down on the Sing-Sing. She was bare phased by the work, but then again, she also had a robotic encounter suit to make the labor almost a non issue.

"Sing Sing, what can you tell me about the Citizen educational system?"
The Ekaide's head shifted upwards in a surprisingly life like gesture to face the human. "Its good. Taught me everything I know."
   "Well, it just seems that you answer a lot of questions with 'I don't know" or I am unaware" If it is something you don't want to talk about, you can just say so. This dodging makes you seem kind of - ignorant."
   "Mr, Hobbes, I - I guess I am strange in that I want to know these answers as well as you do. Most are quite happy with... can I say that in English - Every citizen has a history, but not every history has citizens.
   "Very Zen."
   "What?" The robot made the usual alien shrug.
   "Wait - why does the robot do that when you're confused?"
   "Its set to follow my motions for fine work. Its an upper and lower arm thing - how do you manage with just two arms?"
"Never mind, please - continue."
   "To explain - there is no all encompassing history of Planetary Citizens. Everyone learns to read, write, manipulate numbers, pray. Most other subjects are taught by the family or guild as necessary. What happened on other islands doesn't come up, unless you were somehow involved, and then it tends to be somewhat partial. Family history might say there was a battle at such a place and time, and use art description for what happened, but not what tactics or weapons. Mercenary guild members will learn a battle happened between force one and two on such terrain with certain tactics and weapons, but will mention no names. Knowing the full truth means being both a family involved and a mercenary and personal reflection to put it together."
   "So I'm guessing you can't tell me much about this guild?"
   "It is more protection of travelers than hired soldiers."
   "Knights Templar - sorry, another human term you wouldn't know. But we have had similar organizations in the past. Perhaps we need some now."
   "Is there some reason for all this division? Historically, or well - didn't you say in the past that the colonization project was to get over these differences?"
   "All worship planet. More territory controlled, closer to the great energies that fuel us all... To conquer all would be to become the singular voice of the divine. Aside from that - more land is more wealth, food, and fame. A lot of places at home, families had to work just to make dirt, much less a happy life."
   "So even space ships can't overcome hundreds of years of religious and territorial warfare and family loyalties?"
   "It would seem so Mr. Hobbes. You aren't exactly unified by abominations and aliens are you?"
   "Point and match - Sing Sing."
"Hey you two - we have a radio station to fix!" Diego shouted.
"Coming" Hobbes replied.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Citizen Contacts

It me, KC again. Been a while - huh? Well, that is just what I do - I'm an adventure, a lone wanderer, explorer or the Terra nova. You can expect me to be out of contact occasionally - most of the time even.

Where specifically have I been recently? Well, the area North of Lone Star and South of Vegas for one, even made it to near the California border. I really miss that place, but so far, there isn't a safe way through. Most places, the Citizens are in just a big of a hole as the rest of us, squabbling over resources and the proper way to move forward. They have their S--t together, and they don't like us. Shoot on sight, search and destroy don't like. Hate us as much as they hate the guys on the other side of the Rockies.

Yep, I've actually seen shots fired in a Planetary Citizen civil war.

I'm trying to be optimistic about this. Not in the "hopefully they'll kill all of themselves for us" way either. A number of them are decent people, I've stayed with a few on occasion, and traveled with them on others.

For my survival guide, it comes down to a basic rule. Let the Citizens come to you. The kill everybody types aren't going to signal, and only rarely communicate - they don't care. Ones on the fence or outright friendly will if they've got something to say. Watch their right hand. If they make a peace sign - thumb to opposite finger, middle fingers in a V and wave it back and forth, that is a gesture of greeting. Waving a fist back and forth go away. Its just like how humans wave to each other for attention.

Now, once you do make contact, the question is what to do. The two big recommendations would be to ask for escort through their territory, and permission to salvage structures. Pretty often, the answer will be no, but at least some of the time they'll agree. Travel becomes safer, and they're quite interested in learning about the remains of towns and factories near their settlements.

A payment is likely to be requested. Don't sweat it. Citizens have their own tech and supply needs, so they're not going to ask for your most valuable stuff. They're too small to drive your vehicle or use a human rifle very well - so unlike humans, they won't be constantly trying to get those. Raw materials, snack foods, up-to-date information some help dealing with a raider or reanimate problem, translation work.

Despite the seemingly fantastic nature of working hand in hand - in hand - with our four armed friends, its not going to make you rich. Aside from the perks you ask for, they're not about to offer much. You could get some food if you really want it, but you do realize they're insectivores - right? Won't kill ya, but I'm sure a lot of toxic things taste better anyway. Weapons - well a decent knife or hatchet is possible - steel is steel regardless of the blacksmith, and those gyro-jet guns they've got - well, what is the point considering how hard it is to get ammo?

Nor is cooperation going to give you a lot of information. You can't really ask about what the Citizens are up to or about the more violent groups. Imagine trying to ask a person who only speaks Chinese to describe the command procedures of a lunar colony - most of the language is different, and many don't really know anyway. Actually, I'm kind of suspicious - I think they're feigning ignorance or playing up unfamiliarity with terms to get out of answering questions. Its a bit hard to tell what the overall agenda is.

On the other hand, how much can you trust the agenda of most Humans? I know its kind of a catch-22 but as I said, stay optimistic. If you just try to shoot first and presume everyone is out to get you, doors are going to be closed, then karma is going to come around, and people are going to see the worst in you. Try to be good, you might be swindled now and then, but you'll also make friends that will help you through those rough times. Some of them might even be from another planet.

Catch you later.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

City Immune Response (Part Two)

"Last time, we got a bit off topic and reflected more on the troubles police used to face. Shall we try again?"
   "You agreed to let me stay the night, its the least I could do. Speaking of, I thought I heard something large outside - do you have any of those alien machines around here?"
   "Nothing Diego or I could take apart, no... Do aliens complicate matters of law enforcement?"
   "Well, I'm not sure how to arrest them, or if handcuffs would fit on their - they do have wrists - right?"
   "Four of them as I recall."
   "Weird. Well, the fact that there are aliens that can cause trouble for a community, its trouble for those that keep that community safe. I am quite fortunate that that the town I'm from has a separate military and police force, so those demon machines aren't my problem, but I know a lot of places don't have that luxury. When it comes to internal affairs, its a hard job.
   As I mentioned yesterday, national police forces were big enough that you had back up pretty much wherever you were. You could also specialize- you had forensic scientist who pretty much never left the lab despite what TV might have you believe, and specialized armed response teams, which didn't necessarily overlap with community officers who talked down domestic altercations. Now, its all a matter of wits. You need to collect clues, talk to people, and deal with threats all on your own. It is entirely up to me to decide if the threat of force is going to make the suspect back down, or escalate the situation. That was not part of my original forensics specialty."
   "So what would you say to prospective police officers in the age of reanimates? Any advice for the job?"
   "First of all, what is in your head is generally more important than what is in your hand. That above all else really. The other things, is what our internal memos used to call the Community Immunity Plan, or C.I.P. We always found it kind of stupid since it was a big outside consultant thing that amounted to the common sense - 'an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure'. It did go a bit farther, but it was basically look at the community as a living organism, gaian new age [bleep] What was that?"
  Diego flipped on his mike  "Don't swear on the air. Its against regulations and unbecoming of an officer"
  "You're more rule bound than I am."
  "We're not going to rebuild society if every follows different rules or lives by breaking them"
  "An interesting debate Mr. Diego, we did invite Sargent Mulchaty for his views, not ours. Sorry sir, if you will please continue?"
   "He does have a point Mr. Hobbes, but I do have mine. The big thing is measured response. be nice and treat people as blisters to be smoothed over, not organs to be amputated. No, that is a little too much. Try to be present, and find sources of irritation to the community first. Not everything calls for force, its a rash before its a tumor ectera. Start with the big force, and you'll come to rely on it.
   You know, the weirdest thing is - you could learn a lot from the reanimates in this field."
   "Really?! How so?"
   "There are some dangerous places that are always crawling with the things. Military bases most often, but sometimes they just love a particular gas station, school or house. However, anywhere else, its more of a time thing. I've got a friend who swears if you never stay in one place longer than three days, you'll see nothing other than type ones and alphas. Its probably not that exact, and more location based, but there is truth. The longer someone is in a city, the more of them that come out of the wood work, and the more vicious and varied they get. Maybe they hibernate until people show up and set up camp. I don't know."
   "Thank you again for appearing on the show, but it seems we're running short on time."
   "If I might ask - why do you sign off like that so often? You're not competing against other stations, and for all intensive purposes, you could talk as long as you want."
   "Its the same reason we bleeped you earlier. We're really not located to give people up to the moment warnings about alien or reanimate sightings, most of the time we don't have other human experts around to teach people. So instead we try to provide a calm atmosphere and a sense of normalcy by sticking to a set schedule. Maintenance and battery life play a role as well. Frankly, there are some local stations that have their own agenda, and we try to be the professional CBS or BBC above the propaganda and local shock jocks.
  Coming up: the seven o'clock classic hour and the local weather before the eight pm sign-off. Live from the Dead Air, this is Thomas Hobbes on 104.3."

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

City Immune Response (Part One)

"...and we're back! As advertised, we're sitting down for a chat with one of Denver Colorado's finest - Police Sargent Michael Mulchaty. Welcome to 104.3 sir."
   "Thank you Mr. Hobbes."
   "So how has life as a law officer changed with The Event?"
   "Where to begin. It... its at once easier and harder. You don't have the same types of crime, nor the paperwork, and certainly not the same legal system. The is a lot more hands on, and man handling going on. Er - I apprehend people, and often do the punishing - weather its exile, jail, or oversee the chain-gang. I'm not coordinating with private security firms, or passing off investigation to the detectives."
   "Do you appreciate the change? I know a lot of the police forces were going thrugh some rough times."
   "I assure you that everything you herd about police strikes and pay cuts and shady dealings are nothing more than vicious ugly and completely true lies. Panopticon surveillance was a touchy issue, as was the use of drones, and if it could be justified to equip riot police with powered armor. Working with corporate security and arcology internal affairs could be a burden, as was the influx of immigrants from around the world due to climate shift, storms, you name it. Pandemic lock-down - don't get me started on the patient zero laws. It was a good day when all I had to worry about was kids using the sphere to avoid pursing cops with hidden notes and real time access to cameras. I turned down so many chances at a better paycheck just to avoid dealing with the more cyberpunk elements of society."
   "You're not the first to reference that literary genre when reminiscing."
   "I guess it kind of dates me to bring up slogans like 'information is a weapon' but it was getting kind of scary. The right radio frequencies and encryption would let you use military drones, the proper CAD blueprint would let you turn dishwasher mirco-factory into an arms producer, and the push for smart buildings on their own power supplies meant you could run independent hideouts in the middle of nowhere unseen and unknown. We certinaly weren't trying to have an underclass, but well world events kind of forced one and that is where you recruit your desperate or see crime families emerge for projection. Er - protection."
   "Both really."
   "Good point. Anyway - things were fast, information was wanted, supplies were wanted, people were concentrated and looking for escape. Actually, they still want it, and a lot of places are more casual about drug use now than I'm used to. I guess that is the worst part. No matter how bad things ever got before. I was part of a fraternity of like minded individuals, and a brother to all cops from the rent a guard at the mall to the top FBI admin seeking to keep people safe, and slow as they might be, the gears of justice ground towards unavoidable justice. No, wait, thats not how that goes... you get the point. Now police are really alone - no BATF for extra resources or state patrol to catch the runner on the highway. Its scary a lot of the time."
   "So why do you keep up as a police officer? Without the uniform, you look the same as anyone else."
   "Honestly - because the blue shirt is right there hanging in my closet. I knew some who would say its in their blood, or they have the oath to be the thin blue line between order and chaos. Yes, I also met a few, more than a few really, who would do it just for the authority or to get perks and bribes from the city states. But right now, its just a habit. Putting on pants one leg at a time and buckling the belt each morning is just proof that the world hasn't come to an end. Despite aliens and reanimates - the sun rises, birds sing, and I put on the badge."
   "You sell yourself short. I, and I sure the listeners, would love to hear more from you."

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Dinner Time

One thing The Event hasn't changed is family dinners. Well, the misses likes to joke they're less controversial now.

You remember all that - one hell of a political s--- storm. The idea of the government paying families to have dinner together. Just a stipend or reward - and checked through the sphere, voluntarily. Seemed common sense enough - eat at home, save the travel expenses, be nice to people and encourage togetherness.

Other nations were instituting rationing levels not seen since world war two to deal with the loss of petroleum fertilizers. A few actually were going into outright civil war.

But no, the simple changes are always the hardest. Its government interfering in personal business, its encouraging a welfare state, its taking business away from suffering restaurants and entertainment destinations, we shouldn't panic the people that supplies are gone.

Overhauling the whole vehicle fleet was easier than that and took no debate. Oil got too expensive, the free market made people buy other cars. Getting them to agree on what car - well, the government just said screw it and let each state decide on electric, bio-fuel or what. They tried to network some trains, and to their credit, the High-speed Electric Rail System still works in some parts of the country. Though you got to admit, when the acronym is pronounced like "hearse" someone must have been trying to undermine it to the last.

I don't know what they do up North, but here its a lot of bread, greens, potatoes, peanuts - PB and J is a nigh daily staple. Cow's milk is sorely missed, but you find beans and fruit or pretend you aren't disgusted by the stuff other animals produce.

I hate goats.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Green Flu Interpretation Part One

Open a new tab or window, and check out a music video on  "The Escapist" called "The Dead Don't Shuffle". Bookmark that site while you're at it - many of the the other songs by this artist are good as well.

Back? Good. Fell psyched up about doing a zombie game? Even Better. 

Shall we see what it takes to convert what you've just seen into Dead and Back?

The Left4Dead Wiki has more information for those who want to replicate this video game. Unofficially of course, I have no affiliation with Valve Software - though I do like their products. 

Common Infected
Although numerous, the average Green Flu infected is only a minor challenge for the prepared. A few handgun bullets to the torso or a good swing with a melee weapon will take them down easily enough. These are an excellent example of a simple one Necropoint unnatural creature, with a low SDI.

Over confidence is dangerous, however, as the song points out, these are running and somewhat athletic creatures. It is not unknown for them to fall twenty feet and keep running when seeking prey.

Common Infected Stats:
  • Stregnth: 3
  • Tech: 2
  • Quick: 2
  • Wits: 1
  • Close Combat: 3
  • Ranged: 1
  • SDI: 1
  • NecroPoints: 1
  • Speed: 7 (Human Jog)
Of course, they don't come one at a time. This is the sort of thing the D&B horde factor is for. Groups of ten  might be HF2/NP1 - two attacks, and need at least two hits of 2 damage to break up the group. With an SDI of one, a good burst of assault rifle fire or a pipe bomb will do wonders.

Further complicating matters are the occasional uncommon types - people who succumbed to the plague while wearing protective gear. Simplest to replicate are former police officers and soldiers in anti-ballistic vests - simply raise the SDI to three or four to show how its harder to land a telling blow without armor piercing weapons. Government personnel in Haz-Mat suits are immune to fire, in addition to having a higher SDI than normal - three would suffice.

Special Infected:
Recreating the special infected takes a little more thought. As of yet, there is no point buy balance system for the abilities of creatures - without more feedback or time, its a bit unlikely. However, like all rules in an RPG, those are more guidelines than requirements, and a good GM can manage the game as they see fit.

The Boomer is a corpulent walking bomb. It spits a noxious bile that can partially incapacitate humans, and acts as a powerful attractant to bring on additional infected. Failing that, being killed at close range or falling from a large height will cause it to burst, releasing its noxious bile over a wide area. Its rather fragile and slow however, with the main threat coming from its ability to bring other creatures into ambush positions.

  • Strength: 2
  • Tech: 2
  • Quick: 2
  • Wits: 1
  • Close Combat: 2
  • Ranged: 1
  • SDI: 2
  • NecroPoints: 1
Opposite of the slow and fragile boomer in almost every way, is the the huge Tank. It is dangerous with out allies, by upending cars, pavement, or simply smashing survivors with its bare fists. Rather than an ambush predator, it is a battering ram going straight for the target.

It definitely counts as an Abomination type of creature., rather like the anarchy zone's Type Three or Lambda. (Perhaps a little less dangerous without the built in technical upgrades seen in the latter though.)


  • Strength: 8
  • Tech: 2
  • Quick: 2
  • Wits: 1
  • Close Combat: 6
  • Ranged: 2
  • SDI: 4
    • O O O
    • O O O O
    • O O O O
    • O O O O
  • Speed: 6, -1 per at half health

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

We Meet Again, Dr. Kurtz

Why hello - we meet again. You're the one who like Vivaldi - right? Don't look so nervous. I don't hold a grudge against you for escaping - quite the opposite. Remember the old jingoistic war movies - "the first duty of a captured airman is to escape"? Well, it takes guts and bravery to make it out of a raider camp, and we respect you for that. Not that we really intend to let you do it again, of course.

Aside from being captured by raiders for a second time - has the zone been treating you well? Is one of the fine vehicles in that lot yours?


Really - how interesting, we're looking for some replacements too. You don't really find good American Made off-road vehicles these days. Not in this part of the country at least. I for one voted against the idiots who decided to let individual states decide on alternate fuels. Fine for Illinois and Montana to produce corn for ethanol, and New Mexico to go solar-electric.


Yes - this does have a point. What is your hurry anyway? I need to be technically knowledgeable about the vehicles before I pick one - making a technical is a bit more complex than just welding some machine guns to a stock chassis. And as to the second part of that snide comment - well I did the good citizen thing. Right up until the event. A government is there to serve its people, and when it can no longer serve that function, in no longer deserves loyalty.

No helicopters showed up to break up the reanimates when they came to our town, nor to mount a rescue. If they had only pulled six people out as a show of good faith - well, I might not be around to understand - but no help, no radio acknowledgment. That is when we knew the only ones to rely upon are ourselves.


That is my point exactly. Mine was not the only city to befall such a fate. If there are too many towns that the government can't protect, then perhaps those places shouldn't have been charted. Shouldn't a group that allows for settling a flood-plane at least have plans about what to do about flooding?

Don't take this as me playing for your sympathy, nor am I retroactively justifying my choice of lifestyle. I'm not doing this for fame or popularity. But compared to living out my days locked in a cage of my own creation within an old arcology - no, there isn't any comparison really. For good or ill, we are making a choice.

-what? Oh yes, right. Um - I don't know - let the mechanics decide which ones. Thank you.

As my adjunct points out, this really isn't the place for debating lifestyles of liberty and legacy. If you'd be so kind as to join us back at the bivouac, we'll open a bottle of peach schnapps and roast a chicken. We've been brewing it ourselves, and its gotten quite good after the first few failed batches.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Running on Steam

Mr Mauser you say? From the government? Well, I certainly glad that they've taken some interest. Better late than never I guess. But you can tell them straight away - we don't need them. Our town's doing quite well on our own.

Now, now - don't go feeding me no party line. I'm sure they've got all sorts of offers up their sleeves, from surplus supplies, tank escorts, to making one of us governor of the new territories once their all set up. Thing is though, we didn't suffer a failure of imagination. Not that I'd expect expect some hide-bound bureaucrat touring the zone in a suit to know what imagination even is. I'm just ribbn' yah, but that is the key.

So many people are too attached to the past. They find an old car, and then go out of their way to provide the infrastructure to make it work again. find parts to replace the burned out motors, set up solar panels to charge the battery, find tools to fix the transmission. Brother - there be four good wheels and a chassis - just strip out the old five hundred pounds of broken engine and hitch a horse to it! Why go all over creation to fix the damn thing?

But, no. Most folks want their old lives back, and will risk reanimate and space man to get the supply.

Around here, we adapted the past, but a more distant one. Turned old water heaters for plumbing into boilers to run steam engines. Sure the metal was light, but they withstand a lot, and even more when we set the things in concrete, and burred them 'cept for the top. Put some heavy gauge steel on top of that, and there you go. Well, you need to be careful, and it paid off that we have some engineers here to check our work - but we're all set. Underfloor heating, expansion engines, a small turbine - its all good.

Wood, running rivers, make your own windmill - doesn't have to be an air-turbine, just good for a mill stone. I tell yah - I've seen places with electric lights and running trucks, but you need to grind wheat by hand. Lot of good being able to see how hungry you are at night is doing them.

Now, I certainly am proud of the old US of A, but too little, too late. Now when the airplanes are flying again and satellites are back up, maybe we'll be dragged into civilization just like old Dead Wood was in the eighteen-eighties. But we are not going to grant allegiance just because some documents say its still the government. Prove they're the in control, and well, what other choice will we have?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Getting Tired

I have been trying to avoid  a succession of apologies, excuses for delays, and missed updates. And yet, now the blog is at least six or seven posts behind where it is supposed to be.

Quite probably, the project has gone on too long with little feedback, and its just plain flagging. I have a fifty item list of things to add, but when they're background ephemera no one asked for, the urge to produce a couple pages each is pretty much nonexistent.

It is time to reevaluate. While going slower is not going to catch up to where I'm supposed to be I'll feel better about this I we compromise on the rate. Starting September 15, I'm going to a Tuesday/Thursday twice a week scheduled. Hopefully, this will give me a bit more time to write stories I care about, rather than deadline skimming shorts.

There are some full fledged documents that I've been meaning to work on -most notably, the "Antagonist Archive". First of all, this will update the stats for reanimates and Eckaide,to include the Necrotic Threshold ability and to account for 1-7 stats and new vehicle multipliers. Official 2050 vehicles including - cars, motorcycles, tanks, and power armor will also get write-ups. Some sample towns, and the notes on the various raider groups will be included as well.

I'm looking into so play by post groups, so an announcement on that may come soon.

Thank you all for your interest.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

In the Office of Giants

It was like a bad dream. Chased by giants through dark and unknown terrain.

No. Worse. She had shrunk.

Every piece of furniture a ledge to mantle, a body's length to jump. Door handles just out of reach. Further seconds testing if it was push, pull, or locked as they grew closer.  Every sign written in gibberish giving little clue as to where the next exit was. There must be one amongst these huge desks, giant chairs, and broken monitors.

It was no dream. B#B#FD was being chased by abominations through and alien office complex. Everything was overgrown to human standards. On top of that, no power meant no lights other than her electric torch and what little sunlight filtered through cracked and marred windows. Sun that was rapidly turning orange with dusk.

Even with eminent danger, her mind wandered to the design of this place. Why so many little boxes? It was as if they grew workers like a garden in even rows. There were even sprinkler heads even spaced about the ceiling.

Focus. Humans didn't grow like that, at least not until they became abominations. And of those - well no Citizen caught by one ever returned.

Good, a hall. But which way? She had come in from the machinery areas to the left, her marks were there, and the path out. But the abominations were entering though the same open cargo doors she came in from. To the right was unknown, but there had to be another way out, humans weren't so strange as to have only one entrance to a factory - could they?

Friday, September 2, 2011

Professor of the Airwaves

Hobbes checked the time, adjusted his chair and equipment one lest time, then flipped the switch. "Hello Wasteland!  Today's lunchtime discussion brings us a recording from Professor Parkinson about the difference between arcology and megastructure, as well as the EDGE community concept.
   Pay close attention, because its taken a long time and a lot of effort to get this data here - and disproves the idea that the Lone Star complex is completely cut off from the world. Its only cut off if you don't have an ultralight aircraft, a daredevil pilot, enough firepower to shoot through a horde of reanimates, don't mind laser towers, and don't immediately get your equipment confiscated by US gov forces."

"Hello Mr. Hobbes and Mr. Diego. Thank you for continuing to provide such a useful service and giving me time to share my piece. I just ask for a quick moment to announce that I am OK, and if my wife or friends can hear this, I am in the Lone Star Complex.

So, let us begin with a few quick terms.

Arcology is a combination of the words "Architecture" and "Ecology". The term originates back in the nineteen sixties or seventies, and it refers to the idea of a community built in harmony with nature. In many ways, its the antithesis of 50s brutalist architecture, housing developments, or the early thirties ideas about conquering nature with giant Frank Loyd Wright skyscrapers.

Mega-structure is just what it sounds like - a building over a hundred and twenty stories, or eight mile plus bridges, dams across major rivers. Generally you know it when you see it. Most modern definitions also include some level of self sufficient - water recycling or power generation on site for example.

EDGE is an acronym for Economical Design and Governance Enclosures.

   In theory, each of these is an answer to the problems of the concept that comes before it. Arcologies were meant to be an improvement over the standard city of little green-space and oppressively artificial atmosphere. Megastrcutures were supposed to be easier to manage than arcos, less demanding in terms of space, and still allows a lesser footprint than a normal town. Finally, the EDGE was an attempt to build small scale self-contained communities since a super-sized buildings were taking far too long.
   So far as we are concerned, things like the East coast NEST, project, Midwest Lincoln Towers, or the California Harvey Milk Dome are mega-strutures, and arcologies. They don't technically fit the harmony with nature aspect of arco - but since they're mostly self contained and try to minimize impact, we deem them as such anyway.
   An EDGE is where I find things getting interesting. They're a combination planned community, special economic zone, and futurist thought experiment. They often include a series of geodesic domes or underground areas to provide protected open space or contained industry, while microfactories provide materials to quickly create pre-fab housing units to fuel rapid expansion.
   We were very fortunate to have such places in the USA. Many other nations had to deal with overcrowding or shanty towns when rising sea levels and bad weather forced migrations. Indeed, if it weren't for the alien crisis and the following reanimate one - displaced populations would probably be one of the biggest threats to our way of life.
   An EDGE can have a population of anywhere between twenty-five and eighty thousand people, in theory at least. Many were over-built but didn't see much immigration, others people piled into desperate for a place. Most tend to be a combination of small homes and green zones, but unlike a megastructure full of apartments, there was a much greater allowance for larger dwellings or different styles - though most conform to the recent Robin Lynn era of architecture, being simple prefabs of rectangular, square, and cylinder blocks - though many have aftermarket additions to make them appear more like traditional houses than collections of pre-fab trailers...
"You know boss, as fun as this is, it really seems like time for us to move on."
   "What do you mean Diego?"
   "Don't you think the people know enough about the world yet? Shouldn't we be handing out missions and work assignments to help rebuild the world?"
   Hobbes shook his head, "Right after we compile a complete list of reanimate abilities and an official history of power armor and their equipment?"
   "People need to do something in the zone, and who besides us has an overview of everything?"
   "Its their choice that matters, not ours.Sure, I'd like the government to return, but its not wholly wrong to think they've dropped the ball and its high time to add a few new rules. Or perhaps screw it all - when is the next time humanity will see a frontier like this? The costs and difficulty of extrasolar exploration certainly won't mean space colonies are anything like the wild west"
   "Or for heaven's sake doctor - your profession was entirely reliant of management and regulations. Some order is going to reassert itself. Can we at least consider things to do and how to restore it without someone getting trampled?"
   "I know Obstetrics, not Human Nature. For that they should have sent a poet..."
   "Very funny."

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Internal Treachery

I used to have an old framed comic sitting on my desk. A character proclaimed "I love mankind, its humanity that I can't stand!"

That seems to be the rule here. For all the bluster that one of the G-zones will emerge to lead us and reclaim or reformat the world, I just can't recommend visiting one. They have this us or them mentality that sees outsiders as resource at best, or a public utility pipe to bring in materials and export waste.

There was this one guy I knew. Went in, and got accused of murder. Hadn't been there when it occurred, had no motive, or even knowledge that the victim existed. But when strangers show up, its time air out old grievances.

Now his experience was singularly bad, I should point out. It would be wrong to presume they always jump to that conclusion. Sometimes its a more round about path - a lot of people want to do things off the books. Not always bad things. A lot of people down in New Birmingham appreciate playing cards with people who won't rat them out to the though police for gambling. Other places will pay for an impartial arbiter with no stake to mediate claims.

Some unscrupulous individuals will ask you to liquidate a rival for them, rather than just blaming it on you.

Point is, people in the cities have an agenda. We all do. But in the zone, its make yourself comfortable, explore, find a lost relative, find a way to die with glory and honor to atone for all the friends you lost in The Event, or find the recipe for all those flavors of ice cream you recall as a kid.

City states tend to have bigger goals, and ones that need more vision to acquire. Whenever something must be pictured, there are those who thing they'll be the better photographer.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Answer is Glowin' in the Wind

The world of 2055 is not a copy of 1955, nor of the ideas for the future from 1955. Atomic power is not the answer to everything. However, there are still a number of places to be avoided due to radiation hazards.

Unlike the whimsical title of this post, radiation gives little visible sign of its presence. If you can see radiation, there are generally three causes:
  • It is affecting some other material, causing it to fluoresce
  • Small particles are exceeding the local speed of light (slowed due to water refraction) producing a blow glow know as Cerenkov radiation.
  • You're viewing a source powerful enough that you'll be dead in a matter of moments.
Aside from that, it has no odor, taste, or feel - the few signs being its health affects in the form of poisoning. Some truly astute observers might notice the effects on the environment - dead pine trees, clear water with an absence of micro-biotic life, and the like.

Nuclear power plants built in the mid twenty-first century are far better designed than the first and second generation plants of the sixties and seventies. Almost all are passively safe - overheating shuts down the reactor rather than causing a meltdown for example. Almost no civilian reactor had releases of radiation due to The Event.

Nuclear powered warships are a somewhat different matter. Most were sunk at sea, and are sufficiently far underwater to be effectively non-hazards.  The aliens did hit some in port, and of course, many ports built to handle such vessels had radiological materials on site for refueling or recently removed.

Fallout is an issue in some areas. Most militaries generally tried to either use high-altitude air-bursts or deep subsurface blasts. Although these techniques minimized the amount of material exposed to radiation and thrown into the atmosphere, short of avoiding atomic weapons, it can't be completely prevented. After five years, almost nothing remains in the atmosphere, and exposed materials are inert, but some long lived isotopes remain. These are unlikely to be directly deadly in the short term, but as mentioned before - high radiation can destroy nano-vac, which leaves people far more open to opportunistic infections.

Another source of hazard are the multitudes of no longer accounted for point sources. Gamma irradiation machines from food processing, various calibration devices, or the cores of radio-therapy machines in abandoned hospitals. (See the GoiĆ¢nia accident for a real life example of what harm those can do.) Unfortunatly, there are some scavengers who don't know the danger and are acquiring hazardous materials unwittingly. Crossbow teams from Las Vegas are often sent to look for not just nuclear weapons, but old sources as well because of this danger.

Friday, August 26, 2011

type one incoming

Franklin was bone white and wheezing like a half-drowned man even before he struggled up the knotted rope to the third floor hideout. Ben had to pull him through the widow and prop him on the couch across from it.

"A whole army of them" Franklin croaked between gasps "Had to sprint six blocks to avoid being seen."
   "Any follow you here?"
Frank shook his head.
  "Good, you rest now - when the others get back, we'll make evacuation plans."

"Like hell we will!" It was Marci - a full five and a half feet (5' 3" without combat boots) of crew-cut, spit-shine, and gung-ho marine. "We are this close to getting them! I confirmed it, the vehicles are still there and the hatches dogged - now is the time"
   "Didn't you just hear Frank - we've been here too long - the things are waking up and swarming."

Ben sized up the opponent. On one hand, the police forensics man was a good four inches taller, and twenty pounds heavier. On the other - most of that was just pure fat, and it was desk job versus active marine. A long moment of silence passed, but then it seemed words become adequate again.

"Is it really such a sure thing boot-champ? If it really worth it - wouldn't the national guard ahve taken the APCs with them when they retreated." Ben began again
The marine shook his head. "First of all, its pronounced "Boo-show"
   "Whatever Frenchie"
   "Does that matter?"
   "If I am the one who has the knowledge, it behooves me to be the most correct. As it works out, the vehicles are probably a write off - out of fuel, break down, or fried by alien rad cannons. Besides, high maintenance vehicles aren't worth much, we're here for the EM-Rats."
  "And those are worth our lives?"
  "Of course. Just because you never saw them in action" The marine chuckled - "Oh, back in Argentina, it was a be-you-tee-ful thing."
   "Are they the reason you're the only person I've met that doesn't find the whole Southern Drone war one big cluster F--" Frank interjected.
   "It all depended on where you deployed. They were really selective about which areas to make a stand..."

Another person entered the room, a medium height brunette paramedic named Alice, de facto leader of the group. "If you're sharing war stories can I join in?"
   "Right now" Ben began "is talk some sense into this guy. "Frank spotted a whole bunch a reanimates and yet, he still wants to go for the booty."
   "I ain't denying there is a risk when dealing with a butt-ton of reanimates, but we're looking at em-rats here."
   "Which is?" Alice asked.
   "Multiple Role Aircraft and Tank - combined shaped charge and expanding rod warhead. Select a mode, and it can slag a tank twelve miles away, or a fighter five miles high."
   "How big are they?"
   "Say, 140, 160 pounds, ten inches around, bit over six feet long - not including the launchers."
   "Sorry Mr. Beauxcamp, but it doesn't sound like we can move many of these things any reasonable distance. I'm going to have to call this one over - pack it in."
  "Don't do this!" the marine shouted, then paused. "Sorry, didn't mean to raise my voice to a lady. But all due respect ma'am, at least wait until the other two get back. These things will give us a week at any good town - maybe more. You're looking at either an eighty foot fragmentation radius, wipe out a heck of a lot of Rovers,, or enough directed power to slag a tank. It will outright vaporize anything the aliens have."
   "Ok, you've got my interest again. Week per missile, or the lot of them?"
   "You know how prices shoot up for groups. More of us, less the town likes... six of us - umm"
   "I'm waiting"
   "Day, day and a half per missile, a bit more with the single launchers, for the whole group. Not including anything else in the vehicles equipment locker - gauss guns, a payload rifle probably, tools -"
   "Any twenty seven millimeter shells are mine, but the rest sounds like profit.But we'll need to be quick. Ones might wake up first, but the others can't be far behind."

Monday, August 22, 2011

Where Have all the Robots Gone?

"Hey, Shu, Stupid question - why aren't we sending a robot to do this job?"
   "We don't have a robot."
   "Yeah, but you used to work for U.S. Robots and Mechanical Men, Inc.right? And there are plenty of machines left lying around..."
   "Where to begin - I wasn't a factory worker for one. We had machines for that - real surprise? Secondly, robots aren't built for this. Just like cybernetics - we built to minimum specifications. You don't build a surgery bot with the power to punch through a bank vault imagine what it could do if there was a problem during surgery? Durability doesn't pay either."
  "Why not? Isn't the whole point of a robot being tougher and stronger than a human to do dangerous jobs. The surgery example makes plenty of sense - but military bots?"
   "So you can make it three-hundred kilograms and able to resit mines -but hard to transport, or two kilos, and let it blow up itself and the mine each time. Giving each soldier five or six mouse-bots means they're more likely to get used - which translates into safer soldiers than ones relying on robot that isn't there. And of course, more replacement order for us."
   "The old planned obsolescence ploy."
   "Hardly that mercenary. But unless its an industrial welding arm, using steel when aluminum, zinc alloy, or polymer can do just as well is adding extra weight - which means a need for bigger motors, more power, more expense - aside from mine clearing units, our bots were built to last, just not to resist and overcome. So protection against emp level surges, collapsing buildings, wandering rubble, going without lubricants - you can find robots, but frankly, a mobile humanoid isn't that useful compared to how hard bipedalism is."
   "Good news if they ever rebelled - hunh?"
   "In most applications, we didn't need anything that smart. Really - does the pool boy need to be able to quote philosophy or just look good in shorts and ready for when the misses isn't around?"
   "I didn't need to know that."