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.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Where the PCs Fit In

"What do you want? Who Are You? Where are you going from here?" - arc questions from Babylon 5

The Role of PC - Planetary Citizens
From the point of designing the game, are like romanticized pirates of the 18th century Caribbean Sea.

Consider the whole world to be an ocean. Each city state is a nation fighting for trade lanes and resources. Reanamates are the natural hazards of the sea - type ones are like shoals to be navigated around, Type Two hidden sandbars hard to find, yet waiting to wreck. and type Threes are vicious storms that can tear travelers apart. Citizens are pirates on these waters - hunted by the nations, fighting amongst each other, and suffering form the reanimates as well,  but in the end- an intelligent threat.

Within the game universe, they're homesteaders trying to make the best of the area they've immigrated too. After a long and uncertain journey, they've arrived at what seems like a lush paradise. However is already crawling with pesky natives that do not like the citizens presence.

Citizens are not always hostile to humans. Sometimes they're willing to trade objects picked up in their travels for food or raw materials. Mineral wealth like iron, steel, and rare earth elements are the most sought - setting up mines and the means to process the ores takes quite a bit of time.

Even when they are antagonistic, its not always malicious. Citizens will often raze old ruins to claim new territory or eliminate reanimates - but they give warning prior so people can evacuate. Most of the creatures piloting alien war machines are uninterested in maximizing casualties. Some are professional soldiers from the Mercenary Guild Family that see limiting collateral damage as part of their job. Others are newly recruited conscripts with little interest in fighting.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Translated Gripes Part Two

Drawn Iron exited the building first, followed by her guard, GGA#A-09 "OK you two, exploration complete, on to the next area."
"Yes princess." CDAG-12 and F#DDA-91 replied in all too perfect unison. Drawn Iron's antenna quivered and nearly touched out of confusion. This only made the two guard chirp a bit more.
"OK, what are you two giggling about?"
"Nothing." replied CDAG-12
"Just a joke." F#DDA-91 added.
"Are you listening to rumors about me?"
F#DDA-91 paled a bit, her antena drooping, "Listening - no."
"Uhh..." F#DDA-91 turned to CDAG-12, and scissored her arms left over right.
"Come on"
"...Yes princess." the pair finally replied.
"You two are like first instar sometimes! If we weren't related I'd have you..."
"We aren't related, we're from - ow! Don't hit me!" CDAG-12
"Related by guild - metal workers," F#DDA-91 began. "Of course we physically come from three different parts of the planet and probably fought glorious wars to to wipe each other out. Its in calling and aptitude that planet sees fit to join us."
"You don't need to refer to history with so much sarcasm - or repeat a child's level of knowledge to her." Drawn Iron scolded.
"Might I suggest we continue our search? It is not in our best interest to remain here longer than necessary."
"Right - you heard the professional mercenary - lets get going children - your celibate princess commands it."

CDAG-12's dismissive gesture aside, there were no more replies as each drew their weapons, and scurried off in over-watch. Bickering aside, the two were competent at what they did. GGA#A-09 and other professional soldiers had done a better than expected job of turning computer programmers, farmers, and machinists into fighters. Humans still outnumbered by untold numbers, and were getting more aggressive.

"Far be it for me to question orders - but what are we doing here?"
"Wa - you can actually intiate conversation?"
"It is not against the rules Drawn Iron, but it is normal to be quite and observe and let others reveal themselves. Even humans without antenna show a lot of what they say if you spend enough time looking."
"Not just another trick for your guild to scare everyone?"
"That too. The mercenaries don't produce quite like the other guild families, so we need to have some secrets."
"In that case, I think I'll keep just what I'm looking for as my guild secret."
"As you wish."

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Translated Gripes One

"This is just one of those days where I wish I had stayed home" CDAG-12 complained."Is this place really any better?"
"Wait, wait - you had a choice about joining the fleet?" F#DDA-91 asked.
"Technically no - but since when has the law really stopped anyone? Everybody need to know at least two people who have found a way out of it."
"I don't know anyone actually. We were all fighting over who got to go. The archipelago I grew up on was not the most hospitable place. Too warm, and the storms were terrible - the weather here might be cold, but what do you wear to stop a tidal wave? The soil wasn't all that great either - sure volcanoes are good for something but most of us can't drink our whole life..."
"So was this the first place your clan found - or were you specifically exiled there?"
"We were actually winners during the first warring period, but weakened pretty badly over the intervening years, and mortally wounded in the second period. So of course, the third great time of conflict - well the fact that we could leave rather than be wiped out says something - but well the prior two centuries had seen everyone else take all the good bits of land."
"Really - I didn't realize you were an old family. My clan, didn't have a permanent claim on the mainland until the ass-eye-RI-na period"
"Even knowing how badly the politics get on the northern continent, I have to envy you CDAG-12."
"You ever been poisoned? Much less twice?"
"You had food to mix the poison in."
"We're not going to resolve this - are we?"

For a while the two just stood quietly under the old table, watching the Seattle rain and tapping their antenna in rhythm to slow dripping of the furniture around them. F#DDA-91 tossed an old coffee mug from hand to hand, stamped the left feet then the right, the front then the back, and finally gave up on decorum.

"I can't take this anymore! I'm going to freeaze three of my toes off at this rate!"
"So? You've got eleven more."
"Come on, CDAG-12, we can at least find a place out of the wind."
"The Princess said wait here and watch the intersection while she and her bodyguard explored the building."
"More like while the bodyguard explores her! We don't even have ekaide'm what are they going to do if they run into an abomination or a human? What are we going to do?"
"Well Miss F#DDA-91 - I happened to pay attention in marksmanship training and know how to use this rocket gun to shoot them."
"And as I recall the instructor said Miss CDAG-12 couldn't hit the side of a house at four tail-lengths."
"Did not!"
"Did too!"
"Twelve asirs says I can hit the identity plate on the back of that vehicle over there."
"You're on!"

CDAG-12 shouldered her weapon, and put first pressure on the trigger to lase the target. Range input complete, she pulled it farther back, and the gun gave a loud pshh like a giant can of soda being opened as the rocket ignited and began building pressure. Overcoming the holing switch, it raced down the tube, while springs went about putting the next projectile in battery. The tiny rocket flew true, hitting supersonic velocity a few meters from the two aliens with a loud crack, and moment later, punching through the second second digit of the license plate.

"Where's the explosion?" F#DDA-91 asked.

"Its loaded with armor piercing rounds, no charge."
"Do those even work against the human vehicles?"
"Generally no - but have we seen any working human armor? Its just fine against animals and civilian stuff."
"Actually I have" F#DDA-91 began "- well, not me personally, but a group of the human ekaide'm were spotted not to long ago.
"Ugh, those things. Just so long as they're not the land-ship monsters."
"What in planet's name did the humans do to themselves to invent such a thing?"
"I don't know, F#DDA-91, I don't know."

Monday, January 24, 2011

2050 Cars

Old habits die hard, and even in 2050 you've got the minivan, the sports car, and the reasonably priced foreign made sedan. But the main division of cars has become one of "Touring versus District" - rather akin to the divide between cruising cycles and street bikes amongst motorcycle fans.

Touring vehicles are larger and usually run off fuel cells, ethanol, or some other manufactured petrol replacement. The emphasis is often on comfort since these are the more expensive and rare option. Most seem to be rather tall for a car - as the people within want to have a good view, and are often driving it themselves, rather than using the automatic pilot systems. Its hard to avoid comparing touring vehicles to old 1960's muscle cars - as the low energy density of alternate fuels (compared to gasoline) means that in size and range, the modern car generally matches one from the century proceeding it. Modern materials, digital systems, electromagnetic suspensions tuned on demand mean that acceleration and top end speed are also comparable, while ride comfort is even better. Average cruising range is between 150 and 300 miles (240-480 km).

District Vehicles are designed for short distances and city driving. Many are battery powered bubbles designed to snugly fit four people, or two and some cargo. Although not known for comfort - most commuters still relax, as computer controlled driving means they can watch TV or talk rather than focus on the plastic seats. Usual cruising range is 50-100 miles (80-160 km), but with multiple independent battery banks, they can be charged fairly quickly. Although not an expensive vehicle to own or maintain, many people prefer to rent DVs from various services for a few hours to days at a time as life in an arcology or other planed community means much of the need to own a car is eliminated.

Most vehicles are operated through Automated Traffic Systems - often redundantly referred to as ATS systems. (just like PIN number and ATM machine.) There work by both wireless GPS signals, and a second tracking method embedded in the streets that uses magnetic fields and acts as a back-up in times of interference. Manual over-ride is possible, but usually frowned upon by police and those monitoring the system - as the computers tend to run with fairly little following distance between cars since the computers have faster reaction times and know exactly what everything is doing. Where space is available, there are manual only lanes, since a lot of people like to be in control of their drive, despite the figures showing that computer driving is safer, faster, and less stressful. Driving ages haven't changed, but these systems do mean its common to aloow children the use of a car- provided the manual override is locked out. (This also means its in theory safer for drunk people in cars - but the impaired judgment often ends up with them trying manual anyway.)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

New Ideas for Special Abilites

Sorry for the late post everyone! I had a special meeting with/film marathon with friends on Friday, and didn't have time to get in my usual post.

"Special Abilities" in Dead and Back represent areas where a character isn't just knowledgeable, but at the top of their field.Although I don't particularly like the d20 style feats mechanic of giving each character a list of special rules I though this would be helpful given the limited number of skills a character has to get something notable to stand out.

Although such a rule doesn't exist - I'm thinking that there should be a limit of one version of an SA per group. That is you can't have two martial artists or two pilots in a group of players. This may be waved for purposes of story - say if the focus is on a group of survivors from the RAF or in the case of the pilot ability - they specialize in different craft - a boat captain and an airline captain aren't necessarily redundant.

Current List:
  • Clout: Enhanced access to top secret information
  • Awareness: Initiative rolls as 3-6 success
  • Pilot: Controlling vehicles other than cars
  • Ammo Conservation: Enlarge Ammo die one step
  • Martial Arts: Bare Hand attacks have a DR of 2
  • Controlled Burst: Attack 5 targets rather than 3
  • Tactics: Can combine fire with another survivor
  • Blasting: Knowledge of the use of explosives
  • Reanimation: Knowledge of creating and stopping undead
  • Heavy Weapons: Ability to use the big stuff

Possible Generic Additions:
  • Paralegal: Good at making arguments, and oddly trusted despite the lawyer jokes.
  • Sniper: +1 SDI when aiming at a single target.
  • Psychiatrist: Difficulty 2 Wits test to restore metal attributes (deadening/lucidity) during game rather than down time.
  • Surgeon: Negates the "-1" difficulty of repairing people.
  • NanoScientist: Qualifications in Identifying, using, and creating micro-robots. Possibly with separate specializations in medical (creation and use of nano-surgeons/vaccine) and industrial (nano-batteries and material science)
  • Biochemist:working with acids or creation of new medicines and antibiotics
  • Pathfinder: Easier time getting around ruins and wilderness.
  • Pharmacology: Encyclopedic knowledge of drugs, dosages, and where to find them. 
  • Drone Operator: Trained in the use of tele-operated machinery or robots.
  • [Vehicle Type] Mechanic: +2 dice when repairing a specific class of machines. (Jet Aircraft, Small boats, cars, drone craft...)

Location Specific

The base D&B rules are written to be generic to cinematic survival horror, with the anarchy zones eclipsing them as a setting to show off these concepts. So the idea for SAs based on allegiance didn't occur to me at first. However, requiring the use of ones SA slot is a good balance to the perks otherwise granted by being part of a larger organization.
  • Rank (Defense Force): Access to better digs, higher pay, and possibly a squad mate or two
  • Trusted Supplier: Better prices/allowed to take contraband/etc.
  • Member of Special Force:
  • Government Official:
  • Ranger: Access to safe houses and the communication network of the unofficial rangers, as well as the respect/stigma that comes with it.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Daily Challenges Part One

Good Afternoon Wasteland. I hope you've enjoyed our morning music selection. Now its time for something intellectual to chew on with your lunchtime rations. Today's concern is - every day's concern.

Its been a long time since the trains ran regularly and the quarries were dug, and the shipping containers moved from one port to the next. A lot of you are getting tired of sitting around in your city-state, and others are worried that the local area has been stripped clean of raw materials. Some leaders and individuals might even have decided its time for them to make their own nation rather than let the US rebuild itself. That means a lot of new homesteads are going to start appearing, and a lot of people are going to be moving into the zone, and clashing with its environment, reanimates, and indigenous scavengers.

I wish there was one piece of advice or at least a convenient acronym I could give to ensure all of you a safe adventure. I got about half way there with "WANTS" but that still isn't quite enough. Some fore-warning is better than nothing, so I'm sharing that first half today, while Diego tries to summarize the rest for our next transmission.

W. A. N. T. S. - Wants. Water, Accommodations, Nutrition, Tools, Stability.

Its a two edged sword. You need it to stay alive, you need it to plant crops. But you also have to give di-hydrogen monoxide its due.

Its been half a decade since anyone's maintained a dam, or checked the over-flow valves on industrial plants.You can never bee to sure if the level is going to rise dangerously during the rain, or there is a toxic level of contaminates. In almost every case, its better to find a bridge or make one than swim across. Some places might be cleaner to be sure - but verify first.

Don't get caught outside after dark. Its easy to deal with reanimates when forewarned, and near impossible when surprised.Visible fires attract attention you might not want, and its hard to fortify a tent against alien war machines and undead pack-hunters.

Water and housing makes sure you don't die, but its food that keeps you alive. Its also a commodity to trade, and a pre-requisite for expanding and increasing the labor pool.

You're in the zone for something, and you must be able to do it. Now "the right tool for the right job" can be trumped with a little ingenuity - but being prepared pays dividends.

Despite the difficulties, its easy to mistakenly believe that you have everything you need. But even if you've got a dry hide-y-hole stocked with food and everything you need to create a new garden of Eden you're still missing something. You need other people. A reason to be doing this. No real point for a castle when there is no kingdom - and even less of a point when the king is mad.

You don't just need to survive, you have to want to. You need to be happy, include the occasional creature comfort, and have a release from the work of building a new world. Even god didn't make the world all at once and knew when to take a break.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Fashionably Late Computer Wear

Hats are in.

One could blame Kennedy not wearing a hat at his inauguration for the decline, or perhaps it was just a change in spending habits from the middle of the 20th century. But they're back now, mostly styles with a prominent brim. There is more to it than matters of taste though.

In an age of wearable computers - hats represent extra processors or a host of other features. Some collect solar energy, many contain further coils of antenna, and others have built in sound. These articles also present a good place to mount a flip-down screen to make the Sphere augmented reality system visible, rather than the normal reliance on bulky goggles.

Fashion hasn't gone entirely to 1950's style - though. It hasn't gone the way of space-clothes and jumpsuits like 50's Zeerust either. If anything, its a bit more 1980's counter-culture. Leather - real leather - has become far more expensive after caps were placed on herd sizes to limit industrial farming, so the punk look is something that flaunts wealth. On the other hand, the hacker eschews old T-shirts and jeans for something with a longer cut - if only because adding a jacket is a second processor and sleeves are convenient places to mount buttons for control.

"Stand alone" computers are still the mainstay. Small as processors have become, the stuff in clothes still has limited power, (both battery and processing), and tends to wear out quickly as movement frays the internal wiring. Furthermore, the sphere over-lay Head Up Displays are a lot more straining on the eyes than a real monitor. Although its possible to type with buttons mounted on a sleeve, or to dictate messages in a quiet setting - most people prefer to carry a small folding keyboard or use hap-tic feedback gloves and a Sphere image to work, or a "real computer".

Of course, modern machines rarely look like discrete boxes however. They're often integrated into furniture to take up less space, with screens and keyboards popping out of their recesses as necessary. Its dedicated gamers and hackers that use anything that looks like an old computer case - its easier to swap a new video-card when its a physical case, than to dissemble furniture to get to the integrated parts. Some have even complained that furniture designers have caught up to and surpassed the auto industry with planned obsolescence. How often did a couch need upgrading before the age of computers?

Post event, fashion has taken a more retro-look. Wearable computers were often rather stiff, and with the absence of most servers, there isn't much reason to use them - most of the file storage was outside the garments. Natural materials are easier to acquire and repair, and are often a bit more comfortable.

There are certain nano-integrated fabrics thar are abel to react to the weather with small jolts of current making tiny memory metal wires shift the poores to stop water ingress or puff up for warmth. A jacket like that may be worth killing for to some, but definitely a valuable possession or trade good for the rest.

*BBC video on the military use of wearable computers

Friday, January 14, 2011

Five Years Ago Today

A mass driver seared the night. Air red and burning from the heat of the dart's passage followed by blue electrical arcing of high voltage behind it. The arc welder bright flash lasted longer than the projectile's travel - 750 meters in only two tenths of a second. Before blackness returned, the shell had punched through the ceramic armor of the alien war machine, shattered, liquefied the pilot, and then incandescent hot fragments set fuel and hydraulics aflame.

Slower burning arcs formed in the air, as one of the fallen's comrades sends up missiles from behind a wall. They climb up six - seven- eight hundred meters then the engines cut out and they tumble. Three don't tumble fast enough, and a countermeasure system blinds them with a pulsed laser. Other sensors see true -quickly surveying the field - then fins snap their noses into the right path. Two find a vehicle, arc over, and explode -a shaped charge, turning a copper ingot payload into a burning lance. An M45 Calvary vehicle is penetrated from the top deck to concrete below. Two others note infantry, and chose to instead fall until a dozens meters up, then set off two rings of high explosive shattering the weapon into high speed shrapnel.

Some vengeance claimed, but not enough. There are yet more of these stubborn creatures, and they have the home field advantage. Each of their infantry a giant, standing twice the size of a citizen, and their portable rockets rarely leave more then a few shards of plastic behind when an eekaide takes the hit. Vehicle cannons punch through armor like paper at incredible ranges. Those curious rectangular things with eight sprockets and one continuous flat wheel are nigh unstoppable. Lasers seem to barely burn them, radiation guns take a full their of their cells to kill them, and

Overhead is a war of triangles and crosses. Delta shaped interceptors rush in close, trying to to keep the enemy in sight for the long instant required for the lasers to burn through. But it is rare for all of them to make it when barrage after barrage of homing missiles fly in from the other direction.

Even if the air could be swept clean, the land scoured flat - a third problem remains. The factory ships have the capability to produce boats of course - one never knows what a new colony world will look like. But the natives have known their planet was 70% water for a long time, and have prepared accordingly. All the active jammers and interceptors of the unstoppable boxes are at least tripled on the large vessels that can be seen, and other roam beneath the waves, invisible to space sensors and yet launching missile attacks at wherever citizen forces concentrate.

Happening upon this place was a stroke of divine luck for the lost fleet. Too long had they wandered alone. But the gods do not give without taking, and this is truly an ultimate test.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Known City State Forces in the USA 2

A Quick Aside:
The comic "Scenes From a Multiverse" from 11/12/11 is rather interesting. Although I like the comic in general, this particular one deals with how to level blame for a zombie apocalypse. It exposes the sentiment that I feel for the background to this game - its a little bit every one's fault, and not necessarily a warning about man playing god with technology.

Las Vegas
Vegas is of course home to two infantry regiments, one armored battalion, two and a half fighter squadrons, two bomber squadrons, and a mix of transport, helicopter, and support units. All told - over 10,000 regular military personnel. However, the city maintains three special forces groups for more specific missions.

Commando Platoons 1-5
Made of the collective remnants of many different special forces units - SEALS, Delta Force, Rangers, FBI Hostage Rescue, Secret Service, and even some SAS troops who were on vacation in the US - each platoon is only 20 soldiers, but that is generally more than enough. In a city full of professional soldiers, these are the best, and when things get ugly, or something absolutely must be recovered from the zone - these are the people who can get the mission done with minimal trouble.
Special Service
Most people regard this group as a penal battalion, and it is true that its usually a punishment posting for trouble makers. However, the Service (never referred to as the SS - those who use such an abbreviation are likely to suffer physical injuries) has proven itself time and again and this is the group most often sent out into the zone. Half is because everyone is an expert at finding alternate entryways, bypassing obstacles, and retrieving anything that isn't nailed down. The other part is so that they aren't doing these actvites in the city proper.
The special forces detachment form SLAASH - the people responsible for protecting and recovering nuclear weapons. They are ruthless, loyal, and some of the few people who have trekked across the entire country in order secure weapons  and nuclear material. Although it can be hard to tell if their loyalty belongs only to their specific service or to the US in general, no one doubts their effectiveness.

Civil Guard
Tesla citizens are always wary of centralized organizations, but the needs of the current world demand that they have some form of protection. This has lead to the creation of the War College and a force system set up rather like the savant government system. Certain citizens undergo weeks of training in VR simulations and great use of table-top war games to build up a level of expertise in the (theoretical at least) practice of war. This knowledge is then backed up by a small supply of combat drones - in the form of helicopters, light aircraft, and a few remote tanks - mounted turrets, and a mercenary force collectively called "Protectors".
Tesla's philosophy is generally a non-violent one and its population fairly limited. Thus they make great use of mercenaries and outsiders who are willing to trade service for goods, food, and housing in units outside the main complex. Part of the deal also requires that they grant the Civil Guard command authority, however since the CG has combat drones and mounted weapon emplacements to back them up, its usually accepted as a worthwhile trade off. Protectors are rotated through the city proper on a bi-weekly basis act as a police force and serve on juries. Since they're not part of the hive-mind and outsiders they help provide an impartial balance in the occasional sever internal conflict.
Very few outsiders know Outreach exists, and even then - what it is capable of is only known thorough rumor and hearsay. The citizens of Tesla prefer to keep it that way - fear and confusion can be an edge in battle, and its rarely wise to make enemies desire a preemptive strike. Outreach is not only special through training - but by breeding and construction as well. True to the futurist desires of the free city, these are transhuman soldiers and AI combat robots - both concepts flying in the face of former international treaty and established medical ethics.

Ruby Ridge:
Citizens Militia
The RR citizens militia seems to be rather akin to the defense forces set up by most of the other city states. However, they are better equipped and trained than average, approaching the levels of a professional army. Access to original military gear is a bit sparse, but they are quite willing to improvise and have begun to produce their own vehicles and weapon systems.
Hanging Judges
Most law enforcement is a local affair, and a hearing before a small council - much like it was in the old west. However, there is a traveling circuit of ordained judges and trained lawyers that take over for major crimes, and are the only ones with the authority to pass sentences of greater than ten years, execution, or exile.They are often accompanied by bounty hunters.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Known City State Forces in the USA 1

Anyone in the zone and near a city state is likely to come across some of their military or special forces. While they do tend to rely heavily on freelances and volunteers to scavenge supplies. really important jobs require a more organized effort.

Membership in one of these organizations would be a good way to bring players together and keep them under control. Some of them can also serve as long term rivals the players, or be former employers - explaining a character's survival skills.

RATS Rapid Access Technician and Scavenger: 
Every large building has sub-basements and false ceilings, but in a megastructure, theirs virtually a second hidden behind access panels. RATS know every step of this second map, as well as the secrets to moving though the cities outside the arco as well - and act as the lifeline for new supplies. Although each nest has a functioning police force - in dangerous situations, RATS can be granted temporary power (rarely longer than 24 hours) to act as police, as they are often able to approach and apprehend troublemakers from unexpected directions. 
Each NEST was large enough to to warrant its own police force, fire department, and national guard protection. This last force came replete with a few light armored vehicles and surface to air missiles to safeguard the giant towers from aircraft. Although their numbers were severely depleted during the even and in clashes since then, there are still people in uniform standing guard.  Most of the time they remain on alert around the NEST itself, or establish outer security perimeters when reanimate activity is low. However, a few enclaves have tried to clear areas and set-up outposts, to limited success.
New Birmingham
Sheppard's Hand
This is the conventional citizens militia of NB - generally serving to secure the gated communities, clear ares for further expansion, and find supplies. Although all citizens are allowed arms training, the service tends to prefer men and generally only accepts women who have had training prior to the event, with little attempt made to train more. Adult males are expected to be proficient in weapons use and to have personal weapons to help defend the area. While service is technically voluntary, the SH is run like a conscript army - most of its troops have only basic training with commissioned officers providing leadership and tactical knowledge.

Council of Inquiry
Officially, the CoI is the justice system of the NB city state. It draws far more on religious law than common - NB all but refuses to acknowledge the standing common laws of the USA. Somewhat less officially, its seen as a net-work of informants and inquisitors. Although this seems backed up by the fact its leaders are drawn from church leadership rosters rather than based on investigative service, the actual extent of this is not a state choice, but based on an individual township's interpretation.
Right Thought
Many of NB's citizens don't know Right Though exits, and those that do are divided over its necessity. This service engages in 1984 levels of double-think, being both an enforcer of extreme religious law, while at the same time maintaining advanced science facilities and nuclear reprocessing centers. RT is the one in charge of the controlled reanimate program and some of even more dubious morality - but its members tend to be all for its programs.
Lone Star
Citizen Watch
CW is set up rather like a neighborhood watch program. Everyone keeps an eye out, and calls a central dispatch if they notice anything odd.  There are graduated tests that allow citizens to earn greater responsibility. One can move from simply looking out for suspicious activity, to the ability to make arrests, to eventually having judgmental powers.Citizens are allowed to have weapons within the confines of the buildings - unlike NEST - but since the complex was never finished it never received a national guard outpost or the accompanying equipment.
Wasteland Patrol
Much like the old French Foreign Legion -  the WP is mostly made of outsiders and generally are not allowed to stay in the arco proper for an extended period of time. However, their families and friends are granted citizenship, and they do receive a stipend in addition to finders fees.

Marine Detachment
As expected, the  LOST-SEC facility has its own guards and soldiers. However, the needs of the event drew away most of the active duty units, leaving behind only those necessary to physically protect the dock yards and keep peace on the remaining ships. Morale is rather low as many of the soldiers believe they're expendable speed-bumps who are only to hold out long enough for the ships to clear the slip-ways. A few veterans of the South American war are trying to reverse this trend and put together expeditions to find supplies and better the facilities.
Unlike many of the other city states, Lone Star does not have any sort of rapid-deployment special forces teams. 

Friday, January 7, 2011

EM Weapons Part Two (Mounted Guns)

Conventional weapons are limited by physics constraints based on pressure waves that can't propagate faster than the speed of sound in the local atmospheric medium. Electromagnetic weapons do not have this limitation - and can thus achieve far higher velocities with commiserate increases in delivered kinetic energy and accuracy due to lower travel time.On the down side, they require a power source, and often have a lower rate of fire due to heating problems - although ejecting a case slows the reload cycle, it also acts as a removable heat-sink.

Rail guns work by having two opposed rails, with a projectile placed in between them, and then an electric charge passed through this sandwich. The resultant magnetic field drives the projectile  forwards like the projection of a solenoid, albeit with a great deal more force.

This type of weapon suffers from problems with heating (both friction and electric resistance), wear, and and is often of a fairly small diameter - and rarely have an explosive filler as that wouldn't react well to the power arcing through it.

Despite these problems, rail-guns are very effective. They can accelerate projectiles to around 3.3 kilometers a second - nearly twice that of a conventional 120mm tank cannon. Kinetic energy increases exponentially - at a square of the velocity - and a 150cm long projectile can be fully expected to punch through several meters of steel. Secondary weapon systems are usually provided for dealing with other targets.

Anti-aircraft weapons are a smaller caliber due to weight and space constraints. Sufficient tracking radar can allow just a few hypersonic rounds to fired per kill, and these have the distinct advantage of giving very little warning compared to missiles - along with an inability to be decoyed or dodged. However, they are straight line weapons and as with the AT-weapons, rarely have warheads - so although missiles are out-preformed on paper, rail-guns prove a bit less suitable in reality.

As an aside - although lasers can be used against aircraft, they rarely are. Getting sufficient dwell time on a fast moving and maneuvering target is difficult, they aren't very effective against the materials modern aircraft are made of, and their energy conversion rates are terrible. Magnetic guns are on the order of three to eight times more energy efficient. Even citizen towers are backed by surface to air batteries to deal with most airborne threats.

EM Howitzers have more in common with a Mag-Lev train than other types of electric weapons. In this case, the fields allow the shell driven by conventional powder propellant to float in the barrel, and thus limit friction - the source of heating and wear. Since they aren't engaging rifling on the gun's tube, these projectiles often have either guidance fins or offset rocket motors to spin the warhead.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Wild Posibilites

The overbearing Don LaFontaine style narrator on the animal channel might want us to believe that the law of the jungle is "kill or be killed" but in reality, its more about adaptation than outright murder. A surprising number of animals have begun to thrive in the wastelands. Indeed, so long as the exosphere isn't completely devastated by a comet impact or nuclear war, life bounces back surprisingly quickly.

For the time being, much of the unclaimed areas are an animal watchers dream. This will not last however. The lack of human interference from poisons, car accidents, and hunting has lead to an explosion in various populations. However, these rapid expansions often lead to overshooting the point of equilibrium, another crash, and a series of pendulum swings over decades as the environ makes it to a happy medium. Rats and mice certainly don't seem to be in decline, but at least their growth is leveling off compared to the early days of plentiful stocked refrigerators and neglected grain bins. Predators like hawks and cats are still on the rise.

Escaped Zoo Life:
Elephants roam Texas, and tiger stripes blend with the great grasslands of the Midwest. A surprising number of non-native animals can be found if one looks, though reports of such need to be taken with a grain of salt. Few zoos kept enough animals to make for any self sustaining populations - especially for the larger animals. Smaller animals that did have a decent sized grouping were often in enclosures that made escape very difficult. Even five years later, most zoos and aquariums are unpleasant places to visit - though in a few places, people tried to save or release what animals they could. 

Somewhat distressingly, its often the larger predators that adapt well. Omnivorous bears  can deal with most climates and find prey amongst the indigenous creatures.

Wild Return 
 As stated in the introduction, numbers are running on the high side at the moment. Crocodiles, alligators, snakes, bears, and wolves are all doing well, as are birds not thrown off by lights aircraft. Fortunately, even the newest generations are still rather fearful of humans, and don't tend to wander into urban areas since the easy food sources like garbage cans have long since been looted.

Domestic Animals
Only a small percentage of  domestic creatures were able to escape their confines after their masters left or dies, but it was still more than enough. Most of the smaller breeds of dog didn't do so well, but, medium to large ones did, and are in fact a bit of a nuisance. They are far less afraid of humans than their wolf counterparts, more likely to to be found in formerly urban areas, and many of them have picked up various diseases from their surroundings. Frankly, many people consider the wisest course of action to avoid reanimates and shoot dogs on sight - if only for health reasons. Still, there are loyal mutts to be found, and they can b quite helpful as a means of transit and protection.

Although escaped pets are not very uncommon, certain farm animals seem to be almost completely gone. Many breeds of pigs, cows, chickens are quite rare. While most people don't give this much thought, its believed that the animal grade nano-vac used to replace the regiment of hormones and antibiotics needed for factory farm conditions is to blame. Remaining examples or caught wild species are kept in many outposts to help provide eggs and milk to feed the populace, and they are valuable trade if the scavengers can keep them alive.

Reanimates and the Wilderness
Most animals can't readily tell the difference between a normal human.and a reanimate. However, since the later tend to be rather simple minded don't tend to acknowledge warning signs, they do tend to suffer attrition from animal attacks. Conversely, animals rarely seem to be on the acceptable targets list for reanimates, though some of the more advanced types do seem to kill other creatures.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Travels and Texas

"KC - you've been to Tesla, Vegas, several NEST towers - it seems just about everywhere. I have to ask - how do you do it?"
"I know where to find stuff, I know what people want, and I know how to take care of myself. Its a fine line to wall really - give too much of yourself, and people take advantage. Don't give of yourself, and people start taking because they believe you deserve it for being a [bleep]. Oh, right, your censorship thing. Sorry."
"Its all right. Please, continue."
"I live by the rules of the zone - I keep track of where I've been, I repay kindness, and stash what I can't take in marked sites so the next person coming though can be safe. If you're new to the wandering like, I'll help give you direction. But I'm not going to swear allegiance to anyone, and I don't pick fights. A fast motorcycle is ten times as good as a fast trigger-finger."
"There has got to be more to this than simply avoiding exploitation and confrontation."
"Not really. This world was almost big enough for billions upon billions of people five years ago. At ten percent of that, there should be enough to go around, and space that warring people should be able to get away.Its not like the yard at San Quentin.
"The prison...? You were at-"
"That's not appropriate right now. Maybe a better explanation is the Lone Star City-State."
"To be honest, I don't know much about them and if that's an apt metaphor. What can you tell us about the Lone Star arco complex. I hear they've become a de-facto city state, but not as much is said about them as all the others."
"They're kinda quiet, cause they don't want more trouble then they can take. NEST knows they've got problems, and don't mind using the radio antennas atop their two hundred story towers to call for assistance. Vegas thinks its still the rules of this country and sends out missives. New Birmingham wants to rule this country and points out their reasons loudly. Lone Star has most of what they need, where they need it. However, they're also stuck between New Birmingham's Expansion plans, a rather nasty group of the aliens that are far less personable then the one you've got working here, and a fairly high number of bandits - is that feed back or the thing speaking?"
"Sing-Sing - you know anything about the ones out west"
[High pitched squeel]
"Vocorder girl! uh - KC, would you mind if I went and spoke to her in her power suit, and you continued recording with Diego?
"Fine with me - how about you mister Dezf, des... I',m sory - how is it pronounced again?" 
"de Zúñiga  - like the fourteenth century Spanish philosopher. Not that Hobbes ever pronounces it correctly or spells it out in transcripts. But yea, you go talk to the alien, and I'll talk to our guest."
"If I can ask a question for a moment - how did you meet Hobbes, and how did an OB from the East Coast end up here?
"Its kind of anti-climatic really. We got stuck in this state when the EMP grounded air traffic, and somehow crossed paths, and both came to the conclusion we should get out of the big city quickly, because being stuck in an unfamiliar metropolis during a crisis was not going to be an easy trial to handle. A bit more to it of course, but our listeners probably want to hear about the Texas City State."
"Well, as I was saying, its in less immediate danger than most of the other states. Part of its territory was an old college campus so they've got education as needed, and a nuclear reprocessing station, so large amounts of electricity could be available. They're also pretty close to sea base meant to respond to event in the gulf and its resident cruisers. They don't have much in the way of industry - no micro-facs, nothing but some incomplete buildings that would have been zoned for it - yet everybody wants them.

It sits at a corridor into alien over-run California - so the PCs want it, NB wants its power plant for industry and the ships for power projection. Vegas shows the flag with occasional bomber over-flights because those ships officially belong to them. Frankly, I don't think the cruisers have left the docks once, because someone is going to blow them up if that happens - PC because they're a threat or USAF because they're stolen.

The people I've met there don't come off as wacky like Tesla or zealous as the religious freaks. You can still tell there is some sort of internal conflict brewing. I'd guess it has to do with which government they want to join, and on what terms. What else there is to it, they hide that pretty well."
"Don't they have some mag-lev hubs running through there or other transit stations?"
"I seem to recall such - yes."
"Is there a reason why you went there?"
"First and foremost, just to say I've been everywhere - you know, like why people climb mount Everest. The other is that there were a lot of rumors both down South and in Vegas about the reanimates down there. That they were a lot more organized then usual."
"Are they?"
"I'd have to say yes. I snuck past a lot more of the advanced types then I've encountered anywhere else."
"Do you think there's a reason?"
"I'm sure there is a reason. Don't have a clue what it is, but I know there has to be one."
"Anyone even making a guess?"
"Well a lot of people claim its some sort of conspiracy, and that the reanimates are under the control of someone - be it the aliens, Vegas, lone-star itself as a way of border enforcement, or even scientists at Area 51. All that is perfectly reasonable compare to the one about the cows though."
"Yeah, its one of those really strange things. You never see any domestic cows, very little live stock of any type really, but never cows. Yaks, Zebras, even elephants escaped from zoos in some places, but domestic cattle. As the reasoning goes - factory farm animals packed together in feedlots were some of the most terribly hormone and antibiotic ridden creatures on the planet and a major source of contamination and resistant bacteria - so even more than humans, they were injected with nano-vac. When that stuff went haywire and produced the reanimates..."
"So you mean the whole undead thing could be becasue of [bleep] cows?"
"Seems I returned just in time - Language Diego."
"You here this about the cows?"
"Yes, and some interesting facts from Sing-Sing. But we're going over time, so lets try to wrap this up and find a way to present it a bit more eloquently."
"Fair enough - I'm getting hungry and the guest looks like he could use something too. File set saved, back ups OK, music set to go, and powering down..."