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, February 28, 2011

KC and the Kid

"Halt! Who goes there?"

The kid can't be more than ten or twelve, the gauss rifle is almost as long as he is tall. Probably his first time outside the walls of whatever settlement he's been living in, and not too sure about how to handle that thing. Better play this real smooth - kids with guns are not a good combination. Lets treat him as mature and try a standard greeting.

"No worries my good man, I mean you no harm. In fact, I could probably do you an hour of good. I've got some things to trade you might find valuable."

He turns to face me, but doesn't change his stance - not good for shooting or making a run for it if I did want to hurt him. A lot of places see the first night in the zone as ritual mark of maturity - but they could've done a better job than this -

"Maybe, maybe not. Either way, you're not moving from that spot until my father gets back."

At least he is paranoid. Not a bad start, but you can't be too over wound in these places...

"Fair enough, I'll stay right here. Though might I suggest you move from that particular spot? Its not a good idea to stand so near the fire when protecting the camp. The light ruins your dark vision, and silhouettes you against the horizon. Frankly, you should have noticed my approach much sooner than you did."

"How do I know this isn't some kind of trick? Who are you to be giving me advice?"

"I can't see how anyone could profit from giving a boy bad advice, and it would certainly clash with my good intentions to do so. As to who I am, you can call me KC."

"Like that guy on the radio?"

Hobbes is being heard all the way out here? Must have upgraded - I'll need to find my way back there soon.

"Not like, I am the guy. Your talking to the metaphor, not the simile."

"The hell?"
Don't hold it against him - he was only five when the even happened, he wasn't reading the classics.

"Its a joke. Never mind. I take it you've been traveling long?"

"No. If your KC, prove it."

"How might I ask? Its not like you can log into the sphere and do a background check. Anything you know about KC comes from the radio, and I could have heard the same transmissions and memorized them so its not like asking me about something I said on the air is going to prove anything."

"I guess."

He lowers the weapon. I've gotten through to him. But its only a start. I've got some work ahead of me. If this father of his will just give him a gun and then wander off, then its up to me to teach him about the zone. The boy's life should be on someone's conscious.

"Look, we have a society of trust here. I know its an odd thing. But perhaps there was something wrong with a society that allowed everyone to spot check each others' records on a moments notice. There certainly was enough else wrong five years ago. We all see it as some sort of golden age these days - and certifiably, having stable electricity, not having to grow your own food, and the occasional intercontinental zeppelin flight are nice. But that is really overlooking the rest of the age. Nano-Vac...

Even through the shadows I can see the kid's eyes glaze over. I do get overly poetic and off topic - all the pent up stuff from when I'm exploring alone and can't talk.

What's your name boy? And where's your father?"

"I'm Jim, and Dads... the trail food doesn't agree with him."

"Oh, we have all been there. Are you far from home, or is there a settlement nearby?"

"There's some farms up the road a couple of miles, but we're a bit farther than that - an old industrial park. Where are you from?"

Sounds like a good place to check out. Probably already traded the mirco-fac CAD disks for agricultural supplies, but they might have some spare parts of note.

"I've been every where man, I've been every... Yeah - its before your time, though I have been told I do a pretty good impression of Cash. I'm an explorer, I'm indexing customs of the zone."

"How can you have customs in the zone?"

"Take how I greeted you for instance. The first thing out of my mouth was an assurance it was situation normal. If it wasn't I would have mentioned "I saw raiders a day ago" or "Citizens up North" first. Skip pleasantries like hello and state concerns.Its how news passes around here. Then a time commitment. Not everyone is going to want a transient looking for five days work or be able to delay to trade an hour. Once again, we can't just telecommute this - we need to figure it now."

"Oh. You really put that much thought into just saying hello?"

"You really put that much thought into everything. The zone isn't too dangerous if you approach it in a safe way. Really kind of a nice place actually - you never know when you'll find a proverbial Comstock Lode or Willamette Valley for yourself - "

"What the hell are you doing with my boy!"

Ah the father. Big guy, waving around a pistol in a way that speaks of unfamiliarity. More likely to be shot by accident than... lets not push it.

"Trails clear ahead pal! I'm just here for an hour of trading and talking. A day or two of teaching the boy if you allow it. I can even be a guide if you tell me where you're heading."

"Drop your rifle."

"You know its unreasonable to ask me to disarm in the wild - at its strapped to my chest. But you can see my hand ins't near the trigger, and I haven't harmed the boy in this time."

"He seems nice dad - and he was the one on the radio."

"Jim what did I tell you about sitting by the fire while on guard duty?"

Better father than I thought.

"Its bad for your night vision. Mr. KC said that too."

One of those ineffable moments of the zone. High emotion. Danger. But unlike the beautiful ones, it passes quickly. The revolver's barrel shifts from me to the ground.

"I guess it will be alright. I'm Ben, you've already met Jim. Luke should be back soon - he was checking a trail, looks like something heavy passed through."

"Wasn't me Ben, I stay away from powered armor."

"Well, lets sit down and talk trade. You wouldn't have any stomach meds would you?"


Staring down two people with guns - easy. Now comes the fun part.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Settings and Rule Integration

I have always seen "Dead... And Back" and "The Anarchy Zones" as two separate - yet closely related - projects.

When asked for advice on the forums, I vehemently hold the position "story comes first". If you can get people hooked on the awesome elements of the story, they'll overlook flaws in the rules. People generally do not come looking for new ways to roll dice and then just happen to like the setting. Rules are shaped to help bring out the strengths and themes of the setting.

Yet in this case, I seem to go against my own advice. D&B is is written in a general form. Examples in the text are just average scenarios not tied specifically to the AZ. The weapon chart might be a little different if I included the multiple settings of Gauss guns. Rules about SDI and armor durability might mention nanorehlogcial instant hardening liquid body-armor (this is a real substance currently under development). Character creation would mention the five year time gap and have some background tables moved from an incomplete option to a normal element.

For once I did come up with a system before the setting. This all started with the DR/SDI combat mechanic, and then I wanted a setting to show it off. It then stuck me that a zombie apocalypse was a target rich environment good for a combat focused game. In turn the zombie environment lead to the development of the Deadening/Lucidity, the theme naming, and a focus on a minimum number of attributes/skills to make attrition and replacement of characters easy.

The Anarchy Zones were just going to be a zombie setting with a bit of an alien twist, so the game didn't seem like a rip-off of All Flesh Must Be Eaten. Its evolved into a constructed world.

So, I would like to pose two questions to my readers. (I seem to do that a lot. I also seem to be in one sided conversations a lot.)
  • Should this be changed to "The Anarchy Zones RPG" powered by the "Dead... And Back" engine, or keep it as is, with the option to let GMs use alternate settings?
  • If I am to provide alternate settings, how often should I take a break from normal AZ content to deliver it? Twice a month? Every Friday? One week at the end?
Today I want to open up this idea with the first alternate setting:


Congratulations on your promotion to field agent. I am sure this opens up many questions - probably along the line of "Agent of what organization and in what field?"

I cannot tell you, because the agency does not exist, and the field is laughable pseudo-science so out there it does not even appeal to public access channel conspiracy theorists hawking perpetual motion.

But what I can tell you, is that those people who attacked you in the parking garage last month - were not normal. They are quite typical from our perspective - but you probably did not expect to meet something that was not technically alive. The Z word if you will.


For all the sappy songs - we are not unified by love. Rather, it is our fascination with undeath. Everyone of all types wants it for all reasons. Individuals want the power and knowledge it brings - just think - never give up control of the company so no one else can squander its assets. Governments of course want unfeeling shock troops, and corporations well - it is the ultimate in non-unionized labor.

We are a private interest named Ouroboros. We cordon off areas, release the creatures, and test their adaptability. There are reasons, you may learn with time, for why the creation of these things is not simply stopped. In fact, they may prove vital to the preservation of the human race, however counter-intuitive that may seem. But what we need for now is how to keep these things under control.

You survived being in one of our testing areas, and showed the skill and initiative needed to become a candidate. You will need to undergo a few more tests before you're the one conducting the research of course - but you will be present as a control - a known survivor compared to standard people.

The job is neither safe, nor glamorous. But in light of - recent developments - it is a very necessary one. You will be compensated for services rendered of course - but our main benefit is the pride of servicing humanity.

I will return in one hour with the drugs to restore your movement and prevent the necrosis process. By that time we will expect an answer on if you will be an active participant or - ahem - a silent partner.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

100 Posts, One New Edition

Be sure to turn up the volume - I have a quiet speaking voice and neither the poor microphone or GP-5 civil defense mask helps this.

This is the official unveiling of the FFS edition - showcasing modifications I mentioned on this site, and eventually the updated world histories and edited versions of these stories.Admittedly, it is still a work in progress quality document - the 100th post milestone seemed more important than polish at this time.

The Document Itself

So what has changed?

  • New Table of Contents, Index, and Back Cover.
  • Stats changed to be in the range of one too seven, and Aim split into “Close Combat” and “Ranged”
    • This is the main non-reverse compatible change. Most of the other stuff is added content and can be used with the older rules.
  • New Skill List and an increased number of Special Abilities
  • New Chapters for Optional Rules,
  • Combat rounds 15 seconds
  • Now “Run full or run half and take an action” for movement in combat.
  • Some examples rewritten, numerous rules clarified
  • Scarcity Rules
  • Much greater explanation of -1 difficulty
  • Chapter headings given more thematically appropriate names
  • Jumping explained better
  • Elements of the Anarchy Zone Setting

To Be Done
  • Equipment specific to the Anarchy Zone setting still needs to be written up
  • Artwork  
  • More Setting Information  
  • Alternate Settings and Creatures

  • Doe the attribute change throw off the combat or balance too much?  
  • Should Cognizance be merged with the main rules chapter?
  • Currently, I see the rules and the settings as two closely related, but separate projects - maintaining that there can be other settings for the D&B. Should the two be more integrated?
  • How do you like the scarcity rules?

Video Transcript:
Hello Wasteland. If you've found this - you've got proof I'm not dead. Look around the site a little more - and you should find this.
Its a new edition of the survival guide I've been working on. 
Some of it may seem old hat to you veterans out there. But this is the definitive new edition.supplants most of the old stuff. New information on biometrics. New rules and mores for dealing with scarcity, (Speaking of which - how many zombies have you eaten cat?)* and lots more information for you group leaders out there.
I haven't compiles as much information about the government zones as I would have liked - so keep an eye out for other transmissions for those. 
Now the other thing that is lacking, is images. I've searched the SPHERE, tried to find them, but those Planetary Citizens, as you know, are a reclusive bunch. Nothing has shown up with pictures of Four Legged Lobster Centaurs with horse heads, compound eyes, snail antenna, and skin like puke green flounders. Go fig.
So, if there are any artists out there, I could use some help.
For that manner, anyone else. I want some feedback. Not everyone has SPHERE access, so I want to make a published version. But I need information from your tails and adventures to ensure its as accurate as possible before I do that.
Thanks for your interest. be Safe, and remember - aim for the head.

*[The cat insisted on appearing in every attempt - so I just ad-libbed - which is why this is the only time I call them zombies instead of "reanimates". Oops.]

Monday, February 21, 2011

Fear and Insanity in D&B

Most of you might note - there is no Horror Factor for monster that causes players to freeze, or a sanity attribute that reduces a character to a gibbering mass. They may chose to go over the edge a bit by spending lucidity, and if they decide to use most of their deadening then task rolls will suffer. In the end, reactions are based on role playing, not a fright rule.

One of the cardinal sins of game design is removing control from the player. First and foremost, the point of a game is to play - not sit back and watch as it runs itself. Secondly, such lost points seem to almost invariably serve to annoy with uncharacteristic actions. How many video games have an otherwise competent hero do something really stupid when not under player guidance? Or get cold-cocked by an attack the player could have seen and dodged with a single button press? Or perhaps its in the other direction - the avatar pulling off stunts otherwise impossible, taunting the gamer with possibilities unrecognized.

Of course, a role player is somewhat more vested in their character than a generic video game protagonist. Thus taking away that control seems all the worse. Yes, a demon might be terrifying, fighting a Lambda advanced reanimate near suicide, but shouldn't a character with armor, experience, and the confidence borne from multiple weapons be mostly immune to shocks?

This is also part of why the main setting is the Anarchy Zones. Its a world that has adapted and become somewhat inured to the reanimates.

Friday, February 18, 2011

NEST Formation

They tried to standardize these thing, they really tried. And they did get at least some parts communality in supply and internal redistricting. But, the fact is - none of them are alike. When your dealing with megastructures large enough to hold the Sears tower eight or ten times over - you're going to need to make concessions to the local terrain and supply chain. There's hydrological engineers for pumping everything, geologists for determining bedrock stress, union contractions, architects, gemologists, social planners.

Yes, I said Gemologists. Diamonds are imported - literally by the ton -  to be crushed into pure carbon, and mixed with the concrete and sprayed epoxy. Then nano-tech added rebuilds them into strands as its poured. These are not glass and steel like a twentieth century skyscraper - but diamond-fiberglass composite and combined with bulletproof plastics that act as both windows and secondary structural members. In parts thousands of diamond strands weave through cement in just the right way to provide translucent concrete to add to the internal illumination.

Its kind of humbling to think that since they don't contain steal or iron reinforcement - which rusts and expands over time, knocking off the outer material - these things will probably still be standing when the sun burns out.

On the other hand, its this ability to use super-strong materials and transparent yet load bearing ones - that make these structures look like nothing else. They learned from the budget housing complexes built under Khrushchev and Daley and others and tried to make them a lot more people friendly. Apartments may be kind of small, but there are lots of gardens, and two or three story tall spaces scattered through full of mirrors, sun tubes, and good lights - it really is possible to forget you're on the one-hundred fifth story of a building that cost more than an Apollo moonshot.

Yes, I'm off topic again. But I helped build these things! A roman would boast they created an aqueduct, stonemasons take pride in their cathedrals. I sprayed epoxy, laid down floors, put up walls and hung more doors than the Winchester house. Nano can fight viruses mano-a-mano or create super catalyst batteries but it can't do big things like this - you still need people like me.

The pair I worked on were numbers two and six. Number one wasn't all that creative - more a matter of expedience and proof of concept. Its more of several large buildings built in parallel and connected by sky ways.Not bad for what it is, but personally, it seems more like a dozen corn silos made of glass with smaller buildings hanging from the spiderwebs that run between them.

NEST Two - that is a piece of artwork. Showing off exactly what this tech can do. The base is in fact, one solid building with about three times the footprint of a large baseball stadium. After the first ten stories it splits - Each of the four corners continues to go up like its own building, while the center falls away to form a step pediod affair, contracting a bit every - fifteen - no ten, ten I think for about seven terraces. Then it starts to go straight up, but at this point, the corner towers bend in to meet the central pillar for the mothers of all flying buttresses, and it actually expands a bit again before terminating on this giant geodesic dome. It rather reminds me of the settings of a really fancy diamond ring.

Well, between people feeling a little put off by the seemingly unsupported nature of this, and sheer expense, they didn't go so far out for art after that. All of them do have areas with holes going right through the building to help relive wind stresses - but none quite to that same extent.

Except for that one out West. Actually went in reverse, and mostly hollowed out a big hill to make it. Had a contest to name it after some scientists. The final vote was between Wright brothers, Einstein, and Tesla, though I don't remember who won.

Six was haunted. No two ways about it. Probably still is. For all the thousands and thousands of people working on these projects, there were surprisingly few injuries. We actually build the hospitals inside the buildings first and then began everywhere else because in a group that large, just bad luck means a bunch of people are going to be hurt or killed. In one and two, I don't recall any fatalities actually. The others - sad but true.

Six. Carbon fiber elevator cables snapped. Fires broke out. Some guy flipped out and attacked his buddies with a nail gun. There were at least two people thrown through windows - which are made of three inch thick composite that can stop rifle bullets for crying out loud! How do you through someone through that?

From the outside, its a bit like number one, though its thirteen buildings in kind of a star pattern, so their individually smaller and built in parallel but... Haven't seen it from above, but as I say that, I've got to feel like the architect must have been some weird cultist trying to recreate R'lyeh.

But we were professional, and finished it. I didn't take the option granted to workers for first dibs on apartments, but I'm still happy with what I did there. Can you say the same about your pre-event job?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

104.3 and the Major

"Ahem, this is a strictly non-smoking facility." Diego began, "You have not idea how hard it is to get odors out of the acoustic tiles. We can't really replace them - funny how egg-carton fiber board isn't high on people's salvage priorities."
   "Its minus ten with windchill outside"
"And its a comfortable seventy degrees in here, Major Wren. So do you really want what you've rolled in those papers, or do you want to be comfortable?"
   "You drive a hard bargain Mr. Deoria, but I guess it will wait."
"De Zefinga."
   "I hope I'm not interrupting something" Hobbes chimed in "But we can begin now. Sorry for the delay. Tapes ready?"
   "Sure thing boss. Two button and we're ready to go."
"Hit it. (1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2 ) Hello wasteland! Keeping warm? This is Thomas Hobbes, live from the dead air. Today we've got a special guest - our little corner of the zone has been visited by members of the Special Services unit out of Las Vegas. Please, Introduce yourself."
"I am Major Adam Wren. As you mentioned, I am a member of a the second special battalion. I'm a close combat specialist, and a qualified driver and turret gunner. God must like me cause my family is alive and well in Vegas - so let me take a moment to say Hello to you all, I'm on the radio, and its not because of a football riot this time!
"Were you in the army before the event?"
"A few years yes - wouldn't be a major if I didn't.  Certainly wouldn't be part of crossbow - that is years of training there. My family has been a military one for centuries - we were redcoats before there was a continental army. Still were afterward actually - Some of them were decorated for service in the Crimean and Napoleonic wars. It wasn't until the 20th century ancestors started moving to the US. I am proud to serve."
"That is very impressive, but I think the listeners want o hear about something more recent than the nineteenth century. So, tell us - what was the Event like for military personnel?"
"Think of Germany in its final few months of the second world war. When they could find an experienced crew and enough petrol to get a Panther or Tiger moving - Shermans exploded by the platoon. A rare surviving pilot mated with a jet fight that still had working engines was something the allies couldn't match. But they didn't have the industry to keep it up, the transit networks to get things where they needed to go, and almost nothing could stop the rain of explosives from the sky. Add a smallpox outbreak to that scenario.
   That was the big thing. No nation, no leader, no soldier from private to field marshal surrendered. There is NO PEACE TREATY between us - and the [bleep] [bleep] [bleep] shrimp!"
"Please, major, avoid shouting into the microphone like that, and keep away from the swearing."
   "We've been invaded by lobsters from space and the dead are eating the living, and you're concerned about me having a potty mouth?"
   "If we don't maintain some standards - who will?"
   "OK. As I was saying - when our forces met alien ones, our tanks almost always came out on top. Aircraft - fairly even, though we seem to have the better training. But spaceships - what do we have that shoots down spaceships? Six or ten went down in various ways - propulsion lasers from the Mars program pack a wallop if you focus them right. But not much we could do about bombs from orbit, which meant keeping forces distributed, which made logistics a real bi- problem. Not helped by the whole 2035 reorganization that split things up on lower levels so you had companies with a few tanks here and some artillery there with out centralizing on battalion level.
   When the fight was fair, it was fair in our favor if you catch my meaning. But it was other things that doomed us. no power and cut transit lines meant food became scarce, people started getting desperate - like any disaster, but a scale never seen. There are plans for helping the country after a nuclear war - but those plans figure there are less than 700 million people in the country. A good part of our forces was stuck on the home front, keeping them in line. And, the reanimates. Infections were bad enough, food was bad enough, but - those aliens are some... when ...
   "It all began falling apart, yes? The terror of things that should not be, having to kill former friends, rioting out of control and the fires - we out numbered the aliens by a wide margin, but then that changed in a matter of weeks."
   "You seem to know it pretty well too Mr. Hobbes. It was all foxt[bleeep] Come on!"
"Diego was in the national guard - he knows what those phonetic terms means."
"You're good, I applaud you on that."
"Not that good maybe, I can tell trying to remember that was painful. Lets try to look at the current situation. There must be a lot of military equipment just lying around and abandoned. do you have any suggestion on what to look for and where?"
"That is US military property! Leave it alone"
"True, but its not doing you any good right now, while it could save the lives of those who do find it. and Well, catch-22 - the army can't stop them from using it, if they can't stop them from using it. So you might as well share some advice on how to use it right."
Major wren gave a heavy sigh "I'm required to say that you should leave it alone or find a US government official and report it, with salvage rewards applicable. Unofficially, well, good luck. Even we don't know where the stuff is. As supplies ran low or out, they just took what they could and walked away. Or tried to get to a big city - though in the first few months of the reanimate crises - that was the last place you wanted to be, millions of them still congregating around their former homes - not out in the country hunting for food just yet. Some made it to old military bases, turned the training fields into farms, and are still there - waiting for signs of a factory, ready to sign up for another campaign when fresh parts arrive. Others decided they have the guns and that meant they could have anything else.
     There is no treasure map to the last great armory, the secret war reserve bunker, or the stash of hidden arms. Its just stuff, abandoned where the soldiers fell or ran away. After five years in the open, its probably junk by now, but if you can find stuff left in sealed rooms or unopened vehicles, there is a chance. Gauss rifles are ceramic magnets and plastic bodies, so they hold up pretty well. The standard M-32 type is what you really want. Long and heavy to be sure, but you can basically mold your own ammo or find it easily enough, and its got all sorts of settings from silenced SMG to high powered sniper at the push of a button. A lot of the troops picked up machine pistols as sidearms - those rifles are just too big for house to house fighting, and good old bullets don't stop working because the battery [bleep] out on you. I can't say [bleep]? There is proper and then there is... Right - the six millimeter cartridge is kind of hard to come by - its a necked down nine mil a hardened steel bullet for penetration you don't see in civvie guns, but it is a good one.
   The M-50 ordnance rifle - I can't recommend it to civvies. Kicks like a female dog - ha! - its heavy, and the ammo, inconvenient - about the size of four or five pens stuck together in a bundle. Then again its a hardened steel dart wrapped in fragmenting wire so it'll do a number on light vehicles and make people disappear. But a 12 round drum weights five pounds or so. Won't fire without batteries either, and not as accurate as you'd hope.
"I'm sorry to interrupt, but we seem to be running a little low on time. Could you tell us a bit about military vehicles in another interview?"
"We're under orders to secure the station, so we aren't leaving for a while."
"You are, well, it looks like we have a lot to discuss then. To all our listeners, have a good night and don't let the things bite."

Monday, February 14, 2011

New Topics List

As of late, its been a bit of a struggle to write new posts. Perhaps I'm losing focus again with the play test that kicked this off some nine months ago. I have certainly addressed the big issues that came up in the story department (what is in a NEST, why haven't we wiped out the aliens). Posts seem to be going farther afield, with several drafts involving the state of the Lost Sec security cruiser fleet, but not really focusing on the reanimates themselves.

In a way that is good - the setting is supposed to be "The Postman" mixed with "Oregon Trail" with a touch of "Night of the Dead" mixed in. On the other hand, the chance of being ambushed by flesh-eating ghouls in major metropolitan areas probably impacts more player and GM plans than the number of anti-ship missiles stored in a Texas bunker 800 miles away.

I spent most of today trying to come up with a good list of topics. It now fills about a page in a notebook. If there are things that you would like to see added, please comment.

Oh, and next Wednesday should be the 100th post. If all goes well, there will be something - special ready.
  • Military Forces in the Gulf
    • Mexico, Central America, South America, Former USA
  • Remaining Munition Stocks & Expected Military Salvage
  • Mexico and Canada
  • Planetary Citizens Extravaganza
    • Factions, Conflicts with each other and Humans
    • Home world, Customs
    • Psychology, Physiology (and game stats)
    • Outposts, How to Contact
  • SPHERE in Play
  • Inside Games
    • Setting VIPs, Intra-Group Cohesion, Government Struggles
    • Internal Economics and Currency
  • Community Goals & Long Term Planning
  • Equipment Stats
  • Raider Groups
  • Weather Effects
  • Boat People
  • Communication Links
  • Restarting the Machine
  • Power Supplies
  • Slang & Customs
  • New Creature Abilites
  • Karma
  • Backgrounds
  • Tactical and Strategic Management
    • Running a settlement, Large Scale Conflict (D&B - the war game?)

And now for something completely different... Jhon Cleese as a Zombie:
"Yarr, Arhh, Yar... Five Quid Please...arr..."

And something slightly more serious for those who went thrugh the entire list -

Food and the Player Characters.

Like ammunition rolls - and the proposed item durability rules in the supplement if you read that - food is going to be handled with a simple die roll for scarcity. However, the roll is going to be based on the situation at hand and player choice. 1d12 (ie one in six, since its the top two numbers) is the general food usage when the GM calls for it. Characters who are tired and low in Deadening or Lucidity roll a d10 - more food to recover, and injured characters take d8s. Players may willfully roll smaller dice yet, to prepare extra large and fine meals, which have a chance of restoring extra fatigue or possible even animus points.

How much is restored need to be balanced out. After all, the game normally avoids hyper-metabolic healing from first aid kits in exchange for an expenditure of XP during down time to recover.This also might lead to special abilities covering foraging, brewing, or being a five star chef.

A similar system might also be put in place for creature comforts. Deadening restoring devices run out of batteries, or those once comforting songs are played so often they're just background noise, or the great couch mildews. Another reason for players to leave their hideouts and explore the world. Guns might be great, but everyone needs some new movies now and then.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Friday Night in the Zone One

Blood on the sand, cheap wine, cheering crowds - it could be Rome 206 CE or Rome Iowa 2055. The armored guards with bayonets on their Gauss rifles looked too much like legionaries to be an accident. Below us two men are knocking the sense from each other in a bare-knuckle boxing match.

Yet it always seems that someone is going to call me too highbrow or unrealistic for finding this disgusting. We've still got computers - they could be fighting via avatars. The whole crowd could take part, with spells and Kalashnikovs if they wanted too. Or they could be researching distribution networks and how to get the nation's rail transport running again. Sure, the EMP took our most electronic storage, but there were still enough music players in basements or metal boxes to ensure we could have a dance party every night an never hear the same song twice.

But its always the same argument. People need entertainment, a way to blow off steam.

Somehow the alien war machines, the man eating abominations, the predator population explosion, and the persistent chemical and radioactive leaks from hundred of no longer monitored industrial centers doesn't make the world brutal enough for them. They insist on kick boxing and sword fights to first blood - and it stops there because they'd have too much turn over otherwise.

Why do I bother? Even when the government resumes control, nothing will come of this. In all but the most heinous cases, it will probably be "all sins forgiven" because the lack of resources and proof to prosecute everything that happened. I just hope people don't become too acclimated to this anarchy, and demand congress let this kind of thing continue. I've got nightmares about them allowing it.

As a dully appointed civil servant, I will continue to travel the country and take stock of the little towns and big cities. See where the people are, the resources available, and how we might concentrate to bring the machine up to capacity again.

America's strength came from our ability to expand West while all the other nations had already found and been confined by their borders. We'll do it again if we have too, because our place is at the top, not just a bunch of barbarians reveling in the old glory of Rome.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

14:20 ARA Moreno

Tracking New SONAR Surface Contact...
Bearing 45 degrees off bow, Range 60,000 meters
Speed 20 knots, heading 185
ID index Aegis III Cruiser
85% chance USS Hunley CGN-105
Surface Engagement Mode Active
Rigging for Low Acoustic Signature
Contact Within Missile Attack Envelope
Contact Outside Torpedo Attack Envelope

The captain turned away from the screen, ignoring the glowing green buttons that would give him further information about the target. It was all easy stuff - armament, sonar capability, recent actions - trivia really. Computer guided lasers had ensured the accuracy of every weld before the keel touched water, automatic systems replaced all but twenty of the crew, and tiny robots flowed in every sailor's bloodstream to keep them healthy on patrol. Yet, the captain's bones would be dust long before a machine could truly command a vessel like this. It could tell him what the ship was and where it was going - but the why took human intuition.

Why was only a single member of the six ship flotilla at LOST SEC sortie? There were certainly better candidates for lone patrol in that group. Two in the group were electric sub hunters could go almost as quiet as its prey, and carried deep trolling passive sonar. This cruise might as well be probing for the sub with a white cane.

Why did it leave port at all? No one else had recently sortied surface combatants into the gulf. There wasn't much point in engaging a missile bombardment of the Rio Grand fortifications. Half the towns were under de Zufinga's mob enforcers, others under controlled by the military

Finally, why should the captain let it live? This ship had been operated near the north coast of Chile in the 2030s.

The Drone War had been an ugly conflict. Someone up north had believed they could fight a war without an army - using drones and targeting power networks to shut down the target. However, they had overlooked the reality of distributed power generation. To truly stop such meant targeting every household with a solar cell, find every buried oceanic thermal engine, and track hundred of tiny wind farms. Once exposed, they tried to redouble their efforts, and claimed defeat from the jaws of victory, but it was a process not unlike Vietnam and Iraq.

The Moreno was a sub given by the Russians. They had actually given no less than five craft from their fleet rather than the spillways in turn for prompt payment. Of course, the money paid for far more capable "Pike Class" ships - but the rapid deliver certainly vexed the yankees.

So the question remained. The captain now had a chance to wreak some vengeance upon the nation that had killed so many of his family and friends. That wouldn't bring them back, nor would it this new age more bearable for mankind as a whole. But for a small group of them, it would bring honor lost, and some measure of joy.

Perhaps the forces of chance and god knew better. He staked the life of the ship on the heads side of a coin and flipped it. The metal disk bounced off the low ceiling, flew past his head, and rolled into the tight space beside the bed.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Cauterize: Scarborough

Voice One: Never have so many owed so much to so few...
Voice Two: You better stop pretending we're still fighting the Germans and focus on the task at hand...
Voice One: Its been a hundred ten years - they might be getting complacent. Gotta keep 'em on their toes.
Voice Two: If that gets you through this.
Voice One: It doesn't. God - look at my hands. If it weren't for the computer we'd be in Newcastle by now.
Voice Two: Can I offer you a cigarette?
Voice One: Where did you get those? They're absolutely devil for your health and you can't smoke in the aircraft anyway.
Voice Two: Its only bad for your health if you plan of being alive after this.
Voice One: They give us all butane lighters for some reason... Got enough for everyone?
Voice Two: Standard Pack, Four apiece.
Voice One: Pass one over
(Loud coughing)
Voice Two: And yet that's probably only the tenth worse thing about today.

Voice Three: Way point three in Five. Four Three ... Mark! Beginning turn. New heading achieved.125 kilometers until Initial Point for toss release.
Voice Two: Confirmed. One Five Mikes until IP Releasing switches, begin final arming process.
Voice Four: Switch one, Green, Switch Two, Green Switch Three, Green Switch Four... no light.
Voice Two: Say again:
Voice Four: No go on circuits fou- correction, its green. All clear for One-seven-five K-T air burst. 
Voice Two: All systems go and acknowledged.  
Voice Three:  They train you well - you sounded worried when the arming didn't go smooth. 
Voice Four: Yeah. They do. I've got a grandmother down there.
Voice Three: Used to visit as a boy in the summer. There was this great little candy shop just down the road from the bed and breakfast Da always rented.
Voice Four: Vickers - would you - uh - recite the lords prayer with me? I know you don't... and I respect that. But you - if I can get an atheist to pray, then at least something will seem right about this day.
Voice Four: Sure. If I'm wrong, its insurance, if not, what does it matter?
Two Voices: Our Father in Heaven, hallowed ...
Voice One:What would have happened if we hadn't made that turn?
Voice Two:We launched fifty bombers, despite there being only thirty five targets. Each plane has four bombs and lord knows you don't need more than one per city. If all but nine of the planes give up, the job still gets done. Credit where its due, they planned for at least some of us saying no - and knew we wouldn't. We wouldn't die knowing we forced our mates to do more than their share of the work.
Voice One: For King and Country.
Voice Two: For King and Country.
Voice Two: Altitude is now one thousand meters. Thirty kilometers to to IP. Target in sight.
Voice One: If you're going to hand it over to the computer, now is the time.
Voice Two: Did a computer decide to do this? We don't have the AI to let machines make values judgments about saving some people by turning bomber command loose within our own borders. A man chose this, a man will see it through.
Voice One: Very poetic. Stupid - but poetic.
Voice Two: while I'm going though the checklist, see if you can find The Letter.
Voice One: What?
Voice Two: You've heard the stories. Each Bomber submarine or aircraft is issued a personal letter from the PM to be opened only in case of all out war to confirm the orders. Its burned the day they leave office, to make way for one written by their replacement.
Voice One: Given the events in London I don't think we were issued a new one after the things got the last one.
Voice Two: Of course. Switching to Radar Mode Three...
Voice Two: Confirm Release, turning away
Voice Three: Ordinance confirmed telemetry
Voice One: Altitude zero six five zero zero meters.
Voice Two: Ten Seconds
Voice One: Brace! Brace! Brace!
(Loud Bang, rattling, static)

Voice One: Well, we're all sons of bitches now.

-Excerpts from Recovered Black Box #9007564, - The Days of Fire Exhibit, The Imperial War Museum, London.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Welcome to --?

(A work in progress - sorry)

At one point the village would've looked like clusters of shoulder high brown and tan soap bubbles. Now it had more the ambiance of a fox raided hen-house, crushed egg shells everywhere. Although one central dome remained intact, and at its full height of about 12 feet (3.7m), most were only 5 feet (1.5m) high and groped in clusters of three to seven, somewhere between forty and fifty total.

Ellis started whining again. "This can't be good. I told you something was wrong when we saw ruined laser towers."
Alex rolled here eyes "The only thing with enough firepower to destroy those things is heavy armored vehicles - several of them in fact. That has to be a good sign, and the fewer aliens, the better."
"But we didn't see an tracks! Tanks leave tracks."
"Aircraft. Missiles."
"No craters, no scorch marks - looks like they were just plain knocked down. And now we see a village that is devoid of life. Or for that matter, bodies. Where the hell are all the alien bodies!"
"I don't know. Can they get up and walk away as reanimates? Recovered their dead? Maybe they eat each outer like real lobsters."
"Eww, I don't think they'd do tha... Can they reanimate?"
"How the hell am I supposed to know?"
"Well what do we do now? They hired us to find the aliens that had been raiding the supply caravans. Obviously these ones aren't behind it."
"No s-t Sherlock. Lets take a few minuets to loot this place then get going?"
"I don't think thats very ethical Alex."
"We loot old towns and there were humans living there that did us no wrong. This is home to a bunch of shrimp that f--d our planet and nuked Pittsburgh! Dallas is gone! So is Boulder!"
"Wasn't it the government that hit Pittsburgh - to contain the reanimates?"
"And there wouldn't be any reanimates if there were no shrimp!"
"You've really got a lot of hostility twords them. Why? Did one of them marry your father or stand you up for prom or..."
"Shut it and get to looting!"

What do you suppose all these horse shaped things are? They're wood, about a foot high and four long. Its flat on top, but at one end there's a slat that goes up at an angle, with a flat bit sticking out from it."
"I think those might be chairs. I mean, the aliens are like little centaurs - right? They'd just kind of straddle that low part, and lean forward on the raised bars, the upper flat portion is a chin rest or maybe a writing surface. Not sure where their shoulders would be."

"You know, for an alien city, all this stuff is really low tech."
"There seem to be a lot of doors built into the ground of the domes - perhaps its in the basements."
"So I guess that means we aren't getting anything. If the domes only come up to our chins, then trying to squeeze into their basements seems out of the question. 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Launch Site

"Hey - look at that!"
"Look at what Jack -oh. Holy crap - how did a hundred feet of chain link fence end up atop a grove of trees?"
"You two find something?" Al shouted.
"Yeah," Mary replied, "a fence in a tree."
"Figures, I thought we'd come across something like that soon. We're close."
"Close to what?"
"You'll see when we get over the ridge."

The older man caught up to his younger proteges, then took the lead, keeping a steady march ahead. Seventy-five wasn't too old with nano-treatments, but he usually looked like someone who'd be collecting dust rather than exploring.Injected robots could could tighten up skin and reshape corneas to return vision, but Al insisted on old wire rim glasses and keeping the folds. Most people wouldn't trust someone who insisted on looking their age, but somehow this man had made with transition from accountant to wilderness guide with little trouble, and was respected for that.

Suddenly the land changed, from pine forest to moonscape. What had been a fairly level area was now pocked with small craters, chunks or rock, and shards of metal lying in most of them. Many of the standing trees were burned, but many others were dead at odd angles, or simply snapped like twigs.Grass and shrubs were beginning to reappear, but it would be decades until this fire damage would be repaired.

As they continued to walk further on, the devastation grew worse. More and more debris. Even the restoring plants thinned out, as if the soil was striped away. Little dust devils played across the ground shifting what little dirt remained into mounds on the windward sides of man sized chunks of scorched concrete.

And then they saw the main crater. Nearly a quarter kilometer across, scorched earth and melted rock forty meters down at the bottom. Like god had left a thumbprint on the world.

"It used to be the James Webb space facility.  That oddly circular hole over there is part of the underground track portion that gave payloads their initial acceleration. What you're not seeing is the big laser that would then give them a boost. It would give a series of rapid pulses - vaporizing fuel left on the bottom of a pusher plate to maintain speed after the payload had been shot up by the electro-mag catapult. Doesn't work so well for people, but since it eliminates the rocket,that meant the most expensive and wasteful part of the launch was gone too. The reactor is a good thirty miles north, and underground to boot - just in case something decided not to go all the way up.
"How do you know all this?" Mary asked
"I was an accountant. For the utility company that supported all this. If I got paid a quarter of what they put out for kilowatts, I'd have been a very rich man."
"I take it something went wrong with the last launch..."
"Hell no! What did I just say? No rocket, no several tons of highly explosive fuel. It was the damned aliens. We needed a way to take down those space ships, and shooting them with Anti-satellite weapons was like trying to bring down a bull moose with a .22. Might be a rifle, but you don't take a caliber that doesn't begin with a "4" into a gunfight you know. As you can tell from exploding rockets - the better a propulsion system, the more spectacular the damage it can inflict. Someone noticed that we had a several hundred megawatt laser that could lift a few dozen metric tons to high orbit and vaporize space junk. Actually managed to destroy some aliens with it. Then the shrimp used one of their mass drivers since you can't really hide or move a facility like this. Get a projectile going fast enough, and you don't need explosives. Hell, get it fast enough and you don't need f-kn' plutonium. All this, and a Geiger-counter doesn't jump up a notch.
"This is all well and good" Jack interrupted "But it doesn't have any bearing on why we hired you."
"I'd check the Sphere about that."
"We're in the middle of nowhere, and what was here was destroyed... hey - I'm getting pings."
"Those weren't here last year. I think someone is taking advantage of the surviving underground maintenance areas, or searching for the reactor complex. They might be the people you're looking for."
"Do you know any way in?"
"A couple, some of which may require access to the reactor facility, and all of which are going to cost extra."