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

Friday, November 25, 2011

MacArthur Power Armor (Part Two)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

MacArthur Power Armor (Introduction)

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

Powered Armor was a way to ease the burdens

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 17, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Talk Like a Citizen

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

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

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

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Choosing Ideals

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Planetary Citizen Gestures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 3, 2011

16 Tons - Another Day Older and Deeper in Debt

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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