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.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Combat Difficulty and Range

Much to my chagrin, adjusting difficulty in combat is a bit more obtuse than I would like. There are too many ways to alter the probabilities (change the number of dice, the target number for each die, the type of die rolled, or the minimum number of hits required) in addition to a few other factors that change the requirements (ie plus or minus DR). Furthermore, the ability to hit a target is not separate from the ability to damage a target in this system.

Rather than forcing a second step into combat (roll to hit, then for damage) difficulty in combat will now be based on adding or removing dice, though usually the latter. So for example, trying to shoot wile running removes to dice from the pool - obviously, its harder to keep rounds on target when you're moving relative to the target.

Hitting non resiting targets (ie can you shoot a paper silhouette on a firing range) isn't covered in the current rules. However, for the times when you need to do so, treat the combat attributes like any other attribute being tested and adjust difficulties accordingly. (Roll d6s against a set value.)

Sometime in the future, range may be changed so that the farther the target it, the higher the DR - since it gets harder to find that weak-spot and calculate a trajectory that strikes it.

However, I may also institute a range system not based on absolute distance between target and attacker as it stands now (as you note on page 20 using a pistol or rifle doesn't really mater for accuracy.)

Functionally, there will be range bands, and each weapon has a set effect based on barrel length. (Approximately: Pistols, SMGs/Shotguns, Rifles, Sniper Weapons, Missiles). Much like the DR/SDI system, a comparison between the weapons range and the targets distance will result in an adjustment of DR. There probably won't be a benefit for using weapons at extra close range, but this does represent the reduced kinetic energy of rounds as they travel.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Answer the Question

The old man looked at Mr. Mauser, his face contorting as he decided whether the response to the question should be scathing or merely furious.
   "Of course I have seen reanimates before! Unlike you mother - [Response Redacted from official transcripts]...
   With unflinching calm an a nearly supernatural ability to ignore the invective sent his way, the government agent continued his line of inquiry. "Granted that survival is likely to be higher if such creatures are un-encountered, such sightings are not a given. Now, have you personally - dispatched - any reanimates in the past month?"
   "Uh, no."
   "Two Months?"
   "Six Months"
   "Look you pencil pushing [redacted] I work for a living, other people take care of that while I keep them all fed."
   "That response does not fit in the check box sir. Yes or No?"
   "No, you damned robot."
   "This is a necessary formality, you were told that before we began this interview."
   "Well, I expected the government to come with food, money, and guns - not a fancy suit."
   "Trying to throw supplies at every problem would be worse than useless. It would spread the allocations too thin and bog down representatives with supplying inadequate help. A measured response that quickly renders aid will in turn be magnified as the recovered areas are able to pay it forward and assist others on their own."
   "So you're saying that I should lie, and claim that even farmers are attacked so that it becomes an emergency and get aid sooner?"
   "I would not advocate lying at all. Especially about something like that. After all it would have the opposite outcome - there is little point in wasting resources on a lost cause."
   "You can write off people just like that? A stone faced bureaucratic dictator that can determine the lives of dozens of people with a check box that says 'don't help'?"
   "We have spent more than enough time off topic. Security question three, what types or subtypes of reanimates have been seen in the area? You may refer to this pamphlet if you are unsure of the official descriptions or designations."
   "Oh, if you aren't going to help, you can't even have the courtesy to react like a human being, why should I keep answering your questions."
   "Presumably you are growing non GM crops and suffering from the consummate losses to pests. A small truckload of agricultural chemicals, or just a small handbag of proper modified seeds would probably at least double your food output, increasing the profitability of both yourself and the town. Even without a full level three assistance package, the rewards of allowing further government contact are not inconsiderable."
   "This is why no one trusts you. Its all trade away our independence for a little reward."
   "You can hate us today for being careful, and your grandchildren will be thankful that the situation will be handled well. Or you can hate us for handing out too little, for too many, too late - and there won't be any grandchildren."
   "You can say that without flinching? Without choking up?"
   "Its a gift. Now, question three - what types or subtypes of reanimates have been seen in the area? You may refer to this pamphlet if you are unsure of the official descriptions or designations."

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Rocket Riding Radio

If you want boring, you join the infantry. Ennui is for the Navy and their tragic lack of ships. Special forces get fame. But if you want excitement, nothing beats being a ferry pilot.

Without satellites, the radius of communication is pretty damn small. Failing the ability to bounce signals off an orbiting reflector, the next best thing is a really tall radio tower, or sending up an aircraft to retransmit the signal, or physically deliver the message.

There is a problem with that latter approach. You can't do that all the time - it takes a lot of fuel, and that is in very short supply around Vegas. Worse, the aliens are no dummies, and know we would only send up an aircraft if its important. And, of course, we need to presume anything that can travel across the stars can break our cryptography.

Hopefully you can see where this is heading. If you want a message to get out to another part of the US, there are only two options. Send someone to hoof it across the desert, then make their way across god knows what in the zone - or turn, burn, and fly it on out under the alien's giant noses and past their interceptors.

As you can imagine, its a task only for the best pilots. In the air, our equipment is pretty evenly matched - we've got some good electronics and maneuverability, but they tend to be faster, and a bit free-er on the fuel consumption. It ends up in a funny situation where the quickest way to go straight in to make a seirs of right-hand loops. Delta wings lose speed in turns quickly, but have good straight-line acceleration. The aliens use deltas, we don't, so you sucker them into turn,  they slow down, you less so. Get a few miles ahead. They catch up. Repeat.

A friend compares it to a rally car and a formula one car racing on a track that is half straightaways and half hairpins. Of course, in this race, the cars have guns.

Drones just won't do. We need a person around to make sure the message is delivered, or destroyed if it isn't. Effective as drones can be in some inclines, AI is still a bit behind the curve in air combat. And of course, we're doing this precisely because we don't have the satellites that would let us operate drones remotely at range.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Moving On

Which way are you heading? Anywhere but Mansfield I hope? Passford? Never herd of it, but that will do, that will do. At this rate you could say "valhalla" or "tarterus" and I'd still follow, it is well past time I leave this place.

Astute observation, yes, it is too dangerous for one person. I wasn't alone when I came here, had three others with me you see. Wouldn't exactly say friends, but they had skills, and should there be enough to go around, weren't going to get greedy and stab you for an extra share.

Well, in theory, it was an easy pick. A lot of these small towns and truck-stops just disappeared off the map. Electric Cars, computer controlled transit lanes, it all stopped pretty quickly, and no food, no electricity - die off or run off. There is usually a good chunk of stuff left behind, and really how many reanimates can there be in a small town - of only four-thousand to begin with before most of them left?

How wrong we were.

A tip - when things go south from the get-go, its easy - you just run off. Its when things slowly heat up to a boiling point that you get burned.

The grim details are a bit too fresh to be talking about them at the moment. But let me put it this way. I got split off, dodged some hordes, got to the base, and saw signs of a struggle, but no bodies. Reanimates celebrate their victories by dragging off all of the bodies.

Not my friends true, but when the time comes to shoot your formerly alive former co-workers, it is time to find a different base of operations, and leave them to do whatever it is reanimates do when no one is looking. I'm sentimental that way.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

AZ Mouse, GZ Mouse

No one initially planned if they would end up in wild territory or where a government still held sway.However, once the worst of The Event  passed, they could chose where they would stay. It isn't so much a matter of occupation, knowledge or politics that determines where a person ended up, but a mental state. Those who ply the Anarchy Zone are marked by adaptability, liked to a certain form of intransigence. Government Zone Citizens show a certain form of intransigence, and a marked form of adapability. The younger generation does not always have a choice, but most know where they want to be.

The Zoner abides, adapts, and advances - working towards goals of their own. Life in the uncontrolled portions of the zone is not easy, and those who chose it must wear many hats. Scavenger, trader, technician, trail blazer, soldier, doctor - fending for oneself on the frontier requires a lot of knowledge. Food is never certain, environmental hazards can silently kill as easily as reanimates, and Citizen encounter suits can tear apart small hamlets with ease.

All these troubles and tasks could be easily traded away for security, if they were to just settle down in a Government Zone. But that would mean giving up on their own dreams, and accepting often over-crowded conditions managed by other people. It may mean acquiescing to a theocracy, acting as a second class citizen under a cadre of mad scientists, or being drafted for dangerous missions by executive order - none of which will suit a person that chooses the zone.

Conversely, the Government Zone seeker is looking for stability in the world, even if it comes with a lack of personal control. They stand by the old traditions, believing it is better to restore what remains than to create something new or go off adventuring. Even this requires some flexibility however. New jobs have appeared - like salvage artist and bounty hunter - while old ones like lawyer and advertising executive mean a bit less when so many of the rules have changed. So they remain in society, yet still must struggle to find a place in it.

It is quite hard to tell who belongs in which category by simply looking at them or by occupation. A combat medic might feel that they are best serving  the community by staying in the city, while an accountant sees that their old knowledge of tax code is obsolete, and thus sets out for a new life in the wild. People will sometimes cycle through the two options - finding they can't fit in a G-zone, but can't fight their way through the AZ, thus seeking out a different enclave to serve.

At the heart of it, choice matters. The time of last stands in old farmhouses and malls is over, the time to chose a path is upon them.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Don't Let Your Reanimates Grow Up to be Cowboys

As the saying goes, Mr. Gadnsk was born in the wrong century. He had a love of frontier folklore and vast knowledge railroads, horses, mining towns. He is the one who owned the dude ranch we all worked on, in South Dakota. Is was a great place for scouts and families - you could ride horses, rope livestock, even fire some old black-powder revolvers and rifles. At night, he would share famous films about cowboys and go go long into the night talking about the "man with no name" and Sergio Leone. He'd gladly take a loss in profits or even pay out of pocket to let disadvantaged children attend.

When The Event hit, we made it through OK, better than OK really. The some chickens remained, a few of the Buffalo, and pretty much all the vegetables survived, though the cattle disappeared in a pretty gruesome fashion. Firearms were plentiful - not just ours, but the whole army of those for guests, as was camping supplies - we had just stocked up for the season but not had any scouts or families come through. Considering the two dozen staff compared to three hundred people - well, that probably left us with two or three years of supplies without the farm.

So yeah, we were probably some of the luckiest moterherf----s in the United States.

Except for Mr. Gadnsk. He, well, just broke. I don't know if it was family lost, or if he really was that invested in seeing scouts again, or what, but - he broke. He just kind of threw himself into his movies, and retreated into his own little world for a while, and when he came out, he just wasn't quite right. He now seems convinced we're in the 1870s. He calls us by names of characters in his old cowboy films, and will say rustlers or coyotes, but never "Reanimate".

Its sad to see such a nice man suffering from dementia. I wish we could ride into a town and find someone to help him. But frankly, its hard enough keeping this big place running, and we're a bit afraid of what would happen if people started flocking to our little sanctuary. Infinite supplies for twenty-five people may very well be only a few months sufficient supplies for fifty, or a few weeks for a hundred. Its a dude ranch, not an industrial farm.

We can hear the 104.3 broadcasts, we have some idea of what is going on in the zone, just no idea about what to do about it. A dozen people with reproduction 1873 Peacemaker revolvers aren't going to clean up the who country, but if not us, who?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Orbital Wasteland

If you're ever far north, look at the Aurora Borealis.  Note the brown haze around the edges. That is our satellite communication network. Well, what is left of it, anyway.

Back in the 2030s there was a bit of a crisis - we almost lost global networking a quarter century ago. Crud in orbit was reaching a tipping point. A little screw the size of your thumbnail doesn't seem like much, but remember, anything in orbit is generally moving somewhere around twenty or thirty thousand kilometers an hour. A piece of junk the size and weight of a tennis show will absolutely demolish anything it comes in contact with. Apparently we were pretty close to "Kessler Syndrome" - where one impact spits out debris which cause further impacts - much like a nuclear chain reaction in an atom bomb, and probably no less devastating to our way of life.

It took some pretty concerted effort to clean everything up - that was one of the big impetus to get rail launch payloads with laser boost over conventional rockets by the way - no waste booster stages. A few close calls with people claiming they were going to intentionally blow up a space flight or blind a satellite to set it off.

Then the aliens come along. First the EMP fries most of the constellations, then they try to shut down military communications, and then they have the gall to explode when our weapons intentionally spew ball bearings and similar payloads in their path. At 40,000 kph closing speed, a marble has more power than several times its weight in TNT. Shrapnel Everywhere.

So frankly, at the moment the process isn't reestablish communications with the outside world, and get our nation back on track. Its restore power and build giant lasers to ablate junk until the plumes coming off of them force the bits into the atmosphere to burn up, then design new rockets, then launch satellites, and then we can have cell phones again.

That ring of junk may have a hidden benefit though.

Considering how powerful an advantage the ships represented during the Event, it is rather surprising that the citizens are not using them much now. I have heard a number of speculations about why this might be. Perhaps the FTL jump drained them of power, or they were previously damaged which is why they jumped to here. Maybe there is something special on board they don't want us to have, or something dangerous like whatever created the reanimates or unstable power supplies.

What if they won't get any closer, because we now have an unplanned and unmapped orbital minefield between them and the planets surface?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Artistry Zone

People don't believe me when I say the zone is a beautiful place. I guess that is partly my fault - would you believe a guy that only goes by initials and rides around on a turbine powered motorcycle? I'm just a lay about who doesn't accept the seriousness of the situation. There is work to be done fixing up the encampment, there are slobbering former humans out there behind every bush and around every corner. That KC guy is just a nutcase.

Let 'em. They'll miss it when its gone. I'd say more for me - but why be greedy and claim the whole USA as my own? Its a big problem these days, and I try not to be a part of it.

Above you is a sky bluer than ever with no industrial particulates being pumped up every day, or with more stars than you've ever seen because there are no lamps burning all night. Look to either side, and you already see the wildrness taking hold, new green shoots and flowers everywhere.

People marvel at ruins of old castles, the shattered bits of the Parthenon seem to be a standard of architectural beauty. Look at any modern building that is falling a part, see all sorts of neat stuff. The million diamond twinkle of irregular glass shards reflecting. Stalactite streaks of rust and other hues painting their own murals down the sides, and re-bar busting through concrete, spilling out showing all the technology and effort that went into making that building on display. Somehow, we came to the aesthetic that when something is done, you should never realize it was built or how in the first place - but now the beams and pass ways and trusses are in plain view.

You see animals you never have before, and its quite enough to meditate by. Well, I'm not one to zen meditate, especially with those animals about - there are an abundance of wolves, lions, coyotes, and others of that kind running about, gleaning from the plenty of left-overs of civilization. It will probably take another decade or so for that to get in balance and all the escaped dogs to revert to a stable wolf-like state.

Even the alien stuff has its own aesthetic. Can't say much for the colors, but they do have their own mosaics and like to paint old walls when they think no human is watching. We expected the first non-earth civilization we met to be a lot of things - but graffiti artists probably wasn't one of them. Provided you don't get too close, even those laser towers are kind of neat - they're like small outcroppings of giant flowers.

There are really only two ugly things in the zone. Reanimates just aren't an easy sight for the eyes - or the nose if you're close enough. Dirty, unkempt, scared - but usually clothed. Almost always really, though with no fashion sense. And they seem to change it up too. Might not be as dead as we think if they do that.

As to the other bit of ugliness?

Well, that is the behavior of people. This place supported what - ten or twelve billion people in 2050, and now that we're well less than two, they still think there isn't enough for everyone. The civilization that brought us flights to Mars, the SPHERE, 180 story tall city-scale buildings, and a few hundred flavors of ice-cream somehow wasn't good enough, and it needs to be remade in a different image.

As I said before, no need to be greedy, and no need to be a part of it.