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

Thursday, April 26, 2012

More Thoughts on Internal Games

"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Leo Tolstoy

The zone is a place beyond good and evil, perhaps it is a place for the occasional ubemench to rise, but the most important note is that misquoting Nietzsche gets you nowhere fast. Instead, it is a place seeking results, where those with good ideas and the ability to force them forward advance. Good intentions are the rule, that these intentions often conflict is the law.

Some people do rule small settlements with an iron fist, but in the larger ones, that is often counter-productive. In a place that has trouble feeding and protecting everyone - sending the guardians out to bring more people in just doesn't help. However, a more reasonable goal may seem too long in coming, or not doing enough to others.

For example, New Birmingham often seems to be the villain, yet it has some redeeming intentions.Certainly, its a somewhat regressive theocracy against woman's rights and with its eyes on the territory of its neighbors. But it maintains the atmosphere of suburbia, and is trying to create a system where the additional working hours of women isn't needed, a big change from settlements in wilder territories that see sixteen hour days for young and old of both genders. There are people who believe that change begins at home, and thus the policies must be amended, but there are also people who claim there is no point in being the exclusive city on the hill, and that the current laws must be brought to more sinners, across the zone.

Even raider groups are prone to these sorts of problems. Remember, any that have lasted this long is because they have long term ideals and driving purpose. Tower Reversed exists as proof the government is inadequate to the task at hand - but the question remains, does that mean they should become a ruling body that can do something, throw in with someone who can, or continue to simply enrich themselves because they're the only ones who can? The "Ambulance Chasers" Raider group is going to need someone to manufacture more medical supplies if they want to continue their "mercy runs" but with who? New Birmingham controls one of the biggest and most advanced hospital complexes in the hemisphere - but their stance on certain medical procedures clashes with that of the doctors.

Risk unlocking areas currently overrun vs current safety
Local currency vs socialist practices
Old Social classes vs new order based on knowledge

Who to allow in
Degree to focus on the various trans-human projects
Tesla first, or help humanity

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Living on the E.D.G.E. Part One

EDGE is an acronym for Economical Design and Governance Enclosures. They are a simpler and smaller scale arcology development presented as an alternative to the massively sized and expensive mega-structures. Quite often, they are on the model of a small town, but with increased means of self sufficiency, non-traditional use of space and greater planing.

Although an EDGE is not an island, or even quite as self-contained as a NEST arco, local supply is considered optimal. Greenhouses and small farms attempt to source food locally, and micro-facs shorten other supply chains.Quite often, the settlement is built around a central refining and fueling system, with encouragement to use vehicles based around this singular source. For example, Brazil has many cane ethanol based EDGEs based around ethanol fuel cars, and New Mexico has an electric edge based on a solar tower.

Most town are only built on the surface of the land. Many structures of an EDGE have surface access of course, but they also tend to extend deeper or extend higher than than normal, and often make use of domes or other large enclosed areas for novel purposes. Grocery stores are often located underground, where prevailing cooler temperatures lower refrigeration energy requirements. Similarly treatment or precessing stations are located out of sight.. Inverse domes are often created in the ground, allowing multiple dwellings around the edge to both have natural light, and less surface footprint.

Each EDGE is begins with set standards of size and expected resource throughput. Rather than expanding as the population grows like a normal town, the population is meant to increase to the systems carrying capacity, and then an evaluation takes place on how to expand. Of course, this is hardly perfect, and there are certain over-estimates made to accommodate the randomness of human life, but the general expectation is to run the area more like a colony than simply allowing uncontrolled development.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Sick Days

Its the flex time that kills me.

The lack of SPHERE, the aliens, farming - I can struggle through that. I have to. Day after day. One day at a time... you know all the cliches.

All this stuff needs to be done, when it needs to be done. You can't finish cleaning the gun in the morning, you can't say I'll sow the seeds via the net after I get home. Certainly can't take a coffee break during a reanimate siege. If it goes on for that long - you're doing something wrong, and are probably doomed anyway - smoke 'em if you got 'em.

There is no personal time. You're helping someone fix something, standing watch, cooking without microwaves -there is no break in the schedule.

As Halon Ellison once put it, "I have no sick days, and I must sleep."

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Light Armored Vehicles Part One

Combat cars are the new 2030 mammals

In the age of the dinosaurs, mammals never got bigger than a cat, most were mouse sized. Other creatures successfully filled the other niches of life, and mammals couldn't compete. When the big rock hit, changing the environment, and wiping out everything bigger than a dog - that was when the our ancestors came unto their own.

Similarly, the times changed, and the use of the tank faded. Vehicles needed to be able to respond faster, transported quicker, and fuel shortages meant the inefficient older tanks were often prohibitive to operate anyway. Wheeled vehicles move faster, are easier to service, and

Tank are not extinct however. Some times you just can't surpass treads for broken ground, and a big gun for direct fire. The citizens found this out the hard way, when they tried to engage human military units in the aftermath of The Event. Human railguns out-ranged lasers by a good margin, and the citizens without similar vehicles, were quite unable to counter heavy armor without resorting to heavy bombardment.

Chassis Types
There are two main types of wheeled vehicles, colloquially known as high cars and low cars. 

High cars are an armored box placed atop bogies (much like rail cars) that are functionally independent and easy to replace drive trains connected to the electrical systems - meaning the actual crew compartment is well off the ground and most of the blast from bombs and mines is absorbed by the drives. This does often mean a higher center of gravity though - and while placing the batteries along the floor as balance and further protection helps, many vehicles built on this patter forgo large turrets for small remote mounts or recoil-less weapons.

Low cars use a more conventional chassis, integrated into the hull of the vehicles.While this method doesn't have the ease of maintenance of outer bogies, nor the added mine protection - it does limit damage to the drive trains better, and allows for a lower center of gravity, and in turn, little problem mounting turrets. 1960s and 70's designs like the V-150 commando, BRDM, Mowag Piranha and LAV-25 would not look out of place in the 2050s, and indeed many of their descendants continue to serve.

Most vehicles start with a steel or aluminum box, though some use more exotic armor types (Polly-aligned alloy of either steal or aluminum - PAAS "Pace" and PAAL "Pale" respectively - nano metal fibers wrapped around other materials, with a structure similar to the neodymium in magnets).

Many land vehicles have now copied the naval concept of VLS (Vertical Launch System) cells to provide rapid tracking missile batteries. Many tanks have a distinct hump on the turret bustle for surface to air missiles, while armored cars, while some cars are just a driver, commander, and a bunch of missiles pointed upwards behind them.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Enemy of my Enemy

Hobbes tore open another envelope, unfolded its contents and gave them a quick glance. He then casually tossed it over his shoulder, another repeat. Probably ninety-percent of the mail was simply unsuitable - they weren't going to advertise specific outfitters, share propaganda, or play power broker.

"Hey, Sing-Sing - here's a listener question that hasn't come up yet - 'How do citizens deal with reanimates?"
  "Excuse me?"
  "[High Pitched Chirping Noise] - its closest English translation is 'abomination'.
  "OK, so - how do you deal with abominations?"
  "Mostly, we try not to. They're about as scary and huge as normal humans, and then they don't feel pain, or show a capacity to rip open an ekaide that no normal person - or personal armor - displays."
  "I knew the advanced ones were tough, but it didn't occur to me that they would out-do power armor."
  "[Squeal] - they can also transform citizens - we're not sure how the infection works, but if a few get past our defenses, entire villages just up and disappear."
  "Wow. Uh - what did that squeal mean?"
  "I don't know. I think the closest I can translate it is akin to you sarcastically saying "but it it gets better". Well, a direct translation is more like 'poison flavored stingers".
  "Yeah, I don't imagine you would appreciate eating stinging insects."
  "Are you kidding - those are the best kind. We've got the right enzymes to break down the complex molecules of their toxins for a lot of energy - its candy."
  "Thats amazing."
  "I know - I slept through most of those lessons in school - I didn't think I'd remember it either."
  "I don't mean to be rude Sing-Sing, but just what are you supposed to know?"
  "I'm a shipwright. I pretty much know the exact same things Diego does - just pertaining to our machines, not yours. Since we're under the agreement that I'm not going to give away anything too secretive, I just can't talk about my job."
  "Back to rean- abominations then?"
  "Usually the vanguard towers can take care of them, otherwise, we try to be aggressive. A lot of humans are stuck at eye level, so they don't notice a citizen hiding under a table or in a small space, but somehow abominations are a lot more thorough, so hiding doesn't work as well."
  "That is scary. They show way too much intelligence for what they are at times."
  "So do you."
Hobbes stared at the alien for a moment.
  "That sounded better in my head. Mr. Hobbes."
  "Of course."

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Were Have All the Hoarders Gone?

A strange thing. I've never come across those survivalists types that built bunkers in the yards. I've gotten a good bit of equipment from a few of those shelters I've run across, but the occupants were nowhere to be seen. Of course, the testimony of just one person, who usually avoids overly-civilized areas at that - isn't the best rhetorical evidence. On the other hand, I've been in a lot of places, so you would think it should have occurred by now.

I'm guessing its a matter of timing. Its one thing to plan for a flood, or to escape an earthquake zone. However, that is still a localized event. The Event was global. Not much happened in the initial hours - if you weren't dependent on electric life support or in an airplane, you probably survived, and didn't even know what was going on due to the communications disruptions.

After that is when things got horrid, when people panicked, when the orbital bombardments came, and the reanimates rose. Still, you could be out in the middle of nowhere and avoid that for the most part.

Its really problematic when the utilities were gone, there was no government to direct you to get some, and no army to deal with roving looters and creatures that things just plain ended.

So, it would seem there was plenty of time to get to your shelter. There was also plenty of time to realize it was probably futile. What is the point of just you and six friends hiding from the end of the world? It takes a community to get the machine started. It takes some form of government to marshal effort to restoring society. Those who can just say "screw this - off to the shelter" really aren't the people you want for the rebuilding period anyway.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

And it Goes On

We all keep our rituals. Many people have gone back to religion for a bit of stability - there is a theocracy city state in the Southeast somewhere, I'm told. Others have their own little celebrations. We mark the day of The Event, or our birthday, or Darwin's Birthday, or when they first survived a reanimate attack. Everyone needs a holiday, and while supplies don't allow for great feasts very often, even if its for a non-nonsensical reason like Pi day, people look for an excuse to make the occasional splurge.

I tend to recognize the first of May. We're all working now - no more stock options, no more desk jobs - so Labor Day seems like a good choice.

Sometimes, its not a day, but a time, or an act. More than a few people have become obsessive about disassembling a certain piece of equipment, or checking every centimeter of a rope first thing in the morning, or last thing at night. Makes sense - your life might rely on that thing some day - though unscrewing it too many times is probably going to damage or loosen something.

Verbal tics seem to be common too. Either people refuse to say good bye - disliking the finality of such statements in dangerous times, or go the other route and always presume their fare-wells will be the last ones. A few have become brutally honest - what is the point of lying to dead men, and aren't we all dead here? Others have given up on honesty, preferring the comfort of their own little worlds.

There are quite a few people who see the Zone as a new frontier, or a shot at freedom and fame. Really, its just a mad house, and we're all crazy.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Vehicle Availibility - Five Years On

The first rule of transportation in RPGs: it's available as necessary to move the plot, and stops when the GM needs it too. If they want transit to be fairly easily available, that isn’t a problem. However, given the background of the Anarchy Zones, Motorized transportation would probably be a major bottleneck in the setting. Many parts would be hard to acquire, and the fuel more problematic yet - "Mad Max" this is not. In turn, part of the establishing self-sufficiency themes would be setting up fuel production, and then modifying vehicles to run off your supply.

One would think that there would be a lot of stranded and forgotten vehicles lying around, ripe for the salvaging. The abundance is true, but the pickings are actually rather slim. Cars are actually far more perishable than commonly thought. Lubricating oil turns to sludge, for example. Moisture infiltration means the upholstery might be a mold covered disaster. Rubber tires also degrade - most mechanics say you probably should avoid using ones that have been in storage for more than five or six years. This last piece of advice should make it rather clear that making fuel will be the easy part of getting the world going again. Importing rubber - that is going to be difficult.

Power sources also have limited shelf-lives, and the setting is taking place five years after most up-keep stopped. Batteries have probably discharged or corroded from time, to say nothing of being burned out by EMP. Petroleum derived fuels do go bad over time - partially evaporating, oxidizing, and absorbing water - leading to lower performance and more particulates in the fuel system. Biodiesl goes bad after a number of months. Ethanol by nature is antiseptic and hydrophilic, so it won’t rot, but it will contaminate itself fairly quickly.

These are just the issues that come with time passing, but remember - there are disasters in the background of the zone. Peak Oil and assorted emergencies in the preceding twenty years means that natural oil fuel and lubricants are quite rare - and likely guarded by remaining military for use in high performance war machines.  As The Event occurred, EMP shorted out components, looters damaged what was left, and panicked people seeing reanimates for the first time often abused or crashed vehicles as a result. Since then aliens have been trying to deny the enemy resources, raiders have been trying to corner the supply, and reanimates... 

Reanimates are a bit of an oddity. One of the big arguments for the existence of a type 4 is how they treat vehicles. Often, they will simply smash the things to prevent the victims from escaping. Other times, they seem to intentionally leave vehicles in near pristine condition, serving a lure to the unwary.

As stated in the beginning - making vehicles available to players isn't a bad thing, if it moves the plot along. A more likely scenario, however, is that acquiring the vehicles and maintaining it drives the plot. Finding a machine untouched in an underground parking garage, finding a mirco-fac that can produce replacement tires, and getting a working bio-fuel reactor going to keep it running, while fending off those who want it for themselves - that is the crux of getting the machine restarted in the zone.