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, August 30, 2012

Citizen Wheels

Sing -Sing cocked her head. "I don't think that beard works for you, Mr. Hobbes."
  "When aliens that don't even have beards dislike your new look, it might be an indication its the wrong one" Diego added. 
  "Ok, Ok, I get the picture- but considering how hard it is to get quality razors anymore we might just have to get used to it."
  "You just don't have the face for it boss, and its kind of unbalanced with nothing up-top."
  "As if your self-done bowie knife hair-cuts are all that great. The only one of us here fit for TV is her."
  "We're great faces for radio, what can I say?"
  "But you can't see faces on radio..."
  "Its an expression Sing-Sing."

Hobbes leaned back on the threadbare couch and took another sip of his tea. "Speaking of Expressions - its been a while since you've told us anything substantive Mrs. Sing. Something other than tidbits about how you dislike politics or the proper way to pronounce EyeKaiAyDee."
   "Something you had in mind?"
   "What do Citizens drive when they're not in encounter suits."
   "We don't really drive. It is extremely rare for one individual to own a vehicle - this dates back ages when you need entire guild to build and maintain ships or run animal caravans."
   "Teamsters - from Outer Space!" Diego shouted, mimicking B-move reverb effects.
Hobbes broke up laughing, Sing-Sing scissored her arms in confusion.
  "Sorry, that would take a while to explain, do continue".
   " As I've explained before home world is a lot like a bunch of little versions of Austria, complete with the baby-back, so ships and later aircraft were always best - you either circled around or flew over."
   "Baby-back is a cut of meat, and Austria is not an island. Its "Australia" and the "Outback".
   "[Untranslated Squeaking]"
   "That's the same sound you made when you dropped hammer on your foot - does that mean what I think it does?"
   "Back on topic - Some of the islands have things akin to your trains. They are often suspended from above though to pass over rough terrain rather than blow a hole through a mountain. Smaller ones shunt things around factories or cities. I've seen track independent wheeled vehicles, but I'm hardly rich enough to ride one."
  "How about bicycles, motorcycles - roller skates?"
  "Motorcycles - possibly, but balance is a bit of a problem - all your weight is in a vertical line, mine isn't. Strapping wheels to your feet or pedaling - a showman's trick. Airplanes on the other hand - were quite common for fast transport of just about anyone - its a lot cheaper and easier to make the transit at high speed and not pack all the extra food and supplies for a week long sea journey."
   "I suppose super-sonic transports would work better when not flying over cities and the noise complaints - that is part of why they never got much traction around here."
   "A lot of our airplanes are a bit like boats with wings, so they could put down almost anywhere in an emergency, and even islands without big airstrips could be visited. Also, I think that may be part of the arrangement with the shipwright guild since otherwise they never would have accepted... well never mind. Helicopters are also common, though often seen as less effective than other methods. We just happen to have a very large number of them now, since we weren't sure what the new planet we found would be like."

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Eisenhower Power Armor

Tactical Augmentation exoSkeleton Carapace Model 79 Eisenhower.

Almost no one calls it that. Its the Ike, the tin can, power armor, Sierra-Three (Slim-SpaceSuit), support armor or just a suit. AS to its actual designation - 79 refers to the number of prototypes and competing models rather than a date or notable index, and most of the augmenting pistons are under armor so it certainly doesn't look like an exoskeleton - making TASC-79 seem rather counter-intuitive.

The machine seems to be a cross between medieval armor and a slimmed down space suit. There are several styles of helmet,  - allowing for different combinations of filters, visual gear, wearer comfort, and user preference (otherwise troopers can be hard to tell apart). Most are a cross between a a knight's Bascinet, a stalhelm, and a gas mask - the eye-piece a notable oval of tinted armor glass. Shoulder-pads both cover the areas where the arms, front plate, and back unit converge, and also can by shape and color help mark individual solders. Each elbow has a pad over it and volumetric-fabric to allow for ease of movement, while the knees are covered with jointed armor and fully protected.

While the unit has a prominent hump/backpack most of the systems are in fact quite well distributed. Batteries are located in the legs and feet to help keep the center of gravity low, and provide limited additional protection from mines. Fuel cells are in the lower part of the pack, and isolated from the user, while above is a water system, and some electronics. Much like wearable computers, the inside of the arms mount input devices, though since these are non-flexible, there are much more durable than fabric processor units. Antennas run around the helm, so the radio is unlikely to stop working, unless the user is decapitated. (Grim tales from South America say, even then it might still work.)

Armor composition is secret, but is generally acknowledged to be a metallic layer over a glass reinforced plastic filler, backed with nano-ballistic gel. Per usual, avoiding incoming fire is preferable, but reports confirm at least limited ability to block heavy-caliber pistols, light rifles, and buckshot.

TASC-79 Stats (Full)
  • SDI 4 (Will slow down rifle bullets, resistant to shrapnel and pistols)
  • Animus Points: 12 (Convergent)
  • Abuse: 1d8 (More fragile than people think, but effective)
  • Fuel: 1d8 (Fuel cells are by necessity small, roughly 48 hours of operation)
  • Agility: -1d6 (Its about thirty-five kilos of armor, actuators, and batteries strapped to your limbs and chest - while it can go anywhere a human can, something like picking a coin off the floor is surprisingly difficult while wearing one)
  • Overdrive: 3 (Its a combat unit - sometimes redlining is for the best.)
  • Capacity: One person with nothing in their chest pockets.
  • Speed: Equal to the wearer or fourteen, whichever is less.
  • Sensors: Forward Looking Infrared (passive), IR search-light, Image Intensification night vision, 3.5x zoom camera, multichannel military radio, battlefield-networking compliant. Total package is +2d6 to searching, and identification and a bonus to initiative at night.
  • 1d8 threshold at the end of a track  Nicely built and distributed systems
  • Power Plant: A combination of fuel cells and high-efficiency batteries, plus pulleys actuated by
  • Other systems: NBC air-filter - though no overpressure system, piezoelectric heating system, built in water dispenser, urine removal system (PA does not unzip...)
  • Aim: +1d6 to ranged (Recoil compensation and targeting systems)
TASC-79 (Amended)
  • Abuse: 1d8
  • Fuel: 1d8
  • HP: 12
  • SDI: 4
  • Agility: Pilot minus 1d6 for bulk and articulation limits.
  • Tech/Systems: +2d6
  • Ranged: +1d6

Friday, August 24, 2012

The First Chalange of the Tin Trooper

All right boys and girls - this is the big day! You've learned about tactics, weapons, and sensors. You can field strip a 20 mike mike auto-cannon and hit a fly with a boom tube at a hundred meters. Missile fusing is instinct. Now its on maneuvers. For the first time, you are wearing a complete and fully operational Tactical Augmentation System.

Now, you are going to go over to that truck there, and move everything inside it through the alleyway, and into the fourth floor flat. There is no elevator.

Whats the f--n' hold up here? You all have functioning audio sensors! You think this is some kind of a joke?

The most important lessons you can learn are lying on those stairs and hiding in that tiny bathroom. By the time you fill that apartment, you will know your suit. Moving the couch won't be any easier, but taking the stairs three dozen times will not leave you winded. Moving through the kitchen will teach you to compensate for your extra height and bulk. Handling glass will teach you restraint when using hydraulic gauntlets - or you'll be picking it up with tweezers all night.

Suits compensate for weakness, they do not add strength. The only superpower is your mind, your training, and your tactics.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Soap Bubbles Vs Rocket Ships

The fins on 1950's cars were not there simply because the American consumer lost all sense of good taste. They were an attempt to emulate the in crowd - the "jet set". In that era, airliners were fairly small and powered by thirsty and expensive turbojets - meaning air travel was for the rich only (until the 70s brought more efficient turbofans and wide-bodied jumbo-jets). An even more exclusive club flew jet fighters or rode atop rockets. If a Chevrolet was all you could afford, well it might as well evoke the high life.

With air travel once again reverting to the realm of only the rich - airplane like cars returned. They also stand out as retro-chique and as far removed from the smooth lines of a district car. The later often called "bubbles on roller skates" or "eggs on a trolly" because they look very little like traditional vehicles. Most of the time these cars don't even have the traditional 2 door coup/four door sedan layout - either entire sides flip up to access the cabin area, or the front lifts for the driver and passenger, while the back folds out for cargo.

District cars are generally only for short range travel. While their systems are extremely efficient, this is more geared towards allowing a small battery to move the vehicle about 120 miles/200km rather than a large one to go several times that distance. They also preform poorly anywhere that isn't paved.

Touring Car Stats (Full)
  • SDI 2 (Not meant to stop bullets)
  • Animus Points: 16 (Divergent)
  • Abuse: 1d6 (Not off-road trucks)
  • Fuel: 1d8 (Less economy minded) (Usually about 300-400 miles 480-650 km)
  • Agility: +0 for most, but sports cars could be +1 or +2 d6)
  • Overdrive: 3 (Touring cars are meant to be consumer customized, some can have up to 5)
  • Capacity: 5 people/1000 lbs+ (Good on leg and head room, but not a truck)
  • Speed: Around 140kph
  • Sensors: Back up cameras, and low-light tv units to assist driving in bad conditions were pretty common option packages, some had full autonomous systems including short range radar for use in areas not under local transponder control.
  • 1d8 threshold at the end of a track  Nicely built and distributed systems
  • Power Plant: The large size allowed for lots of batteries in standard models. Sportier models would muse multi-fuels Since electrical systems can't match weight ratios or the pleasing sound.
Touring Car (Amended)
  • Abuse: 1d6
  • Fuel: 1d8
  • HP: 16
  • SDI: 2
  • Agility: As user's technique (its how you drive) possibly with a bonus of 1d6 or 2d6 for high end models.

District Car Stats (Full)
  • SDI 2 (Not meant to stop bullets)
  • Animus Points: 8 (divergent)
  • Abuse: 1d6 (fairly flimsy, but crash worthy)
  • Fuel: 1d6 (Quite short ranged, though with modifications could easily hit 1d12)
  • Agility: +1d6 on roads, -1d6 off (Responsive, but small wheelbase, and high center of gravity)
  • Overdrive: 1 (For an emergency and little else)
  • Capacity: Two, Four, and Six person vehicles are available, but cargo drops dramatically.
  • Speed: Around 55mph/90kph
  • Sensors: Generally configured for autodrive with manual only as backup, and thus lacking expensive systems.
  • Threshold of 1d8 - most systems are under the vehicle to leave the upper area and front open - making them fairly hard to hit.
  • Power Plant: Almost always electric.
District Car (Amended)
  • Abuse: 1d6
  • Fuel: 1d6
  • HP: 8 
  • SDI: 2
  • Agility: 1d6 on road, -1d6 off road

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

AutoDrive Vs Motorcycles

AutoDrive was to be the solution to a large number of problems posed by daily commutes. Motorcycles became the "solution to the solution" when there a generalized rebellion against the system.

Implementing a city, state, or even national system of centralized computer control for vehicles appeared to have many benefits. By taking human reaction time out of the equation - vehicles could go faster, or at a more efficient speed, move closer, and no one would slow down to stare at accidents (if there were any). Real-time tracking and rerouting would avoid bottlenecks and make peak periods more efficient. Actual drivers would have their stress levels reduced, and be free to use their commuting time for other pursuits. Inebriated drivers would be a thing of the past, since computers don't get drunk. A system based on transponders in the road would still be cheaper and easier than fitting every vehicle with autopilot, and the necessary radar/lidar/camera systems necessary - and would benefit from years of experience with air traffic control, rather than the new coordinating multiple systems.

The idea meat a huge amount of resistance. Legally, there was always the question of liability if something did go wrong. Others felt that their driving was above average and they didn't need a system to hold their hand. A few felt this was way too much government intrusion, and some more balked at the cost of both the system, and the added price to cars. People living in new car-less communities didn't want to subsidize those who didn't and as usual - there were numerous arguments that the government had more important things to spend its money on that new cars.

Since the rider is by default part of the motorcycle's control system - it was impossible to make an auto-driven unit. Cycles also had the advantage of fairly low cost, and high fuel efficiency, and their smaller size made parking and finding space for them easier. Furthermore, the open design gave a greater sense of freedom, even as more people were put in EDGE domes and giant arcologies. Its also worth noting that cycles retained their traditional design aesthetics, while many high-efficiency cars looked like tiny eggs placed on dollys or giant bricks from the 1950s to hold large battery banks.

2050 cycles don't seem very different from earlier models. Metal has yet to be replaced by carbon fiber due to the engine placement, flammability concerns, and the usefulness of weight to control inertia. Some do use structural batteries to reduce weight (built from plastics containing nano-energy cells so that it serves double duty) and many now use either electric motors or multi-fuel turbines. The march of computers has been felt though - many helmets now include heads up displays and night vision - though analog dials are still mounted for those who don't want to spend several thousand dollars just on a reinforced hat.

Typical Zone Cycle

  • SDI 2 (Not meant to stop bullets)
  • Animus Points: 8 (convergent)
  • Abuse: 1d8 (well built)
  • Fuel: 1d10 (Quite Efficient)
  • Agility: +2d6 
  • Overdrive: 2 (Motors aren't made to soup-up)
  • Capacity: 2 people/600 lbs
  • Speed: Around 160kph
  • Sensors: Cycles don't have any notable automatic systems (No Wits). Some may incorporate sensors into the operator's helmet - but this is often seen as an optional piece of equipment.
  • Cycles generally have a threshold at the end of a track of 1d6 - most systems are exposed, including the person riding it!
  • Power Plant: A wide variety of styles were available - electric, multi-fuel piston, and MF turbine.
  • Cycles generally have no weapons, and would impose a notable penalty to hit (-2d6) if someone tried to fire while riding one.
Reduced Stat Block
  • Abuse: 1d8
  • Fuel: 1d10
  • HP: 8 
  • SDI: 2
  • Agility: 2d6

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Nailing Down Vehicle Stats

I'm trying to prepare a proper list of vehicles encountered in the zone and how to handle them - as well as background material about auto-drive and new fuel sources. The multitude of numbers to juggle with for each vehicle just seems to keep climbing. This runs somewhat counter to my desire to keep things simple, and the fact that D&B isn't a war game. (Though I have a few notes about how to make one with its systems.) However, it seems that I'm better off erring on too many factors and giving the paranoia and worries of a multitude of things that can go wrong, rather than making it too simple.

There is now a Dead and Back sub-forum on and my email continues to be Flanker39 on Gmail. Feel free to stop by and start a conversation about level of detail, questions about vehicles, or anything else on your mind.

A new use of the scarcity mechanic - suggested by Rob Lang who has been graciously play testing the game in England - this is a measure of the vehicle's physical construction, separate from part integrity measured in hit points. When you try to do something out of the ordinary - jump a chasm, carry an overweight load, push vehicles out of the way, or crash through a barricade - the abuse die is rolled to see if the vehicle continues to operate.

This is a "phased scarcity" roll, with each failure reducing the size of the die - until a d4 roll, which indicates that the vehicle is well beyond any reasonable repair.

Unfortunately - abuse also applies to animals. Horses are not motorcycles, and trying to keep them galloping for too long, failure to let them cool down, poor care, or lack of feeding threatens to kill the poor creature.

All the Stats

  • Abuse (Scarcity Roll)
  • HP (Speed Track Squares and if its Convergent or Divergent)
  • Fuel (Scarcity Roll)
  • Speed (Possibly with a rate of degradation if its not uniform across the track)
  • Agility (d6 attribute)
  • Crew and Passenger Capacity
  • Over-Drive Points (Like Deadening)
  • Aim Bonus and Weapon Stats (d6s added to Ranged Combat Score - if applicable)
  • Technology Stat/Subsystems (d6s added to attribute rolls - an ambulance helps medicine for example)
  • Wits/Sensors/Initiative Modifier
  • Strength/Towing Capacity
  • HP Thresholds (scarcity roll to see if something breaks or passengers are injured when the vehicle is damaged) 

Simplified Form
For those who want to par down the numbers for ease of reference, the most important numbers are probably abuse, agility, capacity, and fuel.

  • Abuse can stand if for all sources of damage, with possible adjustment to die size for strength or type of source. 
  • Agility can stand in for most of the other physical stats of a car. When trying to escape, its the fancy maneuvers to get to the open road or shake the tail that make a difference. Generally speaking, monsters can't outrun cars and once in the open its pretty obvious what types of vehicles have the speed to flat out get away. Players move from point to point at "the speed of plot" so max and cruise figures aren't too important. Unbalanced loads or damage can be simulated by adjusting the number of dice rolled.
  • Capacity still matters because it determines how many people can escape, and how much they can bring with them. Cars are not infinitely large pack-mules and players should be faced with though limits on what they can take.
  • Fuel and supplying the vehicle is a major concern when the usual support mechanisms of society are not feeding the gas pumps. Speed, as mentioned above, isn't much of an issue when out running a problem - but getting far enough away certainly is. This also presents more tension and tragedy than than simply declaring gas runs out when the plot demands.
Let me know of the forums or E-mail which version you prefer and why. I should begin my exposes on individual vehicles starting tomorrow to make up for the week of posts I missed earlier this month.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Cloudy With a Chance of Doom

Much has been said about the miracle that is nano-vaccine, and the great conditions provided by planned communities like the NEST system. However, the truth is these things were not made simply to acknowledge Utopian dreams. We don't like being killed by hurricanes or starving when food deliveries are cut off and worsening environmental situations in the thirties and forties were threatening just that. To this day, the weather can be as much of a threat as the reanimates.

An odd little fact for you: King Gillette,- the man who literally and figuratively changed the face of capitalism by popularizing the disposable razor, was a socialist. In 1894 he wrote a book called "The Human Drift" about how to create a workers' utopia. It proposed moving the entire population of the United States to a giant city in New York state that derives all the electricity it needs from hydro-electric dams placed across Niagara Falls. In turn, economies of scale from factories running off this abundant power (derived from Tesla's recently developed AC current generators no less) would allow everyone to be clothed and housed. 

Of course, relocating entire populations and building super cities proved to be far too difficult. Land prices remained cheap, food in fairly abundant supply, and existing infrastructure means it was far quicker to expand existing cities and towns. 

However oil shortages and changing climate in the late twenties and early thirties changed that. Sea levels and storms foxed people away from coasts, desertification started immigration to more habitable climates, and crop failures drove up food prices and delivery charges - making life away from existing hubs difficult. As present as mild winters are - a good cold snap is needed to kill the vermin that carry disease - warm climate and refugee camps began to yield epidemics, and threatened pandemics.

Not every place got warmer - it would be more proper to call the process global shifting than warming really - some places in Europe got very cold, and if they didn't - temperature deferential made for more powerful storms. Adding to the chaos - when everything shut down during The Event - cities stopped generating micro-climates. You might hear about the small town that gets wiped off the map by a tornado - but they don't hit downtown Chicago, because the heat and altered wind patterns around buildings break them up. 

The silver lining to this might be that with industry stopped, oil use at a minimum,  and populations reduced the Earth might heal all these problems. But its not not going to be overnight, or even within one or two lifetimes. Storms will be bad, drought will be as likely to kill as reanimates, and home grown mosquitoes far more dangerous than invasive aliens. Come to think of it - I don't think citizens can catch Earthly diseases - so we may be wiped out by Lyme disease rather than Laser towers.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Vehicle Damage Systems (Prototype)

Dead and Back isn't a wargame, but it is likely that the players will encounter many vehicles, and threats to them.

Convergent and Divergent Damage
Some vehicles do not protect the occupants very well, while others do a very good job. For ease of play and reference  most vehicles are considered to have animus tracks that are separate - diverge - from that of the occupants. However, there are some things that don't protect the users all that well, and thus add (e.g. converge) the animus tracks with that of the character.

The two most prominent examples of convergent vehicles are motorcycles and powered armor suits. Motorcycles offer little apparent protection from outside threats, while PA is worn and anything that penetrates the carapace is likely to penetrate the user - at least a bit. In both cases, these things are represented by adding a series of boxes to the front of each level on the character's animus track, to absorb damage first. For example, as mid-grade Power suit with eight animus points worn by a character with six animus would appear as:

[] [] O
[] [] O
[] [] O O
[] [] O O

System Rolls
A divergent vehicle like a car or tank will absorb all the hits directed at it before the characters inside take damage, but they may not absorb them very well. At the end of each row on the animus chart, there may be a listed die to roll - for example a fragile car might have a d8 on the first row, a d10 on the next, and a d12 on the third (depleting the fourth destroys it of course). As with any other roll, the only numbers to look for are the top two, and if those come up, something happens. A tank might have die rolls only on the second and third levels, since its just that tough.

Certain anti-tank weapons (or perhaps a new "armor-buster" SA) might alter the die rolled, or add a roll, to represent the ability for the weapon to wreck interior systems, even if destruction isn't outright. (The system as it is now simply won't let you roll enough dice to destroy all sixteen animus of a tank after-all).

I do not yet have an exact chart of what might go wrong with each roll, but the rule of thumb is that there are four things that might happen - a system might shut down (a weapon or sensor), the speed is reduced, handling is impaired, or the crew get thrown around and injured.

Overkill and Vehicles
Its fairly safe to say, that an anti-tank missile is going to ruin a standard car, and devastate a man-sized armor. However, killing players in one shot from a generally unavoidable source may not be very good for the narrative structure of the story the game is portraying. Thus the cinematic thing to do would be to allow the character to survive, but to take injures in their narrow escape or to become trapped in the wreck until they or another find a way to get them out.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Very Model of a Modern Major... Pastry Chef

War. War never changes.

At least, I don't think it does. I wasn't in the military before the event, I just read a lot - and made hundred-fifty dollar apiece pastries for a downtown New York restaurant. (As the saying goes - if you have to ask which one, you probably weren't the kind to get reservations.) As you can imagine, when we're back to subsistence agriculture, gold leaf covered tarts aren't in great demand, and I needed to find another job. You pick up a great deal of discipline in cooking school, and well, it beats slopping hogs.

You didn't come here to learn about Viennoiseries though. So, as for how I see this working - well, its like two blind men knife-fighting. Most armies these days are a bit like guerrilla groups with an emphasis on hiding, maneuver, and ambush - a legacy of both the manpower available, and the tactics developed to counter the reanimates. But it comes down to, we don't really know where the other guy is, but you want to find a way to leave a trap or knock them down, and then hit them when they're stuck.

Of course, the fact that almost none of know what we're doing doesn't really help with planning ambushes. As I said before, being a chef gives discipline, which is a bit better than most of the guys I'm serving with. If you don't know how to farm, fix a tractor, or suture, you tend to default to military. How many corporate lawyers and barbers to we really need at the moment -right? Actual military experience is at a premium since far too many soldiers died during The Event - reanimates aren't exactly like the normal forces they're trained to fight.

Hmm... What else. Logistics is a bit of a pain. I did plenty or ordering for the restaurant, but back then, if something was in short supply, you changed the menu and made a different selection. You can't really substitute crossbow bolts for rifle bullets the way you can replace Gruyere for Comte in Gougere.  That's savory choux pastry in case you're wondering. Fighting reanimates if you keep your head and have friends - not so bad. Never had the misfortune of facing them alone, and not sure what I'd do if I did.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Forevermore I-94

It doesn't matter how far you have to go out of the way, generally speaking - boneroads are to be avoided. They're just nasty places to be, with a haunted reputation. Almost as many people died on the highways leading out of the cities as within the downtown blocks. Multiple mile traffic jams across eight lanes with creatures freely roaming about and often not enough room to open the door to get out. Even now, there are still swarms of reanimates patrolling up and down these places. Anyone or thing not eaten by them has long since putrefied and rotted through the bottom of the rusting out cars.

Some even treat these places as if they're haunted. If your going to run into a former loved one who failed to escape, this would probably be the place.

Yet I find myself returning to it, the spur between Milwaukee and Chicago, the place where I left my '52 Ford. In all the round about ways you justify the extra expense of a convertible - escaping the undead isn't normally high on the list.

Exiting the car was the only easy part. It might be the trauma of the times, it might be true, but I swear back at the time of The Event, reanimates were a hell of a lot faster. And to escape them - crawling over sun and engine warmed cars, jumping between other motorists, then trying to keep up a dead run past the shoulder to who knows where - while dozens of reanimates chase after. I can thank my training for the Boston marathon for my escape - the ones who cheered me on... not so fortunate.

OK, I have to admit, that was the first week in two years there were no posts, and I will have to make that up to you. I'm considering a number of ways to do it, but i expect a five post week soon when I come upon a theme.