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, September 27, 2012

NEST Musings

The interior of a NEST is surprisingly bright. That somehow makes it worse. At least if its dark, you're always wary, and searching. During the day you can get complacent - or worse yet, miss something in the shadows that are cast.

A large part of energy efficiency, is not needing energy in the first place. Most of the arcos are not one monolithic block, but a series of smaller inter-linked towers, each of which is narrow enough that natural light can penetrate all - or at least most of - the way into the central core. Some use mirrors, some fiber optics, and there are a few that really are pitch-black in many spots.

Given the massive expense and time it takes to create these things - it becomes evident that shortcuts and stop gaps were made at various times, so be aware that some levels aren't always the most logical.

Anything that can be acquired by a quick "smash and grab" run, probably has. Instead, the endeavor must be approached like climbing a mountain. Clear a base camp, and set up stopping points along the way. If you can, get a guide. Just like on Everest - oxygen tanks might not be a bad idea - there are all sorts of internal pollutants and rot. Rappelling gear can help avoid certain areas for those who don't mind scaling objects two hundred metres or so above ground.

Reanimates can hibernate when no prey is around. It might be hard for the lesser variants to chase people into an arco and navigate the labyrinth, but there are still huge numbers just waiting to wake up.

Given the danger and complications of mounting a several day - or even several week long - expedition into an arco - most of them are still quite full of untouched supplies and artifacts. Food is probably going to be the limiting factor on any given adventure, since anything stocked in the building has probably expired. Aside from that, artifacts in the interior areas, up to and including national guard armories and nano-vac hospital stocks may very well be still in place.

A possible way to start a game is to either have players as survivors who are trying to get out of an Arco, they've been living is, now that all the supplies in nearby apartments have been used up. Another would be a large group of reanimates chasing them into the structure - leaving the players with little choice but to go up and find a way out that isn't blocked.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Red Keycard Blues Part One

The gun gave a throaty roar, overpowering the soft gurgling as the creature collapsed to the ground.  Flynn wasn't too sure what it was, just that it was like a shaved gorilla with a sharks maw, and it smelled worse than three day old road kill. That was easy enough to ignore though, the fact that a half-dozen rounds from a service pistol only served to piss it off - that was an issue. How fortunate the frantic chase had led them past a mutilated security guard, a shotgun lying close to where the man had fallen.

Chance of rolling 7 or 8 on a d8: 25%
Chance of not rolling a 7 or 8 on 3d8: 42%

Probability of one success on a d6 - one in three
Probability of complete failure to hit with three d6: 28%

Pattern for d4s: 50% and 12%

Why the boring math? Because super shotguns are fun. If you remember a certain game staring a space marine from 1993 or its 1994 sequel -you know what this means. If you don't, you are dead to me - as dead as pinkies, cacodemons, lost souls, and everything else is after a few shots with the BFG-9000...

Dead and Back is a framework for running a game. Most of the time its about survival horror, but that doesn't have to be the case. What matters is how the game master describes the situation, and how often the players are granted respite.

As the above figures show, a one NecroPoint creature has fairly little chance of surviving against an average character with a weapon appropriate to its SDI. As for creatures that are weak but small and hard to hit? Then you can use necrotic threshold to simulate that any weapon can hurt them, but a certain level of success is required to do so.

The base zombies would probably be about two SDI and one NP, Chain-gunners and standard demons same SDI and two NP.  Lost souls also have one NP and one SDI, but a threshold of two, so they're really hard to hit.

Our next tier of opponents - like the cacodemon have a higher SDI, but a rocket will still demolish them in one hit, so its still just one or two NP.

Barrons, Cyberdemons, and the like are why there is an abomination category with speed tracks. These are the ones that take many hits, though their danger may vary. Knights have a low SDI, but are still bullet sponges, while their half mechanical counterparts have SDI high enough to take multiple hits from anti-tank weapons.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Turkmenistan. Farm. Deployment 35.

The ground smelled of fresh earth, the scent of newly cut hay was heavy, the dew light. It was a good place. An honest place, worried of of harvest and kin, a world away from the insanity of our leaders and the other ones ready to kill us all over a matter of economics.

Too bad it was 5412-02021983-325-8889.

It would have been proper to simply have the man who let a level five hematvore escape shot. But this was odd, and too secret to bring before the usual justice system. We sent him in first instead, some up close and personal knowledge of what the creature could do. He probably did from the old training films, but Mr. Lvod would do worse with a combination of combat drugs and a twenty-centimeter trench knife.

Outside, there was little blood, at least not in a place where would see it easily. Perhaps in a row between fields, amongst the windbreaks branches, or by the duck pond - but we had built the level five infiltrators too well to expect anything blatant. Inside would be a different story. The creature would be going mad from the lack of support drugs, falling apart and unstable.

Theses simple people wouldn't be abusing the kind of drugs favored by Hollywood producers, nothing worse than vodka and kvass. Yet still, our creation would be tearing them apart to get some semblance of what it needed to prolong its existence. We could only hope this had gone on long enough that we would not have to do further clean-up.

Aside from our - volunteer - leader, it was all routine. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Creatures Concepts

Dead and Back is a one person project. I would love to find an artist, and probably need an editor - but up to now, all the work has been just me. As such, there are not going to be any major point-buy systems to balance. If you want your character to be a one-armed alcoholic samurai jazz pianist - role play it, but don't expect to get any extra character dice at character generation.

On a similar note, I am not implementing a big buffet of creature powers like "All Flesh Must Be Eaten". AFMBE is a good game - for that reason alone I shouldn't copy it, and make mine just a pale imitation.

What I am doing, however, is to create a table with a various abilities. Senses go in some columns, weakness in others, movement in the next, and other twists in yet another. The GM may roll to randomly throw an abomination at the players, or pick and choose to form what they feel is a reasonable fit for their setting.

Through the Free RPG Blog, I've learned of a free book of random mutations - "Metamophica". Personally, I'm trying to avoid looking at it until I've compiled some ideas of my own. I have too much pride to go the "ctrl-c" "ctrl-v" route, but why seek temptation? You are quite welcome to use it in your games. The Oberous Setting for D&B is practically built around the idea that some nebulous organization is releasing mutated creatures in isolated areas to test their abilities, and those of the unfortunate townsfolk.

Speaking of creations, I've got at least one more setting on the back burner, and an overhaul of the AP system cooking. Actually, there is enough running, that I'm a bit worried about the October 31st deadline, but I'll try to have something ready.

Anyway, some of the ideas for creatures I've thought of:
  • Low Light, Infrared, Hawk like, and spiritual sight - as well as "non visual" 
  • Excellent Hearing, Seismic Detection
  • Blood Hound Nose, Shark Taste, Electro-receptors
  • Aquatic, Cold Proof, Fire Proof, Gecko Climbing, Gliding (Zombie flying squirrel)"
  • Sprinter, Horse, Car
  • Untiring, Noxious Fumes, Venomous, Super Strong
  • Web Spinning, Acid Spit, Regenerating, Highly Infectious
  • Telekinetic, telepathic, EMP inducing, 
  • Pack Hunter, Hive Mind, Contortionist
  • Claws, Tentacles, Bites through steel
  • Weak, (material) vulnerability, poor senses, falling apart, mindless, attracts carrion feeders, light sensitive, entranced by singing, afraid of ducks.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Day 31, Behavior Notes

Subject: Unknown Name, Middle Aged Female
Catalog Number: WD-1-650-1A-1034229
Classification: Whiskey Delta, Subclass Alpha
Date of Birth: Unknown, possibly around 2000
Date of Death: Mid 2050, Actual Date Unknown, approx. between 7/14/2050 and 8/1/250 (Records lost)
Sample Collection Date: 11/15/2050
Recovery Point: Toledo, OH

[Time Stamp 03:45]
So little staff, so much to do - we confirmed a third effective strain yesterday, showing considerable anatomical differences from the previous Whiskey Delta types - identified as Strain One, and One Alpha. We are still unsure if this represents a further stage of subject transformation - a beta level of metamorphosis, or distinct second type. I have been temporarily pulled from my anatomical study of [Redacted] to assist in observations of captured specimens. Since tracing the pathogen has just gotten exponentially more difficult - wee are trying to focus on methods to escape the active vectors, and in turn, how to protect from attack, rather than a cure for the attackers. 

Doctor Wilkes has come up with an unusual suggestion for starting our descriptions. Time and again, survivors have made the comparison has been made to Zombies from cheap horror films, and as such, he recommended that we use that as a baseline. Doctor Lincoln disagrees, and finds this a silly and illogical assumption, but does concede that for the average person, pop-culture familiarity may be the key to quicker comprehension than a proper bio mechanical analysis.

Those kind of films made me kind of sick before hand. Watching one to understand this point of while similar events transpire outside our compound does not sit will at all. Worse yet, Doctor Benway seemed to laugh through the whole thing. I'm half inclined to call the man a harbomaniac, but it could be just because the effects of the move were poorly done... if only we really were dealing with actors covered in gray paint. 

I watched the movie nine hours ago and still can't sleep. This probably isn't good...

[Time Stamp 12:30]
Reviewing actual footage now, and our subject. There is in fact a startling degree of overlap. The gait of Whiskey Deltas is somewhat stiff and uncoordinated, at least in subclass one, though the mutation shows far less of this. They also show a marked ability to ignore wounds that would be fatal in a baseline human. WD-1-650-1A-1034229 is missing arm and sports several holes in the Thorax and Abdomen made by an automatic rifle. 

However, our whiskey delta does not have anywhere near the purification of the movie version. It still maintains an oddly healthy pallor and shows little signs of exsanquinating, despite the multiple wounds that would have killed a baseline a matter of minuets from bleeding out.

[Time Stamp 17:53]
Dr. Wilkes has pointed out that Whiskey Deltas show a lack of fixation. Determination to get their targets, certainly, but unlike his fictitious video game examples they do not have to take the most obvious route, and they move from target to target. While in that - deplorable - movie, the ghouls would drag down the victim, them stop to rip it apart and eat its innards WDs don't. In the film, the main character was able to escape while the creatures were distracted by its meal, and at a latter point, made a dash to distract several from his friends.

Real - ugh - Whiskey Deltas don't pull the living apart, at least not humans. Reports of mutilated dogs and wolves would seem to back the idea they fight with other predators, but humans tend to be preserved. Possibly for later use as vectors? While hardly peaceufl, the attack seems to be more a combination of tackling or tripping, combined with punches to disable the target, a few bites to get past the defenses, or to start a secondary concern of bleeding or to slow down an escaping victim. Dr. Lincoln, suggested this may be toxic, and a way to get a "hit and run" kill or as a means to track the victim by blood trail or scent.

Some Whiskey Deltas have been observed using weapons, generally items found in the environment. I have noticed that even in a cluttered environ - they will go for actual tools or weapons like axes or bats, before picking up random debris. The newly identified sub-type seems to have sharpened ends on its finger-bones, giving it functional talons and seems to do far less to preserve the victim than our normal WDs.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Finding the Factory

It certainly took us a while to the factory, and it was a close run thing. We were fortunate to avoid the black days, and got some government assistance for a while, but in the end it was a combination of luck and resourcefulness.

Black July was a hell of a time. All the best places, were all the worst places. Everyone wanted to go to the hospital because of the odd plague, the police department for protection form the psychotic cannibals, or just leave town via the highways. Almost everyone who tried that ended up as the popcorn chicken at a reanimate buffet. Some tried to run to city schools or malls and hold up there. They didn't die as quickly. The wife and I being sick at the time sheltered in place at our home, and tried to wait out some of the panic.

Eventually the word got around that the real evacuation points were small town college campuses. You'd think the government would have planned on it being the hospitals, but in hindsight, this was a great idea. Plenty of space in unused classrooms, extra beds, cafeteria food service for large student bodies, young and able bodied volunteers in rural areas. Not a permanent solution though. After a few weeks of overcrowding and nothing but stale MREs, they tried to create "satellite campuses" to spread us out, and begin some farming to help ease supply concerns. This turned out to be rather hit or miss.

Some didn't like the enforced WPA aspect, others couldn't handle the prolonged stress and farming. Worse yet, the we still didn't know much about reanimates at the time, and how how they are somehow drawn to large populations and movements. Several of the new small settlements were attacked and overrun.

I narrowly escaped one of these fiascoes. Common sense dictated that my fellow survivors and I should make our way back to the main campus. But sense wasn't very common at that time. They couldn't hold the outposts, government personnel had been lost in the failed attempt to save it, and we didn't know if there was another army of the things on its way. Even if the main area held - overcrowded dorms, limited food supply, and rationed water wasn't very attractive. We didn't have a better plan than FEMA, but we were frighted and decided "anywhere but here" was the best place to be.

Apparently, the college did survive, by the way. We even get weekly mail delivery out this way as they re-establish communication and trade.

Well, a small group of us did the nomad thing for a while. Lost a few people, gained some more, not too practical about it at first. Managed to find a a national guard truck and some guns still in good condition - got a lot better after that. This went on for a few months, but was getting cold, and logistics were getting to be a problem. Wandering everywhere ate up gas, clearing buildings to search for supplies used bullets without replacement - sometimes even failed to provide anything useful. Open fires were beacons, and tents not warm enough.

A winter shelter was needed, whether we chose to settle down permanently or just for the season. Several places were surveyed - schools, libraries, old hotels, and  the like. We came across this factory quite by accident, really. On a return from a scouting one of our first choice locations.

As you can tell from the fact we're still here and expanding - it was a great choice. Already had a sturdy security fence, brick walls, and high glass block windows out of reanimate reach. Doors and partitions let us securely sweep it bit by bit, and would help contain invaders. There was room for our stuff, loading docks to make transferring supplies safe, and small offices that could be easily heated. The indoor hydroponics system came much later. But for the dark winter, it was a true fortress, and that is what mattered.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Nomad's Guide to the Living

Ahh, that was a good meal. A fine piece of venison, carrots in a vinaigrette, twice baked potatoes - the ultimate reason why you must be kind to your fellow man.

The power of human beings grows exponentially when they are in groups. Traveling alone, you simply can't have meals like this. It takes a while to stalk wild game, and put together a fire, and secure your camp. There just aren't enough hours in the day to properly clean the beast, much less prep for preservation. Rip off some choice bits, and leave the remainder to the scavengers. Hey - coyotes need to eat too. But it would be nice to claim a bit more for your effort. When you're keeping to a light load - melting butter and a bottle of vinegar just don't pack so well.

Now of course the downside is that when there are other people who depend on you, you get tied down. You accumulate stuff, stay in a central location, and don't take risks since others need you around. Not so bad if you don't enjoy the zone, but your are missing a lot if you don't.

Alone or in a group, you have to be ready to work outside your clique. Your ability to tolerate and work with a-holes is probably the defining survival trait, more so than any ability to fire a gun or swing an ax.

A good thing to do when meeting people, is establish a common ground, a shared sense. Tell them about trouble in the direction you're coming from and show a concern about their safety. If its a warm day, tell them "lets get out of this sun" and offer a water bottle. A nip of something in the old hip flask is a great icebreaker in the evening.

It is possible to reason with the aliens, but you have to time it right. Outside their mech-suits, they're the size of a dog so a giant human with a rifle as long as they are tall is not a welcome site. Its safer to approach the robots really - they're aware they have the upper hand, and don't need to shoot immediately to protect themselves. Try to look at the shoulders of the suit - if its kind of blue or green, that seems to be the normal soldiers, no color on top of the camouflage is a commander and less likely to talk. Officers try to avoid the front lines it seems - so go for the soldiers, they're less paranoid.

Also, don't try to talk if you're in California. Really, the farther you are from the West coast, the easier it is. Not all of them are working towards the same goals it seems, and the ones in the West are a nasty bunch.

But enough about them - you mustn't get too worked up about the aliens, you don't meet them that often. Just enough be a challenge when you don't need it.

Back to people. Aside from saying hello, I'm not that good with people. I try to pay my good fortune forwards and give tips to those I meet in the zone - just note what I'm dong now - but my priorities are my own, and this world is too refreshed to simply settle down into a cycle of we need more food to support more people to gather more food that seems to control so many settlements. Towns have got to have a reason to be, and a goal to work for and much of our strife is that people either can't agree to that, or chose a goal that is mutual exclusive to their neighbors.

I want to see the zone. For now, that is enough. Unless you have pie - that would be great right now.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Nomad's Reanimate Guide

You would be surprised how many people don't know how to deal with reanimates these days. Sure, everyone knows the basics of defending their outpost, but if those plans fail - few are equipped for the evacuation, or the traveling life. Two years of proselyting has won over fairly few converts to my way of thinking, but even if you don't want to tour the zone like me, you can know how to survive it.

First of all - don't travel at night. Reanimate vision isn't that great, but they certainly aren't blind, and at night - its better than a human's...

Come to think of it, the best way to imagine reanimates is as some sort of large cat - puma, tiger, leopard. Maybe not the clearest color vision, but good to hunt at night, a stalking pattern that usually relies on ambush, decent sense of smell - though not a blood hound - and good hearing. Mind that last one - I try to avoid using guns as much out of not attracting attention as any sort of pacifism or desire not to hurt people.

If you're not moving at night, you need a place to stay - simple enough. In the middle of nowhere, chances are a tent or staying in your vehicle are OK. though don't neglect a warning system just in case. Seaborne shipping containers on flatbed trucks make for great mobile shelters - they're built out of steel or carbon fiber to withstand storms and movement by crane. Semi-truck trailers however, are at best aluminum sheeting over a little fiberglass insulation and you can punch right through them.

In more urban areas, you will probably want to take advantage of one of the standing buildings. Avoid basements, and go for the second floor or hither. If reanimates surround the area, escaping an upper floor by going out a window or blasting your own hole is a lot easier than digging out of a basement. Of course, if you avoid being noticed that is even better. Another thing to avoid, is private residences.

The standard house is build to be affordable to the standard family. Construction materials are not as heavy duty as commercial structure. Its not reinforced for thousands of customers, or made from simple sturdy concrete. Houses are mostly wood and aluminum siding, fiberboard, maybe a brick facade. A lot of insulation yes, but blown foam is not exactly meant to stop claws and bullets.

Now I spent some unpleasant time in a government institution before, but I tell you these days, you can not go wrong with a government building. Those things are designed to stop bullets and bombs, armored glass, Kevlar wall paper, flame proof coatings - you name it. Run some heavy chain around the truck barriers, and reanimates will be stymied for quite a while. While many normal glass widows have broken, leaving buildings full of rotting furnishings, government places will still be nicely furnished. Just look out for if the building still has residents.

Ahh, foods here, and I'm famished. If you'll excuse me - how to deal with other humans will have to wait for a bit later.