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, December 27, 2012

Dead of Winter Edition Released!

I tried to get a new version done for February, to mark a year since the supposedly temporary "FFS edition" was released. I tried for may for my birthday, 200th post, the 250th post, Halloween... Still nothing.

Well screw it, I'm not going to say I couldn't release a version until 2013 or 2014. It might be the eleventh hour and not quite a milestone post (295 published if you're counting, so 300 is next month...) but here you go - a rough draft of the Fourth Version of the rules.

Dead of Winter, Release Candidate One

It is a lot rougher than I'd like for a release.I fully admit there are blank entries in some charts, tons of optional rules since I haven't gotten enough feedback to settle a few things, a few old examples haven't been altered, and setting information is limited. (That should be a whole other book though...)

What is present?
  • The Character Creation chapter has been reordered, and is hopefully a bit more intuitive.
  • Updated rules for vehicles
  • More of the scarcity system for tracking resources
  • Combat now behaves like everything else - the top two numbers on the die, not just one 
  • Some incomplete random tables for creatures
  • More information about handing out Altruism Points
  • A new character sheet and reference sheet 
  • Changes to the initiative system - its now once per combat, though deadening can be spent to alter the order temporarily.
  • At least some setting information for both Unit 2552 and Anarchy Zones, and a very basic introduction to the Oroborus project.
Generally speaking - this new document is slightly over 80 pages long, the last release was about 50, and the very first edition of the game was only 20. Yet I am still not done. So many stories, so many little errors, such a need to run a con game for feedback. How many more drafts until this is sitting on the shelves at your local book store I don't know, but I hope its not more than two or three.

Thanks for reading, thanks for playing, and aim for the head. 
You OK? You Okay? Damn It! You're worse off than I thought. Well, so sorry to find you're the first one to learn the Zone has gotten a lot more deadly. I'm trying to get some vehicles together, move a bit out, but things are getting more scarce and the creatures have some new abilities of their own. Oh Well. Get out the word. Its time to revise your survival plans.
Oh, um - nothing personal, my friend but you know - got to remove the head, or else they come back.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Links from the End of the World

The Apocalypse was not very friendly to server farms. EMP burned some out, the disruption of the power grind turned most off. A few were even accidentally targeted by alien strike teams - anything drawing that much power and requiring that many heat exchangers must be a weapon of some type - right? Cell towers got knocked down in the fighting, satellites were vaporized, and the whole looting and fighting in the cites broke a lot of the remaining land lines.

For a society addicted to bandwidth, this was almost as bad as the reanimates.The SPHERE system was augmented reality, the internet was notes and warnings superimposed over every object, not pages accessed at a terminal. To be reduced to 1980s text at best is very disorientating to many, though its hard to tell if this has had any big effect on psychology. Funny thing - insane people tend to get eaten by reanimates. Go figure.

There have been attempts to set up cellular towers and begin establishing networks. However, with no satellite relays its a local system at best, highly dependent on line of sight. Cables would be nice - but who is manufacturing spun glass fiber-optics when the dead are beating down their doors?

Shortwave radios and physical couriers have proven to be the most reliable means of sending messages, though a few have yielded response from pigeon carriers. Drones will work in some areas, but the citizens are very aggressive in removing any craft even near their territories. With rather good reason they are wary of humans coordinating attacks on their settlements, and are quite aware of how effective human anti-tank missiles and guided bombs are against their far lighter built units.

In theory, the Citizens do have the capacity to communicate long distances, using their remaining ships as relays. It is very rare for them to take advantage of this fact. Some have speculated that the settlements do not want to talk to each other, and there is a lack of cohesion in the alien ranks. Others believe that most of the Citizens' resources were expended during The Event, and there is precious little equipment left to back a global response even if they wanted to. Rumor has it that people who sufficiently ingrate themselves with the PCs can even get messages sent via their networks. Whether this consists of simply being polite to the guests or actively selling out the human race is up for debate, of course.


Speaking of net connections - Stand by for Thursday's Post.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Commander Titov

One thing to make clear: F--- Communism. Yes, we're a bunch of autocrats in Russia, and yes we use a lot of symbols from the old Stalinist State. But we're not here to make everyone equal, or bring about a world revolution. Most of us anyway. There are some with delusions of grandeur and access to strategic weapons systems - but I doubt anything is going to come of it.

Imagery of the second world war (Thought I was going to call it the "Great Patriotic War?) is good for keeping up the spirits and though Unfortunate Stalin was in charge at the time. The USSR was a real empire which is a source of pride, never mind ninety nine percent of the people around here were born decades after it disintegrated.

In the end though, there is no idealism here. We're just a bunch of soldiers on the Kola peninsula and some wayward civilians who think if they're not safe on a military base, they're not safe anywhere. Great place for it - its an arctic wasteland with the two largest populations centers being Reindeer breeding grounds and nuclear power plants since nobody is around to complain about them.

Well, it has warmed up and melted a lot in the past forty years, so we can at least consider farming or taking shortcuts to Canada - not that there is much reason to do so. Various hydrocarbon deposits and mines have opened up too. Civilization started in the fertile river valleys, and its going to restart in the former wastelands of Siberia and the Baltic. Irony? Nah. Never was much of one for story books.

Resources, retainers, military personnel, and a whole bunch of naval assets. Very few aliens and reanimates though, I don't think they like the cold. Not none - but few. If it weren't for the other forces of Europe trying to wipe us out, or the armed bands who keep trying to break in seeking treasure and fame, we might be on to something.

They can call us vikings all that they want. Simple truth - we have the facilities to make use of those materials, the force to take them, and not much other recourse. We'll take on whatever navys remain, and emerge triumphant. We'll rule the seas or roll through the Fulda Gap. No human, alien, or other is going to keep us bottled up for long.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Once Again, as a Round

I used to love chain songs, I'd sing them all the time to my children. And now I can't. I've got no more children, and they all hit too close to home.

I was just an HVAC - Heating, Venting, and Cooling - technician. what was I going to do about the dead rising, and looters, and aliens? I couldn't even get home until well, weeks later. The NEST went into quarantine mode pretty quickly - just apparently not before the reanimation bug got inside.

This is the cat that killed the rat...

I've had my time to come to terms with that. I think. The death of the rest of the world, I don't know. Its all the little things, but surely they are there, and like the songs, its just so simple, yet it goes.

What is a refrigerator? Take it from an expert - its a magic little box. You'd think woman's liberation and feminism is just from changing views of human nature - and don't get me wrong - self motivation was and is a big part of feminism. But the ice box played a large role in making it possible. No longer did time have to be spent every day going to the market for fresh items - shop once a week and store it at home. Nor did a meat dish require raising the animal yourself - go to a butcher and chill it. The ice packs of "Dr, Mom" and popsicles to keep everyone happy. Insulin for the diabetic - also needed proper storage.

Electric lighting and the oven with temperature thermocouples did much the same thing - grant more free time, more time to study, better oneself, or be productive outside the home.

When the compressors don't run, and the tubing gets moist holes can form, refrigerant gets out, cooling fins corrode... the whole system needs to be replaced.

Meat packing, microchips, spaceflight, medicine production, electrostatic paint, server farms, sugar mills - all these things require temperature control to keep the products fresh, or ensure proper application - even outright prevent dust explosions in some of these cases.

Any chance of getting society back together relies on a supply of C-860 and electric pumps, neither of which are being produced anymore.

We're done for. Its all lost, and we're back to subsistence farming, and pre-colonial days. Can't even say its the Wild West - at least then you had trains and could travel without your brains getting eaten. Worse than the dark ages really, and we know so well what we're losing.

Maybe we'll still have books. Or are we going to go back to parchment? Really, who has a printing press and a way to get them to those who can read? Who has time to read, or a good atmosphere to relax in? Can you even save left-overs? If you want meat, you got to catch the goat yourself.

one little goat, that my father bought for two zizm...

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Traveling the Zone

You have to take a holistic approach to the zone, treat it as a living thing. Kind of like a bear - you don't mess with it, or poke around in its territory, and it won't give you over much grief.

Traveling about with a convoy, collecting every convenience and treasure to be had, will make you a target for bandits. Going along with just a hatchet and your wits - what can they steal - where's the profit? Never mind getting all that stuff probably involved stepping on some toes. The rival recovery team? The village you nearly bankrupted for payment? Maybe some military guys who don't want you picking over their old vehicles and the bones of their comrades?

Don't forget about the reanimates. The more you poke about in urban areas, the more of them you see. Now I can't confirm this, but I just have this strangest feeling that they can remember you. Reanimates know the trouble makers from the good boys. Dumb as any type one is, we've seen them show group intelligence before. They attack in mixed groups with threes commanding attention so Betas can get close, type ones trigger the mine field so that others can get through, even if that trap stops the whole bunch, somehow the creatures know to use a different approach next time. And damn, for creatures that can't speak, they certainly know how to organize a group.

I suppose you're going to wait for me to say "the journey of a thousand miles begins with but a single step" and go on about the preparations you need for any sort of travel. Well screw that, its all a bunch of BS. The more you try to prepare, and the more stuff you pack, the more fuel it takes to move it, the more spares you need to bring to ensure nothing gets left behind if the vehicle breaks down, the more batteries you need - run as fast as you can to stay in one place. As a hippy would say - "you don't own stuff, stuff owns you".

Well, that works for me anyway, though I am a live off the land explorer. Your results may vary, void where prohibited, and see box for further details.

What to expect then? Well remember - if its a hot tip - it isn't. Someone passed that information along, and most things are either known, or lost for a damn good reason. If no one has raided that factory, it may well be because a tailings pond burst its dams and the air is toxic. Otherwise, someone probably has been there already. Not that you won't find anything, but look less for treasure, and more for investment opportunities.

You may face bandits, the type you meet depends - the bold or the well armed take to the often traveled roads, in spite of caravan defenses, the more desperate hunt off the beaten path. Other adventures, possible, but more likely to find reanimates wandering aimlessly. The Citizens do occasionally explore new areas just for the knowledge, but more often than not, if you meet them, they have a mission.

Wild animals can be a problem and a big one. Those stories about tigers in Illinois? Not really stories. You have plenty of animals that got out of zoos either from their own ingenuity or keepers trying to be more merciful than leaving them to starve in their cages. They feed on the carcases of just about anything - especially those stupid toy breeds of dogs - and are used to humans. Kind of a bad trait in a 300 pound predator. Feral domestic dogs are also not afraid of humans either, so watch out for them too.

Don't get me wrong, its still a great place to travel, and most days you'll be alone with your thoughts and the concrete bones of the modern age. Its that one day in twenty where you run across a mutant walking corpse, an alien war-machine, opportunistic bandits, Southerners on a mission from god, and an emu that test your skills.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Next Edition Blues

Fourth Edition. Sounds so lofty. It took D&D a bit over thirty years to do that, for me somewhere between six and seven. Well, I'm sure they had a lot of drafts, and that is what most of my work counts as. Still, the incomplete document I'm revising at the moment surpasses seventy pages, and will likely be over one hundred when its done. The very first released version of this game was twenty pages long.

So what is taking so damn long?!

Well, Altruism Points are one sticking point, since I've thought of a lot of ways to use them, yet don't want to clutter up the game with too many alternate systems. I am also trying to refine the rate at which characters advance and what can increase

A lot of examples need to be rewritten - especially the two page story that serves for a combat example. Initiative has changed, as has what you roll to hit, the number of dice, types of necropoints, and I've recently written up the three characters involved as complete NPCs.

Hand to hand maneuvers have been added and I'm trying to strike a good balance between them. currently they cover things like pinning an enemy to reduce an opponent's SDI, grappling to reduce the target's DR, tripping them to alter initiative, slowing down their speed,and simply trowing the creature across the room to open up distance.

Scarcity has been expanded quite a bit, from just a way of tracking ammunition to possible fear rolls and tracking food.

Have I mentioned there are over 250 stories to edit and consider for inclusion?

Character creation has been reorganized, and more description is being added to most of the skills and special abilities.

GM advice, oh GM advice. When you can think of nothing else, tell the people play the game how to do so...

Vehicles have gotten some new rules, and needed examples since day one anyway. Weapon range and scale might be nice to include next to the new rules for tanks and such - but that might start breaking the simplicity of combat I want to keep.

Examples of towns, outposts, and a whole chapter of sample NPCs to help get the game going quickly once the players have waded thrugh the ever-growing (and hungry) document.

Revising some creature stats for the new rules to make them a bit more dangerous.

Expansion of the alternate settings to make them playable out of the box, rather than two pages of "you can also do this". 2552 is making good progress, Oberous is still pretty thin.

None of this is helped by the sense that I tend to see the entire effort at once, when I should be focusing on small chunks that can be finished in reasonable intervals.

Sorry if this isn't the most elegant post, but hopefully it gives some insight as to where all this will be going soon.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

LOST Sec Interview

You would think that sitting in a naval base with a group of fully equipped cruisers would be the safest place to be in this world. You would be right. And wrong. We're a target, from so many different sides, its hard to tell who is an enemy.

Missiles, we have a plenty. Spare parts - those too. Fuel. That is a problem. Ship oil consumption is measured by the ton. We've got the preservatives and reprocessing additives to prevent it from turning to sludge in the tanks - but there is no way to collect or process enough crops to replenish our supply. There are only so many sorties we can run before the ships will be useless. I won't say how many, of course. You claim to be from the government, and have the confirmation codes to back up, but with all due respect Mr. Mauser - information like that is probably well above your security clearance.

We've had our fights about what to do. Every idea has had its time in the limelight - from one last hurrah for the Navy taking nuclear warheads to any known alien infestation to taking them out to sea and opening all the valves to deny anyone the use of the vessels and claim we never surrendered. Sure, there has been some scuttlebutt about going pirate like the Soviet fleet - but it never had much traction. On the other hand, one of the captains had a popular idea that we travel to then end of our fuel, heading for the North Sea, then engage in the war we've planned for the last hundred years - fighting what remains of the Russian fleet and saving Europe from those raiders.

Poetic. But have we not responsibilities closer to home?

Of course there have been offers from New Birmingham crazies, and I won't lie, they have some sympathy in this fleet. Various factions in the Mexican nations have also made offers - they have less sympathy - but a hell of a lot more money, oil, women and booze than our local god squad if you catch my drift. Many of us have family at, or at least visit the LoneStar complex, so there is that reason to just stay put.

The only ones that haven't offered us an overture is the aliens themselves. At least I don't think they have - we see some of their vessels approach surprisingly often - we keep some smaller patrol craft out and about just in case they try to do something.

Otherwise, its just damn boring. This base was built for aircraft carriers, so we don't have anywhere near the over crowding of the boys in Vegas. We also don't have the blind loyalty of they do - Mister Mauser. You're not the only one who has claimed to be a representative of the USA, not even the only one with official looking code documents. There have been claimants to the throne from the North East, and down in Florida or Gitmo. We might be the US Navy, but we want to make sure it is the right US.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Brian Gunderson

Brian is having a bad day. But it can't last forever. One of these days, he is going to wake up and it will all be over. All the cannibals and raiders will just be a bad dream. Soon it he will be secure in the fact that he did not waste the first fifty years of his life following every rule, crossing every T, saving every penny, and enforcing even the most esoteric statues of federal labor law. Certainly all the money he put in the bank hasn't just dissipated with a burst of electrons and a little war - right?

One of these days he is going to have a psychotic episode and jump off a building after realizing he is useless in this new world. Fortunately, he has some good friends, a couple of ex-wives to search for, and a briefcase full of  prescription medicine. 

Brian Bjorn Gunderson

  • Strength  4
  • Wits  4
  • Technique  6
  • Quick  6
  • Close Combat  2
  • Ranged Combat  2

  • Animus  12
  • Deadening  8
  • Lucidity  10
  • Pack  10
  • Up-Rise  10

  • Wood Working
  • Swimming
  • Location Perk: City Inspector


Brian is rail thin, but not all that tall. Even when he fails to shave for days at a time, he never has more than a shadow of a beard and a scruffy mustache.  Even in his suit, homeowners have mistaken him for the Mexican gardener - a pretty mean feat for someone with European parents who grew up in Wisconsin.

To his credit, Brian has kept his car running even after the EMP since he insisted on keeping it in underground climate controlled parking lots to preserve its resale vale. At some point he acquired a handgun, probably left behind by ex-wife number two (the one from Texas... or was it Arizona?). He also has suits, rubbing alcohol, air fresheners, tax forms, and a variety of other suburban nick-knacks

While we like to believe that anyone can survive a disaster with a bit of quick thinking and pre-planning, the fact is there are some that just would not be able to. Brian is one of these people, and frankly his continued survival seems as much about a cruel universe toying with him as any sort of saving grace. He is the definition of a put in his dues and always on time "Walter Mitty" type of person whose choices are never based on what is fun, or even what is optimal - but on what is the cheapest and and within the rules.

Brians numerous Ex-wives never said he was a hurtful or mean person - simply a joyless and neglectful one who preferred punctuality and scheduled over intimacy and experience. A boring miser fit to be the foil to fun loving children on a low budget afternoon cartoon show.

Recently all that has been undergoing a mild change. He is till a penny-pinching bore - but he does feel a initial need to make his life worthwhile and do something to improve the lives of others.

Use in a Game
Brian is in denial about the depth of the situation, and probably more afraid of the idea that he has wasted his life than of anything trying to eat him. On one hand, he can just be a drag on the group, and quickly eaten to show the group the GM is serious. Brian does have his uses, however. Finding medication for him can be a minor adventure hook, as can be his instance on finding his ex-wive or old co-workers to make sure they're still alive and OK.

In the end, he does care for other people, its just he feels that any displays of this should wait until after everything else has been taken care of and he's retired to Hawaii.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Hobbes in the Morning

Apparently I got 342 hits on the blog in October, and 355 hits in November when I was writing nothing. Not a great sign. To those of you who aren't spam bots - thank you for your patience. Without further ado...

Good Morning Wasteland!

Another great day in what remains of the USA. The predicted temperature is really cold and snowy - but you're not stuck on a mountainside for radio wave line of sight, so enjoy your warmer day until winter catches up with you as well.

Something rots in Denmark! Shortwave reception says that the Kola Command Authority is on the march again, making some of its final raids before the Ports get too iced up! Everyone is happy that icebreaker got sunk which limits winter raids - but the missile boats want vengeance!

Several farms have changed hands during the month of hacienda wars south of the border, but we have no figures on casualties, and there seem to have been no great upsets in the balance of power.

The US government wishes to remind everyone that the postal service is vital to the reconstruction, and the penalty for raiding a mail convoy is summary execution. The reward for arrest or destruction of the raiders who have been interdicting caravans in the South East territories has been raised once again. It is now 200 liters biodiesel fuel, one four wheel drive light military transport, a generator, and five liters nano-vaccine.

Transmissions from a station in Altoona have gone silent. This is a great chance to play the hero and find out what happened.

Reanimate forecasts for the local area are low.

We have reports of heavy reanimate activity and type Lambda sightings around Ashland and advise caution to those in the area.
Remember, they hibernate and can come about without warning when you're desperately seeking shelter or food in the snowy months - so stockpile now and avoid the rush.

For those of you who missed the announcement last week at 15:00 we'll be starting a new program of music for citizens, lasting approximately an hour each day. We've tried to limit it to instrumental pieces to avoid unknowingly offending anyone, and from blowing out your speakers with naturally high pitched citizen speech. Still, you might want to watch the volume.

That concludes this mornings announcements. Now to be followed by classical "Beethoven with breakfast" music schedule and after that some medical tips courtesy of Paramedic Ms. Feral.

Be careful in the zone.

104.3 or similar radio stations can play a vital role in your Anarchy Zone games. Each broadcast might introduce plot hooks, warnings about areas to avoid, or simply show the progress of time and reveal background details. Being mentioned in the dispatches can be a special reward to the players for a job well done - an indication their characters are now (almost) famous. Getting together supplies to start their own station could be the focus of a long term game.

Furthermore, it can be a good ritual to get all the players ready for the session - sit down, play the teletype sounds, and read off the news to set the mood. Last session go poorly -reports of infighting, lost settlements, and reanimate attacks. Things going well? Share recipes or advertise products to show commerce is returning to the lands and trade routes reforming. Keep the practice up long enough, and one night an errie silence and lack of announcements can have a meaning all its own.