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, May 30, 2013

Lost Contact

"The Net has been down for days now. Nothing good can come of this."
  "So just use the radio."
  "Doesn't work like that, we don't have one."
  "What do you mean, you don't have a radio? How can you not have a radio? There are no servers, there is no mail, there is no telephone, the satellites were shot down... There is Nothing BUT Radio!"
  "Just exactly where have you been the last forty five years? Cellular networks man. Better than radio in every way. Don't need big transmission towers, not prone to static, and sms is non-synchronous. If the guy at home is away from the radio - no message is received  A text you can read whenever you want, and remains a note in stressful situations. If you can find some transmitters - not too hard since service trucks are grounded at act as Faraday cages - its easy to set up and easier to communicate."
  "So everything about reanimates you ever need to know is expressed in a few dozen words?"
  "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Whiskey Delta Tango Charlie Charlie, Golf Tango Foxtrot Oscar."
  "Foxtrot Uniform to you as well!"
  "What was that - your breaking up."

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

What Are Monsters?

There are a lot of optional rules in the most current version of the game. Alternate ways of reading the damage dice, building settlements, simpler vehicle stats, ammunition types, and new ways spend altruism points. I will admit, part of this is the difficulty of me winnowing stuff from my game. It seems such a shame to just redact these options away, as they can be useful tools for your game. Its all a matter of defining your monsters.

One school of horror holds that monsters are things beyond your means and reason. Fears you can't placate, negotiate, or truly overcome. You might delay, or prolong survival, but you'll lose something in the process.

Hence options to make ammunition more scarce by requiring reloads to be of a specific caliber, and other that make hits count only half as often as the normal rules. In turn, carrying multiple guns to allow for ammunition shortages, or relying on close combat, can be a dangerous move or at least eat up invintory space - Up-rise only allows for so many items in combat. An optional stress rule can eat up deadening points, and another means that supplies must be used to restore the lost fatigue, not just points earned.

However, there are enough things in everyday life that are crushing your spirit - from boring jobs to fear of flying, or bad dreams of evil people abducting your children. Are games not a way to escape that depression for a time?

Thus the other line of thought - that monsters are gruesome obstacles to be overcome. Better yet, there are no repercussions to solving this problem. Foreclosing on a poor family's home or losing your own job at the bank - no good out come there. Blowing the head of a zombie? Knock back a cold one and celebrate!

Speaking of celebrations - is this a great achievement for the character, or just a side story to the true rebuilding of a nation? One of the options allows the group's advancement points to be spend on actually restoring civilization and creating a settlement. On the other hand, the points could just be used to allow the characters to achieve ever more epic feats?

Many of these things depend on the Game Master's Tone and description as well. A town might be an obligation that drains needed AP from characters, or their collective victory over the unrelenting hordes of undead.

Characters in Dead and Back start off fairly competent, even if the average starting values are maintained as is. Its altering the strength and prevalence of threats, and the immediacy of obligations that that make a session a walk in a zombie filled park, or a mad dash for survival.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

I Want a New Drug

Notes on the ROM-ER-Zero Complex by T. Savini

I. Introduction
Some have opined that "Ghoul" is the fastest growing danger to health, safety, and security in this nation. I would say the some think to small - this may very well be an international threat of unforeseen proportions. A bastardized perverted illicit formulation of a widely available clinical compound, the famous Robin-Onkhet-Michael regeneration therapy drug, abuse rapidly leads to dependance, violent action, and disregard for the consequences.

II. The Robin-Onket-Michael Complex
The ROM Complex - when used properly - one of the greatest wonder-drugs mankind has developed, on par with aspirin, tetracycline, and artificial hormones. Without being overly technical - it sends all the bodies into overdrive and rapidly heals the subject - perhaps not as dramatic as the abilities of a certain Marvel Comics character, though that is the comparison often made - and none the less, impressive. This unexpected and unnatural level of activity has a great number of repercussions for the body - tumors, pustules, migraines, weakened blood-vessels, unexpected hormonal changes, general muscle pain, extreme hunger... Well, it has a lot of potential side effects, but is for all intensive purposes internal surgery in a bottle. Epi-pen injector actually.

Usually this mixed with other drugs that help limit the side effects by targeting areas of the body more specifically. ROM-CP patches up the cardiopulmonary system, CS is Cerebro-Spinal for back injuries, and the like. ER, or emergency room is the least controlled and is meant for multiple injuries at once, such as on the battlefield or after a major accident.

A further complex of drugs given a numerical value are also added to the mix. From one to six are anesthetics to keep the patient either sedated or even unconscious for ease of handling and easing of pain. Seven through zero on the other hand awake, aware, and out of shock - zero being especially potent and keeping soldiers ready for battle, despite grievous injuries.

III. Romero Effects
Romero - shorthand for ROM-ER-Zero is the most effective and distressing formulation we know of, meant for rapid healing and retention of combat effectiveness in dire situations. At least in theory, it goes from an organic epoxy injection to broad band healing in seconds, and in less than three minuets, can transform a soldier nearly dead from sever shrapnel woulds to the abdomen and thorax into a fearless combatant.

That is the problem though. The mix of drugs makes them hyper-sensitive, nearly immune to injury, and quite completely immune to pain, leading to extreme risk-taking and often berserk rage. Although still able to fight, the soldiers brothers in arms might prefer if they did not. Furthermore, the let-down afterwards is quite capable of killing the trooper anyway. Thus the Zero formulation is designed to last a minimum of seventy-two hours to ensure that the emergency has passed and there is time to get them to a proper hospital that can deal with both the drug's effects and lingering injury.

IV. Ghoul

A super-effective stimulant that can keep a person alert and partying for three days on end, while making them quite insulated from the bad choices they make by way of healing any injuries - and a sense of both power and invincibility due to steroidal and adrenal affects. Provided they can either cope with or don't care about the after-effects, ROMERO could be considered "One hell of a drug" for the simple chemical abuser. It the hands of someone who seeks to harm others, rather than just themselves, its seen as a pseudo super-serum, as almost no weapon available to police can stop a person injected with the stuff.

ROM is widely manufactured, both for paramedic and emergency room use, and for use in areas of the third world where surgery is difficult to come by. While we are not aware of any illicit manufacturing facilities, theft from ambulances and clinics is rapidly becoming a major problem for health care providers. If face, the threat or actual conduct of armed robbery is beginning to have a noticeable impact on response times for paramedics.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Zombies Want Cake

Today I turn 30. I'm not exactly in the place I expected to be at this time, but then again I never really planned that far in advance anyway. If you're not going anywhere, why rush?

Since the Anarchy Zone takes place in 2055, that would make me seventy-two at the time, and not too likely to survive the hardships. Then again, I can't think of any time in my life I would do all that well in a zombie apocalypse. I've still tried to think of some ways to cope with it, and they're rather prosaic. Specifically:

  1. The most important skill you can have is "dealing with A-holes gracefully" - just because other survivors have the knowledge or resources for survival, doesn't mean you will like them.
  2. Never stay somewhere with less than two exits
  3. Claw Hammer: No sharpening, no ammunition, built in crow bar, good leverage for breaking skulls, available everywhere - its the perfect tool.
  4. Use ear protection when operating firearms - hearing loss and the undead don't mix.
  5. Strength in numbers - it works for them, make it work for you.
  6. Don't forget your dice - keeping a positive attitude and escaping stress with games keeps everyone more alert and away from each other's throats.
  7. The undead are easy, its the living that cause problems.
  8. Zombie Movies are warnings, not instruction manuals. This goes double for video games.
  9. Take time to enjoy the view, when are you going to have this experience again?
  10. This too shall pass.
(Number Eleven would be - "Hey baby, lets repopulate the world" does not work as a pick-up line.)

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Passing the Message

Poor communication kills. We need to know exactly how many bullets are left, where the nearest shelter is, and how many reanimates there are, not "some", "to the right (No, stage right!)" and "sort of a lot". But you also have to be careful you're not revealing to much to the opposition, lest they use it against you.

I find that when it comes to citizens, the simpler, the better. They still have plenty of computers and cryptographers around - scrambled transmissions and cypher codes are too easy to break. However, they are not very familiar with idioms or slang - so take a page from the Navajo code talkers - substitute words, preferably in a technical or foreign language. I've heard Latin has had some success . I wouldn't trust it however, being the root of other languages, they may be able to work backwards. Hebrew, Hindi, and other non-romance languages are preferable - at least if you're not in that part of the world. (Citizen Outposts adapt to the local environment, just like a good scavenger should!)

More complex codes work against humans, if you can manage it - which you probably can't. Really - you're evacuating from the house because undead are breaking down the door - do you grab an extra gun or the two to the 256 to the 256th bit encoding mechanism? Did you even have one in the first place? Yeah, communication is pretty easy to monitor these days, especially since you just need the right HAM radio channel for most of it. Good couriers are well paid these days, and military communications gear may soon top even farm equipment as the number one in demand item. That is one of the advantages of Vegas - they have the communication thing licked - if only they had outsiders worth talking too!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Count the Days

The ultimate goal of Mankind is to stop counting days.

To be so assured of food supply that we can stop counting down to the harvest, or to the new spring.
To be so assured of health that death is too far away to bother counting.
To be so assured of philosophy or religion  that even if we can't make our days infinite, we are not bothered by their end.
To be so assured of loved one's safety that we are not counting the days until they return.
To be so assured of peace that we are not counting down to the next war.

It would be a damned lie to say we were anywhere near this end of counts before The Event. But we were hopeful. Telepresence, micro-factories, nano-vac - we seemed to be getting the wants and safety covered, even if there were so many philosophies and conflicts that allowed for a deeper reassurance. Well, maybe it was only for a select few and we were living in a cyberpunk future. Then again, the world was cyberpunk ever since they installed metal detectors at O'Hare Airport and we accepted the reality that unattended luggage would be take away and detonated. Turbojets didn't transform the masses into the glamorous "Jet Set" - they became cattle in aluminum tubes instead.

It shouldn't take an Apocalypse to make you grateful for what you had. Then again, even that didn't work, and there are still people craving more and seeking We're always going to be petty and competitive, and neither the undead or aliens are going to change it.

You can count on that.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

New World Airships

The modern Zeppelin uses two different lifting gases - hydrogen and hot air. No helium, and I'm sure you think that is kind of strange. Even airship captains ponder that choice from time to time, but it seems to have been the right one.

Helium is inert and a strong lifting agent, but its expensive and hard to come by, and frankly, you don't want to vent it if you can. Its also strategically important for certain industrial processes and super-cooling various computer components or medical scanners - the amount needed to lift an airship would cost more than all the other parts combined.

Hydrogen is well known to be flammable, and small - you can make tanks of solid steel or titanium, and the stuff will still slowly but surely leak out the crystal matrix of the metals. But that tiny size means more lift than helium, and you can manufacture it from natural gas or just plain water. Since no one is running helium collection operations at the moment, manufacturing hydrogen is a definite boon.

Hot air isn't as buoyant as the others, but you can manufacture it easily aboard the ship, and thus very actively control the ship in changing meteorological conditions.

Due to the strange and round about way the modern Zeppelin came about, more survived the event than heavier than air craft. Modern LTAs are based on an idea for space blimps - the atmosphere of most planets is either too thin, or non-existent for a normal drone aircraft to work, but a gasbag will float just fine. In turn, an airship is faster than a rover, but slower and closer to the surface than a satelite, some can even touch down for area studies. So yes, modern LTAs are built to standards needed to survive spaceflight.

It also helps that they're stored inside large metal shelters to protect the gasbags when not in use, rather than on the tarmac like planes. They weren't meant to be Faraday cages, but it was a happy coincidence.

Surviving the Event is different from surviving the aliens themselves. Its one thing to stage a transatlantic flight, or between two know safe areas. But you're not going to get to California by air - lasers, missiles, and alien warplanes are far too common to attempt that. Nor are these things cheap to run, at least relative to the resources available. But if you can afford it, a few tons can be transported, no problem. Pay up-front, of course.