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.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Little Things

Everybody will know the big changes years from now, but there are a lot of smaller details the museums aren't covering. Everyday occurrences, that are so often lost - you can name the presidents of the US, but not what they usually ate for breakfast - right?

Cats were everywhere after the event. Independent ones that escaped, or hand raised little kittens. It was really kind of symbolic of protecting and feeling like you made a difference in something's life. People would rescue cats, or try to avoid ever giving them up during the event. And of course, their services as pest exterminators was needed more than ever.

There was a lot less sweetness in cooking. Who is going to be growing sugar after all, or importing it from an island? Most people would choose sugar cane over potatoes, but we all know which would get planted anyway. And of course, no one was distributing soda, or packaging donuts - or even the ingredients to make them.

Lights after dark became hard to come-by. At the most harmless, they attracted bugs, but raiders or reanimates could see burning lanterns as well. No electricity meant alternate light sources were often fire hazards, and in ramshackle accommodations, a fire could get out of control quickly.

Guitar strings rust, pianos can't be moved, music players need batteries, and playing cards quickly get bent or dirty. A lot of common games and music just wasn't so practical.

You would be surprised how hard it was to find a working pen after a while. No one thought to grab dozens of them while running from reanimates, and they run dry, freeze, or crack. Pencils fared a little better, but more writing ended up on personal devices than parer after a while.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

It Lives

I've been dealing with some non-gaming issues and haven't kept up the blog as I would have liked. Nor have I gotten as much work done on the game itself as hoped. My plans to get a play-test going locally fell through. Spam sites like "Vampirestat" are still the number one source of hits on this page, rather than people who actually read it. About the best thing I can say is that for once "readership" went down when there were no posts so they seem to be tapering off.

There are nearly 400 posts on this blog - if conditions had allowed, I'd be over that number just about now. That is something to be proud of at least. My simple twenty page game I wrote for one Halloween has become my number one project and most developed setting, with more material than almost everything else I've done combined.

Rather than rush out another Dead of Winter edition, I'm going for a bit more of an in depth plan.

First of all, the game is at about eighty pages, so I'm going to shoot for a cap of 100 (possibly 128 like old school folios). This will be five to eight pages each on the two simpler settings - 2552 and Oroborus, while the Anarchy Zone setting will remain mostly an introduction in the main book. Information about GMing, sample locations, and more monsters, sample vehicles, and some equipment will hopefully make an appearance as well.

Secondly, I want to take some photographs of old industrial areas and abandoned buildings around here so as to have some more illustration and get the graphic layout better. A real artist would be nice, but some place holders and planning will help.

More editing of AZ material and collecting it into short story collections will happen at some point.

Finally, I want to open up a pay-pal account and make the document available as "Pay what you want" on publishing sites like DriveThroughRPG. It still feels too incomplete to demand a full price, but the increased visibility and the nice thought of earning something off of it could be a nice motivation.

I also want to start some sort of Podcast or Vlog. It will probably be more general RPG topics than just "Dead... and Back".

D&D has been under revision and evolution for over thirty years. I hope that you can forgive that a one man project is taking a while as well.

Happy new year, and aim for the head.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

10 Things about the Anarchy Zone

  1. Pure Lands
    • Nature has been quick to recover from the absence of humanity. Rivers already look cleaner without discharges, the air lacks haze, and the nights are quiet but full of stars that were normally outshone by electric lights. Many houses are already infiltrated by vines or small plants, weeds and bushes are turning suburbs into tangled jungle already. Animal territories are expanding across the highways.
  2. Corrupt Lands
    • While no one has found a reactor that exploded like Chernobyl yet, many other industrial plants have suffered mechanical failures,  leaking pesticides, industrial solutions, and tailings into the environment.
  3. Hamlets and Villages
    •  In many places, groups of twenty to a hundred people have settled - often starting as one or two families and inviting in a few others. In some places, small communities have reclaimed all or part of suburbs and continue to live in subdivisions of pre-Event towns. The limits of subsistence agriculture limit most of those not used to the work to smaller settlements. Going beyond this stage or finding a patron to assist are major goals of many outside the known city-states.
  4. Unexpected Loot vs Needed Items
    • What  people remembered to take with them, and what they did not can often lead to interesting finds. Hundreds of cameras, watches, tons of silverware and jewelery are all out for the taking, but flashlights and pocket knives are amazingly rare.
  5. 10,000 Guns, Zero Bullets
    • More problematic than what has been lost is what is still being used. While many places have taken to hand-loading when they have the materials, the average person can't make nitrocellulose or mine lead. 
  6. Pockets of Tech
    • How the EMP bounced through the ionosphere was somewhat random, as was the status of many items - whether they were off, on, in a car, or out on a table, plugged in or on battery - all factored into its survival. While most of the subsystems that ran modern society did shut down, or at least popped their breakers temporarily, large areas with working technology still exist.
  7. 1880's All Over Again
    • Communication and delivery are a booming business in the zone. So too is setting up canals or clearing routes between villages. Judges and lawyers ride circuits from town to town, town hall meetings are as much about being social as simple votes. Gas-lamps and kerosene have returned in force. Nothing so fanciful as steampunk, but in many ways it is like the industrial revolution.
  8. Press Gangs and Patrols
    • One of the larger threats in the zone is City-State forces. They are always looking for experienced guides, couriers, or soldiers. Good mechanics and knowledgeable farmers are also in high demand. At best they accept volunteers temporarily. But all too often they will take people away by force as necessary to serve.
  9. Predator Explosion
    • With the end of human extermination campaigns both planned and incidental, the population of vermin and seasonally hunted animals exploded. It takes a few years for the population of predators to catch up, and it often overshoots the mark. Although few are man-eaters or desperate yet, the chance of encountering wolves, bears, coyotes, lions and other creatures is quite high.
  10. New Creatures
    • The most Northern dwelling primate is of course, Human beings, but the second is the Japanese Snow Macaque monkey. You might not find alligators in Chicago, nor polar bears in the deep South, but creatures from another continent can be found here and there, in some exotic places there are even breeding populations. Although rumors abound, the Citizens haven't begun cloning any of their larger fauna, so for the time being, it is only terrestrial creatures of note.

Monday, November 25, 2013

10 Things about Planetary Citizens

  1. Glass and Carbon Without Steel
    • Citizen technology progressed in a different order than human industry. They always had less easily accessible metal and less hydrocarbons. (Rather like Japan, without the stagnation of the Shogunate.) Most of their constructs are far more reliant of materials like ceramics, fiberglass, and carbon composite laminates than on metal or plastic.
  2. Individual Personalities
    • It is hard to get a sense of the individual when they are only encountered in combat situations, but Citizens do show as much variability as humans. Some do mark their vehicles with family, guild, or national marks or other distinct paint patterns, and can easily become reoccurring friends or enemies.
  3. Making Friends
    • There are places where the live and let live mentality goes on to mutual cooperation. Usually this takes the form of Citizens delivering messages, or using their helicopters as sky cranes in recovery and building projects. Mutual defense, scouting, bartering salvage,or hunting bandits are also possibilities.
  4. Start Simple
    • Despite the obvious use of Faster-Than-Light travel to get to Earth, the Planetary Citizens show very little in the way of technology beyond human understanding. Part of it is because the colony was a mostly civilian effort, and thus the most advanced shielding mechanisms were unavailable. Mostly, however, is that there would be no factories waiting for them when they landed, so everything needed to be simple to maintain until an actual infrastructure could be set up.
  5.  Lacking Strongholds
    •  Hard rock mines, power plants, aircraft factories - all of these are long term projects that the citizens have had trouble setting up so far. Human attacks, reanimates, and scattered landing sites continue to push back completion dates.
  6. Parliament by the Numbers
    •  Unlike the various human social experiments throughout the zone, Citizens have maintained a respect for their parliamentary democracy, even with the inefficiency that come with it.
  7. Outnumbered, but no Outgunned
    • The human population is still close to a billion people, PC numbers are barely ten percent of that. On the other hand, they still have aircraft and beam weaponry that requires recharging rather than reloading. Extended conflicts are far more in their favor.
  8. Military Intelligence
    • Citizens have some capability of maintaining satellite surveillance, and have far greater access to aircraft than all but the biggest human factions. The orbiting machines move in predictable patterns, and the flying ones are not up constantly. But generally, they can see everything that isn't painstakingly hidden from them.
  9. Hit and Run
    • Humans have familiarity with the terrain, and anti-armor weapons. A long fight might go their way, but not a big one. Thus they are unwilling to attack large enclaves (and certainly not a city-state) directly.
  10. Separate and Unequal
    • Most zones controlled by the aliens are no larger than a city - ten or twenty square miles of terrain, and patrols or laser towers set up at farther intervals. These territories can be dozens or even hundreds of miles apart, effectively making them states to themselves. Available resources and presence of human civilization mean that actual claimed size and power can vary wildly.

Monday, November 11, 2013

10 Things about Las Vegas

  1. Military HQ
    • There are other places where a company to battalion sized group of soldiers can be found, but rarely do they have much - if any - equipment intact. At least some of them seek to rejoin at Vegas. It is a tough journey, and their units are often separated and reintegrated with others, making for a heartbreaking end. 
  2. No More Area 51
    • Although rumors persist of prototype weapons, secret caches of aircraft, or factories ready to pump out new rifles - no wasteland scav nor the government is going to find them. For now the US has the biggest and most impressive arsenal, but much of it can only be maintained through diligent labor, warehousing until absolutely necessary, or rampant cannibalization. Equipment recovery will often come before personnel, since they can recruit and train new soldiers easily.
  3. The Gun Club
    • This is the rumored cabal in charge of reintegrating settlements into the old United States. Publicly, they are known to offer the olive branch, funding, support, and arms to those who pay tithes to Vegas. Towns that refuse to cooperate tend to see food shortages, coups, raider attacks, plagues, and otherwise disappear...
  4. Civ Gov and Mil Gov
    • The military holds a lot of power in the day to day operations of the city, and some degree of veto power over who can enter or leave the city. (Usually in the form of no un-escorted people can leave, and we can't spare soldiers for such duty). However, the generals only make up a portion of the ruling council, which also includes presidential cabinet members, hospital staff, the city's mayor, and heads of the utility maintenance gangs. 
  5. Experiment Rumors
    • Vegas maintains the best health care and immunization rates of anywhere in the former US. However, the constant medical monitoring and monthly injections have made some people nervous. Tales of type five experimental reanimates, mind control, intentional sterilization and aphrodisiacs to control the next generation - few things are too wild to be dismissed out of hand.
  6. Outside Allies
    • Washington DC is mostly a burnt symbol, and many military centers were hit by orbital bombardment. However, the Planetary Citizens generally chose to hit transportation arteries to tie up supplies and divert attention from war fighting to relief efforts. Many capitals and government facilities remain intact, and at least nominally assisting the effort. Elements of the Canadian and Mexican governments also help where they can.
  7. The Lights are Still On
    • Food supplies can be rough at times, water usage limits constantly imposed, and curfews a way of life. Yet schools, buses, trains, casinos, and shops still run to some extent. Vegas continues to be very metropolitan, while the outlying areas usually exist in a state akin to the early 1940s during the wartime rationing. 
  8. Wasteland Patrol
    • Far more than any other city state, Las Vegas projects beyond its borders, and makes honest attempts at restoring the nation. A primitive postal service, new cellular towers, and traveling circuit judges are available to those who are willing to accept an agreement with the government. They are often rebuffed as relics, outsiders, or power hungry. 
  9. President Grey is on Borrowed Time
    • Legally, Grey is past the end of his second term as president, and while martial law is in effect, he is not a dictator and would like honest elections held soon. 
  10. Old Habits Die Hard
    • Even as the old US lies in ruins, there are still some within the government that longer term plans of how to stop others from rebuilding, and extend their dominion beyond the old national borders. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Biopreparat Location A-112, “Conservatory”

Before I came to this place, it never really occurred to me that goats were edible. Now it seems that the few times we do get much meat, it's always some sort of sheep. Local herders far and wide across Azerbaijan. We get more stuff from as “nearby acquisition” than should be allowed in any modern army. If we could be called that anyway – most of our weapons are the same ones our grandfathers used thrifty-five years ago during the world war! You can get an AK-74 on the Chinese border, but we have PPSh submachineguns?

Someone knows we're here, and ships stuff constantly. Locked box cars and tankers full of unknown chemicals make their way to underground storage facilities.  A pair of An-12s sit in one of the hangers, a half dozen Mi-8s sit in shelters not far from the runway. They rarely move, yet always seem stocked and ready for combat. BMD-1 infantry fighting vehicles are loaded in their retro-rocket cradles ready to be drooped into a fight, and two of the helicopters are equipped with rockets and napalm tanks.  Yet this just a refueling stop airport, not home to a unit of desant nor air-transport. According to the official papers, we're just a border patrol and internal security unit – glorified riot police, subordinate to the KGB, not the army.

Pale scientist looking types occasionally bubble up from somewhere underneath the strip like an artisan spring. They wander around for a bit, sun their livid bodies, and then disappear into the siding where the trains go. I never see the trains leave. I wonder where the exit is.

Perhaps the direct opposites of the scientists are the odd soldiers we see around here. Not part of our group at least. Everyone of them has the stature and movement of an Olympic athlete – prime candidates for spetznaz troops. Yet a second glace makes it seem as if they are somewhere past dead. Their faces are usually dark – almost burned – black veins run close under the skin, eyes red, and every centimeter of their arms show injection scars. They sound like other soldiers, a few are even friendly on the rare chances the airport staff talk to them. Yet they also disappear into the train tunnel.

Overall, this is a pretty easy assignment. Its hot, but a dry heat. You're not going to get a promotion out of this, but you don't have to spit shine your boots daily either. Just keep in mind a few simple rules. Do not ask about what is on the trains. Do not ask what the numeral 2552 means. Do not ask about Biopreparat. And for gods sake – if anyone mentions the term “Manor House” avoid eye contact, do not speak, call attention to yourself, or volunteer!. Those who do go into the train tunnel.

Plenty of worse places to be than Azerbaijan. Very few quite as odd however.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

October 2013

I haven't been having a great couple of months, and the materiel on this site is thinner that I would hope. Its been harder to keep my commitment to you than I'd like.

To make it up, let me show off some of the other work that I have produced.

A Teenage Texas Road Trip 
While still in draft form, is a longer piece of fiction set in the zone, and deals with a group of teenagers exploring the area outside of the Lone Star arcology. It contains an encounter with both the Planetary Citizens and Type One/Alpha reanimates. I think the story gives a good impression of entering a new town and dealing with the aliens.

The Last of Second Platoon, Charlie Company
This story is a fairly good example of how I want to eventually anthologize the sort of stories on this blog. While some of it should be recognizable from the archives, they are linked fairly well and the last section gives a good feeling for both operating a power armor and fighting Beta reanimates.

On My Way to Birobidzhan
This has no relation whatsoever to Dead... and Back, I just want to show I can write things that aren't related to zombies, and do so pretty well in fact.

Remington, IBM, Smith-Corona, and Underworld Typewriter Repair
Also unrelated to the game, but part of a different demon infested  cosmology I occasionally write about.

Let us not forget - its October 31st. Time for a music video to inspire your games. This time around, its scenes from "Hellsing"

There is no reason you can't replicate vampires in my game, and I certainly hope the above gives some good pointers on how to destroy ghouls with style.

Good luck with your gaming, and aim for the head!