Ten years ago, the world ended. Today you’ve been chosen to bring it back.
A resistance to the alien overlords who govern the Earth is forming. Small, ill-equipped, and de-centralized, it had been in hiding, staying out of the regime’s gaze. It needs capable leaders, people who have the skills and audacity to take the fight to the regime.
That’s why they’ve tipped their hand, revealing themselves to the regime.
That’s why they busted you out of prison.
On the run, out of options, and marked for death, your characters are part of the resistance seeking to topple the proxies of the aliens who now rule the planet. You have nothing but your wits and out-dated weaponry. You face a technologically advanced force that vastly outnumbers you.
The only way you will survive is if you adapt, resist, and finally overcome.
Welcome to Resistance: EARTH.
Resistance: EARTH is an adaptation of Modern and Fifth Edition, blending the robust customization and granular options of OGL and Fifth Edition with the character-centric, narrative-focused style of story games.
TL,DR: I support the protest of police violence against the Black community and demand police reform. Due to current circumstances, I am unwilling to release a game of military action, and will re-purpose it as a SF-action game of resistance against alien overlords in a near future Earth.
If you disagree that systemic racism is an issue in the US, Canada, and pretty much around the globe, and that we—as the privileged—need to support the Black community, please don’t support me. You don’t want to give me your money as it will be going to support the Black community and police reform.
Okay, the details:
I hope everyone is well and safe. These are truly trying times, and while Canadian streets are not seeing the same kind of protest as many US streets are, we are not insensate to what is happening. Change must occur in Canada as much as the US—I honestly don’t know a country in which racial equality is not a problem.
And if you disagree with that, you would probably be happier not following me and not supporting my work, because I feel very strongly about this. I have been supporting food banks the last couple of months, but I will be supporting causes that have come to the fore in this crisis, causes that are supported by the Black community and especially Black creators and members of the tabletop RPG community.
Having said all that, the militarization revealed in the police force, the use of National Guard troops, and the threat of using US service personnel to police US streets has made me feel very queasy about working on and publishing a game about the military right now. Much like WARMONGER changed because of the COVID-19 virus, I feel Direct Action must change due to current circumstances.
The game will remain the same, I’ve been running two concurrent alpha playtests and the rules are getting close to a viable form. There are much less changes than initially planned, mostly because d20 and 5E were pretty solid platforms to begin with.
So, instead of Direct Action, I’ll be releasing Resistance: EARTH. Themes resonant with the current crisis is appreciated but unplanned. I had playtesters who were not at all interested in playtesting modern SOF, so Resistance: EARTH became a setting we could playtest the rules in.
Resistance: EARTH is kind of a post-apocalyptic action-adventure RPG. You play part of a resistance against alien overlords 10 years after an invasion. A primer is available at my Patreon which provides some insight into what I am proposing.
Thank you as always for your support. Please feel free to cancel that support. You won’t be missed.
You were born into a world threatened by demons, protected by the benevolent Eternal. Now, the acolytes of the Eternal hunt you, ready to spill your blood, and you’ve found out the demons are real, and they are part of a war in the heavens. This world—your world—was built on lies, but its truths hold many more terrors.
Quantum and GOD: Gates of Hell is the sequel to Q&G: Rebirth (released through my Patreon but not generally available right now), and is an adventure for 3-6 player characters. It will be released with both mechanical information for Fifth Edition and for Sword’s Edge. Fifth Edition characters should be of levels 3-5. While the story provided does not require characters of good alignment, given that the goal is to save the world, good or at least non-evil characters are the most suitable for this adventure.
This adventure is intended mostly as a framework, but if played through with only the events and encounters related, will likely last two to four evenings, depending on the number of players and the speed with which they generally make decisions and move through mechanical encounters.
In this adventure, the PCs have been thrust into a world they don’t understand, and must come to terms with powers they’ve been raised to consider “demonic.” They’re chased by the followers of the Church of the Eternal, but have also found allies and enemies, and uncovered a threat to their world.
This provides a capstone to the adventure begun in Rebirth, but the world and the storyline begun there could wind through many other threads before arriving here.
Please note: a key component of this adventures is the questioning of a monotheistic religion followed by the populace of the setting, and revelations regarding it. While this is not intended to ridicule anyone’s beliefs, if you or someone in your group is sensitive to criticism of organized religion, you probably will want to give this adventure a pass.
Quantum and GOD: Gates of Hellis a possible project slated for a vote on my Patreon.
It has been 70 years since the event. Earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis ravaged the globe. Continents heaved and buckled for three decades, re-shaping the world. Civilization shattered. There is very little left of what had come before. But people survived. People rebuilt.
And people changed.
They are the Riggers. More than human, but treated as less than people. You have come into this world in Elisus, a growing metropolis and a place of hope. Maybe you don’t belong here. Maybe nobody does. All you know is that you are a Rigger and you are being hunted.
Riggersis a meta-human RPG set in a post-apocalyptic world. This is a story-focused game with simple mechanics and characters based on descriptive qualities. The game will include a basic setting, explaining the Shattered World, how it came to be, and what adventures might be found in it.
Riggers is a possible project slated for a vote on my Patreon.
One of the new games I’m running with my local is a post-apocalyptic actioner that has the working titles Warlords of the Wastes.
First: yes, I am aware it needs a better title.
But beyond that, I am running it with Riggers, the same engine that ran Dream Riggers and is also the system for Centre of the World (which also needs a better name . . . I have my failings).
Originally, as I prepared for WotW, I was looking at altering Riggers. I was going to include “gear” as well as a mechanic for consumables and for carrying capacities. It was starting to look dire, given my penchant for minimal mechanics and avoiding sub-systems.
I had my gear and carrying mechanics planned out and ready to go. I was looking at the very simple character sheet I was using and considered how to add in this new information. Two pages?
A two page character sheet? What the heck was I doing?
Yes, it gave me pause, and so I stopped and gave it some thought. Why did I want to run a post-apocalyptic game?
My touchstones for the genre are a movie series and a game series: Mad Max and Fallout. But if you look at the inspiration I previously provided (47 Ronin, the Anabasis, and Fallout), only one of those is actually post-apocalyptic.
So what was I trying to do?
As I had done with Sword Noir all those many years ago in an attempt to gain focus, I figured out what I wanted to deliver. What would this version of Riggers be about?
For Riggers in a “dead world” I wanted to explore those left behind when what we call civilization is lost. These characters are on the frontier of a new civilization, one in the midst of its own brutal birthing. This marks the return to the rule of the strong, but the grail of this game would be the imposition of justice rather than order. Strength can provide order, but from where will justice come.
Resource management is nowhere in there. And to be honest, while the shortage of consumables is a story point in both the Mad Max and Fallout series, that is not the focus. It is a narrative tool, and that is how I will use it.
So in the end, other than the list of available skills, there is no mechanical difference between my fantasy and post-apocalyptic games.
Those of you who have been around here a while are aware I’m a big fan of the computer games Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas. Fallout 4 has been announced, and already it is providing inspiration. How is that possible, you might ask, given that we know next to nothing about the story? It’s the imagery that has piqued my interest.
One of the initial pics from Fallout 4 had me thinking of F:NV. F:NV is a mix of the post-apocalyptic and western genres. This image made me think that Fallout 4 would also mix genres, specifically post-apocalyptic and noir. Given that I’ve published a sword & sorcery noir, you can imagine how this might have grabbed my interest. So what about post-apocalyptic noir?
The one aspect of noir that I think is important is an urban setting. Post-apocalyptic adventures don’t really need urban centres. In fact, most work without them. Fallout, though, has regular urban areas of different sizes, from towns to cities. These are represented in the computer game by groups of buildings and characters of varying sizes, but all much smaller than the populace they are to denote. New Vegas is actually a pretty small geographic area, but one can imagine that it indicates one of the larger urban areas in shattered North America. Rivet City in Fallout 3 is the same.
With examples like those, and the urban density the image seems to suggest, it is easy to imagine cities with governments and rudimentary law enforcement in this setting. Most of the plots and macguffins of hardboiled detective fiction could be ported into such a world as easy as they could a sword & sorcery one.
You could easily take your standard travelling group of troubleshooters that are regularly getting into messes as they move between points of light in the wasteland and bolt that onto hardboiled plots. Imagine something like Raymond Chandler’s the High Window, in which the characters are hired to find a treasure their employer believes was stolen by an estranged daughter-in-law. This could totally work, and work well, in New Vegas or Rivet City. Instead of a rare coin, it could be a piece of technology – though this would make a couple of the twists in the story a little bit difficult.
There’s also something like the Dashiell Hammett novel the Thin Man, in which Nick and Nora Charles investigate a dead body and get involved in a pretty messed up family. The key points of the mystery and the family would work just as well in a post-apocalyptic setting.
Just take a look at that picture and try to figure out the story behind it. I’m pretty sure it includes corrupt officials, femme fatales/homme horribles, criminals, and snappy dialogue.
You can find out more about the Fallout series here.
You can find Sword Noir: A Role-Playing Game of Hardboiled Sword & Sorcery at Amazon and DriveThru RPG.
Having just seen Mad Max: Fury Road, I’m thinking – once again – about post-apocalyptic settings and scenarios. Fury Road has a lot in common with Max Max: the Road Warrior, and to a lesser extent with Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. It’s that non-stop chase that fuels so much of the excitement in the movie.
At its heart, the war rig on which the characters fight is just a setting piece. In a movie, the setting only creates hazards or benefits when narratively convenient or to help move the plot forward. In a game, this may work the same, or the setting may create benefits or drawbacks that apply to all or most of the characters’ actions.
In the Mad Max movies, fighting on a moving vehicle – be it a train or a war rig – leads to plenty of complications. The vehicles in the movies are unstable platform when narratively useful, but in an RPG that is kind of a binary rather than a convenient plot device. In something like D&D, there are penalties for unstable platforms. It might be interesting to actually provide a bonus for those characters who have specific skills or other mechanical indicators that they are trained or better prepared for the difficulties than your average thug. Maybe allow Acrobatics to remove penalties equal to the character’s proficiency bonus. I’d probably due the same for a character with a sailing backstory (like the deck of a ship in choppy waters) or similar.
But that’s me.
For a game like Centurion or Nefertiti Overdrive, in which you can place Conditions on opponents, something like unbalanced, poor footing, or even falling down would work well with the setting. Otherwise, for a very abstract system like Nefertiti Overdrive, I wouldn’t be applying any penalties, but I would really try to have the players use this feature in their descriptions, and I would be using it when character’s fail as a nice excuse. In this sense, it works much the same as it does in the movie – it doesn’t really hinder the characters unless it is dramatic for it to do so.
In the end, I like situations like fighting on the back of a speeding train to add ambiance to an encounter rather than use it to penalize my players. I think this kind of setting detail can really help differentiate encounters and will let players exercise their imagination trying to weave it into the action.
You can learn more about Mad Max: Fury Road at Wikipedia and IMDB.
Another computer game, another set of inspirations, another consideration of how I could port the experience to a tabletop RPG.
This time is it Metro 2033. This is a game I have long enjoyed, but because of its unforgiving nature – resource management is both very strict and very difficult in the game, especially the filters for your gas mask, absolutely essential when you go above ground – I have never got very far with it. I recently purchased the update – Metro 2033 Redux and Metro: Last Light Redux – and there is a version one can play on Metro 2033 Redux that is less resource management with the trade-off that there are more enemies to fight. I’m better with that, and have progressed further than I had previously.
I dig post-apocalyptic stories, and so Metro 2033 is right in my wheelhouse. For a guy like me who likes first person shooters but is actually quite bad at them, the game is extremely challenging. My only real issue with the game is that it is very railroad-y. One is following a specific story, rather than something like Fallout 3 and New Vegas – still my favourite computer games overall – which are totally open. So imagine something like Metro 2033 in an open world.
And there you’d have a great tabletop roleplaying game. My unreleased modern Spec Ops RPG, Direct Action, would work really well with only minimal additions – resource management is such an important aspect of Metro 2033, I’d need to include that in the game. I believe I would set it either in Seoul or Toronto – cities I know well that have very extensive subway networks and subterranean environments. Toronto would probably be the choice because the cultural starting point would be more recognizable for my players, and it can have really brutal winters, that I would like to weave into the plot.
What to call it? If this were Toronto, I’d probably call it the Cursed Path, since Toronto has an underground pedestrian network called the Path.
In an email exchange, friend of the Accidental Survivors in Germany, Wolf, mentioned Innocent Gun, which another listener had mentioned (for those not in the know, we talk a lot about Innes & Gunn’s line of beers), and I wrote that it would make a good RPG title.
Wolf suggested a western, gothic, cyber-punk. I like that, but I’ll go one further – post-apocalyptic.
Dig this: it’s hundreds of years after a cataclysm that is known in the region in which the PC’s begin as the Event. Every culture has a different myth about it, but it was a huge disaster. The world is only just starting to recover. Part of this new recovery is an organic network into which certain people can tap. It is a decentralized information network that evolved after the Event. Resurrected industry is taking advantage of this much the way it takes advantage of computers and the internet in our world.
But this recovery is very localized. Certain places have factories, electricity, transportation and communications, but much of the world remains outside these “points of light.” Yes, “civilization” is advancing, but slowly. Carefully. The people who live on the fringes have civilization, sure, but it’s a frontier civilization. In many places, might makes right.
And there is a secret, whispered about on the network. Something is growing. Something powerful. A global geothermal energy project is coming back online. Its substations are spooling up one by one. An energy grid built to power a world beyond even the 21st-century’s voracious needs could change everything.
In my conception of this, I have no idea what the Event was. It’s unimportant. The network is due to nanobots that existed before the Event and are replicating, but due to the specifics of the ones that survived the Event, they can only work with individuals with very specific genetic markers. The nanobots are also powering up the geothermal grid – working on parameters set hundreds of years ago and happening now because they have replicated enough that there is a cascade, as more power increases production, which allows more power, etc.
Gothic, I think, is generally very intertwined with the aesthetics of cyberpunk. The world is constantly dark as the Event created an almost impenetrable layer of clouds (yes, I know this would have huge environmental repercussions, but so would magic and no one ever seems to care about that ;). It rains all the time. It’s a dark and depressing world in which wealth has created the kind of class divisions known during the Middle Ages (a representation of the current wealth gap).
And the PCs are the ones bringing order to both the cities (protecting the underclass rather than taking the barons coin) and in the frontier (where the network is starting to have a great impact).
They are the Innocent Guns. But how long will they remain so?
I mentioned on Google Plus that I am playing in the Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate’s Booty downloaded content for Borderlands 2. I mentioned this because that part of the game includes sand skiffs, similar to what we saw in Return of the Jedi. But my initial excitement at seeing these vehicles wasn’t due to that connection, it was due to a connection to an Old School Hack game run by Kirin Robinson at Gen Con 2011 in which myself and the Accidental Survivors were able to participate. It had a very pulp-y John Carter’s Mars kind of thing going on, from the desert to the villains, to the final city in which we faced the big bad.
And it was hella fun. This was the game that really opened my eyes to the potential of Old School Hack.
It’s also fun in the Scarlett DLC because it has a very post-apocalyptic feel to the locations – although that’s pretty normal for Borderlands. The two together make a potent combination for a media hound who chewed through post-apoc b-movies in his youth. Heck, I was even disappointed when they cancelled the Highwayman (did anybody else watch this? No? Guess that’s why it got cancelled).
This was another reason to love the Warden’s High Plains Samurai when he first introduced it. The setting has a very dusty post-apoc feeling to it, mixed with spaghetti westerns and the Good, the Bad, the Weird – in other words, a love letter to my sensibilities.
As usual, seeing or reading something makes me want to play it. A High Plains Samurai playtest is coming soon (fingers-crossed) but I can’t run anything for my Ottawa group after promising them a year-long campaign (instead of constantly pulling the rug out from under them with new systems and new adventures). However, there might be an alternative . . . if I am willing to commit the time to it.