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5 Great Inspirational Sources For A Post-Apocalyptic Game

The end of the world. A new beginning.

Due to its popularity there is a plethora of media exploring this genre. From television programming to movies to books to comics to RPGs, there really is no shortage. It’s a genre that has been used and used again because it’s fascinating. What would you do if the world ended tomorrow? Could you survive? Would you want to?

Role playing games are the perfect avenue to explore our adaptability, our creativity, and worlds we are unlikely to ever experience. There are some game systems built specifically for a post-apocalyptic world (and Ken shared his experience running one back here), but maybe your group is hooked on a game system, maybe you want a little inspiration, or maybe you are hoping to adapt something to be exactly what you want.  So then the biggest question becomes, where do I use to draw inspiration? And are there any awesome resources I’ve missed?

The first thing you need to think about, of course, is what sort of post-apocalyptic world you are looking to create. There are so many ways for the world to end or change. Some are subtle – more of a cultural apocalypse, while others are full on death-is-rampant-this-is-end kind of apocalypse.

Ken talked before about Y, the last man – a comic book storyline about a world where all but one man has perished, and whether you love it or hate it, I’m not sure there are people who haven’t heard of The Walking Dead and the “walker” filled zombie world. And, of course, there is always the gonzo-over-the-top-action-packed Mad Max film series.

But options hardly end there, and I hope the following media helps inspire you to create the world you are looking for.

Tomorrow When the War Began (book)

This series of books, written by John Marsden, was turned into a movie in 2010.  The books focus on a young girl who goes camping with friends in a remote location.  They return home to discover the residents are missing and the livestock are dead or dying.  As they start to investigate, the group learns Australia (where the book is set) has been invaded by an unidentified force, who are holding everyone captive.  The teens have to find a way to survive in this now-hostile environment.

While is isn’t the end of the world as everyone knows it exactly, discovering your entire country has changed, your family is missing, and everything as you know it is no more is world shattering.  This series was written for young adults, but is worth a read no matter your age, especially if you are thinking of flipping your PCs lives on end.

Lazarus (comic)

Greg Rucka and Michael Lark’s Lazarus is set in our near future. Following a catastrophic economic and ecological collapse, society has reverted to a strictly controlled feudal caste system. Every human falls into one of three categories: family (fewer than 1% of the remaining population belongs to one of the world’s sixteen ruling families), serfs (approximately 10% of the population falls into this category of skilled professional), or waste (everyone else). The title of the comic refers to the biologically and chemically engineered, near-immortal super soldiers that each family may have one of, if they are lucky. The world-building in this series is truly fantastic, and the characters are well developed and compelling, which is the norm for Greg Rucka in my opinion.

Unlike a lot of post-apocalyptic literature, the world of Lazarus is largely intact, though vast portions of it have been abandoned. Gaming in this world would be compelling to me, especially in a one player, one GM situation. Each families’ lazarus is a mixture of diplomat, commander, and ass-kicker. The nature of the families’ relationships with one another could easily lead to some great social interplay and scenery chewing. And then some good old fisticuffs if diplomacy breaks down!

 

The Stand (book)

When a modified strain of the flu is accidentally released, it spreads across the country quickly, killing just about everyone and causing the total breakdown of society. This book, written by Stephen King, dates back to the 1970’s and is told from the perspective of various characters.

It’s admittedly been a long time since I read this book, but one of the things I recall loving about it was how it explored the fact that not everyone who survives the mutated virus named Captain Trips can survive in the world that remains. Opting out becomes the only option some people feel they have, and it’s a good thing to keep in mind when running a campaign. Give your PCs a world that’s hard, but a) remember to show them not everyone can handle what remains and b) don’t make it so dreadful your PCs will be in a place they feel this have no option but to opt out themselves.

This lengthy novel is a good read if you want to set your game during an apocalypse sans zombies.

The 100 (tv)

The world is no longer habitable. The human race has been successfully living on a series of space stations, but the systems are failing. A group of teenagers, all guilty of something, has been sent to Earth in the hopes of discovering if the human race can return.

This TV show explores what these delinquent teenagers encounter in the world they have only heard stories about. Things are much different than they expect (naturally), and there are countless hurdles to overcome, including figuring out how to work together. What else would you expect with 100 young adults on their own for the first time in their lives?

This could easily be used in any game system, but could make a great setting for Starfinder.

Jericho (tv)

After a nuclear attack on 23 cities across the US, the country is left in a post-apocalyptic state. The show initially focuses on the small town of Jericho and what it does post-attack, but by the end of the second season it is a roller-coaster ride of exploring the rule of the Allied States of American and trying to save what remains of the American dream.

With only two seasons on investment (plus two season of graphics novels for those interested in continuing the plot), this is a small investment for those looking to get a feel for a post-apocalyptic world. And again, with a nuclear attack, you’ve got a different basis for exactly why the world ended.

Have you read or watched any of the above? What did you think?

Have you ever run a post-apocalyptic game? How did it go?

We’re gearing up to see what has happened to the next generation in our deadworld campaign. In its original form the group had to carve out a safe haven, but generation two has that. With a relatively stable home, a cure for the zombie plague distributed, and those ghouls under control, what sorts of deadly forces can they encounter?

What made your world post-apocalyptic?

The Tele-Port

We all know the drill: you cast your teleport or greater teleport spell and then: poof! You appear in your destination. Only what if that isn’t exactly how it goes? What if there is a stop on the way? A stop no one wants to, no one can, talk about?


“Please exit the circle to your left,” said a bored voice.

She blinked. She had been expecting to see bustling streets and colourful garments, to have her senses bombarded with the strong smells of spices, the murmur of thousands of people speaking in a language she couldn’t understand, and the heat of a warm sun.

Instead, she was standing in a strange room. Rows and rows of seats lined this endless expanse and she seemed to be standing in some sort of circle.

“Please exit the circle to your left,” repeated the voice. “You need to take a seat.”

Lunata blinked again and cast her eyes about for an explanation, but her feet remained firmly planted. Suddenly she realized her companions weren’t at her side. Panic began to well up inside her as she contemplated how she may have flubbed the spell. She was sure she had read the scroll verbatim, and she was sure she was capable enough to manipulate such magics now, even after that slight setback last month.  Gregor would never let her live this down, assuming he was okay.

There were a mix characters sitting in the chairs: assorted races, heights, clothing. All of them seemed bored, though a handful of them were looking at her, some with amusement, some with sympathy.

“You need to step out of the circle. Move to your left. Now.”

The voice had become impatient and she noticed a pair of strange beings made of light moving in her direction.

She looked around frantically and exited the circle, stepping to the left as the voice told her. The people made of light were almost on her now.

“Lunata Yarimania, step this way please,” said one voice. It was impossible to tell if it was male or female. It didn’t sound hostile, but it wasn’t friendly either.

“Where am I? What is this place?” She cast about once more, noting the seamless grey floor stretching as far as she could see. Circles, like the one she had arrived in, appeared intermittently in the endless expanse and rows of hard chairs, hundreds, perhaps thousands of them, filled the space between the circles. Many were empty, but it was hard to tell just how many were occupied.

“Newbies, am I right?” said the second being to the first.

Lunata thought for a moment it rolled its eyes, but neither being said anything else; they simple turned and began leading her off.

She glanced at an old man sitting in a chair. He had a long grey beard and he was intently reading an old looking tome while a small black bird sat upon his shoulder, staring intently at Lunata. A glass ball lay in the seat next to the old man, glowing with the small pale white light of the stars decorating the man’s deep blue robes.

Everyone here seemed to be sitting alone and almost no one was speaking to anyone else. The silence was broken by the occasional zing of an electrical surge or a cough.

“My friends, where are they?” she tried again, hurriedly following the creatures made of light.

The first being, she thought it was the first one, heaved a sigh.

“In your hands.”

For a moment Lunata thought it was some sort of metaphor. Zanthu was always going on about the bond they all shared, about how their fates were intertwined, about how there were few people he trusted to hold his life in their hands. It always made Gregor roll his eyes. Then she looked down.

She was so surprised she almost dropped the ball she was holding. It was like the one that had been sitting in the seat next to the old man, and she fumbled to hold onto the luminescent sphere.

“Careful there,” said the second figure, and she knew it was the second figure because she could hear its amusement.

Again, Lunata cast about. Most beings seemed to have a ball like this.

A dark skinned human man with tribal tattoos, simple clothing and a staff resting at his side was holding the ball casually in one hand while absentmindedly stroking the space between the eyes of a green lizard.

An elf with long blonde hair, a rapier tucked into his belt, sat spinning the ball on his finger. His clothing looked piratical and as she walked past him he looked right at her and winked.

Lunata looked down at her own glowing orb, squinting as she did so, and gasped. There they were, both of her companions in a miniature version of exactly how they looked just before they had departed the alley behind the tavern. Zanthu looked calm, as he always did. Gregor had his eyes shut and his muscles, tiny as they were just now, seemed to be tense, as if something bad were about to happen.

They walked past several more rows of seats, many of which were empty. Lunata started as a being appeared in a circle they were passing by.

A half-orc female stepped out of the circle, holding her own glowing ball in one hand. She was dressed in leather armor, not unlike Lunata. A shortsword and a hand crossbow were affixed to her belt. She nodded at Lunata and moved toward a chair, glancing up as she did so.

Lunata looked up for the first time. She wasn’t sure how she hadn’t noticed them before, but coloured lights made a map on the ceiling high above. They were almost like stars, but in various colours. She could see some yellow lights moving about while others remained in one spot. One of the yellow lights, which was right above her, was moving at the same speed as two bright white lights. A few other white lights were scattered about the ceiling star map, but they were off some distance away. Blue lights created circles that seemed, best as Lunata could tell, to correspond to the circles in the floor. There was a red area far off to the right, in the direction her guides seemed to be moving, and all of the yellow lights there were stagnant.

The yellow light and two white ones were approaching a blue circle. Lunata looked back ahead of her just in time. The figures had stopped and she just about run into them. The second figure sighed, as if he or she knew Lunata nearly ran them them down.

Lunata clutched her glowing orb and looked around as the two figures turned. The lights above circle spelled out a destination Lunata could not read. Suddenly the blue lights rearranged themselves into a new word, one she vaguely recalled as a place name Gregor had mentioned once.

“Well, here you are,” said the first figure. “Just a bit of paperwork to finalize first.”

“Paperwork?” Lunata almost stuttered.

The second figure smirked. She was sure of it.

“Yes, of course. Just sign here, and here,” the second figure presented Lunata with a hard board stacked with crisp white parchment unlike any the girl had ever seen.

She tried to make out the words, but there was a lot of complicated wording and very small print.

“It’s all quite standard,” said the first voice, as if that was reassuring.

“You won’t hold us responsible for any malfunctions in the circles, you understand precise destinations cannot be achieved, the level of safety, or lack of, at your destination is in no way our fault, and so on and so forth.” The second figure raised its eyebrows at her, as if challenging her, before handing her a strange hard tube she guessed she was meant to sign with.

“What is this place?” asked Lunata, still confused. She was juggling the board of paper and the glowing sphere, leaving her no hands to turn the pages on the board.

“The tele-port,” answered the first voice simply.

“There are others to tend to, so if you need more time, we can take you to the red zone. I don’t recommend that, mind you, some have been there for, I’m not even sure how long now.”

Lunata could tell this was a threat and whatever the red zone was with its stagnant yellow dots, she was sure she did not want to find out.

“I, uh, so this is standard teleportation process?” she asked dumbly, trying to flip the page.

“Indeed,” answered the first voice.

A kind-eyed halfing woman dressed in a plethora of skirts smiled warmly at Lunata. She was sitting in one of the chairs, waiting patiently by the circle Lunata had just arrived at, her own glowing orb set upon her lap with one hand gently cradling it. She nodded encouragingly at Lunata, who took a deep breath, and signed.

“Excellent. Then there, and there,” the second figure said gesturing at two additional lines on other pages. “And we’re all set.”

He snatched the board back from her and it seemed to disappear the moment it was back in his hands.

“Watch for your destination and then step into the circle,” said the first figure, turning to leave.

She glanced once more at the changing letters. She’d been there before, it wasn’t a week’s travel from her hometown.

The letters changed once more, denoting a place Lunata had never heard of and someone stepped into the circle. She wasn’t even sure where he’d come from, but suddenly he was gone.

“Don’t miss it,” said the second. “Who knows how long you’ll wait if you do.”

She glanced back hurridely at the lights by the circle which were changing once again and then, not taking her eyes off of them, for they seemed to change on a whim, she backed into a nearby chair, not far from the halfling.

“Don’t worry,” said the halfling cheerfully, “you’ll have the hang of it before you know it.”

“So, you do this all the time?” asked Lunata dumbly, still confused by what was happening.

“Oh sure, it’s how it’s done!”

“But I’ve never heard of it.”

“You wouldn’t have,” answered the halfling cheerfully.

“I can’t wait to tell the others,” Lanata said, partly to the halfling and partly to herself. She looked down at the orb she cradled in her own hands, the glass ball that contatined her friends and companions.

“Oh, you can’t do that,” said the halfling, rising. “You’ll see. Well, this is me. Take care and good luck!”

Lunata frowned as she watched the halfling in the skirts carry her orb into the circle and disappear. The writing around the circle shifted again then and it was her own destination she saw.

She jumped up, clutching the ball in a death grip as she scurried toward the circle.

What did the halfling mean she couldn’t tell the others? How could she not?

There was a brief flash of light as she entered the circle and suddenly she was standing on a cobbled street, the warm sun beating down on her. Her nostrils were bombarded by the smell of sweat and spices and cooking meat. Her companions were beside her.

“Great job, Lunata,” said Gregor clapping her on the back. “Knew you could do it.”

There was something she wanted to say to him, to both of them, but she couldn’t remember exactly what it was.  She was trying to put her finger on it but the more she thought about it, the further away whatever it was became.

”You think you can get us back when we are done here, Lunata?” asked Gregor. “Assuming we find you another scroll anyway?”

She nodded, absentmindedly.

“I think so.”

”Let’s do this then,” he said, fingering the large blade at his waist.

inkwell and feather pen

December 2017 Reviews

In case you missed some of our products the first go around, or you’ve been sitting on the fence about them, we’ll compile the monthly reviews of our products into one blog post each month.

The full reviews can be found with the products (linked to in the product name), and in some cases, on the reviewer’s own blog (linked to the reviewers name).

Continue reading December 2017 Reviews