Thursday, December 2, 2010


A post over at the Land of Nod has caused me to think about a setting I started to develop a little over two years ago.  Post-apocalyptic fiction is probably my third favorite subset of genre fiction (after Horror and Fantasy); however, I've only used it as the basis for about four sessions of roleplaying.

Those sessions were all set in my short lived Apocalyptia setting.  The name was shamelessly lifted from Fallout 3, but thats how I do things.  I conceived it as a combination of post-apocalyptic, spaghetti western, and hexcrawling campaign.

Prospectors set out on expeditions into the wilderness to find "ancient" ruins where technology lay waiting to be discovered.  Raiders mounted their 'Orses (scaled creatures that disturbingly resemble and don't resemble horses) and rode out to terrorize the various settlements and take slaves back to their unseen masters.  Mercenaries accompanied ranchers on their long cattle drives, where they would take the Big Pigs (exactly what it sounds like) from settlement to settlement.

One thing I changed from the normal post-apocalyptic setup was that this setting was not a desert.  Well, I suppose it was of a sort, but not due to any lack of rain.  Most of the vegetation was either completely dead or rough and poisonous.  The rain was actually the cause of this: whatever caused the end -- I was usually vague on this point -- also caused massive amounts of pollution to enter the water supply.  Rain itself was acidic and horrifying, though a few settlements had makeshift filter systems that allowed them to harness it to grow crops.

Interestingly enough, I decided to set it in Knoxville long before I knew I was moving up here.  Technically it was set between Knoxville and Nashville, which were both in states of terrible disrepair, but never the less it's still set where I'm living now.  The main settlement was Petrol Hill, a small settlement based around an old gas station.  The fuel had long since run dry, but due to clever trading on the part of the original "owner," the settlement was able to acquire other things that made it attractive to possible settlers.

Despite 'Orses and Big Pigs, this was not a zany Gamma World type of setting.  Though few people had them, guns weren't as unheard of as they are in most Gamma World setups, and the general nature of both mutations and adventures was much darker.  I used the BRP yellow book combined with some charts on movement rates and provisions I cooked up the few times I ran it.

I only ran it twice, each time for two sessions.  The first was a murder mystery set in Petrol Hill that the players never solved.  In the second, I converted the lay of the land and general conventions to the Fallout setting and had the players be science oriented vault dwellers stepping out into the world for the first time.  What they found was rough justice and cattle rustlers.

The ultimate reason I dropped it was a lack of clarity in the design.  I wanted my gritty, the Road + Once Upon a Time in the West setting but also wanted something with mutants to stalk the ruins of the past.  It became the kind of conceptual nightmare that Scott of Huge Ruined Pile turns into brilliance, and I turn into a quagmire.  I still daydream about it from time to time.

Since it isn't designed for D&D or one of its variants I'm unlikely to post any further material about it unless there is an extreme amount of interest.  The setting is more or less dead, I was just reminded of it.


  1. Interest: EXTREME.

    On a related note, I just downloaded the PDF of the new BRP post-apocalyptic monograph, Rubble & Ruin, and it's quite nice.

  2. I've tried both a kitchen sink 'mutants and magic' style and a stripped-down minimalist post-apocalyptic game. I have enjoyed both approaches, but agree that a focus and clarity helps to hold a campaign together. I've put together gameblogs for both:

    Confusingly, I grew attached to the name 'Tempora Mutantur' and have used it for both games.

  3. Hexcrawl + Post-Apocalypse + Gunslingers = sounds awesome. Stephen King pulled it off with mutants and a bit of magic thrown in too. Would be glad to see more Apocalyptia remembrances as the mood hits.

  4. I'm currently mulling a post-apocalypse game so count me among those who are interested. :)