Thursday, 15 September 2011

The Ruin at the End of the World

 Ordinarily I would be prepared and willing to create a sandbox for my new setting from scratch. However, as I'm already running two regular campaigns (the Pendragon campaign and the Expeditionary Campaign) and a one-off game, that looks set to become a full campaign as well. That doesn't leave me with a great deal of time on my hands. Fortunately, there are a number of excellent Post Apocalyptic sandboxes already available out there. So I'm going to mess-around with one of the better (and in my opinion, the very best) pre-made post-apoc sandboxes out there: Darwin's World's “Ruin at the End of the World.”

Coming in at nearly 300 pages, the book evocatively details a post-apocalyptic Los Angeles with more than 200 wonderfully detailed encounter sites. The ruins as presented don't quite fit neatly into my imagined campaign setting however, so the sand-box needs some work to make it compatible with my campaign. Here's a brief list of the setting elements that don't really pan out for me:

  • Tech Level: Society has regressed to a medieval tech level in the supplement. I want to have more of a Fallout/Book of Eli/The Road/Vampire Earth feel as far as tech concerned. Like Fallout, high-tech weapons and equipment in a functional order still exist. Fire-arms are the order of the day, although pre-Rapture firearms are treasured relics. Most folk have to make do with cannibalised or hand-made weapons. Fortunately, this is an easy enough fix. I simply add more firearms to the creature stats and encounter tables.
  • Mutation: In the Darwin's World setting, survivors who display extreme physical mutations are the norm. As mentioned in the book's introduction, the “Ruin at the End of the World” takes this even farther: entire races of stable-phenotype, intelligent mutant creatures exist in the Ruins, soemthing of a departure from the rest of the setting. In this case, intelligent insect men bent on expansions (Bugs) and the pseudo-Roman Beastman Empire. This is a little more science-fantasy than I want in my admittedly science-fantasy/survival horror setting. So I'll have to tinker around with these factions a little. But just a little. The Beastmen will become an aggressive faction of mutant raiders who have enslaved the less obviously mutated survivors in their territory. And the Bugs? Well, I won't spoil the surprise, except to say that they will be a human faction with it's own shadowy agenda amidst the ruins. An agenda that includes abducting other survivors for some terrible purpose.
  • Supernatural Creatures: There are some supernatural elements present in the setting as presented, yet they are subtle enough not to clash with the rest of the Darwin's World setting  for a gamer that wants to run the Darwin's World setting as is. They're minor enough not to require any additional work by a Darwin's World DM if he doesn't want to include them. Me, not only do I want to include them, I want to expand on them considerably, while still retaining their subtle impact on the setting.

As you can see, the three elements don't quite fit with my “vision” of the setting are easy-fixes. On the other hand, the list of things I like about this setting are well, extensive, to say the least:
  • Other than the problematic Beastmen and Bugs, the rest of the factions detailed in the setting are, frankly, brilliant. Actually, the Beastmen and Bug's are pretty good as well, just not relevant to my Post-Rapture campaign setting. I'll have to change some of these other factions cosmetically, if only because I want to include descendants of marines and navy personnel from the nearby Naval Base as a faction. But at the same time I don't want to tinker with them too much.
  • The 200 encounter areas are simply fantastic. Very well detailed, and very nicely varied locations. One of the things I love about them is the “Old School” feel: relatively harmless encounters are interspersed with the occasional positively deadly ones. There is no geographical division of “threat levels” catering to characters of different experience levels. True, some areas are more replete with danger than others, but even in the more “civilised” parts of the ruins, great danger lurks round every corner.
  • Despite already having 200 Encounter Areas, there is absolutely space to insert more. A great many more in fact. Indeed, the setting includes a mechanism for randomly generating the content's of each un-keyed hex, making every single hex a potential adventure location.
  • The setting includes rules for travel through the ruins that, while simple, really capture the feel of travelling through a city where every second street might be blocked by rubble, barricades, crashed vehicles, radiation hazards and so on. Travel speed through the ruins is randomly determined -unless the characters decide to retrace their steps exactly.
  • The setting is based on the D20 rules-system, which (for me) would normally be a negative. Fortunately, I'll be using Cascade failure, which, as already discussed, has a high degree of compatibility with D20. So very little conversion work with be required, mechanics-wise.
  • There is a very, very excellent sub-plot running through a number of encounters. A sub-plot which might lead characters to stumble upon answers to several of the ruins great mysteries. Or, in my version, the very cause of the Rapture itself.
  • A minus for some folks but a plus for me: although the supplement lists several locations on the cities outskirts, it doesn't actually provide any keyed locations outside the actual city itself. Meaning I have even more room to bring in encounters, settlements and even whole factions of my design later.

Any future campaign played-out in the L.A Ruins of the Post-Rapture world would likely begin either inside, or just outside, the city. My present leaning is towards starting just outside L.A, on a hill overlooking the ruins of the city. That way, the first image of the campaign world the players will ever get to see is an astonishing vista of the entre city, laid out before them in utter abject ruin.

"Noooooooo. I slept too long."

Yeah Ash, you and the other PC's both.

10 comments:

sirlarkins said...

Wow, this sounds like an amazing supplement. Definitely going on my wish list.

"My present leaning is towards starting just outside L.A, on a hill overlooking the ruins of the city."

Could it be anywhere other than from the Hollywood Sign? ;)

Dangerous Brian said...

DUDE!!! That's awesome!!!!

Dangerous Brian said...

And it really is an amazing supplement. I'm frankly amazed that it hasn't received more recognition for the sheer quality of the setting.

sirlarkins said...

Non-gonzo post-apocalypse is strangely under the radar as a P&P RPG genre, it seems. Not sure why that is. Too grim for general tastes, maybe?

At any rate, here's a couple shots from behind the Hollywood sign. That cluster of skyscrapers in the distance is Downtown L.A. proper.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/clintonmeyer/3207294555/

http://www.lifeofjustin.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/dsc_0164.jpg

Dangerous Brian said...

Larks, you are a star. It shouldn;t be too hard at all to Post-Apoc them in Photoshop. Cheers very much.

Brutorz Bill said...

Darwin's World has some great adventures/material, it definately deserves more love! I will definately be following your posts on this!

Dangerous Brian said...

Thanks Bill. I'm not sure how many more posts I will devoting to this setting (at least not until I have a chance to play it) but I'll finish up the basics at least.

Brutorz Bill said...

So if I'm understanding you correctly there is a "more" PA version of the Cascade Failure rules coming out?

Dangerous Brian said...

Greg's working on a set of Post Apocalypse rules. He hasn't said much about them. I'm assuming that they're PA. But I could be absolutely totally wrong.

Dangerous Brian said...

Sorry, assuming they'll be Cascade failure based. But I could be wrong.