Thursday 14 October 2021

Leveling Up In Post Apoc Games

So in my Broken Hill Game which now I have been running several years with lots of groups and I thought I would share some of my guidlines.

Making a campaign Structure and a Sandbox

Opening Campagn
The basic plot of my Broken Hill Campaign is characters meet as youths in an isolated rural village and plan to go to the big fancy trade centre where all the merchants come and go from. In practice, each story is different because the characters will perhaps make some money for equipment and then set off down the road with daily stops in increasingly bigger settlements until they reach the end. There are variations in how this plays out. Some games some players had weirder backgrounds but it was easy to throw together and explain how they got to the Smallville.

Players Have:
Moved through each town impressing locals as do-good heroes
Hung around town a while exploring everything before moving on
Caught up in interesting sites and drama on way spending a week per town
Spent time in a few towns and eventually had own bearded dragon wagon
Worked on getting a car so rest of journey was quite fast and they hunted scrap to fix a vehicle and pooled in for biofuel

Running off the rails is good
So there is a basic plot but the campaign trail maps and tables are made so it can be replayed and will come out differently and encourages players to run off the rails and there are lots of tables to support improvisation. You could pre-roll some or do them on the fly and improvise with them as much or as little as you want.

The wilderness of frontier and small towns is a good start and you can go into as much or as little depth as you like if players will let you. Wild and village is a good range to flip between.

So once they reach the city then what?
Entering an unfamiliar threshold after being in wasteland killing or in backward farm towns should be a shock. Not sixty people, several thousand and part of a warlords domain trading and at war with other states. Besides this walled trade and craft centre, it is dependant on the older ruined city. 

Most players on arrival ended up settling one of the semi-occupied areas within a wall and found a ruin to their taste to squat. Some interacted with the farmers settling and breaking the ground of rubble for crops. Other dealt with organised crime in the main market district. A few ended up getting to deal with the warlord doing some small chores and getting some privileges. Several set up shops. Some were very keen and went straight for the ruins looking for ancient facilities with advanced technology.  

As I'm basically using a D&D engine levels are a good measure of power. In a post-apocalypse game, technology offers another power gradient. In the above cases some people say who got a car kind of went to dangerous places a bit faster than other groups. You could draw circles around your game area maps for various levels of play. Ive seen it done by a few people. Players who went slow turned up in city as hard vets and got job offers from more powerful people. Levels should help your status. Self-made fighting rulers will easily be 10th level while their softer heirs three gen later with lots of peace might drop to only a few levels.

Tech Guidelines
I use these basic tech descriptions:
Tribal - stone-age survival skills but willing to use new materials and adapt
Pre Industrial - anywhere bronze to late medieval and renaissance, blackpowder
Industrial - steam, electricity, machine guns, basic flight (preWW2) 
Atomic Age - atomic energy or weapons, jets, spaceflight, computers, electronics
Space Age - technology for age of space colonisation, clones, energy weapons

Lots of games focus on ignorant people struggling to use technology and know what it is, It can work if from a tech poor background but eventually the conciet of this becomes harder to maintain. Profesional vet scavengers should know quite a bit about ancient design and technology without much understanding of how the work. If you have not done it try and it can be fun but eventually it gets in the way.

Starting Out
Most starting players are in the first two categories. They have basic weapons of survival like hatchets, daggers, machetes and bows and crossbows will start with a good amount of ammo. A light hunting musket would start with perhaps 20 shot and ball loads. Anything with cartridges (mostly a reclaimed technology) like a .22 bolt action rifle of break open shotgun (sawn off option) would get perhaps 2d6 shots. Leather armour possibly with scrap that offers poor protection from firearms and non vs energy weapons.

Some characters come from later ages. I'm always a jerk and make space-age people unfamiliar with levers, fire, muscle power, animals and machines that don't talk. As starting characters I might have them have a one-shot disposable laser or a plastic one use printed automatic pistol. I might let them have one item of truly advanced tech like a smart suit that's always clean and a coms-watch (global network mostly gone but local calls)


Slug Guns - A large calibre electrically fired with compressed air slug gun was in common use by police, riot squads and self-defence. Large subsonic plastic or rubber or felt slug that caused less harm but could still be lethal. It couldn't pierce a spacecraft or aircraft hull and was less likely to kill. Being used ten times more often made its kill toll higher. Worse still illegal ammo and overpowered versions were made by criminals. Using one even for crime tended to draw less attention from android ant-terror kill teams. Conceptually it is the reasonably advanced weapon that won't throw out game balance even if players do make unauthorised mods. Want to use d8 instead of d6 ammo half its range. While subsonic, drawing air makes a loud crack. They need an air tank in space. Other weird ammo like teargas, dye bombs, flare, emp, or even a self-guided smart round might be possible but not as good as a normal grenade. Small explosive slugs 1m diameter per d6 and a discarding sabot flechette with double range are possible but require a skilled gun maker.

Basic d6 damage range 15/30/100m 10 shot drum, battery fires 100 rounds
-felt slug d4 standard rubber or plastic d6 basic modified lethal round d8
-some break open to load one round at a time others often have only 6 shots
-basic rebuild model does 2d6 solid slug and the battery fires 50 shots 
-superior rebuild does 3d6 and the battery fires 25 shots
-standard slugs d4 or d6 slugs stun on crit not do extra damage
-some with longer barrels with recoil absorbing stocks and basic scope double range


Below are some example tech by level as a guideline for what could be in a campaign or to help equip an NPC, enemy or a boss.

Possible Starting Technology Lv 0-1
Common rank and file will have several of these kits or just one
Three slings and all the good stones or clay bullets you want
Shortbow & arrows or Light crossbow & bolts with 20 shots, leather armour
Handgun or light musket & shot with 20 shot and ball, cloth
Spear and two javelins, dagger & shield, leather armour
Battleaxe or sword or mace, hatchet, dagger & shield, chainmail
Martial arts, staff, knife, club or single martial arts weapon
20-gauge sawn-off a shotgun, pistol grip, double-barrelled, break open, d6 rounds
..22 bolt action rifle or 38 Revolver or 9mm pistol with d6 rounds
One-shot disposable laser tube (3d6) 
Pet dog or other animals

Possible Technology Lv 2-4
Items either crude made by scavengers or printed by machines or ancient
Veterans will have gained one or two of the following
Bulk ammunition up to 100 rounds in various weapons 
Blackpowder grenades with a fuse d4
Incendiary made with fuel in a bottle, a cloth and other mixes d4
An ancient fragmentation grenade 5d6 damage
12 Guage shotgun, double barrelled or pump or magazine or drum
Sniper rifle with scope 
SMG or automatic rifle
Rocket-propelled grenade launcher d2 shots
Slug Gun but bigger magazines, modified ammo, more power, only 30 shots with chem cell
Acoustic stunner pistol
 one hydrogen cell
Civilian laser pistol or rifle with one hydrogen cell
Duralinium +1 +2 or +3 archaic edged melee weapons 
Duralinium blunt weapons bump damage one die  
Captive bolt +d6 truncheon 100 charges per chem cell
Riding horse or bearded dragon wagon (giant mutant ones obviously)
May have d6+4 lesser goons or dogs
Riot armour and helmet or ballistic vest
A motorbike, personal ground car or ultralight aircraft

Recommended Mid Level Technology Lv 5-9
Light machinegun with cassette or belt and at least 200 rounds
d4+2 various grenades
A grenade launcher or riot gun  
Flame thrower
A smart missile can e used vs aircraft or ground targets
Laser Pistol or thermal rifle or stun pistol
Monoblade double-edged weapon damage
Vibro forcefield knife or sonic knife (could be used like a spearhead on shaft) 
Minor energy weapon usually a pistol, robot followers, various one or limited use
Some advanced light armour resistant to ballistic and energy weapons
A gang of a dozen goons
Drone usually scout, bomb or gun type
Advanced combat armour like mesh or reflect or impact
A basic robot or a weird mutant or psionic companion

Recommended HighTechnology Lv 10+
Laser rifle or other energy weapon or vibro forcefield sword
Stealth field or holographic field or minor force field pack
Powered battlesuits with inbuilt weapons and jump pack
Shuttle rides to orbitals or generation starships that never left
Orbitals with teleporter arrays and satellite lasers as allies
A fortress, manor, tower, village or bunker complex with territory and thralls
Can field an army if required including well-armed elites
May head a faction in the region
Flying bubblecar with a basic forcefield
APC or flying gunship or armoured truck with crew
Huge monster for a mount or pet or weapon of war
Can call distant artillery or drone attack if needed

Recommended HighTechnology Lv 16+
Aerospace fighter
Personal orbital or lunar shuttle
Combat Mecha with base and technicians
Orbital or lunar base
Tank or military warbot or combat mecha 
Powerful AI god ally

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