RogerBW's Blog

GURPS After the End 1: Wastelanders, Jason Levine 07 April 2016

This initial supplement in a new line deals with dwellers in the world after the end of civilisation.

Disclaimer: I received research credit in this book and therefore did not pay for it.

After the End is the fourth line of GURPS products cut down and fleshed out for a specific genre, following Dungeon Fantasy, Action and Monster Hunters. The genre here is the post-apocalypse, as exemplified by Mad Max and its many Italian imiators, by the Fallout games, and even by The Walking Dead: the key point is that civilisation is gone. There may be isolated communities trying to keep the spark alive, but their first priority is survival, especially in the face of gangs of bikers, mutants, zombies, cannibals, robots, or combinations the above.

It's explicitly been at least two generations since things fell apart, and hardly anyone personally remembers the old times any more. The specific nature of the apocalypse isn't defined, though nine broad options are listed, and it doesn't really matter except insofar as it modifies the immediate hazards the PCs are facing. (Yes, robot rebellion is in there.)

As with the other cut-down lines, the first chapter is a list of templates: Doc (medic), Hulk (big guy and melee fighter), Hunter (sneaky guy), Nomad (wheel man), Scavenger (scrounger), Tech, Trader (face man) and Trooper (shooty guy). Each one has useful and thorough notes on how to customise it for a particular feel: the Doc can be a Chemist, Herbalist, Medic or Shrink, while the Tech can be an Inventor, Repairman, Scientist or Technophile. Some of these come with specific skill packages for each sub-role, while others are more general suggestions, but in any case it ought to be possible to support multiple instances of the same role within a single game without worrying too much about niche protection or having a character who's second-best at everything.

The base template value here is 150 points, rather lower than in previous lines: by default these people are meant to be heroic, but careful about how they do it, rather than the well-trained and well-equipped heroes of other genres. There's plenty of room for power inflation, though, as each template has an Experienced lens to add 50 points, and there's a selection of generically-applicable 50-point lenses too: Blessed, Fast, Hardy, Learned and Mutated.

The second chapter is a cheat sheet, a list of the advantages, disadvantages and skills that are appropriate to the game. There's a "Specialized" limitation for Gadgeteer that I can see myself using elsewhere, and some useful perks from Power-Ups 2 (as usual the book doesn't require anything beyond the Basic Set, though other books may be helpful in specific areas).

There are two new derived attributes: long-term fatigue points (LFP) and radiation threshold points (RP). Normal fatiguing actions just knock off the usual FP that can be regained through rest, but lack of food, water or sleep also reduce LFP, which take longer to regain. LFP count up from zero, and effectively lower the size of the normal fatigue point pool. Meanwhile RP are a radiation analogue to FP and HP, to make things quicker and simpler: all radiation damage can be recovered from eventually unless it kills you immediately, and you don't have to worry about long-term effects because you're probably not going to live that long anyway.

Chapter three deals with (cinematic) mutations, which come along with a Freakishness measure: as this gets higher it becomes harder to disguise yourself, easier to be spotted as a reviled mutant, and more likely that you'll get some side effect such as Bad Grip, Missing Thumb or Slow Healing. The mutations themselves are packages of powers such as Acidic Blood, Electrified Skin, Suction Pads or Whiskers.

The final chapter considers equipment. Wealth advantages, and cash, don't exist in the absence of a working society: instead, PCs have a starting budget of a nominal $500 (or 50 bullets, which aren't a currency but do form a useful basis for barter), and can add $250 to that per character point spent. Signature Gear protects one piece of equipment, regardless of value. Tech level doesn't work quite as normal: common gear is TL0-4, and anything more advanced doubles in cost per TL higher than 4. The Cost Factor system can be used to reduce prices with disadvantages (e.g. adding Bulky or Fragile to an item). There's a strong emphasis on basic and improvised weapons, with a page of stats including "Board with Nail", "Box Cutter" and "Golf Club". A final page deals with biodiesel and gasifiers to keep vehicles running, since petrol and diesel have long since decayed.

If I run another post-apocalyptic campaign, which is entirely likely, I'll certainly use the material from this book. My regular players are, like me, more interested in protecting a settlement and building a society than in killing mutants. It's a bit hand-to-mouth for the Reign of Steel games I've run, but it would be well suited to a team from (or operating in) one of the more human-hostile zones of that world. GURPS After the End 1: Wastelanders is available from Warehouse 23.


  1. Posted by Owen Smith at 02:47pm on 07 April 2016

    Not only is Reign of Steel not as rough as this (in some zones eg. London and Washington), the fall of civilisation was much more recent. Many PCs in Reign of Steel had childhoods before the fall, and older NPCs will certainly remember it. Equipment is also a bit more available since it's a more recent fall in RoS.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 03:35pm on 07 April 2016

    Yes, the RoS games I've run have mostly been in the relatively civilised zones, or at least with civilised support fairly near by. This book is definitely set up for situations where merely surviving the environment is a fairly impressive achievement; there are plenty of places like that in RoS, but our games mostly haven't been there because it's not a thing you guys especially enjoy.

  3. Posted by Owen Smith at 01:47pm on 08 April 2016

    Indeed, fighting with another gang just so our gang can eat or get other resources feels like a fairly hollow role playing experince to me.

    I once saw a review of Aftermath (I have a near mint boxset!) describe it as being about fighting over the last tin of baked beans in the ruins of Northampton (or was it Kettering?).

  4. Posted by RogerBW at 02:05pm on 08 April 2016

    Even I am unlikely to run Aftermath now, though Jason Packer of RPG Snob is having fun looking through his old copy at the moment. Like many games of that era, it contains very little information on what player characters might actually do.

    "I found it a depressing game. You can actually see yourself crouching in the radiation-blasted rubble of Stoke-on-Trent (or wherever), fighting another survivor to the death over a can of rotten dogfood 20 years old. Unless the players have a definite goal to bind them together, the game will deteriorate into a dog-eat-dog bloodbath. I felt the best way to set a goal was to have Earth dominated by evil alien enslavers, which is corny, but the players then have a simple common goal: Kill the alien scum, Terra shall be free!" – Andy Slack's 10/10 review, in Open Box, White Dwarf #34 (October 1982).

    And actually I think that meshes with my concerns about the lack of society-building in AtE as it currently stands: if I'm playing in a survival-level game as this is clearly intended to be, I want a bigger goal of some sort even if that's a relatively distant and abstract one. At this distance from the End, you're not bringing back the old times, but setting up a new society. I don't just want to be the guy who goes out and bashes mutants and brings back Old Tech; I want to have at least some say in who gets to use the Old Tech, whether the home village concentrates on trading or raiding, and so on.

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