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Robots After the End Designer's Notes 22 April 2016

I had an article in Pyramid #3/90 linking the general ideas of After the End to the specifics of Reign of Steel.

This isn't quite standard After the End: it's only a generation or so since there was s working global civilisation, so there are plenty of people who remember it and are trying to rebuild it; and in some parts of the world there is still functional human civilisation, whether ruled by robots or otherwise. (One of the elements I like to play up, though it hasn't shown up much in the Reign of Steel games I've run, is the inter-generational conflict between the older "get back what we had" and the younger "make something from what we have" mindsets) The first section looks quickly at the various hazards listed in After the End to consider how appropriate they are and what form they take: there aren't any human mutants or zombies, though there may be things that look quite like them, and while there are paramilitary organisations there aren't anything like mercenaries (since there are only two sides and neither of them really uses money).

The major part of the article looks at these hazards in more detail, zone by zone. The zones that really don't fit into After the End are London and Washington (which, perhaps not coincidentally, is where the majority of the Reign of Steel I've run has been set): both of them have functioning human societies, if unusual ones, rather than being wastelands with occasional isolated settlements. A band of the sort of pillaging player characters who are expected in standard After the End play will be regarded by these states as a menace, to be stamped out quickly (in Washington, probably as an example of the horrible people you find outside the Nice Safe Home Area). These probably fit best in After the End as a home base that's kept out of play, where the group goes back to dispose of loot and arm up with better gear.

As for the other zones, it's a matter of juggling types of problem: the zones each have their own flavour, and types of challenge that fit well within them. This is the opposite of After the End's universal post-apocalyptic wasteland, since crossing zone boundaries will often lead to very substantial changes in the sort of threat one faces.

Finally, I ran up a quick After the End conversion of a Tarantula, one of my favourite robots from Reign of Steel, as an example of how to map across the others. If you're armed with Saturday Night Specials and lumps of rebar, don't even think about confronting it head-on: be sneaky. Human fighters need to do this anyway in Reign of Steel, but this is even truer for the ill-equipped survivors of After the End: stay out of sight, play up to its egotism, then drop a building on it with a remote trigger. This is a major foe at After the End power levels, quite possibly a boss monster for a campaign, and not to be used lightly.

Writing this article has made me realise that what interests me most about post-apocalyptic gaming is not the scavenging from meal to meal and bullet to bullet, nor the gradual escalation of personal abilities, both of which After the End promotes; I care more about the communities and about the people, to see who survived the crash, what they're doing about it, and what sort of life they'll make in the ruins.

Tags: gurps rpgs

  1. Posted by Owen Smith at 02:10am on 23 April 2016

    I think this comfirms I'm not keen on After the End either, at least in it's default setting. Who cares that this week we found 12 bullets and a broken fridge, and only had to kill two rival gangs to get them? That's not what I call character progression, or an interesting story, or anything really. The quest for the guy that knows how to fix the fridge and get the power to run it on the other hand, that would be interesting. Building a new civilisation, one domestic appliance at a time...

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