RogerBW's Blog

Disasters: Meltdown and Fallout 06 May 2016

The observant will have noticed the tag "Project Woolsack" on various of my review posts, and a certain subject matter bias associated with them.

I can now reveal that these were books and films I was reading and watching as part of the research for my second supplement for Steve Jackson Games, GURPS Disasters: Meltdown and Fallout, which has just been published. (Buy a copy! Buy several!)

I've been in favour of nuclear power for many years, and I still am, but the things I found out left me very slightly less so. (It's still the only way we have of generating lots of power without burning things. Orbital solar is the only alternative right now, and nobody's working on that.)

I did find an interesting split in the people I spoke with in the industry. Some were very enthusiastic, and downplayed my gameable disaster scenarios as highly unlikely or even impossible; a few chided me for promulgating "green" myths. Others, particularly engineers rather than administrators, were more inclined to say "it's all true, and you don't know the half of it mate". You will note that nobody on either side was willing to be credited as a named consultant. (The big companies' PR departments never got back to me at all. I had vaguely hoped I might get a site tour out of this.)

Here's a bonus that couldn't be included in the supplement: a map of the world's nuclear power plants, including those that are no longer active.

For technical reasons I got the main batch of editorial changes back as a rough PDF rather than as an editable word-processor file. I ended up feeding my draft through a text-to-speech converter, and listening to it while I viewed the PDF, to get an idea of the changes: a very surreal experience. If you want to know what the original manuscript looked like, keep most of the words, but roughly halve the number of sentences. I'd like to thank Nikola Vrtis, my editor, for her work on this: I don't think either of us ended up with quite what we were expecting, but the end result is definitely better for the process.

I hope to write more Disasters supplements: writing this one was a highly enjoyable combination of painstaking research (which I love anyway) and trying to make sure that every paragraph would provide something to enhance a game. Maybe it's rules, maybe it's ideas for adventures or campaigns, but it should be something with game relevance: after all, this isn't the 1980s or 1990s when you could dump lots of real-world information into a sourcebook without worrying about how it would feed into a game, and this is primarily a gaming supplement, not just a book about reactors.

Though if you're writing fiction that involves nuclear power, you could do worse than use this as a reference for what can go wrong and how easy it is to make it happen. I'd love to be able to send copies of this to Hollywood Scriptwriter School.


  1. Posted by Dr Bob at 03:08pm on 06 May 2016

    Thanks for that link. I now know which nuclear plants my radiation-loving vampires will attempting to snuggle up against in Night's Black Agents!

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