Again I think of PA. I got working on some big ideas today, and I figured posting them here is the best way to ensure they are never lost. As usual, comments are welcome, even from Gabe.
What makes a setting Post Apocalypse? There must have been a society, then that society must now be gone. Beyond that, it is pretty open ended. In general, something caused that collapse, and whatever this catastrophe is can shape the world that exists afterward. By this definition the fall of the Roman Empire is an apocalyptic event, and even though for Romans it was serious, that really isnt in the spirit of the idea.
Whatever civilization that existed before is of a higher degree of technology and culture than the one which is currently existing. The infrastructure that supported that civilization is also likely gone, or at least significantly reduced.
The current civilization may or may not know about those who lived previously.
Tone and Environment
There are many ways to play a Post Apocalypse game, but my preference is for a dark, gritty, survival oriented game. Players struggle to survive in a universe short on resources and long on danger. Characters may have goals related to civilization, but in the end the day to day effort to survive permeates much of their time. The environment is sparse and resources are scarce. There is intense competition for those resources which remain.
--Gdaze 14:09, 11 February 2011 (MST) Another important part of this is Time. How much time has passed since the event, or events ended everything? If it is fairly recent, people will know quite a bit, and have access to some quick grabs while maybe having to put up with other suvivors. If it has been a long time, like 200 years, then some places might have fully died out due to lack of resources or disease or whatever.
How is this tone achieved? I think primarily, good equipment must be hard to find. It also must be breakable. Those who see what the players have will often covet it. Players must be required to ensure their characters have enough food and water.
--Dieter the Bold 03:44, 11 February 2011 (MST) Agreed with tone, etc., but just wanted to toss in that some kind of overriding goal has to be in place for each character if the game is going to be campaign length. While it might be fun to play a short run (4 sessions or so) with a nihilistic attempt at survival (i.e., surviving just to survive), I think to keep players engaged and interested survival simply isn't enough. There has to be a reason why the players keep on going. Otherwise you'd just be an NPC trudging along in the background. It doesn't have to be huge and world-shaking, like overthrowing Bartertown so a tribe of kids can fly to ruined Sydney. But there needs to be something that drives the PC besides surviving another day.
--Gdaze 15:19, 11 February 2011 (MST) I'm going to agree with Dieter here, that would be fun for a short one, but for a longer running game it would become just annoying.
This is really funny you posted all this as I've been slowly but shortly making a Fallout game using the 40k rules.
JASON: It is pretty clear that in any game the players need to have something that binds them together. They also likely need some kind of reason to keep doing what they are doing, and it works best when this overarching theme is consistent across all of them. This is not unique to this genre. It is also not the job of the GM to provide this. Just like in any other game, when the GM says: you guys all want x, that will mean something different to all the players. If the players themselves decide what it is they want, that is more likely to be a clearly defined goal common to them all.
I know in my past when I played in a game with a real post apocalypse feel that was really good, it totally stopped being good as soon as the struggle to survive ended. As soon as we had a truckbed full of MREs and enough ammunition to do what we needed it was just a video game: wander around, shoot stuff, replenish stores. You can do that in plenty of other games. This is why the balance is so important. Players need to feel like they are making progress and their choices matter. They need to be able to build relationships with PCs and NPCs as well as find cool stuff. Loot is probably more important in PA than any other genre, even high fantasy. Who cares about a room full of gold pieces? That is totally alien to us. But we all know what its like to be hungry, and to find a can of ravioli when you havent eaten in 3 days is exciting!
It is a lot of bookkeeping to note all of your food and exactly what you are carrying. Excessive bean counting slows down the game and degrades into a mundane loot grabbing exercise. Greedy players often attempt to be too stingy with resources, possibly because they assume they will survive so they have no reason to waste their precious stuff on this.
Loot and Other Rewards
Players love loot, but too much or over powered loot will break a game very fast. In a setting such as this, the key is that as you giveth, you must also taketh away. Use ammunition. Use spare parts. Get some items stolen. Players should be allowed to use experience not only for self improvement, but also for finding new gear.
--Gdaze 14:16, 11 February 2011 (MST) I'll go ahead and disagree with you on this one, and drive ya crazy with it.
The GM's job is to not take stuff away, you only "take stuff away" if the characters have too much, or have an unbalancing item or items. I think it might be better to make it clear that the characters WILL be able to find other things. Encourge the characters to use their ammo, like you mention, but do it for everything.
Another thing that might help this is not giving the characters a place to settle down. In the PA game we played, we had a storehouse. That way characters have to pick and choose. Hmm, this gun is kinda better condition... *toss old gun*. Going through ancient dead cities should yield at least some rewards. And if the characters aren't using any of their gear? Well then just don't give anything. That way they will eventually have to.
As for getting stuff stolen, I think that should be used very sparingly.
JASON: It is never the job of the GM to work against the players. In a game based on survival and a difficult life, even a small amount of new things can be unbalancing. The key here is that the GM never specifically tries to rid the players of stuff. That is petty and bad for play. The way this works is when the world is a dangerous and unforgiving place the PCs will need to utilize their resources to survive. Sometimes this doesnt work, in these cases you have to step it up a bit. If the players are constantly holding out on using their stuff, then they clearly do not fear the challenges.
In some games player greed is rampant, and in those cases it is critical to never reward loot grabbing or incessant greed. Working toward getting better things is great. Following leads and getting to the cache of cool stuff is great. These things are story appropriate. When players begin abusing the system for gain, that is when it stops being good.
As I work on this, I will keep my new ideas organized here.