Thoughts on Post-Apocalyptic Games

I just received Goblinoid Games’ wonderful Apes Victorious hard copy book today (I am a HUGE Planet of the Apes fan), and having looked through it, I find myself thinking of a post-apocalyptic sort of game that doesn’t seem to be very current, although the concept was pretty alive in the 1970’s, when I was earning my sci-fi chops.

I’m talking about the notion that in a post-apocalyptic world, civilization hasn’t completely fallen. There are not only pockets of relative civilization (as we see in movies such as The Ultimate Warrior, where a handful of survivors is peaceful and develops new crop strains in the middle of Manhattan), but there are outright civilizations, usually single cities, sprinkled throughout the wasteland. Sometimes we see those cities or organizations sending teams out to restore civilization.

Logan’s Run is a great example. We have the City of Domes, a bastion of civilization and high technology in and amongst the ruins of the holocaust. If one goes to the (in my opinion, underrated) television show, there are outposts of savagery and civilization across the blasted landscape.

There’s also the pair of made-for-TV movies, Genesis II and Planet Earth, made by Gene Roddenberry as pilots for a potential new series that, alas, never happened. There we see the organization known as PAX, which sends agents to various pockets of savagery to try to elevate them, while at the same time subtly undermining more militant cultures.

Which brings us to Planet of the Apes, the TV series. That featured a planet Earth that was a bit more balanced than the one we saw in the original movie, Humans could still speak, although they were pretty much slaves (or at best serfs) in ape society. But there was also an underlying plot line where there was some technological society that still existed, and that was the hope of the astronauts Burke and Vern; to find that civilization and get their ship back into space, and thus back home.

And the kids television show Ark II, which featured a crew of suitably-multicultural scientists in a super-technological truck roaming across the post-apocalyptic wilderness bringing the benefits of science to the survivors. And they had an intelligent chimp and took every opportunity to use the jet-pack!

The Judge Dredd comics (I omit mention of the movies by choice) have the same set-up. There are the three Mega-Cities, and in between them are the radioactive wastelands (the “cursed earth”), full of anarchy, mutants, and untold dangers.

And let’s not forget the Buck Rogers movie and TV show, where the gleaming city of New Chicago arose from the ruins of Old Chicago, where there were still packs of uncivilized survivors running around making trouble for the members of the spacefaring civilization that takes a stroll outside the confines of their enclave.

The Apes Victorious book makes me think along those lines, for some reason. A grand post-apocalyptic campaign where there’s a bastion of civilization in and amongst various pockets of semi-civilization, separated by radioactive hellwastes filled with mutants.

I never got the impression from the original Gamma World that its default milieu was so organized. But I’m contemplating a campaign where there’s a high-tech city in the Rocky Mountains, and blasted wilderness across most of North America filled with mutants, with an ape civilization in the northeast, a mutant civilization adjacent (with huge brains in jars!), the various Gamma World factions around as nation-states (or something akin to that), the southwest with genetically engineered dinosaur cyborg war machines, and so forth.

I am really liking this idea. Not only does it give opportunities for more role-playing goodness, but it’s also a way to slide the apes’ milieu into the whole Gamma World-esque post-apocalyptic world. It’s just another piece of a huge jigsaw spread across North America. My idea for the Beanstalk could easily be fitted into this sort of concept; indeed, the Beanstalk could be the high-tech center trying to bring civilization back to the Earth.

I want to run this, damnit!

Written by 

Wargamer and RPG'er since the 1970's, author of Adventures Dark and Deep, Castle of the Mad Archmage, and other things, and proprietor of the Greyhawk Grognard blog.

1 thought on “Thoughts on Post-Apocalyptic Games

Comments are closed.