Original SA post
Happy October y'all! Don't burn yourselves out on projects such as these by attempting to keep momentum going! It's okay to take a break and come back when you find that passion again!
This isn't directed at anyone, this is just me making myself feel less bad.
But it's October! And October deserves some horror games, don't you think? This year, submitted for your approval, are two games that have two things in common but with wildly different executions. One will get a pretty decent write-up, the other will get a quick and dirty rundown full of hot takes and things that jump out at me. The former you might've heard of, the latter probably not. Those things are:
1: they are all centered around playing as child characters or at least place a heavy importance on playing as children.
2: they are both horror games that have successfully managed to scare me/make me uncomfortable and I will go into detail as to why they were successful in that regard.
So let's begin with the latter game, the one that's going to be hard and fast. I first came across it around the year 2009 or the real early 2010s, 2011 at the latest, back when I was still an occasional viewer of the tabletop chan. I saw the name, I saw the pitch, I downloaded it out of curiosity and then deleted it in disgust when I dug into it a bit. This game is called KidWorld and boy howdy, it took me until 2017 to track down a PDF of it and read it and it still kinda disgusts me.
KidWorld is set in our world in around 2012, four years after a total global societal collapse that left children as the inheritors of the earth. Remember how I said this was a horror game? Well, KidWorld positions itself as a survival horror game but it's very much a pure horror game. It was produced by Vajra Enterprises which has had two games reviewed in the past in this thread: In Dark Alleys and Hoodoo Blues. IDA is...not great. Hoodoo Blues is pretty interesting and has kernels of ideas that I enjoyed.
Of the two, KidWorld has way more in common with IDA than HB. I'll let the official content warning this book actually comes with speak for itself.
God I hate this though. It's accurate and it warns against pretty much everything bad in the book but it looks like shit.
The world of KidWorld ostensibly begins in what would be our world in 2008. To go into basic detail, a plague has ravaged the world that has resulted swathes of adults dying in droves. The survivors were thankful to be alive...but then found that they were going blind as a side-effect of survival. The only people on earth exempt from the sickness and the blindness were children. In a panic and convinced that this plague was the fault of the Middle East and terrorism, governments of the world started press-ganging children into armies and creating child soldier camps while their soldiers could still see. If children could still see, then children could protect the countries from other countries taking advantage of their moment of weakness. This kind of panned out as well as one would think it would, meaning that the armies took in far too many children and the kids escaped and rebelled. But this action had a worse effect of sending a message to every child of the world: you can't trust adults, they just want to enslave you and use you. In turn kids began to enslave the blind adults, which leads to the general state of society that exists. KidWorld focuses on North America (well okay it focuses on the USA, the whole "child soldiers protecting us against the Middle East" thing is pretty much just America's idea though other countries do create child soldiers for protection allegedly) and the state of things four years later.
Societies can be boiled down into four communities. You have communities where there are only kids who have either driven away or killed all of the adults, living by mob rule or their attempts at government. The alternate form is a community where kids are in charge and they enslave adults to use them as sources of information or menial labor, never fully trusting adults. On the other side are communities that are adult-only which tend to be rather pathetic and rely on subsistence farming and the hopes that they can attract kids to live with them and help them survive. Also possible are adult-lead communities where kids are enslaved, their eyesight put to use and their bodies shackled to prevent escape. All of these communities exist at an agricultural scavenger level with higher-tech communities generally being ones where adults enslave kids. Power-grids worldwide have failed and technology and infrastructure is falling into disrepair. All communities are generally isolated and autonomous due to collapsed communication systems and because traveling is difficult. Farming is coming back in a major way as both adults and kids currently heavily rely on pre-plague canned food and that's a volatile good that will run out. But despite problems with a technology crash, adults are finding ways to survive with their blindness and figure out ways to master their surroundings.
Theoretically there can be communities where adults and kids live in harmony but again, theoretically. If they exist, they're few and far between.
What the world isn't lacking is danger. The main reason children survive and thrive in our world is because there are hundreds of interconnected safety nets in place. Even if some of them snap, there is generally something still functioning. To be absolutely heartless and callous with my examples, even if absolutely everything fails a child in this modern world and they're left with nothing and rendered homeless and social programs cannot or fail to help them, there's still cities to huddle in, people to rob and things to take. The existence of a functioning society can help keep people and children alive. Childbirth is no less dangerous to the child and the mother, we just have ways with technology and medicine to help both survive as best as we can if they have access to it. Disease is no less dangerous, we just have vaccines and medicines if they have access to it.
But it's like you see when people strip away those safety nets intentionally or unwittingly due to negligence: kids die. If enough parents don't vaccinate those kids for mumps and measles, those kids will catch mumps and measles and will likely die. If you don't put a seat belt on your kid, if you don't take your kid to the doctor, if you don't teach them to be careful, if you don't keep weapons and poisons away from them, kids die. Hell, you don't even have to look much further than the turn of the 20th century to see what life was like before we put some more nets in place. And when society crumbles and adults can't do jack or shit to help them, kids die. KidWorld is unblinkingly lethal and unflinchingly cruel to kids and let me be perfectly frank: it's an interesting thought experiment for you to play as blind people but it would require the perfect GM, atmosphere and player combo. Playing as adults is mechanically possible but there is often a huge gap between mechanics and execution. Your other option to play as are teenagers who are basically the compromise class. Teens are half-blind and suffer from degenerating sight the older they get but are also more intelligent, capable and strong.
But, generally speaking, you will be playing as children. And there is absolutely no safety for kids in this world.
This is all introduction, FYI. I'm cutting out the few pages where the book discusses the evolution of the role and view of children in western society with labor laws and social mores and shit. This game is 277 pages long and the first 121 are all just chargen, d20 rules and mechanics, equipment, etc. 122-211 are all about the current state of the world and adventure hooks, the rest of the book is alternate scenarios and...rules for LARP along with other guides and stuff. Yes, really. There are LARP rules. But I'm going to keep this as light as I can and mostly just share weird and interesting and notable stuff. I'm skipping the intricacies of skills like how it's a DC 10 Acrobatics check to do a cartwheel, I'm going to go light on how d20 works because I would hope y'all know at this point. Plus frankly the world itself is more interesting because of how bad and depressing it is.
The main reason I put this book down to begin with when I first found it was because of the three pieces of intro fiction scattered through the intro. First is a letter from a parents to their daughter and how they believe she can survive and thrive when they're gone. Second is the story of a bunch of kids tentatively befriending a blind adult they believe to be a bearded teenager who claims he wrote a sign that says "don't trust adults" in their base in a school. When they invite him back to their base, he waits until they fall asleep, bashes their heads in with a rock and pops their eyes out with a knife and eats them, taunting the last girl who wakes up in his rampage that he killed the kids who originally wrote it and not to feel bad that they were just as dumb as the last bunch. There's an actual reason he's done this, it's edgy and stupid but there's a reason. The last story is about a bunch of kids trying to negotiate with an older woman with a shotgun sitting on her porch to share her canned food and deciding to burn her house down and set her on fire and steal her food and gun in the blaze when she won't share.
The moment I read those last two stories that literally come on the heels of one another after a page was when I closed the book and deleted it nine years ago. The main reason why I consider this book scary and uncomfortable is because Vajra attempts to make realistic games and, well, I would argue they succeeded horribly? I look at this and none of it really feels nice. None of this feels good. It's a horrifically bleak setting that will never improve (you'll see why later) that has some of the cruft and dumb decisions/assumptions of their other games (like IDA) mixed with brutal and unflinching writing and worldbuilding that focuses on the lethality of the setting.
If you ever wanted to play Lord of the Flies in d20, well congrats, here we are.
This feeling sure as hell hasn't changed in 2017! This book was uncomfortable. It was just as unflinching and unblinking...up until my years reading other RPGs in the interim made me groan at all of the mechanics. The fact that this game is so unwieldy in a way to make an indie heartbreaker actually makes this game tolerable in a dumb way. But, again, we'll be taking this at a reasonable clip, and hopefully the sheer idiocy of some of this product will turn this from a depressing The Road-style apocalyptic game to something with a bit more bathos. I mean, hell, look at that cover art. That cover art basically perfectly encapsulates the game. It's so over the top and committed that you just kinda laugh when you're not baffled or depressed.
So come on back next time when we talk about CHARACTER CREATION for kids and adults. There's a whole lot for kids, a whole lot less for adults and a whole lot of strange design choices such as three different types of health, owning a pony being considered a disadvantage, kids knowing how to drive tanks and Braille being a pretty vital skill.
Oh and realtalk if any of this makes you uncomfortable, by all means roll on by. All of those warnings from the top of the review are in play for pretty much the whole book (though frankly the existence of drugs is the least problem this book has). Check back in with my posts for the other game once this is done, you might prefer a game that has less of a head up its own ass.
Original SA post
Fortunately there's a handy little list of how to make a character right here.
Cognitive Deficits/Nostalgias are an interesting concept that is also really stupid. The idea for the former is that kids aren't fully formed mentally and will believe in certain things that they'll grow out of with age. Those are, briefly:
- All Knowing: the PC is incapable of recognizing that there are things they don't know.
- Childish Deity: God is real and they are like me and my friends.
- Contagion: strong negative qualities are transmissible. If I go to a place of violence, it might make me sick.
- Conventional Morality: right and wrong depend on what me and my friends think is right or wrong.
- Disgusting is Poison: if it's not tasty, it's bad for me.
- Equal Intelligences: everyone is as smart as I am, nobody can be smarter than me but conversely nobody can be dumber than me.
- Evil Strangers: pretty self explanatory.
- Ghosts: again, pretty obvious.
- Injuries are Deadly: minor injuries or coughs mean I'm going to die.
- Just World: the world...is just. Self explanatory.
- Lookism: judging people's personality and internal qualities based on their appearance.
- Luck: not just that luck exists but that luck can be appeased or avoided with ritualistic behavior.
- Monsters: that they exist.
- No Accidental Death: something will either cause my death or won't, it's not possible for something to go awry and kill me. The game uses juggling knives as an example: it can hurt me sure but it wouldn't kill me, that's impossible.
- Paranoia: Nothing to see here, citizen.
- Pre-Conventional Morality: what is right and what is wrong is determined by who is able to punish people for actions. If I'm King Shit of Kid Mountain and can beat people in fights, what I say is right because I can punish people I dislike with violence. If I'm being bullied, then what is right is that which means I am not hurt for it. Kids are cruel, Jack!
- Racism: pretty obvious.
- Sexism: again, pretty obvious.
- Social Self-Worth: if I'm not popular than I don't deserve to be happy.
- Wishing: you can get anything you want through wishing hard enough.
Mmkay. So. As you grow older, you age out of these deficits. When you become an adult or play as an adult, these deficits are gone entirely and replaced with three things you miss from the pre-Plague world or you miss from childhood (such as the ability to see). This isn't a matter of kids having to learn otherwise, also. Kids can encounter things that prove their deficits wrong and still believe they're right because their brains and biochemistry is still developing. Hooray for puberty and physical growth! They'll cure all your misconceptions about the world!
Except y'know that's kind of really stupid
because it's not like kids really age out of sexism or racism or believing the world is just or that ugly people are bad people. While I do like the idea that these are here to help you get into the mindset of a kid...these are things that do not go away. Some adults have to learn to enjoy food that doesn't look tasty or looks weird. Some adults believe in ghosts. Some people believe that if you dilute a toxin, shake it, dilute it further, shake it again, dilute it a third time, shake it and drink it you'll be cured of an illness. It's just a baffling simplistic idea for a mechanical system that doesn't make a hell of a lot of sense outside of putting you in a kid's shoes.
Attributes! There are nine Attributes. That is way too many goddamn attributes.
Adults get 90 points, kids get points based on their age. Kids also have to deal with caps because, well, they're kids. Caps are at least pretty simple because it's just capped by your age, meaning that by the time you hit 16 your cap is now 20. Later options during creation can mess with the Attribute limits, but let's look at the Attributes proper.
- Adjustment (ADJ) is your essentially your sanity meter, how stable you are with your life and your sense of self. This is a pretty important stat and has a fucking ridiculous example and series of rules later in the book. Uncapped.
- Agility (AGY) is Dexterity and is uncapped because kids are capable of doing all sorts of nimble gymnastic shit.
- Awareness (AWR) is Perception and is uncapped because, well, kids are just all aware and shit sometimes.
- Charm (CHM) is Charisma. Charm is capped by age because it's not just about being likeable or being persuasive, it's also about having experience with manipulating people and knowing what works.
- Endurance (END) is...that. No cap because kids can just be surprising dynamos of energy and fortitude.
- Intelligence (INL) is again exactly what it says and is capped for the same reasons as Charm.
- Speed (SPD) is capped because of the size of the kid's legs influencing just how fast they can go. Speed also influences kicking damage.
- Strength (STH) is capped due to the size of the kid. Strength influences brawling and blunt weapon damage.
- Willpower (WIL) is again capped for the same reasons as Intelligence and Charm.
If you're looking for me to make a character in this, ha ha fat chance. Moving on. Health!
Health involves three interlocking systems: Body, Blood and Incapacity. Body is the amount of blunt damage the body can take before it starts going into Blood; when Body is emptied, blunt weapons do double damage to Blood. Blood is the amount of damage vital systems (circulation, organs) can take before becoming mortally wounded; when Blood is empty, all damage goes to Incapacity. Incapacity represents being on death's door and what you can still do before it hits 0. This will be explained more later (as best as I fucking can because I legit have trouble wrapping my head around this) but here's what you really need to know for now: Adults have 12 points to divide between all three with a minimum of 1 point and a max of 6. Kids? Well that depends on age.
Oh and you can absolutely have health fractions, which is...super. There are subattributes that are bonuses and penalties to things based on your Attributes but ha ha fuck that, let's keep rolling.
Kids have access to 9 different classes and Adults only have access to 3. This is because a lot of these 9 classes will basically lead into a reasonable class if/when the kid survives to hit 16 and they become an adult. It's possible for you to shift classes around, but in the beginning your class determines starting money (money in this game is represented in cans of food), your social standing, special advantages and disadvantages (yup, this system is in this game) and your skill costs. Skills are bunched into groups and each group will have a different price based on the class.
FYI there's a lot of in-setting fiction I'm glossing over because it's all generally relentlessly depressing. Also this game could use more art that I wouldn't feel bad about sharing. One of the picture in this whole chunk I'm covering is directly tied into a story where a boy is briefly taken into an adult community but expelled when they realize kids carved "MURDERER" into his forehead so adults touching his face could feel it written in the scars. There's a picture of what this boy looks like.
A Builder builds. Well that's easy, onto the next one!
Alright a Builder is a kid who has survived by knowing how to make traps, tools, items, weapons and shelter. Builders are generally in high demand in any sort of community because they're able to put skills to bear to back up their creativity and become responsible for properly fortifying structures into a fort. Correspondingly, there's a lot of competition amongst Builders in a community in regards to taking on apprentices and projects and getting supplies they can use. Enslaved Builders are used for manual labor and used for jobs that require precision like plumbing or wiring. Builders who enslave adults will generally try to pick slaves that are knowledgeable in engineering or architecture and treat them fairly in exchange for information. If that's not possible, they'll try to pick strong adults to use to lift and move things. A Builder who goes bad will go bad either due to paranoia or tyranny, isolating themselves with dozens of traps for defense or extorting people more and more for their services. They might also get in pissing matches with other communities that lead to a disastrous arms race of building.
Builders who grow older and start to go blind will start to use their sense of touch to compensate for their eyesight or only work in the day or only use magnifying glasses and glasses to compensate. Because blindness robs them of their ability to focus on specific details, they turn to recruiting apprentices for smaller things and focus their efforts on big projects like building forts or structures. As blindness grows, Builders also become more reliant on traps for self defense and learn their homes and traps perfectly. When a Builder becomes an adult, they will probably become a Brain.
Mechanically, for every 100 kids there are around 60 Builders of either gender. They start with tools and good money and don't have any disadvantages they can take. They can start play with a fort of their own and can also know how to work metal (kids can't otherwise know blacksmithing). Their three cheapest skill groups are Athletics, Craft and Naughty while their most expensive are War, Combat and Sensory.
Cadets are kids who were turned into child soldiers by the US military and have gone rogue, kids who were army brats/ROTC before the Plague or kids who realized that people with armies have power and willingly joined post-Plague child armies. They live exaggeratedly Spartan lives based on their training and experiences, living separate from other classes and preferring to live in old army camps or on the fringes of communities with other Cadets. Generally speaking their societies are meritocracies based on what they know of the military but sometimes the highest ranked are popular kids. And occasionally you have rogue Cadets who have lost their societies and live as ronin who hold to their old ideals and honor codes.
If a Cadet is enslaved, it's because they weren't able to escape the military. Being enslaved by the military is hell but a lot of Cadets are fanatically loyal thanks to brainwashing and indoctrination. On the flip-side are Cadets enslaving adults, generally enslaving their past tormentors who they consider to be demoted, prisoners of war or court-martialed to justify why it's okay to use them as slaves. Adults are generally used as manual labor by Cadets. Cadets who go bad tend to become raiders, bandits or just go mad with power and start declaring war on communities. As they get older, Cadets often become afraid of showing weakness and bolster their insecurity with bravado and abuse. The retirement plan for a Cadet is to be in a position of command and have underlings working for them, becoming a Mouth that leads soldiers who can still see or becoming a Brawn if they can't become commanders.
Out of 1000 kids, 50 will be Cadets with more boys than girls. They start with weapons and the optional advantage of having a handgun and/or disadvantage of being AWOL and hunted for it by someone. Their cheap skills are War, Survival and Athletics, their expensive skills are Scholastic, Sensory and Tech.
Horse Riders are semi-nomadic kids who have managed to get the horse they always wanted and built their lives around that. Horse Riders function as mercenary cavalry in times of war and messengers, couriers and transportation for kids willing to pay. They don't really live complicated lives. Enslaved Horse Riders are valued for the horse more than the kid, using the horse for labor and using the rider as an attendant, punishing the kid when the horse disobeys. Horse Riders in turn don't really enslave adults so much as they use their horses to run them down and bring them to kids paying for slaves. Which kinda leads us into when Horse Riders go bad: like Cadets they favor becoming bandits and raiders but Horse Raiders will also become slavers. Horse Riders also run the risk of hurting or killing their horses through mismanagement and trying to take a new one from another kid, or they'll lure kids into their group and make them work for them with the promise of giving them a horse one day.
A cavalry of Horse Riders vs. a platoon of Cadets.
Aging Horse Riders are in a pretty good position of having their horse act as their eyes for them, preferring to stick with their trusty steed and work in tandem with their horse to become a more functional combined being. This can run the risk of the horse recognizing laxness in their rider and becoming more disobedient. Either way, there are generally 20 Horse Riders in a population of 1000 kids with there being slightly more girls in rural environments and way more girls in urban environments. Horse Riders start with a stock or saddle horse and know Horse Riding and Animal Husbandry 1 for free. Their cheap skills are Athletics, Pets and Naughty and their expensive skills are Combat, Scholastic and Sensory. Optional advantages are having a hunting or riding horse, optional disadvantages are starting with a pony or an untrained horse.
Ferals are generally kids who lived those four years on their own out in nature or were adopted and raised by packs of wild animals. Or they were so traumatized by the Plague years that they had to claw their way back to a sense of sanity and stability out in the untamed world. Either way, there really isn't much of a place in kid communities for Ferals. Their ability to interact with other kids depends on what age they went feral and how long they lived by themselves or with the animals. They focus on their own survival based on what they know and tend to be more friendly with Scouts or focus on taking care of animals. Ferals enslaved by adults are considered useless or kept in cages to be used for tracking and hunting. It's hard to imprison them and use them so adults don't really bother. In turn, Ferals are rarely slave owners. It's a concept foreign to them but they're also generally shy around adults for their own protection. A bad Feral isn't much more than a wild animal, capable of cannibalism and unblinking violence against other kids if it means their own survival.
Going blind is tough for them. They either rely more heavily on the animals around them or they give up the wild entirely for protection amongst other humans. Their big advantage while blind is that their feral lives means they know how use their smell and hearing more effectively as Brawns. Only 5 out of 1000 kids are Ferals with a split between boys and girls. They're all generally 7-9 because any older than that and you'd have had more of an experience with the world. They only start with money but they also get a buttload of mandatory advantages:
- Living in nature has given them advantages to saves against hypothermia and eating raw meat along with natural armor against bladed weapons in the form of calluses on their hands and feet.
- +3 Agility.
- Night vision in low light that diminishes with age.
Ferals start with a cap of 5 in Charm and have to buy skills to be able to communicate. They also get optional advantages in the form of Animal Empathy, having a pack of wild dogs or having a pack of wolves. Their cheap skills are Athletics, Survival and Naughty and their expensive skills are Scholastics, Technology and Combat.
Inheritors are kids who assume a role that they believe is vital to society like doctor or cop or fire fighter. Some of them are apprentices, others are kids who made a promise to dying parts and some of them are just kids who thought being a doctor sounded cool. Their role in society depends on the role they're playing and whether or not they're actually good at it or if it's just a cargo cult. Inheritors don't often enslave adults, but when they do they mostly just keep them alive to use them as training manuals and repositories of info. In turn, enslaved Inheritors do their best to stay on the good side of their captors and make themselves useful as apprentices to learn more.
The downside of Inheritors is that a lot of them are just kids playing at roles. A kid cop can go mad with power because they think people have to listen to them as a cop, a kid doctor might be wildly negligent, a kid fire fighter might not have water to put out a fire, etc. Aging Inheritors tend to become more respected as they get older and get more used to the job they're playing...which is both good and bad. A lot of them don't ask for help which leads to them either assuming that guessing is just as fine as knowing what to do. A fully-grown Inheritor tends to become a Mouth who either does or doesn't know what they're doing. There are around 70 boy and girl Inheritors per 1000 adults. Their cheap skills are Care, Athletics and Naughty, their expensive skills are Combat, Sensory and Tech. They only get optional advantages such as actual cop training, actual doctor training, skill expertise, rare goods or a working vehicle they may or may not know how to drive.
Nurturers are kids who protected younger kids and helped raise them. Babysitters, kids forced to raise siblings, the right kid in the right place at the right time all tend to make up Nurturers. You're either playing a house or doing a vital job being a parent to those younger than you. Their main role in societies are to keep the younger kids alive and safe. The downside of this is, well. Kids raising kids. Abusive behavior isn't uncommon along with kids just plain fucking up. The worst Nurturers end up forming cults of personality venerating them as a parent-god. Enslaved Nurturers are often used to control and educate the younger or more rebellious kids. Nurturers enslaving adults will either use them as tutors and sources of info for the kids...or as live targets for the kids to learn how to kill or fight adults.
Nurturers who live long enough to go blind will generally train the young kids they look after to become their assistants along with teaching kids how to help other blind teens. The average Nurturer becomes a Mouth upon adulthood and there are around 100 Nurturers in a 1000 kids taking care of 250 other smaller children. Most of them are girls because fuck you. Their cheap skills are Care, Naughty and Athletics, their expensive skills are Combat, Sensory and Tech. The mandatory advantage they have to take is that they take care of a bunch of kids who are 15 years old if you add up all of their ages and all of the kids are less than seven years old. Solve for X. This doesn't really sound like an advantage because, well, they're small childrens. You can have 2 six year olds and a three year old or fifteen one year olds or etc. The big upside is this:
Yeah. Free Leadership. Take 3 five year olds to guarantee that they'll be able to help you within a reasonable amount of time before you go blind. Then there are a bunch of optional disadvantages: you have to care for an extra toddler on top of the other kids, you are taking care of a baby, one child will absolutely never listen to you and can't be disciplined by you.
Radicals are the bad kids
. If KidWorld had a Camarilla, they'd be the Anarchs. Okay actually they would probably be Sabbat given what the book has to say about Radicals when they go bad. Radicals survived by breaking the rules of the old world or just having a rebellious background in the past. They're survivalists and scavengers supreme and often reject the societies of communities for being restrictive. Rarely Radicals end up leading their communities which are...well, probably the purest thing you'll ever get to anarcho-capitalism. Cadets plan for battles but Radicals actually fight. And the problem with the fact that Radicals fight is that they're the most common class of kid and this can lead to mobs in bad situations. When enslaved, Radicals are often used for everything and kept in line with beatings. When enslaving, Radicals like to use adults as mounts by riding on their shoulders and steering them if they're not keeping them as sources of knowledge. And god only knows what happens when they go blind because every Radical takes to it differently, either becoming Brawns or Mouths. There are around 600 Radicals for every 1000 kids with a bit more of a male slant.
Radicals get money for armor/weapons and their cheap skills are Athletics, Naughty and Pets while their expensive skills are Combat, Scholastics and Sensory. The only advantage they can get is a discount on having Prison/Juvy experience. So yay for that?
Either boy scoots or girl scoots or kids with other practical experience out in the woods, Scouts know the woods and they know what's good to eat or not. They're pretty damn helpful when it comes to finding things, finding landmarks and hunting. They're also good at procuring goods for sale and trading to help communities. Enslaved Scouts escape easily...unless the adults are holding something dear to them hostage. If they can't escape, Scouts are used as guides for adults, spies or food-gatherers (which makes adults even more paranoid because the Scouts can just poison them with nightshade and shit). On the flip-side, Scouts have limited uses for slaves, generally using them to be driven ahead and find dangers the hard way or simply using their size to discourage predators from attacking. And of course if they go bad they tend to become psychotic survivalists who hunt other kids. There are around 100 Scouts per 1000 kids with a bit more boys.
Scouts often go a little nuts when they go blind, focusing on honing their hearing and memorizing patches of land. They become community leaders or they become bandits who know pieces of land by heart or become teachers. Often they end up as Brains.
Scouts carry either hunting knives or pocket knives and get 4 free levels in a Survival skill of choice. They get Athletics, Survival and Pets for cheap and pay more for Combat, Scholastics and Tech. Their sole optional advantage is being an actual Gender Scout...because you can show people your badges and make them trust you.
Students are smart kids who believe knowledge is power and knowledge will save the ruins of society. Find books, read books, hoard books, love books. They work with Builders or try to muscle out Builders or Nurturers, using the knowledge they've gleaned to teach or plan or lead or help. Enslaved Students are made to study specific things to become repositories of specific knowledge for things like surgery or electrical engineering. Students enslaving adults will just force them to teach them absolutely everything they know or use them as living libraries. And of course on the bad side of things, Students will jealously hoard knowledge, destroy knowledge or accidentally end up fucking everyone over because they don't really know everything and people rely on them for info. Going blind is, ultimately, no big thing as long as they have access to Braille or other equipment and often become Brains.
Students come with 15 monies worth of book and two points in Read/Write. Their cheap skills are Create, Athletics and Naughty, their expensive ones are Sensory, Combat and War. Their only advantage is being able to be a prodigy which means you have a max cap of 20 Intelligence. And ultimately there are 30 Students per 1000 kids with more girls than boys.
Well kids are all well and good but I'm speaking to an audience of adults (generally). How about them? They get three. Three classes. Hooray.
Brains are adults who survived thanks to being smart enough and using that as an edge. Doctors, strategists, mechanics, engineers, trappers, Brains come from all walks of life. Their role depends on their area of intelligence and what kind of community they're from. When enslaved, Brains are monopolized by various classes of kids depending on what they're needed for. When enslaving, Brains often act as teachers and instructors for kids. The downside of Brains is that they, uh, try to figure out what caused the Plague and this leads to a lot of bleeding and screaming when they go bad. Or, worse, they sabotage others out of jealously to ensure their worth.
There are 300ish adults in a community of 1000 adults with more women than men. They get Scholastics, Tech and Rapport cheap while Combat, War and Crafts are costly. For advantages they can be Doctors, Scientists or hoarders who had a bunch of stuff to give them extra rare stuff.
Brawns brawned their way to muscular survival, pecs and biceps glistening in the night air as sweat rolls down their lean muscles, flexing musclefully as their marvelous deltoids strain against their tight tank tops. Or something like that. They survived by being fit and strong is what I'm saying. That or combat skills. Brawns do physical labor or fight for their communities, doing what they can to work around their limitations and get the job done. When guarding, a common trick is to attach threads to a Brawn so they'll know what's coming their way. When fighting, they tend to be armored and fight with staves they can use in sweeping area attacks. Enslaved Brawns are used for manual labor, their communities thinking they're too dumb to escape and nothing more than pack animals. On the other side of things, Brawn slavers beat their captives and are responsible for capture and retrieval.
A Brawn on guard duty using the thread trick.
400 adults are Brawns in a bunch of 1000...but there are twice as many male Brawns than there are women, which is...I mean, I'll just whisper the words "-4 Strength" and leave it at that. The dark side of Brawns is that when they lead, communities devolve into clans of raiders, slavers or eye-eaters that rule through fear and violence. They get Athletics, War and Tech for cheap while paying more for Crafts, Combat and Rapport. The only advantage they can buy exclusive to them is martial arts training which means five levels in combat skills of choice and the ability to own forbidden combat skills.
Mouths survived with charisma or leadership. Politicians, therapists, priests, salespeople, etc. They take whatever role they know or can talk their way into, able to get folks to work together and bridge the gap between Brains and Brawns. They often tend to lead communities as a result and some even lead kid communities by talking their way into it. When enslaved, they offer the help they can and try to talk their way out of slavery. On the other hand, they make excellent slavers because they can prey on kids' views of adults and pretend to be caring and loving to trap them. Bad Mouths are amoral self-centered grifters in it for themselves using fast-talking and misdirection to make threats and exploit weaknesses.
There are 300 Mouths per 1000 adults with most of them being women. They get cheaper Rapport, Tech and Naughty with more expensive Combat, Crafts and Survival, most of their skills being pretty affordable across the board as a trade-off for the fact that they don't get any special advantages.
Okay I promised fast and dirty. Let's do fast and dirty. Everyone gets 100 points for skills which run 1-6 but can only be 5 max at chargen and of course the price of skills depend on the price of groups. Skills are a little different than you'd think; every rank past the first level adds +4 to skill checks. There are others that always give +4 per level from level 1 but fuck you if you think I'm differentiating and singling those out. BRING OUT THE SKILL HELL!
Bask in this shit. Yo-Yo Fighting. Florentine Swords. Knot Tying. "Neighborhood". The fact that Pick Pocketing is known as Pocket Picking. It doesn't get any better than this, baby.
Skills run the next 14 pages. There are just...sample DCs for so much shit. Building an Igloo is a DC 30 Find Shelter check. Explaining how insulin works is a DC 20 Biology check. Exponential equations is a DC 20 Arithmetic check. It's DC 10 Sleight of Hand to make a penny disappear from your hand. I could just drown you all in the asinine sample skill DCs like my right hand is the Tigris and the left is the Euphrates and I'm fixing to turn your brain into the Fertile Crescent. But that would take forever and it would ultimately be a tedious slog.
And just when you think Mesopotamia is doing fine and dandy, here comes Persia aka the Equipment Zone!
Alright now hold your breath and don't die.
Exhale. Ignore the burning of your lungs. We're not out of the woods yet. The baptism is not yet complete. This is everything that costs less than Five Monies, monies in this case being canned food. All canned food. You can't buy rare or extremely rare things without advantages. There are rules for encumbrance but I don't care. There are also disgustingly in-depth drug rules which I am totally ignoring. They are stupidly intricate.
Hold your breath again. Feel yourself get crushed beneath the weight of the sea, the sheer size of everything there was and everything there shall be, everything you desire and everything you can't have. Feel yourself black out as your lungs scream and your brain is strangled in its ivory crib. Look for patterns. Look for glittering stars that you only see when you're lying on the silt bed and the sky is dark above the waves.
And when you're done with that come on down and peep some Advantages and Disadvantages!
You only get Bonus Points by taking disadvantages, nobody starts with any BP to buy advantages. They can also be used to buy things like attributes. These are paid with Bonus Points that are converted as follows:
- 1 BP=1 Attribute point
- 3 BP=1 Healf point
- 1 BP=3 Skill points
- 1 BP=4 Monies
There are only two things I want to discuss from these lists. They are, specifically, Gender Incongruity and Pregnancy. One is funny for how detailed it is. The other is...eurgh.
This book came out in 2008. 2008 was not a great time for...stuff. There's nothing really in this book that, uh, discusses gender dysphoria or nonbinary gender or transitioning or gender identity expression. This is really the closest it gets outside of the book discussing things like children using gender-based slurs to indicate they dislike things (which as someone who was in highschool in 2008...yeah that was a thing and man that hasn't aged well). A very curious oversight is that the book lists sexism and racism as childish delusions but...not homophobia. But yeah this is...badly aged and also quite tone deaf and I seem to generally just recall this being the case from IDA but it's also been a hot minute since I glanced at that book. I feel like Vajra kinda also has an issue with addressing homosexuality and stuff like that? Which y'know written in the 2000s but. I can't remember. I've dwelled way too much on this because it stuck out at me like I licked an infected tooth. If this makes no goddamn sense, forgive me, it's literally 4 AM EST as I write this.
Let's move on to something more lighthearted: pregnancy!
And on that
note, NEXT TIME
I'll see y'all back here for the end of chargen and me just ignoring most of the rules.
Original SA post
You basically age a year every time you earn 200 XP. Time is abstracted and the game assumes that you're just, like, focusing on interesting or exciting things happening with your characters. XP suggestion prices are:
- 5-25 for completing adventure goals.
- 1-5 for surviving dangerous situations.
- 5 for making friends.
- 5 for discovering secrets about the game world.
- 5 for personal growth that leads to permanent change for your character.
- 2 for good roleplaying.
- 1-10 for actively trying to make the world a better place.
- 4 for having a clever plan.
- 4 for working together as a group.
You can also lose XP for bad actions or failure: 1-5 for failing the adventure, 5 for splitting the party to the party's detriment and 1-5 for making the world a worse place. On paper the game definitely wants you to play good kids and to enforce that. In execution it falls prey to the fact that the distribution of XP doesn't exactly jibe with the price of upgrading, let alone the price of physically aging. Like at least growing older is just a running tally of points, but.
2 XP can be traded in for 1 Skill Point, 10 XP becomes 1 Attribute point, 30 XP is 1 Health point. Growing older also nets you some snazzy mechanical benefits for free in addition to things you've bought:
- +1 ADJ.
- Caps for Charm, Intelligence, Speed, Strength and Will raise by 1.
- You start to take vision penalties if you're older than 11.
- +.5 Health points.
- Lose one Cognitive Deficit at 9, 11, 13 or 16 years old.
- If you're 16 you're now an adult.
If you want to change classes you just have to purchase relevant skills and then acquire the relevant tools. The only thing that really changes when you change class is you get different skill costs. The only exceptions are A: you can't become a Feral and B: you don't need equipment or the skills to become an adult class due to aging.
Everything is just Attribute+1d20+relevant bonuses vs. TN. Yes, even opposed content rolls. Observe:
Sam wishes to climb the side of a building to get to the roof. AGY is the attribute and the GM decides that the difficulty will be 20. Sam has an AGY of 9 and so needs to roll 11 or higher on his d20 in order to succeed. Say, however, that Sam has special gloves that give him +8 to climbing. Now he would roll AGY (9) +8 (gloves) + 1d20 vs. 20 (now Sam only needs to roll a 3 or better).
Amanda and Jovonne are playing blackjack. Amanda only wants to win (moderate difficulty: 20). Jovonne wants to win in a way that makes it appear that she won via dumb luck (hard difficulty: 30). Amanda rolls INL + 1d20 vs. 20 and beats 20 by 3 points. Jovonne rolls INL + 1d20 vs. 30 and beats 30 by 7 points. Jovonne wins with an opposed success of 4 (7 success - 3 success) and Amanda loses with an opposed failure of 4.
Okay, there's really only one Attribute I want to talk about here: Adjustment. Adjustment is, as previously mentioned, your sanity stat. It represents how well put together you are and how much of a handle you have on yourself. For example, here are a list of things that would cause your Adjustment to drop.
There are two big reasons why you don't want your Adjustment to drop. The first is that if you hit 0, your character basically goes into a dissociative state because they just can't handle things anymore. Catatonia, permanent rage disorders, withdrawal, running away and abandoning their own life, those are more intricate reactions. A character with 0 ADJ, in general, is in a dissociative fugue state where they will wander off and engage in the absolute basics of survival (sleeping, drinking water, scrounging for food) with no higher desire or drive than to simply survive and live in a numb stupor. The book says most people who hit 0 will just flat-out die, but a PC who is at 0 and is able to actually keep themselves alive (or be kept alive) have a 1/20 chance of snapping out of their state once a week and gaining 1 Adjustment. The other big reason you don't want ADJ to go too low is because it's used to make your character give a shit about things outside of hobbies or things that let you disengage from the reality of the world. Re-engaging with the world is an ADJ check every in-game hour unless someone forces you to stop, your life is at risk or your necessities of life are at risk (hunger, sleep, etc). The lower your ADJ, the harder it is for you to do anything besides escapist gratification. And, of course, the only way to regain ADJ is grow older or pay to raise it (with a cheaper price with the help of therapy).
I'm telling you all of these mechanics in somewhat depth because I want you all to truly appreciate how exactly the game chooses to provide an example for ADJ loss and how it is one of the
dumbest things I've ever read.
Brad, a Cadet with 7 ADJ, fights in his first major battle. In the course of this fight his commanding officer for the last 3 years, a surly teen named Tina, is killed, Brad kills another person for the first time, he sustains a hand injury which gets infected and causes him to lose that hand, and his community is forced to leave the town they lived in and wander until new home can be established.
The GM counts 4 major changes to Brad’s life: Tina is gone, he is now one handed, he is now "a killer," and is a homeless wanderer. Brad’s player argues that because Tina was so surly this counts as a good change and so it shouldn’t cost him ADJ. The GM counters that Tina wasn’t that bad, that even though she could be unpleasant Brad was used to her, so this count as a neutral, not a good, change. In the end, the GM reduces Brad’s ADJ from 7 to 3.
As hobbies, Brad enjoys chess and reading the Oz books. Whenever Brad engages in either of these activities, the GM makes him make an ADJ (3) +1d20 vs. 20 roll, meaning that Brad must roll 17 on 1d20 to stop these activities (unless his life or necessities of life are directly threatened). Brad can re-roll each hour.
One day, the GM starts play with Brad in bed reading an Oz book. Brad is low on food and should go out scrounging, but each hour he fails his ADJ roll to re-engage (he rolls less than 17 on his 1d20 roll). Finally, a friend gets upset and rips the book out of Brad's hands and throws it out a window.
Since this is stopping the PC from doing what he really wants to do, the GM makes Brad roll a save vs. anger. Brad fails his save, meaning he loses his temper. Brad starts screaming and throwing random items at his friend. Since Brad has failed a save vs. emotion he is now in another type of disengagement. He must roll 1d20 + ADJ to come out of the rage. He fails his roll and is stuck in temper-tantrum mode for the next hour. After an hour passes he rolls again, getting 18 on 1d20 (ADJ (3) +1d20 (18) = 20) which is a success, and so he snaps out of his tantrum. He is still probably in a grumpy mood, but he can now choose to go out scrounging.
Brad wants to increase his ADJ, so he starts saving up XP to buy some points of ADJ. He runs into a character with the Therapy skill and ends up talking him into providing Brad with 20 hours of therapy, allowing him to buy ADJ for only 5 XP. Brad buys 3 points of ADJ in this fashion. Then Brad has a birthday (has earned 200 XP total). As a kid, Brad gets various free things for his birthday, including 1 free ADJ. This brings Brad’s ADJ up to 8. However, Brad is now 11 and is experiencing the first noticeable loss of vision that will eventually lead to complete blindness. The GM rules that this is a major life change (even though Brad knew it would happen someday, it’s still a change when it happens) and so he loses a point of ADJ, going back down to 7.
I wish I could make this shit up. It's so overwrought and ludicrous. Yes these things would absolutely be emotional devastating to someone in real life but also truth is stranger than fiction. This could very well happen to someone but when you put it to paper it just immediately becomes too much and too unbelievable. On top of that the GM is playing to punish and playing to win rather than be a facilitator of a game and an adventure. It's the perfect encapsulation of the game the authors want
you to play.
And again I don't give a shit about the other Attributes because they're not nearly as notable as that.
Healf and Heeling
Something previously not mentioned is that once Body and Blood hits zero, you have Endurance rounds to get medical attention before Incapacity starts bleeding out. And then when you hit ICY, you have ICY+Base END rounds to receive further emergency medical attention or else brain death hits and you die. When you're among children, good fucking luck.
There are rules about armor but who gives a fuck, basically you just have Armor Rating and Protection Rating (AC and DR basically) on a scale of 0-20 and if you have AR 20 no amount of opposed successes can penetrate the armor and the more armor you stack, the more PR it has to pass through which can pretty easily reduce the damage to 0 because it has to penetrate every single piece of stacked armor. So basically all children should strive to wear multiple layers of armor if they can't find something that completely covers them and has no weak points. The downside of course is penalties to heat stroke and also Agility penalties. Anyway, healing. Kids automatically regain 1 BLD and .5 BDY (Blood and Body) every 7 days. That's default healing. Each of the following delays healing by 1 day:
- If it was burn, radiation or ragged slashing damage.
- No first aid or bad first aid was applied.
- The patient is infected.
- 5 or less END.
- Physical and/or mental stress.
- Poor hygiene.
- Taking another wound while healing.
All of these are pretty likely to be the default state of injured children running around in this world, meaning it takes a long time for people to heal unless they're not careful or able to find help. Things that speed healing reduce heal time by 1 day in turn:
- Good first aid.
- Someone helps with recuperative care and gets a 30+ on an X Medicine (Herbal, Emergency, Pharma, etc).
- Damage was inflicted by electricity, cold, heat (these three heal faster?!), hunger or thirst.
- Someone makes a 30+ Cooking DC roll to help keep the patient well fed.
- Patient has +15 END.
- Patient can spend unlimited time in bed or in a state of rest.
So yeah the former is way more likely to happen in a post-apocalyptic hellscape where children reign supreme.
I'm not gonna go over drug addiction (it's an incredibly vicious cycle), resisting drugs and handling diseases (long story short, get antibiotics and then take them all).
Skills are just rolls of Attribute+Skill's Level (+4 for each level over 1)+1d20+bonuses (well okay mostly books used as reference materials) vs. Difficulty TN.
You get one action and one reaction a round. Each round is a half second long. Do not get in fights. No, really.
Your system is incredibly lethal and kids are incredibly squishy. You have designed a substantially high risk/high mortality system intentionally and it's effective. But #1 is not an acceptable GMing tip. It's nice and fun to give your players a moment of power and supremacy where everything is going their way and their cunning has given them an edge. This is good. It should not be such a stark dichotomy. You're creating a system where inaction and failure to act is the inherent state of being for the players, where they will learn to never do anything unless they're absolutely sure
they'll succeed at doing it.
The other advice is just...bad when it's on the context of using all of this advice at once. I understand this is advice. A lot of this is bad advice. The one I do appreciate is 3 but, like, if you play most other d20 games, these formulae come pre-installed in statblocks. Like, here's the example of combat the game provides.
Four rounds of PVP and one player is mortally wounded because one of them had a knife and the other was kicking. Delightful. But yeah all attacks are contested attacks where even if you succeed beating the TN it comes down to who had the most successes. If you want your system to be less lethal...you could do away with that, I think. It's just baffling that there's that extra level of squishiness between simply seeing if one side succeeds or if both succeeds because, like, what if one side is doing something that's lower DC than the other, something easier to do. Like, okay. You don't have DCs to beat like a regular Skill check when you're in combat. You have to pick a specific maneuver you're doing (Vital Strike, Strike, Slash, Grab) and there's a DC that comes from that. Ranks in Combat or War Skills add bonuses to certain maneuvers (it's easier to use knives for certain things, for example). It's substantially easier to rack up successes for easier things if you can, so always go for the easier things to do if the number of successes actually matter over whether or not one side was the only one to succeed. It's easier to grab someone's weapon or a limb or strangle them than it is to wrestle them properly so why not just strangle them (DC 25 for Strangling/Grabbing vs. DC 30 Wrestling). It's easier to wing someone with a strike and still deal damage than it is to commit to a regular attack. Just do that then? I don't know. This entire system is flawed, heavily flawed.
On that note, adults take -15 to any attacks against people they can't see unless they're able to discern where the target is. Then it's -7. The game mentions that it's a common tactic for kids who fight adults to designate one kid as a Screamer which means they run around hollering to deny the adult the ability to use hearing to figure out where their targets are. But like even if you're touching someone...it's still -7 to hit.
Well we're done with mechanics. I just found it very hard to care and I wanted to skip stuff to just move this shit along. NEXT TIME
it's time for the history of the plague, what really caused it, communities in America, groups, religions and cults.
THE PLAGUE AND THE USA
Original SA post
THE PLAGUE AND THE USA
We're gonna skip ahead a little bit to tackle what the true source of the plague is. The plague originally started outside of Denver Colorado because the government had a black-site medical lab where they were conducting bioweapons tests on Al Qaeda prisoners. One of the prisoners breached containment and the entire site locked down as per quarantine protocols and the site went dark. Now, things would've probably turned out differently if not for the fact that a doomsday cult was keeping an eye on the lab and saw the silence as the perfect opportunity to attack. The lab repelled the attackers but the gunfire and open conflict drew the media and that's when the supervisors outside of the lab decided to pull the plug and burn the lab and all of the possibly infected survivors inside.
The prisoner who broke containment was being subjected to a weapon that utilized prions, the little bastards that slide into your body and cause proteins to fold improperly. Now, the problem with burning the site to the ground was the fact that (like in real life) it takes extreme heat or extreme radiation to kill prions. Really all they succeeded in doing was creating a smoke that carried the prions and would ultimately result in the weapon going pseudo-airborne worldwide. So in about two weeks everyone who wasn't exposed to high concentrations had some prions in their body and in two more weeks their prions were in full-gear doing work in fucking up their bodies. The main reason why so many people died was simply due to autoimmune reactions. The body knew something was wrong and it tore itself to pieces trying to fix it, killing the hosts with fevers and hemorrhaging. By the time doctors worldwide figured out what was wrong...well it was a little too late. People either survived or they didn't. The drugs to help people deal with the autoimmune reactions weren't really needed.
So people survived. In fact a lot of children survived, which...baffles me because yes this is a fictional fabrication but I wouldn't really say that a lot of kids have immune systems strong enough to handle a prion infection. But I'm just being pedantic and don't have the knowledge to back that claim up. Anyway. The survivors either came out of it fine or had lingering effects like neurological damage or permanent coughs or other respiratory issues. But then the blindness came.
Actually okay there were two other effects to having the prion integrated fully into your body. The first is sterility. The game doesn't really explain exactly how
the prion makes people sterile or how successful it is in those regards. It just says most adults are sterile and kids and teens are just ????. Frankly sterility doesn't even have to be a part of this stupid problem. The main reason blindness happens is because there's an Unnamed Molecule that scientists haven't discovered yet which is vital to the functioning of the rods and cones. Without enough of it, a milky white fluid builds up in the eye and results in blindness. The problem isn't that the prion stops the body from making this Unnamed Molecule (henceforth called Eye Bleach) but it's that the prion eats
Eye Bleach. In fact the issue is that it eats Eye Bleach faster than the body can produce it, which as most people who understand the biology will tell you is absolute fucking nonsense because the eye is a closed, self-contained system. The Vitreous Humor of the eye, for example, is one of the few things your body makes once and then will never make more of.
But this is why children are still able to see: their bodies make Eye Bleach faster than the prion can eat it and as they get older the function slows down and it's a slow decline into blindness. This is also why people eat eyes. Eating eyes means the stomach will absorb the Eye Bleach which will carry the Eye Bleach back to the eye and temporarily restore sight. This is also absolute fucking nonsense because the eye is still a contained system and how exactly is the milky fluid problem fixed. But I digress. Everyone is infected. Everyone will eventually go blind and also maybe sterile but the latter is way more of a crapshoot than the others. They say that by the time they reach the age of 16 they're just as sterile as the adults who got exposed to the prion but I say fuck that and fuck you. Mankind is already doomed enough with mass blindness and mass extinction, we don't need literal tweens being the only ones capable of bearing the next generation of feral children.
Also some of you may reasonably be saying "well hold on a second, there's no such thing as a bioweapon/disease/virus/prion that works 100% of the time". Y'all are correct. There are in fact adults and kids who are out there who are still able to see and basically either shrugged off the prion or integrated it smoothly into their bodies with no problems. Roughly that's one in a million who is immune. The book also says that every single person who is immune to the effects of the prion has "severe chromosomal abnormalities" and all developmentally disabled with a sprinkling of a chance of physical disability. Which just rings as a massive fuck you to me. I mean, cool, there are people who are out there who are genetic goldmines to figuring out how to neutralize the prion. They are all disabled in some form and the harsh decline of the world doesn't guarantee their survival four years later. It also rings as a fuck you to people who want to play the game and be like "my character is immune and will never go blind!" like some asshole GM is just gonna stroke their shitty neckbeard and be like "well enjoy playing a character with Down Syndrome" as a fucking asshole GOTCHA! move.
So while people were dying, the good ol' government was blaming the plague on The Arabs. It is legit unclear if this is the government trying to cover its own ass or if it's just irrational post-9/11 paranoia. Either way the government blames the Middle East, bombs them more and the government opens internment for select individuals and Muslims. The bombings, the deaths and the interments all went on for a few weeks before the deaths stopped and people started going blind. That's when the government and the military started kidnapping children en masse, dragging them off to military bases to make child soldiers for the glorious protection of the country from the savage foreign hordes. While this was happening, kids fled their homes, escaped capture or ended up trying to figure out what to do as adults tried to figure out how to handle going blind. Ultimately two months after the blindness started, every adult in America and the world was properly blind.
And this lead to the rebellions, the escapes from the military, the beginning of each side enslaving the other and four years of anarchy and collapse.
TYPES OF COMMUNITIES
- The most common form of government is an anarchy. Kids live in an area, form gangs, pick the area dry, move on. There are little to no defenses keeping them safe outside of numbers.
- Ruled Towns are what happens when the kids choose a leader or someone manually takes the reins. The towns, of course, depend on the ruler; a bully could create a caste society where boys have more rights than girls or you could have a council of kids who attempt to rule fairly with votes.
- Idea-Ruled Towns are towns where the kids have put their faith in either an ideology or an actual idea. The former is wishful thinking, really. You're not likely to see a bunch of kids following the tenants of Democratic Socialism or Marxism or hardcore Libertarian Anarchocapitalism. You're probably going to see towns where they believe candy is the only valid form of food or religious towns or that reading makes you go blind. The ideas they believe in become a twisted game every member of the town takes part in playing.
- Caste communities are towns where kids who meet certain criteria deserve to be on top and rule the others.
- Cadet communities are generally cadet-only and use military organization as a form of government. They're generally stable but of course run the risk of going full raider.
- Horse Rider communities are mostly nomadic and built their lives around bringing their horses where they need to go. They're generally small anarchies that rely on informal votes for decisions.
- Scout towns are the middle ground between Cadets and Riders. They travel, they exist on fringes, they're pretty well defended and pretty prosperous but they're also generally tolerant of letting other kids join. Scouts can do a lot, but they can't do everything. Letting a Builder or a Horse Rider or a Scholar join is just common sense. They often end up acting like frontier enclaves.
- Tiny Towns are strange places where everyone is an Inheritor going through the motions of what they think society and civilization is supposed to be like. Everyone has a role to play...even if it just involves walking into an abandoned office building, doodling on paper and leaving after a few hours because you're a businessman. Worst case scenario the town is either a cargo cult or the Inheritor act is a cover for Libertarianism where everyone stockpiles something and attempts to extort it from the others.
Kid-ruled towns are the ones most likely to either engage in slavery or at the very least put adults in a subservient position. Some of them are anarchies but a lot of their governments revolve around utilizing the adults in some beneficial manner and the security of the adults. It's kind of like if there was a bunch of apocalyptic survivors holed up in a hydroelectric plant and all of their decisions revolved around keeping the plant going and harnessing the electricity for the prosperity of the enclave. It varies between communities about who exactly is in charge, the adult speaking through the kid through manipulation or the kid because the other kids are too scared to interact with the adult. And it's unfortunate that a lot of these communities do pretty well in regards to agriculture, defense, engineering and medicine because it's built on the back of slavery. Plus sometimes the success of slavery leads kids to decide to enslave other kids.
Adult-only communities are, generally, societies that never attracted kids, never kept kid slaves or lost their slaves and have just lived without. It's more the first two than the latter; once word gets out that adults keep kids as slaves, even the places that would be safe are viewed with suspicion. The government varies (democracy, theocracy, meritocracy) but a lot of their governments have annual meetings to act as group entertainment for everyone. They get by through careful scavenging, subsistence farming and raising livestock as best as they can. They have technology, but not much of a reason to use it because power sources are limited. They have needs, but most of their societies are surrounded by kid communities that fear them and won't trade with them. It's not great to be living in an adult-only community because it's just kind of grim and desperate. The big upside is that a lot of them have managed to at least make steps towards adapting to their blindness. A lot of communities use really ingenious traps (such as traps that sense light from photovoltaic sources because only kids would use flashlights) and have managed to do things like set up guide ropes or leave clay maps on pedestals that you can read with your hands to orient yourself.
An adult-ruled community has a lot in common with proper American slaveholding tradition. Kids are worked 16 hours a day and fought over, used to guide adults and only educated in what the adult wants them to know. Adults in these communities generally know how to apply coercion via physical or emotional abuse to get the kids to comply and a lot of them fall when the kids figure out how to sabotage the society. The downside of these communities is that of the three types before them, they're doing the best. They have eyes to see and hands for fine manipulation and they're using their intelligence without being tortured to get what they want done. They have things like properly working farms and a chance of a genuine medical clinic being propped up on the backs of slave labor.
Rare (to the point of the book saying that most people doubt they exist) communities exist where kids and adults are equals. Nobody is enslaved and everyone works together. They don't have to worry about keeping slaves in line or having to deal with groups that might cause their society to collapse (like slavers). A utopia is of course the ideal community by the classic definition of the word, a successful and safe place where they're able to be the strongest and most secure with their cooperation and mutual trust.
The book says it's also possible for a utopia to be a bad thing such as a raider communities where kids and adults work together to enslave adults and kids alike to sell them to the highest bidders, so. This book says a lot of stuff. Me, I'm just gonna go out on a limb and assume that utopias probably aren't as rare as the book posits.
There are rules at this point for making communities using Build Points and this pretty much goes over all of the things I mentioned above except for the fact that you can't make a utopia. There's also a picture of a kid smoking opium, which sure is a thing.
GEOGRAPHY OF THE US
Lots of food, lots of nature, lots of spread out people. Pretty safe place to be. Just watch out for all of the death by nature.
Each segment has a bunch of little notable places to focus on and I'll be including brief write-ups of each. Case in point:
Northern US and Canada
- Denver has become a balkanized collection of groups ruling over the city and laying claim to ownership. Okay maybe balkanized is the wrong word. If anything it's the American equivalent of the Holy Roman Empire. Anyway a lot of people came to Denver because that's where it all began...and couldn't leave by the time they went blind or just didn't know how to get out. There are just collections of all sorts of communities that make up the city, including the cult responsible for this whole mess.
- The military is up in Cheyenne Mountain and has been holed up for the last four years down in NORAD. Nobody knows what they're up to and anyone who has attempted to enter (kid or adult) has never returned.
- Down in Salt Lake City in Utah is the Store-It-All, a community of kids living in storage containers and owning adult slaves. Originally it was home to orphans attacked by a bunch of adults who wanted to enslave them, but the kids turned the tables and locked the adults in containers to enslave them. This...didn't pan out well. The kids listened to the adults, trusted them and a revolt by some of the slaves lead to one of the founders getting paralyzed when he was thrown down a flight of stairs and a bunch of the kids end up kidnapped. The remaining adults are kept in dehumanizing conditions, forbidden to speak (in theory; in execution there are many secret words exchanged between the kids and adults that the other kids don't know about) and used for manual labor. They're also used as mounts in gladiatorial combat between two kids or four kids and one adult. The community survives by popping open containers and exploring and the paralyzed kid (Jordi Howell) now rides on the back of a woman, controlling the community with an iron fist while trying to ignore that they're using humans as pack animals.
- Camp Freedom is out in North Dakota in the remains of a Muslim internment camp that rose up and fought back against the guards. See, the military was unsure that they would be able to make proper child soldiers out of interned children and they were left with their families in the camps. When everyone went blind, camps fell one way or another (the people in charge let the prisoners go out of pity and insubordination, uprising, attacked by civilians wanting to free the prisoners, etc). Freedom put out a message in Arabic over the radio waves advertising a safe place for Muslims to practice their faith. And it wasn't a trap, but unfortunately bigots and hate mobs heard the message too and converged on the camp. The parents died fighting to the death to protect their children, who in turn picked up guns and slaughtered the mobs attacking them. Nowadays Camp Freedom is ruled by one of the kids and his surviving family members and is a Cadet community under the leadership of Gaby Arjem. It's a safe place where non-Muslims are accepted (but watched and not allowed to reach certain levels of power)...but Camp Freedom does enslave adults, using them for manual labor, cooking and cleaning. Insubordinate or treacherous adults are used as live targets for knife training before Gaby finishes them off with a bullet to the head.
- The Citadel is the name given to two skyscrapers in Chicago where kids reside, using rope bridges and ziplines to get between the two of them because the streets of Chicago aren't safe for kids. The problem isn't adults. The problem is that someone let all the animals out of the Chicago zoo and the carnivores have slaughtered the herbivores and are thriving and looking for meat. The two towers have a friendly rivalry between each other but do share supplies and food, using daring scavengers and scouts to find supplies and goods while others hunt for food or raise gardens in the skyscrapers. There's some concerns about running out of room but nobody's really too concerned about it happening. The Citadel has also gone without seeing an adult for its whole existence, assuming that all the adults in Chicago have been eaten by predators. The real danger to their peaceful existence would be if an adult was brought into the Citadel and how the dynamic would change.
All that's really said here is that the Scouts tend to be more powerful due to the wilderness. Also it sucks to freeze to death or get mauled by an animal. That's it.
This game has some real good art in places and I kinda hate that it does.
The East Coast
The mass deaths rocked the coast and most of the cities are generally abandoned. Fishing has gotten popular amongst children as a food source and there are a lot of gangs roaming the urban areas extorting food and goods from people they catch. But the coast is still pretty populated.
- The government is still in DC but it's in literal hiding within the White House bunkers. Gangs of adults and kids fight over the Library of Congress, hungry for the knowledge contained in Braille and books. The museums are also jackpots of knowledge for Builders and Students who want to be inspired or know more. Outside of that, it's mostly home to vandals who want to fuck up monuments.
- The rest of these belong to the NY metropolitan area. The streets of NYC are generally dangerous with gangs of bandits that take slaves and work them to death in the name of urban combat. The other danger of NYC is the presence of eye-eaters that work alone and work apart from each other to hunt children and take their eyes. They haven't organized but even a single eye-eater is a threat if they're able to trick children into thinking they're still blind.
- The Bastion is an adult-run enclave that consists of what remains of the city's government and their child slaves. They originally did their best to fortify the farms in Central Park but have retreated to their fortified buildings for rooftop gardens. They have good amenities (solar power, trap defenses, etc.) and 30 stories between them and the ground floor keeping them safe from raiders and bandits.
- Central Park is home to a joint venture between Scouts and Students, turning the open park into a hunting grounds with a designated patch of it run by Students growing crops in greenhouses and open air. There's even been some success in raising domesticated animals by transplanting herbivores from the Central Park Zoo to hand-made paddocks and pens. They live comfortably and have a lot of work to get done but it's a situation that works for them...except when bandits attempt to raid them for supplies.
- The Penitent Blind is a religious cult that's taken over the Metropolitan Cloisters and turned it into a proper abbey. Originally the group was just zealously religious adults who believed that a life of penance and contemplation on the nature of God would alleviate their condition. They grow food on the grounds but really don't have a lot of resources, mostly whiling away the hours through prayer and meditation. For protection, the cult allows teens to live there as long as they listen to lectures and practice meditation. Most of the teens who enter are given weapons and don't believe in any of it, mostly working as bodyguards for the adults as the adults slowly indoctrinate them into the cult. They remain bodyguards until they go completely blind and their indoctrination is complete, resulting in them retiring to lives of meditation themselves.
- Doctor Island was previously known as Roosevelt Island and is home to many hospitals that did what they could during the outbreak. Eventually all that was left was an older doctor who selected girls to educate in medicine because he believed girls would be easier to control than boys. Now Doctor Island is controlled by his ten students and he lives well...as long as he does what they tell him to do. The girls do perform legitimate medicine and their services are a huge help to the people of the city. Kids generally pay in barter and anyone who threatens the peace of the island will have medical care permanently withdrawn. The girls also help adults...and often pressure the adults into entering indentured servitude to work off the debt before they let them leave the island.
The west coast is basically said to be like the east but with more farmland. Which, I mean, have you seen the east coast? There's no shortage of that there. Anyway the main problem with the west coast is that cities like LA are totally abandoned because there was an interruption in the waterways that carry fresh water from the midwest to the coast. No water and a desert environment means that the urban sprawl has been largely abandoned as survivors move out into the farmlands for water and food.
- Disneyland is a place a lot of kids want to go to, do...and leave. It's basically a pipe dream for kids who think they can make a life and living out in Disney but fail to realize how many other kids tried and ended up going elsewhere. Not to say that kids don't call Disney home. They do. It's basically like Vegas to them. There's just a constantly rotating population because it's hard to eke out a living in the park.
- The Apiary is outside of Salem, Oregon and is a kid-only community of beekeepers. The leader, Sonia Gonzalez, made a promise to her grandparents that she'd keep the bees alive and her trek to Oregon ended up attracting followers who settled down with her. Barring an incident where they had to use the bees to scare off a group of adult slavers, the Apiary is peaceful except for winter when the slavers come try again and they have to survive off stored supplies. They do agriculture but mostly get what they need by trading honey and beeswax candles with other communities. It's not a perfect community, but Sonia has a good enough head on her shoulders to keep the kids in line and assign them jobs based on their strengths to keep the community running.
- Harkness Air Force Base is one of the few military bases that's still running and still has its child soldiers. Devouring the suburbs outside of San Diego, the base is a sprawling monster because the leader (Commander Jim Winslow) has turned his men and his kids into highly-tuned raiders and slavers. They surround communities in the night with soldiers and landmines and then use military force to invade in the day, taking all of the food and resources and marching the survivors out in chain gangs for boot camp and assimilation. The main reason this whole thing is successful because Winslow uses what he calls "Siamese Corps" where a child is shackled to an adult, a gun is duct-taped to the adult's hand and their hands are taped together so the child can aim and the adult can shoot. But the entire thing might be getting too big and too unwieldy judging by how a group of child rebels are operating with damn near impunity beneath their noses.
The southwest runs into the main issue urban California does: not a lot of water. That and a lot of risk of death from poisonous animals. Life is hard for those out in the Mojave and that's a problem when you have Inheritor Border Guards and racial tensions caused from what kids were raised to think.
- Four Corners is actually doing pretty well. Many reservations came together after the Plague and made sure their kids knew how to survive. Now Four Corners is home to sheep and cattle being raised by Native American kids banded together under the banner of a Navajo reservation, surviving and thriving in the desert.
- Las Vegas is basically the slaver capital out in the desert. Home to families who fled there for one last kick, the goods started to run low and desperate parents started gambling on getting supplies them needed. Then someone put their kid up as collateral, and, well. Vegas runs by sheer dint of slaves alone, the casinos still running and the house still winning. The desperate come to the city for a thrill or for the supplies they need, putting up other supplies as collateral or enslaved kids and walking away empty-handed for the most part. The adults? They don't really care. The city keeps them happy and they're more focused on their own survival. The parents who put their kids on the table lie to themselves and claim that at least they know their child is safe.
- For three and a half years, San Antonio was completely unsafe due to total anarchy and gangs of children waging brutal violence on each other in the streets. But for now that's changing thanks to a boy named Kwame Ofori and his plan to stop the violence by being more brutal than the others. Kwame is a Horse Rider and he had other Horse Riders backing him up, returning any violence inflicted on his group threefold. His settlement, Peace, is the safest place in San Antonio because they've unflinchingly struck back at anyone who would disturb the peace. The Peacekeepers are successful...but people are still trying to kill Kwame and topple him and his ideals.
The south isn't great. Racial tensions and Confederate ideals have been reignited, creating child-run Klans and race-based slavery. Of course there are plenty of communities in the south that are just completely integrated because the kids grew up next to each other and didn't really care about race or skin color, but the fact that you have kiddy Klansmen running around is a problem. Go further east up into Appalachia and you find communities that are getting by just fine due to forming towns out of related kids who've had practical experience living off the land. Kids from the mountains are highly valued by groups for their knowledge of survival, hunting and agriculture.
- New Orleans is flooded. When the power went down the pumps keeping the water out went down as well. Years and broken levees later you've got a flooded city being reclaimed by the swamp. Kids still live there, scavenging and living on boats, but it's an eerie city that's dangerous to live in.
- Cape Canaveral is home to a bunch of teens who claim to be trained astronauts who offer education lessons to kids who want to go to space. The pitch is that they're working on the rockets and bringing the space program back up to snuff and they'll train the kids in how to operate in space. The lessons are bullshit and the entire thing is a scam to get kids to bring food to them.
- Disneyworld is like Disneyland but in Florida.
- Oklahoma is a lot like the Four Corners with kids from reservations picking up survival tricks from their relatives and putting them to good use.
- Bertonville Louisiana is home to The Mission, a church converted into a theocratic community run by three teen boys who assumed the mantle of priests and prophets. The Mission is a pretty malevolent theocracy, accepting kids into the church for indoctrination to the beliefs of the Trinity (the three priests). God watches over you, the outside world is full of demons and heathens, purify yourselves in the eyes of the Trinity to become an Altar Boy so you can leave the church without dying. This last mission is helped by the fact that the Altar Boys kill kids who try to leave and then display their mutilated bodies, claiming they were slain by demons. Life in the Mission is a grim oppressive existence of obeying the strict theology of three teens playing at gods, hoping for salvation and doing your best to not break any of their rules. There are stats for the Trinity but basically you just need to know one is an-ex juvie bully who enjoys speaking of fire and brimstone and doing what he pleases, one is an embezzling task-master who cultivates paranoia and fear in the kids and the third is genuinely sincere in his beliefs they'll be saved and is afraid of the other two but too scared to speak up.
- 5:5 is the violent doomsday militia cult responsible for attacking the lab in Denver. Their leader, Matthew, has given the cult the name based on Matthew 5:5, all that jazz about the meek inheriting the earth. They claim to have started the plague to enact God's will that all suffer so the righteous will regain sight and be accepted into the kingdom of Heaven and they've been recruiting kids and brainwashing them into the cult. Using kids and adults alike to transmit hidden messages through chapters across the US hidden in bible verses, they're dedicated to thwart all attempts to cure the plague because they believe it's against God's will. The old world had to die to create a new world run by kids who have been taught the ways of the world by Matthew...but the fact that kids are going blind as they age is a point of contention amongst the members of the church. Originally the doctrine was that all adults would die and let the kids take control. Now the official word is that the adults are advisors and kids are going blind because they're not pure enough and must reflect on their sins. Moving the goalposts will probably be what ultimately does the cult in when Matthew bites off more than he can chew.
- Haddock's Brood is a cult of eye-eaters all taught the secret of eye-eating by one Edwin Haddock. Haddock was a serial killer who targeted kids and ate their flesh and eyes to consume their spirits and gain power. He got sick and was neglected in prison but ultimately survived to go blind. The staff decided to let him stay in his cell until death and the guards ultimately abandoned the prison...but some humanitarian ended up letting all of the prisoners out and Haddock ultimately survived to kill a kid and have himself a hearty dinner. He very well likely might've been the first person to find out the secret of eye-eating and it's not one he's kept to himself, selecting the desperate damned to become his disciples out of all of the others who were pretty rightly disgusted or tried to kill him. Ultimately the Brood is around 20 eye-eaters working together to steal into communities and feed themselves while feigning blindness. They're legitimately some of the most dangerous people out in the wastelands because, well, they're 20 adults with sight and weapons. As for Haddock...nobody really knows where he is anymore or if he's alive or dead.
- Radio Operators are unconnected groups of people who still keep the airwaves alive. They coordinate intelligence and messages, they advertise communities, they trick kids into coming to places where they can have their eyes stolen or be pressed into slavery.
- Mr. Vechhio's Kids stems from a group of children in New Jersey whose fourth grade teacher once made them perform the Milgram Obedience Experiment and the Zimbardo Prison Experiment before he was shitcanned when the kids complained to their parents about it. When the kids were all in military captivity, they all got around to discussing what they did under Mr. Vechhio's tutelage and what their parents said and what it all meant. Ultimately the conclusion they came to was that people could do bad things with little provocation and if the world was going to hell around them, someone had to stand up and speak truth to power for what's right and fair. Each kid burned a V into the back of their hand and when the base fell the kids scattered to the winds to teach the lessons they learned. They're committed to speaking out against evil and making sure someone has to be accountable for questioning a group's actions no matter the cost. Some of them are looking for their teacher still for answers to why he did what he did, others travel the states to stand up for the downtrodden and spread the message.
And outside of those, the book makes slight nods at the fact that there are groups that once held power in the past that are biding their time and trying to make plays for power, groups like the Catholic church or Mormons or communities that are becoming movements and cities.
Outside of the standard religions, a few newish ones have popped up due to the fact that kids aren't great theologians.
- Abandoned Theology: God is dead or God has left. No God, no masters, no accountability, no punishment, no Hell. Mankind is doomed and has no chance of survival. Do what thou wilt. There's no one group in charge of Abandoned Theology, just adherents who act as priests that travel the US preaching the bad news while dressed as funeral mourners or in suits. Most of the followers are kids and its presence leads to a lot of death and selfish actions to put it mildly.
- Angry-Dad Christianity: God is an abusive parent who seems nice and on the ball some days and other days he'll come home and hit you. And no matter how nice he seems when he's on, he's still ultimately an abusive dad. Angry-Dad Christianity is a degenerative form of Christianity that has been developed by kids who aren't able to approach The Problem of Evil from a philosophical standpoint. Jesus is either forgotten, considered another name for God or is considered to be the ultimate sibling who so loved his other brothers and sisters he gave his life to God to make God go easier on the others. A lot of practitioners and preachers are Inheritors wearing priest garb who proselytize to their communities and other kids because they think it's what a priest does. You also have practitioners who try to put other kids in God's sight to save themselves by introducing them to the religion.
- God's War: Rich white men gave Satan the weapons he needed to make a plague to kill all righteous and good adults. All remaining blinded adults are evil and damned for their blindness is Satan's mark upon them. Everyone who died is on God's side to help stop the Devil. God's War is a cult of violently anti-adult kids in Miami who were originally in homeless shelters and came up with religious stories mixed with urban legends. This is a real thing, FYI. A much better book, New World of Darkness' Urban Legends, has a section briefly mentioning the homegrown religions of Miami's homeless shelters in regards to Bloody Mary. And here Bloody Mary comes up as well, functioning as the polar opposite of the Virgin Mary. The doctrine of God's War is to kill all adults, all kids who go blind are also evil and impure and also dig up your relatives and give them weapons so they can take them and help God fight. You should also break mirrors and stay away from water so Bloody Mary can't get you.
- Luck: "Luckism" is basically just ritualized behavior where kids believe that luck is a real force and Fate(s) is(are) working for luck. Perform rituals to keep luck on your side, stave off bad luck and keep fate at bay. Luckism is an oral religion where every kid basically comes up with things that are lucky or unlucky and some opportunistic kids make a buck selling items to people that they claim are lucky.
- Parent Worship: Parent Worship is basically a polytheistic religion where kids view their deceased parents as gods and pray to them for help and guidance. Veneration of the dead generally amounts to making shrines for their parents or treating their old houses as holy ground or turning mannequins into statuary idols of their parents by putting clothes and faces on them. Rituals vary depending on worshippers. It's not a popular religion unless it's in a town of Inheritors because, well, as things go on longer and longer and their deceased parents don't intervene...bit depressing, this one.
After this is a section on child psychology but meh. What's more important is the segment on THE FUTURE.
Mankind is fucked. We're probably going extinct within a few generations or less.
To elaborate, the real twist of the screw is that sterility is a thing with the Plague. Let's do some fast math based on the info provided.
- World population in 2008 was 6.7 billion. If global population has been reduced by 90%, then that means there's 670 million people left. I'm counting both adults and kids. To compare it to past estimates, a world population of 670 million people is estimated to have been achieved somewhere between 1700 and 1750.
- Kids outnumber adults five to one. So that means there are around 111 million adults to 558 million kids, ish.
- God only knows how that math really shakes out when it comes to teens, adults and babies. Problem is that the 558 million is permanently dwindling as every second goes by and the kids age and go blind.
The absolute best case scenario for mankind is reversion to feudal agricultural systems due to knowledge loss and crumbling infrastructure. Every adult that dies and every kid that goes blind is a net loss of the knowledge of the pre-Plague world and the ability to act upon it. The new adults will at least know how to farm and how to hunt and practical applications of survival, but with the loss of the old world comes the loss of the medicine and quality of life that comes along with it. In two generations or so, you're going to have a world where adults rarely live past their 40s and the primary form of food comes from domesticated animals, gathered fruits and veggies and farming. Isolationism will generally be the norm because a nomadic lifestyle is too dangerous for most communities if kids are the only ones can see. Plus, child mortality will skyrocket...y'know if pregnancy wasn't actually nonlethal to the parents like the mechanics say. The mother will live but you're not keeping every kid.
What renders mankind extinct is the addition of sterility. For obvious reasons, of course. This previously imagined feudal existence is completely unsustainable because the birth rate will plummet. Because the sterility is so poorly defined, it's completely unknown if teenage women are capable of reproduction before they go completely blind but they sure can't have kids post-blindness (unless of course they're not actually sterile). The adults die, the kids become the adults, the next generation dies, all that's left is a constantly dwindling pool of children going more and more feral and likely breeding with each other as best as they can until what's left of the human race is a horrifically inbred shambling beast too unfit to reproduce and dying. All in the span of roughly a century if we consider diminishing returns and that fertility is not the dominant trait passed on by two fertile parents. If fertility is
dominant...well I give them roughly the same odds of success due to inbreeding and isolation.
KidWorld! It's all fucked! You're never gonna cure that plague unless you lock all the surviving scientists in a room and constantly feed them child eyes! I super hate this wack-ass junk science hoodoo shit! Join me NEXT TIME
when we go over dangers of KidWorld and sample adventures and maybe alternate settings which are infinitely better than the core!
ADVENTURES AND DANGERS
Original SA post
ADVENTURES AND DANGERS
What fun shall be had within KidWorld? Well as y’all have astutely pointed out, not much! This game is what most people think of when they hear the words “sandbox RPG” and boy howdy they’re not wrong. In fact, there’s a whole section dedicated to Adventureless Mode, aka “I’unno, just do whatever, mommy’s busy”. “The major disadvantage to this mode of play is that players will be tempted to strike off on their own quests and leave other players with nothing to do.” is what the game says about Adventureless Mode. And, like. Yeah. “Go off and pursue personal goals oh fuck you’ve split the party oh crap oh dang.” Let’s ignore Adventureless Mode though. What does the game think adventures should be about then?
Find food and supplies and weapons in pristine locations, explore unfamiliar places, hit the road with your friends and go as fast as your small legs can carry you. Exploration is all about roving the USA with your crew and seeing what you encounter along the way, or as the game calls it “A TV-Style Campaign” in the vein of Kung Fu or Star Trek. It’s a character-driven sort of game where it’s in your best interests to ignore impending human extinction. Dangers are mostly traps, other people, nature…pretty much everything.
This is kind of a “no shit” one. There are some sub-goals listed to this which make sense: defense, law enforcement, medicine/sanitation, technology, education, government, agriculture and trade. The campaign is all about doing your best to re-establish some or all to bring back the old world as best as you can. Again, noble effort, kind of doomed.
Searching for Utopia
In this case, you’re hitting the road to try and find a place where kids and adults exist in cooperative harmony. The game wants these to be super rare but frankly I would have to imagine it’s probably a bit more common than that. Not to say that they’re everywhere, it just can’t be all doom, gloom and child-sized leather fetish raider harnesses. Obstacles along the way are mostly encountering false or evil utopias or starting your own or having to defend one you started.
Searching for Lost Family
A good hook that isn’t as easy to accomplish as it sounds. Family is broken down into parents, siblings or children and it’s not just that you’re finding them. You’re making sure they’re safe and not enslaved or injured or in a cult or have stooped to depravity to survive.
Searching for the Cure
I mean good fucking luck? All the info about the Plague originated from this area but I put it in earlier. There are some examples of hypothetical cures that the PCs could work towards, however.
- Sight Chemicals: This is a multifaceted idea but it starts with properly identifying Eye Bleach in the eye. With that knowledge, it could be replicated in labs and mass produced, it could be found in animals and they could be bred for harvesting Eye Bleach or unaffected retinas from animals who can’t catch the prion. All of these are pretty damn hard for kids to do, though.
- Halting the Prion: Scientists were actually working on a way to stop the prion from replicating before everyone ended up going blind. The actions of 5:5 haven’t helped in this regard at all. The computers need a lot of power to run properly and this scenario would also need knowledge of biochem/physics/programming, a supercomputer, specialty software and a tissue sample of someone who never caught the Plague. Again, you are children (or blind adults).
- Artificial Sight: An alternate option for sight is that some scientists were working on small retinal cameras that would connect to the brain and work like proper eyes. The game admits it’s not feasible for every adult in the world to be equipped with ocular cameras but you could at least implant them in scientists to have them work on curing the prion. Out of all the other options this is the most likely to succeed to a certain degree; the cameras have already been made and some of the prototypes are functional. It still involves children performing eye surgery.
- Treating Infertility: While important, this definitely takes a backseat to fixing the blindness problem. This would mostly involve trekking across America to find people who’ve had kids since the Plague and figuring out if they had anything in common.
And, assuming this succeeds and a cure or remedy is found, this leaves the PCs with having to figure out a way to make children and adults take medicine. Untested medicine. Well, less tested medicine.
Here are a bunch of common dangers to be found divided into three sections: danger from kids, from adults, from non-humans.
From the Childrens
From The Adults
- Mean Kids: some kids are just assholes and will do stuff along the lines of hurting other kids, bullying them or trying to control their actions. There’s not really any advice for dealing with them besides “use your head and avoid if possible”.
- Crazy Kids: crazy kids are basically hanging on a thread of 1 ADJ or so, too emotionally volatile to control their anger and preferring to immerse themselves in escapist activities. If “pushed” (and pushing can really come from a variety of stimuli, intentional or unintentional) they tend to fly into violent rages where they’ll attack themselves or others with no disregard for safety. It generally takes realizing that they’re severely hurting someone to snap them out of it, or the presence of something that scares them, or simply running away until they exhaust themselves.
- Prejudiced Kids: your garden variety sexists, homophobes, racists or religiously intolerant. The upside of prejudice (I use upside loosely, mind) is that they need to be in sufficiently large number to act violently or they’ll just bluster with no delivery. The problem, of course, is that when they have enough numbers…they will commit and act in such a way to put the onus of responsibility on the group but not themselves.
- Despotic Kids: sometimes communities elect tyrants or tyrants force themselves onto groups. They rule through fear and crave loyalty, doling out harsh punishments regardless of consequence because they’re kids and they don’t think shit through. And because they’re kids, their reigns of terror don’t last particularly long because the loyalty of other kids is capricious at best. Worst case scenario, you have a child-sized coup d’état.
- Popular Kids: popular kids hurt others to make themselves look good in the eyes of their peers and peer pressure is a hell of a drug. Sometimes this takes the form of groups of tough kids whose toxic senses of masculinity pushes them to prey on the weak and constantly prove their worth as boys. Either way, the intent isn’t necessarily to kill, just bully…but hey, child mortality is on the rise and even cuts can become deadly with infections.
- Warring Kids: these children are fighting for some cause or fighting some other group of kids. Who knows? Your big concern is keeping yourself from becoming a target through accidental crossfire or breaking some taboo they don’t explain to outsiders.
- Groupthink Kids: Groupthink kids fall under parameters a bit outside of prejudices, bullying for popularity or continuing wars. It generally involves a mass delusion caused by peer pressure and adoption of a dangerous idea like kids deciding to take ‘an eye for an eye’ seriously. Occasionally this takes the form of kids playing a game and enforcing the rules of the game to an extreme degree, like if truth or dare was a valid and binding social contract. Or it’s just prejudice taken to an extreme degree.
- Bandit/Slaver Kids: There's a pretty fine overlap between being a bandit and being a slaver when one considers how many slavers turn to theft to survive between sales. Both groups are around 4-6 kids working together to either trick other kids or run down and capture an adult. Bandits will generally prefer to just steal things rather than invite open confrontation they might not be able to survive. Also slavers in general just tend to be incredibly amoral about who they sell to, selling kids to adults or adults to kids with no regard for loyalty to either group. Kids who tend to sell other kids to adults often find themselves in the position of getting rare items out of it the adults can't use anymore that will help them with their jobs, items like tasers or chloroform.
- Foreign Armies: America and Canada utterly failed at making child soldiers. Correction: loyal child soldiers. Others didn't. There are rumors that some other nations might have armies of child soldiers on their way to make landfall in America and create colonies to stage a proper invasion. Why? Well a lot of countries blame America for the plague because it started in Denver and because America lost its shit during the initial Plague. So any day now ships will be washing up on shore and armies of child soldiers lead by blind commanders will take beaches, make colonies, loot and plunder and enslave Americans. Yep. Any day now. It's been four years but any day now.
- Section 6: Section 6 is an actual military threat. Originally Section 6 was part of a government program where soldiers and scientists cut up kids and adults alike to study the prion. Section 6 was a sub-project dedicated to exposing child soldiers to drugs that dramatically heightened their ability to receive sensory information. The main side effect was hallucinations and paranoia...which didn't go away when the scientists stopped administering the drugs. Actually their heightened senses didn't diminish either. The project was scrapped and the kids were either supposed to be mothballed in asylums or euthanized, but every single test subject managed to overpower their captors and escape into the wild, their paranoia too strong to let them work together. The Sixers are now hermits and half-blind teenagers living alone on the razor's edge of sanity, too deadly to approach and too irrational to talk to.
Neither Childrens Nor Adultens
- The Military: Despite the overwhelming failures of conscription, the military didn't really fall apart or go away. Unable to successfully bring their foreign postings home due to riots blaming America, the presence of the military is that of a well-equipped skeleton army desperately keeping itself together. Some, like Harkness, ended up going full raider. Others ended up becoming cults or became militarized eye-eaters. The rest are still loyal to the USA and the chain of command, resorting to atrocities to get food and water and ammo because they’re doing what they must out of loyalty to their country. If a line is drawn at all, it’s set by the unit’s commander.
- Slavers: Adult slavers have to take different tactics than kids. Most groups are mobile and nomadic, staying on the move to make sure kids don’t follow or get wise to their common tricks. The more active slavers infiltrate areas at night, learn them and then attack kids while sleeping. More passive slavers will set net traps as best as they can in areas they know kids will pass through. Others will have a Mouth play nice and use their charm to shave kids off the group and pick them off one by one or lure them all into a trap. And then you have the eye-eaters, who will just fuckin’ do whatever because they can see and turn most of their kids over to buyers missing one eye.
- Crazies: a “crazy” is a mentally ill or developmentally disabled adult who has managed to survive the Plague and is roaming the earth. Some homes and institutions shut down and the patients ended up on the streets, some of them got kicked out of communities because they didn’t have the resources and a large amount of them have issues exacerbated by the blindness. Or their illness wholly stems from all the traumas of the post-Plague years. Point is that they survived and kids don’t really know how to handle an adult with a rage disorder or a self-harm disorder or an adult with unmedicated depression or auditory hallucinations. The game says that the ones who survive in the wild are have moments of lucidity and the danger stems from them suddenly becoming irrational to the kids who find them. The fact that people with untreated mental illnesses would be doing their best to get by in an apocalypse is realistic. This is still pretty goddamn shitty and it has a lot of different examples of behaviors they would display.
- Eye-Eaters: yeah I think we’ve said enough about them. This is pretty much where all the info about Haddock and eye-eating mechanics came from.
There's not a lot of worthwhile art to share in this section and I'm not sharing statblocks for any of these so here's a sidebar I feel is worth sharing.
- Wild Animals: this section has stats on gators, crocodiles, bears, mountain lions, multiple breeds of poisonous snakes, rats, cats, feral dogs, wolves, bees, wasps, scorpions, black widow spiders and fire ants. Hey, there’s an idea for a KidWorld campaign: Space Ghost Coast to Coast Babies.
- Diseases: how to die from bacterial meningitis, cat scratch fever, chicken pox, the flu, measles, rabies, tetanus, tuberculosis and whooping cough.
- Traps: how to construct and stumble into pit traps, spring-loaded projectile traps, explosive traps, gravity-based traps (thing what falls on you), spring-based traps (bear traps, getting hit in the face with a tree branch, snare traps), one-way passages, living traps (a pit full of snakes) and sharp hazards which are just pointy things laid out for someone to hurt themselves on.
Hey so children are awful and cruel and the game would super like y’all to know that. I dunno if you picked up on that? It might be too subtle. Anyway, here’s two adventures.
Little Boy Blue
The gist of this adventure is that this acts as an introduction to the world for the PCs, that this can act as a first session adventure. Walking down the road at night they're greeted by a Horse Rider who warns them of there being an eye-eater in the area and that it's smart to make their way to the nearby town. That town is Swidden, a town that actually has power because its ruler has managed to get a generator up and running. There are more specifics but let's keep it fast and loose and breezy: Swidden is suspiciously technologically advanced for a town that kid-only with nary an adult in sight.
Swidden is lead by Sam Dyson who I guess is the titular little boy blue? He's said to wear a brown leather jacket and blue jeans. I have no idea why this is called Little Boy Blue. I know it's a fucking nursery rhyme but Christ sake pick a proper damn rhyme that fits the point of the mission. Anyway. Sam is a tyrant under the guise of a benevolent and good-natured whiz kid. He has a monopoly on all of the medicine and technology, possessing a working truck and a shotgun (that he keeps hidden). He has a working movie projector that was salvaged from a cinema, the town is powered by a surprisingly robust makeshift furnace, a functioning chainsaw and knowledge of how to make wine from fruit. The ultimate plan of his is to get a fence made, rope some cows and start raising cattle. Sam's rule is good natured on the surface and kids are happy to brag about the technology and accomplishments. The true nature is that he extorts the kids to get work done for him and basically profits all free labor with a smile. Trying to leave results in a perpetual debt that needs to be paid: a day's work to pay off staying there the night before. Defaulting on the debt leads to bad things happening and running away leads to worse things happening.
See before the Plague Sam's dad divorced his mom and got custody of Sam. And Sam's dad...well, he favored his new wife's kids so much that Sam started to act up under his roof. Sam was sent to juvie around the time the Plague started due to the fact that acting up became committing crimes. When faced with a court order to either taking him back or sending him to a group home due to the Plague, Sam's dad sent him to the group home. So when Sam escaped from the home during the Plague and found out that his dad was going blind...he decided to enslave his dad and keep him as a source of knowledge. And then Sam found out that eye eating restores sight to adults.
So. There is no eye-eater. Not in the common sense of things. Defaulting on the debt or speaking out against Sam leads to basic punishment: imprisonment, beatings, etc. People who attempt to leave Swidden are hunted down by Sam, killed and have their eyes fed to his father so he can be used to work on projects for Sam. Sam's gotten so reliant on this that once a week he'll leave in the dead of night to go hunting for eyes. The crux of the mission is to find out this horrible secret and then figure out exactly how to do this, probably by breaking into Sam's house when he's out or asleep.
This is not as easy as it sounds because Sam is a paranoid little bastard who has stockpiled all of the good books from the library and a lot of other goods.
- There are three entryways via doors. The front door is locked and boarded up completely and is unusable.
- The garage door can be entered...but you have to lift it and it makes a shitload of noise.
- In the backyard is a sliding glass door with a padlock chain and bags in between the doors. Breaking the glass results in the bags puncturing and mixing the contents: ammonia and bleach. Save vs. homemade chlorine gas, kids. That being said this is the safest but least subtle way in because just, like, break the fucking glass from a distance and wait for it to diffuse in the open air.
- The only accessible window on the 1st floor is a bathroom window that requires some elbow grease to open and will only fit a kid who weighs less than 75 pounds. Behind the bathroom door (which opens inwards) is a giant hunk of scrap metal attached to a cord that swings through the doorway when it's 75% open. It hurts like hell and it's hard to dodge.
- The second floor is accessible by a drainpipe that can only hold up to 80 pounds, but the windows are unlocked. There are three windows accessible through a variety of climbing options (including the drainpipe) but two of them have the same result: they're trapped. Inside the rooms beneath the windows are bed frames that have sheets stretched over them and the mattress removed to provide the illusion of a solid bed. Beneath the bare sheets are sharpened sticks that will impale anyone who lands on them and doesn't succeed on Awareness. These hurt substantially and in general just have a huge risk of penetrating your foot through your shoes and hobbling you. You do not want to fall fully on them.
- There's one last trap on the way to the basement where Sam's dad is being held. Three of the steps on the stairs have been sanded smooth and greased, creating a slippery and uneven patch designed to make people fall. If you fall down the stairs, there's a few rows of nails that have been glued to the foot of the stairs, point-up. The damage is not enough to kill you but it's...super, super not something you want to experience. The best way to avoid this trap is to just go incredibly slowly and carefully down the stairs.
Sam's dad is chained up in the basement and his statblock is where we find out his side of the story. Phillip Dyson married out of engineering college and didn't realize that his new wife was a bit emotionally unstable ("women, am I right?" says KidWorld). She demanded that he move to Swidden (despite it being a huge commute to work) and give her a baby ("women, am I right?" says KidWorld, elbowing me in the chest). Then the relationship became more distant, she cheated on him with a younger man, demanded a divorce from him and then dumped Sam on Phillip ("WOMEN AM I RIGHT" yells KidWorld as my chest begins to bruise from the elbow). Ultimately the reason why Phillip paid more attention to his new wife's kids was because he was afraid of losing her too, but then Sam started criming and Phillip started to feel disgusted by the affect Sam had on his life and reputation and, well, now he's chained up in a basement. Phillip has sores on his ankle from his restraining chain, an awful smell to him and a wheezing rasp caused by the prion ravaging his lungs. When Sam found him, he was half dead. Now he's too despondent to kill himself or escape, considering this a just punishment for abandoning his son and wanting to atone by helping Sam help kids. Telling Phillip the truth about where Sam gets the eyes (Phillip knows the gist of what Sam's doing but guiltily avoids thinking about it) will lead to Phillip begging for death.
So how this resolves depends on how the PCs feel like approaching it. It's completely possible that the PCs never go into the basement like RL Stine commanded and they just try to leave whereupon Sam will try to hunt them down, overpower them with tech and take their eyes. If they kill Sam or just succeed in fleeing, this will result in retaliation by an angry mob of children. Killing Phillip is valid and will rob Sam of his greatest resource and lead to the collapse of Swidden. The best outcome involves dragging Phillip out of the basement and showing off the depths of Sam's crimes, where he'll end up realizing that the other kids don't love him but instead love his security and tech. There are three states of resolution to this outcome: the kids of Swidden riot and kill Sam, the kids of Swidden run Sam out of town, the PCs convince Sam and the kids to embrace Phillip as an equal and it no longer remains a tyranny but has a shot at becoming a utopia.
This is an alright mission but the traps are all bullshit and there's a bit too much of a feeling of Sam being an overpowered enemy with his advantages of a shotgun and other stuff. I dunno. It could use some toning down for an introductory mission but like all things considered it's decent. On a scale of 0-5, this adventure is a C.
Anyway here's more kids being shit.
How it Feels to be Invisible
Mmkay this one has more meat to the backstory than the previous.
Killian is a farming town with the basic staples of a small town. When all of the adults died, that left 28 kids because the military never made it to Killian. They have a general lacking of skills and mostly just hang out, scavenge, trade with people who pass through and deal with having many minor injuries going untreated. The problem with Killian is that it's a town run by an ideology and the ideology is pretty simple: the popular kids can't see the unpopular kids. It started off with a class divide of Popular and Unpopular and then a popular kid decided to ignore an unpopular kid to the extent of being like "I physically cannot see nor comprehend who you are talking about". This caught on with the other popular kids. And when you consider that the book defines the popular kids as, and I quote, "pretty, smart, charming and white" and the unpopular kids as everyone else...
Also for the sake of brevity I'm calling them Pops and Unpops.
So the Pops who acknowledged their Unpop friends or siblings ended up becoming Unpops themselves. Then the Pops started to hoard all the best resources because "no it's just us, we've never heard of a kid called So And So". When absolutely every attempt to make them get noticed, the Unpops started to steal from the Pops, which lead to the Pops putting everything under heavy lock and key and never letting their keys out of their sight. With this, the Unpops decided to just attack the Pops...which lead to the Pops deciding that it'd be a great idea to just swing a weapon around wherever they walked when they were outside of the safety of their barricaded homes. When I say weapons, I mean things like machetes, lengths of chain, cinderblocks on the end of a rope, etc. Nobody has died yet, amazingly. The Unpops have resorted to kidnapping and torturing or threatening the Pops into seeing them, leading to a current state of 10 Pops and 18 Unpops.
Which leads us to Alice Marie, the girl stuck in the flooding drainage canal, who the PCs will see on the way to Killian.
Alice Marie was locked in the canal by the Unpops who used a lock stolen from the Unpops. To better put the situation into perspective, there's a tunnel beneath the road into Killian with two sets of bars, one on each side of the tunnel. She's been locked in the tunnel on the side that opens after the Unpops threw rocks at her, ran her down, tied her up and put her in the tunnel. When she agreed to acknowledge them, the Unpops found out they didn't have a code to the lock because it was a stolen lock. And it's not helping Alice's panicked state of mind that rain is coming and there's two inches of water in the bottom of the canal already. Plus, the Pops know that Alice Marie is now an Unpop and most of them in fact don't even know she's in the tunnel...not even her sister Megan.
Ultimately through tracing the lock back through talking to the Unpops, the PCs will learn whose lock it was. They will also find that the Pops are ignoring them too because, well, the PCs are now Unpops. There are a few different solutions to this the game puts forth:
- Break the lock: not easy due to the lock's quality. It's also not easy to pick the lock. Your best shot to break the lock would involve raiding the Pops' supplies for good quality hardware and tools.
- Convince the Pops to stop the game and save Alice Marie: also not easy. The weakest link is Alice Marie's sister Megan who will probably pretty easily stop playing to save her sister. The problem is it's not Megan's lock. This would require the PCs to flip Megan into an agent without alerting the Pops so Megan could get the code from Cindy. Failure means that now Megan is an Unpop and is being ignored by the others.
- Use violence: either sufficiently threaten or sufficiently overpower the Pops into losing the game so it'll be over. Again, not easy. The Pops have the best quality weapons and also tend to be bigger and older than the Unpops and in better shape. There's less of them but more of a challenge.
- Trickery: what, no, we never talked to anyone by that name. Probably the easiest on paper to do and the fastest but, again, no plan survives contact with the enemy and with rolled dice.
Making things even further complicated is the fact that the GM is encouraged to keep track of how much water is in the canal and how hard it'd be to access the lock. Saving Alice is a timed mission: you have two hours to get the code unless you somehow gave her something to let her breathe underwater.
I don't like this mission. It just rubs me the wrong way, I can't accurately articulate why. I think it fundamentally comes down to the fact that this straddles the line between both halves of realism. I mean it perfectly
straddles it to the point that it becomes uncomfortable.
But yeah. Those are two of the three sample adventures. Oh, did I say out of three? Well hold onto your butts because NEXT TIME
I'm gonna finish the game with the last update that contains the other two alternate settings and scenarios, KIDNIGHT
. I will be ignoring the LARPing rules because they take up almost 20 pages of rules and mechanics and KidNight itself is 32 pages long and fuck putting in more effort.
Anyway KidNight sure is more of this and KidSurreal...I actually like because it's a good kind of weird.
ALTERNATE SCENARIOS and THE END
Original SA post
ALTERNATE SCENARIOS and THE END
The main gist of KidNight is that an event that the walls between the supernatural and the mundane have fallen down in the wake of adults going blind. The basic reason this has happened is that because the adults can't see, there's nothing stopping the monsters and supernatural from just doing whatever the fuck they want. Sidenote: the core scenario goes into painstaking detail about everything. KidNight doesn't, it's presumed to just be adding the supernatural on top of vanilla KidWorld. So all of the problems of KidWorld are still an issue, it's just that now children are capable of harnessing a piece of the supernatural to fight back against the monsters. And to that end, there are now new character classes for kids.
Concentrators are kids who, through sheer force of mental willpower, can tap into the supernatural and bypass the regular rules of time and space. Your average Concentrator is a child with the patience and fortitude to sit for hours on end doing nothing more than willing themselves to have superpowers. They don't take apprentices because it's not really something you can teach, you just have to do it until it works. When they're not working on their powers, they help scavenge or are roaming nomads who help communities for a price. The worst case scenario is that the Concentrator descends into megalomania or they become bullies themselves. Roughly 10 kids out of 1000 become Concentrators with equal weight towards boys and girls. And because the game doesn't really care at this point, there is no info for what happens when they go blind, probably because I think the blindness is supernaturally-caused instead of a prion. There's intro fiction of an abused kid making a deal with a spooky voice to make his dad feel how he feels and then every adult goes blind. I dunno. Did I mention that there's no elaboration? 'cuz there isn't.
Concentrators only have a single mandatory disadvantage which is that their ADJ can't go above 5. I don't really care about the skills anymore. The big thing hindering the Concentrator is A: mandatory ADJ cap and B: Concentration skills and the powers you get kinda suck ass. Also they don't even get their own skills for cheap because fuck you.
Deadies are kids who have died and then come back. The game elaborates on this a bit: on one hand you have kids whose hearts have stopped but their lives are saved and they're okay. On the other is a kid who dies and can't be saved and becomes undead (all corpses run the risk of becoming undead FYI). A Deadie had their heart stop and their ghost detach from their body but either medicine or force of will restored them to life. This has advantages and disadvantages. In fact let's just look at those to get a handle on Deadies.
- Mandatory: permanent -10 save against hypothermia due to having the heat of life sapped from their bodies. They also have muted, dampened emotions, need to sleep longer and have cooled skin.
- Mandatory: Half-Dead Stomach. The Deadie can only ingest raw food. Trying to eat cooked food triggers save vs. vomiting. They also have to resist being spurred into a ravenous hunger from smelling fresh blood from a wound. On the upside, they can survive on all raw food. A Deadie can drink blood and eat flesh but they can also survive on fresh fruits and uncooked veggies.
- Mandatory: ADJ capped at 5.
[*Mandatory: they attract a type of monster called a Nightmare more often than other kids.
- Mandatory: can see and speak to ghosts and imaginary friends and are recognized by them.
- Mandatory: smell like they're dead so is able to play dead with ease or manipulate enemies that rely on smell.
- Optional: make friends with ghosts more easily.
Deadies just kinda help with ghost problems and are paid in blood and meat generally. The dark path they tend to take is just becoming cannibals to feed themselves or hang out in haunted houses where they can feast on bodies made by angry ghosts. Deadies are super rare with only 1 in 1000 with a split between boys and girls.
A Dreamer is a kid who has figured out how to lucid dream to such a degree that they can actually gain powers with the new supernatural problems. Dream powers are pretty okay. The big benefit of them is that you can up your attributes in the dream. They mostly sleep a lot and are protected by other kids and in turn assassinate people or find things for their protectors. They're basically like...the hackers of this world. If they go bad they tend to become bullies or serial killers or dictators who spy on people. There are 5 in 1000 with an even gender identity split and their only disadvantage is a cap to ADJ.
Imaginers are proto-Summoners or Spiritualists from Pathfinder. No, really.
Imaginary Friends are visible to the Imaginer and can do small things outside of combat. Really the big benefit is that the Imaginer has an invisible, intangible friend who can attack alongside them and the Imaginer can buff the friend. Bad Imaginers either become misanthropes who believe their buddy is better than any human or they pump all of their negative emotions into their friend and let them run amok while pretending they can't stop them. 3 kids in 1000 tend to become Imaginers, even split, etc. Their mandatory advantage is their friend, mandatory disadvantage is a cap on ADJ, yadda yadda. They have an interesting optional advantage where their friend is actually a hive of 20 small friends and...it's a better option because it gives you huge numerical advantage, I'll show you below but Imaginers are actually amazingly good.
Separates are kids who were taken to the realms of the fairies and survived to tell the tale. You don't want to go to the realm of the fairies, it's a horrifying place where you're experimented on and tormented and slowly become less human. The reason they're called Separates is because their bodies are physically unstable, falling to pieces on command. They do their best to get by and entertain, but, well, they run the risk of becoming as cruel and capricious as the fairies themselves. Alternately they become so fearful of ever going back they run around with poison in their pockets or try to burn down anything fairy related or use other kids as bait to save their skins. 12 Separates are found in 1000 with the number increasing as the fairies keep up their machinations. They get a lot of advantages and disadvantages.
- Mandatory: Separates have bonuses to saves against fear.
- Mandatory: Bonuses to saves vs. hallucinations.
- Mandatory: capped ADJ.
- Mandatory: removable limbs and parts that function fine despite being detached.
- Mandatory: every single day one feature of the Separate changes but their gender, species and Attributes remains the same.
- Mandatory: unstable physics. 1/20 chance of spending a day invisible, intangible or weightless.
- Mandatory: bonus to speaking with fairies.
They get a whole lot of stuff that's...okay. I dunno. It's a whole lot of nothin'.
I'm gonna skip the advantages and disadvantages because they're not easily contained in a picture or two.
HORRORS AND DANGERS
the main thing important about animals is that they're all intelligent and capable of speech if necessary. This has lead to problems with kids hunting animals for food and some animals declaring war on mankind. On top of that, sometimes animals end up kidnapped by fairies and end up like Separates, insane and affected permanently.
the dead are a lot like a person who is sleeping really deep and it requires a lot of effort to wake them up because Kid Logic. Sufficient noise or stimulus will wake a corpse and produce a soulless animalistic entity that exists only to eat and hunt. Fortunately they're not very fast or smart and a few hours after being awoken they'll go right back to sleep. If that's not fast enough, you can just kill them again with sufficient damage.
The Beyond is the void past the stars, the unknown and the unseen, the dead space in the corner of your eye. The Beyond is not empty, The Beyond is not nothingness. The Beyond is home to unknowable beings. The Beyond is indescribable and should not be fucked with. Children haven't exactly heard this message and as such they fuck with The Beyond. To fuck with/contact The Beyond, you simply have to try and make contact with something that isn't there. Examples: shining a flashlight at the stars in morse code, speaking into a dead telephone, using a Ouija board. The best case scenario is that you get no response. The worst case scenario is that you do
get a response. Something from The Beyond comes for the child who made contact and generally the child doesn't survive this. If you do
survive, it's because you ran and hid. Nobody sees the beings of The Beyond and survives.
Now admittedly some of the fluffy writing there is all mine because the game doesn't really dip into that but I do like The Beyond. It's kinda wasted on this game and tonally clashing but I dig it.
The Cannibal Adults are an enhanced form of Haddock's teachings. Eating the eyes still works, but so does eating more of the child. This is explicitly consuming the child's soul and integrating it into yours to become a god among men and a repository of souls. And, well, there actually are some pretty good benefits to symbolic cannibalism and the effects actually last longer than they do in the core.
These empowered cannibals are even more of a threat than the core eye-eaters and should be avoided at all costs.
Dreams are complicated because they have rules. Rules which are luckily encapsulated in a sidebar.
This sidebar neglects to mention that the dream world has some unique locations that don't correspond to the real world or pop culture places have been built in the dream world by the collective consciousness of sleepers (Hogwarts, Hell, 2Fort, Gor). Also because murder by dream is very tricky, most Dreamers just hassle kids in their sleep and make them wakeup until they agree to whatever terms are offered. The real threat comes from Nightmares, intelligent monsters that want to kill and scare children but can be outwitted or driven away with enough damage.
The Dream World is one of the three main other worlds that are all accessible from the real world and may or may not actually be interconnected in what is one of the few interesting things in this scenario. Ghosts are more intelligent in the Dream World, Separates can use their powers more easily, Imaginers don't need to expend resources to buff their friends and you can just see your friends, etc. The two other worlds are the Fairy Realm and the Mirror World and it's hypothesized that these three worlds are all just part of the same plane of existence, a plane that contains ghosts, monsters, fairies and imaginary friends. We'll see the other two worlds in a bit, starting with...
Everything is brighter and more beautiful in the Fairy Realms, home to the fairies. Fairies take the form of six-inch-tall winged beings, slender and tall adults or little black or white animals. The realm is accessed by entering a ring of mushrooms or a child-sized hole in a hill in places that look brighter and more fantastic. You absolutely do not want to go to the Fairy Realms because fairies are completely insane and nothing works the way you'd think it would. Because the human body is a thing that's not from the realm, a lot of fairy pranks are lethal or at the very least dangerous to the people they play jokes on or alter to their whims. The worst case scenario is being abducted by the fairies to be turned into a "science" experiment or a pet or a slave. You also don't want to fight a fairy without the proper defenses because their bites and bodily fluids cause intense and vivid hallucinations. That and they can teleport. The best defenses are rings of salt (won't teleport over salt), iron weapons or church bells.
The land of the realm is as wild and shifting as the fairies themselves, often inhospitable or nonsensical or endlessly repeating. Spending more than a few minutes in their lands is a good way to end up stuck and unable to find an exit. On top of that, fairies are somehow
able to show up in dreams, meaning that their world has to have some exits into the dream realm. Probably.
Ghosts are pretty confused all the time. They spend a lot of time trying to foist their memories onto the world around them, thinking that someone is their mother or their friend or that they need to do something they remember. Ghosts literally have the same level of power as an Imaginary Friend: turn things on and off, lift small things, make eerie noises. However, they never run the risk of disappearing like an Imaginary Friend who has been cut-off from a kid. The main combat benefit that a ghost has is that the more put together it is, the weaker it is. A docile ghost can't do much. An enraged ghost or a vengeful ghost is capable of full-on psychokinetic mayhem at the cost of being so blinded with emotion they can't be talked to or negotiated with. Also ghosts can possess people but it's a rare occurrence and the ghost is generally as confused and incoherent in the flesh so there's no real point outside of being able to interact with the world without being emotionally overcranked. The only defense against a ghost (outside of powers or being a Deadie) is to just go somewhere else so the ghost forgets you. So yeah ghosts and Imaginary Friends might
come from the same place.
this got kinda covered in the sidebar and what I just said above but yeah there seems to be a link between ghosts and Friends. What's interesting is that it's mentioned that yes IFs without Imaginers will slowly shrivel up and die but there's a solution outside of the friend convincing another kid to adopt them. The other way is for the IF to travel through the Dream World and exit through the Mirror World through a mirror. This isn't a great idea though. Whatever the IF has to endure to become truly alive tends to leave a mark on them and makes them more jaded and callous, especially if they've been abandoned and even if they did it with the help of their Imaginer.
already mentioned this off-handedly. They kinda suck. You're not really allowed to do cool things with them. Interesting things but not cool things.
the Listeners are basically like tempting fate. If you say "this can't get any worse", it will. If you brag about it, it'll get taken away. If you use metaphors or turns of phrase carelessly, expect dire results. The only saving grace is this can be negated by immediately being like "no not really" and also the fact that the Listeners don't act on everything they hear. But yeah, it's as simple as tempting fate and having it happen.
Luck actually works and lucky/unlucky items actually do stuff, generally in the realm of giving a -4 to +4 buff or penalty with the proper equipment. That's really it.
Okay there are a lot to the Mirror World. The thing that keeps you from just walking through a mirror is the premise of your doppelganger, a being unique to you that always blocks the way and always mimics what you do. Doppelgangers are generally peaceful or at the very least calm unless you've been an ass to yours by saying mean things into the mirror. There's also the rare occasion they just get jealous of the real kid's life and will briefly drag them in to take their place before reverting to their neutral behavior (which is live behind a mirror and copy someone). They really don't like the real world so there's never a risk of a kid being permanently replaced. They are also terse and don't talk much and will reveal no information about the Mirror World. So how does one outwit their doppelganger? Sidenote: the Mirror World gets so much info Jesus
. Well if you don't have the ability to walk through walls as a Concentrator, there's taunting the doppelganger until they stop mimicking you and then wrestling them out of the way.
The Mirror World is a perfect swap of the real world but the only occupants are doppelgangers of yourself/other kids with you, mannequins, animated suits of armor, other kids using the world as a passageway and Bloody Mary. The Mirror World is empty and a little dark and a little cold. As long as you're within the mirror, your doppelganger will stalk you from a distance to try and figure out a good time to strike and incapacitate you and eject you from the mirror. Stepping up a notch from danger are mannequins and walking armor whose only goal is to strangle children to death or cut them up with a sword respectively. And then there's Bloody Mary, who is blind but hunts by smell and will rip kids to pieces. She can also be called into the real world and you can run away from her and let her take kids who are after you. The Mirror World itself is dangerous. The moment you leave a room with a mirror, it will continue to reflect where you are in the real world. If these rooms don't have mirrors in them, they end up warped or incorrect versions of the proper room. An attic would still be like the real attic in design even if the mirrored attic has vaulted ceilings so high you can't see the top. Because sometimes Imaginary Friends emerge from mirrors, there are kids who believe that if you go far enough in a space devoid of a mirror, you'll find the Dream World or the Fairy Realm somewhere out in the Mirror World.
Bloody Mary on the hunt.
So why go into the Mirror World? Two reasons. First is that if you walk into the Mirror World holding
a mirror, you have a perfect tool with which to spy on the real world. Because there's no corresponding mirror in the real world, you have an invisible eye to monitor that location with. Second is that mirrored items are still perfectly usable and can be brought back. Mirrored bullets will still function, mirrored food is still edible, either can be brought back through into the real world. It's completely unclear if, like, this can be repeated by repeatedly jumping between mirror and real world and bringing more stuff back to make more appear in the real world.
I like the Mirror World. It's pretty decent and I'd steal it for use in something better. Hell I'd steal the whole mirror/fairy/dream connection.
Yeah that's pretty much all you need to hear about monsters. They're generally unstoppable and run the gamut from horse-headed nightmare goblin to an onryou to a mummy or whatever. Monsters, and things like The Beyond or Bloody Mary, are one of the most common tools of murder in KidNight. When your back is to the wall and you have absolutely nothing to lose, it's common for desperate kids to invoke one of those three to try and save their own asses by adding chaos to the mix. Plus it becomes a matter of outrunning the kids trying to kill you than actually dealing with the monster.
When The Party's Over
Yankee is an 11 year old boy who runs [TOWN NAME HERE] who is looking for people to find his 7 year old sister Joy. Joy is mute and has remained mute since seeing her parents' corpses and while Yankee runs the town, Joy is excluded from duties to play and allowed to wander and hang out because Yankee believes she's emotionally stunted and needs protection. However, she has disappeared and she doesn't normally do that.
Fundamentally her disappearance has to do with their drug addiction wait hold on where are you going.
Okay so Joy and Yankee are addicted to drugs. Specifically, they like doing ecstasy. Joy has been finding the drugs on her wanderings, namely that she's been taking them from an abandoned nightclub called The Pulse that used to be an industrial warehouse. The Pulse was holding an end-of-society rager back during the Plague and the guests all died inside of the club, their ghosts stuck within the building along with their belongings. On top of that, the building is more malevolently haunted by two ghosts: Grady and the Junkie. Grady was the owner with a young son who was pressured into opening the club up for the party by the Junkie and his friends. While the party was going on, the Junkie got the idea that Grady was holding and strangled him and stabbed his son to try and get at their imagined stash. As everyone literally partied themselves to death, the Junkie kept searching their bodies over and over until he died of withdrawal and starvation in the basement.
Grady's ghost is more reasonable but that's not saying much. Anyone who enters the building and draws his attention is not allowed to leave. He would rather keep people in the building until they died as well than let his son's murderer go free and he thinks the murderer is in the building. Joy has been taking drugs off the bodies of the club but Grady has been overlooking her because she's a children and reminds him of his son. The reason that Joy hasn't come back is because she went down into the basement and that's the home of the Junkie. The Junkie has been so consumed by his addiction that he is single-handedly committed to finding more drugs, hurting whoever he gets his hands on to try and make them give up the goods.
I'm going to skip a lot of this to save time but the crux of the adventure is for the PCs to get stuck in the nightclub by Grady and find a way out. Your choices are to basically overpower Grady (good luck, you need someone who can fight ghosts), try to escape through a mirror (which will work) or to make the Junkie and Grady finally come into contact with each other and let the ghosts fight it out. The latter is the more satisfying choice because you can help Grady win and save Joy from the basement and Grady will pass on to his final rest. You can't really confront Yankee about his drug problem, all he'll say is that he'll forbid people from going back into the nightclub.
And that's it for KidNight. KidNight: it's okay. My honest opinion would be strip the whole Mirror/Fairy/Dream thing from this environment and reuse it in a better system like a non-Changeling nWoD campaign. Also I will admit that I do like the idea of The Beyond and how you can just call down something terrible to interact with you by such easy means as yelling into a dead phone. But let's get into the better
KidSurreal scraps pretty much the entire framework of the world and exchanges it for something wholly different. This is what makes it better than the previous two settings. No blindness, no eye-eaters, no global collapse, no damnation. KidWorld is all about kids being forced to inherit the earth. KidSurreal is all about the perceptions
of children being forced onto the world and nobody knows why.
The main thrust of KidSurreal is that for the last few years the world has been stuck on a day that will never end. Time and space are permanently stuck on a mid-summer afternoon around 3 PM to 6 PM. The sun never moves. It's not like time has stopped, it's like when you were a kid and things just seemed to drag on and on forever. But, fundamentally, it's like time has stopped. The kids will never age.
So what about adults? Well, adults aren't frozen in time but they're caught on some cosmic hitch like the rest of the world. Pretty much every single adult is caught in this moment they're repeating forever and attempting to get their attention is met with a dismissive "not now" or "just a second". Dad mows the lawn forever, walking around but never letting go of the mower and never running out of gas. Mom watches the same show on TV or talks on the phone. The butcher is busy making sausage, the policeman is sipping coffee, the doctor is busy with a microscope, etc. They won't even give the kids the time of day outside of a dismissive recognition they're being taught to. And kids really haven't tried to snap them out of it, too busy thinking that they'll just do it of their own volition. Could you turn the TV off forcibly or slap the coffee out of the cop's hands? Yes and that might elicit a reaction but a kid wouldn't think that way. They might, but they might also just throw a tantrum because anything more than that could result in punishment the kid doesn't want.
Teens, meanwhile, are somewhere between adults and kids. Teens have a little bit of lag going on where they essentially take penalties to their Quickness because they're just a bit out of sync and caught between Kid Time and Adult Time. You can task a teen with doing something but they'll find themselves getting distracted if it takes a while and they'll put it down for a moment and do something else before inevitably finishing it.
There are of course two types of adults that exist in KidSurreal. One is more playable than the other. On the one hand you have developmentally-disabled/delayed adults who function mentally like children. They will likely require a good deal of care and help from kids to break away from asking their caretakers for help and be kept alive but disabled adults function like kids when it comes to time. The big benefit is that they have size and more developed physical attributes than kids. The other is...[sighs] Perverts. Perverts are adults (the game says they're pretty much all male)...let me just quote verbatim but in a spoiler, alright? It's not graphic but it's something that this game was surprisingly not shitty about up until this point and is the worst part of KidSurreal. The second type is “perverts,” people (almost always men) whose unhealthy interest in children has let them to see the world through children’s eyes. They have discovered, as kids have, that kids are without adult protectors and they intend to take advantage of that fact.
I dunno what fucking possessed them to put Perverts in this goddamn game but whatever just fucking ignore them.
So outside of time and being ignored by adults, other kid beliefs have power. Places where adults don't go become huge and sprawling: the woods by the creek become a sprawling jungle, a tree house becomes a mansion, a quarry becomes a lake. Despite the world being essentially a lawless anarchy with the adults not paying attention, kids will still try to badly hide their misdeeds to not attract attention. If you have to steal from the supermarket to survive, you can but a kid will at least hide the food beneath their clothes instead of just running out with it in hand. Kids will also generally not openly fight in front adults. On top of this, rules of games and social conventions become downright immutable. Someone who has been tagged and put in prison cannot leave
prison unless under circumstances of the game allow or all of the kids forget that they're playing a game. Kids will also not consciously break these rules. If you can't talk while wearing a red shirt, the red-shirted kid will not speak under any circumstances until their shirt is off.
The apex of these effects is called Obsession. An Obsessed kid is like a Dwarven craftsworker in a shop. They will dedicate themselves so wholly to the project they're working on, they'll become literally immune to anything stopping them from doing it. An Obsessed kid who is building a skate ramp does not need to eat, sleep, breathe, drink or use the bathroom as long as they're properly dedicated to building the ramp, entering a state of mind where they won't reply to any stimulus. This isn't really a willing thing, it'll just overtake you at the right moment and you become beholden to it until you finish, no matter how long it takes. The upside is that this allows Builders to enter Obsessive states where they build the best stronghold to protect the others. The downside is that when an Obsessive is in The Zone, they will just keep adding on like it's the Winchester Mystery House. Their creations are completely and totally beholden to their id and things they think are cool at random moments which is why the bathroom is right next to a room filled with feral dogs. Worst case scenario is their megaproject is absolutely not designed to support the weight of anyone on it and it collapses the moment other kids try to interact with it.
The other upside of KidSurreal is that this is the world of 2008 permanently trapped in a day. There's electricity still, you can still get mechanical things if you shoplift them, there's still air conditioning and videogames and DVDs. On top of that, this campaign actually allows for the optional rule of the campaign not allowing death. In that case, the kid is just so badly injured they can't focus on the world anymore and lie around waiting for an adult, slipping into the world of adults for medical treatment and being properly saved from the world of children.
The million dollar question though is, like, what is the point of this campaign. There isn't really one. The game has no answers for what has caused the world to stop, it just presents it as plain fact and says that kids don't really look for the answers either. Will the world go back to normal if there's no more kids interacting with the endless day? Who knows, play it out, see how it goes. Maybe one day the parents will finally look up and become aware something's up. While I do sincerely like (most of) KidSurreal and would like some kind of hook outside of endless child id anarchy...I'm glad there isn't one and it has to just stand on its own.
Would I play this? Sure! Not in this system. Never in this system. Drop the Perverts also. Just go forth and steal this campaign idea for your own thing.
KidWorld is a bad game and I will ignore sharing the LARP rules.
Okay alright fine. KidWorld is worse than I thought it was when I was disgusted by it a good decade ago. A good decade ago, if I hadn't been repulsed by the intro fiction and didn't read things with as critical an eye as I do now, there's no doubt in my mind I wouldn't have tried to nudge my friends into playing this. Hell I managed to nudge them into playing a single session of SLA Industries, we were all playing a lot of 3.5 at the time, I had a d20 Apocalypse game last a session. So thanks for being transparently awful, KidWorld, thanks for being so transparently repugnant that Past Me put you down and let me stay away until I could read it until later. And yeah, it's still bad, I can just articulate why it's bad and not hide behind any past illusions I would have had. For real, as cornball as it sounds, it's a lot like going into your closet years later and figuring out why you were scared of the boogeyman and why you were wrong to be scared but understanding the deeper meaning of the monster in your closet, y'know? I'm not the man I was 9 years ago and it's a little nice to close this closet door.
So yeah this book is unpleasant in many senses of the word, nonsensical in many ways and there's no doubt that I would have been dumb enough to try to run it unironically or without stripping ideas out for better systems. Ultimately it didn't live up to why I thought it was once scary but it was still found unique and exciting ways to be stupid and bad.
Now let's see if the other
game I read about children in horror situations holds water after years of not looking at it. We'll be back in a bit with some NEW WORLD OF DARKNESS: IMMORTALS
after a word from our sponsors, so don't change that channel kids!