"What is a RPG?"
Original SA post
Several generations have passed since Doomsday when the
Earth was wracked by the Final War. Our forebears told of
the devastation, of the great pillars of ash and flame, of the
clouds of manmade pestilence, of the waves of strangely scented death.
All the marvels our ancestors had striven to create, their towering edifices
of steel, concrete and glass, the lore stored on their webs of computers,
were torn asunder, rent and lost. Many died, man and beast alike, and
the Earth was tortured and twisted. Many more died during the Years of
Dark Ice that followed.
As heat and light returned, those few survivors began to establish
themselves anew, communities began to slowly grow again, both to
protect and nurture or to seize and pillage, for both are paths of survival.
Nations were gone, survival was paramount, trade was scant. What
useful implements of the Before Time that could be safely salvaged were
quickly hoarded and cherished, for future generations, for survival, for
protection and predation.
The damage and poisoning of the Earth was reflected in the warped
flesh of animal and man. Many were born with hideous mutations to
the horror of their parents. Most died, others were cast out, only a few
were nurtured or endured. Over time, the number of mutants has slowly
increased, reluctantly accepted in some places, still reviled in others.
Fortified settlements are scattered across and beneath the blasted
landscape now, linked by the battered roads our ancestors made. Road
warriors in their armed and armored vehicles guard these places of
civilization, escort the mighty trade rigs that ferry goods and people
between those settlements that trade. Raiders assault these in their crude
vehicles, steal and slaughter, constantly test the defenses of the towns
and homesteads nearby. The weak, the foolish, quickly fall to their
This is a time of hardship, of rebuilding, a time when scavengers
pick at the scraps of the Before Time, a time when might too often
means right. But it is also a time of hope, for Humanity has endured
and the Earth begins to very slowly mend. The future will again be
wrought by our hands, for good or ill.
- Daniel Turing, Lore Keeper of Redtown
Welcome to Atomic Highway, the High-Octane Post Apocalyptic RPG!
It’s got action!
AND EVEN MORE ACTION!
Yes, this is basically Mad Max the RPG, though it’s a lot more than just that. With a wee bit of homebrewing, which is dog simple in this game, you can also turn it into an RPG version of: Planet of the Apes, Kamandi the Last Boy, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Metro 2033, Borderlands, Fallout, Left 4 Dead, S.T.A.L.K.E.R., and pretty much anything else that involves lots of action, some survival elements, and weird unnatural mutants or similar things. If any of this interests you, Atomic Highway and its supplement Irradiated Freaks are both free on Drivethrurpg, so grab it and read along if you want!
Now I’m going to get the “What’s an RPG?” chapter out of the way, because nobody really cares about that stuff right? Well, you should, because this game actually has a good one! See, Atomic Highway is meant to be a very beginner friendly game, so instead of just saying what an rpg is it shows you how one works in play via a goofy ass short comic!
Next time: A View Out the Window: The Default Setting!
A View Out the Window
Original SA post
A View Out the Window
The second chapter is just a quick overview of the default setting of the game, a semi-generic Mad Max-y Post-apocalypse. The interesting thing is that this is a chapter for Players, not GMs. There’s another chapter later that’s all about customizing the setting to suit your tastes. This intro just helps people who might not be familiar with this sort of setting get into it, so there’s less alienness for people who didn’t watch Mad Max.
Now, I hate to do this but, this chapter sucks. It’s either useless information or facts that make the game less fun if you use them.
Basically roughly defined types of civilization in the wasteland. I’m skipping this because it’s useless. Sorta. everything here could be combined with content in the character creation chapter, so I’ll just cover it there.
Terrible Setting Crap That Is Boring Or Bad
I don’t want to give the impression that this is a bad game, it isn’t, this whole chapter is 7 pages and is totally skippable. Heck, the game flat out tells the GM later to overhaul the setting, so yeah. I mostly don’t like it because the information is useless or for some baffling reason un-fun.
Useless, just says you can find any sort of government imaginable in the Wasteland. I mean, I guess it’s nice to know that everyone isn’t a universal representative democracy, but I don’t think it needed its own heading.
Trade & Wage
Basically, the world is on a barter-economy now. Instead of a wage, people work for room and board and the occasional luxury depending on status and job. Also as a side effect, people take promises way more seriously, and welching on a deal can have serious repercussions. Like being ran out of town on a rail. I honestly don’t mind this too much fluff-wise, but it can totally end up as a nightmare for a highly-mobile party. Hope your players are fine with hauling a truckload of useless crap to trade for bullets! Yeah, I could totally see just making up a bottlecaps-esque monetary system to ease GM bookeeping.
Food and Shelter
I’m combining these because they have the same problem: Too Crapsack-y. It basically says that people eat nasty bread, shitty stews made from stunted veggies and ratmeat, drink super-filtered water and horrid rotgut moonshine and live in shantytowns.. Yeah, I got opinions and this bothers me. The whole “Life is terrible and sucks forever” thing just bugs me because it more fits with a world currently going
the apocalypse, not decades or centuries after it. If Bartertown could figure out how to make their own electricity and maintain a massive public broadcast system, people in Atomic Highway could too. Basically, grim depressing post-apocalyptic settings are cool, I’ve dreamt of homeruling this into a Metro 2033 or S.T.A.L.K.E.R. game myself, but it does not fit the default setting and mechanics as outlined in the rest of the book.
No problems here! Big settlements have stone or heavy wood walls reinforced with metal and use a professional militia/law enforcement to defend themselves. Smaller settlements fortify buildings and basically rely on everybody who lives there having their own weapon.
Ugh, more Crapsack. Everything is falling apart, getting worse, we’re regressing to stone age, nothing can stop it, etc. etc. etc. I just don’t think this sounds… fun? Like, the tone just bothers me. I’m fine with losing stuff, and even relying on mostly knocked-together things. But the whole “Welp, guess this fancy “guns” thing was a big fad!” just bugs me. Like, because civilization collapses humanity just decides to forget how guns work or something. Technology should be leaning more towards something like what we see in conflict-zones and third world countries nowadays, where people can knock together some amazing and inventive things to improve their lives instead of just going “Fuck it, back to hunter gathering it is!”. Plus, while I could believe not being able to keep producing things like M16s, making a revolver or semi-auto rifle is not that complex and can be done with relatively simple tools. Guns may be more scarce because of practicality and rarity, but not vanishing from existence.
Law & Justice
Old-West meets Dark Ages, which works just fine. Basically, guys with guns and big sticks drag you in front of the Boss who decides what to do with you. If you run, and the settlement rulers care enough, they send bounty-hunters out to get you. Small settlements generally just lynch criminals. Trails can be a thing in a few settlements, but generally modern-style criminal justice is a thing of the past. Sentences are generally community service/hard labor for less serious crimes, and execution for the nasty ones.
TV, movies, computers, etc. are all gone. I could make an argument for Radio still being around, it’s a much simpler technology and doesn’t need nearly the infrastructure of the others. Otherwise, think Old-West. Drinking, storytelling, music, probably live-theater, sports and boardgames, etc. Anything that doesn’t require electronics basically. The only new thing is a big love of bloodsports, in particular pit fighting. Because some people just can’t get beyond Thunderdome.
Common education is rare, and even then mostly consisting of basic history, simple arithmetic, and functional literacy. Generally people learn by apprenticeship, so if you’re in line to be the towns next Lore Keeper you’ll probably get a the best they can offer, a future farmer less so.
Watch the Mad Max movies, there ya go. Lots of leather, mismatched salvaged clothing, repurposed things, patches, etc. People are big into crazy hair along with body modification.
Wild West style again. There’s still medicine, though things like modern vaccines are long gone. Snake Oil salesmen and folk remedies have made a big comeback though! People do still remember to wash hands and sanitize food, so things aren’t quite so bad. I mean, we still remember what germs are.
Basically all the modern ones, generally, survived, plus a ton of wierdo cults and religions popping up too. Standard stuff, y’know Elvis was a God, All Hail the mighty Lincoln, Heaven’s Gate 2 Electric Boogaloo, you get the picture.
Okay, that’s it. As you can see, not much of a chapter. The next one is a few pages of player advice, which is nice! Simple stuff, communicate with other players and GM, make sure your character will fit in with the adventure, make sure you bring your dice and sheet and stuff to games, its supposed to be fun so don’t be a dick. Even tells you to be descriptive and involved in the game, and to talk to the GM and players if you’re not having fun. Atomic Highway definitely feels like it was written for people who’ve never played an RPG before, and makes an effort to tell you how to play beyond just the rules.
Now, it’s time to get to the real neat stuff!
Next Time: Buckle Up! Creating Your Character
Buckle Up!: Creating Your Character Part 1, Man or Manimal?
Original SA post
Buckle Up!: Creating Your Character Part 1, Man or Manimal?
Now we get to the GOOD stuff for both books. Creating your character in Atomic Highway is fun and damn quick if you know what you want and is definitely the highlight of the Player section of the book. Some notes though, this chapter I will be combining things from Irradiated Freaks, a supplement that massively expands the mutation system for the game because there’s no reason to cover them seperately. Also, I’m going to be using art from the game sparingly. It’s not bad, just a bit… boring.
This is a good example of the typical art. It’s amateur but still nice. The biggest problem is that art isn’t where it would be relevant so I either scan through the whole book looking for appropriate stuff, or just find other images that illustrate the section better, which I will. So, look forward to that. Irradiated Freaks will have art though, because it’s much less Deviantart-y and more freakin’ badass. Enough words though, let’s get started with Part 1: Species!
So, first step in making a character is Species. If you wanna play a normal human, just move along. Just move along. The other options are Humanoid Animal or Plant, and no they are not furries. Yes, there are vaguely anthropomorphic creatures in an RPG that are NOT Furries, shock and awe. Don’t believe me, well let’s check ‘em out!
Now, Species besides Human is basically just a big pack of Mutation options which I’m going over individually when we get to Mutations. Instead I’ll just give an overview of what makes each “species” special compared to humans, and post the kicking rad Irradiated Freaks artwork.
Each Little Bird That Sings: Humanoid Animals
Pretty much all humanoid animals have some sort of enhanced senses, some sort of dulled senses, natural weapons like teeth and claws, a lot are colorblind. I’m just pointing out the more interesting abilities each type has instead of listing Dull Sense (Vision) a million times.
Frog/Toad: You’re amphibious, have an opposable tongue, and can jump like crazy as any kind. Toads and Burrowing frogs get to.. Burrow, Flying Frogs can glide, poisonous frogs have Toxic Skin, and some can walk on Walls depending on particular species. The downsides are that you’re sensitive to extreme temperatures, are soft and squishy because of frog body, dehydrate like crazy if you aren’t a desert toad, and have a restricted diet of either only insects or only meat depending on species.
Salamander/Newt: Basically the same as Frog/Toad, but instead of jumping good and a crazy tongue you get the ability to heal crazy fast.
Birds basically all have the ability to fly unless otherwise noted, have natural weapons in the form of beaks and/or talons/claws, good eyesight and hearing, weak sense of smell, and are more fragile than humans.
Albatross/Gull, Crow/Magpie, Parrot, Small Bird(Finches, Swallows, etc.), Vulture: Nothing special about them.
Booby/Cormorant/Grebe: Amphibious and Western Grebe characters can run on water.
Eagle/Falcon/Hawk: Are Badass.
Herot/Egret/Bittern: Stealthy and Night Herons have night vision.
Hummingbird: Highly agile flying and are Nectarivores, subsisting on the nectar of plants.
Lyrebird: Can mimic sounds they hear.
Ostrich/Emu/Rhea: Can’t fly and have hands instead of wings, Ostriches can run really fast.
Owl: Stealthy and have Night Vision, burrowing owls can burrow.
Penguin: Amphibious, some can burrow, and they can’t fly. Are slow on land.
Woodpecker: They can break stuff with their face.
Anteater: Tamanduas can climb and have prehensile tails, otherwise have claws and a good sense of smell. Only eats insects.
Armadillo: Amphibious, have armored plating, and can burrow.
Baboon/Mandrill: Can climb and have nasty teeth.
Badger: Burrowers again!
Bat: Echolocation, Night Vision, and can fly!
Bear: Can either climb or are big and beefy, have night vision.
Boar: Night vision and tusks.
Bovine: Tougher than normal.
Camel: They can store nutrition in their humps!
Canine: Eh, nothing special.
Deer/Antelope: Big deer are tough, Impalas and Gazelles are super fast.
Echidna: Are covered in spines but also have ELECTRORECEPTION! That means they can detect a living things personal electric field. Is cool.
Elephant: Big and tough as hell, got a trunk to use as an extra limb.
Feline: Some can climb, some have night vision, all are very stealthy and covered in sharp pointy things. Cheetahs can run fast.
Giraffe: Bit tougher than most, not that special.
Goat/Sheep: Headbutts just happen.
Great Ape: Can climb and have prehensile feet.
Ground Squirrel: Can burrow.
Hedgehog: Spiky, and have toxic resistance for some reason?
Hippopotamus: Tough as hell and amphibious.
Horse: Fast and tough.
Hyena: Night vision.
Kangaroo/Wallaby/Wallaroo: Jump good.
Koala: Adorable! Also can climb and are toxin resistant.
Meerkat/Mongoose: Nope, nothing special.
Mink/Polecat/Stoat/Weasel: Minks are amphibious, Pine Martens can climb, some can stink, all have night vision.
Monkey: Climbers, have a prehensile tail and feet.
Possum/Opossum: Yapoks are amphibious, Sugar and Squirrel gliders can… glide, and Opossums are Toxic resistance. They all can climb, have night vision, and prehensile tails and feet.
Pangolin: Armored burrowers with prehensile tails and a stink. Tree pangolins can climb.
Platypus: Amphibious electroreceptors, males have toxic foot spurs.
Porcupine: Spiiiines. Some can climb and Hairy Dwarf Porcupines have prehensile tails.
Rabbit/Hare: Jump good.
Raccoon/Red Panda: Climb, night vision.
Rhinoceros: Big, armored, got horns
Rodent: Mice and rats and such, some can jump and all are stealthy.
Seal/Sea Lion: Amphibious, Elephant Seals and Walruses are armored and super tough.
Shrew: Water Shrews are amphibious, Eurasian and Short Tailed shrews can Echolocate, Short-tailed and Water shrews have Toxic Saliva. All can jump, have night vision, and are stealthy.
Skunk: They stink.
Squirrel: Climb and jump good, flying squirrels can glide.
Tasmanian Devil: Stinky, can dig.
Wolverine: Nothing special, which is odd. I figured they’d have some sorta toughness related mutation.
Wombat: Armored butt.
Pretty much all of them are cold-blooded (Ectothermic).
Alligator/Crocodile: Armored, amphibious, swole.
Each Little Flower That Opens: Humanoid Plants
Anaconda/Boa/Python: Amphibious, climbers, infrared vision, prehensile tails, stealthy.
Chameleon: Have crazy eyes that can see in two directions at once, prehensile tail and tongue.
Gecko: Can climb on walls and regenerate wounds fast, Kuhl’s Flying Gecko can glide.
Gila Monster/Beaded Lizard: Armored, can store nutrition in their tails, are venomous.
Horned Lizard/Thorny Devil: Armored, spines. Thorny Devils can draw water from the air into their bodies, Horned Lizards can shoot blood out of their eyes.
Lizard: Marine Iguanas are amphibious, Flying Dragons can glide, Basilisks can run on water.
Monitor Lizard: Some are amphibious, some can climb, some have prehensile tails, all are venomous.
Snake, Non-Venomous: Climb, can see infrared, Flying Snakes can glide, prehensile tails and are stealthy.
Snake, Venomous: Same as above but have venomous bites. Spitting Cobras can… spit venom. Duh.
Turtle, Aquatic: Armored, tough, big ones are toxic resistant. Probably because real sea-turtles like eating jelly fish. Have shells. Are sloooow.
Turtle/Tortoise, Terrestrial: Armored, Galapagos Island Tortoises are super tough, they have shells. Still slooooow.
These guys are fucking weird. Pretty much all of them are slow and photosynthetic, and can root themselves to the ground, but beyond that it gets gonzo.
Bramble: Grow edible berries, are spiney.
Cactus: Spiney, some can grow edible food, all can store water.
Eggplant/Pepper/Tomato: Grow food.
Fern: Giant Salvinia and Mosquito Fern are buoyant, Fiddleheads grow food.
Fungus: Can produce spore clouds Stinkhorns stink, toxic mushrooms produce toxic sap.
Seaweed: aquatic and buoyant.
Shrub: Gooseberry and roses grow food, all are spiney.
Stinging Nettle: Irritant bristles.
Sundew: Acidic grip, have an extra tentacle arm, and are covered in sticky globules. Ew.
Tree: Big and tough.
Tree, Baobab: Big, tough, stores water.
Tree, Edible Fruit/Nut: Big, tough, grows food.
Venus Flytrap: Acidic bite.
Vine, Climbing: Some grows food, others grow poisonous fruit. Have extra “arm” vine, and prehensile feet. Can climb walls.
Water Lily: Aquatic and buoyant.
Geeze, those are a lot of words, now to find out what they mean!
Next Time: All Things Weird & Wonderful: Mutations and Psychic Powers!