Dark Futures: 2053

   Back in 1995 there was a superhero game, set in a dark future of the Marvel universe. For 2008, I though I’d haul out that old file and put up the history that led up to 2053. I’ve kept the editing to removing the various conversion artifacts: the original file was for an old DOS program called Word Publisher.   

North America, 2053:

   Historical Summary: Things really began going wrong in the early 1990’s. Rising violence, social decay, and a worldwide depression left governments overextended and in debt. Multinational corps played them off against one another – and the generation caught in the middle began to see the future as a trap. As will happen, people blamed the messengers for the news they brought. Muggings? It’s all the fault of the police. Corruption in office? If it wasn’t for the presses enthusiasm for muckraking none of this would ever be an issue. Supers of course were high-profile. They could be blamed for anything. After all, couldn’t they do something about it if they wanted? They had the power. Or so it seemed to many. The “Psiagent Conspiracy” of `96 was almost certainly the beginning of the end. Every major intelligence organization had spent enormous efforts through the 80’s acquiring superagents, especially those with “psychic” powers. Most succeeded. Even small governments usually had the resources to find one or two. A few governments even found ways to create them. Unfortunately for the agencies plans, the psychics understood each other far too well. A core of the more idealistic psis recruited others, psionically certain of who could be trusted. They tried to subtly seize control of the world, intending to create an incorruptible, rational, and honest government of telepaths. Perhaps it would have worked, but they weren’t yet ready when MyndWulf stumbled onto, and revealed, their conspiracy. The reaction was brutal, leaving the conspirators dead or in deep cover. As far as the governments were concerned, the incident demonstrated conclusively that supers could never be trusted. Backed by increasingly virulent anti-super public sentiment, massive, increasingly draconian, programs were enacted to rein in vigilante and independent supers, heroic and villainous. Against such a backdrop, when the end-of-the-millenium “new age” nutcases managed to focus enough untrained mystic potential at Stonehenge to throw open a Faerie gateway, the resulting upsurge in strange events, mystically-oriented superbeings, and the riding of the unseelie faerie court, were all too easily interpreted as a new, massive, conspiracy of supers by a skeptical world. Subtly spurred by Durnik Corporation, a full scale program for the capture (or elimination) of superbeings was underway by 2002, public by 2003 – and had captured, or slain, nearly 95% of its superhuman targets by 2004. Thanks once again to Durnik Corporation, which had it’s own arcane agenda, the program was surprisingly successful against “magically-oriented” supers – most of whom were virtually unknown beyond their own circles. A very few supers remained “free” as members of government teams, but were subject to intense monitoring. Even with precautions, such teams were generally limited to supers with simple, physical, powers. By 2005, the problem was officially under control. In 2008 the world found something else to worry about, as UN peacekeeping operations and minor border conflicts erupted into a series of Brushfire Wars. While few of the organizations involved admit it, most are fought for control of the planets dwindling energy reserves. Stifled by bureaucracy, official super-teams prove ineffective, and most are quietly dissolved. Most of their unfortunate members are quietly taken into custody as their teams are deactivated. The Wars peter out in 2010, when Durnik Corporation announces that it’s completed the construction of an “omega-fusion” generating plant – and will now begin supplying power to the entire planetary grid. Incredibly, they actually deliver on the promise, albeit with some peculiar modulations and power spikes from hell. Things seem to be looking up for once, until the Night Of Horrors in 2012. A few weeks after a mass superhuman escape from the chicago vault, the world power grid “blew” in the midst of a series of incredible storms, earthquakes, riots, social upheavals, ecological disasters, and madness which swept around the globe with the sunset. A variety of horrible monsters also made an appearance, some of which continue haunting the deserted areas of the earth to this day. With the destruction of the omega plant, blamed on the escaped supers, the world power grid collapses, leaving the earth dependent on the few available emergency backup systems. Durnik, by now the largest corporation on earth, responds by unleashing the Sentinels in concert with the US government. Unable to control their creations, both the government and Durnik Corp. come to regret the rash decision, as the Sentinels develop their own ideas and, in 16, establish the Sentinel Hierarchy, taking over all of north america, and much of the rest of the world. While their inability to maintain their technological base allowed their overthrow in `25, they did enormous amounts of damage in the meantime. Due to their improved sensors, the sentinels discovered huge numbers of “mutants” hidden among the general population as apparently-normal (and quite powerless) humans. The final overthrow of the hierarchy results in a near-total collapse of north americas governments, which, at the center of the sentinels operations, had been virtually replaced by sentinels. The resulting power vacuum, and the enormous profits involved, allow the multinationals to usurp much of the role and authority of the national governments. Unrestrained by law enforcement, corporate “espionage” and competition become more and more deadly – culminating in the Cyberwars of 2030. Interestingly, several Corps have recruited some of the new, young, supers for “superhero” teams, either for undercover operations or for publicity purposes. While public distrust of supers is high, they do get some sympathy since the hierarchies collapse – at least as long as they’re willing to be some corporations well-trained pets. A few corporations – notably Disney – allow their teams considerable freedoms, apparently as a kind of corporate mascot. Such teams tend to selectively collect the strangest or most spectacular heroes. The real work of corporate security was usually in the hands of the corporate cyberagents. Seeing a chance to wipe up the corporate forces, and regain control, various national governments threw their own forces into the fray. No one knows who launched first, but the “cyberwars” culminated in the “Spasm”, AKA World War Three. In the words on one superhuman survivor:

It lasted three hours and twenty minutes. In that time a thousand of the worlds great cities shone brightly for one, final, time in the light of the nuclear fireballs – before the shockwaves tore them to flaming dust. Nearly four billion people died in that firestorm, drifting ash on a blazing wind. Even the deep shelters were little defence against shaped hydrogen bombs. As for the rest, perhaps those who at least died quickly were lucker then most of the “survivors”.

Radiation. Starvation. Plague. Toxins. Random madness and the violence of once-human horrors spawned of mutagens and pain. Minds already shocked beyond endurance, now torn by transformations and abilities for which they were never prepared. Rare, yes, but conspicuous. With the memory of the night of horrors and the sentinel propaganda still fresh, was the backlash against superhumans surprising ? A simple equation, burned into the race by nuclear fire. Supers = Mutants = Radiation = Atomic Bombs and Death. The new superhumans who used their powers to grab control of what little was left were even less help then the shell- shocked berserkers. Confronted by this mess, many of the surviving megaplexes went so far as to pull out the old sentinel designs. Outdated, yes, but by the same token, easier to construct and easier to install safeguards in. I suppose that’s a bit of luck, even the most virulently anti-mutant cities don’t want to risk another Hierarchy, especially with so much stray radiation around.

   The spasm resulted in the creation of a number of new superhumans, numerous ordinary mutations, (both benign and deleterious), plagues, climactic alterations, chemically and radioactively contaminated zones – and a “miniature” ice age. It also created numerous “successor states”, a vast selection of tiny autonomous towns dominated by “supers” or by any of dozens of types of governments, including a wide selection of theocracies. During the miniature “ice age” of 2032-`38 the few surviving megaplexes were prime targets for bandits, attempted takeovers, and raids from the less fortunate survivors beyond. The situation has stabilized somewhat since, but every megaplex still maintains its own defensive forces. While the dates vary, most of the megaplexes had some version of the old sentinel program up and running by 2041. By now, in `53, a generation has grown up in the midst of the nuclear wreckage – children of parents who, themselves, never saw world civilization in the light. While there is still supposed to be a US government, the surviving megaplexes are essentially independent city-states. Commonly, the city government has merged with the management of the `plexes major corps, a measure forced on them by the need to manage the `plexes resources efficiently enough to reach self-sufficiency.

   Climate: World temperatures seem to have stabilized since the “nuclear winter” of 2031 and the miniature ice age (2032-38) it triggered – but at a lower level. Much of canada has been lost to permafrost, unmelting snow, and glacial advance – while the northern US remains bitterly cold. Sea levels have dropped by nearly 20 feet – and will probably continue to drop over the coming century, for a total drop of 50 to 60 feet. Between reduced rainfall and loss of irrigation, much of the great plains and midwest have been reduced to semiarid or desert conditions. The areas near the snowline are one notable exception. While cold, they are adequately watered by summer meltwater, and support a variety of species.

   The Wastelands: Several factors combined to produce the North American wastelands. Even before the spasm, toxic dumping, acid rain, stripmining, and military tests, had left broad reaches of the land contaminated. The nuclear stockpiles there were major targets during the spasm – and the warped weather patterns of the `32-38 little ice age sent clouds of fallout drifting into a low-pressure zone that persisted for months. Paradoxically, while fewer strikes were made against the low-density populations of the midwest, its defences were far far weaker then those of the teaming coasts, and so more hits got through. The climactic shift that parched the land also prevented the rain from leaching contaminants into the deep soil and the rivers, from which they might be carried to the sea. The already-strained shallow aquifers ran dry. Lacking rain and irrigation, the desert spread across the land. Most of the hold-out survivalists left as their water sources failed – although a few with exceptionally deep wells, a home along a surviving river, or the luck to live by the snowline, managed to hang on. Abandoned, towns crumbled into dust, the steel skeletons of the cities corroded in the radioactive wind. Time passed, and the surviving megaplexes began pushing back the bandits, gangs, mutants, and “undesirables” surrounding them, eventually driving them into hiding or into the blasted lands. Survival in the desert is possible – but depends on water. A few highly skilled characters can find enough, but most people need more dependable sources. Shelter from the radiation, the occasional, mandatory, giant mutant animals, rogues, and super-lunatics is also desirable – as is protection from the weird weather. Underground areas are best. Natural caves often even offer access to water. Elsewhere, adobe buildings or surviving structures near water sources are useful, but shanty-towns are all too common. The desert offers little beyond bare survival – and few are content with that. While a few outposts are lucky enough to have inhabitants with productive metahuman talents or working prewar facilities, most are not. Scavenging in the ruins “exposed” by wind and falling radioactivity is common, as, near the border, is raiding. Some “trading” occurs – but it’s rare. Technology varies, but is usually fairly low.

   Technology Level: A simple little microchip. Found in microwave ovens, radios, electronic watches, and in a vast number of other items. Seventy-five cents from your local radio shack – but what do you need to make one? A simple chip starts off with a silicon wafer, sliced from an ultrapure artificial crystal (silicon refining, high- pressure crystal growth facilities, reagent industries), “doped” using implant equipment (gaseous diffusion and ion projection equipment, nonreactive sealants, high-powered magnets, ultrapure dopant refining, mining industries, and filtration gear) and a series of “masks” (photolithography and etching, reagents, precision microhandlers, and mask design), fitted with contacts (metallization evaporators and microwire attachments, passivation/vapor-deposition of an insulating surface layer), tested (computer systems and industrial robots, instrumental and probe systems, software design), and encased in plastic (petroleum industries and plastics-forming equipment). Along the way you need a clean room, toxic gaseous control systems, electron- and high-precision optical microscopes, power generation and transmission to run all this stuff, nonstatic packaging, plumbers, truckers and the support industries for all of the gear. High technology is like a pyrmaid (1) – the more sophisticated, the larger the necessary support systems. Whether fortunately or unfortunately for the world, most of the necessary gear was available or buildable in most of the major megaplexs. At least in their specialities, the surviving megaplexs can build gear comparable to the “security” gear available to the high-tech organizations of the late 20’th century. Sentinels, the smaller energy weapons, SHIELD weaponry, mid-level cybernetics, and so on are all easily within their capabilities – at least on a small scale. “Ultra-tech”, such as Iron Mans armor, the Nimrod project, time- or interstellar- travel, and so on is not. You simply can’t send for that ultraspecial part that they only make in Brazil anymore. Any such projects involve either salvaged components, a massive commitment of resources across several years (to produce a few), or metahuman intervention (2). Smaller towns rely partially on trade, and have usually managed to maintain a technology roughly equivalent to T’ civilian technology of the late 20’th century – while villages have usually regressed to that of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Technology in the wastelands is extremely variable, but larger settlements usually support “cottage industries”, at about the 1890-1900 level. Individual bits and pieces of higher Tech may be encountered anywhere (3). Perhaps that primitive hut holds a working biochemical synthesis unit or a circuit- printer. Few do, but the exceptions/”cottage industries” often drive a good deal of the trade between the smaller settlements (and in the wastelands), while unusual local resources, as always, drive the rest.

  • 1) In reality, this problem may place an upper limit on a planets level of technology. If that level is too low for practical interplanetary/interstellar travel well.
  • 2) It’s suspected that many ultra-tech “inventors” such as Tony Stark may have been passive mutants, with powers so weak as to be undetectable. Guided by a subconscious gift for invention, “simple” genius, or extensive study, a telekinetic capable of shifting even a few atoms could create molecular circuitry or catalyze unique reactions. A great variety of other incredibly weak powers would be equally useful. In view of the inventive talents of such admitted superhuman “inventors” as Bruce Bannor, Xavier, Forge, and Henry Pym, all such inventors are regarded with grave suspicion – especially in Chicago. A metainventor can usually produce equipment one “step” above the local technological base.
  • 3) Reasonably appropriate technological “guides” may be found in the following sources, Megaplex default level; Shadowrun, 2050 level. Town Default Level; Look around! Village default level; Call Of Cthulhu, 1920 setting. and, finally, the Wasteland default level; Space, 1889. Note that “Shadowrun” tech was the civilian tech level before the spasm, “security” technology was near the ultra-tech level.

Specific Technological Notes:

   Space Tech: 2053 space technology is very limited – partially because launch facilities were primary targets during the spasm, and partially because the useful near-earth orbits are full of debris. While speculation about surviving killsats is interesting, the fact that several thousand miscellaneous satellites and orbital facilities were destroyed during the spasm has provided enough high speed orbiting junk to destroy just about anything short of ultratech force fields or regenerating armor. The few O’Neill colonies to survive the spasm, their populations either unable or unwilling to return to earth, all jury- rigged some form of long-term drive and departed to join the asteroid mining colonies or as impromptu generation- ship interstellar colonizers. The asteroid colonies are still clinging stubbornly to life, but the fate of the 6 interstellar attempts is unknown.

   Medical Tech: One of the few really bright spots in the picture, medical tech has leaped ahead, spurred by a lack of regulations on experimentation and the number of people desperate for any kind of treatment. Transplants, formchange tanks, anti-radiation and regeneration drugs, improved medicines of all kinds. Anagathics. Cures for cancer and AIDS. Cyberware is available, but has been unpopular since the spasm. It’s popularly associated with supers and the war. Major augmentations are detectable by the sentinels as well – although their programs vary on the subject. While complex items, such as the formchange tanks, are only available in the `plexs, advanced drugs, medicines, smaller surgical gadgets, serums, vaccines, and physicians bags or “medkits”, are all major trade items, and are relatively “common” continent wide.

   Sentinels: In the most basic analysis, “Sentinels” are big, powerful, and heavily armed robots, designed to locate and nuetralize (capture or kill) mutants and super-humans of all sorts. This isn’t much help, but it serves to ensure that we’re all talking about the same thing. What interests most people about the sentinels is how to stay out of the way – which normally equates to avoiding being noticed. The best way is not being superhuman. No? Second-best is being a mystic. Sentinels aren’t equipped to detect magical energies (in fact, no known technology can), although they may “tag” you personally as an enemy if you ever confront them. For all those who have to go for other tactics, the information on Sentinel “sensory” systems given below will likely be vital. Pay attention.

  • Energy Detection: The most versatile and useful of the sentinel instrument packages, this system can pick up and, to some extent, analyze, physical energies within 2 to 4 miles. In human terms, a basic “reading” might be; “High intensity fusion-generated plasma bolt, energy signature indicates probable technological origin. Closest match; Iron Man Repulsor Rays. 2.8 miles at 26 degrees NNW”. Note that the system can pick up both emitted and inherent energies, but “inherent” energies are usually weak enough to limit the range drastically. Extremely high levels of energy, or especially exotic energies, may be detectable a great deal further away. The system cannot directly detect psi energies, magical forces, or material mutations, but may spot the effects of their use. Essentially passive, this system cannot be jammed. Useful countermeasures include; Shielding (Rock and/or metal. A base thickness of 5 Ft/In (for rock/metal) provides a -1 CS on a sentinels base Ex detection rank. Each doubling of the thickness provides an additional -1 CS, hence 160 feet of rock, or about 12 feet of metal, provide complete protection.), Diversions (Generally other energy sources, crowds, and “difficult” conditions in the area. Each applicable condition grants a -1 CS on the sentinels roll. As an example, a junkyard full of scrap, a blast furnace, and a big electromagnet, provides a -2 CS (Difficult conditions, and “other” energy sources)), Screens (“Cloaking” fields that absorb and/or dissipate energy, use their rating to modify rolls), and a Mask (QV) or Counterphase Generator (Rapidly damps out energy indications, reducing the effective rank of whatever there is to spot by -1 CS per area. Things reduced below shift-0 are no longer detectable). The system can also be temporarily overloaded – often by a Sensor Flare (Ex. cost, incapacitates sentinel sensors for 1-5 turns, unless an intuition FEAT succeeds. Affects 1 area) or by a massive energy discharge (Am minimum, works for 1 turn per rank above In, intuition feat roll to resist). This is a major method of picking up androids, aliens, and most gadget-based, power armor, and energy-endowed supers.
  •  Psionic Detection: This system is primarily tuned to the psionic signature produced by the celestials genetic implants, although it can detect the active use of major psionic powers as well. As such, this is the primary way of detecting unknown mutants. The system operates with a Gd/Ex/Rm rank (and thus a range or 3/6/12 miles) for the detection of major, active, psionic talents (Ex rank and up)/the basic mutant “signature”/a specific mutant sign- ature (EG; “Storm”). Useful Countermeasures include; the “Resist Domination” talent (-1 CS on detection ability), Psychic Shields (-2 CS, not cumulative with the “resist” talent noted above) and the Mask, Screens, and Shielding noted above. Note that this system does not distinguish those born mutants and those mutated later in life, save for those listed in the sentinels databanks.
    Structural Probe: This active system uses a variety of energy probes and types to scan specific areas, beings, and objects within one area. While it gives a reasonably detailed description of the structure and composition of inanimate objects, living things are too unstable to get much detail on (at least until you kill them). While the system is useful, it is not capable of deep penetration, typically scanning to a maximum depth of around ten feet thru earth, plastics, liquid, and organics, six thru rock, four thru ceramics, reinforced concrete, synthetics, and metallic ores, two thru metals and composites – and zero through materials of unearthly strength and above. This system is primarily useful for locating concealed doors, analyzing the composition of things, detecting alarms, and so on. Obviously, the easiest way to defeat this is just putting what you want to hide behind ten feet of stone – but if this isn’t practical, a wide variety of materials and forces can block, divert, or interfere with, the scan- ning beam. The difficulty here is that such interference can be detected by the sentinels on a red intuition FEAT roll. A structural probe generally won’t reveal supers – unless they’ve got gross structural modifications, major cyberware, a metal skeleton, or something similar. This being so, only Borgs (QV) will usually need to pick up a Diverter Package (Ex base cost to hide a man-sized being or area using physical shielding, Rm for an energy-based version, In for a pocket-sized field generator).
  • Life Detection: Basically an analysis program using information from the energy and psionic detection systems, this “sense” gives the sentinel a rough idea of the kind and number of lifeforms present within ten areas and can provide more detailed information within five areas. The system can even provide a few details on said lifeforms, provided that a Reason FEAT roll succeeds – and that the sentinels databanks contain something relevant.
  • Undetectable Things: While the sentinels can detect a lot of things, there are things they can’t. Among them are simple, physical, modifications (heavier bone and/or muscle structures, tougher skin, minor sensory shifts, and so on) resulting from drugs, surgery, “normal” mutations and/or genetic engineering (anything that does not involve celestial genes or gross anatomy changes), low-signature cyberware, magic – or developed latent human potentials.

Surviving “Megaplexs”:

   Only a few major “megaplexs” survived WWIII – although quite a lot of small towns and rural communities made it. Sadly, many of them have been abandoned due to radiation and climactic changes (QV). The nine surviving Megaplexs of North America are:

   Atlanta suffered a number of near-misses and took a lot of “incidental” damage during the Spasm – but managed to avoid anything major. Unlike most of the other surviving `plexs, there’s no good reason for this. Atlanta simply got bloody lucky with its conventional defences. Atlanta is probably the most “normal” of the surviving megaplexs by prespasm standards. It’s still a transport hub, still manufactures transport equipment (albeit more militarily oriented vehicles then before), and actually sponsors such things as wide-spread trade and a search-and-rescue corps. It’s also the US capital since the remaining congressmen and surviving federal officials took refuge there in 2032. While it has only a small sentinel program, Atlanta also has at least three “official” “superhero” teams – albeit under strict military/government control – as well as at least a dozen individual superemployees and/or vigilante types. Apparently, having been badly “burned” in earlier attempts to bring metahumans fully under control (QV the Psiagent Conspiracy, Persecutions, Durnik Corp, Night of Horrors, Sentinel Hierarchy, Cyberwars, and WWIII), the US government has decided to avoid creating such power foci in the future – relying on a “divide and conquer” strategy to keep a lid on things and accepting a limited level of ongoing chaos in preference to periodic major disasters. While this works reasonably well, it has led to strained relationships with some of the other megaplexs – notably chicago – which makes problems for the “official” supers whenever it can. The casualty figures for Atlanta-based supers are appallingly high, leading to some speculation that they’re being quietly set up, or even assassinated, when they become inconvenient to someone or, worse, as a general policy. On the other hand, it may simply be due to the fact that the Atlanta teams respond to alarms and emergencies across the eastern US, a practice guaranteed to lead them into incredible amounts of trouble.

   Buffalo was the major corporate headquarters/research center for “Ragnarok Inc.”, a major military development corporation. Buffalo survived thanks to the fact that RI hadn’t yet committed its full resources to the cyberwar. Between RI’s hardware stockpile, corporate super and cyber teams, juryrigged defences, and prototype devices, damages were held to a minimum. The city is heavily militarized, expansionistic, and generally unpleasant. It’s unfortunate that it is also the greatest surviving military power in N. America and has become increasingly intolerant of the vagaries of “natural” mutation and metahumans, choosing to rely on armor, cyberware, “battlemechs”, and heavy weapons instead. The city relies heavily on hydroelectric power from niagara falls, although “backup” power is available for major military installations. Buffalo is threatened by glaciation and must import large amounts of food from further south, a situation which makes the cities rulers quite unhappy. Buffalo produces few sentinels, and will only commit them to specific missions, but theirs are by far the most sophisticated, deadly, and versatile, of them all. It sells a wide variety of weapons, but never sells anything unless it’s got something even better available for its own forces. Loosely allied with Chicago (QV).

   Chicago survived the spasm thanks to (of all things), the sentinels. The hub of the continental railroad net, Chicago was the major “mutant internment center” for the nine years of the sentinel hierarchy – as well as one of the major centers for sentinel operations and assembly. As such, the sentinels installed defences against virtually any possible attack. Even unmaintained and half shut down, the system proved sufficient. Chicago is still rabidly antimutant, a situation that has been exaggerated by the its proximity to the Badlands. Threatened by glaciation, Chicago still devotes a great deal of energy to sentinel construction and antimutant projects. Mutants in Chicago generally either die in battle with a sentinel, run – or lead unpleasant lives as laboratory animals, “mindwiped” slaves, or zoo specimens. The response time to a mutant indication in the city is incredibly short. The city is a major center for heavy industry, but is a bit short on more sophisticated systems. Their sentinel designs tend to be large, powerful, relatively “stupid”, unadaptable, and are rarely equipped with special weaponry. They are, however, numerous, and are often sent on patrol missions into the badlands. Loosely allied with Buffalo (QV).

   Dallas/Forth Worth survived due to the efforts of one “Archmage” (real name, location, and identity unknown) who somehow “hacked” the computer systems controlling the US satellite defense network, brought the as-yet unfinished system online – and diverted some 17% of its capacity to the defense of the Dallas Megaplex. All of this was, of course, quite impossible, smacking more of magic then of any possible level of computer skills. Simply bypassing the startup procedures should have taken a month. Still, between the net and the megaplexs conventional defences, no functioning bombs got through. Unfortunately, lots of radioactive junk did. Substantial sections of the `plex are still heavily contaminated. Situated on the edge of the wastelands, the megaplex has something of a frontier flavor, armed citizenary being the rule, rather then the exception. The city specializes in biotechnology – gene- engineered, mutant, and/or specially-breed livestock, ani- men (genetic crossbreeds or “demihumans”, legally simple animals – at least here), genetic repair work on humans, minor cyberware, and so on. Fortunately or unfortunately, the “celestial genes” remain beyond human comprehension, thus the `plex cannot create made-to-order super-beings. While there are a few reports of experiments in breeding or cloning superhumans, psychological and random factors seem to play too great a role for even this method to be reliable. On the other hand, they have had some success with creating simple, physical, powers such as strength, bioelectrical abilities, body armor, and so on. Dallas has a small sentinel program, primarily to deal with raiders and bandits – but tends to rely more on augmented troops and mutated animals for its general defence. While less powerful then sentinels, they are much cheaper – and are easy to “mass produce”. Dallas is also N. Americas major source for petroleum products, notably plastics and a wide variety of synthetics. QV; Ani-men, “Wild Card”, Drakes, Transhumans, Formchange, and Androids.

   Indianapolis apparently weathered the spasm thanks to something in the University of Indianas physics research building. No one knows exactly what, since the building was annihilated during the process – but whatever it was created a massive “storm” of raw nucleonic energy around the city. By the time the storm died, the spasm was long since over. Damage to the city was massive, the physics department was a total loss, and electrical failures had led to widespread looting and rioting. The most damaged of the surviving megaplexs, Indianapolis has yet to fin- ish rebuilding itself – and so cannot afford to devote any major portion of its industrial capacity to defence pro- grams. Worried about Buffalo expansionism, Indianapolis does hire mercenary groups, including, according to some rumors, metahumans. The megaplex is a major trade center for the eastern US, and specializes in the manufacture and distribution of medical technology. The city is a hotbed of espionage and intrigue, as it tries to “play off” the various factions, contingents from other `plexs, and the mercenary groups against one another while attempting to remain “uninvolved” itself.

   Los Angeles was saved by Warfetter, superheroic chief of security (both then and now) for the Disney/Los Angeles megaplex – who somehow channeled his ability to generate and manipulate force fields into projecting one around the entire city. Thanks to this record, disney’s policy of tolerating the fantastic, and to Warfetters influence, Los Angeles is relatively tolerant of mutants and superhumans. `Plex employed and/or sponsored supers do reasonably well, although usually kept under light surveillance. Limited privileges are available to some supers, in exchange for their services as scouts and outriders (and their submission to being fitted with implanted security “tags” and remote- controlled power neutralizers). Other supers and mutants can live there – provided that they don’t mind being im- planted, registered, assigned work and places to live, and generally being treated like domestic animals. The city relies heavily on fusion-powered seawater distillation and extraction for water and materials. As always, Los Angeles chief products are intangible – research, entertainment, software, and so on. Computers and microelectronics are also major industries – but heavy industry is restricted by the shortage of raw materials. The city produces very few sentinels, having found it more economic to deploy a squad of minor mutants under the direction of a security officer in power armor. It does hold some in reserve, as a precaution and for patrols within the city.

   Mexico City/Tenoctitlan is a nasty place to visit. It was apparently saved by the resurgent Tetzcatlipoca, who absorbed the energy of a detonating hydrogen bomb to recreate his own flaming form, then channeled the energies of other attacks to his fellow deities to recall them to earth as well. As a revival of the old Aztec religion swept the city, thousands died on hastily-erected altars and supernatural energies coursed through the streets. The city is a fount of black magic, werecreatures, and other aztec nightmares – hellishly combined with the high-tech of the prewar capital of Mexico. Ancient temples rise on a foundation of blood, while computerized offices direct the armoured conquest of the surrounding areas. Mexico city doesn’t build sentinels, preferring to send various supernatural horrors or a few power-armor goons instead.

   Tampa survived for one simple reason. No one targeted the place. Any missiles that were headed Tampas way were apparently among the 80% or so that were blown up on the launching pads. Several minor attacks were beaten off by a few vacationing supers, apparently working from one of the yachts in the harbor, but Tampas real defence lay in its complete lack of importance. The city built small boats and accessories for them, transferred agricultural products with priorities too low for monorail, subtrain, or overland shipping, catered to vacationers – and had a lot of small speciality businesses and things. After the antismoking campaigns of the early 21’st century, cigars were still one of the more important local industries. The vacationers have been replaced by smugglers, and the harbor is a good deal shallower – but otherwise the city has changed very little. Lacking a high level of tech to start with, Tampa has had no trouble maintaining what it has (use the “town” default level), and survives because it’s an ideal backwater to arrange off-the-record deals, negotiations, and cargo transfers, in. Freewheeling, the city has few formal defences, relying mostly on visitors and local vigilantism. Willing to accept almost anything, the city is the major contact point for visitors from S. America, Europe, and Africa. While Tampa has no antimeta policy, no one in the city is likely to defend them if a hunter-killer squad drops in.

   Vancouver missed the spasm somehow. It simply wasn’t there at the time. Someone – or something – apparently simply moved the entire city three weeks, two days, nine hours, and 27 minutes into the future with no measurable interval or disturbance within the city. Vancouver is dominated by the ethnic chinese who make up about 85% of the population. Its principle industries are lumbering, fishing, and a little bit of mining in the mountains which surround the city. With its climate moderated by a warm- water current, the city is in no danger of freezing over despite its northerly location, but by the same token is thoroughly isolated. As far as they’re concerned its the rest of the world that vanished suddenly. Residents of Vancouver eat a lot of fish now. The really weird thing about the city is that it’s now a bizarre mix of ancient chinese behavior, customs, buildings, and organizations, and the modern megaplex it was before it disappeared. No one there seems to notice a difference – but everyone speaks classic chinese, bothersome nonchinese go immediately to the slave market to be sold, taoist alchemists abound, a classic confucian bureaucracy and a “child of the emperor” run the `plex from a palace guarded by priestly eunuchs, and the RCMP pursue malefactors. Incredibly, all of this seems to work somehow.

   Interesting Places and Groups: Actually there are lots of these – but the following ones are fairly well known.

  • Alpha Complex is (hopefully) only a rumor. The story states that one megaplex (just which one tends to vary), was hit by an experimental weapon, a temporal warper. On the surface, the `plex crumbled to dust in seconds. Deep below however, the “aging” was moderated by distance and “smoothed” by the intervening rock. The deep shelters experienced hundreds of years in an instant – instead of simply aging. Isolated from the outside by the temporal differential, the complex grew increasingly nutty as the directing computer aged. Now an entire civilization of heavily-armed metahuman loonies waits to be unleashed.
  • The Cyberknights are a wandering organization loosely modeled after the legendary Knights of Arthur/Jedi/Texas Rangers/Mounties/Shao-Lin Priests (OK, so nobody knows). In reality they consist of cyberwar veterans (and a few, recent, glamour-drawn recruits) who feel responsible for the devastation around them. Using a variety of salvaged weaponry, their own augmentations, and the odd talent or special ability, they wander around trying to fix things up a bit, protect the innocent, and generally make amends.
  • El Paso is literally a “ghost town”. It survived the spasm almost intact physically – but was hit with enough radioactivity to kill almost anything. Bodies mummified rather then putrefied. Even now, the radiation will kill unshielded visitors in hours. Worse, its ghosts are real – and whether mystic, technic, or psychic, they’re deadly.
  • The Enclaves are rumor, myth, and reality. Gateways to the other worlds, stray pieces of the dreamtime, mystic, or technological, sanctuaries, refuge of the amerindians or bases for UFOs. No one really knows – but they began to appear (or fail to do so) shortly after 2000 AD. What is known is that the Enclaves can sometimes be seen from a distance, as green, fertile, unspoiled, and apparently uncontaminated, “pockets” of flourishing nature, usually nestled in mountain valleys. Their reported locations and size vary, but most sightings are within the old “indian reservations”. No one knows much more, because “Ya kan’t git thar frum har”. No one who was actively looking for an enclave has ever been able to find one. Those who see one in passing somehow always lose track of them if they attempt to turn towards them. Teleporters and such have made some really weird reports – but have still met with no success. Attempts to home in on satellite coordinates simply lead to barren areas, just like the surroundings. The only really confirmable bit of evidence is that some old indian sacred sites and landmarks just don’t seem to be there any more. Perhaps the best guess is that the enclaves are the last major strongholds of nature magic, constructed by the gentler faerie arrivals of 1999 and the few remaining tribesmen that followed the old ways. In any case, they seem “content” to remain isolated for the moment. Perhaps they are only a poignant reminder of the way things used to be, the mournful dreams of the mother earth amid the ruin her children have created.
  • Florida: The climactic shift has left florida a lot drier, although the collapse of the water-control system has somewhat paradoxically resulted in larger swamps and more small lakes. Weirdly enough, the place is populated with dinosaurs. No one knows why, but it’s believed that the same superhuman/freak of nature/timewarping weapons/ dimensional portals/crackpot genetic engineer(s)/escaped zoo animals are also responsible for the reappearance of the mastodon, sabre-toothed tiger and other once-extinct species now scattered across the continent.
  • Jamaica came through the spasm in fairly good shape – whether due to an “Act of Jah”, lack of targets, or – as one of our sources has stated – being too high to notice a nuke. Kingston was targeted by a lasersat, and virtually burned to the ground, leaving little besides “peasants”.
  • Salt Lake City didn’t exactly survive the spasm – but most of the Mormons, survivalists all, did. Unlike most cities, their shelters were widely scattered, as well as deep and, in any case, most of them hit the mountains when things got tense. While water is a limitation, the area still supports a fairly substantial population. The salt flat settlements are probably the most “civilized” place in the wastelands, a “free town” which acts as a contact point between the wastelanders and the goodlands. While the Mormons remember being persecuted, and so will offer some assistance to refugees, there are limits. They lack the military might to directly resist the megaplexs, and so cannot long shelter anyone who’s too “hot”. They will try to convert you – constantly.

   The Current Population of north america is somewheres around fifty million, as compared to the prewar total of nearly eight hundred million. Of those, about two-thirds live in the surviving megaplexs. Before the war, nearly 80% of the population was urban. Approximately one in every 10,000 who were exposed to heavy radiation but not vaporized outright were transformed. Of those 15,000 to 18,000, the statistics were something like this. Minor Mutants (40%, 6000-7200). “Monstrosities” (10%, 1500 to 1800), Minor and Major “Supers” (35%, 5250-6300, and 4.9%, 735-882), and Transcendents (.1%, 15-18). Many more carry mutant genetic potential.

   Atlanta is still in control of a lot of the pre-spasm military records, supply depots, special projects, and the two surviving reconstruction bases. Sadly, a lot of this stuff is out in the wastelands, or otherwise hard to get to, even if no one else has found it yet. Atlanta could scrape up a much larger force then is readily apparent – but probably couldn’t support it for very long.

   Buffalo has the services of two superhuman inventors, and so has a few ultratech devices of its own available, instead of being limited to salvaged items. They usually turn out about two “items” a year – making 30-40 so far. At least four ultratech projects went to provide limited ComSat and SpySat facilities. Your GM should select the others carefully. Buffalo relies a lot on indoctrination and ignorance in its general population. It reminds Mark of germany during WWII. Their “sentinels” include the “terminator” type and are incredibly tough (Two to three times base health, thanks to their self-repair systems).

   Chicago is a potential time bomb waiting to explode – who knows what traps, old computer systems, or emergency programs are just waiting to be activated? The more they delve into the original heirarchy equipment, the greater their risk of raising something they cannot put down.

   Dallas can engineer simple, physical, changes but has yet to find a way to engineer psionic powers. Since such powers are at the core of all major metahuman powers and the celestial intervention, they cannot manufacture true “superhumans”. They can create Transhumans, with various “powers” – but the inherent limitations of physical bio- systems restrict the number (usually 1-6), rank (Am max, normally Pr to Rm), and variety (EG, no weather control, matter conversion, magic, etc), of such powers. Dallas’s major trade products are things like improved, radiation resistant, draft horses. The cities main defence forces rely on light cyberware, hand weapons, power armor – and mutated mounts, scouting animals, and combat packs. They are especially fond of Drakes, a mutated quasi-“reptile” with massive strength, good armor, speed – and bioelectric abilities. Quite a bit larger then humans, the limits on their powers are somewhat higher. Dallas may have kid- napped some superhumans for experimental purposes. The Wild Card process is the only real result of the psionic power research so far. It’s effects are highly variable; degenerative disorders, lethal mutations, monstrosities, latent mutations, or no effect at all, are all far, far, more common then the acquisition of superpowers. Ani-men are generally humanoid, possess the “normal” ablities of the appropriate animal type, and a decent set of boosted attributes. They are property, basically treated as sub- human slaves. A few go rogue, often from among the small percentage who got some poorly-understood or synergestic genes and develop actual superhuman powers. Thanks to the “Archmage”, this `plex has a high tolerance for computer hackers.

   Indianopolis survived the spasm thanks to the Indiana Universities hyperspace-research program. Not because of anything the university did – but because Sirus Corp and Metadyne Corp both had functioning hyperspace weapons, and a crude method of detecting hyperspace portals. Unaware of each others weaponry, they nevertheless were prepared to automatically “fire” at any other portals that opened under alert conditions. Four minutes after the national alert went out, an as-yet unnotified researcher opened a minor portal during a laboratory experiment. Metadyne and Sirus fired almost simultaneously. Metadynes nucleonic- disruptor field was just establishing itself, when Sirus Corps energy-dissipator field hit. The result was a wild “storm” of raw nuclear energy circling the megaplex some twelve miles out. By the time the storm died, the spasm was long since over. Damage to the city was massive, and the university was a total loss – but the city survived. The Metadyne and Sirus laboratories did not – since they automatically fired on each other moments later. Many of the groups in the city take the lack of “law and order” as a licence to try to undermine each other. Even police work is farmed out to mercenary groups.

   Los Angeles has an active political underground movement for mutant rights, giving any idealistic characters a chance to get entangled in an undercover, and reasonably nonviolent, project. The city management was grateful to Mark, but was bloody pissed when he walked out. They may not have listened to him much, but he made them feel a lot more secure. Since then, they’re determined not to let their “tame” supers walk out on them. Escaping could be an interesting project. As notes, if practical large- scale fusion power is normally unavailable, their system may be another creation of Marks – a permanent “pinhole” gateway into the sun. Note that the “popular” attitude towards mutants is far more generous then the “official” one, although they do tend to look down on them a bit.

   Mexico City is a nightmare. Admittedly, those ancient aztec “gods” aren’t much worse then Odin and Thor – but that’s quite bad enough. Maybe somebody could arrange to summon Quetzalcoatl or something.

   Tampa is a very varied spot, depending on who happens to be in town at the moment. Several of the other `plexs maintain strike groups in the area, in case something of interest to them goes on there.

   Vancouver is a mystery. What happended to the place ? Was it a “cosmic cube”? The Shaper of Worlds? A Warper? A “pocket dimension”? What? Mark is afraid that it was Kaluu, the current sorcerer supreme of earth. Kaluu is a black magician, able to power his spells with the stolen life-energies of others. That doesn’t mean he has to be evil, but if it takes 1000 infant sacrafices to save the earth, well. OK. He values his efforts far too highly to risk himself in a direct attempt which would probably fail. He might gamble with himself, but the world is far too important. Kaluu rebuilt the dimensional barriers, stronger then before, barriers originally raised through black magic and thousands of deaths. Mark believes that he foresaw the spasm, wove spells to gather the power of billions of fiery deaths, and drove back the darkness. But did the effort leave him sane? Sane or not, can any human even control that much power? Kaluu is an ancient oriental. If he was responsible, was it due to “leaks”, an accident, a side effect – or has he claimed the `plex for his own? If so, what can anyone do? Even the residue of such power would give Kaluu at least shift-y power. If it was Kaluu, and was deliberate – lets hope that he’ll be content with the city. Kaluu doesn’t weild most of Dr Stranges artifacts – they depend on the users purity. Culann can’t use them to anything approaching their full potential – but he can get some use out of them. Just as a note, “nature magic” is a dangerous school these days.

   Communications are fairly limited. The ionosphere is a mess, radioactives are everywhere, the land lines have been blown to bits, and the satellites are all gone. This really doesn’t leave much but line-of-sight radio links, although Buffalo (QV) is an exception. Since this tactic is fairly limited, most groups are operating without any good communications with their home bases. This is most important with respect to transmitting data, calling for backup – and the sentinels. Even those operating out of Buffalo need at least 2D10 turns and a yellow FEAT roll to set up an uplink, green requires 1D10 minutes, and white indicates that no link will be available for 1D10 hours. Fortunately for the Buffalo sentinels, a red result gets an immediate link. In any case, the defferent sentinel programs do not share information with each other.

   The Resistance Level should be set by the GM for each of the major campaign areas, although a brief not should suffice. The GM must know, although the players need not know, just how serious each megaplex is about the mutant “menace”, which of the rumors are true, what happened in Vancouver, and whether Atlantas high casualty rate is an official policy, the work of a cabal, or coincidence. As a rule, this shoul depend on the games overall “flavor”, but the GM has to decide before he lets the players get their characters involved with any particular area.

   Sentinel Countermeasures are legion. Most of them go back to the rebellion against the hierarchy, such as the Wild Weasel, Mask, “Jammer”, and Minutemen. Specific useful powers include radiowave and darkforce control, both of which can be used for “masking” stunts. Transhumans and neomen are either nondetectable, or can evade detection, and even the genetic scanners can be evaded by using the skin-regrowth medical techniques. Since these alter the users skin genetics very slightly, getting such a treatment will confuse things until the sentinels get another good scan and identification of the character in action.

 

Read the Major Characters – and more background – for this setting

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