Posted in Settings

Australiana Apocalyptica

A few weeks ago I started up a solo game of Apocalypse World with my wife. We liked it but decided we wanted something different for a solo game and would wait for another month or two to play Apocalypse World with our main group once we’re done with Prime Time Adventures. This post has some custom moves that we were planning to use and probably still will – feel free to do whatever you like with them. I’ve also written up some brief setting details for an Australian apocalypse.

I knew I wanted our Apocalypse World to be in Australia, where we live. Even ignoring Mad Max, this country is a pretty amazing place and I have lots of ideas about what it could be like after the end times. I’m sure Vam has even more, very specific ideas, but that’s a post for another day perhaps. I presented three settings to my wife and asked her which one she wanted to play in. Here they are:

  • Overpopulated skyscrapers overgrown with relentless rainforest in the wild northeast cities
  • Slimy labyrinthine docks at the clogged, poisoned harbour by a rusting once-great bridge
  • Clusters of peeling corrugated iron buildings, caked in red desert dust under a cancerous sun

She said, “the first one” then added “…but we’re not just in the skyscrapers, are we?”. I told her no, we wouldn’t be, it was just an image evocative of that part of post-apocalypse Australia. So, of course, that was the one I had the least ideas about but we both made a pretty good go of it and the setting came together. Here’s a brief run down:

Setting: Bane

Bane is a huge city extending outwards and upwards, remnants of civilisation overgrown by relentless rainforest. There was enough food here when the world ended, water too. And it was out of the cancerous sun, thanks to the Canopy. So everyone came. Everyone.

Bane is big, but the rainforest claims back more and more each day and there’s less and less space for the booming population. Towering office buildings have turned residential. Dozen people to a room, hundreds lining hallways. And the Canopy: so many trees – some bigger than the buildings – that only the highest floors of the highest skyscrapers ever see sun and feel the breeze.

Everyone below lives in the Canopy’s sweltering eternal darkness. Pitch-black sauna, 24/7. Tensions run high, tempers thin. Fans are prized, ice is killed for. Vines get into everything, messing up what juice still flows through strangled wires. Then there’s the dream sap that pries open your mind, the bloodthirsty rainforest predators, the unpredictable cabal of brachiators, and hundreds of plants ready to kill you in any number of ways.

It’s not a matter of if you’ll die a sudden violent death, it’s when and how, and why anyone should care. It’s what you’ll do with your short sweaty existence before life kills you.


So, that’s our happy little apocalyptic world. For playing there, we’ve got two custom moves so far:

When you consume the dream sap, you open your brain to the psychic maelstrom.

When you wander around without light in the endless sweltering darkness under the canopy, roll+sharp. On a 10+, all 3: you get where you were going without incident. On a 7-9, choose 2:
– you don’t run into anyone you’d really rather not see right now
– you don’t get turned around, lost and delayed
– your scent doesn’t catch the interest of any rainforest predators

Feel free to use or change or do whatever to any of this. We’ll use it eventually, but if you use it first, I’d love to hear about it.

Posted in Musings

Australia in RPGs

Happy Australia Day!

Australia is basically a fantasy roleplaying setting come to life. We have devastating floods, fires, droughts and incredible dust storms. We have fantastical animals, many of which are deadly and/or poisonous. Platypus, I’m looking at you. We have deserts, rainforests, snowy mountains and coral reefs. Australia is beautiful, deadly and a great source of inspiration for gamemasters. So, to celebrate Australia Day I’ve collected Australia-related roleplaying links and inspirational links from around the webosphere for your perusal.

I’ve already mentioned the fearsome platypus, but Australian myth and folklore offers up some interesting monsters too like the are-they-silly-or-scary drop bears – giant koalas that drop out of trees and crush you, then rip your face off – and of course, everyone’s favourite vorpal billabong lurker, the bunyip from Aboriginal mythology.Sometimes fact is stranger than fiction. Just take a look at Australian megafauna for real life examples of dire animals.
For a more current example, the Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD) affecting Tasmanian Devils just screams “adventure hook”. Tasmanian Devils are crazy little creatures to begin with. Their jaws give them the most powerful bite force of any mammal (relative to body size), they let off a foul odour when stressed, they’re ferocious when feeding, and their disturbing ear-piercing screech sounds as scary as any monster. Add to all this the DFTD and you’ve got a group of ravenous screeching monsters covered in sores and wounds.

In your fantasy game, perhaps the disease drives them even more insane so that they give up their scavenging ways and attack travellers on the roads. Villagers cower in their shacks as they hear the unearthly screams of the diseased devils stalking the outskirts of the town. I’ve actually developed a race of monstrous humanoids called the Retch (singular and plural) which are based on Tasmanian Devils. I’ll update them to Pathfinder RPG stats some time and post them here with crunch, fluff and adventure hooks.

Paizo’s third annual RPG Superstar competition has begun and two Australians have made it into the Top 32 contenders. So, 6% of the finalists are Australian, whereas only 0.3% of the world is Australian. Therefore, we must be awesome 🙂 Best of luck to my fellow Aussies. For those in the Canberra region, be sure to check out CanCon next year (you’ve just missed it this time around) or even Gen Con Oz in Brisbane. I went to the first Gen Con Oz in 2008 and was at the session where an Aussie came up with what Tracey Hickman now calls “The Australian Rule” on page 69 of his X-treme Dungeon Mastery book (while I don’t agree with all of the book’s content, there are some gems in there and it’s a fun read).

Fantasy and science-fiction roleplaying games are often showcases of outlandish environments. Australia is just as amazing with the Devil’s MarblesWave RockUluruthe Pinnaclesthe Twelve ApostlesJenolan Cavesthe Great Barrier Reef and countless other breathtaking environments.

I’m not sure how popular the 1987 Call of Cthulhu supplement Terror Australis is, but I’ve purchased the PDF and flicked through it. It includes three adventures, several monsters and an interesting mix of historical data and Lovecraftian mythos. Australian roleplaying games are few and far between, so if you’re interested in the concept, this is a good place to start. Besides, Australia and Cthulhu are each crazy and deadly enough that combining them is just awesomeness waiting to happen.

Before I wrap up, I just want to take a moment to recognise that for some, Australia Day is a time for celebrating everything that makes this country great. But for others, it represents the day that the English invaded this country and declared it Terra nullius, displacing the Aboriginal people who had called this land home for over 40,000 years. If you want to find out more about this, start with the Australia Day article on Wikipedia or search Google for “Invasion Day”.

That’s it for this post. I hope it’s been enlightening. Next time you’re looking for a bizarre plant, animal or environment, look to Australia to see if it can fill your needs. If you’re running a game about natural disasters, read up about Australia to see how people have coped in these terrible situations. And if your GM runs a game set in Australia, be sure to keep your eyes on the trees. You never know when the drop bears will strike!