WRITER'S BLOCK? NOT SURE WHERE TO START?

Any experienced RPG fan knows that when you really analyze these types of open ended, concept driven games; it almost always works best to present a problem and then have the team work to solve it instead of trying to force some pre-built script! Listed below are some of the more common issues that survivors might face in this particular flavor of apocalypse. The Aftermath: 2012 is all about the stories of unwilling or unexpected heroes, villains, and game changers (hence the lack of control over much of the demographic information related to them). These are just a few ideas to help you get the ball rolling, see where the team takes you! And never forget, it's always ideas that keep the world turning, which is why they are the primary generators for experience!

  • First: Choose a refugee city that is still standing. Tech level can be however you see fit appropriate to timeline or location
  • Team-building: All players, no matter their background, live in the same (very) large squat on the outskirts of town. Building type can be whatever you like, but it's a shared space and houses appx 60. All players are loosely affiliated because of this, but each has been keeping the details of their lives to themselves for whatever reason. Determine what little they have scrounged or stashed in their sleeping area.
THE CATALYST:

In the very small hours of the morning, the local police department forces their way into the building, block the doors, and begin banging loudly on their riot shields (legit or recently made but of high quality) and exclaiming over the bullhorn that you are all hereby trespassing on city property and must vacate the premises. This is your official Eviction Notice! You have five minutes to comply! Pack your stuff and GTFO. A quick glance outside shows they are definitely there in force and have a single prison van at each entrance. Inform them that there are several entrances to the building, and they fortunately live more towards the center, so if they start to storm the place they will probably have a little more time than those right near the doors. Give them five minutes (literally time it) to decide what they want to do. Once it's up, inform them that they can hear the typically loudest, drunkest of the squats Karens is arguing with one of the cops. All the typical "Rah Rah...you fucking pigs cant do this" type of thing. Then they hear them bust her ass, followed by them beggining the beat down of her lover and their teenage kid(s). Then someone jumps in to help them, then another fight breaks out near another entrance. Cops yell something along the lines of "Alright round all of these motherfuckers up! If you don't want to be a statistic get your ass on the ground with your hands behind your head! We're coming in and we will open fire!"

  • Ask each player what they are trying to do, they can communicate because they are all huddled up in a shared "common area"
  • They have a couple options here, but the bottom line is that the cops are coming in and there is definitely at least a dozen at each door. If you have a preference, just voice it through another NPC within the shared space
  • If they fight, the game starts with a royal rumble with the police in a poorly lit squathouse! If it goes in their favor, they are now going to be hunted fugitives cause it's caught on CCTV as they flee. They probably at least have a few bruises to help ID them, if not a gunshot wound. If it goes poorly, everyone gets to go to jail together and bond that way! Prison break? Just try to survive together? It's their call now...
  • If they comply, they will all be rapidly frisked, have their bags checked (if they actually packed anything) and then hauled outside and instructed to lie face down on the pavement. If they tried to stash anything and it gets found when they search (failed Concealment roll) they simply empty their pockets and haul them out with nothing other than the clothes on their back. From there, they get to hear some more scuffling inside as some further in the building decide to fight back. More and more people get lead out the peaceful ones with the ones who complied, the bloody ones are separated. Then a gunshot and "I'm hit, I'm hit!". The cops fire off a few rounds themselves, clearly trying to conserve ammunition. One outside asks "He dead?!?"...BANG..."Is now!". A few more of the squatters get lead out, peaceful as can be. Then the one who seems to be in charge informs them that the peaceful ones are free to go, he doesn't care where just start walking, but if you stick around you might as well just hop in and pick your seat in that paddy wagon over there. Noone's going back into that building anytime soon except maybe the coroner...
  • Plot twist: If for some reason the plot stalls (because being destitute and homeless never leads to weird encounters), have them run into one of Karen's kids later on. Beaten and bruised (or worse) they tell you that there was a lucrative black market stash hidden in the building and needs their help breaking in to recover it. They had been cutting the cops in to keep them looking the other way but they broke the deal. She knows they didn't find it because she was the last one they questioned, and when they let her go she snuck off and kept an eye on the place. They sent in a guy to lock everything up and then he set up cameras aimed at each door to see who tries to get back in there and whether they come out with the goods. Bike cops have been rolling by ever since. Make the prize particularly lucrative, and tell them the kid offers an even split cause all she knows is she doesn't want to end up working the streets now that she's got to take care of her younger siblings and her parents are locked up...
  • First: Choose a either a refugee city or a large settlement in the south-east or near the gulf. Tech level can be however you see fit appropriate to timeline or location
  • Second: Determine each players starting equipment, but commit to the idea that they all live on the ground level so any permanent or semi permanent objects, like furniture, transportation, or living arrangements should be expected to be in serious jeopardy
  • Team-building: All players, no matter their background, live in this area. As the catalyst unfolds they will inevitably see one another performing their daily tasks to mitigate the circumstances
THE CATALYST:

Hurricane "Anonymous" Inbound! High winds, broken windows, power outages, and tons upon tons of water. After day one, the winds calmed down but the rain never stopped. On day two its still raining and everything is flooded, and theres no end in sight...

  • When the game starts, have it begin with some sort of neighborhood meeting during day three and discussing "the plan" for this particular block or area of town that all players reside in, regardless of background. Some may be refugees and homeless, some may have a nice setup, doesn't really matter cause it's getting worse and the talk seems to be focused on whether or not to evacuate on foot as it's still coming down hard and the water is already two feet deep
  • Allow them to collaborate and manage the crisis on their own terms, but keep an eye out for any curve balls you can throw at them if it seems like they are stabilizing or collaborating just a little too well
  • The next day, have them wake up to three feet of water. Add about 6 inches daily after that as the rains slowly wind down. Onwards and upwards until it's four and a half feet deep and most ground levels of buildings are basically half submerged. If they decided to leave, they need to head to high ground. If they decided to stay, things are getting difficult. Either way, once it gets to about to chest height, have the rain stop but the depth remains for a few days while the uphill runoff makes its way back down
  • Now that the desperation has really set in knowing that supplies already reasonably scarce and nothing is coming in, the looting begins! If they are on evacuate mode, have the group get robbed. If they are on bunker down mode have other NPC's in their area start doing it as supplies dwindle, if they refuse to engage, have the NPCs "accidentally" bring trouble back home. If its a hold-out settlement and not a city, just send in some bandits that are convinced that this is the best way to make the most of the situation. Whatever works, just remember that this happens annually in some areas so the looting is going to be much more scarce than present day. This means they have to do more of it, more frequently, to achieve their objectives. If they are working with a "relief organization" have them get hit by a well-organized and well-armed group... with civilian casualties
  • Gradually reduce water level as the plot thickens but dont forget about the mosquitos, leeches, snakes, fish, frogs, and all other manner of wildlife that are in the muck with you! Could be prime time to introduce alligators!
  • First: The players are a rag-tag group of the lucky few who have been interviewed multiple times, passed, and promised housing and a promising future in an up and coming Hold-Out settlement a few days walk from whichever Refugee City you choose. Determine their starting equipment based on their skillset, and their basic provisions for foot travel. None of them have met before
  • Second: The two men who are leading the expedition to their new home are skilled hunters, capable of defending themselves, and long time residents of this new community. They were tasked with vetting possible additions to their community, and then bagging game on their way back
  • Team-building: The first two days are reasonably uneventful by nature. This allows the group to talk, bond, and establish backstory with one another and the storyteller to enrich the environment of their potential new homes
THE CATALYST:

On the third day of the journey, the hunters will attempt to track deer during the early afternoon. Players will be encouraged to either assist, or set up camp and prepare a location to butcher the kill and prep the meat for travel (salting, smoking, parceling, etc) The hunters will be successful in taking down one animal on their own, with any assistance from the players opening the possibility of additional game as well. Everyone feasts and the hunters open a bottle of wine or two to celebrate a successful hunt. Everyone falls asleep with high spirits and full bellies. However, in the middle of the night after the fire simmered down, the players awaken to screaming as one of the hunters is being mauled by wild dogs. The other hunter will initiate combat, but essentially the dog to human ratio should be 2 : 1 (remember this total). No matter if the group successfully defends the camp, or is forced to flee as the dogs are most interested in the deer carcasses, the first hunter dies of his injuries. With the remainder of the group intact (and obviously one or more likely injured as well) the other hunter will insist that they need to travel to a small settlement a few miles away (two hours if no leg wounds) where he knows has a doctor and veterinarian. If nothing else to determine if they are now infected with rabies cause dogs aren't usually that aggressive, but also to get help burying his friend as he doesn't even have a shovel. Depending on the severity of the players injuries, or those inflicted on the other hunter this should be a reasonably easy sell to the party. After everyone recieves treatment, the second hunter will leave with two of the settlers (small group, a three family community) to bury the fallen hunter, recover any lost gear, and with any luck kill the dogs. The party is told to rest up there, and they will be back by dark. They never return...

  • There are two choices here:
    • You can decide that the small settlement that they went to for medical attention is responsible for the dogs and this suddenly turns into a crazy, sadistic, knockout, torture, escape plot. God knows what happened to the other hunter, but the party can learn that theres another person involved from another homestead who cut the dogs loose on you. Effectively opens a vengeance plotline
    • You can decide that the dogs are actually being used as a tool in a divide an conquer tactic for some particularly nasty bandits (all further bullet points follow this line of thinking)
  • The bandits take out the group that went back to bury the fallen hunter. When they don't return, a father and his two sons gear up for combat that night and question the players on where they were coming from. Unfortunately the other hunter was the only one familiar with the area, so the team will have to do their best to guide them back to their abandoned camp properly. The Trio say they will rotate shifts on taking watch, either for the missing recovery party or anything else, and that the group should rest up as best they can. They will head out in the morning...
    • If the players are in reasonable condition and decide to go with the father and son group, they will find nothing of the first group that went back and the corpse of the first hunter will be half eaten, but all of his camping gear will be gone. Shortly thereafter, they hear gunfire coming from the direction of the homesteads. Upon arrival, two bandits will be there finishing up and covering their tracks. The doctor is dead, theres a dead bandit (who conveniently has a map to the hideout hidden away on his person), the houses are on fire, there is zero sign of the women, and two surviving bandits are loading up the last of the spoils into a small trailer attached to a four wheeler. They will attempt to escape rather than engage. No matter what happens, the Father Son Trio will insist of saving the ladies of the homesteads; stating that there are fates worse than death...
    • If anyone in the party has questionable combat inhibiting injuries, the father son group will insist that they stay and keep watch over the rest of the settlement while they go handle some flea ridden curs. They take all the best gear they have, aside from the doctor's old revolver, and set off. A few hours later the party will hear a bunch of gunfire, and shortly thereafter the father will return with a gunshot wound to the leg and dragging only one son, who has several arrows embedded in his torso. Hes frantic at the loss of his boys, but says they got several of the dogs and hes not sure how many of the bandits he actually hit. Determine as you see appropriate, but remember the dogs were bum rushing three armed men. They definitely took most of the incoming fire.
  • No matter which way the plot unfolds, the bandits will be determined to keep picking the survivors off. Either en masse in a final attack, or constant harassment since the entire settlement is now on foot until the group locates where the women were taken and then a final showdown is clearly inevitable. Either way, the bandits are involved in a rather large dog fighting ring with multiple other desperado groups that maintain a lawless peace. The host of these fights got the bright idea to start training dogs as man hunters to make their own clashes a little easier. Needless to say, sneaking in isn't much of an option but the ladies are being held in the kennels at a particularly nasty off-grid gambling locale.
  • Should the players survive the remainder of the homesteaders will accompany them to the original destination and vouch for them with the highest praise. Needless to say, they will have skilled friends and allies for life! Be it a badass combat vet, his wife and two sons, plus the nurse and a couple of young girls OR a now enraged combat vet with his equally furious wife, a doctor, his assistant, and the other young women. Either way that is a solid support crew for future escapades within the same region.
  • First: All players, regardless of their background, find themselves serving various sentences for everything from petty to serious crimes depending on their backgrounds. Determine why they have been incarcerated
  • Team-building: All of the team has just recieved their sentencing, they are shackled together in their jumpsuits and are about to be loaded into a prison bus. The journey is going to be a 6 plus hour ride, providing ample time for bonding and information exchange
THE CATALYST:

A few hours into the voyage, a group of bandits eliminate the escorts and run the bus off the road. They snatch up all of the pertinent police or national guard equipment, and then make their way down the bus unlocking everyones shackles. They were clearly there to free several of their rank that had been locked up and put on this particular prisoner transport, and the affiliates exclaim that they had their doubts as to whether or not they could pull it off. The team is now stranded in the middle of nowhere midwest USA, just plains and grass, ruined roads, and has no idea where they are or where any civilization might be. Additionally, they have no idea if or when a prison recovery team may arrive and there is zero food or water on the bus. The bandits tell the remaining prisoners that they have a choice to make: come with them and embrace a life of liberty and true independence but earn your keep, or try your luck in the wild during the summer droughts. Most, if not all the remaining NPC's take the offer and side with the bandits. The bus is totalled, as is one of the escort vehicles, but the other escort still runs and they are currently figuring out seating arrangements...

  • If the players decide to go with their newfound brothers in bonds, welcome to the wonderful world of banditry! There are half a million moral conundrums that can be thrown at them. Do they embrace the brutality? Do they find a way to make themselves useful without engaging in violence? Do they decide to betray the gang and bring them to justice or just rob them blind and set off on their own once they have their bearings? Just throw some questionable decisions their way and see how they lead the script!
  • If the group decides they don't want to be associated with a bunch of hardened cop-killers they are going to find themselves in a serious conundrum. It suddenly becomes an extreme worst-case survival scenario. With no survival provisions, no idea where they are, a couple ruined vehicles, and a lot of dead bodies that have already had their best gear stripped, the only thing they have going for them is knowing which direction they were heading. Do they try to remain put in order to turn themselves in, and if so what happens when the inevitable scavengers come for the corpses? Do they get to start a prison campaign when a recovery team finds them? Do they set off towards their original destination only to run into some vary wary travelers, or an incredibly uneasy Hold-Out settlement? Does desperation eventually drive them to a life of crime in spite of their best efforts? Only time will tell...
  • First: All players have been fortunate enough to acquire passage on a merchant convoy (A bus, a few vans or pickup trucks, and a two vehicle National Guard or Police escort). Determine whether they ply their trades with the convoy or are merchants themselves (and thus have made friends with some of the NPCs), or if they lack any particular skillset simply assume that they paid for passage to the next stop on their trade route
  • Second: Choose a geographic region of the continental US to establish the environment. If you want to throw in some added difficulty to the catalyst, you can decide that it's a riverboat convoy manuevering the Mississippi
  • Team-building: Start the game a day or two before the convoy is going to disembark. It should be either a few days before Christmas eve, or right after new years, but the Convoy should be preparing to head "home" after a very successful run. Spirits are high, people are happy knowing they will have a good winter, and all seems right with the world. Try to emphasize particular roles each player could have in a merchant convoy:
    • Combat oriented players could easily serve as bounty hunters for the settlements along the route, or the security force for the convoy itself
    • Skill centered players ply their trades as well. Mechanics do machine repairs, Construction types do home repairs, Medics offer their services, Drivers obviously pilot one of the convoys vehicles, so on and so forth
    • Any scavenger or outdoorsman focused players may simply have chosen to try a different approach because they weren't particularly successful before the cold started setting in. After convincing the convoy they have only the hope for a better future where ever they are heading, they sealed the deal by trading something acquired from their skillset to secure a seat on that bus
THE CATALYST:

Loaded up with the almost all of the available merchandise sold, stacks of cash, fat digital crypto accounts, snacks for the road, plus enough gas to get where ever they call home; the crew packs up an heads out as happy as can be. All players should be placed within the bus (or largest boat) as it is the only one with a functional heater. A few hours into the trip, they know they are in the home stretch, and light snow begins to fall. Shortly after it actually begins to stick, the convoy is ambushed!

  • Depending on region, adjust the ambush tactic. If they are in a wooded area or along the Mississippi river somewhere, have the attackers use felled trees to eliminate the front escort immediately (nets lift downstream as well). If in open plains or desert regions, use IED's and make the onslaught more vehicular based along with emergence from foxholes by the road or river side. Either way have all but one vehicle get trapped or crash into the obstacles, the one that doesn't evades the trap and leaves the party behind! The ambusher's are well defended, clearly professional, and all hell breaks loose!
  • Fortunately for the party, the attackers concentrate their fire (bullets and arrows) on the escorts and the caravan leaders vehicle which establishes quickly that they are the primary targets. The only attention they pay to the players vehicle is they make sure to bombard it with molotovs or flaming arrows (or both) in order to induce panic. Once the rear escort has been dispatched, have everyone check against Willpower immediately as it is apparent that you are all now severely outgunned and outnumbered!
  • As the players vehicle continues to burn, and if the players keep their wits about them and don't attempt to flee immediately, they can see that the attackers have shifted their focus to the remaining smaller vehicles or boarding the escort vehicles to seize their weaponry (if boats, these have mounted machine guns with ballistic shields above the cabin). Now is their chance! If anyone has the bright idea to try to fight their way out, have an NPC physically stop them. In the case of the River Convoy, have them check physical traits as they swim to the shoreline. Any failed check means they lose clothing or get mild injury (get their jacket ripped off, lose a shoe, smack into a rock or some driftwood)
  • Now the characters are stranded, on foot, with little more than whatever they managed to grab during their escape. If the party lacks strong survival skills, keep one NPC alive to assist in their growth in this field. However, they should be suffering severe injuries and not much use other than guidance (and effectively slow the party down, presenting a whole other issue). Otherwise have the remaining NPCs killed or captured as they made their escape attempt. Once the crew manages to relocate one another and determine whos still alive, the snowfall is getting heavier as the sun sets. If running the riverboat scenario, everyone is also soaking wet and hypothermia begins to set in as the adrenaline tapers off.
  • Potential Plot Twists: here are just a few things to consider. Obviously it throws the team right into a nasty survival scenario with the cold setting in, miles from civilization, shorter daylight hours, and potentially starting injured and under-equipped but it never hurts to add a little more flavor:
    • Do the attackers make a point to track the team down in order to ensure theres no witnesses? Now it's a survival AND evasion scenario!
    • With their focus on the caravan leaders vehicle, was there any motivation other than greed?
    • Did the vehicle that escaped run to get help, or were they the ones who tipped the attackers off on where to hit them?
    • How long will the injured NPC survive without medical attention? Are there animals trailing the team, hungry for blood?
    • Smaller settlements are naturally wary of strangers during the winter, as everyone is well aware that this is when people become the most desperate. Larger settlements are more stingy because they have to make sure their supply lasts. Its a bad time to be broke (or have a wet phone when all of your money is in a crypto account)
  • First: All players, regardless of their background, have an immensely strong bond with a middle aged, mutual friend that played a critical role in each players survival of the apocalypse. Determine how this "Good Samaritan" has helped each player and built their relationship up since then
  • Team-building: The entire party is loosely associated through this man, and he has requested urgent assistance at his homestead. Unable to refuse, everyone arrives at a reasonably successful plan for the future which is just a few miles outside the nearest refugee city of your choice, during late fall. However, noone had any idea what they were being summoned for until they arrive
THE CATALYST:

The entire time this man has been a part of the players' lives, he has always expressed that his greatest fear is that he will never get the opportunity to be a father. Fortunately for him, that was not the case. His wife's is due any day, and shortly after the "last" player arrives her water breaks. He has sent word to each of the players because he knows he needs their help in assisting in their home birth. Mostly because he has no idea what to expect, but also to celebrate the birth of his first born! They have a decent homestead a few miles outside of city limits, and power is creeping towards the house every week. The future looks incredibly bright, but they were unable to find any sort of mid-wife or medical professional to assist. Everything seems to be going according to plan, until some serious complications occur in the middle of the night...

  • So begins the scramble to save this womans life during childbirth! If she dies, their entire plan was to sustain the child on breastmilk so the scramble could easily shift to finding another food source. However with winter drawing near, it adds additional complications in acquisitions as most people have already stockpiled their own supplies and the players have no connections in the immediate area
  • The "Good Samaritan" refuses to leave his wifes side, and is clearly in a state of panic as her health deteriorates
  • If none of the players have any serious medical proficiency, the issue becomes clear mid day after the complications start. The child is caught in the umbilical cord, and unable to be forced out. She is also losing a concerning amount of blood from internal bleeding as the child squirms or adjust positions. If no solution can be found within the next few hours, she demands that the team cut their baby out of her as shes going to die anyway. "Good Samaritan" is now exceptionally erratic and indecisive, and will adamantly refuse to be the one to kill his wife
  • Should they have to pursue this course of action, the "Good Samaritan" becomes all but catatonic. Unable to speak or interact any more than stating that "We have to find a way to feed the baby"
  • Theres only a couple of days to find a solution. If the child dies, the "Good Samaritan" will pull a pistol out from under the dead newborn and attempt an enraged, adrenaline fueled, and utterly frantic murder-suicide of the party for failing him
  • First: All players, regardless of their background, are members of a small farming settlement deep in the Outlands. Each of them is attempting to leave their former lives behind and try their luck at self sufficiency. Determine the origins of their backstories and why they have chosen to generally shun society, as well as their roles in this small community. Two NPCs also reside here, a brother and sister, whos primary role has been teaching the party advanced farming techniques and they serve as the core founders of this Outland Oasis.
  • Second: Determine the geographic region for the settlement
  • Team-building: The entire party is loosely associated as neighbors trying to cooperate to build a better life together without the toils and troubles of the modern world. The primary goal is survival and sustainability, but that is about it. Each can hold their own ideals as to what else they want for their lives, but they have essentially bonded loosely by surviving a winter successfully together and raising crops through the course of the year without any major incidents
THE CATALYST:

The game should begin about halfway through harvest, the yield is higher than expected so the team is tasked with preparation for long term storage and surplus past their available supply. There is a small town nearby, and sparse housing but the salvage theoretically should remain decent as the group has not had much need to scavenge themselves and as far as they can tell the only other community is of a similar size and miles away in the opposite direction. Picture a rural town center, with the occasional house or small community spread over every quarter mile to a mile away. True "small town america". The Siblings have invited some of their extended family to come help with the harvest, like they had last year, and they seem trustworthy enough as everything worked out then and theres no indication of that having changed. Once they arrive, everyone celebrates a good harvest, and the next day the community meets to discuss their unexpected problem of excess surplus as there is zero electricity what-so-ever.

  • Players should be encouraged to chime in on what to do with the excess fruits of their labors. Do they try to package it up for travel and try to trade with the neighbors? Do they know of any advanced preservation techniques for long term storage? Should they buy time, collect the seeds and compost the rest and have an even bigger output next year but with more time to prepare for this problem? Should they try to use the extra food to bring on additional hands now, and begin growing a larger community and try to establish trade with anyone that is around them? Maybe get a route established as more and more people press into the wilderness?
  • No matter what the consensus is, one thing is definitely clear. It's time to scavenge anything that could assist with this decision. Send the party out on a scavenging runs for a week or so while the Siblings and Family finish the harvest and begin the standard curing processes. Throw some encounters at them as well to improve the teams cohesion. Doesn't matter if they are hostile, comedic, strange, sad, or just plain weird. The point is to build up their bonds from loose affiliates to friends, rivals, or even enemies. They will choose their own paths given enough stimuli
  • Once the loot begins to pile up, have the party begin their winterization prep for the settlement and their homes. Give them a few days to get organized, begin their storage procedures, and plan for the typically dormant winter months. Spur this behavior forward by having the Siblings and Family start talking about plans for Thanksgiving and the amazing feast that they will prepare!
  • Cue natural disaster! Choose the most appropriate for the region:
    • If in a wooded environment, have heavy rainfall begin to cause roof leaks. After about a day of ever increasing drippage and high winds, the roof collapses on one house rendering the upstairs useless and risks entire structural failure. It doesn't stop there though, the storms don't let up. Another home has a massive tree crash on top of it, rendering a solid 1/3 of the house uninhabitable. Neither will be able to retain heat during the harsh winter months. The greenhouses are also damaged from flying debris like branches, and the storage shed has collapsed as well, meaning much of the produce is now damaged and must be recovered before spoiling
    • If in the plains, same deal minus the tree fall. Have another roof collapse but have heavy hail break most, if not all of the windows of every structure that were facing one direction (typically east or west) and cause the damage to the greenhouses and storage shed
    • If in the desert, the stakes are even higher. The well runs dry! Add in a blinding sandstorm that rips the greenhouses up and persists for half a day or so though, just for good measure!
    • If you are feeling exceptionally mean, tornadoes are a frequent occurence as well. Have the damage be severe, but not irreparable!
  • Now the race is on. The team must consider one of the following options, but the future plans are essentially put on hold as the snows will come soon. The further north they are, the less time they have. However, the general idea is that there is about a month before things begin to get dangerous:
    • Scavenge the necessary materials to repair the damage or otherwise make the living arrangements acceptable (water storage for the desert)
    • Relocate and haul all that wonderful food and gear to a suitable new location
    • Negotiate shared space and continue working on the plans for the future, in order to get a head start in the spring
    • Develop their own solution
  • Plot Twists: this is typically the point where Outlanders have to determine how they make or break it if they arent prepared for the harsh winters. Consider the following:
    • That other settlement mentioned in the very beginning probably has similar problems to the team. Were they anywhere near as successful as the Siblings and crew? Do they try to work out a deal? If they weren't, do they try to just raid their neighbors? Are they crafty and employ a divide and conquer strategy by isolating targets as they try to solve their own problems?
    • This is the prime hunting season for bandits. They have to stockpile as well, but their lifestyle doesn't typically allow them to sit in one place and grow crops
    • Wildlife are also preparing for the cold, and having a bunch of damaged food trapped in a fallen shed will inevitably attract any scavengers appropriate to the region. Vermin and insects may become a problem, not to mention the more dangerous animals like bears, hogs, or wild dogs
  • First: Determine players general backstory and starting equipment. All players will start in a successful and ever growing trading settlement of approximately 60 to 80 people. Skill oriented characters likely either already reside there, or are attempting to integrate themselves into the community. Nomadic or Outdoorsman types just tend to trade there frequently
  • Second: Decide if the area is a woodland or plains environment, and the commodities available within town. An old motel, bar, mechanic, and grocery store (with an open flea market style trade center in the parking lot) should be emphasized as staples of the community. Various other shops and businesses are present as well, decide what they are appropriate to the environment
  • Team-building: It is late July and the droughts are becoming nearly unbearable. All of the nearby streams are bone dry, and the town has resorted to having to walk a couple of miles daily to fetch water from the nearest river, making clean water a trade commodity once again. The assorted wells and water sources are currently under strict rations, but the mayor assures the town that they are currently negotiating for relief from the nearest Hub city, but the terms of the exchange are still being established. The crops from the supporting farms on the outskirts of town are beginning to suffer immensely. Many of those who don't hold consistent or stable work have resorted to setting up camps near the river bed, as those who do are seeking more permanent solutions. The team will frequently encounter one another and various NPCs as they work towards either solving or enduring this issue
THE CATALYST:

Provide a week or two of game time to allow the players to integrate with the environment and make the best of the situation and pursue their own objectives. Emphasize that they frequently encounter each other as well as opportunity with the NPC population at the river banks or along the trail as people are physically carrying water back home at least every other day. When the time seems right, and none of the characters are near the river, establish that there is smoke on the horizon...coming from the direction of the river no less!

  • Apparently an NPC camping near the river lost control of their campfire, but the blaze is spreading quickly. No matter what happens following this point, the town basically wants this persons head on a pike. Adjust the story accordingly...
  • The blaze is spreading rapidly! The town has a few hours tops to prepare for their strategy. The farms on the outskirts are the life blood of their stability and are at highest risk due to the lack of fire-barriers like concrete and steel. The town is mobilizing to establish fire lines in order to preserve them, which may open some intersting opportunities for the players, as well as any thieves in the area
  • Should the players involve themselves in the defense of one of the farms, whether they succeed or not the other farms will not be so lucky. Now the town itself is under direct threat. The battle continues
  • Without ready access to gasoline, chainsaws, or vehicles this is a serious problem. Innovative strategies need to be discovered quickly and the intensity should be reinforced as now the smoke has become unbearably thick. Those who dont hold property in the town are beginning to evacuate, and with the fire originating from the water source things are looking particularly dire. This presents a key decision for the party, keep fighting or run?
    • Should they keep up the fight, even in the worst case scenario they will have the opportunity to be the last to leave which may mean significant goods and materials that had to be abandoned in a hurry. Not to mention the fact that if they successfully defend the town they will be seen as the heroes of the day. You can never have too many friends post-apocalypse!
    • Should they flee, or help convince the town that evacuation is the only option (depending on the circumstances) this will provide additional opportunity and integration as well. Where does one go, on foot no less, after losing everything to a wildfire that is right on their heels?
  • There is also the very high likelihood that any bandits in the region will see the blaze from afar and attempt to rob the residents and travelers as they make their escape attempt or swoop in and snatch anything that was left behind. Maybe both?
  • First: Determine players general backstory and starting travel equipment. All players will begin this story in a large and reasonably successful Hold-Out settlement and are there to either ply their trades or are simply resting up between their travels. All players are currently residing at the local inn / hotel / motel and have paid for a weeks stay (give or take) in advance while they figure out their next move
  • Second: Decide on the geographic location, the town size and general layout, as well as the commodities that it offers to travelers. The only staples of the community that are absolutely necessary for this particular plot are the hotel, the grocer, and an old dog kennel that has been converted to serve as the town jail
  • Third: The premise of this campaign is that the players are being framed for murder. There are definitely at least two killers. Choose a general theme:
    • Are these caused by particularly crafty bandits who are simply trying to sow chaos before they strike?
    • Is it a traditional psychopathic murder mystery that is completely random? Is it some racist nonsense? Are there old secrets and grudges involved? Cultists or just a general horror theme?
    • Or is it a power shift to change the towns leadership? Black ops by the local Hub City to bring this "independent" Hold-Out fully under heel? Someone running for a local election trying to frame the players, while they take out the current sherriff and mayor? Maybe vice versa and the sheriff is involved somehow?
  • Team-building: Allow the players a few days to interact with each other, pursue their own objectives, and get familiar with the town before a resident NPC is found brutally murdered. Once the murder occurs, emphasize that there is a growing suspicion towards outsiders. Allow another day to pass, and reveal that another random NPC suffered the same fate the next evening. Have a town meeting called and all peoples encouraged to attend. At this point a curfew is put into effect at sunset. That night, the players are the only ones residing in the hotel. Once they fall asleep have them all rounded up by the local law early next morning for the murder of the hotel owner. Players are all locked in uncomfortably small quarters within the dog kennel / jail conversion. Having nothing better to do, provide a solid two days of communication between each of them and the deputies who rotate shifts while each one is being individually interrogated by the sherriff
THE CATALYST:

The sheriff makes no secret that he is absolutely convinced that one, if not all of the players are involved in these horrific killings, he is going to find out who and can not wait to be the one who puts that noose around their neck. Clearly he had personal relationships with each of the victims (who were each killed in horrific ways, go as dark as you like...it's intended to be as chilling as possible but each was definitely up close and personal, with additional post-mortem mutilation) and he is furious that this is happening in his otherwise peaceful and stable little town. Once all the interrogations are complete, have the team be served their meager evening rations and get very sleepy. The meals were heavily drugged!

  • Have each player check against Perception at this point with a severe (but not unattainable) penalty. If they pass they wake up to being dragged and carried out of their cell and may be able to recall details about who, or what they saw with successful checks against Memory with equally severe penalty before one of the two carrying them sets them down and stomps them hard in the face. Assign each character an injury to the head but nothing too debilitating (split eyebrow or lip, broken nose, huge knot, etc), another bruise inflicted at a random location from one of the deputy's batons, and determine if they get one of their hands stomped bad enough to cause injury as well (50:50 chance at being either severely bruised or fractured) If they fail the Perception check, they simply are not privvy to the details on whoever was kicking them while they were down
  • Have the player with the highest perception wake up first as the first of the morning light strikes their face. The scene is absolutely brutal and a veritable bloodbath. The deputy on duty has been brutally beaten to death, broken teeth, broken bones, the whole nine. Another deputy is located near the entrance, bowels spilled on the floor at his feet and a hunting knive embedded in his neck and collar bone. All the players have been positioned very near the two dead deputies and covered in the eviscerated ones blood. Both of their bloody batons, clubs, whatever seems appropriate are on the floor nearby. The gutted one even still has his pistol in his holster. Grant the first conscious player the first decision on what to do as the other players slowly stir to consciousness based on their Sequence
  • Decision time! There are only a few options that become evident when waking up to this nightmare:
    • If ANY player decides to flee the scene before the town rises to greet the day, they will be assumed to be the culprit. Whenever the National Guard or Highway Patrol next roll through town, the sheriff will declare they are wanted for the murder of all of the victims and a manhunt will be issued while he and the remaining deputies secure the town and put the citizens on high alert. Any that stayed behind now have the option of either letting them take the fall for this, tracking them down themselves (for whatever reason), or attempt to find the real killer themselves as the murders will inevitably continue
    • If the players choose to flee together, they will be hunted relentlessly by the National Guard and Highway Patrol for unspeakable crimes. There will be vehicles and dogs on their heels within two days. It may make sense after a few close encounters to decide to throw their pursuers off by circling back and finding additional evidence to prove their innocence, especially since more murders have been occurring while the party has been on the run. Otherwise it can just devolve into how they all ended up fugitives and their background story on why they are outlaws
    • If the players choose to remain at the location and proclaim their innocence, they will find themselves tasked with proving their innocence. There should be plenty of evidence available to a keen eye or sharp mind, and when paired with the fact that they could have (and maybe should have) fled they chose to stay and help bring the real killers to justice. It shouldn't be a particularly easy sell though, they might easily end up back in those kennels for a bit while they reason with the sheriff, but eventually they should either succeed, have a large group of bandits roll through town in force and escape during the chaos, or have someone successfully defend themselves. The sheriff should apologize profusely and offer to deputize the party seeing as he's now down several good men
  • Develop the narrative based on whichever premise you established for yourself earlier!
  • First: Determine players general backstory and starting travel equipment. Any characters that possess any skills that could be related to riverboat transportation, either as a security force, machine operation, or just as an insurance policy should something go wrong should be assumed to be members of the original crew. Anyone who's skillset is outside of this realm of expertise should be assumed to be trying their luck in a new career and is a new hire. The captain is more than capable of managing a vessel of this size, he simply needs extra hands cause he can't be two places at once and these are dangerous times
  • Team-building: Start the campaign with the Captain having provided room and board at a inn near the docks of St. Louis. The team is sharing dinner and gets an opportunity to introduce themselves and explain their roles on the ship to one another. During the course of the meal and the drinks afterwards, the captain explains that after such a successful run during the fall last year he has reached out to them, and any new hires, to announce that after his calculations he will be offering an even profit split after he takes a 33% cut for himself, boat maintenance, fuel and food costs, and docking fees. Any remainder of the percentage split will be contributed to a "bar budget" when they are at port, but half of the crew must remain with the boat at all times. The run will be from St. Louis to Baton Rouge, distribute the first half of the journeys pay, dock until the rains come, then back up once the river swells. If all goes well, they vacation and wait out the dry season and do it again when the fall storms hit.
  • The Boat: The boat is a large, three tube pontoon style vessel with two outboard motors and a removable overhead canopy, two unused mast housings for the possibility of adding sails for near shore voyages, and an extension bar in the rear that will allow the attachment of two additional 8 foot inflatable rafts for any goods that don't necessarily have to remain dry or otherwise just provide additional tow capacity. The plan is for the crew to sleep in hammocks that are attached to the canopy frame while in port, and store the dry goods and majority of the cargo in the center of the vessel underneath the overhead canopy. Should heavy rain occur, the canopy walls can be unrolled along the sides of the boat. There are also an ample amount of handheld oars and assorted floatation devices in case of engine failure
THE CATALYST:

The majority of this campaign will involve very minor issues while on the river in the beginning, with the team basically just building trust. Most of the campaign should revolve around when they dock. The return journey is where the trouble sets in, as the Captain will inadvertently get the boat stuck trying to manuever back up river due to overestimating the rainfall before departure. Having a ship loaded with goods between Greenville and Memphis, the crew gets placed in a troubling predicament as they are approximately 2 / 3 of the way through the voyage and has to figure out how to proceed. However, the events leading up to this could easily prove to be defining milestones in the final outcome, so they should be established before the catalyst actually occurs

  • Most of the journey on river should be reasonably uneventful aside from flavor script. The occasional alligator sighting, an engine running out of fuel, having to row a little bit, towed rafts getting twisted up, a snake in the boat, meeting other riverboat people, bandits taking pot shots with bows and arrows, National Guard patrol boats handling them, a dead body floating, minor improvements to the ship itself...take your pick!
  • The real fun happens when the crew gets to dock. It should be noted that these are brief encounters though, as the crew is only planning to stop until sunrise. The stops include the following locations between St. Louis and Baton Rouge:
    • Cairo
    • Caruthersville
    • Memphis
    • Helena
    • Rosedale
    • Greenville
    • Vicksburg
    • Natchez
    • Fort Adams
  • There should be a single random encounter each night at each port, assuming noone is injured severely or they make concerted effort to avoid them. Possible scenarios revolve around typical sailor cliches:
    • Drunken bar brawls
    • Accused of cheating while playing cards
    • Thieves, Pickpockets, or Bandits
    • Attempted stowaways (hitching a ride between the pontoons but under the floor boards)
    • Pissed off dock workers
    • Drunken fishermen
    • Witnessing a murder or someone trying to dump a body in the river
    • Snakes or Alligators
    • Racoons, Mice, or Rats
    • Someone getting lost or arrested in port after blacking out
    • Possible delays for medical treatment
    • Eating bad seafood
    • Smuggler propositions
    • Passenger propositions
    • Sob stories leading to tricks or traps
    • Angry Rivals
    • So on and so forth...
  • Once the group gets to Baton Rouge the scene changes. The voyage is half complete, but they have to wait a couple of weeks for the big rains to roll through and force the river to swell. However, they should have plenty of money in their pockets and be free to get themselves in any kind of trouble they see fit. At this point there should be plenty of material to work with, or you might choose to switch the script entirely. It doesn't much matter, remember that this build-up was just to get the flow going. Plot critical options might include any of the following:
    • Bandits kidnap one of the crew, or even the Captain, and demand ransom
    • The boat gets stolen!
    • Revenge - someone the party pissed off earlier eventually catches up to them
    • The return cargo never arrives, figure out what happened
    • A new opportunity - present a grand offer to make the journey to New Orleans or elsewhere in the Gulf
    • An completely different storyline with the rushed timeline of approximately two weeks
  • On the return voyage, repeat the process until they hit Greenville on the way back up. Then, due to reduced rainfall have the boat get stuck. Make the Captain curse himself for not buying a winch stuck. Now they are seriously behind schedule and need to come up with a solution. This should be the crux that determines whether or not the players secure their futures as a riverboat crew. If you don't quite have an idea yet:
    • Abandon ship and attempt to find a method of transport via the roads, then return for the boat
    • Turn it into some horrible "Deliverance" scenario
    • Throw in some predictably aggressive banditry
    • Find some way to convince another riverboat crew or the National Guard to take on the risk of helping them during low water
    • Consistent alligator attacks and wildlife harassment
  • Continue and adjust as necessary!
  • First: Determine each players starting travel equipment and whether or not they already have associations with one another
  • Team-building: This campaign begins on "Easter Sunday" in an old multi-story Holiday Inn right off the highway deep in the Outlands and miles away from any other civilization. An enterprising group decided that it was the best location around to ride out the apocalypse, and as such scavenged far and wide to establish both power and running water to the facility. Once this was accomplished, they converted the entire location into an enormous casino, with the first three floors providing gambling and services of all sorts, restaurants with full menus, bars that never run dry, several resident physicians, and all manner of illicit activity, open to the public both civilian, military, or outlaw alike as long as you play by their rules and check your weapons at the door. Over the years it has become an immensely successful tourist attraction for anyone traveling within the region. Not only is it one of the few places where one can exchange salvage of all sorts, find anything ones heart desires, including an entire black market within the hotel itself, be guaranteed a shower, air conditioning, and running water, but it also functions as a safe haven for anyone within it's walls regardless of their criminal history. If you can pay, you can play! Each player should be granted a few days to bask in the luxury and network among those who patronize this gem of the Badlands. This is "The Holiday"! Their characters worked hard to get to this moment, and this is their vacation before they start their summer grind
THE CATALYST:

Whenever seems appropriate, make a point to establish that business is beginning to slow down. The National Guard clear out, the criminals wait a day or two after and follow suit. Random groups of rough looking Outlanders check in, but other than that, it seems like business as usual. People just like the players are the only ones left, just coming in wanting a shave and a shower, to sell a little scrap, spend a little money, and then head back out into the real world. The staff are clearly exhibiting some level of leisure as well, drinking at the same bar as the patrons after their shifts, casually walking the floor, the entire atmosphere seems to relax without dropping any level of professionalism. Inform the characters that they are starting to hit their budget limit and should probably consider what they are going to do once they decide to check out. When the time is right, and noone has any real business to engage in within the establishment, have them wander down to the bar in the ridiculously small hours of the morning. That point when everyone is typically passed out drunk, or damn near but there still could be some exchange occurring? Thats the time! Even if they don't particularly want to, tell them that they just cant sleep and want to hear the juke box once more before having to embrace nothing other than bird song. Once everyone is at the bar for whatever reason, let them know theres two bartenders and a couple of NPCs, plus one guy who is falling asleep in the corner booth. Everyones looking rather bleary eyed, but the bartenders are doing their best to finish up their shifts and brewing coffee. Whenever the conversation stalls, inform the party that there is suddenly dozens and dozens of rounds being fired off outside, followed by the immense roar of a large engine, and then an enormous crash that shakes the entire building. The guy that was falling asleep in the booth mutters something under his breath, jumps up from the booth with a pistol in hand, and shoots one of the bartenders in the chest. He then takes aim at the other bartender, misses, and begins advancing. At this point, another of the NPCs that was closer to the register casually hops over the bar to the other side. He reaches underneath the counter and pulls out a shotgun that was hidden under the register and tells the crowd "Relax, motherfuckers! We aren't here for you! Get your hands up, get on the floor, give us a minute, and you'll walk away from this! Capiche?!?". He then blows the other bartender away, they can just barely hear her gurgling death gasps over the ringing in their ears...then more gunfire echoes throughout the building

  • The players are unarmed, and it would be a terrible idea to start a campaign with a gunshot wound. You should encourage compliance, but if the players are bound and determined to be reckless have the two execute the NPC's nearest the bar first, in order to give them a fighting chance. If they somehow manage to stop "Capiche" before he flees, drag out the fight until someone rescues him or he is killed. If he somehow miraculously falls here, assume he has trained a second in command for the remainder of the plot and adjust dialogue as necessary. If they comply and submit, have the two assailants snatch the register, throw it in the garbage can along with the other pistol hidden behind the bar, remove the bag from the can, and then each grab a bottle of their favorite top shelf liquor and flee the scene
  • Once the chaos in the bar settles, have them check against Perception to hear tires squealing as the culprits escape the parking lot and gunfire erupts as the buildings security tries to disable the vehicles. No matter what, the robbers should escape the scene mostly unharmed (though they may find a vehicle stripped later on down the road if they choose the appropriate path). This is the point you tell the party that they can hear all the doors automatic locks engage, and they are now effectively trapped as the entire building is essentially "locked down"
  • After about 10 to 15 minutes the security detail will enter either the bar or casino room floor (whichever the players end up in before the doors lock) and check to make sure the survivors need medical attention, if the players don't have any injuries they will be lead to the casino floor. If they do, they will be carried to the nearest doctors office on the ground level. Either way, the players can hear people screaming as the injured are ushered off towards the elevators, presumably to a triage wing previously unknown to the party. There are bodies of dead security being taken away as well
  • At this point, the PA system clicks on and a man clearly out of breath states "Attention dear friends and honored guests of The Holiday! I am sure that most of you may just be waking up, or were rudely awakened by the battle that just occurred on the ground floor. We apologize for the inconvenience! Please remain calm, and stay in your rooms until the facility is secured and we are certain the danger has passed. We know this is an enormous hassle and are currently crediting your accounts for last nights stay, which will be comped free of charge. We will also be moving from room to room to provide you with a complimentary breakfast and discuss whether or not you were able to see anything from your wonderful vantage point within this fine establishment. The entire process should not take more than a few hours, so please feel free to fill out your room service requests now, located in the drawer of your nightstand and just slide them underneath the door at the entrance to your room. We will accomodate your needs as best as we are able in this current moment, chaotic as it may be!" Shortly thereafter, smooth jazz begins playing softly...
  • After a few uneasy moments, an exceptionally well-groomed, middle-aged man of color will walk into the casino room floor and look over the survivors. He carries himself with a distinct sadness, and seems to be attempting to stare into each players (and any surviving NPCs) souls as he walks from one person to the next, maintaining eye contact, holding perfect military poise, and generally just passing judgment unto each individual before him. Once he is satisfied with himself, he simply says "Come with me". He leads the group to the elevator, and after a long and uncomfortable ride to the top floor, leads the party plus any additional survivors into his penthouse. Two well armed men stand guard at the window, overlooking the parking lot. An incredibly attractive assistant stands near the mans desk, and through a doorway you can see another girl sobbing softly in a bathrobe while sitting on the bed. He takes a seat, and the guard behind the group motions for them to position themselves in front of the desk. First he offers a drink, any who oblige will be served by the assistant. He lights a cigarette, rubs his brow and then glances up at each individual once again. Takes a long drag, exhales, and simply says "Tell me what happened"
  • Each player should test against Memory to be able to question you on as many details of the engagement as they can think of. What the one in the booth said? What he looked like? what he was wearing? One by one, player to player, one question at a time. Award experience for every detail or pertinent question successfully answered by a check against Memory. Whenever someone says the word "Capiche", stop the questioning. The man looks down, pulls a small bottle of expensive whiskey from the desk, takes a long swig, looks up and says "Well shit..."
  • He will then ask if "anyone has anything promising going on out there, or are you any good with a gun?" At this point the NPCs will back out for whatever reason (family, farm, some other life) and be told they are free to leave. None of the players should have any reason to leave without at least hearing what he has to say so he will tell the party that despite the shitshow this morning was, it might end up being the best day of their lives. "How would you fine ladies and gentlemen like to be rich, make a friend for life, and always have a place to stay with a doctor in the house and an open tab whenever you roll through my neck of the woods?" He then begins to tell his tale:
    • He served with "Capiche" during the Battle for British Columbia, they were both "Pardon Privates" originally
    • They both got injured during a particularly nasty battle after Vancouver fell, but they managed to disable several APC's and some Armor together after losing most of their unit. Both men earned several medals for their valor, had their felonies pardoned, and split ways. Mr. Holiday decided that was enough for him and accepted his discharge gratefully at the end of his tour of duty, but "Capiche" renewed his enlistment and went back for blood. They didn't see each other again for years
    • Mr. Holiday just wandered around until he found this place, and then everyone knows what he decided to do. A couple of years later "Capiche" walked through those very same doors with very different plans
    • "Capiche" was always smart. He was doing a stint for some big hacker crime he committed while he was figuring out how to pay for college. Came in talking about all this crazy computer gibberish and using the cell phone towers nearest here to track the winners once they left, then they could just steal the money back and grow exponentially. Only if they didn't like them though, of course...
    • After a few drinks he started talking about "indentured servitude" no limit gambling, and letting them rack up debt and then work it off rather than being a cash, and eventually crypto, only business. Mr. Holiday didn't like that much either, told him to just enjoy his time right now. They'll talk about business more later if he really wants, but for now they should just enjoy the bounties of peace
    • After several days of feasting, drinking, and enjoying the working girls "Capiche" eventually convinced Mr. Holiday to come with him to one of those cell phone towers. He laid out this elaborate plan that involved pinging cell phones within range, but without actually providing service, just so they could get their latitude and longitudes. All they had to do was get the towers some power and configure their output signal directly. Mr. Holiday again declined
    • After a month or so, we had some troubles with the water system thanks to the droughts. "Capiche" told me that we could make more money if we set up other games, away from the actual casino of course, just a little more extreme. Cock fights, dog fights, bare knuckle boxing, gladiator matches, all "blood sports"...Again, Mr. Holiday told him that isn't what he wanted to be known for
    • When winter hit and everyone stopped travelling, supplies got a little low at one point or another. In a drunken rage "Capiche" exclaimed his frustration with the situation. Was talking all sorts of crazy nonsense about how the entire world is right at our fingertips, how they just need to take it. There was no reason they couldn't just snatch the prettiest girls and put them to work, might as well make sure they get paid well and have a safe place to do it, if they are just going to end up having to do it anyway. They could just round up all the worst desperados and murderers and make them ""make us rich while they pay for their crimes", and we could...blah blah blah
    • When everything thawed, Mr. Holiday sent "Capiche" on his way. A few months later the National Guard started coming to collect their "Road Safety Tax", no big deal, Mr. Holiday knew that would be coming. What he wasn't expecting were the reports that every single settlement that tried to establish a route to or from the Holiday after that was getting picked off, no survivors, no witnesses. The next year reports started coming in that every robbery on the roads always seemed to be heading away from the casino, rather than towards it. That last batch of Guard was here to share that every operation in the last six months, intended to track these killers during the dead of winter, always turned up short. They said it was almost like they knew they were coming, that they would sometimes find places where the chimneys were still smoking...
  • Bottom line, Mr. Holiday offers top dollar for "Capiche" and he will grant anything within his power if you can bring him back alive. He doubts that it's even possible, the man is a force to be reckoned with, but the war clearly twisted his genius into something sinister. He wants the team to accompany his security detail to check out that cell phone tower, and bring anything they find back to him. In the meantime he is going to try to find a programmer, if "Capiche" has his crypto exchange terminal, the whole state might be in for a hell of a lot of trouble if hes been assembling a mercenary army under the radar... upon leaving the casino, the party will see that the enormous crash they heard earlier was in fact a semi-truck that ran through the wall of the check in where the guests must store their weapons. A small taste of things to come
    • If the group agrees, Mr. Holiday will gear them up with whatever suits their skillset and wasn't stolen from the weapons check. Upon arrival to the access road of the cell tower, they will be greeted by attack dogs first, and then ambushed by half a dozen incredibly well armed Outlaws standing guard over a small encampment that hosts a laptop and a generator. On return with the laptop and as injuries heal, the programmer will determine that several of the Highway Patrol and National Guard are actually working with "Capiche" and getting rich doing so. Its up to the team to either track them down and make them talk, or they can slowly discover bandit camp after bandit camp as the programmer whittles away at the encryption protocols. Either way, "Capiche" has somehow unified several of the outlaw gangs, corrupt cops, and crooked soldiers in the immediate area with a shaky "cat and mouse" truce that has been working to drive all travel and commerce to The Holiday, and then pick off any competition or high stakes winners that walk out. Adjust course as necessary to narrow down his location(s)!
    • Alternatively, the party might decide that "Capiche" actually has the right idea and could have some insight as to how to establish some longer term solutions for his strategy. Some that come to mind might be how to set up trading posts to gather more information on those heading to and from The Holiday in order to determine better scores. Maybe set up some farming communities to provide produce for the restaurants located within The Holiday as well as make the journey a little less of a burden for those on foot. Maybe even putting the bandits to work as deputized "Highway Patrol" as well, so that the likelihood of Uncle Sam setting up refueling stations along the way increases. If the entire region could grow, and then all you have to do is pick the low hanging fruit while you operate behind the scenes. Just a thought of course...
    • If they dont agree to help and decide they want no part of this weird, psychotic, and semi-parasitic symbiosis between these two combat-hardened veterans, so be it. They will definitely get ambushed by a well equipped hit-squad wherever they decide to go and the only doctor known for at least 50 miles in any direction is located back at The Holiday. Good luck!

If you already have an idea of a plotline, but are simply looking for a way to introduce the players to one another then this card is for you! Listed below are a few of the most common ways that people might encounter one another in different environments within the world of The Aftermath. They also address specific commonalities between human beings, which can prove infinitely useful should you simply be searching for a little inspiration. Each scenario has its likelihood of occurance within certain population densities listed in parenthesis, as in some environments the concpet may be more or less likely than others. If you still aren't sure just keep in mind that no matter what, everyone has to trade or work for something eventually. Small Hold-Outs and Suburban trading centers dot the landscape, which effectively makes them the gate between the Hubs and the Wilds. Even if the campaign is set on scavenging and foraging in the deepest of the wilds, it always makes sense to prepare for the journey, and theres bound to be one little single shop somewhere to sell you lost label canned mysteries or lighters and matches!

  • TRAIN HOPPERS (ALL): Trains are a major means of transportation both to Hub Cities themselves and the Outland Settlements between them or along the tracks. Even those that find themselves deep in the wild have grown used to this fact and have learned to try to board where the tracks curve and the train needs to slow down. A Storyteller could easily start a campaign with players hopping on trains one by one, and coincidentally landing in the same car or hearing one another slam their gear into a mostly empty freight bucket. Maybe even just overhear their excited celebration calls or yelps of pain or surprise after successfully accomplishing the exhilirating experience of boarding a moving train!
  • THIRST (RURAL / SUBURBAN): Traveling in the Outlands is usually a long and slightly uncomfortable process. It's only natural that people will get thirsty, or wont miss an opportunity to refill their water bottles even if they are not. Add in the fact that whenever a water source is available, it usually provides an ample line of sight both up and down stream or across and suddenly everyone might just happen to be in the right place at the right (or wrong) time!
  • CROSSROADS (RURAL / SUBURBAN): Much like thirst, the open road also provides significant lines of sight when on foot. When traveling a long distance, on foot, with limited supplies, and no GPS it only makes sense that staying on or near roads that are well known is usually the best course of action. The entire premise is essentially chance encounters based on timing. Fate brought us together, sort of thing.
  • RUN RABBIT RUN (RURAL / SUBURBAN): For a little extra flavor or if the players are actively trying to avoid major roads, have them accidentally cross paths with some wild dogs or wolves. The players don't necessarily need to be put in any danger, the Storyteller could just begin the tale with one particular character stuck with a few dogs (They don't even have to be particularly big, just numerous) barking endlessly at them while they are:
    • Up a tree
    • In an abandoned house
    • In an abandoned car
    • On top of something tall
    • Halfway across a river, lake, or pond
  • BREADLINES (URBAN / SUBURBAN): In the post-apocalypse, a free meal is a free meal! Be it a bread line, a soup kitchen, or a local butcher that cleans the game and hands out the organ meat, what it always holds in common is waiting in line. This could be the perfect opportunity for players to introduce themselves to one another and recognize that the people they just met are more likely to be responsive to whatever crazy scheme one might be planning. You know how sometimes you can just look at someone and tell, those are the types of people the player's characters are.
  • UNEMPLOYMENT (URBAN / SUBURBAN): Much like the breadlines, if a person doesn't have stable income or is just looking for any opportunity for a better life after the loss of the internet, they will likely find themselves checking in with a local job board, recruitment center, or unemployment office. These places also tend to form lines, and theres no longer any real reason to stare at ones phone and pretend that you're busy
  • OPEN MARKET (ALL): Again, everyone has to sell their salvage somewhere and flea-market style, open air shopping centers are the place to do it. These are also the kinds of places where people market their skills for the future, and may place help wanted posters, personal bounties, or anything in between. Factor in that the characters tend to stand out, at least more so than the usual "just trying to survive" types, and it could easily be a place that all parties find themselves in between adventures
  • PHONE REPAIR (ALL): Another easy sell for places people will inevitably run into each other is small phone repair locations. With the rise of the crypto accounts, it only makes sense to keep a phone. If only for the opportunity to be paid in something other (and lighter), than salvage. Screens crack all the time even today, imagine how often it could happen if you frequently find yourself in places without ample lighting once the sun sets!
  • SHARED SPACE (ALL): Squatting and homelessness in the Cities and Suburbs is basically standard fare, so anyone who has spent any significant amount of time in an area is likely to learn where they can go should their preferred location reach full capacity (or any other reason). Even in the deepest reaches of the Outlands there are locations that function like common area Campgrounds or Hostels so that travelers can exchange with one another and pay a small fee in order to have a "safe" place to sleep. Usually the host makes their living simply by maintaining their reputation and keeping the peace
  • SCAVENGERS (ALL): Almost everyone has to scavenge since production and freight has been at a standstill for nearly a decade. Even in the areas where the idea is that they have already been all but picked clean, there is always a little something left to find if one knows HOW to look. Simple everyday things are enough of a universal problem that may cause players to run into one another. Need to replace your shoelaces or find something to repair the soles cause they are starting to look more like flip flops. Need to find something that can be used as antiseptic or degreaser. Need to try to find something to use as a flathead screwdriver. Need to find a way to keep a jacket closed cause it's freezing and the zipper broke. One player meets the other, they decide to help each other, then the two of them run into a third who is looking for something completely different
  • GAMBLERS (URBAN / SUBURBAN): Games of all sorts have been critical for people to maintain morale during times of crisis since the beginning of human history. The post apocalypse should be no different. It's a simple enough way to maintain hope, and possibly score ones next meal. More than that though, they almost always possess a certain level of invitation whenever the stakes aren't particularly high due to their inherently competitive nature. "Yea, sure. Ill be happy to take your money"
  • LOST SOULS (ALL): In these hard times, even the non-believers may begin to question their faith. If nothing else they are usually quiet, and no matter how far one's beliefs might vary from the next they could simply find themselves wandering into an old church, if only to curse a "false" god. No matter one's opinions on the matter, it is simply accepted that these locations are to be recognized as a place of solace and peace, which might be enough reason to walk through the doors, especially given the hardships of the outside world
  • CAMPFIRE STORIES (RURAL): This one is definitely geared more towards rural environments, but the premise is simple. If a person hasn't encountered anyone for days and days, has already endured sleeping rough for several nights and is growing particularly keen to the surrounding dangers, and then suddenly spots a campfire, there is just a certain appeal to no longer being "alone in the dark". Its an age old premise, but the logic is sound. "Hey, I can see you, which means others can see you. We are here now, and because there is no trust between us, you will keep an eye on me and I will keep an eye on you. Neither of us are going to rest, but when day breaks, we both will know we have inadvertently watched each others backs successfully". It's a strange encounter, certainly, but assuming there is even an ounce of shared reasoning it can serve as a decent segway to building trust eventually. Words are funny that way