Few remembered the details of the 'ancient age', the 'time before' or whatever they chose to call the past. But only 'the now' mattered, the day to day struggle to survive in a world with a scarred, ashen sky and a scorched, dehydrated landscape.
Haven was a bastion against this struggle and a home to my companions and I:
Agent Pip; an Infected. Played by Michaela.
Max Zanzibar; a Veteran. Played by Kevin.
Aoxomoxoa; a Savage. Played by Mark.
Sal Vige; a Scavenger. Played by yours truly AKA Giro.
We had been summoned by Haven's leader to his office, with him was Derek19-4-0, a cyborg.
Derek was covered with various pieces of circuit board and panels of metal. He had been introduced as a cyborg. But to us, it seemed that those various metal pieces has simply been attached to Derek's skin? We decided against remarking upon it.
Derek went on to explain that whilst exploring a canyon, he had come across a building of some sort. There was a door and Derek went to investigate, but something began interfering with his circuitry, so Derek returned to Haven.
Upon his arrival, Derek spoke with Jasper Prune and Crimson Pluck. The pair of them went out to investigate and had not returned.
So it was to us, that Haven's leader had turned to investigate. We of course, agreed and Derek came along as our guide.
The reinforced main gates of Haven slowly opened before us with squeal of old rusted metal. It opened into a blasted rocky landscape; The Wasteland.
We followed where Derek led us. He took us through the barren land to the north west for around ten kilometres before we arrived at the edge of a fairly deep canyon.
Derek led us into the canyon, within it was cool and shaded. We travelled for two or three kilometres before we came across the site of some geologiical upheaval or subsidence.
This event had revealed part of a metallic wall or structure of some sort, something lost from the world before, now revealed.
As Derek had described, there was a door here and its construction was also metallic. The door had visibly been welded shut from the outside! Stress or weight had caused it to buckle and warp, splitting open.
The split was wide enough for a person to squeeze through. Jasper and Crimson must have gone inside.
We peered through the gap, there was faint and wavering orange light and perhaps something moving in there?
Aoxo went through the gap and found himself at the edge of a room of sorts. In the flickering light he saw that along one side, a rockfall had crashed through the ceiling, collapsing part of the room. The rocks had spilled into a pile of rubble.
Along another side were some chairs, a desk and a dead computer console. On that wall and close to the desk was some sort of door.
Most strangely of all, in the centre of the room was a camp fire. Next to the camp fire were Jasper and Crimson, both were in a sitting position and tied up.
Close to them were four desert raiders, they had not noticed us and were standing there, simply watching the camp fire over their prisoners, their weapons discarded next to them.
I followed Aoxo into the room. Jasper and Crimson noticed us at this point and began frantically gesturing at us with their eyes, but it was undecipherable to our us.
Neither Aoxo nor I made a move, we both had the same thought; 'this had to be a trap'. We studied the room intensely and in the dim light, something seemed to be moving behind the rubble. Aoxo silently circled the room hoping to get a better look at the situation, meanwhile Pip and Max joined us.
From his new position, Aoxo was shocked by what he saw.
From each of the four raiders, there was a weird tendril, running from the back of their heads to the rubble!
Aoxo's eyes followed the tendrils from the raiders to behind the rubble and they ended at some sort of amorphous protoplasmic blob!
At this point, whatever was in this room had stirred into action. No doubt it had realised that we had not fallen for it's trap. The four raiders began shifting towards us in an ungainly manner.
We sprang into action.
Aoxo and I leapt forward, hacking at the tendrils, when they were cut, the raiders slumped to the floor. Max ran forward and released Jasper.
Then with snaking speed, tendrils whipped out from the protoplasm and reattached themselves to the fallen raiders who clambered back to their feet.
Realising that cutting away the tendrils would not solve the problem, I lunged for the beast and struck a glancing blow at its body with my machete. Max freed Crimson as Pip and Aoxo tangled with the desert raiders.
The creature flung a tendril out at me and I was unable to avoid it. I felt lancing pain as it stabbed me, but worse than that, I felt the strangest of sensations as I felt something pushing at my mind.
Before anything else had time to occur, Max flung a flaming torch at the creature. The result was immediate: The creature withdrew it tendrils from the desert raiders and me, it then 'melted' into the rubble and we heard a metallic sounding twang. The raiders dropped to the ground; dead as could be.
Things had calmed down and we took stock of our situation.
Now that the fighting had stopped, Derek came in and joined us.
The room appeared to be some sort of foyer. The console on the desk did not work, nor did any of the other panels or buttons; there was no electricity.
The door was made of glass, we could make out a room beyond. It was a largish room and we noticed an air vent close to the ceiling on one wall. In the centre of the room was a table covered in past world technology. There were also seven other doors leading out of the room.
We spoke with Jasper and Crimson and they told what had occurred. After speaking with Derek, they had come here to investigate. They entered through the broken door and whilst they were examining the room, they were ambushed by the raiders. They were tied up and a camp fire was lit. The raiders were discussing what to do next, the creature appeared and took control of the raiders. It was not too long before we entered the scene.
We discussed what to do next and it was decided that this creature - whatever it was, could not be left to roam free. Lacking the tools to reseal the door, we had no choice but to hunt it down.
The glass door was our way further into this complex, but without electricity, the door would not open. Despite our best efforts we could not force the door open or smash the glass. It was some sort of security door.
We were stymied and needed to find an alternate way in. Max went over to the rubble into which the creature had melted through and cleared it away. Beneath, there was an air vent in the floor. There was also an air vent in the other room, maybe this would lead us there.
Despite my reservations about crawling through air ducts when they were also being used by weird crawling protoplasmic creatures; we went in and were joined by Derek, Jasper and Crimson. After some crawling, we found the vent to the room, pushed the grate and dropped down. We were in.
The room was filled with artefacts from the world before, but none of it worked. Either it lacked power, or we just did not comprehend it. Even so, all of it had a high trade in value.
There were seven doors to explore and a protoplasmic beast to find, so there was no time to waste.
We found a bathroom, a 'luxury' from the world before. None of the taps or toilets appeared to work. The water supply must have dried long ago.
The next room we entered, looked like some sort of 'power room'. There were a few rows of instrumentation and dials here. There were also two distinct toggle switches.
We flicked the first toggle and nothing happened.
When the second toggle was flicked, red lighting filled the room - and other parts of the complex as well. It seems that we had triggered the emergency lighting.
The other toggle was probably for main power, it was then that we noticed the keypad, no doubt the toggle also required a numeric code to function.
Moving on, we encountered some sort of medical station or first aid room. We searched the room thoroughly and found a few meagre supplies of bandages and medkits. Everything else was either broken or decayed beyond use.
Continuing with our exploration, we came across an office, with a desk and chairs. It was a mess, littered with files, folders, letters and the like. Now we did know too much about the people from the world before; but we did know that they were terrible at remembering pass codes - and this was exactly the kind of place they would keep them written down! We searched the desk and found a piece of paper containing a string of numbers. Returning to the power room, the numbers were punched into the number pad.
With an audible click and a hum, lights flickered into life all over and the red hue was replaced by cold white glare. Whatever power source this place had still functioned.
Pressing on with our exploration: Next there was a 'janitor's room'. In here was a 'Bradley-bot', an anthropomorphic cleaning robot. The robot was inactive, no doubt it's power cell was completely depleted. We had power now and the Bradley-bot could be recharged. It was plugged into the wall socket and a small red light winked on, it would take time to recharge.
The janitor's room was also filled with bottles and containers. I knew enough to know that these might contain some sort of alcohol. After some effort I managed to mix together a Molotov cocktail, given how the creature reacted to fire, it might prove useful.
The final door we encountered was sturdy and securely shut and there was no way we were going to open it.
Examining the door led us to spot a panel with a thin slot. The door required some sort of 'security card' to open.
Returning to the office, we searched it and found what must have been a security card. Taking it back to the door and fitting it into the slot proved successful, the door slid open.
What was on the other side was something we were not expecting and there was a lot to take in.
The door opened into a laboratory. The ventilation duct from the previous room continued through to here also and the protoplasmic creature was hanging out of it. It had about a dozen tendrils reached out to what once might have been scientists, but were now clearly dead.
There was smashed equipment and apparatus across the room. At one side there were five transparent and undamaged flasks.
In each flask was a undulating and pulsing ooze which - save for their colour were similar to the protoplasmic creature.
There was but a moment to take it all in, then the moment vanished and everything seemed to happen at once.
The scientist-zombies split into two groups. Five moved towards the flasks, then grabbed and smashed them. The remainder came in our direction. Derek fled out of the room and went and hid in the janitor's room.
Wasting no time, I lit an arrow and shot it at the creature, it was a solid hit. Max then threw the Molotov at it and it erupted in flame, immediately retreating into the vent again, taking it's tendrils with it. The scientist-zombies were no longer a threat, but now there five ooze-creatures closing in on us.
There was a thick ooze, a runny ooze, a sticky ooze, a red ooze and finally a sparkly ooze!
Max swiped his torch at the closest one - which was the runny ooze and it seemed vulnerable to fire. I switched to my flaming torch and hit the thick ooze setting it on fire.
Agent Pip attacked the sticky ooze with her crowbar, it had some effect, but the ooze stuck to the crowbar and began climbing it! Aoxo also tusseled with the runny ooze.
The oozes then counter-attacked. The red one struck Jasper and began sucking his blood. The runny one struck at Crimson. Both of them were in a bad way. The sticky ooze continued crawling up Agent Pip's arm and then her back. Jasper and Crimson were forced to retreat.
Max grabbed the runny ooze and sprinted. He dashed for the bathroom and threw it down the toilet and closed the lid: What a way to go. Agent Pip tried squashing the sticky ooze by slamming her crowbar into the wall. But there was no particular benefit. Aoxo also attacked the sticky ooze and I pressed my attack on the thick one.
The sticky ooze continued crawling over Agent Pip and injuring her. Unfortunately, there was no respite for Pip as the red ooze joined the attack on her. The thick ooze missed its attack on me and we stayed out of range of the sparkly one.
Max returned with a liquid of sorts and hurled it on the sparkly ooze, the ooze sizzled and popped, it was not a happy ooze.
Agent Pip's and Aoxo's attacks were enough to destroy the sticky ooze and it fell to the ground, the red ooze then ignored Pip and began to devour the sticky ooze!
I pressed the attack and dealt with the thick ooze.
Max then threw a second bucket of liquid over the sparkly ooze and that finished it! As the red ooze was busy consuming the dead sticky ooze, we quickly did for it!
Things calmed down and searching the lab revealed nothing of use or value. It was then decided that we should take a 'short rest'. Agent Pip had suffered some injury from the oozes, as had Jasper and Crimson.
Not only were we revitalised from the rest, the Bradley-bot was recharged, we were ready! There were five exits from the lab, so on we went, now accompanied by Derek and Bradley - who had been armed with a hand weapon.
Most of the exits led to unremarkable rooms, but one led to an elevator. We noticed that the air duct made its way through here. The only way was down and down the elevator went for what we estimated was six storeys.
The door slid open with a chime into a rocky passage way. Cautiously we advanced until the passage widened into a cavernous room. We surveyed the area ahead.
In the centre of the cavern was some sort of spherical rock embedded in the cave floor. It was clearly different to its surroundings and seemed to be some sort of inert meteorite and perhaps the source of the protoplasmic oozes. We also spotted the protoplasmic creature, it was huddled beneath an air vent. There were also four scientist-zombies wandering this room, but they were not linked to the protoplasm via tendrils. Finally, on the far side on the cavern was an exit.
We entered the room and the four scientist-zombies immediately turned and attacked! One of them fell to our ranged attacks and Agent Pip and Aoxo met the others in melee. We instructed Bradley to also attack, When the scientist-zombies were struck by our attacks, they 'spat' small globs of protoplasm at their attackers! Agent Pip was hit by one and it crawled into her mouth! Agent Pip felt that familiar pushing against her mind. Bradley was also struck, but was unaffected, being a robot.
Attacking the scientist-zombies was risky, we realised that we needed to deal with the source of the risk instead.
Max and I concentrated our attacks on the creature. Max unloaded his shotgun on it and I charged in with my torch. Our combined attacks killed the creature, the scientist-zombies collapsed. The fight was over.
Searching the cave revealed nothing of significance.
There was the exit on the other side of the cavern that led to another smaller cave.
Inside this smaller cave was a surprising find: A Warhound combat robot! Like Bradley before, this robot was inactive. With some effort we managed to 'jump-start' the Warhound.
The threat of the protoplasm had been eliminated and we had finished exploring the complex. There was nothing left to do other than return to Haven.
The Wasted Hack
This is a post-apocalyptic RPG that was developed out of 'The Black Hack'. Thus, like The Black Hack, this is a 'rules-light' RPG that looks a bit like a old D&D clone, but actually plays in a quite modern manner. There are no skills in this game, instead all actions are tested against whichever is the most appropriate of the game's six attributes using a d20.
There are four classes; damage and hit points are based on these classes, as are 'specials'. Specials are unique to The Wasted Hack. Specials come in the basic and advanced variety for each class. Characters gain these every time they level up.
There's also the chance to gain a mutation after every level up. Mutations sort of fit the roll that was filled by magic.
The Wasted Hack is a little more 'crunchy' than The Black Hack and of course has been hacked to fit the setting, but if you've played one, you'll be familiar with the other.
Waste-Land Beasts and How to Kill Them
As well as the basic rule book there is also this handy 'Monster Manual' that details lots more threats for the player characters to overcome.
Because of lockdown, we're playing over Skype.
Derek 19-4-0, a 'cyborg'
Bradley Bot, environmental hygiene droid
Jasper Prune and Crimson Pluck, loyal henchmen
A few things have been included in these rules that weren't in the original Black Hack which my group is very familiar with.
Armour protection is worked out differently and, frankly, isn't clear so we dispensed with it and just had armour preventing a certain amount of damage from each hit.
Ammunition is supposed to have a Usage Die rolled each time a weapon is fired to see if the ammo runs out during combat. We thought this was ungainly and unnecessary. We knew from experience that fights don't last long in systems like this and the chance of running out of ammo was slight. We ditched this in favour of the usual Usage Die roll after a combat to track ammunition depletion.
Good successes are not criticals but are better than normal successes and occur when you roll under half your target save.
This is another level of working out (albeit small one) each time the dice are rolled but we kept it as it only benefits player characters and not monsters or NPCs who don't roll dice. Good successes are most relevent in combat where they increase damage. If people forget it, we don't stress about it.
Good successes on defence rolls we've ignored because it requires carrying over an effect to the next combat round which is a pain and slows things down.
Effects such as bleeding and stunned have been introduced and we've kept them in, the extra bookkeeping is worth it for the extra effects we decided.
This adventure and the campaign that follows
I wrote this introductory adventure to set the scene and introduce certain concepts to the players (including me). Eventually I want the game to evolve into a more 'West Marches' type of game where the players set their own agendas but, before this can happen everyone needs to be introduced to the world they're in so there'll be a couple of missions to begin with. You'll see as we progress that I present lots of options to the players in the next adventure that allow them to decide what happens next.
This time though I introduced henchmen, mutations and effects in a traditional (for me) 5-Room dungeon format. I had to stress looting as money has never been a thing with my players but, other than that, they took to the setting easily.
Personally, I had to make a concerted effort to embrace the gonzoness of the provided adversaries, something I find hard to do normally. However, everyone is on-board with not knowing what crazy things may lurk around the next corner, it's very Gamma World. After concentrating on one type of adversary this time (oozes and the protoplasm) I spread my net wider for our subsequent outings.
You can buy your own copy of The Wasted Hack and its supplements here:
These write-ups by Giro can be read on his excellent website Three Spellcasters and a Dwarf before they appear here.