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.
Investigating the music
After leaving the chud infested underground complex, we returned to Home and spent some time resting in their lofty settlement amongst ruined buildings of the ancient city. We decided to return underground and explore the vertical shaft with the music. Before setting out from Home, we stocked up on ladders, rope, pitons, block and tackle etc. Fortunately, the people here had all the equipment we required in abundance, since climbing was part of life for them.
The return journey was unremarkable. Soon we found ourselves in the circular room strewn with all the chud corpses. Bradley switched to 'domestic' mode and began sweeping away all of the blood, gore and corpses!
We used the ladder we had acquired from Home to reach the bottom of the vertical shaft. Unfortunately, upon closer inspection we discovered the shaft was constructed of steel. Our pitons and climbing gear would mostly be useless here.
Max stared up and could just about make out a grill of some sort that covered the entirety of the shaft. The grill was about twenty metres up into the shaft. Max took a grappling hook and rope and with a mighty throw he sent the grappling hook flying up the shaft. Since it did not come plummeting back down, it must have caught on the grill. Max yanked on the rope a couple of times, still the grappling hook did not fall, so he began climbing.
The climb was easy, although when Max reached the grill he saw that the grappling hook was mere millimetres from coming loose! After securing the rope, Max looked around.
Beyond the grill the vertical shaft continued up, but narrowed considerably as it did so. Next to Max, In the shaft's wall was a door with a wheel lock. Max spun it open. The hatch led to another vertical shaft. The rest of us climbed up after Max. Unfortunately neither of the robots could climb up. The grappling hook would not bear their weight. We left Bradley cleaning and the warhound in 'guard' mode as we entered the next chamber.
The hatch had opened on to a metal platform that was attached to the wall in the lower part of a shaft and a set of metal steps zig-zagged their way to the top of the shaft. In the ceiling was a hatch with another wheel lock. Opening this lock proved harder and required some effort. As we spun the wheel, we could 'feel' something hindering the other side of the wheel lock. Eventually the hatch was opened and we could climb up. The chamber we entered was large and about one third of it was filled with piled up crates. In fact it was one of these crates that had been laying on the hatch, making it so hard to open.
This chamber also contained a 'exo-suit' that was configured for loading work. We examined the exo-suit and found it had no power and required charging. Looking round further, we discovered a light switch and flicked it on. The lights hummed and flickered into life. It was a good sign, there was power here.
Going back to a crate, there was a short spray of air as we broke its airtight seal. Inside were packets of freeze-dried and vacuum sealed food. Once this chamber would have been filled with crates and we wondered how long someone had been living here?
Finally there was a large door out of here, large enough to allow the exo-suit to pass through it. The food crates were quite heavy and most likely the suit was used to move them onward.
Passing through the large doors took us into tall chamber. To one side was a vertical tube that ran up the wall from the ground and into an area above. At the bottom was a door. We investigated and the door opened into an small elevator car. The tube was a small service elevator, too small for a person, but around the right size for one of those food crates.
There was a ladder that went upwards along another wall.
Finally, there were two humanoid figures, they looked quite bulky and strangely featureless. Their heads were smooth and faceless, their hands had no fingers and looked akin to mittens. Perhaps they were some sort of environmental suits? The music was louder here.
As we entered the room, the two figures stirred. Their heads began to change shape! They each gained a pair of glowing eyes. Their hands reconfigured themselves into hammers.
Our intent was to see if we could communicate with them, but before we could speak, they began to howl. The noise was immense, it reverberated around the room and was agonising. We could feel actual waves of sound pummelling our bodies and causing actual harm! They advanced on us. We counter attacked. After laying into the automatons, their bodies began to reconfigure and reshape themselves to repair the damage they had suffered. There was only one thing for it. Our attacks had to be concentrated on one automaton at a time, we had to inflict damage quicker than it could be repaired. It worked! We managed to overwhelm and destroy first one and then the other automaton. All that was left of them was a couple of piles of some sort of inert metallic material.
From here, there was only one way onward, up the ladder.
We emerged into another circular room half in light and half in dark. The music was loudest here.
In the 'light' half of the room was a row of windows that gave us a panoramic view of the sunlit landscape outside. Tall chalky cliffs stretching along a coastline and ending in a headland filled one side of this view. It was a view of a landscape that was familiar to us, one that we had crossed several times to get out to the stacks. On the other side of the view we could distinctly see the 'Boat Raider Islands' out to sea. We could even see some boat raider activity, our vantage point was quite high. It was then that we established that we were inside one of the stacks, about halfway up by our estimations. But how was it that we were able to look out? We had not seen windows on any of the stacks previously?
The 'dark' half of the room was artificially lit and contained numerous pieces of furniture. An automated beverage dispenser, a table and chairs, cutlery, crockery and so on.
We saw buttons and panels and items covered in writing that we did not recognise, from the world before no doubt. The table also contained the source of the music: A square box of sorts, adorned with various buttons, sitting on the top of the box was a thin black disc that span endlessly. Additionally, there appeared to be pile of black discs stored in card folders on the table. The same indecipherable writing appeared on the card folders, along with strange illustrations. It was unrecognisable to us. Again; a technology from the world before no doubt.
Searching the room revealed nothing else of interest here. There was only one other way out of the room, a staircase that rose up through the ceiling. Moving towards the stairs triggered some sort of trap. A panel rapidly slid across the ceiling with a hiss, closing off the stairs. The windows went black and the lights winked out. A speaker crackled to life and a harsh voice spat out.
"Intruders are not welcome in the Capricorn house."
Curiously, the voice spoke a language we understood. With that, gas began to spill out of the air vents. There was no time to lose! We donned the respirators we had acquired from the laboratory previously. We now had some breathing space. The gas was lighter than air and was filling the room from the ceiling downwards. Further inspection revealed small cameras spying on us. There was somebody close by! Unfortunately, it did not reveal anything helpful.
There seemed no way to stop the gas and our respirators would not last forever. Nor did there seem any way to continue. We were stymied and our only option would be to retreat back down the ladder. Then we noticed the service elevator shaft, it continued upwards and went into another room above. Max pulled the panel open. The elevator car was still below us and elevator cables ran the length of the shaft. Whilst it was small, the shaft would allow someone to climb the elevator cables.
Max worked his way up to the next panel, forced it open and crawled into what on first glance appeared to be a kitchen.
Max then realised he was being watched. He stared at a robot that was staring back at him. It was quite small with a rotund body, thin flexible arms, stalks for legs and wheels for feet. On it hung a sign that read 'Glad-2-srv-U'.
"May I help you?". It inquired with it's raspy modulated voice.
Max quickly tied off a rope, allowing us to follow.
With the panel shut, the gas was sealed away, we turned to the robot and asked the robot where we were?
"In the kitchen of course." came the reply.
The robot was some sort of waiter/chef, it decided to serve us sherry and vol-au-vents. We asked the robot who else was here? It replied that it served 'Joe Capricorn, renaissance man of the future!'
Joe Capricorn, renaissance man of the future..?
Anyway, during our conversation with Glad-2-srv-U we noticed a small orange box under one of its arms. The had something written on it. "Joe Capricorn obedience box." We discussed removing the box, I was concerned that if we removed it, the robot might become homicidal and try to kill us all. In the end however, it was agreed to remove the box. It didn't take much effort for me to disconnect the box.
"That's a relief." Said Glad-2-srv-U and then, "I'm going to kill Mr Capricorn!" as it reached for a powered carving-knife before scooting out of the room.
Joe Capricorn, renaissance man of the future
We followed, entering another room just behind Glad-2-srv-U. The room was dominated by a large, well polished dining table and set of chairs, the room was also decorated with strange vases, heavy glass ashtrays and lava lamps. At the far end of the table was an old man. He was bald and had a robotic eye. He wore a double breasted lab coat and was also wearing roller skates. He welcomed us, introducing himelf as Joe Capricorn and invited us to sit down at the table. Max took the invitation and sat down, but seeing the control panel by Joe's chair made me hesitant and suspicious. What did those buttons do? Agent Pip and and Aoxo agreed with me and we stayed standing
I noticed that many of the weird items in this room had more of the ancient language written on them. I asked Joe about the language. He said the language came from "The Ukraine' a place 'created by giant birds"
Joe told Glad-2-srv-U to serve dinner.
"Shall I carve?" Asked Glad-2-srv-U.
"Of course." Replied Joe.
Brandishing the electric carving-knife, Glad-2-srv-U charged us shouting. "ALL FLESH MUST BE EATEN!"
There was a loud bang and Glad-2-srv-U's rotund robotic head exploded into a shower of shattered circuitry. We turned to see Joe holstering his pistol away and sitting down. "Well, that's that." He said.
"Perhaps we should move on to cognac and cigars?" Joe asked.
We weren't interested in his quite frankly 'suspect hospitality'. In response, Joe Capricorn jabbed a button on his console!
Suddenly, the room began to tremble and then shake uncontrollability. We all felt our weight quadruple! Since Max was sitting down, he was merely pinned to his chair, the rest of us weren't so lucky. We were practically crushed under own weight and we collapsed to the floor. It was hard enough to breathe, moving might be impossible.
OK, perhaps it wasn't exactly as I called it!
Joe Capricorn pressed another button on his control panel. A hole opened in the ceiling and a transparent tube descended over Joe. When it reached the floor, Joe was 'sucked' up, the tube receded and the hole closed.
We have lift off!
The weight holding us down was incredible and strong enough to hurt us. Even so, Max managed to crawl over to Joe's chair and sit in it. He started pressing buttons on the control panel until he too was sucked up the tube. Max found himself in another room, sitting on some sort of sofa. Across the room was Joe and four robots of the type we encountered earlier. There was a control console in front of Max, he tried randomly stabbing at all the buttons, but nothing happened.
Joe laughed. "I've disconnected that console." He said.
Max looked around, through a window he saw clouds which were moving past at a tremendous speed and the sky looked strange. Soon the blue of day melted into the inky blackness of night and Max's view was dominated by a night sky full of twinkling stars. Except for one star, a star which was a instead a distinct bright spot in the sky.
Thirty minutes or so passed, then everything stopped shaking and the strangest event occurred. We had been pinned down by some great weight upon us, but now all weight had inexplicably disappeared, even our own. We began floating and spinning across room, as did anything not clamped down. It was not a pleasant experience, some of party vomited and that too floated through the air in a peculiar bubble shape!
From the other room, Max watched the sky rotate dizzyingly until the bright spot was centred in the window. Then the white spot began to grow in size. The dot gleamed brilliantly and expanded until he could see that it was actually a ring. It continued expanding until it was so massive as to completely filled his view. Max realised that we had left the stack and the coastline far behind, somehow we had entered a vessel that had now travelled a great distance and our destination was this structure.
Once again the speakers activated and Joe Capricorn said. "Welcome to my odyssey."
There was a distinct thud and a jolt as the vessel connected with the ring.
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's scan of the beach area
Players' map of the tunnels
Joe Capricorn, renaissance man of the future
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.