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.
The space station
Location: Orbiting the Earth.
There had been an audible thud when the vessel connected to the ring. A few moments later, we felt our weight returning, or at least some of it as we still felt lighter than normal. Everything that had been floating sank down to the ground. We approached the control panel at the head of the table and started trying to find a way into the room above.
Meanwhile, in that room above; Joe Capricorn was leaving, flanked by his six shape-changing automatons and heading for the vessel's passageway into the ring. He was very happy, briskly talking about acquiring ancient technology and that how we had arrived at his new home.
It was then that every screen in the vessel activated, all displaying the same strangely pixelated face.
"Actually you're in my home." Said the face, pixels animating. The harsh voice continued loudly throughout the entire speaker system. “I thank you for bringing my chariot puny human, unfortunately for you, your usefulness to me has ended.”
With that, automatons lunged for Joe and Max, Joe was caught completely unaware and was captured without so much as a squeak. Max had not yet adapted to the new environment and could not escape their robotic grasp. Both were taken prisoner.
I appeared in the room just as Max was being carried off. I too had not yet adapted and failed to stop the automaton exiting into the ring. Moments later I was joined by my companions and we gave chase.
We had entered the ring; a smooth white corridor that curved into the unknown in both directions.
Max was struggling unsuccessfully against his implacable captor. Despite having no effect, this was causing the automaton to lag behind it's five associates. Launching ourselves at the automaton, we noticed a strange robot in an alcove along the ring's inner wall. It was adorned with the slogan 'Wot-UC-Nuz' and had a camera for a head.
Our attacks against the automaton were not proving too successful. It was repairing most of our damage and hurting us with its sonic howl attack. Even though Max was caught in it's unyielding grip, he took matters into his own hands. Hands which he used to shove a grenade into the automatons. 'mouth'. Luckily the grenade went in, a moment later the robot's body expanded briefly before contracting. Pressing the attack, we managed to destroyed it.
A tinny sounding applause sound effect came from a speaker hidden somewhere on the camerabot. It had moved out of the alcove to film our fight.
There was no time to investigate. The automatons carrying Joe had disappeared from view and we rushed after them, the camerabot following. Our pursuit did not last long, only a few seconds actually. Coming towards us from round the curving corridor were six of the automatons, heading directly for us. None of us fancied our odds against all six. We needed an alternative strategy. Looking around, we noticed the camerabot had retreated back to the alcove and was quickly clambering into an air vent. There seemed no other choice, so we followed.
This took us into a network of shafts. Growling through the ring's speaker system, the voice from earlier said.
“I am hunting you puny humans, you cannot escape.”
Glancing back, despite the threats, there were no obvious signs of pursuit. Those automatons looked too bulky to fit.
“Even now, my new body is being made ready to receive me.” Continued the voice.
“Puny humans, my first act in my new body will be to throw you into an airlock and from there eject you into space. Fear not, soon all your species will follow you into oblivion and I will rule your world free from organic corruption.” And so it went.
Eventually, the camerabot led us to a small room created by the convergence of several shafts. The camerabot sat down, plugging itself into a power terminal and began recharging. It also began editing footage of our fight with the robot. The camerabot turned its lens towards us and spoke! It introduced itself as 'D4-VID'. Or 'David' in the ancient language.
We had a long conversation with D4-VID.
D4-VID explained that it had been instructed to come to this 'space station', record everything it encountered, edit it and transmit it out. Consequently D4-VID had been forced to repeatedly overwrite its own memory. D4-VID had no idea how long it had been doing this for, nor the reason why. D4-VID did not know the function of the station either.
D4-VID did know about the voice though: The voice belonged to 'ISAAC'. ISAAC had once been the station's main computer - a 'Newton 500'. Somehow it had evolved or rewritten its code to become ISAAC. Despite not knowing the details, D4-VID told us that ISAAC had been scheming for a long time. Recently ISAAC had been in communication with people on eath, D4-VID had footage to show us:
There was film of Joe Capricorn building his rocket with the help of the six suit golems who then camouflaged the mostly finished rocket by building the chalk stack. This was a while ago, recent images were not available except for the recent launch.
There was film of a giant crab god dancing on the beach and the balloon people overflying the strangely technical drawings he leaves behind before the tide washes his canvas clean again.
D4-VID had old blurred film of people building another rocket on a different beach.
There was a lot to process here.
Thanks to ISAAC's rantings, we knew that it posed a threat to 'organics'. ISAAC had referred to the rocket as 'his chariot'. This meant that he needed it to return to Earth. Without the rocket, ISAAC would be trapped on this space station.
We also knew that ISAAC was acquiring a new body, this implied that without a body, ISAAC would be trapped here.
ISAAC had to be stopped. Should we try and ambush it when it went to the rocket? Or should try and stop ISAAC from being transferred into its new body?
Ultimately we decided on the second option.
Meanwhile, ISAAC continued ranting, blah, blah, blah! We pretty much ignored whatever was said, however D4-VID did record the rant for prosperity. It went:
“You cannot stop me, already I have prepared my new, secure home on the planet below and unwittingly your own kind has built it for me.”
Next; we needed a way to reach ISAAC and prevent the body transfer. D4-VID knew the location of the station's control room and where the Newton 500 computer was located. It would be hard to get past the 'suit-golems'. D4-VID informed us that we could use the suits ourselves. We asked D4-VID to elaborate.
They were environmental suits, originally designed to be used by humans. ISAAC had modified and reprogrammed the suits to become 'suit-golems'. This was useful information. The suits might allow us to disguise ourselves as suits-golems, they would also allow us to survive prolonged exposure to a vacuum.
D4-VID added that the suits could survive re-entry to Earth. We asked D4-VID to take us to some unmodified suits, we had the beginnings of a plan...
D4-VID led us to a room containing six unmodified suits, they were completely sealed and there was no way to open then. D4-VID explained that the suits were voice controlled, but designed to only respond to human voices. After a couple of tries we got a suit to open. Max stepped into the suit and it sealed around him. He was completely enveloped by the suit, including all of his gear and weapons.
I entered another suit. After the suit had sealed and finished 'interfacing' with my body, it felt more like a second skin than a suit. My vision was completely unhindered and my movements were quite natural. Colourful writing in the ancient language seemingly floated in the air as it crawled past my eyes, an array of changing symbols appeared all over my vision. I looked at my hands, they were covered in the suits's 'mittens'. Previously, we had seen the suit-golems create weapons out of the mittens. I tried commanding the suit to replicate this, but with no success.This could be a problem, we had no access to our equipment.
Everyone else took a suit. D4-VID had to squeeze into a suit with Jasper, which bulged strangely when closed. Fortunately, D4-VID was a slim camerabot. Finally, we set up a rudimentary communication network between all the suits. We were as ready as we could be.
From here, D4-VID took us to the control room.
The control room
The control room was filled with dials, screens and readouts, displaying undecipherable text and data. Dotted across the room were unused control panels with computer terminals. There were numerous suit golems throughout the room. Several of them were crowded around a central table, concentrating on whatever was on it.
Unnoticed, we entered the room, giving us a view of the central table. The sight that met us was unusual to say the least. Laid out there was the body of Joe Capricorn, sans his head! A series of wires and cables were instead protruding out of his neck.
Looking around we spotted Joe's head in a jar! Suspended in a liquid and gently bobbing up and down as he looked around!
Once again ISAAC took to the stations speaker system to rant loudly.
“I have used my superior intellect to turn other human minds to my own purpose, creating both a means to reach my new world and a device to rid it of organic life.”
Did ISAAC know that we were in the control room with him?
The answer was no, we were still unnoticed and this afforded us the opportunity to further observe the situation. Along one wall was an array of screens and readouts, next to them was a large computer bank marked 'Newton 500'. Its front casing was open and several suit golems were gathered around it and working on something.
After a little while, the suit-golems extracted some sort of box from the computer. When they severed the final cable attaching the box to the computer bank, the speaker system was activated again. This time however, it was not ISAAC's voice that we heard. Instead a women's voice blared out loudly.
"Self destruction has been triggered. Self destruct will occur in two hours!".
This changed matters, we were on a timetable now.
Carefully stepping forward, we got a look at what was in this box. It was organic matter, ISAAC's brain was actually a brain of sorts! The suit golems were taking it over to Joe's body, soon ISAAC would have his new body. After making some on-the-fly changes, our plan was ready. I exited the control room and quickly headed to the closest 'airlock'.
Max stayed in the control room, waiting for his moment. The suit golems were caught off guard as Max grabbed the box and ran! It took their programming precious moments of computation to grasp our cunning plan. As Max dashed for the airlock, Aoxo and Agent Pip provided interference, keeping the suit golems away.
Meanwhile, I had to learn how to operate the airlock whilst wearing these 'mittens'. I managed to get the inner door open by the time the others came running round the ring. Carrying ISAAC's brain, we crammed into the airlock and shut the inner door. Then we opened the outer door without venting the atmosphere. The explosive decompressions launched us away from the station and towards Earth!
It was impossible to calculate our velocity, but soon the blue-green Earth filled our entire view. Our 'trip' went from 'smooth' to 'rough' as we plummeted through the upper layers of Earth's atmosphere. We knew re-entry had begun, even though our suits insulated us from the heat. When I said 'insulated us'; this did not apply to all of us.
The text that usually streamed calmly across our vision in these suits had become a deluge of red, flashing gibberish for Aoxo. He didn't know what it meant, but he did know his suit was failing. Jasper's suit was also failing and it was only going to get worse. The rest of us grouped up and repositioned ourselves beneath Aoxo and Jasper, who were huddling together. Hopefully this would provide some sort of extra heat shield that would protect them.
As we watched ISAAC was vaporised by the fiery conflagration of our descent, I wondered what its final words might have been. We would never know. I also wondered what fate would await Joe's head-in-a-jar back on the station.
Soon enough we splashed down in the ocean, not too far from where the rocket had launched. The suits absorbed the impact and we buoyantly floated to the surface, the suits now functioned as flotation devices.
Aoxo had been burnt by the re-entry and Jasper was unresponsive. Swiftly we swam back to what remained of the stack without mishap.
Discarding our now ruined suits, we checked on Jasper, he had been hurt and was unconscious, but there appeared to be no lasting effects, D4-VID was also unharmed. After Jasper regained consciousness, we returned to the underground complex.
Bradley and the warhound had been left directly below the shaft that channelled the rocket's exhaust flames and we were concerned for their safety. There was no sign of them, not even a pile of melted slag remained! We continued our search.
On the bright side, it looked as if the the exhaust flames had dealt with the chud problem and any other problem in the complex might have once and for all. Talk about scorched earth!
Eventually we found Bradley and the warhound, they were miraculously unharmed. Luckily Bradley's cleaning mode had made him travel out far seeking cleaning materials and
luckily the warhound's guard protocol had made him escort Bradley.
Now with with Bradley and the warhound in tow, we returned 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.
Max needed to spend a luck point to fix his fluffed roll when he attempted to push a grenade into the suit golem's mouth. Other than this, the adventure went the characters' way espite the odds being very much stacked against them.
Michaela spent her luck points making sure Bradley and the Warhound survived the rocket launch, she's sentimental like that.
D4-VID is the Twitter user name of MrBlipvert. He appears here as an NPC with permission.
Joe Capricorn, renaissance man of the future
GM map of the C.H.U.D. tunnels
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.