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 next step
The underground complex that had been populated by the chuds had been completely destroyed by the launch of Joe Capricorn's rocket. There was only one last thing for us to explore. Beneath the headland was 'The Deep Cave'. We had explored The Deep Cave a while ago. That exploration had ended in a wall of concrete that spanned the entirety of the only tunnel out of that cave.
Now armed with pickaxes, hammers and chisels and some slightly dodgy looking sticks of dynamite, we set about returning to the headland and to the concrete wall. The launch of Joe's rocket had caused such extensive damage that even the headland had suffered. Part of the cliff top had collapsed, crashing down into the ocean below and creating a rocky, uneven pathway down to the cave. Navigating this new way down allowed us to bring Bradley and the warhound with us.
Soon after this we found ourselves back at the concrete wall. Hefting our pickaxes, we got to work.
And hard work it was! Whilst digging we discovered that there was a grid of steel bars that reinforced the concrete. After a couple of hours we had managed to dig a small hole through the concrete wall, which it turned out was a metre thick. Shining our flashlights through the hole, we could see that beyond the wall was a chamber, large, unlit and clearly man made. Little else was visible through such a narrow opening. In our estimation, it would take a further six hours of graft to widen the hole enough to grant us entry. Alternatively, we could use use dynamite to blow out a bigger hole. One option was safer and the other option was quicker. Which one would we use..?
As Max was placing the dynamite charges, the rest us retreated to a safer distance. Max then set the fuse, lit it and made for cover. The sound of the explosion was enormous and filled the tunnel with smoke and dust. After a while this settled and we could see that the explosion had not widened the hole, but had caused a small rock slide to cover part of the wall. A second attempt could cause a total collapse of the tunnel, should we risk trying an explosion again? Our answer was to reach for more dynamite. I set the second set of charges, lit the fuse and ran for cover. Once the dust from the second explosion cleared we went and had a look. Success! The hole was now sufficiently large.
It was a tight fit crawling through the hole; dust motes swirled in the beams of our flash lights as they played across this unexplored chamber. It was a room of massive proportions, tall with a shallow arched ceiling and with a raised area along one wall. A wide ramp led up to this raised area and a large door was built in the wall here. There was a single large object in this room with a tarpaulin draped over it. Other than that, the emptiness of this room seemed to amplify the sounds of our every move. There was no clue as to what this room's function might have been before.
Slipping the tarpaulin off revealed a vehicle. It was a tracked transporter or van of some sort. There was a large windscreen at the front, solar panels on the roof and ramp at the back, there was a rack also attached to the rear. It was also painted bright yellow! We estimated that it could seat ten people. Unfortunately, the transporter's battery was completely flat, it was going nowhere.
After this we went up to the large door. It was no typical door. We could see it needed to be raised up vertically.
When we tried lifting it, small pebbles and stones rolled out from behind the door. Carefully we looked underneath the door, the passageway behind it was filled with rubble! Not wanting to disturb the rubble any further, we left the door alone. Next, we tried the control panels and junction box. Like the transporter, they didn't work, there was no power here. The power was out, the transporter didn't work and the we didn't want to open the only way out of the room. Our options were slim.
We tried the door again. Raising it a little bit further caused more rubble to come rolling out. It was just too risky to push it any more.
We took stock of our situation. The way through the door had to lead somewhere. Perhaps wherever it led to had another way into here? Perhaps there was another way in from the outside. Crawling back through the concrete wall, we returned to the cliff top and started looking. Our searching revealed a curious depression in the ground. Aoxo theorised that this dip may have been caused by an underground landslide that had filled the tunnel behind the door. We began digging.
Not long into this task, we heard the quiet drone of distant engines. We stopped and scanned the horizon. Two motorbikes and two cars were kicking up a billowing dust trail as they speeded directly towards. We dropped our tools, grabbed our weapons and waited for them to bear down on us.
As the assailants drew closer, we were caught by surprise by what we saw! Pig-men! Half human, half pig. The result of radioactive mutation a long time ago. We had heard the stories and the rumours of pig-men before this. We simply knew them as 'Road hogs'!
The riders reached us first and we opened up on them with our guns, putting some of them out of combat. The remainder dropped their bikes and rushed into melee. Meanwhile the two cars drew closer. Some of us engaged the road hogs in melee and the others fired at the cars. Max cut down a road hog, yelling,
"I love the smell of bacon in the morning!".
We raked the leading car with gunfire, watching as bullet holes blossomed across the bodywork and windscreen. A few seconds later it lurched to a slow halt. The second car swerved, made a wide 'U-turn' and fled the battle.
"Pigs really do fly!". Quipped Max, He was definitely on a roll.
Meanwhile, all of this was eagerly recorded by D4-VID.
With one car fleeing, it did not take too long to mop up the remaining road hogs.
A map was found when we searched the road hog that appeared to be their leader. It was fairly rudimentary and showed a number places of interest heading north along coast line. Whilst searching the car we found its battery was intact. Perhaps we could use it in the transporter? We returned to digging down through the depression. It did lead to a corridor and a sloped one at that. More digging and we reached the door back to the transporter.
After hauling the battery down into the large underground room, it was installed into the transporter. It wasn't a perfect fix, but it would do for the time being. Taking the transporter along with the Road Hog vehicles, we returned to Haven and to the lab complex. Haven had been making use of its generators and so would we. It would take a while but once the transporter was fully charged, it should be continually topped up by the solar panels, allowing it to run almost indefinitely.
Following the map
The next morning, looking at the map, we saw there were markings that seemed to indicate two different giant ant trails leading to two different parts of the coast line. These were a priority for us to investigate. Each trail ends in spot of yellow, likely to signify a beach. We set out for the southernmost of the two giant ant trails.
Upon our arrival, we stopped short before we reached what was indeed a beach. After finding a vantage point we settled down, waited and watched.
After some time, giant ants did actually arrive at the beach and to absolutely no one's surprise a band of crab-men burst from the beach and attacked. The fight was very one sided and it was soon apparent that crab-men were going to lose. Once the fight was over the giant ants returned down the trail with the remains of the crab-men as their spoils of victory. There was nothing else to be discovered here; so whilst giving the beach a wide berth we continued north.
Between here and the northern ant trail, was an area marked as 'BLOON'. It probably meant 'balloon', something we had previously encountered and something to investigate on the way north. The trip to the general area did not take too long and our searching soon bore fruit. It was the crash site of a hot air balloon that we had discovered. The basket had been wrecked, but the actual balloon and the burner still looked in good condition and salvageable. We strapped them to the transporters rack. We realised that there were no bodies here, looking closer we found the tracks of wheeled vehicles leading to and away from here.
Once again referring to the map: Next to the northern ant trail was another beach, but also the word 'HED' which we took to mean 'head'. What did HED mean? I guess we were going to find out. There was no time to lose so we continued north.
A few hours later and it was afternoon when we arrived at the beach in question. Curiously, the beach was surrounded by a perimeter of 'warning signs'. But further ahead we saw something stranger... Beyond the warnings and almost entirely buried in the sand was what must have been a massive statue. Only from the neck up was this statue visible. Constructed from some sort of faded, pale green material was a woman's head, adorned in a spiked headdress. Rising even higher was her outstretched right arm, grasping a flaming torch... What had happened to the statue, who had done this?
I could only think: 'You maniacs. You blew it up!'
Before we had the chance to consider the matter further, sporadic gunfire rained down on us. Luckily the gunfire seemed fairly inaccurate and we scrambled out of range without receiving injury. We could not see who had been firing at us: It wasn't long until sunset, so we waited for the cover of darkness before returning. Cautiously we returned to the beach, but were forced to dive for cover once more as gunfire rang out again, ricocheting of the ground around us.
"Who are you?" Max shouted.
"Who are you?"Came the reply.
"And why are you such a bad shot?" Added Agent Pip. The shooting then stopped.
"We don't want to fight." Continued Agent Pip. "We just want to talk." The shooter seemed convinced by Agent Pip's sincerity and revealed himself. Again, it was something we weren't expecting... There stood a chimpanzee wielding a rifle!
We were too dumbfounded to say anything.
"Hello, my name is Cornelius!" Said Cornelius. We were still dumbfounded!
"It's hard to handle the recoil of a rifle when your opposable thumbs are so small." Cornelius added cheerfully.
After we had gathered our composure we had a conversation with Cornelius. He asked us what kind of apes we were and we explained that we were 'hairless' apes. Cornelius explained that there was a whole tribe of apes living and working in the nearby caves. For a long time they had been toiling on 'The Great Task' at the behest of 'The Great Leader' and now their work was nearly done. Cornelius then asked us if we would like to see it and would be happy to take us there. We agreed: Agen Pip, Aoxo, Max, D4-VID and I would go with Cornelius.
Cornelius led us past some more guards, into a cave and underground. We passed from the cave through an obviously manufactured doorway and along manufactured but unusually proportioned passageways. Then we were led down a long series of steps. They were strangely spaced - too closely positioned together and proving uncomfortable and almost disorientating to walk down, Cornelius seemed unaffected by all of this. Eventually the steps came to an end and we found ourselves being led into a large cave. It was large enough to contain several buildings from the 'old world'. It was also filled with 'old world' technology. The cave was full of bustling chimpanzees, busily ignoring us and working away. We scanned the room and at the far end was a piece of 'old world' technology that was once more something we were not expecting. Reaching high above anything else in this cave was a missile, it looked ready to launch. We saw the missile's designation code - '1554C'... ISSAC! Our minds drifted back to something ISSAC had said to us.
“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.”
This was not good! It was at this moment that an ape of massive proportions entered the cave - 'The Great Leader'. The ape's head was covered with cybernetics and one robotic eye, he towered over his companions.
The ape pointed at us and roared. "Seize them!".
There must have been forty chimpanzees working here, all of these working chimpanzees immediately dropped their tools and turned to face us. Then as a mob they began advancing on our position. It was a madhouse! A MADHOUSE!
Max lobbed a grenade and a flare in their general direction to distract them whilst we fled. The strategy worked and we managed to escape back to the transporter. No apes had followed us back.
"That was lucky!" Remarked Cornelius. No apes, except one had followed us! "I didn't expect the great leader to do that." Cornelius opined.
We questioned Cornelius some more about 'The Great Work. He told us that they had 'miners' workers down in 'the mines' who were mining uranium. This uranium was being loaded into the missile. When completed; the missile would be launched. It's explosion would 'eradicate all non ape life', leaving the world a safe place for apes. Somehow, it did not seem to us that this missile would spare apes, it would - as ISSAC had said, rid the world of all organic life. But the nuance of this point seemed lost on Cornelius. The missile was scheduled to launch in two days. Cornelius assured us that as 'hairless apes', we would be fine.
ISSAC seemed to be cursing us from his fiery fate. We asked Cornelius to tell us more about his tribe. It wasn't much bigger than the forty chimpanzees we had already seen. Cornelius told us his tribe were the descendants of chimpanzees that had been experimented on by humans a long time ago. Descendants of these humans worked the mine.
Later in the night, we saw giant ants encroaching on the beach. Chimpanzees guards with rifles eventually managed to drive them away. The chimpanzees' accuracy may have been poor, but the giant ants were the size of a barn door so it wasn't too much if a disadvantage.
The hour drew late and Cornelius announced it was time to sleep. Once slumbering, he would not be roused. It was midnight and all was calm, but we knew this would not last. Two days until the missile launch and we needed a plan.
We considered going back into the missile complex at night, since it appeared that they would all be sleeping, but ultimately decided against it. Instead we chose to watch and wait until morning before making a decision.
In the morning there was another giant ant attack, it was even more aggressive this time. The apes managed to drive them off again, but not without sustaining a casualty or two themselves...
We considered matters. The Great Leader's cybernetics were similar to Joe Capricorn's implants. We thought there was a good chance that ISSAC would have communicated with both using those implants. We also knew that D4-VID was capable of transmitting information. When asked about it, D4-VID said that it knew the frequencies used by ISSAC and that it could also transmit on those frequencies. We had the beginnings of a plan.
We would get D4-VID to mimic ISAAC and send 'new' instructions to The Great Leader. There several options, but in the end, the new instructions said.
"Stop building missile and go to a defensible position.".
As D4-VID transmitted the message, the torch on the statues arm flashed! Something in there must act as a relay. Soon after this the ape guards returned into the underground complex.
We waited for an hour, then we returned to the complex. There were no guards and back in the cave, there were no workers either. Turning to Cornelius for an answer, he explained that it was probable that all the apes had retreated into the mines for safety. As we wondered what to do with the missile, we saw some giant ants come exploring through the passageway.
This was not good, there were no more guards outside.
The ants were now beginning to dismantle the 'old world' tech here and take it away. So we got D4-VID to transmit a new instruction. "Attack the giant ants. Defend the missile. Assist the hairless apes.".
We waited and no apes appeared, the transmission had not worked or possibly not reached The Great Leader down in the mines. It was decided to send Cornelius down to speak with The Great Leader. There was a hand cranked elevator that we had to operate to lower Cornelius down into the mines. We waited again and yet again, no apes appeared.
There was no other way for it, we had to send D4-VID down into the mine and into 'line-of-sight' of The Great Leader
D4-VID was accompanied by Agent Pip, as she was an inflected, the effects of the radiation might be less severe on her. Once Agent Pip and D4-VID were in the mine, they travelled down various tunnels filled with sheltering chimpanzees. Eventually they found Cornelius, he was huddled close to The Great Leader.
Behind The Great Leader we could see something else, but not clearly, were they the 'miners' Cornelius had mentioned?
Now that D4-VID had line-of-sight on The Great Leader, he transmitted the new instructions again. The effect was immediate. The Great Leader ordered the apes to attack and they ran out of the mines. They didn't even wait for the elevator, climbing the walls of the shaft instead.
Now that the apes were leaving the mines, Agent Pip got her first sight of the 'miners'. They were grotesquely deformed humans, mutated as the result of prolonged exposure to radiation. They had extra limbs and heads as well as other changes. Agent Pip decided to try and help them escape the mine.
In the large cave, the rest of us had been watching the ants, their numbers steadily increasing. Soon apes came streaming out of the mine shaft and charging towards the giant ants, the fight had begun. Unfortunately, it was fairly clear that the apes were in a losing position. Even if we threw our weight behind them, the apes would lose. Now we had to find a way out without being drawn into the battle. Having helped as many mutants escape the mine as she could, Agent Pip returned to us.
Quickly searching for a way out, we looked at the missile itself. It was surrounded by scaffolding and gantries to allow the uranium to be loaded. We might be able to climb to the top of the missile and escape through the silo doors. Max scaled the top of the missile and secured a rope, all of us clambered up - including Cornelius. From this precarious spot we managed to open the silo doors. Max retrieved his rope and we looked at the silo opening. There was no way to get from missile through the silo opening. This could have proved a serious stumbling block to us. However, I could use my shift mutation to teleport people to the surface, next to the missile. I managed to teleport Agent Pip, Aoxo and Max out before my shift mutation gave out. It was enough. The three of them used the rope to pull the rest of us to safety.
Here on the surface we were safe, there were no giant ants to be seen close by. From safety of our vantage point we watched as the giant ants finished the battle. The apes were defeated, even The Great Leader had fallen. Had any apes survived? Or any mutants, we did not see any survivors. I looked at Cornelius and wondered if there were other tribes elsewhere or whether he was the last of his kind?
After this we could only watch uselessly as the swarm of giant ants stripped the cave of all its 'old world' belongings. Eventually they even toppled the missile and took it! It was a shame we couldn't keep the it and re-purpose it to destroy the giant anthill.
At least it would no longer pose a threat. Had it been detonated, who knows just how much destruction it would have wrought upon the world. At the very least, Haven and Home would have been obliterated. It was sparse consolation as 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.
The new wheels
Mutated mining slaves
Giant mutated ants
Well, that escalated quickly. I think this episode demonstrated the fun that can happen in roleplaying games when you just plonk some things on a map and see what develops.
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.