Last week we saw a minor twitter beef break out as a designer-- old school and venerable-- claimed that their newly rpg would be the first fantasy post-apocalyptic game. This set off some furor. For my part, I pinned the first fantasy post-apocalyptic games as Sun and Storm and then maybe Wizards, both released in 1992.
Then another twitter said “Yo Dawg” and corrected me that it was Empire of the Petal Throne (1975) and Gamma World (1978). Now there’s some argument for EPT there as a fantasy world, but it’s a set on a space colony with magic drawn from dimensional nexuses. How much that’s fantasy vs. sci-fi is a reasonable question. Is it the trappings? The backstory? Not sure. But we can dismiss Gamma World out of hand—that’s clearly sci-fi. Did I reply to the commenter? No. Instead I wrote this dumb passive-aggressive intro to this week’s list.
Post-Apocalyptic Media from 2017
- TV Shows: Blood Drive, Extinct, Future Man, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Mist
- Films: Aftermath, Blade Runner 2049, Blue World Order, Bokeh, The Girl with All the Gifts, Hostile, Logan, It Comes at Night, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, Stephanie, War for the Planet of the Apes
- Video Games: AER: Memories of Old, ATOM RPG, Crossout, ELEX, Gunman Taco Truck, Horizon Zero Dawn, Mini DAYZ, Nier: Automata, OPUS: Rocket of Whispers
- Board Games: Aeon’s End: War Eternal, After the Virus, Anachrony, Attack on Titan: The Last Stand, Edge of Humanity, Endure the Stars, Fallen Land, Fallout, Gaslands, Myth: Dark Frontier, Mythic Battles: Pantheon, Outlive, Pandemic Legacy Season 2, Planet of the Apes, This War of Mine, Wasteland Express Delivery Service
I focus on core books for these lists, plus new post-apocalyptic settings for existing rpgs or significant sourcebooks. If a line has several releases, I put those in a single entry. I consolidate zombie sourcebooks and smaller games into one entry and other miscellaneous supplements into another. Revised editions appear when they significantly change a line or present a milestone. I only include published material- print or electronic. If it’s a question, I err in favor of products with a printed version and cut off sourcebooks with a smaller page count. I skip freebie or self-published games. Finally with a few exceptions, I’ve opted to skip modules and adventures going forward.
I'm sure I've left something off without adequate reason; feel free to add a comment. Note that I avoid Twitter beefs and instead dwell on them and then write them into the next entry apparently.
In my other RPG History lists I’ve talked about a few of my pet peeves (some might called them hobgoblins). Those include: dense setting presented before anything else, double mumbo jumbo premises, and a focus on detail which doesn’t actually matter in play. I’ve also talked about the problematic term 'Heartbreaker RPG.' That’s most often where a game feels like an act of love celebrating a home campaign world but poorly presented or thought out. Or perhaps better to say a game which favors self-indulgence over helping the readers and players.
Altais offers a science-fantasy world—but its story doesn’t begin there. Instead tens of thousands of years in the past people fled from Earth to here. They fled horrors known as the Rephaim. Altais had thousands of years of stability, then those old foes returned to shatter the peace. And there’s quantum magic.
The core book starts you out with a lot of backstory and detail: all the kingdoms, factions, alphabets, titles, language constructs, places, and in-setting text. While there’s a three page intro, the game’s info dump is suffocating. Your reaction to this will depend on what kind of setting info you like to read. For example, Nibiru presents tons of backstory you need to read through before the game really explains what you’re doing and who you’ll be playing. But that material feels interesting, coherent, and focused on the big picture. Altais takes the more traditional “Here’s our gazetteer, complete with minutiae that you’ll have a hard time remembering and bringing to the table” opening.
The game uses its own d10 based resolution system. Roll a pool, take the highest result, add a mod and compare to the target number. Character creation has a large range of backgrounds, skills, magic, and blessings. The equipment section’s about 35 pages. It has quite nice artwork and the maps in particular look great. If you’re interested in a pseudo-fantasy world in the aftermath of a cataclysm, this might be your bag.
2. Blades in the Dark
The “Dark” in Blades in the Dark isn’t metaphorical. It’s a literal darkness that hangs over the world. That sunless land is the result of a cataclysm a thousand years ago. It broke the sun and opened the gates to death and demons. Now humanity huddles in cities protected by demon blood-fueled lightning shields. Outside the walls ghosts and worse things hold dominion. Rumor has it that this disaster is the results of a PC mess up in a previous campaign. Adventurers, feh.
Blades’ setting offers an interesting study in the presentation of the apocalypse. Its effects on the environment are massive, but in many ways they’re the day-to-day order of business. Folks just have to deal with ghost-evictors on their trains, the high cost of leviathan oil, and the necessity of capturing freshly dead souls to put them into processing plants. And darkness, of course, darkness.
Blade’s designer John Harper’s does an amazing job of balancing the mundane and the fantastic here. There’s some talk of resources and how people survive. It’s enough to satisfy most people and answer questions. But look hard enough and you begin to think about the eco-system here. What about bees? plants? vitamin D? natural selection of animals? These questions aren’t fully answered, but instead they’re left for the individual GM to figure out for their version of the world. That open imaginative space helps make Blades truly great.
A Kickstarter PbtA Zombies rpg set in 1950’s Americana. The pdf released on 2017.
I feel bad starting in so soon with negativity about a game. I backed the Dead Scare because of the amazing line-up of stretch goal writers and the great premise. The former delivers—they’ve crafted excellent and evocative additional material. It takes place in distinct locations, times, and cultures. That material supporst the game’s evocative premise, that you’re playing the most vulnerable and marginalized persons in a patriarchal society during a zombie outbreak. You play the housewives, teens, persons with disabilities, PoC, elderly. The game examines their plight in the context of a disaster.
Unfortunately the game itself is a total mess. Dead Scare feels like a developmental draft, rather than a finished game. It has mismatched terms, unexplained mechanics, contradictory rules, and bad organization. I ran two sessions from the pdf and desperately tried to make it work. Some things I couldn’t overcome, like the use of a d20 to generate the number of zombies in a horde (and what that implied for the play). I wanted this to be good, but it was rough and unfun.
After some pushback and questions about the game, the Kickstarter went quiet. Some thought the rough pdf would be further playtested and polished, but it wasn’t clear. For a time another company said they would pick up publishing duties. But that fell through. Last year the Kickstarter issued an at-cost print-on-demand coupon, even to those who’d paid for a physical copy. That PoD version is the same text as the earlier pdf version.
It’s a disappointment because of the potential of the premise and the superb work by the stretch goal folks. The need for a PbtA Zombie game would eventually be filled by Zombie World. But that game takes more from The Walking Dead and doesn’t grapple with Dead Scare’s issues.
Dusk offers a world with an uncertain apocalypse, in that people disagree about what actually brought it about. It’s a survival focused game—perhaps aiming to emulate the vibe of things like The Road and The Book of Eli. It has a Storyteller-like rules system, but using exploding d8s. Attribute + Skill tells you how many dice to roll. Any 5+ results count as a success. Compare # of successes to the difficulty.
The core book’s 100 pages long, with a dozen pages of setting. That’s kept deliberately sketchy (describing mostly factions and places). It has a short GM section and a set of pre-gen characters. If you’re looking for a light, easy-to-pick-up PA game, this could work. Dusk isn’t bringing innovations in mechanics or setting, but you can skim it and pick up the basics easily. The openness of the framework makes it easily to expand and collaborate on. As of this writing, Dusk is available PWYW on DTRPG.
5. The Frontier
Sometimes you have to let the publisher’s cover copy do the talking, “Burn, slash, cut, incinerate, shoot, maul, vaporise, maim, slaughter, electrocute, rend, blast and disintegrate your way through The Frontier! A Shoot-and Loot Roleplaying Game.” The Frontier takes inspiration from Borderlands, though the cover isn’t nearly as bright and gonzo as anything from that series. The game's background is thin: the collapse of space civilization and then peoples trying to survive on a colony world.
The Frontier uses a d20 + attribute versus difficulty system. Damage can use all the polyhedrals with the added incentive of those rolls exploding. Your character has four attributes with 12 points divided among them. Characters have classes which affect starting stuff and give you an ability with level ups. The Wirehead and Telepath have additional picks to represent their special abilities.
For a game with this premise, you’d expect combat to be fast, dynamic, and novel. It’s actually pretty traditional. Like other games you have six second rounds and roll initiative at the start of each one. In a round you get one action and one move. The rest falls out as you’d expect in a d20 game.
The Looter part of the premise boils down to having a big armor and weapons list. Those are split between a common table of things and a big set of rare gear with descriptions and randomly determined “models” with special abilities. Done on cards (like Mutant Year Zero), that could make for a fun element at a table. But it also feels like just a big equipment list.
A Spanish-language setting book for Savage Worlds. In it humanity abuses the Earth, triggering a response from Mother Nature. It reacts with plagues, earthquakes, and other natural disasters. This forces the the survivors to descend into hiding holes for many years. When they come out the world has been turned into a lush, verdant, and deadly green environment.
It’s a cool concept—more action-oriented than Summerland which shares some features with it. HT Publishers, the Spanish licensees for Savage Worlds, have supported this setting with a couple of supplements: Sevilla Verde, a location sourcebook and Donde Viven los Dioses, a mini-campaign.
A French-language game of yet another colony world isolated from the rest of stellar society by an event. After "The Rupture" the planet Zephyr suffered environmental collapse, turning into a desolate land. This happened both because of corporate exploitation as well as being severed from trade and support.
The twist for this game is a pretty cool one I haven’t seen elsewhere. In Homeka the PCs are the crew of a massive Meka (mecha) moving around the world. The Meka’s your home, how you make money to survive, your means of transport, and more. The Mekanoids once served as war machines but have now become tools for exploration and survival. It’s a great concept (and one adaptable to a bunch of genres and settings).
Homeka uses its own resolution system, ASPEX. That uses all the die types, but I don’t know more beyond that. The company, JdR Editions, released the core book, a GM screen, two campaign books, and some other accessories.
8. Into the Death of Civilisation
A card-based cooperative storytelling post-apocalypse game. It comes from Cakebread & Walton the company behind the OneDice system, Clockwork & Chivalry, Abney Park’s Airship Pirates, and more. It has a pretty dark and grim aesthetic and reminds me of Hope Inhumanity. I’ve hunted around for more details or even reviews but haven’t found anything.
A French rpg with an apocalypse which has killed off all the adults, leaving only children. You play these kids who have gathered together for support and protection. They must avoid the fantastical dangers lurking in the outside world. But threats and tensions within their own communities may be equally dangerous.
Libreté uses a Powered by the Apocalypse system. It adds a number of new tweaks including “Bile” which measures a characters susceptibility to the darkness. Libreté was well received in France. In 2020 GMDK Kickstarted an English-language translation of Vivien Féasson’s game. That added a city supplement, Fleur du Mall with a mapped out fortress and a cast of NPCs.
The entry on legrog suggests that Libreté is a pseudo-sequel to an earlier game, Perdus Sous la Pluie (Lost in the Rain) about children trying to make their way home.
10. Mutant Bastards: Adventures in the New West
Mutant Bastards offers a fusion of D&D 2e with Gamma World 2e in a post-apocalyptic setting-- with more than a dash of Boot Hill’s flavor. You play survivors in a weird ‘Merican west. Mutant Bastards has everything you’d expect—mutant power generation, cybernetics, artifact examination tables. The book’s art leans more to cartoon gonzo than metal gonzo. Overall it’s a game that seems to do exactly what’s on the label: OSR nostalgia mixed with an easy kitchen sink irradiated wasteland. There was discussion of an expansion book, but as of this writing the publisher’s website has expired.
11. Mutant Crawl Classics
While I arrange these items alphabetically, I don’t write them that way. I bounce around, usually starting with those I’m most familiar with. Then I begin to read and research the others, doing them as they catch my eye. Mutant Crawl Classics, though it falls in the middle here, is the last one I’m writing.
I backed the MCC Kickstarter, I’ll admit, pretty much on pitch, rep, and the pretty art for the campaign. I had fond memories of days playing Gamma World 1e—the first sci-fi rpg I actually got to the table. Gamma World had changed over the years, as you can see from its appearances across these lists. But I imagined MCC, with its old-school aesthetic, would harken back to that.
It does and it doesn’t. Mutant Crawl Classics has a lot of the look and feel, with amazing artwork and a wildly imaginative wasteland. In that regard it captures a lot of what made Gamma World special. But MCC really is Dungeon Crawl Classics with a rich and thorough reskin and new setting. I like DCC OK—I’ve run a couple of funnels for it and had a good time. But the long haul of the rules isn’t my bag.
Mutant Crawl Classics adapts the DCC mechanics, from the funnel to the lethality to the wonky dangers of the ‘magic’ system (invocations to God AIs). It’s really quite cool and if you’re a fan of DCC, it’s a home run. For me, it wasn’t quite what I wanted. Could I say what I wanted? I’m not sure. I bought a PoD copy of the original Gamma World a couple of years ago hunting for that. Reading through was a nostalgia trip, but at the same time a clear realization that, as written, this wasn’t a game I wanted to run.
Goodman Games have continued to support the MCC line with a dozen+ modules and third-party publishers have pitched in as well. If you’re an OSR gamer and especially if you dig DCC, then Mutant Crawl Classics is a must buy for weird, gonzo post-apocalyptic play.
A game of Ancient Greece, but one which has been devastated by a second war between the Gods and the Tians. Newly unleashed monsters roam the land in addition to human threats to a shattered Greece. You can play new heroes or ancient icons who have escaped the Underworld to aid humanity.
Mythic Battle: Pantheon is based on a miniatures game of the same name (see also Stygmata below). It uses its own d6 system. It’s a good looking book with high production values. Despite the unique theme, Mythic Battles doesn’t seem to have taken off and the company hasn’t released any addition products for the line.
13. Paranoia: Red Clearance Edition
Paranoia keeps coming back from the dead. It’s interesting how many editions this setting has had: Red Clearance makes it seven. Mongoose Publishing did a big reboot in 2004 with input from the amazing Allen Varney. They followed that with an 25th Anniversary Edition a few years later.
But Red Clearance makes the biggest changes the line has seen. First there’s the issue of format. Rather than a classic 8.5” by 11” booklets, hardcovers, and boxed sets this version is trade paper size. This box has multiple small booklets, laminated sheets, and cards.
Beyond form factor, P: RC has the most massive changes to the mechanics and approach. Everything’s streamlined. Character creation’s fast, long skill trees have been dispatched, resolution’s quick. The whole thing’s designed with pick up and play in mind. It offers an interesting template for taking older games and giving them a modern approach. (Of course cards are a challenge now with more online play, but this would be really cool and tactile face to face).
The ethos and presentation has been brought more up to date. Secret societies have been retooled, terrorism’s now a buzzword, and other details of the modern internet age have been added. It’s cool. Mongoose have supported the line with a ton of supplements and adventures.
I traded away my copy. I can’t say exactly why. I read through the rules a couple of times and chuckled at some of the jokes. I liked the cards and the overall feel of the game, but something about it passed me by. I couldn’t imagine bringing it to any of my f2f tables—where we’d cultivated a sense of cooperation among our players over the years—or to online—where I’d have to manage the pvp competition with strangers.
14. Pathogen: Unclassified
A fairly bog standard zombie apocalypse game in many respects. Pathogen's interesting twist is the idea of the infection being a parasite which takes over the human host and creates a Hive Mind out of them. The undead fall into several types including psychics. As well the infection which caused this seems to have spread elsewhere in the eco-system creating toxic vegetation.
Pathogen uses its own system. The layout’s bare bones and the art’s a mixed bag. Publisher Polyhedral Knights hasn’t followed up on this line, but has released another PA game 2019’s superpowered fallen world Dark Times.
15. Post Apocalypse
A solo gamebook rpg. You’re a survivor moving through a world destroyed decades before. It’s a CYOA but with dice, skills, trading, and equipment. Rather than a strict go to X pathing, there’s some randomization to the choices. Penguin Comics has released several of these, though this is the only post-apocalyptic one.
A Spanish-language rpg; Mundo Roto means “broken world.” This may be a reworking of an adventure for the Milestones game system from 2014. While that earlier product’s available on Nosolorol Ediciones DTRPG site, this more recent one still isn''t.
I haven’t been able to find more details or reviews, beyond an unboxing video on YouTube in Spanish. It’s a big, beautiful book but falls into the trap of page background textures which obscure the text. The overall aesthetic is gritty fallen world ala Mad Max. The games mechanics seem to be class-based with a d10 resolution system.
17. Red Markets
Subtitle: A Game of Economic Horror. That hits a little close to the bone these days, eh?
I’ve mentioned before my pet peeve of ttrpgs giving massive info dumps before providing a good sense of what it’s all about. Red Markets seems to have this problem. We get a short intro which only hints at what you actually do in the game, followed by two and a half pages of terminology. Then there’s literally 150 pages of backstory, set up, and world info. This usually makes me shake my head—especially when a game hasn’t even given me a compelling reason to go forward.
But reading Red Markets is harrowing. As thin as the intro is, it offers several questions you want answered. Then you plunge into the text. It’s presented as in-game character narration. That’s tricky to pull off; if you get the voice wrong it alienates rather than draws in. Red Markets isn’t perfect. It has a couple of spots where it veers into self-indulgent or seemingly omniscient. But overall it’s dynamite and compelling. I read through most of this info in a single sitting. The information’s organized smartly giving you things you need to know but leaving enough questions unanswered that you have to keep reading.
And as I said, the text and what happens is harrowing. The scenario’s a little close to home and you can see echoes of 2020 in this game history written in 2017.
The basic concept’s this—and I’m massively reducing the complex backstory—in a near future, economic hardship and crises threaten the world, especially the United States. That includes an investment bubble, collapsing infrastructure, exploitative labor practices, and militarized police forces. Then zombie—called Casualties—outbreaks happen globally. People disbelieve it for weeks before there’s an organized response. When the US Government acts they do so desperately, abandoning everything West of the Mississippi, nuking hotspots, giving massive kill orders, and much, much more.
Red Markets takes place five years later. Now the whole of the Western US is called The Loss. Anyone in The Loss is declared legally dead by the new US administration. Communities in the East are called the Recession but many live in refugee camps. Everyone’s subject to martial law and forced labor to survive. The country needs new manufacturing and capital goods, but that’s hard. And there’s a ton of stuff just sitting over in the Loss. So how to get that?
And this is where the real premise of Red Markets comes in. Driven by corporate forces people in the Loss have become scavengers, trading goods and government ident cards for bounties. You’re trying to survive and perhaps even help others as Takers who go out into these dangerous lands. There’s more, much more, but that’s the gist of it.
Red Markets has a fairly simple resolution system using two d10s. A few mechanics add details that make it look like it has more crunch than it does (charges & upkeep for items, hit locations and sectional damage). There’s more complexity in the economic and social mechanisms of the game which take seriously the idea of scarcity. One of the system’s best features are the Boom/Bust built in rules which allow you to make the game less/more challenging respectively. Red Markets wants the system to enforce a sense of scarcity, opportunity costs, and the choke-hold of economic reality. It does, to a point which could be off-putting to players.
I’m going to admit I wasn’t too keen on Red Markets going in. I’d tried reading through the playtest material before the Kickstarter. I had a hard time getting what was happening. But the final product’s smart, detailed, and compelling—beyond being a strikingly illustrated massive hardback. If you’re at all intrigued, I recommend checking it out.
A small tangent: It’s worth comparing Red Markets to the other recent game of economic horror, #iHunt. Red Markets describes itself as “basically a poverty simulator that uses zombies to keep its theme from getting too real.” It takes a more bird’s eye approach to the economy and while it critiques it, there’s a kind of assumption that it has to be this way, given the present circumstances. On the other hand, #iHunt stays firmly on the ground level and shows how and why the system’s always exploitative and unethical. It doesn’t say “that’s the way it is” and shrug its shoulders. It says “that’s the way it is and fuck that.”
A game of musicians travelling the wastelands and battling it out with music. Rockalypse uses Fate (Core or Accelerated) to tell more hopeful stories than most other post-apocalyptic games. Because it’s Fate players collaborate to build the story of their world’s fall and what the wasteland looks like. Setting building offers some models: the classic wasteland, a cyberpunk dystopian settlement, alien overlords, hell rising, and RagnaRöck. Players can mix and match aspects from these concepts.
In Rockalypse you play musicians and the game includes elements for building the band as a character. The rules trim the skill list and add a bunch of new musically themed stunts. Rather than the usual conflict and contest resolution procedure, all of these are treated as songs. Song are broken into phrases and theirs a procedure for building it up and playing it out.
Overall this is a fun and easily accessible game. It would make a great introductory campaign for Fate.
19. Scorched Earth
We haven’t seen the same boom as we did during the d20 era, but several companies still specialize in settings and sourcebooks across multiple systems (4e, 5e, SW, SotDL). Scorched Earth is Avalon Games’ presentation of a generic post-nuclear setting for Pathfinder 1e. It adds a layer of new rules, but requires the use of the PF core book.
What you get is eight new origins, eight new classes, some skills & feats, gear, vehicles, threats, and slang. There’s little to nothing in the way of an original or unique setting. The book’s art elevates the material in a couple of places, but that’s pretty sparse. The layout’s dark with thick page borders and an obtrusive page background.
Scorched Earth does the job if you’re just looking for post-apocalyptic rules for Pathfinder. Avalon has supported the line a little with Warriors of Scorched Earth, a collection of seven playable icon characters and American Wastelands which does present info for a Mad Max-like setting as well as a bestiary.
20. Strange Aeon
When a title has Aeon in it, I know I’m heading to Lovecraft Country. (Or maybe Final Fantasy). Strange Aeon has an elder horror cataclysm shake the world in 1978. That breaks out in Midwich. Given the British origin and flavor of the game, it’s no surprise that this timing coincides with Margaret Thatcher’s rise to power (she became Prime Minister in 1979. The actual game world is set seven years later in 1985. It is a landscape covered with a fog called The Morbus. It’s part of the bleed over from this alien realm. There’s a lot more detail to the backstory with a cosmic traveler and a single surviving settlement. Plus time-travel.
Strange Aeon uses d12s and looks particularly rules dense. It may not be, but the presentation and layout make it feel very trad. It reminds me most of the text design of SLA Industries. It has a lot of emphasis on the specifics of survival, resources, and rationing. The 2nd edition core book’s about 360 pages long. Of that a few pages lay out the setting overview, followed by 50 pages of rules and character creation, then another 50 pages of game keeper info. The rest of the book’s given over to special abilities, tomes, a lengthy campaign scenario, and foes. It includes printable flash cards with images of the different adversaries.
Strange Aeon uses portions of the Lovecraft Mythos and embellishes it. It adds a layer of high weird with the time travel aspects. The book’s interesting, if dense. It focuses on a particularly British place and feel, which might make it harder to adapt to other places. It’s setting of 1980s England has the same cultural split with US experience as Things from the Flood’s early ‘90s Sweden.
The first edition of Strange Aeon dropped in 2016, but I kept it on this list because the revised 2nd edition arrived the following year. As of this writing the core book, a player-facing version, and a set of game keeper visual aids are all available PWYW on DTRPG.
This rpg is based on a French post-apocalyptic skirmish game released in 2010. It’s set in the Europe of 2260 which has been ravaged and destroyed by a variety of disasters. The survivors have organized into factions for convenient tabletop wargaming. That game did well enough that the publishers decided to do a Kickstarter for it. The end result is a little odd. There’s a core set with rules, tokens, cards, dice, and maps. The set has an introductory campaign, but almost no other presentation of the actual setting. To get that you have to buy a separate set, “Pack A,” which has a GM screen, world booklet, and bestiary. A second release, “Pack B,” just has some creature cards, blank character booklets, and a poster map.
I’m always a little weirded out when a recent Kickstarted and seemingly high-end rpg vanishes just a few years later. Toxicity’s one of those. The game itself is based on I AM ZOMBIE, a 2015 rpg using Mark Rein•Hagen’s Axion Null system. I covered that game on my 2015 Year in Horror list. It’s a wild, highly produced gaming artifact.
Toxicity likewise has amazing production values but also a meta-pitch. The Kickstarter presented the game as a lost old-school classic from the 1970s, redressed and republished. That gimmick’s purpose isn’t entirely clear. The game’s form factor is a set of booklets made to look like the original D&D woodgrain boxed set. Its pitch is a 1970’s grindhouse toxplotation rpg, which is interesting in that nothing from that era had a look even close to that save for a few Erol Otus illustrations. Toxicity uses the language of Old School RPGs, but also references its gamist backbone. Is the message an appeal to OSR, a parody of that, a poke at storygames, or just window dressing?
In Toxicity a zombie outbreak has ravaged the surface world of the 1970s. You’re a low-class survivor scraping out an existence in the underworld beneath the city. You’re digging deeper into that underworld where all kinds of monsters and foe live. In short, it is a dungeon-crawler in a world that looks like The Warriors or Escape from New York. That’s a clever premise and the art and style are top notch.
But it’s also almost impossible to get now. It isn’t available on the DriveThru page for Make-Believe Games. There’s a Facebook page for the company which has a link to a website which only says “Coming Soon.” Noble Knight has a copy for $60. It feels like there has to be a story behind its absolute vanishing.
23. The Umerican Survival Guide
A third-party post-apocalyptic setting for Dungeon Crawl Classics. Umerica as a concept first appeared in the pages of Crawling Under a Broken Moon, a DCC fanzine. Crawling was “dedicated to adding over-the-top post apocalyptic material in the vein of Thundarr the Barbarian, Mad Max, Gamma World, and Adventure Time.” The zine had 18 issues, as well as a collection and compilation volume. This builds on those ideas but adds more material and system mechanics.
The Survival Guide’s a striking collection which goes in a different direction than Mutant Crawl Classics. Both share a gonzo sensibility, but Umerica offers a more grounded, more classicly post-apocalyptic vision of the world MCC feels much more high weird and science-fantasy. USG’s also more generally useful for OSR GMs exploring this genre. Where MCC builds deeply on its backstory concept, Umerica’s backstory’s rich but more open and adaptable.
Overall it’s a great release with cool art and simply, clean layout. It’s filled with a rich array of tools and ideas for GMs. Shield of Faith Studios has released several supplements for Umerica: The Umerican Road Atlas, a campaign sourcebook; Umerica Unnatural, featuring a ton of new spells, psionics, and classes; the Twisted Menagerie Manual; The Children of the Sun, a Meso-American sourcebook; and two modules.
24. Miscellaneous: Zombies
This time I include both sourcebooks and a couple of core rules.
Devil's Run Nitro Pack: A quickstart for this 2d20 based game of an irradiated wasteland. Actual game released in 2020.
The Living: Core Rulebook: A pdf-only easy-to-learn zombie rpg. Aims to be a customizable experience. Purely skills-driven mechanics. Has discussion of how to tune this to different kinds of zombie incidents (outbreak, apocalypse, last hope) and different sources for the zombies.
Rotted Capes: Survivor's Guide, Vol. I: A collection of add-ons for this superhero zombie game including new power sources, powers, archetypes, skills, and more.
Sine Requie Anno XIII: IV Reich Seconda Edizione: The second edition of a big setting sourcebook for the Fourth Reich in this Italian alt history rpg.
The Zombie Hack: A modification of The Black Hack from the creators of SURVIVE THIS!!
2099 Wasteland: An alternate timeline for the Hypercorps 2099 setting. This splits in the mid 20th Century and adds a post-apocalyptic wasteland to this already over-stuffed setting.
Death is the New Pink: A fully developed PA setting for Into the Odd. Mike Evans does a striking job creating a flavorful OSR setting.
Godless: A new PA setting for Shadow of the Demon Lord. Strong emphasis on Road Warrior-esque vehicular mayhem with some fantasy trappings.
Hellscapes: A post-apocalyptic toolkit and setting for use with D&D 5e.
Hope Inhumanity: I covered this card-based rpg on my 2015 list. This year saw the release of a second edition, tweaked and refined. Lost Cause Games also released an expansion set this year, Martial Law which added 80+ new cards to the game. It’s a neat format for a game and I’d love to see more like this.
Into the Outside: Multiversal location sourcebook for Numenera.
Jade Colossus: Ruins of the Prior Worlds: A single detailed ruin location for Numenera
The Killing Game: A rules sourcebook and campaign adventure for DEGENESIS.
Magic & Techno-Sorcery (Second Edition) & The Zombie Plagues Expanded Edition: Two sourcebooks for APOCalypse 2500. The first adds new magic options and the latter digs into zombies.
Ninth World Bestiary 2: As you might guess from the name, a new bestiary for Numenera. You might be saying, “Lowell, sometimes you put Numenera stuff together into its own entry above. Why are these here?” First, look how freaking long this list is already. I mean technically 2099 Wasteland, Godless, and Hellspaces ought to have a larger entry above, but c’mon. Also I’m making more new arbitrary cut-off 3 or more items, 4+ or more if one of them’s just a bestiary.
Valley of the Misery Machine: The final regional sourcebook for Dystopia Rising. I have to say that’s one of the most evocative titles I’ve seen. Makes me want to check it out despite not digging DR.
History of Steampunk & Victoriana RPGs
History of Cyberpunk RPGs
History of Superhero RPGs
History of Horror RPGs
History of Wild West RPGs
History of Licensed RPGs
History of Post-Apocalyptic RPGs (Part One: 1976-1984)
History of Post-Apocalyptic RPGs (Part Two: 1985-1987)
History of Post-Apocalyptic RPGs (Part Three: 1988-1990)
History of Post-Apocalyptic RPGs (Part Four: 1991-1993)
History of Post-Apocalyptic RPGs (Part Five: 1994-1996)
History of Post-Apocalyptic RPGs (Part Six: 1997-1999)
History of Post-Apocalyptic RPGs (Part Seven: 2002-2002)
History of Post-Apocalyptic RPGs (Part Eight: 2003)
History of Post-Apocalyptic RPGs (Part Nine: 2004-2005)
History of Post-Apocalyptic RPGs (Part Ten: 2006)
History of Post-Apocalyptic RPGs (Part Eleven: 2007)
History of Post-Apocalyptic RPGs (Part Twelve: 2008)
History of Post-Apocalyptic RPGs (Part 13: 2009)
History of Post-Apocalyptic RPGs (Part 14: 2010)
History of Post-Apocalyptic RPGs (Part 15: 2011)
History of Post-Apocalyptic RPGs (Part 16: 2012)
History of Post-Apocalyptic RPGs (Part 17: 2013)
The Year in Post-Apocalyptic RPGs 2014
The Year in Post Apocalyptic RPGs 2015: Part One
The Year in Post Apocalyptic RPGs 2015: Part Two
History of Post-Apocalyptic RPGs (Part 20: 2016)