The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway was published nearly eleven years ago back in good old 2008. I was working at a small independent bookstore when it was published and, being the guy for scifi and fantasy recommendations, was handed it by our manager. She said that the bigger scifi books tend not to sell as well because people want quick formulaic stuff nowadays, but this one had been done by the son of John le Carre, acclaimed author of “The Spy who came in from the Cold.” While she did not enjoy scifi herself, she felt that this 544 page book likely would be something I could push. And so, I got myself ready to sit through another so-so novel to sell to the masses. Little did I know, I just opened what would perhaps become one of my favorite books of all time.
Enter grade A hero material Gonzo Lubitsch and his unnamed best friend narrator, who is our real protagonist. In rambling first person account that combines a sort of stream of consciousness with bar side British storytelling, our narrator introduces us to a world gone terribly wrong while pocketing an 8-ball on a sex-scuffed pool table. The world as we know it today is gone and what is left is a few pockets of hardy civilization clinging around the Jorgmund Pipe, a massive steel pipeline spraying the reality sustaining FOX into the air. However, oh fuck, a pumping station down the line has caught fire in a BIG WAY. Luckily Gonzo is part of a crew of war veterans and truckers who form the Haulage and HazMat Emergency Civil Freebooting Company and they are soon on their way to their biggest challenge (and payout) yet.
From this point, time shifts back to Gonzo and the narrator’s unconventional upbringing in Britain with their exploits with frozen ponds, cannibal swamp witches, unconventional schooling, martial arts, political activism, and eventually into their life immediately before, during, and after the Gone Away War.
I will leave the rest of this for you to learn about, but let me tell you that it involves mad max road pirates, kung fu mimes, The Clockwork Hand Society, and flamethrower pancakes.
One way or another, we get to a world where the latest superweapon has literally blown holes into the Noosphere, the collective unconsciousness of mankind. A bomb drops and whatever in its radius simply vanishes, all of its information is erased and undifferentiated matter just becomes dust in the wind. However that Stuff reacts to new information, creating a strange new world where stray thoughts quickly create a host of hideous problems.
This is enough of me yammering about my favorite book, and to get to the meat of this. This would make an amazing goddamn setting to play in won’t it?! I don’t plan to absolutely faithfully reproduce stuff from the book as I don’t want it to stop me from making crazy post-apocalyptic wizards and shit, but really if your game is any kind of gonzo you should be able to pick up and drop in whatever from this. I know I’ve got several posts that are the “first” in a series that has not gone beyond the first, but hey here is another one.
|By Miles Johnston|
PC Level+1 HD The Ideal
Appearance: You, but better
Wants: To replace you
Morale: 6/12, Willing to fight you to the death
Damage: As you, but with +1 bonus on everything
The Ideal is you as though played by Tom Cruise or Angelina Jolie. They are wittier, stronger, faster, they are more cliche, less real, and more…Ideal. They lack your scars (except where they enhance sexiness), they lack your personal flaws (except where it makes them endearing), and they lack any concept of morality. They are action movie heroes running off of a script that only they can see and you are just some start up stunt double that needs to get out of the spotlight.
The Ideal usually manifests when a particularly self absorbed or self deluded individual is dipped fully into Stuff. Expect them to fight to the death in some kind of psychedelic evil twin mudwrestling match.
# of PCs+2 HD The Trauma
Appearance: A living town-sized fog-of-war, the stench of pierced guts, the taste of iron and blood, the sound of men dying
Move: Twice Normal
Damage: See Below
SNAFU: Every round all living creatures within The Trauma are attacked by one of the below at random. Only every third attack is real. If the players pick up the pattern and voice this, the pattern becomes random instead.
1. Bayonet- 1d6
2. Gunshot- 1d8
3. Concussive Grenade- Save vs. Stun
4. Machine gun- 2d6, exploding on 6
5. Flamethrower 2d6 + Save vs. On Fire
6. Point blank Grenade 4d6 +Save vs. Deafness
Fog of War: Every round of exposure save vs. Fear. If Afraid, save vs. Insanity. If Insane, save vs. Death.
The Trauma is an entire army’s PTSD given shape, a mental ward’s delusions given breath, a nightmarish fever dream from a thousand junkies. It is a hospital bed continuously emptied and filled with the dying, it is bullets from an enemy all around you but nowhere to be seen, it is a continuous concussive barrage that shakes your bones and blows out your ear drums.
The Trauma is Stuff mixed with condensed mental anguish from dozens of humans. It is not something that can be fought or stopped without a firehose of FOX. It is, in part, illusionary. Ghostly soldiers repeating the same action over and over again, dying screams from no where, charlie popping up from trenches that are not there. But the wounds it inflicts are real enough, metal wasp-like bullets, napalm geysers, grenades that manifest from nowhere. The Trauma is hell on earth as made by the most scarred of humankind.
|By Johfra Draak|
1-4HD The Monkey’s Paw aka The Unreal People
Appearance: A twisted amalgam of human and…something else
Wants: See Generator
Move: See Generator
Damage: See Generator
The Monkey’s Paw is the result of wishful thinking gone terrible wrong. It is a child who wished she were a bird and became a mutilated feathered-thing with hollow bones breaking under its own weight. It is the starving man who wished to eat something, anything, and now he can’t stop himself as he opens his anaconda mouth and swallows his friends. This is what happens when Stuff directly mingles with and fuses with a human. More often than not, the thing that is created dies horribly as physics denies its biology. But sometimes something that can survive is made, for better or for worse. The Found Thousand are out there somewhere, the Unreal People.
1HD The Imaginary Friend aka The New
Appearance: As human
Wants: As Human
Armour: As worn
Move: As Human
Morale: As Human
Damage: As Human
|Rakshasa by Dominic Qwek|
2d6 HD The Need
Appearance: A manifestation of a primal need.
Wants: To satisfy their need
Armour: As Chain
Morale: 6, 12 when there is a chance to fulfill their need
Damage: Examples Below
HUNGER: The Hunger will bite chunks out of anything edible dealing 2d6 damage, exploding on 6. Save when brought to 0 HP or be swallowed whole.
LUST: Save vs. Charm when in physical contact with The Lust. A failed save stuns the target as they experience intense euphoria. Further contact with The Lust drains 1d6 HP per round of contact.
SLEEP: Save when in physical contact with The Sleep. A failed save results in Insomnia for a day. This effect is cumulative.
The Need is the incarnation of an individual’s extreme desires given form by The Stuff. Any primal need can be manifested and each appears unique, taking on traits of the originator’s mind. The Hunger might be a massive salivating wolf or it might lollipop holding child whose mouth just won’t stop opening wider. The Lust might be an androgynous incarnation of beauty or a Silent Hill bondage nightmare. An important factor is that while some of The Need might seem like Unreal People, The Need is entirely made up of Stuff. They have obsessive alien minds and no hint of human morality.
|Apparently from a Belgian comic called Kogaratsu|
1-10 HD The Clockwork Hand Society aka Ninjas
Appearance: Masters of disguise, but when active as cliche of an old school ninja as you can possibly imagine.
Wants: To fulfill their orders at all costs
Armour: As Leather
Move: Twice normal, silently, always succeeds climb checks
Morale: 12, will fight to the death if ordered
Damage: See Below, more powerful Ninja may have unique abilities.
Ninja Tools: Each Ninja encountered wields a traditional weapon such as a ninjato, shuriken, kunai, kakute, hand-to-hand etc. Regardless of their weapon of choice it deals 1d6+1/2 HD damage.
Smoke Bomb: Every Ninja carries a smoke bomb for quick escapes, create a 10′ bank of smoke for 1 round when thrown to the ground.
Poison Pill: All Ninjas keep a deadly poison pellet on them, if the possibility of their capture is inevitable, they will swallow this pill rather than being captured.
Inverse Ninja Rule: The HD of the Ninja encountered is inverse to the number of Ninja Present. A single Ninja has 10 HD, 10+ Ninjas have 1 HD etc.
The Clockwork Hand Society has been moving behind the scenes since there have been scenes to move behind. Now that the world has nominally ended, the Clockwork Hand has made their move to begin the domination of what is left. They seek a world that is perfectly orderly, perfectly hierarchical, perfectly in control. They are every conspiracy theory come true, they are Big Brother, they are your Cooperate Masters, they are the Illuminati. They are not really Ninjas, but the difference is so subtle as to be pointless.