So, I hit the theaters Monday morning to see Mad Max: Fury Road. I was 14 when I saw The Road Warrior in the theater, and I had been entranced. Like many of the kids of this period that would go on to be artists, writers, gamers, I was inevitably influenced in my view of the future by The Road Warrior (much more, I would suggest, than Mad Max) and Blade Runner. Dystopian futures were industrial and rainy, with a noir flavor; the apocalypse were car in the desert.

Recently, I had already been looking at doing a more tradition post-apocalyptic game, I think partly due to my reading Greg Rucka’s Lazarus comic series. Technically, I’m already doing one, with the Battlestar Galactica game, but that campaign is increasingly wrapped into exploratory science fiction and grand mythology. No battered, modded cars in the desert. No guys in leather and PVC, with mohawks.

I could start something new, or I could simply add a side campaign to BSG that followed the survivors on the Twelve Colonies. Surely on 12 nuclear war-devastated worlds there’s some analogue of Australia’s Outback (or Namibia, where they shot a lot of Fury Road….), why not do cars in the desert and tie it to the current campaign. Doable, especially as we are going to be exploring what happened to Pegasus in our campaign. (The ship and Cain are still around, but with the Cylon civil war, it was deemed a good strategy for Pegasus to take the fight to the toasters, and they are returning to the Colonies…)

If I don’t do that, what other choices are there? The classic nuclear war/war for oil/water wars of the mad Max universe are a good start. You can have the survivors struggling to survive or rebuild in whatever setting on the world you want. It’s easy enough to pick a system to use, as well, as it is a modern setting…just pick the level of crunch you want. Do you want the players to have to keep track of every bullet, so they can see their supplies dripping away? Do you want to use fatigue and hunger rules? Or do you want to keep it narrative, as in Fate, and slap scene aspects on them and hand wave a bit?

I’ve been leaning toward a Lazarus-like dystopia where, for most people, it’s the apocalypse. Governments got more and more hollowed-out by their populations’ expectations and finally collapsed. The world is ruled by big families that run multinational corporations…who they sell to, that might be a good thing for Rucka to explore. They, in turn, employ a serf class — those with the skills these families need to keep order in their enclaves, surrounded by the dystopian/apocalyptic setting for the last class — the Waste. People who are not worth the families’ time, and who scrounge and survive in the interstices between the families’ control. I can still get my cars in the desert, then deal with dystopian industrial city-scapes, or pop up to Elysium-like high tech cloisters where the uber-rich live.

Either way, the apocal-itch has hit and must be scratched…

So how to run it? I tend to narrative, character-heavy games, and am increasingly fond of lighter-weight systems. The scrounging for survival quality of the setting, however, almost requires a close resource management by the characters…how many clips for that Beretta do you have? Do you have enough water? Food? How bout gas for that Ford Falcon XB..? And the timing on that V8 is sounding pretty dicey of late…

If I go with the extension of Battlestar Galactica, Cortex is the obvious choice; just stick with the same system and setting we’ve been developing. But Cortex is a nice, character and story-supportive rules set that can be heavy on the crunch, if we wanted. Fate, less so, but the use of scene aspects like “There’s nothing out here!”, or throwing a consequence on one’s car of “Running low on juice” can get around the bean counting while still keeping the flavor of the setting.

Strangely, the handle the crunchy cars in desert trope, James Bond is a good choice of mechanics, as well. Weapons have specific mods, ammo capacities and ranges; cars the same, and can be modified — blow a structure for a Rousch supercharger on that old Mustang you’re cruising the wasteland in.

Got the apocal-itch..? How are you thinking of addressing it? What rules system, what setting?

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