GURPS After The End #12: “Revolution”
I’m outta the wasteland– Billy Idol, “Wasteland”
I’m into this head, man
Fog and flying fish. On the road again. Conversations with Mindkeep. Politics. New goals. A promotion and an appointment to high office. Movie night! Looting the armory and gathering the troops. The Battle of Mt Hope. Cornered in the Mangled Puppy.
- Doc Rizzo Von Frankenstein Van Helsing, Hardy Doc.
- “Roachy”, “Ricky the Roach”, etc, half-tamed bombardier bug
- Timmy, juvenile goat-person (“kid-kid”)
- Francisco, Fast Nomad.
- Nabisco, his horse.
- James Robert “Jimbob” Eternity, Blessed Trader.
- Spud, feral kid.
- Liberty Vargas, Pure Strain Human Tech.
- The van, refurbished ground vehicle of the Ancients
- “Buddy”, a mysterious voice in her head
- Rufus the Dog, Mutated Dog Hulk.
- Buck and Otto, big dogs.
- Vine, Sentient Plant Scavenger.
- Vacu-bot 1000, a Roomba of the Ancients
- Herbert Walker (NPC), Pure Strain Human, President of the Hue Nighted States of Meriga
- Waja (NPC), really mutated mutant human, probably
When we left our wastelanders, they had made a hurried camp after being driven from Al Ectric’s house by angry goat-people Luddites. Francisco was up before the dawn and left to scout out the route ahead, with Nabisco carrying a large sack of land-shark jerky. As Jimbob sat down with his first cup of “coffee”, he received a vision.
“Jimbob – come in, Jimbob,” a voice spoke inside his head. “This is Shen. Come in, Jimbob!”
It was Shady Shen, speaking through the mutant telepathic powers of his henchman, “The Gimp”. Jimbob and Shen compared stories. Shen, Dewey, and the Gimp had fled Newtown in the face of the ark invaders. They had joined up with Gus and some other refugees to travel to the nearby village of Deep Water.
Jimbob interrupted to ask about the wastelanders’ loot that Gus had been storing. Sadly, Shen reported it was likely lost. Gus had refused to leave the valley until the arks invaded his home and robbed him at sword-point.
Returning to his tale, Shen explained that only days after their arrival in Deep Water, there started to be ark sightings in the area. So, Shen, Dewey, and Gus had lit out for Char-Town, where they hoped to negotiate a place with the Vulture Lords.
Just then, contact was broken along with Jimbob’s concentration. Alerted by shrill hunting calls, our protagonists turned to see a trio of vicious kooda – carnivorous air-breathing fish that fly by flapping their fins – bursting from the colorful foliage of a nearby tree and charging them!
Vine, Rufus, and Otto ran to meet the quickly-advancing kooda halfway, while the rest of the party took cover behind the nearby van. Being strictly carnivorous, the kooda ignored Vine, even when they started flinging salvaged lugnuts and oversized bolts from their built-in arm-sling. The pack split up so that two kooda charged straight in while the third tried to circle the van to flank the party. Ricky the Roach immediately fled.
After four seconds of confused combat, the wastelanders stood victorious. Rufus and Otto tore one kooda apart with tooth and katana, while the other two fell to a hail of gunfire. The wastelanders tried to salvage the meat, but found that kooda are full of unpleasant oils and weren’t able to get anything useful out of them.
By the time the sun was up, our protagonists were back on the road, with the cargo repacked and redistributed. Faced with heavy fog, drizzling rain, and poor visibility, they weren’t able to make it all the way back to Mindkeep. They were forced to camp on the western edges of the wide, flat area where they had previously encountered cannibalistic motorized raiders. Accordingly, they sought out a well-concealed camp site, parking the van and pitching tents inside a ruin with four mostly-standing walls and a caved-in roof.
The next day’s weather continued poor, with more rain and thick fog. Progress was slow, steady, and relatively uneventful. Walker spent the time talking, alternately moaning about the poor conditions and hardships of travel or laying plans for redeveloping the area once the Hue Nighted States took it back.
Partway through the day, the disturbance in Liberty’s peripheral vision changed. “Connection complete,” a metallic voice said, seeming to speak directly into her head without using her ears. It asked what name she would like to use to address it. Wonderingly, Liberty replied “Buddy”. A variety of new menus and controls opened up in her visual field. At lunch, she played a little Minesweeper inside her head.
Late in the day, as the sun went down, they arrived back at Herman the Hermit’s dugout, at the foot of Mindkeep’s plateau. There, they found no hermit, no ox, and no wagon… but they did find a note.
“Sorry,” it read, “had to flee the arks. Took the ox. Owe you one. Signed, Herman the Ex-Hermit.”
Once Jimbob finished eloquently cursing Herman and his thieving ways, our protagonists set up camp at Herman’s, planning to be cautious in their return to Mindkeep. They sent Vine with a pair of binoculars to climb up the side of the hill, pretending to be a vibrating cactus, so that they could take a look and make sure there was no ambush waiting for them. They found the plateau much as they had last seen it. The knights’ bones, and that of their horses, had been picked clean. No sign of ambush.
The group also set up the radio and tried to reach Jeremiah Coot, eventually succeeding. Liberty spoke with him, remembering that he considered everyone else in the group either pet, houseplant, or potential alien invader. She let him know they had rescued the President. They made plans to bring Herbert Walker up to the Mindkeep building first thing the next morning, deciding it was too risky to move him during the night. Coot pointed out that there was something that nested on top of the building that seemed to hunt by moonlight. Best not to tempt fate. Or the yexil.
From curiosity, Liberty checked up and down the dial on the radio to see what she might pick up. Far to the left, she found a clear channel with a steady, unpausing “bidi-bidi-bidi-bidi“. Buddy spoke up, asking if Liberty would like a translation. She agreed, and suddenly heard a translation of the highly-compressed language of robots. It was a series of mundane instructions for local robots, coming from Mindkeep itself.
Liberty broke in, transmitting her own series of “bidi-bidi” noises, to the great surprise of the other nearby wastelanders. She and Mindkeep had a long conversation, bringing the ancient supercomputer up to date: they had the power broadcasting module to complete their bargain, and they unexpectedly had also recovered the President!
Mindkeep was astonished, in a “soulless computer” kind of way, to hear that news. It announced that this fact had caused a recalculation of motives, as it would now be possible to accomplish its prime directive: to evacuate the leadership of Meriga to the “Cities of Humanity”. Explaining that Coot had been taking advantage of his position as human head of operations to chase aliens, Mindkeep offered a desperate bargain.
The supercomputer had to have a human in charge. That was a failsafe built in by the Ancients. Coot was that human. His obsession with aliens stood in the way of delivering the President to the Cities of Humanity. But if another human were to take Coot’s place, a human who would support Mindkeep’s primary directive, then Mindkeep would be willing to do what it could to “facilitate” that transfer of power. And, of course, when it said “human” it meant “Pure Strain Human with a command implant”, three being exactly two of those available locally: Coot and Liberty.
So, would Liberty be willing to support Mindkeep’s goals, in exchange for furthering her own?
Yes, yes, she would, in the name of human-cyborg relations. But what would it take to replace Coot, practically speaking? Mindkeeep outlined a few possibilities. In the case of his unexpected death or ineligibility for command, another candidate could be selected. He might become ineligible for command in several ways, such as losing his access through his command implant, or by unexpectedly dying, or being rendered comatose…
Liberty said she liked the idea of taking away his access a lot better than she liked the idea of whacking him in cold blood, but she would see what she cold arrange. She then went and shared this information with the group. Jimbob went to work, buttering up Walker and filling his mind with plans for future personnel changes.
The next morning dawn cold and clear. Leaving the others behind at the dugout, Liberty, Rufus, and Walker drove up to the top of the plateau in the van. As they walked up, the sentry ‘bot greeted Liberty with the usual bidi-bidi-bidi, greeting her and pointing out that while the robots in the building wouldn’t be able to help Liberty if she, say, wanted to commit violence against Coot, they would be firmly looking the other way. Liberty snorted at this. It was becoming clear that Mindkeep had little mercy, an appreciation for a direct plan, and a strong motivation to get on with its larger mission.
Meanwhile, Vine tried to sneak around to once again infiltrate Mindkeep, but the sentry ‘bot spotted them as they tried to crawl across a spot of bare earth. As soon as it appeared to take interest, Vine backed off.
Liberty, Rufus, and Walker were escorted to the command center where Coot made his lair. He came up to meet the President, who thanked him for his long and faithful duty, and relieved him of command. He would be given a medal and a promotion, to ambassador to Switzerland. Coot declined, saying he couldn’t leave the world defenseless against the aliens. No problem, Walker replied; Liberty would take his place. By Presidential appointment. (And Jimbob’s powers of persuasion.)
Once Liberty assured him that she would do everything within her power to rid the earth of the alien scourge, Coot dazedly agreed, and formally handed over control of Mindkeep to Liberty. He then wandered off to his quarters to pack for his new position.
Our protagonists swung into action. Liberty took the van back to Herman’s, returning with the rest of the group and the power broadcaster. She parked the van in the garage where they had originally found it, and directed a couple of robots to unload it and install it wherever it needed to go. They reported an expected time of installation of 48 hours.
Almost as soon as they parked, to Vine’s great joy, Vacu-bot 1000 opened its little green glowing eyes and started nuzzling at Vine’s barky ankles.
As the new head of the base, Liberty rescinded the previous standing orders that kept the rest of the group out of the building, and everybody moved inside. That night, they celebrated. Walker arranged for a showing of a documentary from the time of the Ancients. Everybody failed their Anthropology rolls, so nobody understood the movie, but everybody enjoyed the exciting lights and sounds, and now Doc Rizzo and Jimbob are calling each other “Maverick” and “Goose”.
Over the next couple of days, while waiting for the robots to finish their installation, our protagonists made their own preparations. Doc Rizzo brewed up a couple of doses of homebrew chloroform, after “testing” more doses than he saved, and then failed to harvest acid from Ricky the Roach. The others explored the building, locating and scavenged the armory, recovering a pistol and some ammunition. Liberty put some work in on Jimbob’s rifle, installing a rotating triple-barrel assembly to compensate for its tendency to overheat. Jimbob dubbed the rifle “The Redeemer”.
When the robots finally finished their work, the base lit up. Liberty discovered that the base had two working sentry ‘bots, several of the mid-level “Guardian” robots, and scores of the snake ‘bots that they had seen before. However, that was just the force available and active on the plateau. With broadcast power restored, all the robots scattered around the area would be coming online. While the others unpacked the van and storing their inessential gear, Liberty hiked around the bottom of the hill with an escort of robots, calling out in “bidi-bidi” for the nearby lost robots. She brought in a handful of new recruits, all relatively worn and weather-beaten compared to the relatively well-maintained ones from the base.
The next morning, they moved out, with the van leading a mob of mixed robots. They travelled over land, on the highway of the Ancients, through the radiation fields to the ruins in the south of the valley, moving quickly enough to avoid the worst effects of the radiation, but slowly enough to call in any loose robots they might find near the road.
Halfway to the valley, as he scanned the ridge line with binoculars, Jimbob spotted a mounted ark as it rode within sight of their host, turned, and retreated back where it came. “We’ve been spotted,” he announced.
Indeed, the arks were able to mount a defense before our protagonists arrived in Mt Hope. They set up a battle line and waited for the robots to engage. The Guardians were armed with electrified prods, and so had to enter melee, where the arks held the advantage. But, the arks weren’t so well-equipped when facing the machine guns of the sentry ‘bots. Some of them tried to charge and use their life-draining mutant powers, but those didn’t work on the robots. Slowly, bloodily, they pushed the invaders back.
As they took back more of the town, our protagonists dispatched snake ‘bots to find where the Mayor was imprisoned. They failed to find her, reporting that the only jail in town was a couple of cells in the sheriff’s office. Those cells had been recently occupied, but now their doors were hanging open and the cells were empty.
Finally, the fighting died down. The robots reported that they had the remaining arks, their leadership, cornered in a well-barricaded building in the middle of town: Mt Hope’s only bar, the Mangled Puppy.
“Oh, that place,” Vine commented. “They won’t let me in there.” They refused to elaborate further.
Francisco y Nabisco were not able to attend, due to other commitments, which is why they were always scouting.
We went back to the virtual tabletop this time, due to concerns over new freaky plague variants in general, and bugs being passed around the office in specific. The VTT has its good points – it does all the math for damage! – and I had maps set up previously, but it’s hard to hear everybody and not nearly so much fun as getting together with snacks and minis and clicky-clack math rocks.
The robots of the Ancients don’t have built-in radios, or wifi, or any of that stuff. They communicate by high-speed sonic “bidi-bidi” noises.
Lots of long-running quests wound up, so standard award was 5 points. MVP Cool Point went to Liberty for resisting the temptation to resort to violence and talking Coot into relinquishing power peacefully.
“accomplish its prime directive: to evacuate the leadership of Meriga to the “Cities of Humanity”.”
Hah. So much potential right there. And so many questions. I wonder if the Players are asking them or if in the haze of their newly acquired robo-army are they just not bothering?
Just riding the wave of robot battle at the moment, but it’s definitely been on my mind since it said it. What ruined city are we going to have to dig through next?
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I’m probably more cynical and paranoid, but the question that leaps to my mind is “What is Mindkeep’s priority //after// it evacuates President Walker?”
Secondarily… //how// is it planning to evacuate the President? Ancient aircar? Teleporter? Flying warbot?
I mean, y’all already have yer hands full with the Arks, do you really need to be teleportaled to like Mars, Disney World, or someplace equally horrible?
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How did you handle the large-scale combat at Mt. Hope? GURPS Mass Combat or played each NPC individually?
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Good question! Neither. Handled it all in narrative fashion, just describing what the wastelanders saw and heard.
I had originally toyed with the idea of using Mass Combat, but it didn’t work out that way. None of the PCs have any real grasp of Strategy or Tactics, and they only have very loose control of their robot horde. (Despite what they may think.) Liberty can point the robots in a direction and tell them to “Sic ’em!” but she can’t micromanage them. The battle wasn’t won through skillful maneuver, so much as wildly superior firepower and robotic immunity to the arks’ powers.
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[…] We left our band of protagonists contemplating a siege, outside Mt Hope’s only bar, the Mangled Puppy: “Oh, that place,” Vine commented. “They won’t let me in there.” They refused to elaborate further. […]