Campaign in Brief
The year is 2021. Nine years ago, the world's population was nearly obliterated by a series of disasters and wars that all began with the outbreak of the Walking Death. Reducing the infected to enraged, animalistic carnivores with rotting skin and no sense of mercy or pity, the nightmarish disease destabilized Eurasia and kicked off World War Three. Unlike previous wars, this was not waged against an enemy nation but rather against a disease.
The first outbreaks were in China, in mid-2012. The US military deployed the Joint Expeditionary Task Force (JETFOR-Japan) to help protect Japan from the flow of infected refugees. The nature of the disease was such that many people who became infected did not succumb, but remained dangerously contagious and many of them would eventually turn. Despite the American and Japanese use of force to contain refugees, many servicemen were infected and became so-called 'sleepers'. They were organized into separate units, wearing red bands on their right arms and adopting a skull for their unit crest - the Death's Head.
By December 2012, the United States and China were in an undeclared war. By March 2013, there weren't enough uninfected Chinese left to fight.
The world watched in horror in 2014 as the United Nations employed nuclear weapons in a vain effort to stifle the outbreaks in China, only for fresh outbreaks to bubble up in the Japanese islands, Indonesia, Africa, Europe, Oceania, and South America. JETFOR-Japan fought a retreat to the ports, leaving the Death's Head behind as a rearguard to cover the retreat of both JETFOR-Japan and the few surviving Japanese citizens. The men of the Death's Head were ordered to die in place and were expected to only hold for a few days. They gave the evacuating people three months and eleven days before they fell.
The fact that America remained largely outbreak-free caused many conspiracy theories, though in truth that was due to the highly effective (and incredibly ruthless) blockade that the Navy held in the ocean and the Army and Marine Corps held in Panama. Riots and civil war erupted in the United States, spilling into Canada and Mexico. Urban flight began worldwide, and by 2015 there are effectively no governments except for small fragments. Fleeing didn't help; the infected simply followed the food. With the governmental collapse, the United States' blockade failed and the disease quickly spread into the rest of North America.
The last transmission from Europe was from an embattled group of survivors in Ireland, last heard from in the autumn of 2017. They are assumed dead.
Intermittent transmissions arrive from Hawaii and other islands in the Pacific, but if there are any survivors in Australia and New Zealand they lack radio equipment capable of reaching across the ocean. They, too, are assumed dead.
Ft Hood, Texas, sends out daily broadcasts ranging from weather reports and entertainment shows to facts about the infected. If their census reports are to be believed, the population of the United States is a little under two million uninfected, with approximately one hundred million infected. Most cities and towns are infected-haunted ruins littered with the bones of those who died during the fighting. The Army and Air Force maintain a number of installations across the country, and they're slowly working to bring order back... whether the people want to or not.
The Dead War campaign is a struggle for mankind's very existence, but clearly the majority of the human race being dead or cannibal monsters isn't enough of a problem. A new tyranny is growing up in the relatively undamaged Texas region, and it's up to the players to decide whether they side with security or with freedom - or if they'll try to find the third option.
The plague, commonly known as the Walking Death, is very unpredictable in its effects. In most cases, those bitten turn into the infected people know and love - rage-filled 'fast zombies' - within minutes, maybe hours of infection. However, some take weeks to succumb - and some don't seem to succumb at all. In fact, about one in ten seems to somehow be immune to the disease, though they might show some manner of mutation as it changes them in ways not yet fully understood. Naturally, these mutants are generally shunned and many have taken to roaming the wastes, scavenging or raiding as suits them. Most people live in tiny enclaves, hidden and fortified against the infected and raider alike.
This campaign draws inspiration from sources such as The Book of Eli, Fallout 3, World War Z, Resident Evil, Jericho, Mad Max, and The Walking Dead. This is a setting wherein the situation is terrible and looking to get worse, but not entirely hopeless. Despite the zombie stories I drew inspiration from, this is not a zombie apocalypse story. That one happened nine years ago. This is a game about what comes next.
This campaign is set in the Aftermath era.
Progress Level and Rules
Advancement reached high PL 5, as in the real world. Civilization that remains is anywhere from PL 1 to effectively PL 4, though the knowledge of the pre-war world isn't entirely forgotten.
The Dead War makes use of all the rules from d20 Apocalypse except for virulence. Radioactive areas are common, especially outside North America (though fallout residue is common everywhere), but really the only monsters will be infected, humans, animals, and some robots (drones - the military uses a lot of UAVs and UGVs).
The Walking Death
There are three possible outcomes to infection: A fast burn (which results in turning within seconds or up to about a day), a slow burn (which can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to six months), and a carrier, commonly called a sleeper, which doesn't turn. No matter the outcome, the infected is still contagious. Transmission rates are something in the area of seventy to eighty percent through saliva or blood, negligible for simple contact. Blood tests can show that someone is infected, but those are rare outside the settlements under the Army's control.
The infected are still alive, but their bodies undergo certain changes. Sleepers undergo few changes, most often their irises simply losing color and their eyes getting sensitive to light (often accompanied by superior night vision capabilities), but the fully turned infected can turn into freakish, bloated monsters if they feed enough. Their veins bulge through their skin, dark with black blood, and their pale corpse-like eyes bulge from their sockets. Their skin and connective tissues decay as the disease consumes them, giving the infected a decidedly corpse-like appearance and making the more advanced cases into shambling wrecks. They're much stronger, much tougher, and much faster than the uninfected or sleepers, though, do not react to pain, and they do seem to retain some measure of intelligence. They are wholly without mercy, pity, or love - infected have even been known to turn on each other if there are no un-infected around, though such conflicts are rarely fatal.
Most common mutations: Darkvision, Light Sensitivity, Unnatural Eyes, Pheromone Repulsion, Ability Decay (Intelligence), Ability Decay (Dexterity), Ultra Immune System, Poisonous Blood, Neutrad Dependency (both require medicine, not the chemical, but otherwise follow their normal rules), Scent, Telekinetic Mind, Telepathy, Thin Skin, Ultraviolet Allergy, Hypersensitivity, Blood Hunger, Thick Hide, Very Thick Hide, and the Psionic Talent line.
Magic and FX
Magic does not exist in any form in the Dead War campaign.
Psionic powers do exist in this campaign setting, in the form of some type of Death-induced mutations. Psionic abilities are exceedingly rare; most people don't believe in them, and those who do are generally considered whackjobs and crackpots.
Stat generation will be a little different than normal, because I don't think there's any way to really determine appropriate ability scores for the game version of you. Dice are too random, and point-buy isn't random enough. This test is decent enough for my purposes. You might find it highballs abilities a little bit, but that's not a bug - it's a feature. I'm going honor system here; please don't cheat. You can either age your character as though they started from your actual self's birth date, or you can shift them forward in time so that the character is the same age you currently are at the start of the game, or anywhere in between. In any event, the characters start off at third level.
Of course, you might not want to play a post-apocalyptic version of yourself. In that case, ability score generation is your choice of 4d6 drop low (three total rolls, take your favorite) or 32-point buy.
You can play more than one character, though naturally not more than one of 'yourself'.
The only available character race is human. However, the character can take up to 8 mutation points in exchange for a +1 level adjustment (we are using LA buyoff, from Unearthed Arcana). A bout of the Walking Death that the character survived is almost always the cause of such mutation. Your character must have a biography which includes personality, background, and appearance in order to enter play.
Your character begins play with 4d10x2 TU worth of gear. All TU must be spent before play starts or they're lost. The only change is that the cost in TU for ammunition is per case, not per bullet.
You begin play with a small band of scavengers in central Texas. I strongly recommend getting a vehicle if you can afford one, but if you can't the convoy includes a 5-ton truck driven by a couple of deserters. I'll provide NPCs to help flesh out the band as necessary to interact with the PCs/drive vehicles/do boring stuff the players don't want to do.
d20 Modern, d20 Past, d20 Apocalypse, and the useful bits from Urban Arcana (mostly those not dealing with the setting itself, but some feats and equipment are appropriate). d20 Future is largely not, except where it pertains to an advanced class (see below).
We'll be using d20 Apocalypse as the main book, naturally.
Advanced and Prestige Classes
Most non-FX classes from d20 Modern-based games can be used in the Dead War campaign. My intent is not to limit character concepts, merely call out what isn't appropriate for the technology level.
From d20 Modern Core Rulebook: Bodyguard, Daredevil, Field Medic, Field Scientist, Gunslinger, Infiltrator, Investigator, Martial Artist, Negotiator, Soldier, and Techie. The FX psionic classes of Telepath and Battle Mind are also available, but those would be Walking Death-induced mutations.
From d20 Apocalypse: Lawbringer, Road Warrior, Salvager, Evolutionary
|This is the result of a Walking Death infection that mutated in an aberrant way. The character is limited to the more plausible mutations. |
From d20 Future: Dreadnought
|Actually the result of a Walking Death infection that the character fought off. |
, Engineer, Explorer, Field Officer, Helix Warrior
|Actually the result of a Walking Death infection that the character fought off. |
Swindler, Technosavant, Tracer, Xenophile
|The infected are humanoids, though considered a separate species from humans for purposes of their Xenotype ability. Animals, Constructs, Humanoid (Human), and Humanoid (Infected) are the only types you could expect in this game. |
|The infected are an appropriate creature for the Hunter's Grudge - and they're called Zombie Hunters in-setting |
, Nuclear Nomad
|Be advised that the mutations are limited to only the more plausible ones, and it's very possible that the character's mutations are due at least in part to a Walking Death infection that he either survived or is simply a sleeper. |
From d20 Past: Explorer, Frontier Marshal, Gangster.
From Urban Arcana: Archaic Weaponmaster, Speed Demon, Street Warrior, Swashbuckler, Thrasher, Wildlord
|None of its abilities are supernatural and it doesn't gain the Transform Companion power - think of it as the best way to get Dogmeat, not necessarily as a nature-loving class, and you'll see where I'm going with it. |
From Urban Arcana Web Enhancement: Sniper, SpecOp.
I'm using a variant of Unearthed Arcana's Vitality Point/Wound Point system
. It's mostly the same as the UA version, except for how they handle criticals. With a critical hit, the base damage is dealt directly to WP and bonus damage to VP (unless the target doesn't have VP). Only heroic characters - that is, those with action points - will have VP. It's very important to note that attacks which inflict poison or disease only do so if they inflict wound point damage. This is a good way to have a plausibly lethal zombie plague without losing characters left and right.
Instead of d20 Modern's action points, I'm using the expanded version
from Unearthed Arcana.
We're using fractional BAB. Good BAB grants +1 point per level, Medium BAB grants +.75 point per level, and Poor BAB grants +.50 point per level. Thus, a Strong 1/ Fast 1/ Tough 1 character would have a BAB of +2.5, a +2 in practice as d20 system rounds down fractions.
Feats use their D&D 3.5 version, if it exists. For example, Ambidexterity no longer exists and we're using D&D 3.5 Two-Weapon Fighting. Likewise, if a character meets the prerequisites of a D&D feat (that also doesn't have anything magic about it), he can use it.