The world is over, ended in a nuclear fireball that ripped apart the fabric of the world. Through the ragged hole, the Dark Gods now exert their influence, fueling soul-harvesting necromancers and raising radioactive undead horrors to wander the land.
Away from Ground Zero, humanity still scratches out an existence in the dusty wastelands. Poor sods harvest sickly, twisted crops, while hordes of mutants roam the empty highways preying on the weak. Dusty cities are the graveyards of civilization, haunted by lunatics and ruled by unnamed horrors in the dark subways and sewer systems. Independent roamers travel the land, making fortunes in junk, protecting the cowering innocents, or bringing death to the unsuspecting.
The world is haunted by the echoes and artifacts of the past. Each new birth is a unique blend of memory, mutation, and madness. And yet... amidst all the darkness, perhaps there's still some light to be saved. If only a handful of roamers had the balls to stand up and be real heroes. If only they would roar to the rescue on their massive motorcycles, bearing scavenged shotguns and katana swords, and blast all this darkness back to the Hell from whence it came!
Heavy Metal Atomic Wasteland has a dark, edgy undercurrent, but, on the surface, it is meant to be a fast-paced, action-packed adventure with a fair amount of quirky humor thrown in. In short: "Yeah, it's post-apocalyptic action cliche... and we're lovin' it!"
Conception Date: Jun 2008
People don't bother with maps anymore. There's two basic regions.
Ground Zero, also known as Hell, the Crawling Wastes, the Drawers, Sheol, Scortch, World's End, the Deadlands, and a hundred other names. It's a barren wasteland, crawling with undead and mind-rending mutant horrors. There is no food or water to be found, and few mortal beings can survive the radiation for long. It is whispered that at the center, the blinding brightness of the blast still persists... and behind that lies the ineffable darkness of the Void and the black chaos of the Dark Gods.
And then there's everywhere else, often just called the Wastelands. Certainly never a paradise--the sight of something truly green would be enough to make a grown man weep--but at least the brown crops of two-headed corn and muddy wells are enough to keep you alive. And so there are only two directions that matter: towards Hell and its horrors (hellbound), or away from it (hellflight). Yet you never really seem to get away from it... as if it just keeps sucking you back.
Muts are humanoids or animals that suffer some physical mutation or deformity--greenish skin, tusks, an extra limb or finger, a second pupil in one eye, a short tail, tumorous growths, etc. The deformity might be minor or severe, though if severe--tentacles, multiple heads, eyes on stalks, etc--one enters the realm of monstrosity. Though very rare, those exhibiting strange mental powers--such as moving objects without touching them--are usually also marked as muts. Those humanoids that suffer some mental deficiency or derangement--such as notable mental retardation or a particularly strong sociopathy--are sometimes called tards, lunies, or cretins.
The more obvious muts are generally produced by other muts in a horde. Others may have been exiled from sod burgs.
In city sewers and underground caverns, one can find slow mutants and moldmen--blubberous humanoids with rubbery, faintly luminescent skin. Some are known to exhibit a noxious stench; others may have a greasy toxic sweat coating their skin.
Sodbusters, also called peds (pedestrians), are your common folk, usually barricaded in little enclaves and fortified hamlets (called burgs), trying to raise crops, herds, or a family.
Some burgs are relatively tolerant; others are lead by fanatical religious or personality cults. Most sods enforce some sort of selective breeding in an attempt to breed out the mutations in both their agricultural stock and in humanity itself. They tend to sterilize muts born to their number, though the more fanatical kill them outright. Some burgs exile deformed members from their ranks, but this only encourages the growth of the hordes.
Burgs come in a variety of forms, from urban holdouts, to walled forts, to dusty western ghost towns.
Hordes are bands of muts, lunies, and cretins that rampage across the wastelands. The true hordes are bloodthirsty forces of nature, wiping out any burg they come across, slaughtering and pillaging all they find there.
Others, called gangers, are more subdued. Gangers often form "agreements" with certain burgs, offering "protection" against other hordes in exchange for food and other resources. Yet one burg's protecting gang might raid a neighboring burg like a horde.
There is no connection between muts and hordes--some of the worst hordes are pureblooded humans on a supremacy kick, and some of the most honorable gangers are composed of severe muts and even monstrosities. But sods still generally fear the mut horde more.
The US military had forces stationed in underground bunkers when the bombs dropped. These militants have been breeding down there for generations, still under a strange kind of military hierarchy. The militants have one driving fanatical goal: to ride the surface of the "mutant pinko commie bastards" (MPCBs), which basically means anything that's not a militant.
When encountered on the surface, militant grunts are usually dressed in frayed military fatigues and gas-masks with dark-tinted lenses. If the masks are removed, one finds that militants are pale, sickly creatures, with large black eyes and filed teeth. This has lead some to believe that the militants have turned to cannibalism (as an alternative to stale K-rations?) or even that their underground redoubts have not remained entirely radioactive-free. Unmasked militants suffer a penalty in sunlight.
But the militants have remained cunning, and continue to tinker with the advanced technology they took underground with them. Their massive underground fortifications are complete with working keypad security locks, sliding doors, and great air conditioners and ventilators. Militants carry modern guns, flamethrowers, and grenades, and occasionally use their black jeeps and helicopters. They have also been experimenting with advanced robotics (including GKRs), human-mechanical augmentation (biotechs), and other technological advancements. It is whispered that the Supreme Commander of the militants is now only a brain kept alive in a great vat of life-giving fluids.
The militants' greatest fear is MPCB mind control. They have been kidnapping any mut that demonstrates psi ability, and it is rumored that militants have been harnessing this power, and have even developed drugs and technology to amplify psi powers.
Militants have also developed a pill that reverses the effect of radiation poisoning if taken soon enough. Since militants don't trade with MPCBs, these are very hard to come by.
Giant Killer Robots (GKBs) were developed by militants, but most encountered GKRs are unaccompanied rogues. Their circuits may have malfunctioned due to radiation, or, more likely, they included a certain amount of bio-tech components that have atrophied or gone insane.
Most GKR come with a chain gun mounted on one arm and big claw on the other. Not all killer robots are giants though.
Sometimes--whether due to explicit necromancy or the ambient corruption of the Dark Gods--the dead don't stay dead. Instead, they claw their way back out of their graves and wander the wastelands, craving human flesh.
Ghouls retain a gleam of human intelligence, making them feral and cunning. Some have even been known to retain the ability to speak, meaning such ghouls can pass for human if they keep well-hooded and downwind. But, regardless of any apparently retained memories or humanity, all ghouls possess an unquenchable lust for human flesh. Combined with their greater-than-human strength, this makes all ghouls dangerous.
Zombies are generally more decayed than ghouls; they possess little to no intelligence. Instead, they shuffle in packs across the sands, unerringly drawn to human settlements. They often begin to moan when they detect humans, and this moan can attract other zombies in the region. Zombies will eat human flesh, but seem to crave brains above all else.
Most feared of the walking dead are those that emerge from Ground Zero. Whether due to radiation or the touch of the Dark Gods themselves, these undead have an infectious bite that leads to fever, gangerous black rot, and death... upon which, the victim also rise as an undead of the same sort that bit them.
Not only the humans and plants have been twisted by radiation. More bestial aberrations can also be found: leathery-winged horrors, multi-eyed doppelgangers, sentient carnivorous plants, giant bugs, sandwurms, and city-stomping giant bipedal lizards. These tend to be more common in the desolate areas near Ground Zero.
Also called wanderers or loners, some humans travel the wastelands alone or in small groups, eschewing the safety of ganger hords or sod burgs. Such individuals must be powerful to survive, and so are often feared and distrusted by sods. However, they are also grudgingly tolerated for any news or junk they bring to trade.
PCs are nearly always roamers.
These things make the world go round, generally prized in the following order:
The latter items probably fetch the highest price, but are luxury items and so PCs will probably need to find a market for such things.
For simple day-to-day purchases--like a meal or a room for the night--bottlecaps serve as a silver coin standard among sods; can-tabs and ring-pulls have a lesser value, along the line of copper coins.
Disclaimer: HMAW plays to the post-apoc cliche. As such, it includes adult material (often in a non-politically-correct way), such as the worship of dark gods, necromancy, undead, gory violence, human depravity, callous treatment of those with birth deformities or mental disability, selective breeding (eugenics), human augmentation and experimentation, and the unbalanced vilification of those with certain opposing social, political, or religious views. If the simple existence of these issues upsets you, then don't play this game. (GMs: please also consider the preferences of your players.) The author would also like to remind you of the difference between a fictional game and real life, between a character and a player. This is roleplaying: you can have fun playing an evil, bigoted bastard for an evening (if you choose to)... but please don't be one in real life!
Settings : HMAW
Last edited: 10 May 2009
©2008 by Z. Tomaszewski.