Episode 136: The Post-Apocalyptic Genre

Hosts: Megan, Todd, Timo

In Megan news:
Go to the Windy City Burlesque Fest!
Hear Megan on This Just in From Gencon!

What did we play (10:20)
The Shadow of Yesterday: Megan, Todd
Diablo 3: Timo
Vegas Showdown, Endeavour: Megan
Lords of Waterdeep, Sorceror: Todd

Main Topic: The Post-Apocalyptic Genre (26:45)
We look at one of our favourite genres, the post-apocalypse. We talk about what we like about the setting and what

makes it just so compelling.

Rants (1:13:14)
Timo: Cats are dicks.
Megan: I’m tired.
Todd: Rediscovering bands I didn’t like.

Other Links:
Atomic Highway
Hot War
Vesna Thaw
Dark Sun
Native American Apocalypse
Unhallowed Metropolis
Goorin Bros
Superstition on Iphone
Burning Wheel
Jesse Burnenko
Car Wars
Apocalypse World
The Colony
Dies the Fire
Canticle for Liebewicz
The Road
Dust Devils
Book of Eli
Trace Bundy
Crippled Black Phoenix

You have been listening to The Jank Cast, copyright under the creative commons license. You can find out more about us at jankcast.com. You can send comments and feedback to feedback@jankcast.com We are sponsored by Chicagoland Games, and encourage you to get in touch with us via our Facebook page, Spooky Outhouse Forum (it’s a little quiet, but we’d love to get it going again), Twitter or Google+. You can also listen to us via Stitcher Radio. Now go out and roll some dice!

14 thoughts on “Episode 136: The Post-Apocalyptic Genre

  1. I ALSO have a bias for time traveling stories.

    I just read one a few weeks ago that was surprisingly good: “The Accidental Time Machine” by Joe Haldeman.

    One of the best was Issac Assimov’s “The End of Eternity.” I read pretty long while ago, but make sure she reads to the end (heh). I thought I had it all figured out and was this close to putting it down, but I’m glad I didn’t.

    Oh, and also, great cast!

    Speaking of all this genre stuff, do you folks know any good storygame-y Cyberpunk games? One of my traditional gaming friends wants to run a game with trad rules where we’re matrix-hackers in a corporate run state, but I’m trying to convince him otherwise. I showed him Misspent Youth, Lacuna, and even Lady Blackbird, but he felt they weren’t Cyberpunk enough. Anything games come to mind?

  2. Timo, you ignorant slut. (Said with platonic love, in a Dan Akroyd voice). Deadlands: Hell on Earth is probably the best post apocalyptic game of all time. And a global thermonuclear (plus supernatural) war constitutes the basis of the game. Definitely post apocalyptic (even though the modern usage of apocalypse isn’t technically correct).
    And it’s going to be re-released at Gencon as a Savage Worlds setting, which should make it easy for you guys to give it a try.
    PS – the S.M. Stirling series Timo mentioned is excellent, especially the first series. And it a does make Finland sound more badass than the impression left by Monty Python.
    PPS – The Road is the most depressing book I’ve read and movie I’ve seen. I had better feelings after Scott talked me into Battlefield Earth. (That was more anger) But Cormac McCarthy is from Knoxville, so I forgive him.

  3. One more Post Apocalyptic game for the cast
    ‘Eclipse Phase’. Post apocalyptic trans humanist horror game. How can that not be cool. And then to add to the coolness, it has kick ass production value and is under creative commons, so you can get a hold of the PDFs legally, before you buy.

    Great cast. Keep up the good work.

  4. Hi all,
    Once again really great show, with a very interesting conversation.

    Before I forget I believe Todd talked about Deadlands and the Western/Post apocalypse settings and I’m surprised no one mentioned the entire Hell on Earth setting which was an entire game line using Deadlands rules and setting only set after a nuclear exchange.

    I have to admit being a little surprised to see this as the second genre topic. Only because it been a genre that has largely (Hell on Earth being the acceptation) been ignored by the gaming community for about 20 years (mid 80s to mid 2000s). Now I think there are some very interesting cultural reasons as to why the genre went quiet for awhile and appears to have made a comeback, but that’s a whole different conversation.

    I admit that I have to agree largely with Todd and perhaps to an even greater extreme. For me Post Apocalypse settings are just Westerns in another disguise. Now I’d admit the Western is my favourite genre (both for movies and role playing games) so mine is an extremely biased account, but looking at a lot of despotic/post apocalyptic movies (especially during the 80s movies like Steel Dawn and Neon City come to mind) you can see where entire plots of western were just transplanted into a new setting.

    Now I freely admit that I’m not up on the Post/apoc games/entertainment that have come out since 2000 (limited time limited money) so I may be off base as to how the themes have changed or been redefined but given your discussion I don’t think I’m completely off base about this.

    Few last points

    Todd: if you’re working on Western/Post Apoc game then I really urge you to take a look at Fantasy Games Unlimited’s Aftermath. There is a lot of really good material on world design and what goes into creating a good Post/Apoc game in there. One word of warning, it’s an early 80s second gen game so rules crunch is on the solid rock scale (seriously drag out your scientific calculator you’ll need it). Surprisingly FGU is still has a website and Aftermath can be purchased from them.

    Given your guys definition of Post/Apoc games here an interesting mind thought. The One Ring by Cubical 7 is with a Post/Apoc game.
    In regards to the discussion at the start of the podcast about skills in games. Perhaps a contributing factor to your issues around skills, is also the length of time your playing a specific campaign. For example if your playing in a campaign that’s 2+ years in length and very open ended then a wider skill set become more useful. However if the campaign is only going on for 2+ months something more focused might be called for,

    Once again great show and I look forward to seeing what you guys do next.

  5. Good comments, everyone.

    David: Try “Remember Tomorrow.” We Jank Casters are BIG fans of that game. It’s GM-less, super rules light, and very cyberpunky. It’s a little wonky and you have to have a group that’s willing to commit to it, but it’s a ton of fun. Also, Shock is a really good game in this vein too, but it’s not specifically cyberpunk, just sci-fi. You could very easily, however, make it cyberpunk. You have to come up with a world at the beginning of the game so all you’d have to do would be to come up with a cyberpunkish world.

    Sandy: Thanks for the suggestion. I’ll definitely check that out. Also: I’m very much hoping we get around to do westerns as one of our genres. I’m a big western fan, so I have a lot to say on it.

    Also, I think you’re on to something: we tend to play games quick so we can try out a bunch of them (part of being on the cast and all) but you’re probably right that that gives short shrift to a lot of skills based games which have a slow burn built into them. When we finally get around to playing burning wheel we’ll have to commit for longer and see how it turns out.

  6. Todd says
    *Also: I’m very much hoping we get around to do westerns as one of our genres. I’m a big western fan, so I have a lot to say on it.*

    The irony of that is that the western only seems to have become popular as a genre within gaming in the past 6 years ago. TSR had Boothill but despite 3 or 4 editions it went no where during the 80s and mid 90s Then there was Deadlands (personally in my top three favorite games) during the 90s but surprsingly did not lead to any real competitor.

    Hey there is an interesting show question, Deadlands is by far the most popular Western genre (as far as units sold) in RPG history; Shardowrun is by far the most popular Cyberpunk game in RPG history; Call of Chulthu (sp) is by far the most popular pulp era game in RPG history, All three weave strong super natural elements into there base genre. Is that a coincidence?


  7. To Timo’s request for time-related entertainment, I submit the movie Primer. It’s super technical, super low-budget, but probably one of the more accurate depictions of time travel that I’ve seen. I’ve had to watch it twice just to wrap my head around the idea of how they approach the concept. It’s no Back to the Future, but it’s great anyway. Also, I have swapped Time and Timo far too many times while trying to write this.

  8. Great cast guys. I am liking this series on genres.

    I do disagree with Timo’s assertion that Medieval Europe is a post-apocalyptic setting. My degree’s emphasis is on Early European History, from 700-1100 and I would not classify Europe so broadly. There were parts which suffered after the fall of the Roman Empire, but a lot of what was considered “part of the empire” at that point was not under the direct control of Rome at all. Also a large portion of these regions were totally unaffected by the fall of Rome. It is because of the lack of a centralized government that feudalism and manorialism were developed throughout Europe. Perhaps the closest resemblance to a post-apocalyptic setting within the early medieval period would be the fact that power was essentially personal, meaning that one could only claim the lands and wealth which they could directly protect. And though this image could be reinforced with the addition of the raids of marauding Vikings, I do not believe that I would categorize Medieval Europe as a Post-Apocalyptic setting.

    As well, I would not classify the period when Europe was swept by the Black Death as post-apocalyptic either. I would agree that it was a cataclysm of nearly apocalyptic proportions. However, Europe at that time had gained too much in the way of societal structure, notions of government and social structure were not radically changed by the plague’s appearance. While the die off of a third of Europe’s population in the wake of the first wave of plague could be considered of an apocalyptic scale, the following waves of the plague were did not have the massive effect of the first. I believe though, that a true apocalypse is not really possible without the disruption of society, and its structures, as a whole.

    I totally agree with Chris Hodge, the first three books of the Emberverse Saga are great. I also agree with Timo, the author has an axe to grind about the awesomeness of the SCA and organizations like it. I actually picked up a copy of the Kalevala because of one of the passages from Dies the Fire.

    And for Timo’s time travel reading-

    The Forever War by Joe Halderman – It deals less with time travel exactly, and more with the effects of time dilation from travelling a the speed of light.

    Doomsday Book by Connie Willis – Haven’t read this one but I’ve heard it is pretty good.

    To say nothing of the dog: How we found the Bishop’s Birdstump by Connie Willis – Haven’t read this one either, but it is high up on my reading list.

    Timeline by Michael Crichton – This one it pretty decent, read the book the movie is not nearly as good.

  9. I’m going to reiterate Ryan’s recommendation of the movie “Primer”.

    I’d also like to recommend the novel “Singularity Sky” by Charles Stross. Time Travel is only part of the story, but it’s integral to the world the story takes place in, and PREVENTING a form of time travel is the key part of the plot. Very good Hard SF.

    If nothing else, the following message, left on obelisks on every human colony world may amuse you:

    I am the Eschaton. I am not your God.
    I am descended from you, and exist in your future.
    Thou shalt not violate causality within my historic light cone. Or else.

    Basically, the heroes are fighting desperately to avoid the “or else” part of the above message.

  10. Chris, I take offense to Battlefield Earth as a crappy movie pick. It was pre-research for everything not to do with a post-apoc, alien invasion, and John Travolta movie. I think Ryan Reynolds could save the franchise with a re-boot.

    I prefer Hell on Earth to Deadlands, but both are phenomenal settings. The original rules are pretty crunchy, especially for Mad Scientists in DL and Junkers in HoE. Converted to Savage Worlds should streamline it immensely.

    Sandy, about Deadlands, Shadowrun, and CoC, gamer geeks like weird.

    Todd’s absolutely right about Remember Tomorrow. It’s a GREAT game.

  11. Yeah, My think about medieval Europe was probably more speculation and misplaced surety. This is not abnormal for me.

    Deadlands: Hell on Earth is different from Deadlands. So there.

    Thanks for all the recommendations!

  12. A few thoughts:

    The AD&D “Dark Ages” game run by Michael Shorten that Megan and I played in was pretty explicitly post-apocalyptic fantasy, taking place a generation after the “Doom” that had struck the world. It constantly felt like the walls were falling in on us, as befits the genre, and sadly our characters eventually came to a tragic end, which also fit but was a bit of a bummer. Our deaths did have an impact on the game world, but I think it would have been better if there had been a glimmer of hope pop up somewhere because of these events like the kind Todd was talking about in this episode. To be fair, it happened pretty suddenly and it would have been pretty tough for Michael to come up with something like that on the fly.

    I’m not sure what kind of style of game Timo is looking for, but I can say from my experience with Burning Wheel that it does nudge players to use the out-of-combat skills they’ve chosen to overcome challenges, and of course draws out the characters’ individual beliefs and goals into the story as well. The one big drawback that I can say that the game has is that the amount of record-keeping for advancement purposes can get a bit ridiculous.

    The “I’m Tired” lady from Blazing Saddles was, of course, the incomparable Lilly Von Schtupp.

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