Upheaval, Day One (Episode 1)
Douglas Collins looks up from his laptop at a muted television broadcast. There’s a red banner at the bottom of the screen and the text scrolling past says “Los Santos Police instruct citizens to say indoors.” Douglas sighs, grabs the TV remote, and mutters “now what.”
Moments after unmuting the TV, Douglas is shoving a .45 pistol into a boot holster and picking up a sheathed knife. He picks up his cell phone and notices the “no signal” warning in the top corner. “Damn.” He grabs a set of keys hanging by the door and heads outside to a car generously described as a “beater.”
Douglas drives towards the Sisyphus Theater where Catherine works. There’s little traffic on the rural mountain roads in between their rented trailer in Harmony and the outdoor amphitheater where Catherine works as a stage manager. Douglas pulls up at the theater and parks. Two staff members push past him as he walks into the front office.
“Where’s Catherine?” Douglas ask a unaware receptionist whom Douglas has momentarily forgotten their name.
“Oh, Doug. Hi.” they pop their head up from packing a bag. “You must have just missed her. She got a ride home with Judy.”
“Of course. Phones aren’t working.” Douglas waves his phone in the air. “You, uh, need a ride anywhere?”
“No, thank you. I’m headed out myself, going to try to get some food before it is all gone.”
Food. Douglas remembered how quickly food shelves had emptied out during the COVID pandemic lockdown. He nods his head at the receptionist and heads back to his car. He racks his brain for the route to the closest supermarket without the benefit of his phone’s mapping software.
Douglas frowns as he drives down from the Foothills pass and nears the 24/7 Supermarket in Vinewood. The building is on fire and there’s a chaotic mess of people and cars. He pauses to think about his next steps but before he gather his thoughts two people are on either side of his vehicle.
“Get out.” says one, pointed a gun at him.
Douglas thinks about reaching for his gun but it is no use, he raises his hands instead. “Alright, no need for trouble.”
The individual on the other side comes around and opens the door and motions for Douglas to exit the vehicle. Douglas complies and the person closer to the door gets in. The other, keeping the gun trained on Douglas, moves around to the passenger side.
Half-hour later, Douglas is on the 760 Los Santos Transit bus that drops him off at the edge of Vinewood Park. It takes over two hours to walk the rest of the way back to Harmony but Douglas is relived to find Catherine back at home. The two embrace while the sun sets.
I was doing some research to play a post post-apocalyptic solo game and I became enthralled with All Things Zombie: Evolution from Two Hour Wargames. The book links to an interesting starter scenario called “Day One” which walks you through a series of questions to develop the backstory of your main character. I used the Mythic Gamemaster Emulator to answer those questions and ended up with our protagonist “Douglas Collins.” Doug is a “Clean Criminal” which I took to mean a computer hacker who scored an “Exceptional Yes” to the “have you ever fired a gun?” backstory question. Doug also got a “Exceptional No” to “do you live in a house?” which I took to mean that Doug was renting a run-down trailer. Details such having a “significant other” (but no kids) turned into Doug’s partner Catherine.
For the setting I wanted something modern day, familiar, but self-contained. Video games often provide such settings and it occurred to me that the fictional world of Grand Theft Auto V’s Los Santos would be perfect.
The “Day One” starter scenario next has you play through a mini-game where you try to get back together with your family (if you have one), take stock of your supplies, and maybe pickup a few extras in those first few chaotic hours.
Douglas bombed a bunch of rolls which ended up with things like just missing Catherine at her place of work, arriving to a burned out grocery store, and having their car stolen from them. Still they have some food at home and Doug is armed.
ATZ: Evolution lacks the “Attributes” that I’m used to seeing in other THW titles but they are present in the previous (Final Fade Out) and newer (End of Days) versions of the game. I originally thought I might start with End of Days, the newest version, but I found it was lacking in several rules that existed in previous versions. Evolution seems to have the right balance of streamlining and rules as my base set. As with all THW titles, you can lift and drop-in just about any sub-system from another title. I’ll likely pull things in from After the Horseman (their zombie-less post-apocalyptic game) and even things like “cold weather” effects from the Nuts! Compendium. This is the strength, and weakness, of the THW line - there’s a lot of it, it is confusing to figure out which version has what, and is most up-to-date. Once you cobble it all together it runs very smoothly for solitaire play.