d20 Apocalypse Excerpt, Part 2
by Eric Cagle, Darrin Drader, Charles Ryan and Owen K.C. Stephens

EARTH INHERITED - CAMPAIGN IN BRIEF

Earth Inherited presents a campaign setting in which humanity has undergone its final test of faith. A huge proportion of the world's population disappeared in an event known as the Rapture; many of those left behind have been killed in the events that followed.

When the mythical seventh seal was broken, the gates of Heaven and Hell opened up, bathing the world in a blend of holy and infernal power. Those who had led lives of altruism, faith, love, and good will toward others were taken away to a blissful afterlife, while those who were evil, selfish, and malicious were dragged into eternal torment. This event happened in the blink of an eye; people disappeared off the streets and even out of moving vehicles. One moment they were there - the next, all that was left was a pile of clothes.

The Rapture was not limited to Christians--Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and members of every faith were affected, presumably spirited away to their faiths' respective places of paradise or torment. Even those who proclaimed no religious affiliation, but nonetheless led admirable or depraved lifestyles, were whisked away during the Rapture. Those who were left behind were noted for a lack of faith or belief in almost anything of a spiritual nature.

Following the wholesale departure of most of humanity, masses of angelic and fiendish beings flooded the Earth to wage a terrible war upon each other, oblivious of those who stood in their way. The empty cities were soon ablaze from the war between these armies of Heaven and Hell and millions of remaining humans were killed in the crossfire. Whether by design or accident, however, it seems that the gates of Heaven and Hell have been closed behind their denizens, leaving them to their fate in the Earthly realm. If anybody knows who won the celestial war--or even if it's over--nobody's saying. The angels and fiends continue to follow their original missions, but their apparent abandonment on Earth doesn't seem to be part of the plan.

What's left of humanity does have one thing working in its favor--technology. This campaign is set in the near future, and technology has advanced to the point at which robotics, advanced firearms, and other high-tech items are not uncommon. Angels and fiends have taken physical form on Earth, and humans have found them to be vulnerable to bullets, fire, and other weapons. Angels may be the manifestation of righteousness and splendor, but a 10mm bullet puts a hole through them like any other creature.

Whether battling hordes of vile fiends from the cockpit of a 10-ton mecha or grappling a mighty angel on the roof of a shattered skyscraper, the heroes of Earth Inherited are caught in a bleak struggle of survival against the forces of Heaven and Hell.

ROLE OF THE HEROES

The heroes of Earth Inherited are grim survivors in a nearly empty world left to its own fate. After the Rapture, the world is a dangerous, uncertain place--fiends and angels (not to mention unscrupulous survivors) prowl the vacant ruins. Survival is a day-to-day affair--the cities have been decimated, the fields destroyed, and all semblance of order and law have disappeared. Still, isolated towns may have escaped the worst of the post-Rapture combat, and these can be strongholds or looting sites for the survivors left behind.

The heroes may fill many roles in this setting, acting as avengers of humanity's downfall, mercenaries who sell their talents to settlements too weak to defend themselves, or loners who walk the wastelands in pursuit of their own goals. They may decide to try to rebuild civilization or to create something new from the ashes and rubble. As the forces of Heaven and Hell dwindle, the heroes may find allies among the angels and enemies among the fiends--or vice versa--as everyone, human, angel, and fiend, comes to question their abandonment and the unending battle. The heroes may rally behind an angelic, fiendish, or human force in an effort to carve out their niche in the world.

ATOMIC SUNRISE - CAMPAIGN IN BRIEF

Atomic Sunrise is a campaign in which a global nuclear exchange wiped out ninety-five percent of human life on Earth. Nobody knows for sure how the nuclear war came to be, but those whose parents talked about the war say tensions ran high between the vast and powerful nations of that day. A rogue organization, friend to none of the great nations, detonated a nuclear weapon in an American city, and in the anger and confusion that followed, a larger war could not be avoided.

The world was changed, but it was not the end of humanity. In the tense weeks prior to the nuclear exchange, some people built fallout shelters in their backyards. Other, wealthier individuals had already looked at the dangerous future and constructed enormous vaults--heavily armored bomb shelters as large as small skyscrapers buried deep in the ground or built into mountains. Still others were simply outside of the most devastated regions; the worst they had to endure was the radioactive nuclear fallout.

While many individuals remained sheltered for months or years in the safety of bomb shelters, the radiation wreaked havoc on the DNA of those on the surface. Years passed; the survivors eked out a meager existence. Children were born, though most didn't survive, and those who did often had strange mutations. Some of these children were abandoned (or worse) by their parents, while others were raised to adulthood and themselves reproduced.

Over the next twenty years, the radiation on the surface tapered off. The inhabitants of the largest shelters had remained underground that entire time, but were finally forced to emerge. They surfaced to a devastated world. Much of the continent had succumbed to desertification, and much of humanity was scarred by mutation.

Despite the obvious changes, life moved forward. Communities coalesced, organizations sprang up, and leaders emerged. Some groups worked toward the betterment of the species; others simply gobbled up any resources they could scavenge or take. The roads became war zones. Fuel became an important commodity, as did weapons, armor, and technological relics from before the apocalyptic war.

In Atomic Sunrise, the heroes are thrust into this horrific setting, and they must decide who they will align themselves with, who they will fight, and what they choose to stand for.

ROLE OF THE HEROES

The heroes of Atomic Sunrise may come from a variety of backgrounds: second-generation mutants born into wild tribes of nomad, citizens of struggling but peaceful communities, or even unmodified humans recently emerged from the bomb shelters and vaults. Although the old world lies in ashes and expansive deserts cover what once were verdant fields, hardy heroes can make a difference. They may join (or already be a part of) one of the power groups described below, or they may choose to struggle against the oppressive powers that try to dominate the landscape.

PLAGUE WORLD - CAMPAIGN IN BRIEF

In the not too distant future, Earth is subjected to an alien invasion. Terrible insectlike creatures from another world, the spanthi, arrive in a vast fleet of massive, genetically engineered, biologically based space ships and attack all the nations of the world. Their weapons easily neutralize Earth's crude satellite defenses and knock out the world's global communication system. Billions of biological nanites are released into the atmosphere. These creatures destroy the Internet, chew through vast numbers of advanced technological components, pollute and ruin vehicle fuel of all kinds, and unleash dozens of lethal diseases that target only humanity.

This initial onslaught lasts several years. The spanthi are in no hurry. Indeed, most of their number are in cryogenic sleep, with only a skeleton crew operating their weapons. The spanthi seek to colonize humanity's homeworld, not simply subjugate it. Once Earth's ability to strike beyond its own atmosphere is eliminated, the alien fleet is content to attack humanity's infrastructure from a safe distance. The aliens' weaponry tears down much of humanity's technology, but does little to harm the planet's environment. In fact, many of the viruses and bacteria they release are designed to clean up the poisons humanity has dumped into the world's air and water.

More and more spanthi begin making scouting missions and landing troops in areas ready for conquest. A few spanthi are defeated and a little of their technology falls into human hands, but the trend of the war is clear. Humanity cannot win without resorting to weapons so terrible they may make the planet uninhabitable.

As the governments of Earth begin to fail, a few visionaries realize that the use of atomic weapons and biological agents against the invaders will soon become inevitable. Fearing the holocaust such warfare will bring, these visionaries use cryogenic suspension technology taken from the spanthi to create Rip Van teams--groups of experts cryogenically frozen and hidden in bunkers, ready for revival when the war is over. Rip Van teams are equipped with the training and gear to either rebuild society, or fight a guerilla war against victorious spanthi overlords.

In some ways, these fears prove unfounded. The spanthi, well aware of Earth's weapons, take steps to neutralize humanity. In addition to the nanite weapons they use to destroy human technology, the spanthi seed the most advanced nations with retroviruses and mutagenic viruses. These materials mutate Earth's creatures into monstrosities, creating widespread panic and chaos. This attack on the very DNA of the Earth could not be overcome with bombs or poisons, and as a result only a few nuclear weapons are ever launched against the spanthi. Riots break out worldwide. Cities burn. Governments collapse. The spanthi proclaim victory.

The victory, such as it was, turned out to be short-lived. As the spanthi land their ships and begin mopping up the remaining cells of human resistance, they fall victim to mass mutation as well. Their own biological weapons have mutated in the Earth's biosphere, and the spanthi are no longer immune to their effects. On top of that, the biologically based technology of the spanthi begins to sicken, mutate, and die. Within weeks, most spanthi warships, vehicles, medical supplies, and gear are useless. Only a few wire-and-battery devices are immune to the biological weapons, and the spanthi have too few of these to overcome the hundreds of millions of surviving humans.

The war deteriorates to one of small squads of infantry attacking each other with increasingly primitive weapons. The physically frail spanthi, in desperation, genetically modify themselves into armored killing machines. The process works, but it also saps the great intellect of the spanthi. A few trueblood aliens avoid this intellectual degeneration, but most of the alien forces slowly become reavers--mindless eating and killing machines.

A single spanthi mothership avoids becoming infected and remains in orbit around Earth. Lacking the fuel and resources to leave the solar system, the ship's crew has no choice but to watch the degeneration of the spanthi stranded on the ground. For as long as communication remains possible, the mothership advises the ever-shrinking number of thinking spanthi, but it cannot give them a sufficient advantage to overcome the human defenders. As decades pass, the shipboard spanthi die off, leaving only automated systems aboard the mothership. Within a hundred years, the alien vessel is a derelict, silently orbiting the world it came to conquer.

The lone spanthi mothership manages to stay aloft for three hundred years until its orbit decays and it disintegrates and burns up in the Earth's atmosphere. Because the cryogenic systems were set to detect when the last of the spanthi fleet had left orbit, that event triggered the reawakening of the Rip Van teams.

The teams have slept through centuries of war and, eventually, progress. While a few teams were awakened early as a result of malfunctions, most aren't brought into the world until the war they sought to outlive is long since over.

Earth has weathered three hundred years of starvation, feudalism, barbarism, warfare, and collapse. New societies have begun to develop, though most are limited to Iron Age technology No old governments remain, but a few modern strongholds take the names and symbols of ancient nations. The spanthi remain one of the greatest known threats; their primitive descendants have bred profusely and now form omnivorous hordes that can denude vast areas of land. Even the most carefully stocked and guarded bunkers are generally little more than caves now, their ammo and fuel long since spent. The once-proud cities of humankind are twisted spires of metal jutting out from dangerous wildernesses. Disease, mutation, vermin, and clouds of poisonous nanoweapons bring plagues upon the land, and humanity's existence is threatened once again.

ROLE OF THE HEROES

In a typical Plague World campaign, the heroes are members of a Rip Van team emerging from cold sleep after three hundred years. In most cases, the Rip Van teams entered suspended animation after the spanthi attacked, but before the full extent of the oncoming disaster had become clear.

The mission of the Rip Van teams is to restore order, give aid to the remaining legitimate government, and fight any remaining spanthi. Of course, the world situation makes at least some of those goals impossible, but the heroes are still the last vestiges of real civilization. They face a world plunged back into primitivism, one in which only they have the education and means to affect a real change in how the new nations that arise shall be formed.


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