In the campaign I recently ran for a few friends, the Ruin was caused by a nuclear war, circa 1988. The cold war had not ended, the wall had not fallen. Instead, someone pushed a button and all hell broke loose. The game was set about 30 years after the apocalypse, in the American Southwest. The players, on the way to somewhere else, heard a rumor about missing children and an old, abandoned arcade inhabited by ghosts. Stumbling upon this arcade in their travels, the players decided to investigate. What they found inside horrified them and gave them nightmares for days afterwards.
The arcade was an old pizza parlor, abandoned after the war when the power went out. Someone (or something) had recently taken up residence and installed a generator to provide power to the animatronic, dancing animals. But that's not all they found. In one room, the ultra-violet planetarium decorated with day-glo stickers of stars, they found the ultra-illuminated, tiny bones of hundreds of small children. In another room, they found a play pen filled with plastic balls (the kind children jump around in). Beneath the balls was a squirming carpet of tiny, infant rats. In still another room, where the animatronic animals danced their routine, lay the sleeping army of adult, mutant rats who had spawned the infants and stolen and eaten the dead children. In still another room lay the two mutated, intelligent rats controlling the rat army. The players found them lying in a bed, side-by-side, holding hands. The male woke up when the players entered, reached under his pillow and pulled out a gun.
Such are the horrors that can be created in Aftermath! and witnessing the reactions of the players as they immersed themselves in this world, recoiled at the "sight" of the tiny, gnawed bones, shrieked in terror at the discovery of the infant rats and their mutated parents, and then fled in horror upon discovering the intelligent "boss" rats in their lair, remains one of the best play experiences I've ever had, and well worth the weeks of headaches caused by learning the labyrinthine rule system. We've yet to finish that campaign, but I have a feeling when we do, 90 percent of the players will die. Perhaps I'll consult the table.
Russ Pitts is an Associate Editor for The Escapist. His blog can be found at www.falsegravity.com.