Sunday, 19 January 2014

Ruralpunk 2: 10 Locations

This post is all about futuristic rural locations that can be dropped into cyberpunk (or Traveller, for that matter!) games. The two black and white images are both from the 1968 edition of Kansas Farmer. Together with the image on the cover of Keith Roberts' Grain Kings short story anthology, they provide wildly inappropriate illustrations for this post - too Big Science, too Hugo Gernsback by far. I like them. Fuck it - It's my blog, I'll be as inconsistent as I like (and as needlessly sweary and belligerent). 

(My friend Kasper, when told I was writing "10 ruralpunk locations", asked "Is one of them a small town at this point replaced entirely with spies? [...] It's a cold war in miniature, hidden beneath smiling folksey farmer types." I'm getting too predictable!)


1. FORTIFIED TRUCKSTOP
It's bandit country. A local PMC has a fortified caravansarai with repair facilities, high walls, a greasy cafe. A discrete, cheap brothel hides nearby. Guides and hired guards wait with light vehicles and motorcycles to head out with passing convoys. 

People: harassed waitress, meth-head pimp, farmboy looking to hitchhike his way to the rebel base, trucker, robot truck saboteur in disguise.

2. DRONE MAINTENANCE DOCK
A small but important business out in the sticks, the drone maintenance dock services dozens of autonomous vehicles from crop-dusters to trucks. A small team of techies drive out to find malfunctioning vehicles and bring them in.

So the important thing for 'runners to remember about these places is that they have equipment capable of fixing vehicle sized drones, which are functionally pretty similar to vehicles. They have metal 3d printers and tools onsite. People don't question strange robots rolling in and out of them, particularly in regions where self-made people are in the habit of designing their own robots. 

This is also where the local militia prints their fleet of recon drones.

People: yokel outlaw tech, farming drone programmer, militia rigger



3. ECOGEE CAMP
A large (FEMA?) camp full of people dispossessed by drought or flooding. Lots of people dressed in Heavy Weather style paper clothing, in paper tents, riding paper frame bikes, possibly operating a small paper mill near some paper frame greenhouses. State troopers patrolling the perimeter, officially for the safety of ecogees - unofficially to stop them leaving en masse for the nice clean towns (very similar to the ones they were just forced to leave). A network of good 'ole boys riding range trucks has a black market smuggling operation going in and out of the camp, taking in luxuries and drugs in exchange for what little cash the people have left.

People: brutal state trooper, black marketeer, child with distended stomach, people smuggler, someone holding the macguffin

4. INUNDATED TOWN
The place the ecogees just came from. Rotting timber houses, flooded streets filled with sewage, plants and climbers slowly eating the church, a warehouse re-purposed as the hiding place for a GEV smuggler, big ATVs with round, pumped tires rolling up to hidden meetings, high tech drones from the state police covering the surrounding bayous as best they can...

People: armed scavenger with a need for copper wiring, shotgun toting dead-ender, smuggler with an anti-aircraft rocket to sell you, team of bank robbers in hiding, military patrol

5. BANDH
"Bandh" is a Naxalite (Indian peasant rebel) term for an economic blockade of enemy centres achieved by systems disruption - i.e, blocking the roads, smashing the railways, firing signal guided rockets at the cellphone towers. 

Trucks move in convoy, protected by national guard vehicles who can't do much to stop randomised fire from disposable 3dprint automortars targeted by cyberlinked monkeys in the trees. Every bridge is out. Every fuel station is fortified (or exploded...). Rebel forces extract "road taxes" on side routes. Military drones lock in on small groups of heavily armed strangers and hellfire them on general principle. Rebel forces see small, heavily armed smuggler GEVs and blast them with electrothermal long guns on general principle. ...or because those same smugglers are trying to get supplies into the besieged metroplex. 

People: "Dicker" with a cellphone, directing fire onto a convoy, Military spotter, guiding in drone strikes. Independent contract trucker with a shotgun, Rebel commander, Child soldier with authority

6. TOXIC DUMPING GROUND
A lake downriver from the toxic spillway of an unregulated chemical plant, a river devastated by cheap pesticides, bunker full of hexachlorocyclopentadiene polychlorinated biphenyl polyvalent chromium nitric acid, wreckage of nuclear aircraft carrier tossed on-sure by tsunami, failed GM crop testing centre, clear-felled jungle, former fracking site...

People: ecogees, desperate people, criminals on the lam, bio-remediation assessors, VERY FEW COPS

7. BIOREMEDIATION CENTRE 
Bioremediation is the repair and recovery of ecology destroyed by human pollution using organisms that neutralise or remove pollutants. This could mean cleaning oil spills, dust bowls, fallout zones... 

The methods vary. We could be talking giant solar powered irrigation zones or a few scientists with NBC suits and pots of organic goop. Genemod bugs eat radiation. Oil spill gobbling bugs eat plastics, get out of control, and go on to eat civilization. These places are political hotzones as well - there's evidence to be uncovered or covered up, national recovery to be sabotaged, money to be made...

People: poorly paid scientist with a mortgage, political commissar, ecologist with a grudge, literally muckraking blogger


8. CORPORATE BIODIVERSITY ZONE
A few years ago, it became clear to a number of business sectors - big pharma, especially - that biodiversity was vital to their continued business in addition to the survival of the world, so they decided to monetize it. So now the zone is closed off, surrounded by guards, entered only by scientists, well paid tour guides, and the odd poacher. A network of science labs and PR centres surrounds the site.

People: tour guide, genetic scientist, PR person, park ranger, ex-government park ranger with no pension, lots of experience, a hunting rifle, thermoptic camo, and a burning need to acquire and sell some ivory


9. ANAEROBIC DIGESTION PLANT
See also: biomass gasification plant. A small renewable energy generation plant of either type, turning biomass, waste or methane into all sorts of useful materials or energy. Lots of visual inspiration here, in a post describing an Austrian green energy project. Some of these places are big money making operations - do you know just how much platinum makes it into roadside waste? All there for recycling plants to recover and redistribute.

There are lots of these places, employing lots of people. When these things explode (because some idiot 'runner opened fire on it...) they really explode. Sabotaging these things is a good way to cause chaos throughout a wide area, as waste piles up and electricity systems fail.

People: harassed worker, fireman, corporate supervisor, edgerunner sifting through waste...

10. RELIGIOUS TRAILER COMMUNE
A bunch of trailers in the desert or the backwoods, surrounded by barbed wire, covered in satellite dishes. A spiritualist televangelist sends the word from his bunker in Jersey (the island tax haven, not the mouldering post-industrial state). A semi-fictional private security company keeps the extraterritorial jurisdiction, the cops out, the people in. Alone and isolated, with the internet monitored and blocked, the population grow more extreme, more disconnected, more alienated.

When the 16 year old wannabe hacker's parents decide New Jersey is just too dangerous, this is where he gets sent. And where he has to escape from.

People: oppressed housewife, fat bigot, armed militiaman, lay preacher, stereotypeeeees