SURVIVAL AT ALL COSTS: THE WASTELAND SETTLEMENTS
Humans are a stubborn species.
The bombs came down, the bioweapons spread silent death, and all the works of humanity came crumbling down.
And the survivors mourned, and went on.
Children were born dead or twisted, slow radiation sickness claimed the weak, bandits rose up to torment their fellow men, and the only law was the law of the gun.
And the survivors gritted their teeth, and went on.
One nasty bioweapon, the MORTE virus, twisted its victims into unnatural, rotting cannibals.
The survivors put a bounty on ghouls, learned to stay indoors at night, and went on.
Then the corporations rolled through, using the wastelands as their own personal battleground, torching villages that collaborated with rival corporations, and press-ganging the healthy to fight pointless wars over land that wasn’t theirs.
And the survivors hunkered down, shot back when they could, hid, or did whatever they could to stay alive, and went on.
Magic came back, and strange predators and threats added to the huge number of ways to die out in the wastes. Some children started being born metahuman, to the fear and worry of their unknowing parents. The dragons returned, and claimed land as their own, devouring or burning any who stood against them.
The survivors got over their shock, found allies where they could, learned how to use magic, stayed out of the way of the dragons, and went on.
The villages, or groups of families that survived this ordeal are now towns and cities today. They are the stubborn ones, the ones that either chose not to flee their land, or that found good land to settle on, and held it against all odds. They are frontier towns that could die to the last man, or become uninhabitable if the wrong thing happens at the wrong time, and they know it. They face countless hardships and threats, and it isn’t about to end any time in the near future.
But they survive, and they go on, and most of the time, that is enough.
Wasteland Settlements offer the freedom to do whatever you damn well please, within reason. If you want land, all you have to do is find some unclaimed land and hold it. If you want a family, all you have to do is find a mate and raise children. If you want something that’s within your ability to make, just gather the materials and make it. And if trouble comes your way, you’ve got quite a few neighbors with guns to watch your back.
All of this comes at a price. Anything could wander in from the wastes, and often does. Medical care is unreliable at best, and if something happens to the local doc you may be out of luck. If you’ve got a generator and know how to use it, then you can have electricity. If you’re good with pipes, and have an unpolluted aquifer, then you might have running water. If you can make something useful or of value, or provide a service, then you might be able to earn a few dollars.
The technology level in the average settlement ranges from 1890 to 1950. Even then, a lot of essential infrastructure just isn’t there, even in the larger settlements. There are no real factories left out in the wastelands, so everything has to be made by hand. Fortunately, advanced tools are available that allow a skilled craftsman to make technology on par with a machine shop. Unfortunately, it takes time and skill to use these tools properly. Most settlements are lucky to have running water and partial electricity, usually from a coal-burning setup, or a bunch of windmill dynamos. Vehicles are rare, and usually handed down as heirlooms through generations. In this case, they’re usually converted to ethanol burners and only used during emergencies.
The upside to living in a wasteland settlement is that locals are rarely prejudiced against metahumans, mutants, or magic. As long as you’re local, that is. People are people, and if you grew up playing with your neighbors, helping them out when they got in trouble, and marrying into their family then it’s hard to get racist when one of them pops out a metahuman baby. Healthy kids are uncommon nowadays, ANY baby that survives and isn’t sickly is a cause for celebration. And magic earns a certain amount of superstitious respect, as long as you don’t get too weird with it. Magic’s useful for patchin’ people up when the doc ain’t around, and throwing lightning at attacking rusters is a good way to earn goodwill. Magic makes things EASIER, and easy's rare out here.
The downside to local settlements comes if you don’t fit in, or you’re a traveler from outside, or you have manners that mark you as an obvious enclave-dweller. The disadvantage of a tight-knit community is that you have to earn respect and acceptance if you want to get anywhere with them. That takes time, or some seriously good deeds. The weirder you look and act, the harder a time of it you’ll have, but eventually you’ll be accepted by most of the community.
Unless you’re corp.
The corporations have won no love in most settlements. The corp wars were hard on the wastelanders, and many think the dragons should’ve wiped the corps out when they had the chance. But the absolute worst part of it, is that the corporation folks act so high-handed! They act like they’re better than the folks who live out here, and that simply doesn’t fly.
It’s not always hatred, but usually it’s a good dose of envy, mixed with jealousy, and annoyance at the ignorance that a lot of enclave-types display in the wastes. Wastelander settlements will trade with corporation folks, they’ll tolerate them passing through, but they won’t let them stay unless there’s a seriously good reason to do so. After all, if the corporation’s so good, why don’t they go back where they came from? Corporations have to go through a LOT to get footholds in most settlements, and the locals like that just fine.
Mind you, this isn’t a universal law. Some towns get on fine with corporations in general, or a specific corporation. Relations vary from settlement to settlement, and a lot depends on the past, and present relations. Of course, many of the settlements that like corporate company end up becoming franchise towns, eventually.
On the other end of the spectrum, some settlements are home to people who have escaped or been kicked out of corporate enclaves. There’s little love lost there, and corps that enter the area can usually expect to get cussed out, avoided, or shot at.
All that aside, the wastelander settlements are all unique in their own ways. Lund’s a fortified camp with a few crude manufactories and a vast wall between it and the crater, while Poor Smoth is a strip of settled land against the river, with a wild forest at its back. Hathens still has stone buildings, working sewers, and electricity in most of its neighborhoods. Some settlements are just three families in close proximity, while others are a waystation out in the middle of the woods, owned and operated by everyone that lives there. Some have a government, others have a dictator, and some live in total anarchy, where the law of the gun is the only law around. Some are founded around a religion, while others were founded because the land was good. All of them are different, and all of them present different risks and opportunities.