Monday, November 16, 2015

The Game Behind That Game

Fallout 4 is out now. But Fallout 4 draws on a long history of Fallouts... and games before Fallout. Indeed, there is a long line of post-apocalyptic games that marches back into the ancient prehistory of video games all the way to... That's right. I'm talking about Blackmoor, the first D&D setting.

This ancient lineage is as old as roleplaying games itself. But there is a more direct ancestor to the Fallout universe, and that is none other than the bulky, difficult, and weird table favorite, Aftermath!

What did Fallout inherit from Aftermath?
The real question is, perhaps, what are the essential elements that define Aftermath! as a system? I think by listing these, it will clearly demonstrate that there's a direct lineal descent from one to the next.

  • Hit locations: Aftermath! was one of the early games that included hit locations. Each section of the body is marked and numbered. Being hit in one of these locations may determine the severity of the wound and whether or not the hit can even kill the target. For example, no hit can automatically kill the target if it hits area 27 (the forearm). You can die from blood loss, but not from the wound itself. Smells like VATS to me.
  • Piecemeal Armor: This is linked to the previous point. Armor does not cover the entire body by assumption. Like H├órn, armor is piecemeal and only applies to a number of hit locations. Types of armor stack: a leather smock with a garbage can lid over it has two different stacking armor values. The smock probably covers areas 3-14. The garbage can lid covers 6-9. Thus, 6-9 has extra protection from the lid. This looks like something I hear Fallout 4 has implemented.
  • Strange Settings: The end of the world is up for debate in Aftermath! You don't have to have it end in one specific way. There are a number of suggestions on how to construct campaigns, about how long after the bomb makes sense, etc. One of the suggestions is, you guessed it, 200 years later (like the new Fallout series). However, the suggested 200 years later scenario in Aftermath! is much more realistic than the one in FO (no wooden buildings survive, very little technology, etc).
  • Bullet Repacking: This one has started to crop up in the Fallout series as well. Bullet repacking has its own mechanics and is part of the system of modifying ancient (or simply pre-Cataclysm) firearms.
  • Rules for Robots and Future Weapons: Part of the potential setting rules are rules for near-future pre-Cataclysm societies that have robots and future weapons much in the same way that Blackmoor has robots and future weapons buried within it. There's some of this going on in the Fallout universe as well.
  • Drinking, sickness, and survival: Well, this ain't in FO, but there's a lot of people who wish it was. So much so that there've been a number of mods created to add it in. Aftermath! is very concerned with scavenging for items, food, and water, and has a complicated (and deadly) system to represent it.
  • Notability and tracking of status: Depending on how tall or short you are, how fat or skinny, how beautiful or ugly, away from the norm you have a different likelihood of being recognized. Shoot a bunch of merchants, and people will probably recognize you if you're a giant fat man or a tiny little wisp. This reputation system is very complex and cool. The Fallout system is much less complex, but still, you can see where I'm going here.

"But Josh!," you shout, "these are just common factors in any roleplaying game set in the post-apocalyptic future!" Well, maybe. But people who play one type of post-apocalyptic roleplaying game are likely to play another. I'm just pointing out common genes. Get off my back!

Maybe they did it on purpose, maybe they didn't. But those seeds are certainly there.

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