Watching the World Die in 700 Horsepower

Building an apocalypse with your gaming group can be hazardous to your sanity.


In accordance with prophecy

Watch the World Die

Last Saturday, just as planned, the 700 Horsepower Community got together in a Google Hangout in order to play of very intense game of Watch the World Die in order to do just that, to find out exactly how the Apocalypse came to be and what its most important features were.

This is actually a huge and quite importance step in moving forward with 700 HP as a gaming environment. After all, there’s simply no way to tell stories in a world without a world. There’s no way to share your impressions of a place without a place. For those reasons, I was really excited to get WtWD on the table in front of us and felt really flattered that the designer of the game himself joined us as an observer.

You’re probably wondering how that turned out. I’ve got your hookup.

Watch the World Die with your friends!

It turned out fabulously, but while we have a sort of rough timeline of the events, they could stand to be smoothed out narratively. Let’s do that.

700 Horsepower to the Apocalypse

2015

The year begins with the Wasatch fault running through central Utah experiences what geologists refer to as “a critical event.” Salt Lake City is devastated by the first shock, and the aftershocks are hideously destructive to first responders and those attempting to leave the destroyed area. Yellowstone National Park is also heavily disrupted, with geyser activity going off the scale and the actual breakthrough eruptions in areas which were previously considered extremely stable.

At the beginning of spring, beehives are discovered to be mysteriously empty, their swarms migrating toward urban centers throughout North America but centered west of the Rockies. While there is no belief of intermingled Africanized bees with domestic strains, the behavior of bees across the continent becomes extremely aggressive and removed from traditional areas associated with bee habitats.

Already disrupted by Western earthquake shocks, North Dakota is thrown into disarray as a significant meteor impacts Mount Rushmore with enough force to destroy the icon of American monuments, leaving only Lincoln’s chin intact. Combined with the Wasatch shockwave, this meteoric impact rapidly followed by another further west damages the oil shelf in the region, leading to significant shortages in natural gas extraction as well as other hydrocarbons. A third meteor smashes the Washington Monument leaving a smoking crater in the middle of Capitol Hill and killing thousands.

Feeling powerless and under threat, the US government nationalizes the natural gas industry “for its own good.” Rationing becomes the order of the day, and given the integral nature of hydrocarbons to American industry, all sectors of production are hit hard. The Strategic Reserve was simply not designed to cope with this heavy an ongoing burden, and as the summer progresses and thoughts of winter drawing heavier in the populace’s mind, rioting breaks out nationwide as people’s fears of what promises to be an extremely cold weather as a result of the amount of particulate thrown up by meteoric impacts strike home. Surprisingly to some, state militias are integral in attempting to quell the rioting; their knowledge of an immersion in local culture, not being seen as outsiders imposing their will, actually makes some progress.

As winter sets in, the majority of the inhabitants of the Western states often willingly but sometimes at gunpoint are forced to leave the region, and vast caravans of civilians in cars, RVs, bicycles, and in the worst cases on foot, stream out of the area west of the Rockies and the beaten zone.

2016

The refugees can’t move fast enough. February brings one of the most violent geophysical events the Earth has seen in millions of years as Yellowstone itself erupts, the entire caldera going live as a hotbed of lava. While some had found scant refuge in Nevada, New Mexico, and Arizona, this eruption throws so much ash into the atmosphere that survival even down into northern Mexico and as far north as Prince George, British Columbia is deeply in question. It’s an ecological nightmare of immense proportions.

The change in atmospheric composition is suspected but not proven to cause the urban-swarming bees to actively begin forming what is referred to as “mega-hives” within many abandoned buildings in the West. What few survivors were holding on in the urban centers fell prey to extremely aggressive bee swarms.

Those who are holding on in rural and suburban areas of the American West have few resources to call upon, but the mega-hives do have one surprising and unexpected boon: their honeycombs have properties which have been entirely unknown in natural products before. The honey itself seems to be infused with qualities of healing, of power, and perhaps of other things. Intrepid survivors begin learning how best to harvest the honeycomb of the mega-hives and become known as Bee Keepers, becoming important figures in the shreds of their local communities.

By summer, surface water supplies across the continent are poisoned by atmospheric ash from the Yellowstone event. What’s left of the US government decides to act preemptively to avoid more rioting and places the entire Rockies region under martial law.

Despite agriculturalists’ best efforts, poison ash fall in surface water leads to entire crops being lost. The US government’s fear of rioting seems optimistic as the population begins to feel the effect of horrific famine.

Aware that what surviving population there is in the Midwest and East Coast cannot survive if resources are spread to support and rescue those who still live — if it can be called that — west of the Rockies, the US government deliberately cuts the western states off from the body politic at the height of summer. What was the force at the borders establishing martial law are now establishing the borders of the new States of America, letting everything from the Rockies to the ocean sink or swim of its own accord.

2017

Early 2017 takes the fallout of the American horror more fully international, as the particulate mass thrown up by multiple meteor hits and the Yellowstone caldera make their way west across the Pacific to the eastern shores of China, taking air quality to heretofore unheard-of levels. Combined with an already extant smog problem in many urban areas, the number of deaths is never truly known.

Mid spring brings new horrors: North American crops are heavily impacted by the abandonment of rural bee colonies. Without fertilization provided by commercial bees, there simply are no crops to distribute.

The lack of North American supply combined with the overall degradation of transport infrastructure in the European Union seriously impacts the EU. Tension increases as people on the continent wonder if they, too, will suffer from the famines that they’ve seen in America.

By the end of summer, that question is answered: yes they will. As transport infrastructure breaks down across the board, food becomes harder and harder to come by. As social stability crumbles and temperatures remain surprisingly high, water treatment in Europe breaks down, making the situation far worse.

Africa, in a surprise move, drawing on their decades of experience with drought, food shortage, and international aid attempts to altruistically “return the favor” for Europe, mobilizing food deliveries to be pushed north. Unfortunately, Africa is entirely too close to the line of survival to be offering its food supplies to the EU and much of the African continent, despite being unified in a desire to help others, finds itself short of food supplies for themselves.

Meanwhile, back in the US, the onset of winter brings with it the need for community formation to survive in a hostile environment. The western states, already beaten and brutalized by the figures that they once considered their authorities, aggressively Balkanize into much smaller social organizations led by local warlords, Bee Keepers, or just anyone who has a supply of food and water in the willingness to use it to build a society. Some of these fiefdoms survive by predating on their neighbors, but most of them are working hard enough simply to survive.

November brings news that South America, which has been largely untouched thanks to a combination of lucky tradewinds and physical isolation, becomes increasingly concerned that North Americans are going to begin to pour over their borders either for military invasion or refugee status. They have no intent of risking what they have for the dirty remnants of the US and leverage their existing and intact infrastructure into a significant military defense line in order to be sure that North Americans will not enter their territory.

2018

Perhaps one of the most terrifying event yet occurs on the coldest day of January in 2018: the final poke in the eye by the Yellowstone caldera, the entirety of the Pacific rim, the Ring of Fire, goes geologically active. Tokyo crumbles under the assault of multiple earthquakes. Millions die in conflagrations as volcanoes erupt which had lain quiescent for millennia. By the end of January, the ash blanket surrounding the planet has begun leading to notable and rapid cooling.

Early spring and Russia, which had already been suffering alongside the EU, discovers that the be problem is not localized to North America. The hives are simply collapsing in the northern regions and disappearing in the southern. Without access to even the resources of the Bee Keepers, starvation, dehydration, and general social unrest take their toll — the Russian economy is no more.

Spring brings a flurry of action globally.

In the EU, the population reverts to a much older time and no business, no personal possession, no person is safe as it seems the entire continent goes up in the flames of looting. Millions are out on the streets, rampaging, taking everything they can get, not just from stores but each other. This will set the tone for several years to come.

By contrast, in the North American west, the Bee Keepers are becoming ever more organized, building a syncretic hybrid of classical “primitive Baptist” End Times theology with inspiration that they received from their time with the mega-hives. Some have even begun either teaching from or creating (it’s unclear) a new religious text, the Beeble.

While the weather is relatively good, South America makes use of its new militancy to send “peacekeeping forces” across the new border into the southern Western Region and States of America. There are apparently no actual confrontations between the groups.

Feeling more secure about its northern borders, and being fairly comfortable in terms of natural resources and possibly the largest food producer on the planet, South America makes use of the Argentine nationalized oil economy to repurpose several tanker ships, fill them with food and water, and send them to the European Union. Some have debated whether that was purely for humanitarian reasons or as a bid to gain political power and support from off continent.

Africa’s governments, once at least notionally united in their interest in supporting European survival, have once more fallen into internecine squabbling, even as around with some the power and water architecture shatter under the increased load. Northern Africa, widely seen as having the most to lose, and does so. South Africa likewise descends into a complete bloodbath, no trace of government remaining as inhabitants turn on one another.

Temperatures drop violently in the fall, putting what is a lethal load on what remains of the EU power grid. Like Africa, the lights go out across the continent. As millions die in the cold, cursing the uncaring stars, the stars themselves seem to answer with yet another meteor thrust into the Eiffel Tower, as well as smaller impacts across the EU in general, apparently targeting monuments of every nationality. Those who do not die in Europe often long for it.

Winter, once more, and the Chinese, agriculture devastated by the loss of bees, infrastructure already largely decentralized and surprisingly protected, decide that the time has come to protect themselves from the possible ever increasing leverage of others. They launch a massive cyber attack on North American and South American Internet backbones. The North American Internet backbone really has very little to lose at this point, the States of America having already been functioning on a decentralized, military only, martial communications architecture internally for quite some time. South America, however, is hit particularly hard. Their relatively recent adoption of modern technological methodologies me that they are using almost entirely off the shelf technologies, making them extremely vulnerable to the Chinese cyber attack which has specifically been being prepared for decades. Communications throughout one of the last bastions of food production and social stability on earth are likely irrevocably broken.

The beginning of winter brings the last shock that the remnant Russian government architecture can sustain, and as Russia breaks apart into smaller principalities, one of the greatest fears of the Cold War comes to pass and in its final paroxysms, Russia launches what appear to be attacks on random targets with nuclear weapons. Every continent feels the sting but the launches are brief, limited, and generally concentrated on their neighbors whom they do not trust.

And thus do all good things come to an end.

What next?

Written out like that, it’s kind of depressing.

After the Horsemen

But fear not! This Saturday we shift from destruction to creation, creating the characters which we will be playing in both After the Horsemen and Machinas. This will be a purely character generation session, but really interesting things could come out of it. Who will drive a motorcycle with an uplifted raccoon friend? Who will be a worshiper of the hives? Who will be a gormless idiot who thinks of nothing but driving fast and getting drunk? Who will you be?

That’ll be this coming Saturday at 9 PM Eastern where we’ll find that out. If you’d like to join us, please do. If you’d just like to watch, by all means. If you’d like to keep up with the Community in general, seeing what new bits come across the table and where we could possibly go with the stuff — we’d love to have you, and your input about what could or should come next.

Come on by the 700 Horsepower Community and settle in. I promise, you won’t have to live in South America unless you really want to.

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