The Morrow Project
A Look Back At A Better, Happier Time, When We Knew Who The Bad Guys Were
Damn, It Was Nice To Only Worry About Commie Nukes.
I have no idea, really, why I’m writing this. I have a very good (but not certain) job prospect which involves Angular, so, I’ve spent the last two (Edit:Three (Edit:Five (Edit: Eight))) weeks focusing on that and ancillary technologies, pretty much like a full time job that doesn’t pay. (A lot like this blog, come to think of it.) I decided I had to take a break for at least one day, which would be, uhm, today (Edit: Last week.(Edit: About three weeks ago (Edit: Four weeks after that.)). And then I had the odd thought, “Maybe I should do a walkthrough of The Morrow Project“.
Now, understand. I don’t keep my copy by my desk. I didn’t run a campaign back in the day. I don’t religiously collect every scrap of material released. It’s something I own (third edition, claims to be copyright 1980 but most sources say it was printed in 1983), and of course it’s been a small part of the background noise of gaming for nigh-on forty years now, but it’s never been any kind of real passion or focus of mine. (I do love PA games in general and thus tend to grab them when I see them.) I didn’t even know where my copy was, except that it was probably in tertiary storage.
Fortunately, I was able to find it fairly quickly; the red plastic spiral binding makes it stand out. (EDIT:If only I’d finished this article nearly as quickly…)
To my loyal (and mostly hypothetical) readers: I’m not active in the Post-Apocalyptic Gaming forums where this review/walkthrough might be of interest, and I refuse to be “that guy” who only joins/registers to post a plug for something. So, if anyone reading this (if there is anyone reading this, yeah, right) is a regular participant in such places and wants to link here, I’d appreciate it. Thanks, imaginary friends!
Delivery For… I. C. Wiener?
(For those uneducated ruffians who don’t get the reference, click here.)
The premise of Morrow Project is this: In 1962, an industrialist named Bruce Edward Morrow (No mention of his brother, Thomas Oscar), convinced some of his fellow businessmen to freeze their assets… and by “assets”, I mean, “people”, and by “their”, I mean, “other”… in preparation for a nuclear holocaust, which he knew was coming due to psionic travel to the future. Multiple bases were built throughout the US, gradually updated and improved with advanced technology, such as fusion generators, that Morrow recovered from the future. (Which means the writers, in 1980, figured we’d have fusion power by 1989, the time of the war. But, hey, why wouldn’t they make that assumption? Fusion power is always just ten years away, just like true AI.)
The original intent was to have the central base (aka Prime Base) awaken the other teams with a signal when it was time to arise, but that went awry. Prime Base activated on schedule. Their first excursions were promising, but before things had reached the point where the “wakey-wakey” signal could be sent, they got involved in a war with “a madman named Krell”. Krell used a remaining nuke to destroy the nascent colony and took out Prime Base through “biological sabotage”, which is a little vague. The upshot is, the other bases never got their wake-up call, and thus slumbered peacefully through the next 150 years.
The PCs are members of a team frozen in some other, non-Prime base, who expected to awaken a few years post-war. When they do finally activate, they find the world isn’t at all like what the recruitment brochures promised. (If the GM somehow manages to keep the full game premise from the players, and sells them on the idea the game is set 20 or so years post-war, with a lot of focus on rebuilding a world where most adults will remember pre-war society, and then having them slowly realize something has gone really wrong, it would be a lot of fun. Granted, since 99% of genre settings based on cryogenics involve the subjects oversleeping, the players, if they’re typical gamers, will expect this even if they don’t know the specifics.)
Slightly confusing — at least to me (I am easily confused) — is that a goal of the PCs is to “find Prime Base”, which was noted as destroyed a few paragraphs back. It’s not clear if this is intended as ironic misdirection, à la way too many gloomy post-apocalyptic books/movies of the era (“Our heroes struggled on for 2 hours/300 pages in hope of finding salvation, but the few who survived the grueling voyage found only radioactive ruins! Their tears mix with the charred ash of their dashed hopes for a brighter tomorrow! Oh, the hubris and folly of man!”), or if I’m misunderstanding the brief background given and Prime Base is still intact, albeit depopulated due to “biological sabotage”, with the “colony” that was nuked being located somewhere away from the underground base itself. It’s implied that’s the case, and the idea seems to be that with the resources — including extensive libraries and advanced technology — of Prime Base, a surviving team could start coordinating with other awakened groups and have a real shot at rebuilding the world.
Boom Goes The
With A Lot Of Charts
Before you can save the world, you must destroy it. Just ask Ozymandias. Somewhat like Cyborg Commando (fortunately, that’s about the only resemblance, which is why TMP has been part of the background noise of the gaming world for 40 years, and Cyborg Commando… hasn’t) , there’s a lot of space spent on determining the exact number of people killed in a given region and just how radioactive it might be 150 years later. Really, this is the sort of thing the GM should determine based on the campaign they wish to run; it’s generally sufficient to assume all cities and military targets were hit, and what may have survived in the outskirts is up to whatever the GM wants to have semi-intact. On the other hand, this sort of information can be useful for sparking ideas, as introducing randomness can force a GM’s mind out of well-worn creative ruts. This is also useful if the PCs get way off the rails and trot towards an area you haven’t thought much about, and you need to quickly figure out where the bombs fell.. I’ve done very well randomly generating campaign settings and then building a coherent background from that starting point. (The “++” indicates a 250K->1M population city, the * indicates a state capitol. The SS-x stuff is the type of missile used.)
Speaking of the GM, it’s usually “GM” in the rules, but sometimes it’s “PD”, for “Program Director”.
Due to radiation disrupting guidance, there’s only 150 missiles to deploy among all targets in US, thus averaging three per state; this will “allow for individuality in different game worlds”. I honestly can’t imagine any GM religiously targeting/rolling for 150 missiles; I expect most, if they choose to roll at all, will pick the 4-5 targets nearest the site of their base, which will give them ample starting information.
Even though the main focus here is supposed to be making a character, I might as well nuke Fort Knox. So it’s hit by an SS-N-17, which is carried by missile subs. That’s a MIRV with three 500kt warheads. First I role[sic] a D8; on a 1-7, the missile hits the intended target.A 2, it does. So I skip to step 5, where I roll another D8, getting a 1, indicating a high-air burst. Unfortunately, there’s nothing to indicate how (if at all) this modifies the impact. So I’ll just go back to the MIRV impact pattern, and bring up Google Maps… well, not too bad. With even ‘light’ destruction only reaching 9 KM, the short-term effect is minimal, but I’m sure the fallout, disease, and rioting will get here soon enough.
Oh, hey, I did find where the high-air burst matters; it reduces the radiation remaining at the time of the game itself to 20 rads/hour at the impact crater (about half a KM across), with none further out than that.
There’s also a table for the use of biological warheads, which probably seemed plausible at the time. (The game was written in the late 70s; the war was to occur on November 18, 1989. In the real world, the Berlin Wall came down on November 9, 1989, ushering in a world of endless peace and global cooperation, as without the risk of nuclear war, man was at last free to pursue his higher goals and the nations of Earth were able to spend their wealth not on tools of war, but on building a better world for all. Yeah, people in the late 80s actually were dumb enough to believe that. I wasn’t one of them, since I’m a misanthrope.) The diseases include “Lugo Fatigue”, “September Fever”, and “Toledo Infection”.
There’s a page or so of charts for radiation exposure, as mitigated by “sheilding”[sic]., and then we get to character creation!
The core rules define characters by seven attributes, on a scale of 0-20, rolled by 4d6-4. To make characters who might actually be suitable as choices to be frozen for the future, you can roll 5d6 and pick the four highest. Let’s go with that.
Dexterity: 14 (Say, does this seem familiar to you?)
Accuracy: 9 (OK, I guess not)
Charisma: 14 (Then again…)
There’s no Intelligence or equivalent; that’s up to the player to provide. Also, uhm, no skills. Or classes. Or other means of determining what you can do, except for raw attribute rolls. (However, there’s a “roleplaying expansion” in the middle of the book, using Chaosium’s system, that increases the character definition, and we’ll be moving on to that when we’re done with what really matters: Your blood type and how many hit points your ankle has. You think I’m kidding? Am I a clown? Do I amuse you? (“You clearly try, but no, you don’t,” replies the Peanut Gallery.)
Structure And Blood
That’s a good name for an avant-garde art show, but it’s actually the two kinds of points you have. (Str x Con) + 100 gives both Sp and Bp. So, for our unnamed PC, that’s 219 of each.
I roll a d20 for my blood type. A roll a 13, which is ‘A’, and a second d20 roll of 5 gets me positive, so, A+.
Now, I need to figure out the hit points for my body. I’m gonna need to fire up Excel for this. (The math isn’t that hard, but having a list to refer back to will be useful.)
So here we go. Note that there’s numbers for leg and arm, and they’re sort-of the sum of the sub-pieces, but not quite. I double-checked the math. So I’ll assume the difference is that the limb, as a whole, is a bit more than the sum of its parts.
I can now check for psionics. OK, with a Psi of 12, I can’t check for psionics. You need a 15 or more to have a chance of gaining some psychic power. (“Game balance by rarity” was common in the early days. It doesn’t work.)
With a Dexterity of 14, I have 4 “movements” per combat turn. This is pretty good. It’s one more than average (which would be 3/turn). Most actions (such as Move, Aim, or Fire) take one movement, some take more (Open Hatch takes 2, Load Revolver takes 3, for example). The GM is encouraged to use the basic list to determine the movement cost of other actions; it’s got enough examples to be useful in that regard.
You See What I Did There?
I Am So Witty
Arguably, based on my usual goals for these articles, I could stop there. I have completed the entire character generation process for The Morrow Project, as it stands in the core rules. Ah, but as noted above, wedged in the center of my rulebook is a “Role Playing Expansion” by H. N. Voss, wherein somewhat more robust rules for characters are added. The pages have their own numbering scheme, R1 to R5, with a two-sided character sheet sans page numbers following. (This replaces, I assume, a character sheet promised to be at the end of the book.)
As an aside, I’m a little surprised the original rules had so little, in terms of mechanics, to indicate what sort of people would be recruited for the Project. You can say your character was a sniper, a Navy SEAL, a doctor, or a combat engineer, but the entirety of your ability to do anything was determined by your stats, barring some GM discretion. There is a decently-long discussion about the varieties of teams and the jobs needed on each team, with the GM advised to assign jobs to characters so everyone has something to do, but the rules for actually doing anything, in the core game, are sparse at best. (To be fair, this was not unusual at the time, but this is a genre where the need for character skills is obvious.)
To use one example, the rate of blood loss from a wound varies based on if you receive first aid or get medical attention, but there’s no rules I see for determining if treatment was successful, or limits on who can make the attempt. I guess everyone’s equally skilled? There are detailed load-outs for medical personnel, but do a medic and a non-medic have the same odds of using the equipment? Some may argue, “All Project members are of course trained and drilled in basic first aid,” and that’s not entirely implausible, but assuming Ron the Radio Operator is going to be as good as Mary the Medic following a week of training runs counter to the level of detail elsewhere in the rules, as well as the gritty survivalist tone of the game as a whole. There’s a big difference between tying a tourniquet on a practice dummy or volunteer ‘victim’, and doing it when the subject is screaming and thrashing, there’s explosions going off all around you, and you’re half-blind from the dust and grit kicked up by the ongoing firefight.
The same is true for combat: It’s all about your Accuracy for guns, knives, and fists. Bobby Boxer and Susie Sniper are interchangeable if they have the same Accuracy.
Let’s see if the Roleplaying Expansion addresses any of this.
ACC Is Out, INT Is In
In the Role Playing Expansion, ACC is removed, replaced by a skill-based system, and a new stat, INT (Intelligence) is added. INT very explicitly refers to one’s ability to learn new information, not overall intelligence/problem-solving.
Thus, some changes must be made to my proto-character.
First, I’ll roll for INT: 19. Wow. With Accuracy, my second-worst stat, gone, and a really high Intelligence score, this is a much more kick-ass character than I usually roll for these things. (All rolls 100% real, not that anyone can verify, but trust me, if I was making up the numbers, I’d make up ones that lent themselves to (allegedly) amusing asides, not the mostly-average results I normally get.)
Now I can determine more of my background, which in turn depends on what kind of team (MARS, Recon, Science, Support) I’m on. Each provides a varying chance of being a veteran. (Team choices are largely constrained by what kind of game the GM wants to run; I’m guessing MARS and/or Recon accounted for 95% of all actual campaigns.)
Achieving veteran status also gives a chance for combat experience, allocates bonus skills, and other perks.
I think Recon teams sound most interesting; they’re the “first in” who scout an area and figure out what’s going on. They also have a large percentage of “fuzzy liberal arts types” (such as sociology and history, which are self-evidently useful in figuring out how a post-apocalyptic society works… but on the other hand, if the plan was to wake up a few years after the war, when only children or maybe young teens would have been born post-war, it seems odd to need people whose expertise would be needed only after significant time has passed, allowing for cultural drift. Maybe Morrow knew what would happen and kept the truth from his supporters? Hm….), as well as trained combat personnel to keep the eggheads alive.
On Recon, there’s a 50% chance of being a veteran, and, if so, a 25% chance of having seen real combat.
I roll a 45, so, veteran, and then 81, so, no direct combat experience. The rules state that prior service is in the Army or Marines, leaving out Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard (well, everyone forgets the Coast Guard…), presumably because planes and ships aren’t a big part of the setting.
I can now roll a d6 to see if I was an officer (there is no roll for ‘Gentleman’). I roll a 6, so, yes.
(A note says “Warrant officers were not accepted by the Project; too many psychological problems from spending too many years in limbo…” . I assume this is hilarious to those who have the correct background.)
Being an officer gives me +05% in oratory and camouflage, and +10% in handgun, special weapons, and map making.
The skill rules use a percentile system, familiar to anyone who played Runequest or Call of Cthulhu at the time, as it’s the Chaosium system. It’s simple but gets the job done, providing a stable framework for task resolution and, more importantly (to me) character individuation beyond the raw attributes. You can now be a better surgeon than pianist, even if both rely on dexterity.
My Strength and Dex each give me a +5% to the relevant skills (the range is 13-17: +5%), while my Int of 19 gives me a +10.
Project Directors (aka Game Masters) can decide how many “degrees” (non-physical skills) players have. Or you can roll; I shall. A roll of one indicates I have a BS or BA. I seem to have free reign, except for medical skills. I’ll go with Engineering. A BS gives me a base 20% and my Int gives me +10%, so, 30%. (Also, +5% on both tech repair skills — that’s Mechanical +15% and Electrical +15%.) Due to my Morrow Project training, I have 10% in all other degree areas except for Medicine, Veterinary Medicine, Nursing, and Dentistry. (“Fred Jones, Dentist Of The Apocalypse” is not an entirely bad concept, mind you.)
For combat, my skill with a handgun is 10 (base for Recon) + 5 (from Dex) for 15, Knife and Rifle are both 20 (Base 15, +5 from Dex). The rest are in the same range.
It struck me just now that there’s no melee weapon skills other than knife and bayonet. While this does make sense from the perspective of modern military weapon training, in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, there will be plenty of people using clubs, axes, and other weapons, especially those which double as tools, such as machetes. (Given the centuries that have passed, there’s got to be communities with working forges and skilled sword- and armor- smiths, too.)
That’s pretty much it for character creation. Simple, but workable. With the addition of the Roleplaying Expansion, which happened early in the game’s history, the most glaring flaw of the original design was handily rectified.
Into The Wastes
As this is pretty much the end of chargen, I could stop, but I think it would be fun just to flip through the rest of the book. For example, there are giant wolverines.
Before we get to the giant wolverines, though, we have combat and weapons. A lot of weapons, pre-mixed for your convenience into 20 standard loudouts, though I suspect once the game starts there’ll be plenty of scavenging.
(Buried in one paragraph on loadouts is the encumbrance rule, a workable system which gradually reduces your Dex if you exceed your weight limit, until it hits 0. While not explicitly called out as such, I’d assume that when interacting the percentile skill system, Dex reductions apply to the skill base chance – if your Dex drops to 7 or less, your Dex-based skills get the -5 penalty.)
Pistols, carbines, rifles, machineguns, flamethrowers, mortars, grenades, and more. Grenade rules are pretty extensive, dealing with misses, and the odd rule that a grenade which misses the target has no effect… even if, apparently, it lands close enough the original target was still in the blast radius. Also hmmm, “Grenade” isn’t a combat skill in the Roleplaying Expansion, but ACC is removed, so the existing Accuracy-based rules don’t work. It’s trivial to handwave in the appropriate skill, of course, but it’s an odd oversight.
Following grenades, logically enough, are explosives, with tables for how much C4 you need to blast through 1.5m of concrete, along with a rules example starting with “Joe is standing 17 meters away from….[deletia]….4 blocks of C4” and ending with “…effectively blown to shreds”.
Many more “to-hit” modifiers (which you multiply by 5 to use with the percentile system), penetration calculations (E = (Diameter x Velocity) /50, where E = “inches of flesh penetrated”). Since you’re likely to shoot at things other than nekkid pipples, a lengthy chart of materials is provided. Cloth and Leather have an AC of ‘B’ and ‘C’, not a number. I can’t find where the meaning of this is defined. I will cut the writers a break and assume it is in there, I’m just not spotting it and this article has gone on waaaay longer than I planned and I want it finished today, dammit, so I’m not going to read every paragraph hunting for a cunningly concealed rule.
Anyway, there’s rules for shock, burns, poison, disease, and melee combat. I’d have stuck melee right after ranged, but there’s no grand principle saying this must be the case. We start with good ol’ fisticuffs (including kicks, so, footicuffs?), with strikes competing with blocks, and head blows being likely to cause unconsciousness or death if they connect. Since I can’t find any rules saying a head blow is harder to connect with than a torso or limb strike, and since kicks do Str/2 damage vs. punches that do Str/4, the best attack in most situations is… BOOT TO THE HEAD (NA NA)!
Oh, hey, I finally found where AC A, B, C are defined… they apply to edged weapon combat, but not blunt weapon or unarmed combat? Maybe? It’s a little confusing. Also, when you block a blunt weapon attack, if the block is successful but the blocking weapon is of a lower factor (kind of size/weight abstraction) than the attacking, the block stops half the damage of the attack, but if you’re attacking with an edged weapon and it’s blocked, you subtract the DP of the blocking weapon from the DP of the attack, without regard to factor differences. I’m not sure how this applies if one combatant has a hammer and one has an axe, or what happens if you try to block a fist with a machete… or vice versa. (I’d just rule that “naked skin” vs. “edged weapon” is effectively a free attack by the “block”, maybe doing 1/2 damage if I’m feeling nice.)
Then we get some vehicle rules, with a semi-abstract system to figure out what happens to the people inside an armored car when someone uses a rocket launcher fitted with an armor-piercing shell. You get a chance to roll a D8, which otherwise I’ve only seen used for grenade miss direction.
Rounding out this part are some weather tables, and guidelines on post-apocalyptic culture and technology, ranging from sticks and stones to small-scale fusion plants kept running since pre-war in isolated enclaves. See above for my comments on fusion power being always ten years away.
These Are The People In Your Neighborhood…
NPCs! Helpless victims to rescue, hopeful people to victimize!
Long before WOTC completely ruined!!!! D&D with minion-type rules, ultra-gritty realistic games like The Morrow Project also realized that NPCs in large numbers can and should be abstracted, so, we have some “fast-kill” rules (for ranged, not melee) and stripped-down stats. There’s also a “Hostility and Motivational Index”, a 1-20 range from “Psycho Killer” to “Gandhi”. (My terms, not theirs.) This can be used on a matrix cross-indexed with the PCs Charisma to determine how cooperative they are, if the GM doesn’t have a given response in mind.
There’s a bunch of NPC encounter types. As usual for these articles, I’ll cherry pick a few.
- Badges: We don’ need no steenkin’ badges! Really, we don’t. These are self-proclaimed law-enforcement who travel the country playing Judge Dredd and are “sneaky, vicious, and unpredictable”.
- Ballooners: Groups who travel the land… er.. the air… in small “cities” of strung-together balloons. Implausible, but cool, and cool wins every time.
- Children Of The Night: What music they make! “Vampires” with a gloss of pseudo-science, blah blah radiation blah blah virus. Sure, why not?
- Emdees: Traveling doctors with a “somewhat distorted knowledge of medicine”. That can be taken a lot of ways. (“The ancients said drinking bleach cures disease!”)
- Inquisitors: I’ll bet you weren’t expecting them! Religious fanatics seeking to purify mankind through torture.
- Napoleon’s Own: Descendants of an “institution specializing in the treatment of schizophrenics”. (For you kids, the generic “crazy person” of the pre-1970s was someone who thought they were Napoleon.) They go out of their way to imitate some famous person from history or literature, so the GM can set up an encounter with “Sherlock Holmes” and “Abe Lincoln”. Could be fun.
- Oilers: As the game was published in 1982, these would now be the Titans. I had to Google that as my football knowledge is nonexistent. Also, irrelevant, as these are actually people who seized control of oil fields and use that for trade.
- Razers: They wish to “raze” all technology, except for explosives, which they reluctantly use to blow up stuff they can’t tear down by hand. Such reluctance.
- Soviets: These are the descendants of Russkies who somehow found themselves in the US. Maybe there was an attempt at an invasion following the nukes? Maybe they walked over from Siberia? If you want to trot out your best Boris Badenov accent, here’s your excuse.
- Wandering Warlock: A mysterious figure who travels the land, doing mysterious things, somehow defeating all attackers and working to help the common folk. I’m not saying it’s Morrow… but it’s Morrow.
The Sound of Mutants
Given the relatively gritty/quasi realistic setting (time-traveling project founders and advanced cryogenics aside), you might be surprised at the Gamma-World-esque listing of mutant monsters. I was. I’d always had the impression that TMP was firmly on the “Mad Max” side of the apocalypse, where roving gangs and/or crypto-fascist dictators were the primary foe, and that radiation produced tumors, not giant rabbits with saber tusks and quills for fur. (Hmmm… porcubits? Rabbitines? Gotta work on that… sounds cool.) You certainly can run it that way; the lack of mutant powers for PCs, other than mild psionics, lends itself to a more balanced game… but if giant wolverines exist, it seems a shame not to use them.
- Bats: Up to a meter long, and attracted to radar. This seems like a perfect way to tell the players the world isn’t what it used to be. The newly defrosted explorers make a base camp and set up radar, and suddenly, there’s a swarm of giant bats everywhere.
- Bigfoot: Not bionic bigfoot, more’s the pity. It’s not clear if these are humans mutated to resemble the legendary creature, or if massive human population reduction led to them becoming more common.
- Blue Undead: Want zombies in your semi-realistic PA setting? These are people somehow kept alive by radiation, emitting 1-6 thousand rads. A touch is usually fatal and any close exposure probably will be, too. They have to be reduced to 0 SP to kill them; no “Boom! Headshot!” here.
- Electric Catfish: Sounds like a rock/bluegrass band to me. Anyway, these are 5-meter long electric catfish. Gotta love “Does what it says on the tin” monsters.
- Maggots: And in “not what it says on the tin”, these are cannibalistic humanoid underground dwellers. They actually seem a lot like morlocks from The Time Machine, and given that’s long out of copyright, I’m not sure why they weren’t just called that. In-universe, survivors who preserved old literature could have given them that name.
- Minimoose: Not be confused with maximouse, which, sadly, isn’t in the book. They’re… mini moose. Mooses. Meese. Moosi. Moosum. I’ll stop now.
- Smother: A tree-dwelling snake with gliding “wings” that spread out from the sides of its body, like a cobra’s hood. Not really implausible given similar reptiles. (Well, I mean, once you accept the idea of a million years of evolution occurring in a few centuries because of t3h radiashuns.)
- Stubs: Mutant humans who are short. Not to be confused with Grunts (mutant humans who are dumb) or Scraggers (mutant humans who are hairy).
- Wolverine: See picture, above. Probably hate Soviets.
It’s The End Of The
World Gamebook As We Know It
And so, a surprising two months after I started what was supposed to be a quick half-day project, we are done. As you can tell by the relatively minimal snark, TMP is a solid enough system given the era, especially with the percentile-based skill system tacked on… even if the cracks and seams between the Roleplaying Expansion and the rest of the rules are pretty glaring. (There is no indication, to me, that the rules outside the R1-R5 pages were edited or updated, and while there’s some guidance provided, the GM will need to make a lot of on-the-fly adjustments to some parts of the mechanics). It’s solidly aimed at people who like paramilitary/mercenary style play, who have shelves full of paperbacks from the 1970s with titles like “Agent Annihilator #45: The Saigon Bomb” (IOW, a lot of the people I tended to hang out with), and delivers rules conducive to that. The setting is simultaneously loose enough the GM has plenty of room to create their own specifics for whatever region they wish to apocalyze (I made that word up. If you use it, you owe me a royalty.), while also being cohesive enough to create a solid baseline for setting expectations.
The premise of “present day people awaken in a world they never made” addresses a key problem that often crops up in in PA settings taking place more than a generation or two from the disaster. In most such settings, the PCs are natives of the ruined world. They should be unsurprised by the conditions of their time, but basically ignorant of the world before. But the players will react with wonder/terror regarding the flying shark/moose hybrids and plants with radioactive apples that also shoot out spikes when you bite them, but instantly say, “Oh, a gun”, no matter how hard the GM tries to not describe a gun when it’s obviously a gun. Good roleplaying and not metagaming helps, but the player still knows it’s a gun and will, at best, wait until they’re rolled high enough on the “figure out a gun” table to try to use it.
A Morrow-Project-type premise neatly solves that. The PCs will of course recognize a gun, a car, or a computer system, but will not be able to tell deadly mutant vampire wasps from normal, harmless murder hornets.
Tune in next time for whatever random whim drives me to create.
- Primary storage: My office/computer room, where I keep games I tend to actively play, or want to play, or maybe used to play.
- Secondary storage: The bookcases in the living room, which have most of the systems or supplements I have even a slim chance of expecting to consciously seek out.
- Tertiary storage: My workroom, where I keep the rest. So, why I woke up one day and said, “I should generate a Morrow Project character!” is going to remain one of life’s little mysteries.
(Yes, I have a lot of RPGs. Over 3,000 books per the latest updates. Almost all are core rules or splatbooks with some campaign/world guides, and relatively few adventures. )
 This is an old issue. How old? An article in a very early The Dragon offered a similar solution for players of Metamorphosis Alpha, years before TMP came out.