Strains of the Mass
This guide breaks down each strain, including a visual guide, the description from the Rule Book, and a section called ‘Life in the Mass’ which will help you get some ideas of what your character’s life might be like in the Mass.
Citizens of the remains of the shore, Baywalkers are smart and serious, highly specialized to the area where they were raised. Baywalkers are folk raised and grown in coastal regions, along major lakes, and in territories where their cities were spared the brunt of radioactive destruction but were not spared the drowning of the rising tide waters.
To Baywalkers, the tradition of scavenging in the drowned ruins continues to this day, as old supplies are pulled up and a decent – if cloistered– existence is maintained in the wasteland.
In areas of the Bay, the legions of shamblers that threaten most areas are significantly lessened for them– slowed by the risen waters. Instead, the Baywalkers are constantly tested by the more specialized forms of the undead, far more prevalent here than anywhere else for unknown reasons. From packs of Hunters lurking in the shadows to the numberless Sleepers waiting just inches beneath the marshy streets, most adult Baywalkers have survived by scavenging and building lives while being hunted, stalked, and harried by the worst of the worst- and learning to do the same without hesitation.
Baywalkers are very organized and often educated people. Calm and serious, they have a strong trust in rules and government, needing such discipline to survive the terrors of the dead coast. Baywalkers, commonly found in coastal and maritime regions, pursue a pragmatic lifestyle that rubs most city-dwelling Yorkers wrong. The rivalries between the Baywalkers and the Yorkers are legendary, and in some places are stated to exist even before the fall of man.
Baywalkers are typically calm and composed people, a byproduct of being terrified for most of their early lives. Most prefer getting involved with stable groups and clear organizations, and have little patience for loners or other antisocial types. Their clothing is typically practical and sturdy, favoring subdued shades like browns and blacks, along with many, many pockets and pouches to contain whatever Scrap and scavenge comes along. After all, it’s better to grab it now rather risk death coming back for it later. All Baywalkers have small but noticeable tattoos related to their home on visible or easily revealed portions of their bodies, both to identify themselves to other natives of the Mass and occasionally as a warning for would-be highwaymen: “This is probably not one of your better ideas.”
Life in the Mass
Baywalkers are the predominant strain from the Mass and come from all corners. Many Baywalkers live near or within Baytowne, the Mass’s capital city, where they may be guards, doctors, or work as dockworkers. Because of their practicality and survivability within the Mass, most towns will happily take a Baywalker to add to their citizens.
The settlements of the Full Dead are a disturbing sight indeed – entire cities filled with shambling corpses and residents just a whisper from the cold grip The settlements of the Full Dead are a disturbing sight indeed – entire cities filled with shambling corpses and residents just a whisper from the cold grip of death themselves. Full Dead, named for the fact that nearly their entire body has passed away, are the closest thing to sentient zombies. Lingering on in bodies that no longer breathe, no longer bleed, and no longer subsist on conventional food, the Full Dead have only one true bodily need left: the hunger of the restless dead. The minds of the Full Dead tend to be cold and emotionless, as the lack of human daily rituals has made them feel more sympathy to full zombies than survivors of other Strains. Hailing primarily from London and a handful of older cities around the world, Full Dead and the undead tend to populate the same locations. Full Dead seem to be the last choice of food source for the undead, and have an uncanny knack for fading into the undead hordes.
Most of the Full Dead live a somewhat paradoxical existence, enjoying conservative dress, good manners, and savoring the flavor of traditional food without any actual need for it. Very few Full Dead are accepted in outside societies, due to the fact that they are not only cannibals, but also because they are so close to turning into mindless zombies themselves. In the back of every Full Dead’s mind they can hear the Grave Mind of the zombie horde talking, calling them to join the restless dead. Full Dead do not sleep as such, however, in its place the Full Dead enter a trance-like state where their mind is reabsorbed into the collective consciousness of the undead (also known as the Grave Mind).
The Full Dead can be awakened from this trance much in the same way that someone can be awakened from slumber, but the first moments of a Full Dead’s return to individual consciousness are nightmarish indeed, as they struggle to separate their own thoughts and memories from the swirling chaos of the Grave Mind. In addition to the lack of traditional slumber, Full Dead do not reproduce. While the vague desire to procreate has carried over in the dead brains of the Full Dead, the Full Dead are completely incapable of producing or carrying children. Full Dead, to the best of anyone’s knowledge, are long dead corpses that expired before the Fall but have somehow slowly pulled themselves back together via the infection. The age of the body, condition of the body, and the infection gestation process determines if a long dead human will either rise as a Full Dead or join the undead hordes.
Full Dead tend to dress conservatively, preferring formal attire, undertaker’s garb or even dressing as mourners and pallbearers. Players of Full Dead are required to use makeup to create a pale, corpselike complexion as well as dark, sunken eyes. Full Dead tend to remain quiet and still unless moved to take action, with little in the way of unnecessary speech or gestures. They often display an unnatural way of staring right through others. Full Dead are not easily startled and usually remain extremely civil, even in the face of hostility.
Life in the Mass
Full Dead in the Mass tend to appear in clusters and, in some cases, have developed their own towns. Some Full Dead make Baytowne their home, where the deep, rich history of an old land has born many Full Dead and invited them to remain. In addition, two known Full Dead towns exist in the Mass: the town of The Grove, of which most of the Full Dead have now perished, and the City of Sin. The City of Sin resides in the northern part of the Mass, a curious center of both criminal activity and industry. Despite these known locations, because of the age and history of the Mass, it’s not uncommon for a Full Dead to appear in the middle of nowhere.
The Iron Slaves did not have a solid root as a people before the world fell apart; instead, they are a shining example of how the human condition continues to evolve in these modern, radioactive times. New to this generation, these unfortunate people were born into forced servitude, children and great grandchildren of slaves. Considered legal property in many industrial zones, Iron Slaves are some of the most prized targets of Slavers. Iron Slaves are strong people, capable of working many days without sleep. The Iron Slaves rapidly evolved a red bioluminescence that radiates from deep within their flesh, which aids them in the dark mines and long hours that they work. This red glow, which is strongest around the neck, legs, and hands, is a mark of pride for Iron Slaves, as it shows how they have become stronger despite the cruelty of others. Carried as a story of pride and perseverance, each Iron Slave knows how they came to freedom. Be they tales of planned escapes, fortunate opportunities, or even rare moments of compassion, the Iron Slaves have etched every moment of their liberation into their minds. Determined to never be enslaved again, the Iron Slaves find that there is indeed a fate worse than death… and that is slavery.
Hardened by the fires they tended, strengthened by the labor they performed, and driven by the inhumanities they have suffered, the Iron Slaves are monuments of strength. While seldom trained to be artisans themselves, Iron Slaves fin that they are very useful in regards to those who do crafting work. Able bodied assistants, strong laborers, and fantastic helpers– Iron Slaves learn that the very aspects of them that make people covet them as slaves are the same traits that make them highly desirable as employees to craftsmen.
All Iron Slaves have scars, brands, and property tattoos in visible locations on their body that mark them as property somewhere. Iron Slaves tend to dress in heavy clothing, preferring styles that are utilitarian and also allow them to be inconspicuous - as much as they can be, anyway. Every Iron Slave has a unique quirk that becomes noticeable in the early afternoon through late morning - they emit a red glow. Iron Slave players are required to have red illumination at least as bright as a large glow stick at each wrist, each ankle, and the neck. This glow must penetrate cloth and be visible at a distance.
Life in the Mass
After years of oppression, all Irons within the Mass are free Irons and slavery within the Mass has been completely disbanded. In the wake of freedom, many Iron Slaves have struck out and created their own towns and cities, including Progress, the First Free City. However, it’s not uncommon for Irons to rove in caravans seeking to right injustice, or develop small trading posts in the Mass that bloom into larger towns.
When the world fell to pieces, those who would become the Lascarians found refuge in bomb shelters, subway tunnels, and lost cities beneath the surface of the earth. They survived on stocks of canned food, military-grade rations, and any foodstuffs that could be scrounged- including the fallen. Lascarian culture is a society of scavengers and survivors, able to find food and Scrap in nearly any environment and at almost any cost. The weak are culled and left behind, while the strong are fed and cared for. Natural selection has
become more than a reality for the Lascarians– it is also a way of life. In the brutal world beneath the surface, the Lascarians grew sure of foot and secure of body, a necessity in the savage, lightless tunnels. Higher education has atrophied, replaced by a reliance on the simple realities of logistics and raw survival instincts. Now Lascarians send squads of scavengers out to gather supplies and bring them back to the waiting families beneath the surface. For each Lascarian you see above the surface, you can be sure that half a dozen wait beneath who will never see the light of day, waiting for the shipments from the active scouts that were sent out. Lascarian culture is primitive, throwing away high culture and social structures in exchange for savage minimalism. Weapons, food, armor, and medicine are all that interest a Lascarian.
Lascarians are modern primitives in every sense of the word. They dress in dark colors, favoring ripped leathers and ragged clothes pieced together from scraps with no regard to ‘modern’ fashion, often in numerous piecemeal layers that only form an outfit when combined. It is unusual for a Lascarian to show much skin in any event, even during the summer months, and dark glasses or goggles are a must for their surface trips, as well as hoods, cowls or broad-brimmed hats to help keep off the hated sun.
Life in the Mass
Built on ancient structures of quarries and old textile mills, Lascarians have built underground societies and social circles similar to the surface strains. The most infamous Lascarian hubs are Fall’s River and Quincee. Fall’s River has built massive darkened above-ground structures from the remnants of old mills that then plunge downward, extending in a living city built from underground sewer networks.
Quincee is quite the opposite. Accessible only through a tunnel that goes beneath the water of a deep ravine, its hidden entrances have left many attempting to find the Lascarian hold-out and dying along the way. Both Quincee and Fall’s River are famous for their mineral products, and Fall’s River is the home of the Scrounger’s Society.
Many things were destroyed when the world broke apart. Society, culture, and education fell to pieces. As a rule, only those who were strong, smart, and lucky were able to adapt and move forward after the fall of society. However, some folks were just too damned stubborn to die. When the apocalypse happened, some people were so pigheaded about giving up how their life was that they outright refused. Not willing to give up their homes, their beer, and their sports teams, these people dug in and took the apocalypse on the chin. Stalwart or not, the apocalypse killed the vast majority of these stubborn people; however, some survived by sheer dumb luck and dogged determination.
Holding on to values handed down by that first determined generation, pride in a country that doesn’t exist anymore, and buckets of gumption, the Mericans were forged. Not the best educated of people, and without a doubt not the most spiritually-minded, this well-meaning Strain nevertheless views itself as the bastion of hope for the future. Shotgun in one hand, a beer in the other, and an eye on the neighbor’s daughter, the Mericans look to redefine their fallen nation.
While stronger and built more robust than most Strains, the Mericans have an issue in regards to the zombie virus. Many scientists believe that sometime in this Strain’s history, there was a failed anti-virus called “high fructose corn syrup.” This substance, as well as the many other strange chemicals in a Merican’s body, results in most Mericans succumbing to the virus and joining the undead faster than different Strains. Merican zombies never progress beyond the incubation phase of the infection process, and the widespread Merican culture explains the sheer number of zombies in the shambling horde. Mericans come from all over what was considered the pre-Fall American continent. While heartland Mericans lean towards the tradition of cowboy hats and quick guns, it is not uncommon for far south Mericans to be confused with Natural Ones. To the north, Mericans tend to lean more towards hearty jobs like being a lumberjack while on the eastern and western coasts the Merican is often found working hard in foundries and forges.
MERICA! Love it or get run down. Merican men and women love blue jeans, cowboy hats, attitude, tall boots, big belt buckles, and gun belts with lots of firearms. Social animals in every sense of the term, Mericans are never more than a few paces from a bottle or someone attractive to share it with. They have a natural distrust of authority, especially if it isn’t another Merican in charge, and tend to mock anyone in elegant or fancy attire.
Life in the Mass
When the Mass and Rogue Islands began to flood, it was on the backs of the Mericans that the region survived the fall. Hard-working and industrious, it was the Mericans who took the natural resources of the Mass — lumber, stone, and water — and used it to help rebuild. As such, many Mericans from the Mass come from well-known family names and Mericans trace their lineage as proudly as a Pure Blood. Perhaps because of this, Mericans are welcomed in Baytowne and Beacon Hill, and other large settlements where their industry has earned them a home. Similarly, many small towns may call on Merican neighbors to join their settlement to build up from the ground in the Wastelands.
Nation of Accensor
When everything came crashing down, some people looked to the military or the government for safety. Others banded together and trusted each other, doing whatever it took to survive. A few, who saw this as the long-prophesied end of the world, threw themselves into the arms of their faith. For some, this meant death at the hands of the creatures that came with the apocalypse. For others, this meant that they at least found peace when the bombs began to fall. For a small group, however, it provided true sanctuary. Sanctuary from the restless dead, sanctuary from the beasts of the fallen earth, and sanctuary from the world that was falling around them. And when the ash began to settle, they found themselves changed by being spared. Those who found themselves shielded by their faith were able to tap into something within the human mind –or soul, as some would argue– that was not awakened before. The mind of those of the Nation is keen, and they find genuine pleasure in testing themselves and bringing aid to those who need it.
As time passed, members of the Nation took on a more iconic appearance. Their clothes, armor, and tools are very personalized, often made by the person that wields them and designed to match the owner’s personal habits. Deep within those of the Nation is strength and a desire to do what is right, regardless of what challenges are placed in front of them. Some continue to fight because of those challenges; others feel they can achieve redemption by bringing the acts of good into a godless land. This higher cause and purpose often causes Templars to travel alone since they cannot abide those who do not follow their strict moral codes. While those of the Nation will aid any who ask for it, they cannot long travel with those who do not share their desire for selfless betterment.
Members of the Nation of Accensor dress in utilitarian clothes –often with a religious theme or ornamentation– follow strict moral codes, and abide by the letter of the law of their faiths at all times. As they progress along their path, their deep connection with their faith causes them to gradually lose their connection with ordinary people, and they slowly become more alien in both thought and appearance. Once a member of the Nation achieves one hundred Experience Points expended on their sheet, that individual appears more and more ‘inhuman’ and unearthly in appearance, which must be represented with suitable costuming and makeup. These inhuman traits should be restricted to variations of the flesh, sprouting new growths, and keeping to more organic and visceral physical changes.
Life in the Mass
While the life of an Accensorite is as varied as the faiths of the Mass, many of them are broken into “Gates” — the remnants of gated communities, self-sufficient and insular. Many faiths, or combinations of faiths, have Gates. The prominent ones within the Mass are focused on Telling Visonaries, Nuclear Family, and the Sainthood.
In addition to the Gates, there is another, larger community called the Spires. Located close to Baytowne, the Spires are an inter-faith organization and structure which cater to Accensorites and Priests. There, they are intensely trained and live a life of near solitude until adulthood, when they are sent out into the Mass to create Gates of their own.
Some wise men say that the fall of man was the fault of the mad, unrestrained hand of “science” and “progress.” As the bombs fell and the hordes came, shattering the landscape and destroying the world as it once was, there were those who took that wisdom to heart. They went back to the basics, living off the land and finding oneness with the earth. These nomadic peoples survived by retreating to the deep wilderness and wide open plains, forming tight communities, gangs, mottles and troupes to survive together in an unforgiving and forever changed world. Choosing a personal style of fighting from adolescence onward, they lived by the blade instead of the gun, never wasting what precious few resources they could still find.
The Natural Ones found that they could live a simpler life (many would say an easier life), unfettered by the need for fanciful technologies of the past and meaningless luxuries. The Natural Ones developed a bond with the earth, and each other. It was only a matter of time before tribes would meet on regular intervals of the seasons. These gatherings bring the wandering tribes together, to trade, matchmake, and test themselves against one another and the elements in celebration of their survival as a whole.
The Natural Ones are a pragmatic people, and might makes right by nature’s law. What cannot be settled peacefully is settled in ceremonial combat, overseen by tribal elders and leaders. In the spring of each year, the ceremonial combat takes a different tone, serving as both celebration and a system by which new leaders, champions and suitors are chosen amongst the warriors of the tribes. Through the massive three day feast, participants duel for glory and prestige, with the outcomes affecting the future of the tribes, as new bonds are forged, new leaders chosen, and the strong given a chance to rise.
All Natural Ones must have a prominent tribal society mark, including but not limited to such elements as prominent tattoos, scarification, body paint, use of particular colors, clothing styles, trophies, etc. It is also very common for tribal members to display unique accents, slang terminology, or religious views as further means of establishing their identity. Tribal society marks are not subtle at all, by design– they are intended to clearly identify an individual as part of a greater whole, and are a source of great pride to members. Insulting a tribal society mark is a fast way to earn a dire enemy, if not immediately result in drawn blood. Players should work with staff and other members of their tribe to design an appropriately vivid tribal society mark that is unique to their tribe.
Apart from their marks, Natural Ones tend to favor simple, primitive clothing and adornments, with rough but durable furs and leathers being common, and rarely carry items that don’t have a practical use. While they can wear more modern clothing and equipment, they favor utilitarian pieces, and often do so in a distinctly primitive style –draping a jersey like a toga, for example– or completely transform it with primitive elements like paint, trophies, knotwork and beading. In addition, Natural Ones adhere to the spring high holiday every year, regardless of where they are. In societies where not many Natural Ones are around, prominent warriors of other strains are invited as guests at a Natural One’s table.
Life in the Mass
While some Natural Ones from the Mass wear furs or hides, the majority are practical creatures of survival and dress to suit that need. Born from the pre-fall practice of through-hiking, the Natural Ones were know as Thruers, those who cut paths and trails through the wilds of the Mass and began to tame the terrain for others to follow and create civilizations. Thruers shun the organizations and communities that grow in their wake, which makes them often nomadic and on the move. However, in the high mountains and hills of the Mass, there are often gatherings of Natural Ones know as Graylocks which traditionally happen in the spring.
The most highly prolific group of Natural Ones is the 3C, whose ethics and code have created many settlements in its wake. You can find out more about the 3C here.
Being the top dog has its perks, especially if you were one of the precious few with enough money to ensure your safety and luxury was protected behind high walls, armed guards, and sealed bulkheads. That top creme de la creme knew the right people, had all their pieces in place, or simply had the good fortune of just being ahead of the game. They survived with their lifestyle intact while the world around them burned. They watched from their strongholds and waited until they could capitalize on this turn of fortune. As resources dried up, these families ensured that water still ran clean in their homes. When munitions were scarce, they kept mercenaries employed to control the flow of weapons. When societies began to rise from the ashes, they arranged their elevated position in society through the resources they controlled. These families were controlling, sophisticated, and most importantly, pure.
The Pure Bloods were made of the finest of the old world, and they had what it took to bring order to the rabble. Pure Blood families are most often found among the leadership of settlements, with carefully orchestrated pairings to ensure beauty, wits and charm get them and their lines all that they desire. They are distinguished by their dress, clinging to old symbols of status and wealth, forgoing more sensible and utilitarian fashions and trusting their guards and minions to do the heavy lifting for them. Material wealth is second only to the power of the family line in Pure Blood social circles, and wealth must be demonstrated at all times. This game of plumage and affluence leads to all manner of complicated politics among Pure Blood lines. Some lesser known lines become indentured to more famous and powerful families through arranged marriages and intricate business deals. These things are never discussed in mixed company, of course, and much is left to speculation as to how the Pure Bloods sort out who is truly the most powerful. What no one contests is that Pure Bloods have maintained a unique level of social grace and business acumen as a result of their rarified and sheltered growth as a people.
Pure Blood characters must dress in an eccentric high style that suggests a rich lineage – business suits, formal wear, steampunk attire, or other expensive looking clothes are de rigeur for the ruling elite of the apocalypse. They shun monochromatic outfits, favoring plenty of color to catch the eye, and eccentric uses of makeup and oversized jewelry also allow these peacocks to attract the attention and respect they feel is their natural right. Above all, there is the family – whether the character is a favored son or on the run, a Pure Blood’s lineage is never far from his thoughts. Even those that distance themselves from their family often take a perverse degree of pride in their roots; for better or worse, their family has made them what they are today. Indeed, a degree of greed, pride in your family name, as well as a natural insight into networking are all encouraged for each Pure Blood.
Life in the Mass
Many Pure Bloods of the Mass grow up in one of two ways: in the high society of Beacon Hill in Baytowne, or in Gates with Ascensorites. While Nation of Ascensors are incredibly devoted to the studies of their faith, the Pure Bloods discovered early that bankrolling these allies would provide valuable protection, with either group holding no real interest in the other. As such, many Pure Bloods grew up as individuals of faith to some degree, and it’s not uncommon for them to have figured out how to monetize a faith.
Many Pure Bloods find their colors and fashions deeply drawn to the sea, especially closer to and within Baytowne. It’s not uncommon to see Pure Bloods in fancy Sea Captain attire or as a sailor, but all Pure Bloods within the Mass fall under the purvey of the Yacht Club, an offshoot of the Lineage League, whose word is law among the strain.
The Reclaimers are a proud people who take their genetic source from the ancestry of the pre-fall cities of Montreal, Toronto, and Winnipeg. While culturally the three different pre-fall populous were as varied as day is to night, the way in which the infection was introduced into the territories bordering on the Frozen North is reported to be the same.
The plague which ravished mankind and brought about the end of ‘humans’ did not evolve originally in the Reclaimer homes. These territories, due primarily to fierce winters and having a healthier people, were sadly dragged into the plague of mankind due to overloaded borders. As the fungal infection caused the undead to rise from the grave and twisted the first generation of humanity into horrific cannibals, those who were looking to escape the plague surged northward. Many of those that were looking to escape the plague were already carriers of the deadly spores within their lungs, carrying the plague northward. Within the warm bodies of the infected the plague was able to not only mutate to adapt to their environment but also find means to spread to the ancestors of the Reclaimers.
The first Reclaimers initially contracted the infectious plague when fighting against the southern influx of Mericans who threatened to overtake the northern cultural centers. While the ancestors of the Reclaimers had successfully fought the infected away from the borders of their civilizations, this resistance was at a heavy cost. The first outbreaks of the infection claimed tens of thousands of those that had fought on the front lines. Initially there were outbreaks of blood red blisters erupted along the hands, arms, and shoulders of the infected. Doctors theorized that a combination of engaging the sieging southern threat in close combat action combined with hauling the bodies of the fallen had allowed the infection to spread. It was a death sentence to be ‘caught red handed’, as even the compassionate cultures of the north had no choice but to euthanize or exile individual that showed signs of infection. Hundreds of thousands of families suffered the agony of seeing their loved ones forced beyond the gates of the great cities, given enough gear and supplies to face off against the undead threats of the new wasteland. The choice of an instant death or a chance of protecting their culture caused many a terminally infected person to walk into the wastes thinking they would never return. With years passing and more and more people showing the signs of infection, small communities of infected not unlike leper colonies began to form.
Waiting for the plague to take its bloody cost, these communities formed as a means to defend their uninfected loved ones from both the undead and living threats. However, death by infection never came for the first Reclaimers. Their hands and arms permanently discolored crimson and showing a leathery degeneration, it seemed as if the first Reclaimers had built up a resistance to the plague that had claimed so many. As the generations moved forward, the untainted ‘humans’ of the first generation slowly began to fall to the threats of the wasteland while the ‘Reclaimers’ were found to be more resilient to the threats of the wastes. It is said that at the end of the third generation the last ‘human’ was born in Thunder Bay, and that the child lived for all of five minutes.
Reclaimers are born with a severe discoloration and warping of their arms. From shoulder to finger tips the Reclaimers arms are a mottled deep crimson in color. The flesh of the arms is pocked as the upper most layers of the skin pull open, leaving a torn net of pocked leathery flesh and muscle. Makeup and costuming is required if exposed, or, gloves worn must go from the bicep to the finger tips to cover this area. Pure Reclaimers are born with either piercing blue or silvery gray eyes. Those born without blue or silver eyes are considered of mixed or impure heritage. This coloring is well beyond the spectrum of most normal eyes, and requires contacts for portrayal. Due the extended musculature of the back and shoulders of the Reclaimer, the strain tends to stand perfectly upright without slouching or leaning. Strain and exhaustion tends to find itself primarily in the back, shoulders, and legs of the Reclaimers due to their unique musculature. To combat the long term tiring of the back and torso, often times Reclaimer laborers bind themselves in belting and corseting that supports the back and shoulders.
Life in the Mass
Reclaimers are few and far between in the Mass, especially given the deep animosity between them and the Mericans that first began to rebuild the region. Although the weather, terrain, and threats are almost identical to the Mass, the few hours of travel between the Reclaimer’s northern homeland and the Mass has marked most Rerclaimers as outsiders. Most Reclaimers in the Mass are travelers, often found with Natural Ones and occasionally in traveling caravans with Rovers. Occasionally, a Reclaimer will settle down in the wilderness of the Mass and take roots, but if it occurs it’s rare that a Merican will ever step foot there.
When order was needed and resources became scarce, those that lived in communities accustomed to limited rations and sharing among smaller groups were already well adapted for survival. The most cut-throat and efficient communities were able to thrive, keeping properties tightly held within the group while those that opened their door to outsiders often fell. Localized communism, and tightly knit communities, exist all across the fallen wastelands. Red Star travel in small groups that are tighter than the standard family structure.
Every member of a Red Star family structure is not only considered equal, but they are also considered part of a polygamist commune. Children are raised by the cell until the time at which they are considered adults, and are expected to travel from the commune to join or begin another. Sometimes “trades” are made where family members move between cells in order to ensure suitable breeding stock is maintained. Those of the Red Star are at heart a martial people, focusing on the pragmatic needs of their cell instead of succumbing to temptation and escapism. They are often considered grim or somber to outsiders, with men and women both displaying an external strength and a demeanor of cold logic.
With their eerie harmony, dour attitudes and striking appearance, a cell of Reds always makes an impression wherever they travel. Found in the remains of Westernized communes, rural centralized communities, or in the frozen wastelands the Red Star are a culturally varied people. While the Red Star embrace unity, togetherness, and the abandonment of the capitalist system, it is not completely unheard of for Red Star to allow non-Red Star to serve their communes. These non-Red Star, while not completely equal, are considered useful tools and allies in ensuring the growth and strength of the individual cell.
Those born of the Red Star are as deadly as the reaping scythe and as hard as the hammer that crosses it. They prefer dark, modest clothes that do not show much skin or accent their figure, almost exclusively in red and black. (Military olive drab sometimes appears when large amounts of black would be impractical, such as hot summer months.) Those of the Red Star tend to speak very directly and expect the same honesty in return, giving them a reputation as a stern, humorless people. In truth, away from the eyes of outsiders they can be as warm and effusive as any other Strain, but only to other Red Star. Red Star live in small communes, sharing all property with their cell members and reaching decisions as a group. Individual leaders are chosen only when absolutely necessary, and are expected to step down once the current crisis passes. Red Star do not believe in independent marriage, and instead are considered collectively “wed” to all other eligible members of their cell. This is not a hedonistic arrangement, but simple practicality – Red Star see the jealousy and interpersonal rivalries that accompany exclusive romantic relationships as poisonous to the overall solidarity of the cell. Red Star do not follow these guidelines out of choice, but instead are a requirement of every Red Star.
Life in the Mass
The Mass is home to several communes and their numbers have increased year over year. Within the Mass, there are two kinds of cells: the more common traveling cell, and the stationed cell. Stationed cells are often located in one location or represent a certain amount of territory, and often choose to do so because of the long-term benefit of the cell working with a particular group or individual in order to accomplish a goal that will benefit the cell. As an example, a stationed cell has grown to become the Scrounger’s Union, making it firmly anti-capitalist and extremely effective as a blossoming group within the Mass.
Traveling cells usually consist of only five to six members; any more than that runs the risk of attracting the attention of the Mass’s deadly wilderness. However, it is not uncommon for traveling cells to lose multiple members and then end up merging with another cell for the betterment of both.
As humanity staggered from one disaster to another, attempting to survive the apocalypse, people tended to stick together. Communities, religions, and even whole nations arose to assist members in their daily fight for survival. While most survivors eventually fell in with one of the groups that would become the nations of the fallen lands, facing down radiation, riots, and undead hordes together, such was not the case for everyone. Wanderers who adhere to their own worldview and do not fit in with any of the established Strains, Remnants are more the lack of a defined Strain than a true Strain unto itself. Remnants can come from just about anywhere, representing a tremendous range of cultures and making each Remnant as unique and individual as falling radioactive snowflakes. While this personalized culture offers much in the way of diversity, it also causes a sense of separation.
Remnants sometimes result when an individual manifests genetic or psychological variations that set them too far apart from their community, such as a Retrograde who isn’t physically twisted, or a Natural One that possesses a natural talent and instinct for technology. Remnants of other cultures, while not always immediately ostracized, do not receive either the benefits or the drawbacks of their parent Strain. Ironically, Remnants tend to make up for their lack of clearly defined roots by taking intense pride in their origins and their social views. A remnant with mixed strain ancestry may take pride in the fact that their parents came from two distinctly different cultures.
Remnants do not have a single form of dress, appearance, or social structure that sets them apart from the crowd, other than the fact that they do not adhere to the appearance of the majority Strains. Remnants are known to have mild mutations in regards physical appearance, with certain physical aspects becoming more pronounced. In addition new physical growths sometimes occur such as small horns, mild skin discoloration, unique social quirks, and mental abnormalities. Rare social origins, extreme mutations and other cosmetic aspects for your character require staff approval before arrival at game. As a whole, Remnants can be as eccentric or plain as you can imagine – however they cannot imitate unique physical quirks of other Strains. Remnants cannot have the glow of an Iron Slave, rotted appearance of a Retrograde, light sensitivity of a Lascarian, or the visual apparitions of faith of a veteran Accensor.
Life in the Mass
While still looked upon with pity, most remnants will be accepted as members of a community as long as they have a hard work ethic and value to a city. While they may never find a ‘family’, the Mass has always been a place where you pick yourself up by your bootstraps and work — which means as long as a Remnant works hard to accomplish their goals, they will always have a ‘work family,’ so to speak.
The exception to this is Pure Blood communities, who will shut out Remnants if they are discovered. Because Remnants can be creatures of intense faith, it’s not uncommon for Remnants to try and sneak into Gates as an Accensor who has ascended. If accepted, Remnants can live a good life this way. If found out, they can risk worse than death by angering the Yacht Club.
When the dead began to walk the earth and the bombs began to drop, many cities were lost. Due to the cities’ vast population, and the number of dead that had been buried, there was little that could be done by most to survive. Those with enough money locked the doors behind them as they ran into their gilded cages. Those who were on the outer fringes and could leave the dangerous zones did so without ever looking back. But for those who lived in the inner city, or the vast metropolises around the world... there was no place to run to. So they did what they could– they dug in and they clung to one another as though their lives depended on it. Retrogrades survived years of radiation, disease, scrounging for essential supplies, and dealing with the shambling hordes on a daily basis.
Being exposed to some of the worst strains of the virus, the Retrogrades began to take on corpse-like features. Those that survived the days and nights became harder, stronger, and more willing to do whatever it takes to survive. As their faces became more skeletal and more hideous, the Retrogrades needed a way to distinguish themselves from the restless dead, to prevent themselves from being cut down when scavengers started to return. To identify themselves as not among the dead, it became custom to wear masks, to not only hide their hideous features but also to signify that they were not to be shot on sight.
These masks, unique and bright, signal to the inhabitants of towns that the Retrograde who wears the mask is indeed a sentient person instead of one of the walking dead. Some Retrogrades wear bright beautiful masks to mock outsiders who cannot see beyond their scarred image. Other Retrogrades wear minimalist masks, just enough to cover the mouth region, to signal that they are not carnivorous corpses. A small percentage of Retrogrades do not wear masks at all, but instead flaunt their rotted skin in the faces of all others as a political gesture. Unfortunately, most of this third group find themselves at the business end of a shotgun.
All Retrogrades have skeletal features, sunken faces, and even mottled, corpse-like skin. To avoid getting shot due to being mistaken for a zombie, Retrogrades have taken to wearing a variety of masks, often painting them as a sort of second face. Gas masks, opera masks, elaborate veils, hockey masks, archaic helmets, surgical masks, wrapped scarves, rebreathers – the choices are nearly endless, and often reflect the personality and history of the individual Retrograde more than they might believe. Unmasked Retrogrades must use some form of makeup, facial prosthetic and/or skeletal mask to show their zombie-like appearance. There should be no question that an unmasked Retrograde has a clearly damaged, corpselike face; many will use similar makeup on exposed skin as well (though this is not required). Apart from their use of masks –or decision not to use one– Retrogrades have no dominant fashion. Some favor a practical or military look, while others echo the style of dominant strains where they were raised, such as wearing Merican hats or horrible Vegasian fabrics. In no event should a Retrograde be easily mistaken for another Strain, however – their distinctive mask or their hideous unmasked appearance should always be a dead giveaway.
Life in the Mass
Politics on retrogrades change from town to town. Many have strict rules on Retrogrades wearing masks, other places consider it a gross restriction of freedom. In Pure Blood societies, Retrogrades are often invited to live in homes to work as cooks, tailors, and servants to make Pure Bloods appear more beautiful when they stand next to a rotting corpse.
However, Retrogrades have found a strong usefulness to the science and medical communities in the Mass. Given the Mass’s rich pre-fall history, many of the discoveries and tools for the past and the future are in radiation-ridden areas that make it impossible to explore unless you are a retrograde. Many of the Mass’s most famous Jones are retrogrades, delving into dark and dangerous places for chuck, for fortune, for the future, or for fame.
The Wastelands of the world are populated by more than hordes of undead, sparse villages, and mutated beasts. Trade and information are the blood of this blasted world, it’s said, and caravans are its veins. If that’s true, then Rovers are the heart that keeps the whole thing pumping. Rovers are instrumental in maintaining the few caravan routes in this ravaged world. More importantly however, these extended families have thrived in those places least touched by the horrors of the past, where plants still grow wild, and the shambling hordes have difficulty reaching. From mountaintops to hidden ravines, the Rover families maintain stopovers for many scavengers and caravan drivers besieged by packs of Hunters or just in need of supplies.
From these way stations they trade goods for information and safety. And yet despite their seclusion, they maintain a healthy respect for the successes of the past, even when staring down the vacant, hungry stare of its failures. Generosity and honor bring respect, while rudeness and hoarding brings contempt. This is the encompassing ethos of Rovers, and it is for this reason that Rover hospitality is justly legendary. How well one treats their guests, charges, or employees is a measurement of a host’s virtue, the worth of one’s reputation. A guest can expect safety, politeness, and food when placed in the care of a Rover, even if that guest is their mortal enemy. A Rover would rather know thirst and starvation than breach the laws of hospitality. This same courtesy is expected in return, however, and it is assumed that guests will be on their best behavior and not overstay their welcome. To do otherwise is horribly rude by Rover standards.
Deals and agreements are much the same– if hospitality is the civilizer of society, they are the tempered steel. Any deal a Rover makes can be counted on to be fulfilled to the letter, and punished in kind if broken. This isn’t to say that all Rovers will hand the first person that asks of them everything they own, allow themselves to be taken advantage of, or cannot be the most dastardly of Merchants. They do not feel any need to offer hospitality to the undead, or bloodthirsty Raiders, or enemies openly attacking them. It does mean that they will think themselves lesser persons to not offer the best they can to those that come into their homes or charge.
All Rovers possess a number of rules of hospitality they abide (and expects other to abide) by at all times, be it keeping weapons and boots off their tables, never spilling drink, or cleaning blood from face and weapon as soon as conflict is settled. They can be rude, angered, shunning and even unwelcoming, but such acts are reserved for those who repeatedly and willfully disregard their laws of hospitality or lay them repeated insult– Rover shunning and justice can be terrifyingly meticulous, and word spreads very quickly among all their Strain.
For clothing, warm and cream colors are favored, with scarves and abundant lengths of cloth popular in any weather. It is said that many Rover caravans also use their scarves to pass discreet messages, with the color, placement and even knot-work of each sash providing such details as marital status, occupation, places visited and even local hazards to those who know how to read them. As each group has its own variations, cataloging the code is virtually impossible, making it a surprisingly secure way of passing on information. Players are encouraged to develop their own “sash code” for their character’s particular family or caravan.
Life in the Mass
Rovers are vital to economy in the Mass. With the terrain too muddy and unreliable to use Diesel Jock vehicles, Rovers are often the only method of reliable transportation — whether its people, goods, or messages. It’s not uncommon for Rover families to have their own ‘roads’ or routes which are passed down generation to generation. While Rovers will always offer hospitality to those they encounter on their road, for another Rover family to supply trade on Rover’s road is considered impolite without prior permission.
To combat this, Rovers will often put scarf ‘flags’ along a road or path to mark whose territory it is. While not often found in or around larger towns, this practice is common in smaller tradeposts.