Encroachment of Ice Age
From Post-Apocalyptic RPG wiki
This Storyline is really more of a "meta" story line or plot framework. As such, the goal is to set the mood and provide some constraints and structure for other storylines to develop. Because it is the "main" plot arc, it is critical that any (non-trivial) game endings relate to it in someway.
Initial Game start
The player starts in the northern reaches of the World Map. The game will support multiple PC origins, for example he may be a young tribal, a grizzled survivor, or a (partially) sheltered, gentle soul. Because of the multiple origin, we will have to have to "Deus Ex Machina" the PC into an initial story "bottleneck" location. For lack of a better idea, the PC starts out "lost in a snow storm" and must learn initial survival mechanics to reach nearby "safe haven" (well, safer than the storm anyway).
It is the end of a very long, very harsh winter. The winters have been getting harsher for years now, and food and heat is getting harder to come by. PC may not know that "Nuclear Winter" after the war should have ended 5-10 years ago - but he should be able to find this out early by talking to folks in the early locations.
It will be clear to the "Player" at the early stages of the game that the world seems to be getting colder - and the "why?", "how?", and possibly "can it be stopped?" are part of the game's central puzzle. Of course, it is up to the Player/PC to decided to do anything about it.
What is happening?
As time passes in the game, the northern parts of the map get more and more inhospitable. The world is entering another ice age (science note: The time frame here is pretty preposterous, we know… it's artistic license). In mechanics terms, it's harder and harder to hunt/forage for food. This should be reasonable obvious to a player who's trying to feed his PC+party, but we can always drop dialog hints along the way. As the food supply drops- population in towns drop too (we may or may not want to actually model the migration south - or partial die-offs, partial migrations). Over the course of the game, northern towns may even become totally deserted ghost towns. The Weather and Seasonal Cycle will on average get colder and colder as the game progresses, "freezing out" the map from the North down. This is the "plot driver" which forces the player inexorably south or face slow death.
Now, this isn't much of a story, but it's not meant to be. "Real" stories, plots, quests, locations -- all that cool RPG stuff from the Writing Department in embedded in this framework of a freezing Earth (or at least, upper reaches of the Northern Hemisphere).
Eventually, the PC meets some scientist/meteorology/geology types. They believe that the Nuclear Winter has triggered another ice age (for the geology nerds, the more ice on the planet - the more sunlight is reflected, leading to more cooling). They may suggest some further places to investigate this theory.
As the game progresses, the player meets more folks who have more theories. First "We should just move south to Germany" ... or Italy"... or "Africa". Finally some "incontrovertible proof is revealed to the PC that the ice age will very likely blanket the whole globe - a near "snowball earth" (SEE http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snowball_Earth and http://www.snowballearth.org/ ) Some start to give increasingly outrageous plans to stop the Cooling and the coming ice age. Roughly speaking, every time the PC "finishes" an area (and gains the full information) it will turn out that "our plan was flawed" but we heard about maybe these guys.... As the player moves South, the "schemes" to fix Earth's climate becomes more and more outrageous. The mid game should have a feel of the player/character getting his hopes up for the future.
Note that not all plots/subplots/quests need be tied into the Ice Age bit at all; the Encroachment of the Ice Age just prevents the game from becoming a "true" survival sandbox (and can also cover for lack of content)
Our World Map has a natural barrier in the South - the Baltic Sea. Crossing the Baltic and entering (from NE to SW) Lithuania/Latvia/Estonia/Poland/Germany/Denmark is the trigger for the final "Act" of the game and some sort of closure to any long running plot ties. This "Trans-baltic" area should have a somewhat different "feel" to it (think of Planescape:Torment once you leave Sigil). Although these areas are more populated (higher base population), and have more "organized" groups they are in other ways more devastated. The weather is not as severe as in Scandinavia (note: we might have to handle Northern Baltics a little different), but the actual effects of WWIII are much more pronounced, and the people actually more savage and degenerate (following the theme that the worse things "got" the less "human" the survivors treated each other). In addition to their brutality, they are also reasonably well-armed (in essence the vast amount of ordinance left over from the war). Contrary to PST however, there is simply no way to "fight your way out" of the game. In fact, the End game requires the player to rely on all his NON combat skills. There is an obvious hint to this by the fact that the various ways of crossing the Baltic south require different skill sets - none of them combat-oriented.
There should be several (at least 3) ways of getting across the Baltic and they should probably all be one-way trips. Some ideas: Ice boat (perhaps in the North East), "Actual" Sailing ship, maybe even some kind of air ship, possibly some clever way of repairing road bridge (Sweden -> Denmark).
Once across the seas, the theme shifts from the Hopes/Dashed Hopes cycle to one where the PC must wonder if the world is worth saving at all. The people and settlements he meets should leave a bad taste in his mouth (unless he's a psychopath). As mentioned above, there are still a couple "Save the World" plots left, but they are borderline insane
In addition to the tyrants and crazies, the PC encounters an enclave of scientists (the Seed Vaulters) who, strangely, have no plan to deal with the ice age. In fact, they are resigned to it by trying to preserve all of mankinds' knowledge and technology for "an extended period of time" (thousands of years).
The vault itself is an old Mineshaft (Dr. Strangelove) Here is the awful truth. There is no water chip. You cannot save the planet. It's doomed. You can either join the "scribes" and "seed vaulters" or just live out the end of your days meaninglessly (I would represent this in the game by simply walking off the south edge of the map after certain quests have been triggered).
That being said there are still a few alternate endings to choose from (as distinct from an "end of game" slide show where you learn of the fate of your friends, enemies and various places.
These are just some sample ideas for now.
Preserve What You Can
You help the Seed Vaulters to save knowledge and technology for future generations. Sap. (You freeze along with everyone else.)
Destroy the Seed Vault
Man, you are a bastard. Create a monument of human bones symbolizing the futility of the human endeavor, or some such Nihilistic non-sense.
Take over the vault
Find 50 of the best "breeding stock" and try to cobble together some kind of sustainable energy source and hope to out last the Ice Age or at least create a base where you can live. Did you remember to pack extra water chips? (It fails, but it was fun for a couple of months).
Power Supply Options
These are all stolen from stupid sci-fi movies. They won't work.
- Pig shit (Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome)
- Human batteries (Matrix)
Head back north
Did I say crossing the Baltic was a one-way trip? Well, there is a way. You live the rest of your days as an Eskimo.