A Review of the Role Playing Game Supplement Scorched Earth: American Wastelands

Scorched Earth: American Wastelands is a role playing game supplement published by the Avalon Game Company for use with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. As such, it is covered by the Open Game License and some of it is considered to be Open Game Content as a result. This is the setting book for the Scorched Earth system, which is an adaptation of the Pathfinder game for a post-nuclear apocalypse setting. Both supplement are really needed in order to use either properly; this one certainly does not stand on its own. It contains details of post-apocalyptic America as well as creatures.

The supplement is available from RPGNow at the regular price of $14.99 but was purchased at the reduced price of $1. This is an 80 page PDF of which one page is the front cover, one page the front matter, one page the Open Game License and one page is an ad for other supplements.

Scorched Earth: American WastelandsChapter 1, The Badlands, covers the states of Utah, New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada. There are details on the town of Fortune’s End – previously Truth or Consequences in New Mexico – a fairly substantial settlement that is split into two sides, each vying for control. There are details on the leaders of each side and their main forces. The Hatchetmen are a gang, and there are details on its leader, Bone Grinner, full stats for a typical Hatchetman and for a typical vehicle, which are modified ice cream trucks.

Chapter 2, The Gulf, covers the Gulf of Mexico. Covered in this chapter are The Tower, a skyscraper in Waco, Texas that has managed to survive everything to date and which is the headquarters of a religious cult, the Church of the Sacred Flame. Three important NPCs in The Tower are detailed as is the Church as well. Another gang, The Open Eye Gang, which essentially worships chaos is covered, with stats for a gang member and a vehicle, a motorbike.

Chapter 3, The Midwest is the area in the vicinity of the Great Lakes. A notable location is The Sacred Speedway, formerly the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which the various gangs of the area use to decide who is going to be in control in no-holds-barred races. There are two notable NPCs and three notable groups, one associated with each NPC from the Speedway, Acolytes of Asphalt and Chaos Kings and the third with the Assembly for Restoration and Technology (ART; members are given ranks named after various types of artist), a technology group which has acquired a more aggressive leader. There are stats for two members of ART and one vehicle.

Chapter 4, The Northwest, is the Pacific Coast of the northern states. The Emerald City, formerly Seattle, came through the apocalypse comparatively unscathed with working technology, including decent power. It is now in not so good shape, thanks to being taken over by a rather insane leader with a Frank Baum fixation, known as the Wizard, who keeps the population dosed on LSD to keep them in line. There are two important people connected to the Wizard, and one opposed, and one group, the Royal Guard. He is opposed by a former “Dorothy”, now the Wicked Witch of the East who leads the Army of the East. Also nearby is the League of Hackers, and there are details on the group’s leader (formerly of the Order of the Paper Phoenix) as well as stats for a member and a vehicle.

Chapter 5, The Rockies, are relatively untouched. The main settlement of note is Arapahoe, the headquarters of the Order of the Paper Phoenix, who collect books and have an impressive, for post-apocalyptic times, collection, as well as three notable people associated with it. Another group in the region is the Knights of the Broken Road, who protect the helpless and function as a knightly order, complete with castle. Details are given on the Knights’ leader, the last surviving founder members, as well as stats for a squire and a vehicle.

Chapter 6, The South, has two main groups. The Sherwood Society steals from the rich – the other group – and gives to the poor, and its leader is described and stats are provided for a member and a vehicle. The second group is Camp Gruber, a military installation that was untouched and is now run by and renamed after a former private who seized control. Details are provided on its leader and another NPC.

Chapter 7 is in two sections. Creatures of the Wastes is the bestiary with seven new monsters and some variants. Quite a few of the monsters are radioactive and some are even “powered” by radiation. They may be a bit unlikely – apart from the giant intelligent cockroaches – but they are thematically appropriate. The second section, Adventure Seeds, is a number of ideas for adventures which references the groups and NPCs detailed in the rest of the supplement.

Scorched Earth: American Wastelands in Review

The PDF lacks both bookmarks and a table of contents and navigation is, as a result, extremely poor. The text maintains a two column format and is reasonably free of errors, especially for this publisher – they tend to have a lot of problems. There are a number of black and white images throughout which are okay, but not spectacular, and the pages have a full colour background, which cannot be turned off for printing. Presentation is generally okay but it could be better.

The supplement gives a brief overview of many of the major regions of post-apocalyptic America (the Eastern Seaboard isn’t covered at all; this is a region that would have suffered heavy bombardment though) and only America. Across the borders into Canada and Mexico is not covered at all. Still, there’s a limit to how much could be covered. Perhaps other areas will be covered at a later date.

Each area is covered in some detail, with enough on groups to at least give a head start on fleshing out some adventures. None of the groups or locations are really covered that thoroughly, especially major settlements which could do with supplements in their own right, and none of the major NPCs have any stats. A GM will really need to do quite a bit of work to get things up and running. The bestiary creatures are all quite weird, with their emphasis on radioactivity, and do substitute for the typical monsters seen in a fantasy game.

Combined with Scorched Earth, this is the beginning of a rather different Pathfinder setting, but it could do with a bit more – more monsters, more adventures, more details on locations and groups. Whether or not such additional material will be produced is not clear as yet. Scorched Earth: American Wastelands is an okay addition to the main setting book, even with its flaws, and it can be found by clicking here.

 

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