So after the release of the Gamma World Albuquerque Starport Module in 1981, Brian and his group started a Gamma World campaign set in the Southwest, in a place presciently named Vegaz. Two and a half decades, More than 25 years before Fallout III – New Vegas, he and his gaming group in Northeastern Indiana were already playing Gamma World set in Post-Apocalyptic Las Vegas. To give you guys a blast to the past, and to reinforce that old cliche, “There’s no school, like the old school!” We happily present to you Vegaz as portrayed in 2471 A.D. Enjoy!
Mead Valley – (Las Vegas Area) 2471 A.D.
Campaign Materials & Information
Mead Valley Background
There are a number of oases of civilization left after the Final War. One of these, literally an oasis, grew up in the Nevada/Arizona border area.
Hoover Dam supplied water and electrical power to a large part of the Desert Southwest. Therefore it was an early target, as were the nearby military installations. The population of the area soon fled, for without electricity their accustomed way of living was ended; and without water, life itself was impossible.
The Ancients’ towns swiftly died, mostly from the in-hospitality of the desert. The abandoned buildings of Las Vegas were plundered and looted a few times. The nearby lands were ignored; it was “not worth expending valuable resources” on uninhabited real estate. They were however affected by great storm fronts carrying radioactive fallout, poisonous debris, etc.
When the dam was destroyed, Lake Mead poured out, doing great flood damage all the way to the sea. This also changed the course of the lower Colorado River. The emptying of the waters left behind a blessing, however, in the form of fertile soil in the old lake bed. If only water could be brought to it!
People, being the intelligent, adaptable folk that they are, presently discovered the Valley. A trickle of individuals and family groups, deserters and natives and refugees, came in. Their numbers were pitifully small. They began trying to eke a living from the moist soils. Far-sighted individuals dug irrigation canals. Soon the Valley was the only enclave of civilization in a vast desert.
The Valley farmers managed to cope with the environmental changes that occurred because of the War. They discovered how to tend the changed crops. They learned how to fend off the monstrous creatures that appeared. They also recognized their need for greater numbers and invited the new intelligent beings – mutated humans, intelligent animals, and plants – to join them.
Now it is certainly true that a man alone is more likely to be eaten by the Sep than a man with a friend to guard his back. Cooperation and socialability are survival traits, so the farmers began to coalesce into villages. This process was helped along by a single humanoid (who had the Political Genius mutation), simply remembered as ‘Koonig’. Under his direction new villages were built, a town was founded, and the Grand Canal – a 45 kilometer long irrigation system along the old bed of the Mead River – was begun.
The Grand Canal was made for agriculture, so it was a more productive environment than the wilder banks of the Colorado. As the new land bore forth its crops, efficiencies of scale began to take hold. The population boomed; individuals could find time for pursuits other than seeking food; craftsmanship (and then technology)blossomed; and a new society was born. The Valley folk today use machinery paralleling 1600’s Europe (the Thirty Years’ War).
Mead Valley extends along the Colorado River and its tributaries from Hoover Canyon to the mouth of the Grand Canyon. There are a number of nominally independent villages in the nearby desert and mountains. Several Ancient sites are claimed (notably the ruins of Vegaz) but most of the inhabitants live on irrigable land.
Mead Valley is a unified polity. There are about 50 villages (population 30 to 500) and a town (population 3000). The army is split evenly between the valley proper and detached duty in the nearby villages.
Mead Valley History
Mead Valley was first settled by refugees fleeing Las Vegas. Much of its peoples’ early history is lost in myth and rumor, as the inhabitants were too busy figuring out how to survive; they did not expend valuable time and effort in writing things down. The first date-able historical act in Mead Valley was the Great Assembly, when ‘Koonig’ convinced the farming villages to apply their combined efforts into a great project, under his direction. This was several generations ago.
Koonig was a Political Genius and he used the two models available to him in creating an effective organization for social cooperation. He formed more-or-less democratic public political bodies for each village, and a secret society of village leaders. This society also became known as ‘Koonig’. Its members would make the decisions for the public bodies to announce.
Koonig created the Council of Notables as an organizing body to deal with the lesser tasks that composed his great projects. The Council originally was composed of the village headmen; later it would include wealthy or persuasive beings who gained influence in local affairs. Koonig’s successors (‘Koonigkintern’) did not have nearly the political ability that he did, so over time the Council became more important.
As your characters first approached adulthood, an Army party explored the ruins of Vegaz and made contact with the computer controlling the Mech-Farm. No policy could be made over what to do with the bounty discovered therein, so by default it was stored against future need. The last Koonigkintern could not always get the Council to enforce their decisions. At about this same time, strong-willed Council members were actively undermining the Mead government for their own personal gain (or so they thought). Eventually, the last Koonig council was assassinated during one of their secret meetings. Theories abound (of course), but most people believe that the assassin was a member of both the Koonig society and a village council. Many of the Notables were also killed in the next few days. During the chaos that followed, a number of cryptic alliances made themselves known. Many of them attempted to conquer Mead Valley and remake it in their own image, the better to work their own purposes.
The Army of Mead took effective action despite the death of its commanding General: staff officers posted guards over the waterworks at the head of the Grand Canal. This critical action ensured them control of the water that keeps Mead Valley alive. They recalled all units on detached duty and formed a centralized reserve. The overwhelming, coordinated force presently quelled the disturbances. The Army also brought the cryptic alliances under control by using the threats of thirst today and hunger tomorrow.
A new government was formed, built around the Council of Notables and village governments. The 24 Council members, coordinated by a Governor, now lead the nation. They have set out to fully utilize the resources available in and around Mead Valley.
Mead Valley is well on its way to recovery. The PSH population suffered especially greviously (better than two thirds were casualties). The overall population has returned to its previous level (read: baby boom). The property damage has been repaired or replaced.
Mead claims the ruins of Vegaz. Under the koonigs, this meant no more than a garrison to keep out other organized bands of sentients. Now the land is being developed. The ruins lie in a valley close to the water table, so wells are being drilled and irrigation canals are being dug. The city marshall is a closet Restorationist, and wants very much to catalogue the Artifacts in the town so any practical ones may be put to use. One expedition has been staged; more are planned.
The new government has suffered a rude awakening, and it is very conscious (some say paranoid) of the Cryptic Alliances operating hereabouts. By now, every cryptic alliance has its own village (and a complement of government spies). The government has no intention of being suprised again, nor of being taken over by any of these groups. Recently, it was necessary to send a band of freelance adventurers to investigate rumors that a rogue alliance member had discovered Ancient weapons of great power. The band did not return, but an enormous explosion was seen to the southwest. The rumors ceased shortly thereafter.
The town of Mead is noteworthy in several ways. With about 2000 pueblo rooms in several discrete room blocks constructed of adobe, the settlement is one of the larger to exist in the Southwest, its resident population numbering about three thousand. Public architecture includes earthen mounds and stone monuments. The central mound is roughly circular platform, four meters high with a stone facade and staircase. The town’s water supply feeds out of the Grand Canal; secondary supply is possible from the Colorado River. The main canal feeds into a reservoir with a settling tank from which small, stone-lined channels take water into the room blocks; an outflowing sewer and ditch systems removes fluids from the rooms. All of these are characteristics of a populous, well-planned and integrated town.
Mead town is the center of a polity roughly 40×70 kilometers. None of the villages in the hinterland approach its scale, indicating that Mead is at the apex of the region’s political organization.
Notes on the Medians, from the Travel Journal of Aldred, Restorationist Explorer
The annual inundation (of the Colorado) reduces the area to a lake which, while it may flush rubbish and vermin downstream, also sweeps away dwellings and landmarks, and makes use of the land impossible for a week or two. But this destructive flood also deposits the heavier sands and gravels into turtle-back mounds, or levees, along the verges of the river, eventually building them up into banks that only an exceptional rise of the river could cover. Such hillocks form suitable sites for settlements; and in their lee, flooded land can be developed into basin cultivation. From these physical features, the characteristic cultivation of Mead has developed; for the natural gaps between levees can be filled by raising dykes, and the water trapped in the basins beyond can be slowly released by breaching embankments as the rivers begin to fall. Growth is rapid and lush in the well-soaked virgin soil left behind.
The organization of the land of Mead as a rich agricultural state was a gradual process and was still incomplete after Koonig. New land was won from the deserts in most years of prosperity, and brought into the system. While the wayward force of the inundation could level, irrigate, and fertilize tracts of sterile land, it could also shift cultivation by altering the former course of the river. Land could also go out of production some years through excessive flood, or drought, or fallowing, or neglect in times of political upheaval. The chief concern of good government, to this day, is to maintain agricultural prosperity.
The exploitation of the land to sustain a farming economy is wholly dependent upon hydraulic engineering, on the raising of dykes and embankments, the filling of storage basins, the cutting of channels and sluices and the transporting of water. Furthermore this work had to be done rapidly. In the near-absence of machinery, such projects required the conscription of labor under skilled organizers, and inevitably involved the peasantry – the primary source for any large labor pool.
The Median thus early became inured to a disciplined way of life in which he accepts direction from a corps of specialists, hydraulic and civil engineers. Above all, such hydraulic works could not be confined to narrow sectors of the river banks, but inevitably spread ever further involving neighboring tracts, together with their inhabitants. The outcome was a political system to ensure the success and persistence of the methods of exploiting the annual flood. Since in order to do this, decisions had often to be taken at short notice and in conditions of stress, it was perhaps inevitable that the form of government would be authoritarian.
The political system in early Mead is quite obscure. Probably communities were small, self-supporting and relatively isolated around village centers. They doubtless combined in larger units under the direction of a more charismatic leader to meet a challenge from nature or from rival groups.
Land in Mead was made suitable for cultivation as much by seasonal organized human effort on a large scale as by natural conditions. This circumstance favors the emergence of technocrats who direct labor, determine the right moment for raising dams and piercing dykes, cutting canals, and re-defining boundaries. They organize the collection and storage of harvests, and decide how much of it is to be allocated to imposts and the next season’s seed.
The development of Mead as a political entity would not be possible, however, even with a dedicated bureaucracy of competent officials, in the absence of another element – a staff of learned scribes, skilled in the arts of reading, writing, and mathematics. It is the ubiquitous scribe with his writing-palette and recording book that obtrudes himself upon the notice. Precise instructions could be issued at a distance and reports received from afar, without the errors that accrue from using a fallible human memory.
The inundations of the two rivers often sweep away old landmarks and an accurate survey had periodically to be made to re-establish former boundaries according to the written records. The science of computing time did not lag behind that of measuring space.
The immense stimulus given to cultural enterprise by the unification of the Valley is evident in all departments of human activity.
Despite the evidence of contention, Koonig’s achievement was remarkable and resulted in the establishment of many of the institutions and traditions of the current state. The Koonig society inherited all the magic virtue of a primitive medicine man. Their knowledge of the life-giving waters accredited them with seminal influences, keeping drought and sterility away. They contend with Evil which manifests itself in the form of sentient predators on the cultivators of the valley, or in the wild creatures and monsters that prey upon the domestic flocks and the ripening crops. So they are represented not only as smiting the barbarians and nomads living nearby, but also as the intrepid hunter of the Sep and wild Rabbuck.
Mead Valley enjoys a virile and self-assured culture which is the most characteristic expression of the national ethos. The calm faces that gaze out from so many statues and reliefs are untroubled by doubts; and the voices that speak from their writings, the books of precepts and etiquette, and the complacent autobiographies, are unfaltering in their belief that the good life consists in being discreet, modest, honest and patient; prudent in friendship, not covetous, nor envious, nor violent, but respectful to superiors and inferiors alike; in short, keeping one’s proper station and exercising moderation in all things. The members of the government are the educated elite for whom the economic and artistic enterprises of the state were created. But while forming a privileged class they are not idle. They comprise the architects, engineers, writers, theologians, administrators, the men of action and intelligence of the day.
Before the Final War, Las Vegas was a city devoted to pleasure and luxury. Being in the middle of the desert, it was a highly artificial creation. The first strikes of the War destroyed Hoover Dam and thereby doomed the city; without electricity, nobody wanted to live there, and there was not enough water to supply everybody anyway; later the fear of radiation kept people away. The nuclear strike on Nellis AFB did not do much physical damage to Las Vegas, but opened leaks and cracks in the outside walls, for years of weather and decay to exploit.
Indeed, all the Desert Southwest depopulated very rapidly during the Final War, since electricity and clean water – both requirements of Ancient life – were high-priority targets.
Many buildings in Las Vegas were the size of a city block. Buildings usually have considerable damage to the roof and north-facing walls; upper floors are often open to the weather. Any Artifacts found upstairs will be in poor condition due to exposure. Junk, Baubles, and Curiosities are common. The lower parts of buildings are usually intact, and the streets can be travelled by foot. There is a 75% chance that any given street block can be traveled by a wagon.
The Downtown area was a 1900’s-style roadgrid under a weather dome. The dome collapsed and time has reduced the buildings beneath to wreckage. This area cannot be traversed by any means available to the party (except for flight).
The hotel/casinos along The Strip survived somewhat better than the rest of the city, due mostly to distance from the explosions. Any PC who enters the derelict buildings will find a substantial haul in (civilian) Artifacts, Gold Pieces, domars, jewelry, and precious gems inside. The Las Vegas Mech-Farm has also survived, and is in very good condition (see section below).
GM note: Explorers in the casinos will also find a number of dangerous creatures, just to keep things interesting.
Las Vegas Mech-Farm
This farm produced luxury foods for the hotel/casinos which were Las Vegas’ main source of income. It grows fruits, vegetables, and meat animals. Butchering facilities are included, as are factories to provide packaging. The farm has outdoor and indoor components. It has repair and maintenance facilities for its equipment, making it self-sufficient. (Which is why it still runs after all these years.) There is an on-site Cybernetic Installation (CI). The farm is completely automated; Robots perform all necessary tasks. There is a sufficient number to adequately cover the grounds.
The CI is in an underground building, which provided just enough radiation shielding when it really mattered. The computer survived the Final War well enough to keep up with events and handle emergencies as they occurred. It has lost the ability to “plan ahead” against future problems, though. Instead, it follows its old programming as best it can. It has been at minimal production until recently.
This Mech-Farm has its full complement of robots (as discussed in Vol 1 Rule Book). However, the exact numbers and kinds of robots on the Farm have not yet been revealed by the CI.
All equipment on the Farm is powered from a solar/nuclear power plant. The CI prefers to rely on solar power and a set of storage batteries, as nuclear fuel is running low. Broadcast power equipment exists, but it is all aimed into the Farm.
The Farm has no built-in way to export food (the trucks were cannibalized for spare parts long ago). A wagon trail has recently been constructed back to Mead Valley. Farm produce can be sold anywhere in GAMMA WORLD for a very high price. This is high-quality food, tastes excellent, and will not rot or decay in any fashion until the packaging is opened.
The Farm originally extended well to the south. The uplift of the mountains south of Vegaz, however, made this land unsuitable for farming – rocky, jumbled, high and dry – and the equipment that was used there has been stored for future cannibalization. Much equipment has been modified to deal with the new kinds of creatures which constantly try to enter Farmland. The Farm has a number of Stunray-armed Robots watching the borders of the farm. They look for wild animals. (The CI uses these definitions: animal: anything that moves under its own power and does not (A) look like a PSH or (B) wear artificial clothing; wild: any animal not accompanied, or clearly controlled by, a PSH.) Wild animals are stunned and removed to the desert around the Vegas Basin.
The Mech-Farm was discovered by a Mead Army expedition several years ago. Since that time, the CI has agreed to work for the Mead Government. By deliberate choice, Mead has not relied on the Mech-Farm for its food; the old Regent felt that it would be degrading to sentients if they were allowed to eat fine foods without having to work to earn it. Because of the months of chaos after the assassination of the last Prince, and the subsequent damage and neglect of the Mead Valley irrigation systems, the New Government has modified that policy. To prevent starvation, the Mech-Farm’s bounty was made available. (Of course the sudden glut of food dropped prices to almost nothing.) The former surplus has been eaten while the irrigation canals were repaired and new crops planted, so supply and demand balanced out again just before the harvest. The New Government hails this fortunate outcome as good planning, but everybody knows they are just boasting.
The Mech-Farm has become a base for the New Government in their determination to further explore and understand the Artifacts left in the ruins of Vegaz.
The Morocco Hotel
Before the War, the Morocco Hotel was one of the dozen great hotel/casinos devoted to its guests’ pleasure. The building stood 10 stories tall, with three towers (for guest rooms) 25 stories tall. As a result of the Final War attacks near the city, the towers are structurally unsound. The roof also suffered damage. The MBC weatherproofed the roof, but could only patchwork the towers; they have been closed off. All floors in the main building are open, however. The first floor below ground is a parking garage with openings (locked, at the moment) to Las Vegas Boulevard (“The Strip”). There are a number of busses in one corner of the garage. Most of the garage is full of “golf carts”: open solar/battery vehicles which move at about twice PSH walking speed.
Deeper underground (and not accessible to the PC’s) are the service functions of the hotel. Things like room service, heating and air conditioning machinery, maintenance, repairs, &c were connected to city suppliers by a deep subway system of communications and freight-transport tunnels. Many of these tunnels have suffered the ravages of time (especially earthquakes associated with the uplift of the mountains to the south) and have collapsed.
Inside the hotel, 3-D holograms cover the walls. Most floors are made up to look like a Casablanca street scene – narrow, zig-zag corridors. Most walls have a faint blue (turquoise) tinge. Doorways are darker blue or indigo. On the commercial floors, the shops seem to overflow into the street. The residential floors are less cramped but the streets still wind along. Simple-minded Household Robots in the open hallways are programmed (and costumed) to act like Arab “natives”. The casino and shopping floors have 2-D holograms.
Outside, the landscaping looks like a small walled town built around an oasis well. This well, and the fountain built into it, are real. 2-D Holograms extend up the walls to enhance this illusion. The holograms on the towers are broken, however, so they appear to float in midair!
The guest rooms are built on a standard plan. A living room is in front of the suite; a simple kitchen is along one wall. The bathroom faces a closet area further back. In the rear is a bedroom. This whole suite is soundproofed. For suites along the outside walls, glass doors open onto the rather small, screen-enclosed balcony. These doors have a 2-D hologram display on them, not visible from outside. Views include: empty Nevada desert; endless sand dunes; Early Las Vegas; 1990’s Las Vegas; distant oasis, mirage of water; dancing harem girls; a passing caravan. Due to a programming glitch, several other views and landscapes (GM’s imagination) appear at irregular intervals.
The hotel’s MBC had been shut down for years with the broadcast power on “minimum” (this was just enough to run the emergency hall lights and “Exit” signs). It just recently “woke up” (the main program re-booted) and is now trying to clean up and run as if the Final War never happened.
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