Here is a new location for you to use in your favorite zombie roleplaying game such as All FleshMust Be Eaten or Rotworld. The material will also work for any modern day roleplaying game, especially if the game involves elements of survival and the end of the world.
Before the Fall
The turnpike, the highway, the freeway, the toll road. Different names for essentially the same thing, roads that allow travelers to drive fast in order to arrive somewhere else quickly. Some require paying a fee, some have limited access and allow for a high rate of speed, and others do not.
As the rise begins, the turnpike will become an empty road to nowhere. Drivers and workers will hurry home to loved ones and the perceived safety of home. Off-ramps are likely to become the scene of accidents as the hurrying drivers disregard basic driving etiquette. Road rage may even lead to altercations.
The Road: The turnpike proper, itself, is a four to six lane highway. The area between the east and west bound lanes alternates from grassy ditch to concrete barriers to steel ropes. A chain link fence topped with barbed wire lines the turnpike and many buildings exist on the other side of the fence. This particular turnpike cuts through five states and is rated for speeds up to 70mph. Access is limited and users pay a toll to get on or off the road. Ponds with hunting and fishing shacks sit inside copse of trees. Farmland brings homes, stables, barns of all sorts, and herds of deer. Trees and farmland line most of the turnpike. Small towns dot the landscape and a few larger ones allow for users to exit and quickly access outlet malls, restaurants, and hotels. Along the way, rest stops, travel plazas, Department of Transportation buildings, State Highway Patrol offices, and access gates are available to the traveler. Billboard signs point out camp grounds, wine tastings, and there is always an adult book store just over the next state line.
Travel Plaza: The travel plaza is a common site along the turnpike. A smaller state like Indiana will have five travel plazas on each side of the turnpike. Larger states such as Ohio may only have eight to ten. Paper maps and online map tools will locate them if the Zombie Master is using the real world. Travel plazas generally have seven areas: bathrooms, showers, gift shop, travel pamphlets/information desk, an area for games (could be a video arcade or just whack-a-zombie), gas station for semi-trucks, as well as, pedestrian vehicles.
Rest Stop: The rest stop is a step down from the travel plaza with fewer amenities. There are no restaurants serving food. There may be vending machines. The primary attractions of the rest stop are restrooms and place to park and rest. Rest stops usually have two sides, one for passenger vehicles and one for semi-trucks and recreational vehicles. Some will have both on one side, with a tree lawn separating the two of them. The building housing the restrooms is centrally located on the property. Rest stops have areas for walking dogs and for pic-nicks. Some rest stops even have grills for public use.
Truck Stop: Another step down the ladder from rest stop and the travel plaza, the truck stop is simply a large parking lot. It is the same size as the rest stop with one lone building housing a restroom. Next to the restroom. Next to the restroom is a trash can. The pavement has been lined for ease of parking by the truck drivers. Passenger vehicles entering this area will encounter police who will escort them out.
State Police Outpost: State Troopers have two outposts along the turnpike. The buildings are the same size as a small gas station with a garage for working on cars. The building is stocked with five shotguns, five boxes of shells for the shotguns, eight flashlights with batteries, ten bullet proof vests, tools, a hydraulic lift in the garage portion along with tools for working on vehicles, and several days’ worth of food and a case of water in the refrigerator. The buildings also have an eating area, stove, microwave, showers, bathrooms, and cots for sleeping. One of the two buildings also has a dartboard. The property has a gate in the fence connected to a card reader on both sides of the fence line. The gate allows access on and off of the turnpike by the State Troopers.
Department of Transportation Office: These offices are centrally located, but also within three miles of a travel plaza. The transportation office is the administration hub for the turnpike. The building is two stories and appears to be a large, square, school building from the 1970s. Workers can gain access to turnpike via the gated parking lot.
Department of Transportation Garage: There are three garages in each state. The garages store all of the official vehicles used on the turnpike. These vehicles include snow plows, snow salt trucks, quarter ton trucks for moving equipment, mowing equipment, a tow truck, and all of the tools necessary to work on the vehicles. One quarter-mile away, there is a large salt pile for use during the winter months. In a manner similar to the State Police Outpost and the Department of Transportation Office, these workers have access to both the turnpike and city streets.
During the Rise
With an outbreak causing the dead to walk, local governments may decide to implement martial law or curfews. State Troopers and National Guardsmen are likely to place roadblocks and guard the entrances to the turnpike. This makes it hard to gain access to the turnpikes. However, savvy characters will utilize access roads found at the Department of Transportation locations to get on to the turnpike.
If the military is deployed, highways of all types are likely to be commandeered their use. The advantage of using the turnpike is the ease of access with which the military will have to all cities and states connected to it via land vehicles. Travel plazas are ideal locations for military bivouacs. The military can utilize the gasoline (for as long as it lasts), there is a built in mess hall, bathrooms and showers are in place (if the water is working, if not, an engineer or two can fix that), and indoor sleeping for officers. This also means travel plazas make ideal locations for characters and other non-player characters.
Despite urban legend, every one in five miles of the highway system is not designed for use by military aircraft. The 1944 and 1956 Federal Highway-Aid Acts do not include this law. At one point, the law was to include airstrips placed adjacent to highways with access roads to the highways granting access. However, neither law contained such wording. More information debunking this urban legend can be found on the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration website.
Yet, this urban legend need not be debunked in AFMBE or Rotworld. If the military using the turnpike as a mobile base of operations fits into the Deadworld, then use the concept. Players who complain of reality versus what the Zombie Master is implementing should be reminded they are playing a game.
As the zombies overrun cities and towns, people will begin heading towards the highways and byways of the country-side. On and off-ramps will become clusters of accidents and road rage. Travel plazas are the closest thing to a grocery store, drug store, or convenience store on the turnpike. Travel plazas can supply fuel for vehicles, the restaurants inside will have food, and the convenience stores have a limited amount of medicines and other supplies.
If the military does not control the turnpike, movement on the turnpike will only be regulated by car accidents, zombie hordes, and fellow travelers. Fellow travelers may be safe or they may bring elements of danger the characters are not prepared for or not willing to tolerate. A pair of teenagers running from slavering hordes of rotters may be junkies who need a fix or they could be brother and sister who just lost their parents to the same horde. Caravans of vehicles can be just as dangerous. There may be signs of goodly people, such as police cars, but no guarantee of safety exists in a world filled with the walking dead. There may be a man wearing toes of the dead from his belt in the Pursuit Special police cruiser.
After the Fall
The turnpike after the fall of man becomes a place where characters die with the spin of the wheel – steering wheel, that is. Mad Max-like cars, coupled with outlaw biker gangs who have only become tougher since the fall, and zombies, can only lead to one place quickly: the grave. Characters will need to build barricades and develop warning systems if they plan to successfully base themselves on the turnpike. Or, a party on the run can use the turnpike to stay one step ahead of the bad guys and zombies. Zombie Masters can use real world maps for ideas on what could be around that next turn in the road.
There are many more locations near the turnpike which could be used in a campaign. Exit ramps lead to small towns, gas stations, hotels, state penitentiaries like Cranston Prison in One of the Living, adult book stores (and you thought those archetypes in The Book of Archetypes would never have use!), and outlet shopping malls are good places to start.
The turnpike also has many potential non-zombie or non-pre-zombie hazards. Deer will dart out in front of vehicles, destroying smaller cars and hampering the driving of all vehicles. A semi-truck crashed into the supports to an overpass and caused the bridge to collapse down onto the turnpike. This mess must be driven around. Foggy conditions lead to pile-ups and if the characters aren’t careful, the vehicles they are driving may join the pile-up.
Collapsed Bridge: At one time, the turnpike crossed a gorge. For an unknown reason, the bridge over the gorge collapsed. The sides of the gorge are steep, nearing 80 degree angles. Characters wishing to cross from one side to the other would be wise to use rope or climbing gear. The bottom of the gorge is dry with grass, shrubs, trees, and 4D10(20) zombies. On the other side of the gorge, the turnpike continues on.
There is no way to bring vehicles across the gorge. However, there are vehicles parked on either side of the gorge. If the characters are lucky, one of the vehicles on the other side of the gorge will be in working condition.
Department of Transportation Office: This is a simple, two story, cinder block building. There is an access gate from the turnpike to the parking lot for the building and on to a road leading to a nearby town. Several cars and department quarter ton trucks are in the lot. A shed on the other side of the parking lot is padlocked shut. The two doors in to the administration building are locked. The keys to the gate, the shed, the department vehicles, and the building are all on the receptionist’s desk inside the front door.
The inside of the building has 2D10(10) zombies who need to feed. Most of the building is office space. There are two restrooms on each floor, a set of stairs in the back of the building, three conference rooms, and a break room area on the second floor. All of the food is spoiled. None of the zombies are carrying weapons. Due to ADA regulations, the break room and conference rooms being on the second floor, an elevator was added to the building after it was built. The doors are on ground level, so a ramp did not need to be added.
The shed is filled with lawn care equipment, snow shovels, fuel containers, and other random equipment (chains, PVC pipes, etc.).
The building has no use other than as a potential base of operations. Characters will need to import food, water, fuel, working restrooms, and sleeping equipment. A cooking area will need to be created. It will take the characters some time to set it all up. However, they will have easy access to the turnpike and the local roads. The roof is flat, but in good condition. The doors are solid and the various desks and chairs can be used to board up windows.
The Empty Truck Plaza: As the characters approach this truck plaza, the road becomes congested with so many parked vehicles that the characters must use the truck plaza to go around the pile of cars and trucks. It does not matter if the characters are coming from one side or the other, both lanes and the meridian are filled with vehicles. There are no walkers moving and the truck plaza is barren. The fence line is intact and the forest beyond the fence line appears empty. If the characters move through the truck plaza and do not stop to do anything more than use the restroom, nothing happens.
If the characters decide to stop for a break, trouble comes for them. Hidden in the forest is an old trailer home occupied by a group of survivalists (see Scavenger archetype from One of the Living, page 125; change Hand Weapon (club) for Guns (Rifle). There are as many survivalists as there are player characters and non-player characters traveling together. Once the characters are settled, making repairs, eating, etc., the survivalists attack from beyond the fence line. They use a combination of M-16A1s and AK-47s. They do not have explosive devices. Their aim is to kill the characters and take their stuff. Once they have killed the characters and looted their belongings, they will drive their vehicles into the pile in the middle of the turnpike. They will then siphon the gas from the vehicle and place the characters’ dead bodies in the vehicle.
If the characters decide to move in among the parked cars, they will find a disturbing scene. Placed in the vehicles are dead bodies, each with at least a bullet to the head from a large caliber bullet (or whatever location is appropriate for the Deadworld). The bodies in the vehicles closest to the characters are the freshest, with those in the middle being from the original outbreak.
Perceptive characters may find clues that something is amiss here at the Empty Truck Plaza. As the characters enter the Empty Truck Plaza, the players should make a Perception + Notice Task check with a -3 to their roll. Success brings the knowledge that one section of the fence line is missing barb wire. Further investigation on the turnpike side of the fence will show a foot path leading from the fence line to the turnpike. If the characters check the other side of the turnpike, a similar path will be seen leading to another section of fence line missing barbed wire. One of these paths leads to the survivalists’ trailer. The trailer home is surrounded by noise maker trip wires and hound dogs.
Anyone using the restroom will realize it has been used in the past twenty-four hours due to the “freshness” of the smell.
If the party is in a world of hurt when they arrive at the Empty Truck Plaza, replace the survivalists with a goodly Camp Counselor and followers. See The Book of Archetypes 2 page 6 for more information on the Camp Counselor. In campaigns without Metaphysics, replace those abilities with Skills to help the party heal.
The Farm: As the characters near an overpass, they spy a farm near the intersection of the turnpike and the bridge underpass. The farm buildings all appear to be in good condition and there are no visible people on the property. The surrounding land is planted with corn, soy beans, mint, and wheat. A large herd of deer are seen in the distance near several copses of trees. An access road leads from the turnpike to an open gate in the fence line to the local road, supplying easy access to the farm.
The farm property is in great shape. The three out-buildings are all pad-locked shut. There is a quarter ton truck parked facing the street near the back door of the farm house. A near full, 500 gallon propane tank is next to the soy bean field on one side of the house and a septic tank is next to the corn field on the other side of the house. A tall lightning rod runs up the side of the largest barn and is grounded there. There are two, above ground, 250 gallon, steel fuel tanks for petrol near the second outbuilding. A small area behind the outbuilding furthest from the home has a pig pen. It is devoid of animals.
The farm house curtains are closed on the ground floor and boards can be seen blocking the windows. The upstairs windows are closed, but are not boarded over. The front door is not locked. The back door is locked. From the outside, both doors appear to be boarded over. The front door’s boards are not in place to keep it shut. Opening the door to the house releases the smell of the dead upon the characters. Moving through the simple home, the characters will come across two zombies. The former owners of the home were senior citizens who decided to stay in their home until the end. They will need to feed upon the characters, unless the characters relieve them of their immortal coils.
The outbuildings are filled with equipment to run the farm. The equipment is in working condition. While the pig pen’s former habitants were previously eaten by the senior citizens, this area does have one useful thing – a working well with a clean water source.
This farm is designed as a place for a cast of characters who need a break. Sure, the food has rotted and it is likely none of the characters know how to operate farm equipment. However, the manuals are all in air-tight, plastic bags and there is enough petrol in the 250 gallon tanks to last a few days of driving by amateurs.
There are two hindrances to the farm. The first is a lack of fencing to keep anyone or thing out. The second is the proximity to the turnpike. The farmhouse is less than fifty meters from the turnpike. Anyone driving by will notice the property. Anyone who regularly patrols this stretch of the turnpike will notice changes to the property. All of this assumes the characters decide to hide their own vehicles from view of the turnpike and to never have lights or candles in use on the turnpike side of the house.
Eventually, the brain-dead or violent brain-dead killers will arrive and put the kibosh on this quaint home on the range.
Highway Patrol Building: This building is accessed via a gate on the back of the property leading to local roads or by a simple on/off ramp to the turnpike. The front and back doors into the building are steel fire doors fitted with push button locks. The sliding door into the garage is aluminum and designed to be opened via an electric opener inside the building. The inside of the building is quite simple. There is a small closet fitted with a cot for sleeping and shelves for supplies. Next to the closet is a shower stall and toilet. In the main room is a kitchen/dining area and a pool table. A doorway leads to the garage. The garage is filled with tools and a lift for cars. Several spare tires can also be found in this area.
The food in the refrigerator is spoiled. However, there are several cases of bottled water in the closet. A microwave, toaster oven, and toaster all sit on the kitchen counter. Cooking and eating utensils fill the cabinets over the sink and cleaning supplies are under the sink. Extra rolls of toilet paper and paper towel are also in the closet with the cot.
Other than the garage and behind the building, there is nothing in the way of hiding vehicles.
Hunting Shacks: These three buildings are downhill from the turnpike and sit on a small pond. The area was used by hunters and snowmobilers. The buildings are wood shacks with a window on each side of the building and one door on the front of the building. Furniture in the shacks include a dining table with chairs, a moth eaten sofa, a wood burning stove, several work tables, and some shelves on the walls. One of the buildings has an old radio with working batteries. A picnic table with benches and random chairs sit around a fire pit or near the pond.
All three shacks face a small pond fed by a stream. There are no large fish in the pond. However, frogs, snakes, rabbit, foxes, and deer all populate the area. The shacks are extremely cold in the winter, too hot in the summer, and filled with mosquitoes by June. Each shack has a small wood pile on the side of the building.
These shacks are not an ideal location for characters to use as a base of operations. Bullets will not be stopped by the cheap, wood siding. There is no easy escape route other than to run into the forest around the shacks. Vehicles will need to be left road-side due to the steep decline to the shacks. The property is good for slowing the characters down, providing a bit of false hope, or as a place to sleep for the night.
The Camp Counselor, Survivalist, or Great White Hunter (The Book of Archetypes, page 19) are all potential NPCs using the hunting shacks.
Mountain Tunnel: The far end of the turnpike passes through a mountain (or very large hill) for a distance of 800 yards. Moving through the tunnel will need to be done on foot. The tunnel is full of crashed vehicles and zombies. Attempting to move from one end of the tunnel to the other is a very bad idea. However, if the characters are chased by road warriors, it may be their only option. The turnpike is only four lanes wide in the mountain. There are service rooms or areas every 200 yards.
The players will need to make Difficult Constitution Tests for every 50 yards traveled in the tunnel. Failure results in a loss of 1D4(2) points of Endurance. The Test represents the characters climbing over, under, and around crashed vehicles in a potentially pitch-black environment. In addition to the Difficult Constitution Tests, the characters will be attacked by 2D10(10) zombies in the same 50 yard span.
The vehicles, including cars, trucks, minivans, buses, and semi-trucks are filled with potential equipment. It is unlikely the characters will find more than one or two working handguns or long arms. However, they may find clothing, first aid kits, survival kits, fuel, packaged food, bottled water, or even camping equipment. Encumbrance values and lists of potential equipment can be found in chapter four of both the AFMBE core rulebook and One of the Living.
Occupied Rest Stop: A group of survivors have set up at a rest stop. They have used their vehicles to build a make-shift barricade to help keep out zombies and other predators. Where they were unable to use their vehicles, they have attempted to use other items to slow down intruders. Empty soda machines and wooden barricades have worked, thus far. These survivors are goodly in nature, but cautious about outsiders. They have seen the biker gang drive by and heard the engines of the road warriors. Characters attempting to gain access to this community will have an easier time if they do not approach with weapons in plain view.
The survivors send out scouts every week to scavenge. They have created holes in the fence line near country roads which lead to nearby farming towns. The scavenging teams mostly hunt for food and medicine, but they also try to return with fuel and other commodities to make their living easier.
Over-run Military Bivouac: The characters come over a rise to see the remains of a military bivouac. Parked in the middle of the turnpike is a U.S. Marines C-130 Hercules with its tail ramp deployed. Surrounding the airplane are HMMWVs of all makes and models, Joint Light Tactical Vehicles designed as infantry carriers, stacks of gear and equipment, command and quarters tents, and enough Marine corpses to fill a company. All of this is surrounded by sections of razor wire and sandbags. There are several points of entry which will allow people on foot or in vehicles to enter the camp.
The camp was over-run several months to a year ago (depending on the game’s timeline) and all of the good equipment and gear has been confiscated by other survivors. The vehicles will run, but may have trouble starting. There is a 1 in 6 chance the vehicles will not start without working on the engine or cleaning the fuel lines. This includes the C-130. A small number of firearms and bullets may be found, but have been exposed to the weather. There are no explosive devices. There are several tents with furniture available, as well as, two full sets of radio equipment. A few cases of MREs can be found under dead bodies of Marines.
Bullet holes can be found in the vehicles and tents. It is impossible to discern why the camp is deserted. There are dead bodies strewn throughout the camp and in the vehicles. The bodies belong to the Marines and people who appear to be attackers. All of the bodies were picked clean by zombies and carrion feeders.
Zombie Masters looking to crank up their game should allow the characters to come upon the camp during the attack. An armed gang combined of renegade bikers and road warriors in armored cars has penetrated the camp’s defenses and are in the process of killing the Marines. The armed gang wants the supplies and the women, but they are willing to take just the supplies. The characters could ride in to help the Marines. In fact, one of the HMMWVs on the edge of the camp is mounted with a M2 .50 caliber machine gun. The former Marine is still in the turret. A few meters further in sits another HMMWV. This one mounted with a Mark 19 grenade launcher, also armed and ready to be used. If the characters can help the Marines fight off the armed gang, the Marines will be grateful. In the end, they are still Marines. Civilians staying with them will need to follow their rules. However, if the characters decide to move on, the Marines are willing to provide them with supplies of the Zombie Master’s choice.
Outlaw Biker Gang: The outlaw biker gang cruises the turnpike looking for easy picking where they can and taking what they need by force when they can’t. These bikers make your OCC look like suburban soccer moms. Their vests bear a patch with “1%” displayed on it. They are armed to the teeth, but not heavily armored. Their bikes have been modified from the original stock models to improve their handling rating to a 7 and speed to 200/80. The gang sleeps where it can, including that nice farmhouse the characters just moved into. They do not carry much in the way of gear. Most have a change of clothes, a sleeping roll, weapons and ammo, a few personal trinkets, and a few have tents. The gang’s size can range from 20-100, depending on the need of the Zombie Master.
Road Warriors: These are no traveling salesmen. These are the survivors of a zombie apocalypse armed to the teeth inside mobile fighting vehicles. Leather clad, heavily armed, men and women make up this group of enemies. They have outfitted their cars to function as weapons. Chevy Impala’s with reinforced grills for windows and zombie skulls stuck to the roof, VW buggies kitted out with gun mounts, and Studebaker trucks bearing a plow and a flatbed full of warriors waiting to jump onto enemy cars are all appropriate. This group is filled with nihilists who are just as happy to take the characters’ property as they are to destroy the characters’ property. Travel plazas and the occasional Department of Transportation garage are likely places this group will call home.
Horde of Zombies: A horde of zombies numbering in the hundreds is just over the next rise. They do not appear to have any motivation until the characters drive over the hill, complete the bend in the road, etc. At that point, they become completely interested in the characters. The zombies are a road block. There is no way the characters can drive through this horde. They will need to turn around and go back the way they came or find a way out of the turnpike to continue around the horde.
In most Deadworlds, the horde is not a problem. However, if the zombies in the Deadworld are the Quick Dead or players miss several Driving or Notice-based Task checks, the characters could be in trouble.
A list of Archetypes appropriate to the Turnpike include:
· Core Rulebook: Biker, Police Officer, Soldier/SWAT
· One of theLiving: Grizzled Vet, Scavenger, Trapper
· The Bookof Archetypes: Bitten Housewife, Courier, Good Ol’ Boy, Government Agent, Great White Hunter, Hispanic Gang Member, Paramilitary Geek, Survivalist College Student
· The Bookof Archetypes 2: Camp Counselor, Driver, Miraculous Survivor, Smuggler (Shooter),
Dead Points 15
Endurance Points n/a
Essence Pool 8
Attack: Bite Damage d4 x 2 (4)
Weak Spot: All (0)
Getting Around: The Quick Dead (+10)
Strength: Dead Joe Average (0), Flame Resistant (+3)
Senses: Like the Living (+1)
Sustenance: Weekly (+4), Braiiiiiins (-3)
Intelligence: Dumb as Dead Wood (0), Teamwork (+4)
Spreading the Love: One Bite and You're Hooked (+2)
Special Aspects: none
Life Points 39
Endurance Points 26
Qualities/Drawbacks (5 +5 from Drawbacks)
Addiction (nicotine) -1 (-1)
Attractiveness -2 (-2)
Contacts (other truckers) (5)
Hard to Kill 3 (3)
Resistance (fatigue) 2 (2)
Driving (car) 1
Driving (semi-truck) 4
First Aid 2
Guns (shotgun) 3
Cartons of cigarettes, matches, radio, semi-truck, shotgun, tools
I’ve been hauling cargo up and down this turnpike for the past 15 years or so. I thought there wasn’t a thing I hadn’t seen until the zombies came out of the ground and starting eating everyone. Now, I move people, instead of cargo.
I may not be much to look at and I may sound like a hick, but I got it where it counts when it comes to driving. There isn’t a biker gang or pile-up as can stop me and the Pork BBQ Express, that’s what I call my rig. If you want a ride to anywhere on the turnpike, I’m your man.
My run takes me from right here where we’re standing to the far end where the tunnel goes through the mountain. That’s as far as I can take you. It’ll cost you a carton of menthols per person you want to ride in the trailer and I do not guarantee safe arrival. There’s a bunch of bikers out there who aren’t always willing to trade cigarettes for safe passage. I’ve heard from other drivers who claim to have seen hordes sitting on the interstate that this turnpike connects to, so that could be another problem.
Trust me, I never drive faster than I can see.