Back History I
What the PC’s Know:
They know how to shoot a gun. Illiteracy is nearly universal. The common language spoken by most is a pidgeon English. Long ago, an ancient civilization lived in a golden age that was destroyed by a great cataclysm of some sort. They can point north, south, east and west from known locations. Eastward lies civilized men and places. Going West means wild territory- aka: the Badlands or the untamed Wild. Few have knowledge of places beyond a dozen to fifty miles outside their town or village. The cardinal point when folks agree the “East” ends is St. Louis, MO on the Mississippi.
The West is a wilderness, with a few scattered villages and towns existing like islands on the ocean. Small farming villages are scattered about, most with less than two or three hundred people. There are a few larger towns as well, mostly situated on common trade routes, especially along the Union Pacific railroad (the only uninterrupted line from Massachusets to California).
Each settlement tries to defend its own by palisade and patrols. These communities provide a base of operations for the party, a place to resupply and to trade off unneeded goods. They’re also good launching points for new adventures. Much of the West is vast untamed forest or grassland or jungle or swamp or marsh, growing over the cities and ruins of the ancients. A few are radioactive. It teems with weird life…most of it hostile, some of mutated, and all of it hungry. Traveling through the badlands is always a risky prospect. Attacks by slavers, raiders and the voracious wildlife are quite common.
The decaying cities out in the middle of nowhere are rife with treasures of the ancients. Some are irradiated, a few are inhabited and all of them are collapsing into ruin. Ancient cities close to contemporary settlements are probably pretty well picked over by now. You need to venture far into the wilderness to find a city ripe for plunder.
There are a few brave souls trailblazing new trade routes between settlements. They bring hard-to-find goods with them, and even more important, information. They are under constant assault, so they frequently hire escorts for protection. Some groups choose to wander the wilderness, hunting and gathering for sustenance, salvaging what they can in their travels to trade at the next settlement. Nomads are generally not immediately hostile, but life in the wild being what it is, they will be suspicious until good intentions are proven. Other nomads may be preachers and pilgrims on their way to a holy site or searching for a promised land.
The practice of slavery is tolerated to varying degrees in the West. In some places, it is an accepted practice, in others slavers are killed on sight. Generally speaking though, most people don’t like slavers…you never know when you might wind up as inventory. If encountered in the wild, slavers may be willing to trade. But, if the party appears weak, the slavers may try to subdue them to replenish stock.