Archives of Nethys

Pathfinder RPG (1st Edition) Starfinder RPG Pathfinder RPG (2nd Edition)

All Rules | Downtime Rules

Sandbox Adventures / Subgenres


Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 144
Related Media: Fallout series (video game), Mad Max series (film), N. K. Jemisen’s Broken Earth series (novels), Nnedi Okorafor’s Who Fears Death (novel), Thundarr the Barbarian (TV series), The Walking Dead (comic and TV series)
The world is broken. Perhaps a meteor strike devastated the planet, or a relied-upon resource suddenly dried up. Regardless, society has collapsed, taking technology with it. Now, those who remain struggle to stay alive and eke out a living from the ashes of a desolated world.. This is life in the wasteland. What happens next, after the end has already come?
The postapocalyptic genre has a natural story arc. At first, the heroes are just trying to survive. Extreme biomes and environmental effects fill your world as the PCs scavenge for supplies, tools, and weapons. At this stage, every battery is precious. The heroes encounter animals and people that have been profoundly transformed by the apocalypse; creatures from the Alien Archive volumes may now be mutants, and you can use the herd animal and predator stat blocks from Starfinder Alien Archive 2 to create bigger, meaner versions of everyday beasts. Eventually, the PCs will start thinking about building a new home, perhaps even trying to re-create civilization. This is the thematic heart of the postapocalypse story, because it obliges us to look at the world we live in now and ask, “If we had to do it again, could we do it better? Or should we even try?” The answer should largely be up to your players.
One of the first things you want to decide is how the apocalypse happened. The answer should inform the details of your setting. For example, while most postapocalyptic worlds have low or no magic, you might decide civilization was destroyed by a poorly cast ritual that caused magic to violently erupt into the world, making it high magic but destroying civilization. Regardless, survivors of the apocalypse get by with low tech, if they have any tech at all. Some settlements— and the PCs—have limited access to medium-tech items like guns and vehicles. You could link high technology to the cause of your apocalypse; perhaps the people who ruined the planet left weapons behind that the PCs can find, or the apocalypse was so long ago that those who remain mistakenly think high‑tech items are magical. There are no working starships, but there might be a crash site with a wrecked starship that would make for an excellent high-level dungeon. What are the environmental ramifications of your apocalypse? If the world is now an irradiated wasteland, the PCs can use the options for desert adventurers on page 60, but if a nuclear winter has overtaken the planet, maybe the PCs should come from an arctic biome instead (page 56).
Accord is low, and chaotic is the dominant alignment, even within “organized” areas such as settlements. Everyone is dependent on their jury-rigged machines, so the mechanic and technomancer (if there’s magic in your setting) becomes the super star. Soldiers and operatives lead perilous missions into the wasteland or defend the settlement from dangerous mutants and monsters, while envoys and mystics use the leadership system (page 100) to attract bands of desperate, half-starved followers. Biohackers might serve their communities as trustworthy physicians, fighting off the plague and treating deadly wounds, but they might also be living in the wasteland, creating mutants and conducting cruel experiments.