Warlords of the Wasteland

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Life in the Zone is usually either brutal and short or excruciating and seemingly endless, which is why the only folks who venture there are fueled by insanity, desperation, greed, or some combination of the three. By and large the human population of the known world sticks to the civilized parts of the wasteland, border towns and frontier settlements and the like, which these days takes up more and more space on the map, even if travel between all these places is still as dangerous as it ever was. The thing is that we are enjoying a bit of a post-apocalyptic Golden Age, where a person can actually live a full life, even if its a hard and dirty one that could end bad at any moment. You can actually die of old age now, and that used to be a myth about the old world told around campfires and burn barrels. Not too long ago, maybe just a generation or two, there wasn’t even a notion of the Zone, it was all just the wasteland.

The time of the warlords.

In those days of fire and blood you were either a marauder or a victim, and there wasn’t much wiggle room in between. This was a time when the chaos of the apocalypse was still fresh, and the survivors of that global Collapse were thrust into a harsh ruin of a world that they’d had a hand in making. It was total madness, but out of that storm rose individuals who were something more than common marauders, and they certainly weren’t victims. Their presence had a kind of magnetism to it, and people started banding together around these larger than life individuals who refused to be anywhere but at the top of the food chain. These individuals were fueled by ego, courage, and probably a big dose of insanity, but they persevered. As the groups following these individuals grew in size a sort of culture rose up around the men and women at the center of the storm, each culture just as radical and unique as the person it was founded on. So was born the warlords of the wasteland. They had names like Slab Dragon, Immortan Joe, Raven Ripsaw, and King Stitch, just to name some of the more famous warlords that still echo in our oral history. They built empires out of the ashes of the old world, more often than not with big guns and fast cars.

The brutal order they imposed upon their little corners of the wasteland yielded a stability, even if ultraviolent and bizarre, that brought humanity back from the brink. Immortan Joe provided water and protection from the other scary people of the wasteland, but he demanded blind obedience and the occasional harem girl. Raven Ripsaw’s people always had more food and fuel than they could possibly need, but if you didn’t pray to the unexploded Atomic God she insisted on having at the center of her camp then you’d find yourself flayed and left for the buzzards. Scary as all of this was, people could actually live a life, such as it was, and our population started making a comeback. You could actually say that they saved civilization simply by being the bloody evil bastards that they were. Enjoy civilization? Hug a warlord. Well, maybe don’t, the few I’ve seen in the Zone wear alot of spikes.

On a long enough timeline all tyrannical dynasties get their comeuppance, because you can’t rule people with fear and violence forever. Eventually someone else will come along and offer the people an alternative way of life, and have the bullets and badassery to back it up. The trick, for all of us walking the dust today, is to remember that the “better life” gets built on top of the orderly foundation laid down by the very warlords that were cast down. So next time you’re getting tossed out of town by the local constable for being too drunk and too disorderly, try to be thankful that we have things like towns and constables and whiskey, because without the warlords everywhere would be the Zone and we’d all still be living on our own and trying to avoid having marauders peel our faces off.

Booze Magick


“With the holiday season upon us I reckon all folk, decent or wicked, will be tipping back some of the creature. Now whether that’s to fuel some heavy duty Mythos stompin’ mojo or just to handle talking to your in-laws about politics depends on how you’ve lived your life up to this point, but either way you’re fightin’ the good fight. Here’s a handy dandy reference from my Necronomicon Cookbook for what kinds of booze will yield what kinds of power, and consequences. Happy Holidays and stay sane(ish) out there!” — Clifford Bartlett  


Elements of Earth

Gin – Health and Vitality spells – also useful as a combination ingredient for other elixirs oriented towards the maintenance, healing, and armoring of the body. Can also be spit or finger drawn onto associated symbolic or practical items such as body armor, first aid materials, or seatbelts. Been shot, cut, bruised, stabbed, or otherwise mauled? Want to protect yourself from it in the first place? Pour some gin on the rocks or mix up a refreshing cocktail.

Beer, Wine, and Mead – Family and Community are the areas of spell work that these spirits lend themselves towards. Each is made with time, care, and attention, all carrying the flavor and mojo of the land and the people that crafted them. Hence, again, the push towards only using micro-brew beer, mead, and the more intimately created wines. It’s easy to buy the cheap stuff, but you get what you pay for my friend. This is the ‘from my table to yours’ kind of boozing and should be approached in this way as much as possible. I know it might feel like you’re being a hipster about it, but they’re onto something, and that something has power.

Element of Water

Rum – Gaining Favor or Commerce oriented spells, especially when one is attempting to engage in bribery, coercion, or barter. Useful in creating offerings to spirits of idea, element, or place. Need to pull some ‘smooth operator’ moves with the locals? Think you might need to bribe your way out of a prison cell, or call on the aid of a friendly spirit? Grab a bottle of rum and be generous with the portions, for yourself and your ‘friends’.

Elements of Earth and Water

Vodka – Relentlessness and Cold Courage are the flavors of this spirit, and the spells cast with it reflect its intractable nature. When you need to imbue yourself with the power to carry on no matter what the odds, no matter the pain, no matter the cost. When you must be brave, but near callous in your courageousness. Do you need to be the Terminator? Are you going to have to fight through a wall of pain and suffering only to find more of the same on the other side? Throw together a vodka martini or just take a pull straight from the bottle.

Element of Air

Absinthe – Divination spells, out of body Astral Travel. Consume prior to workings, or incorporate anointing or dipping the finger to draw symbols. You wanna read your future or take a spiritual walkabout? Get a few sugar cubes and drink up.

Element of Fire

Tequila – Mastery of the Present Moment kind of spells, the sort of spells that give you an edge when you need to be at the apex of the perfect union of luck, timing, and daring. Do you need to have your own heist movie? Comprised of a complex series of perfectly executed bold moves that all come together in a web of amazing success, all done with a non-existent margin of error? Do you need to ‘do it now’ and make it ‘epic’? Then have yourself a few tequila shooters, a tequila sunrise, or maybe a margarita on the rocks and make some amazing shit happen, Right Now. Remember, though, that hangovers are a bitch, and in this game coming up snake eyes means you die bloody. This is the all-or-nothing-right-fucking-now spirit.

Elements of Fire and Air

Whiskey – Defiance and Paradox. This spirit is the power behind spells that push you towards heights not typically possible even as the spirit itself drags you down. You are made stronger and weaker, sharper in some ways and yet blunted in other ways. This liquor is all about changing the way things are, but at a cost, and it’s always temporary. Are you keenly aware of the fact that you are facing down the most ancient of evils and you are but a simple man of no special significance? It doesn’t matter once you pound half  a pint of whiskey. You’ll fight and die like an 80’s action hero. Up is down and down is up, above is below and below is above, but only so long as you walk the line. When you sober up it’s all going to just be a jumble of broken glass and spent brass, but goddamn, when you’re in the hurricane of a whiskey drunk it is sublime.