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.

Once Upon a Time… in the Zone

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Wastelanders are a lot like throwbacks to ancient times, in that our tradition is an oral one. No you pervert, not that, I mean “oral tradition”, in that we are tellers of stories. The Art of Storytelling is something that most all people who live our kind of life have some skill with, even the most odious scavenger has enough awareness to tell you what nefarious deeds he was up to last week. According to Julie stories are our primary method of culture transmission, for those of us with a less fancy vocabulary storytelling is our way of getting information and entertainment at the same time. Wherever two or more people are gathered, and they aren’t busy trying to kill each other at that particular moment, then stories get told. Whether you’re taking a load off around a campfire, bellying up to the bar, or just riding shotgun, its just what you do. All we are is stories.

After Julie and I started printing and circulating the WASTELAND SURVIVAL GUIDE folks reacted, most of em liked what we had to say, the rest just laughed or put a bounty on my head just to be assholes, and only a handful tried to kill me outright.

After awhile folks started seeking me out if they laid eyes on my sorry self in one place or another. I’d get a few free drinks and people would tell me their stories, and pretty soon I started to realize I should start writing them down. The problem with an oral tradition is that if everyone who knows the story dies or disappears, then that story is gone forever, and folks die or disappear in the Zone all the time. So Julie got it in her head that I should re-tell her the stories and we’d write them down, print em up so that they wouldn’t be lost if me or the storyteller took a dirt nap. Over the next couple of months I’m going to be posting up a collection of the craziest and weirdest stories I’ve heard out there, some of them are my own, most of them were told to me by the people who lived through them. Its presented in my words, cuz dammit I’m the one telling the story, so its got my own twist and sizzle, but all in all these are the stories as they were told to me, and most of them, especially the weirder ones, I know to be true.

So be sure to check back here at least once a week and warm your hands or char some zone meat at the burn barrel while I tell you a tale, in the meantime, check out the Wasteland Survival Guide and get yourself prepared for the strangest of futures.