State of Life
In the U.S., there are only 1% of the populace remaining—approximately 5 million people. (In the rest of the world, approximately 11% of the population remain alive.) While some places are unaffected by the riots, nothing’s been spared from change. Towns that thrived on factories or higher education are now ghost towns, while cities are largely a shambles. Reclamation of old technology is a full career for some, while others concentrate on reclaiming even older ways of life through living off the land and communal societies.
People in General
As to the survivors, they’re a pretty wide mix. Some are hard working groups that band together in communes and rebuild isolated old towns and forts. Others go out to reclaim technology, food, and supplies to trade with the groups of survivors. Still others have chosen to prey on those who survive, creating vicious bands and gangs to do so.
The vanities of pre-Fall people have largely been stripped away. Boredom, laziness, and dabbling have long been stripped away by necessity. Humanism melts away in this world and people have either chosen to follow the path of good or to give themselves over to the dictates of evil. There are very few people who even attempt to remain in the center, as there is no societal reward for doing so.
When the Grid was shut down in the West, man’s ability to learn about the outside world either vanished (for those who live in Grid shut down countries) or was severely limited due to the West’s prevalence with technological resources (for those in non-shut down countries). As such, the traditional tendency to count months and years was abandoned in favor of a more primitive (and expectant form): counting down the days since the Grid went down. At first, many people expected that, at any day, the Grid would come back up and they could resume their lives. When the mobs began and the anti-tech riots damaged much of the equipment, even that hope was lost. As it became evident that the world would not regain its footing, it became even more ingrained for people to count the days since the Fall, as though the breakdown was man’s own personal prison sentence.
The first official film in the series starts 419 days after the Fall, although many films and stories will start at other times after (or even, before) the Fall.
Cities & Towns
Cities will be heavily damaged due to the riots, while plagues will likely lead to massive body dumps. Small towns will likely be nearly deserted, largely because many of these are taking a hard hit from both famine and plague due to their isolation.
Kingdoms, Communes, and Empires
With the essential plunge back into the dark ages and more land than people once again, large tracks of countryside land are slowly becoming impromptu kingdoms, ruled over by self-proclaimed kings, leaders, rulers, or statesmen. Some are fair and others are cruel, but all offer the possibility of safety, military security, and shared food stuffs in exchange for loyalty and community. While all of these try to portray themselves as grounded and established, this is a remnant of old-world vanity, as most of them have only been trying to establish themselves since the Grid went down. Many choose old world titles for these mini-empires to make people inclined to believe in their power and sovereignty. The only truly established groups are the anti-establishment and survivalist groups that were founded before the Fall who have now grown much larger with new recruits after the Fall.
As time progresses, due to the fear of allowing infiltrating robbers, thieves, and murderers into these highly susceptible groups, many of the larger groups become “gated communities”—requiring specialized papers proving your background for initial consideration, a consideration process, and, if accepted, a requirement to have Community identification on you at all times. Because of this, many people, like Maysbridge, Kentucky’s notorious merchant, Nash Fitch, have started employing forgers who can create authentic seeming papers to people who want to infiltrate these groups.
For city dwellers who survived the riots, stadiums and coliseums have become fortresses within the carnage. These essentially behave like countryside kingdoms, but on a much smaller scale. Their security forces will keep open paths to the fortress for merchants and there are numerous arrangements with surviving food procurers so that starvation doesn’t set in.
Money & Barter
Without a printed currency, many people use forms of barter based on supply and demand. While gold is still honored by most cultures as a representation of money, its worth is still unpredictable based on the society you are in. (Most other forms of precious metals still have value as do some gemstones, but, again, this can very greatly based on region.) Because of this fact, barter is preferred. Canned and stable food stuffs and water purification chemicals are extremely popular for this, as is ammunition, alcohol (either for drink or fuel), animals, salt, and solar-powered technology. Of course, less savory forms of barter have come further out of the shadows, as well, including prostitution, slavery, and sexual slavery.
Merchants, Wanderers, The Disconnected, and The Criminals
Men who do not fit into groups (and have survived slavers), have a tendency to go rogue ala Lord of the Flies. Many survive as brigands, highwaymen, and pirates. Most have truly become brutal, to the point where they will hang corpses from makeshift gallows and trees to show territoriality. This is not always true. Some are loners who have become merchants. Keeping a bodyguard (or eight) with them to stay safe, they ply their trades to places others won’t risk. Still there are some who have some other mission they must attend to which requires them to be disconnected from a group.
The Code of the Traveler
For those who do not stay in communities, one creed has risen: “Come in peace unless you intend bloodshed. If blood is shed, spill every drop lest there be pursuit.” Brutal though it may seem, with almost no existent medical care for recovery or law enforcement for protection in place, even good people will execute every last person who attacks them if they win a fight, as they can’t risk being tracked and attacked later. Those of less noble character tend to torture their victims until they die.
The Communication Grid & Communication Alternatives
Due to anti-Tech sensitivities that rose during the course of the Fall, an initially temporary shut down of mass communication became permanent when destructive riots ravaged phone stations, cell towers, cable networks, server farms, and the electrical grid.
As such, current internet connectivity is limited to extremely protected networks that managed to survive the attacks and which had the wherewithal to continue to have electricity. The ones that were able to continue to pump in electricity did so through a combination of solar energy, hydro-electric generation, wind generation, steam generation, and even animal powered generators. Where these areas of communication are isn’t widely known, nor is how much of the content from the Pre-Fall Web that they still retain access to.
Cellular phones are useless without modification. With ingenuity, some have managed to jury-rig them into walky talkies while others have found ways to chain them to still functioning satellite equipment to get information from the outside world. Radio, which was once on the verge of dying out, is now the only way most people can get information. Pirate radio stations and ham operators have set up communications links in all parts of the remaining country. Unfortunately, most don’t have access to extra antennas, so their range is extremely limited. Some extremely creative people with extra power have even set up amateur television stations, which ads to the creative possibilities of Depleted.
Without regular sources of power, people must resort to much more creative methods of generating energy if they wish to recharge any of their pre-Fall technology (or if they wish to plug in one of these devices). The ways for doing so include:
-Solar Power – Obviously of more value to places that have lots of sun, solar panels are still useful for nearly anyone with a small rechargeable device.
-Hydro-Electric – While not available to most of the populace, many dams have been seized as fortresses by people who have gotten them generating power again. At this point, no one has attempted to connect other settlements with this power due to the danger of attempting to do so. (In rare locations, there are isolated, nearby communities which never had their power interrupted and continue to have power from their local dam with this renewed upkeep.)
-Wind Power Turbines – At one time one of the chic parts of celebrity green houses, people who live in windier states have looked to this as a way to generate power.
-Steam Power – Probably the most popular technology for generating power, as it is fairly simple to create and many things can be burned for fuel: coal, wood, dung, or alcohol.
-Animal Power – While not the most efficient way to generate power, states with a lot of livestock like Kentucky and Wisconsin, have started using animals to power personal generators and charge batteries.
-Nuclear – While there are very few nuclear power plants still in existence, there are a number of nuclear subs that are still in use. Those that haven’t been lost have been seized and used to power portions of port cities or cities made of boats and ships.
While a massive percentage of people no longer need their vehicles, many of thesurviving vehicles were badly damaged in the riots. Those that were the most unscathed were outside of largely populated areas. Military vehicles are more rugged than civilian counterparts, but these were especially targeted by anti-establishment factions during the Fall. As such, they’re much more rare to find in working order. To complicate travel issues, many of the roads have been damaged in the fights and in the earthquakes on the West Coast during the Fall.
For those who have gas vehicles, they’ve been converted to use alternate fuel sources. For the those who do not, animals and wagons have become the number one way for transportation. Of course, transportation on slower, unprotected vehicles is especially dangerous due to the gangs and highwaymen the prowl the roads, as well as the increased attacks from wild animals.
There is no influx of oil-based fuel anymore. What is out there has either been scavenged or is waiting to be discovered before it breaks down.
With that in mind, the alternative fuel sources are dominantly:
-Alcohol – A simple conversion to a car/truck engine will allow it to run on alcohol. Alcohol can be generated in massive stills, so it’s most accessible.
-Coal/Bio Fuel – This is used for steam powered vehicles, which are actually more efficient than their gasoline powered counterparts, much like Beta tapes were in comparison to VHS. However, like the Beta/VHS war, the steam engine lost to the less efficient gas engine. However, now that gas isn’t an option, this technology has been re-opened by anyone with sufficient mechanical and welding skill to do so.
A strange mix of pre-Fall technology and much older technology, the use of technology is based on availability and the ability for upkeep. Places that have made a priority of gaining some form of electricity through power alternatives will often keep a number of pre-Fall technologies functioning, like iPods, laptops, Gameboys, and radios. (Travelers with solar panels will often keep iPhones or PDAs, as they can charge these devices as they walk places and use them as mini computers.) Those who have not made this a priority have returned to a more Victorian mentality that uses more rural technologies that are easier to keep up with that don’t require pre-Fall technology to do so. Additionally, there are rumors that remnants of the anti-Tech factions that arose during the Fall and afterwards are consolidating and attacking people who choose to keep any form of “modern” technology.
Mutants & Monsters
Currently, there are no plans to have a mutant community in this world, as the comparatively small amount of nuclear weapons and irradiated dirty bombs make surviving mutants unlikely.
Prophecy and Dark Dreamers
Most world religions believe that the end of world will be marked by an upsurge in the ability of people to see the future. In the World of Depleted, there are those who saw visions of the Fall before it happened and believed–most famously, Gavin Hesterdale, a brilliant journalist who began prophesying that a lawless apocalypse was coming many months before the Fall. “Dark Dreamers” is the term Gavin Hesterdale coined to refer to those who saw the end coming and who were trying to prevent or minimize its damage. Others (like Gavin’s pupil, Jenna Whitmore) had visions pre-Fall and ignored them, leaving them with unending regret after the fact.
Still others will have visions during the Fall of what is to come.
Wilderness & Animals
Unable to be pushed back by technological means, nature quickly began to retake technology. Just over a year after the Fall, pavement is already starting to be broken up by plants and tree growth in more wilderness based areas of the country. The city of Seattle, which has always had to push back the wilderness on a month by month basis, has been ravaged by the wilderness in ways that most haven’t seen. Terraformed communities in the deserts of the U.S. have returned to the deserts they once were, with nature destroying the artificial life that had sprung up there.
Outside, wild animals have grown more aggressive. Over-population by herbivores that are no longer being hunted in as large quantities by man have lead to a struggle for survival by everyone. Animals who are now hungry are attack the cultivated crops of the human population to the point of causing famine to the surviving human population who simply can’t keep up with the numbers of animals. Further, with the greater food supply causing their prey to breed more, predators breed in greater numbers to take advantage of this. This leads to increased danger to humans and their travels.
While not the source of most of the devastation, a huge swath of people do die of plagues when the medical industry completely breaks down due to the riots and chaos. (Approximately 160 days after the Grid goes down the first outbreaks begin to heavily occur.) Many of these are outcroppings of older plagues that may have adapted, such as a modern version of smallpox. (One famous swath of plague sweeps through America’s “Appalachia” region, killing towns and those who do not keep themselves isolated from the outbreak.) Additionally, some biological weapons that were utilized during initial attacks have mutated to more resilient plagues that ravage certain pockets of the world. Because of the plague damage, there are some medical people (many of whom are somehow resilient or immune to the plague around them) who have chosen to wander these areas and help the ill. These are people who are either of very strong moral character or who simply do not know what else to do with themselves after the Fall.
Due to the massive riots during the Fall, ammunition has become much more scarce. As such, machine guns and submachine guns are very rarely in use, except for those wealthy enough to “feed” their weapons. The common guns are rifles, shotguns, and handguns, as these were the most prevalent before the Fall and had the greatest number of shells and cartridges available.
For handguns, there will be a large leaning to pistols with lower-kick and high reliability. (Even though they don’t have as much stopping power, people without a lot of training will find them far easier to hit their targets.) As such, the most common type of pistol to be carried due to availability are those that use 9mm P and .22 shells.
In the U.S., military people are more likely to use either the Beretta M9 (or 92FS, which is more reliable but has almost no perceptible difference in appearance), which is the current standard military sidearm in the U.S. and both fire 9mm P ammunition. For folks who want more power or are older military, the Colt 1911A1, which was the standard military sidearm in the U.S. from WWII until 1985, fires a .45 ACP round that does more damage–and has more kick, making it harder to aim.
“Cool” guns, like Hollywood’s favorite IMI Desert Eagle or the “Dirty Harry” Colt .44 Magnum, either break down under the rigors of the post-Fall world or simply run out of their highly specialized ammo. As such, collectors who chose to arm themselves with these outsized firearms discover that they now have very shiny hammers at their disposal!
While guns are the most popular weapons, some prefer weapons that can be kept up without modern technology. For them, swords, knifes, and even walking staffs have become preferred weapons. Many have modified their weapons to be more deadly when used.