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Atom Age Combat was a short series of comic books produced back in the 1950's that occupied that special little niche that war comics have always tried to juggle. Be appealing enough that your audience would want to read em and exploit the hell out of the horrific subject matter to keep them coming back for more. If you want to know more about St.John Publications, they're worth looking into. But I'm going to concentrate on the old school role playing aspects of the comics. Now with the retro future vibe of Fallout 4 in full swing and post apocalyptic fever gripping the pop culture imagination I thought I would settle down with a free post and pre apocalyptic resource namely the tender mercies of Atom Age Combat issues 1-6. Coming out in 1952, there are few things to keep in mind with Atom Age Combat :
- There are very few if any real fantastic elements in these comics leaving plenty of room for DYI add ons.
- These comics are mostly bypassed by the super hero crowd because of the subject matter and they make perfect alternative history and time line fodder for your old school campaigns.
- The retro future vibe of these comics is so strong that it hurts in places but these comics are from a different time period so there is very little BS politically correct stuff in these pages. If your offended remember this is 1952.
- Each issue has at least three or four stories in them, and one of those is going to have some piece of retro technology ala Jonny Quest worth stealing. These books are public domain, you can use them as you see fit and no one is going to bat an eye.
- These stories are so loose that they could easily be combined with other 1950's pre code comic book resources to pad out some of the adventure elements as necessary. And radiation, and other horrific elements weren't as well understood so the elements of atomic warfare, etc. are all in comic book science fact along the lines of Gamma World and Marvel science fantasy.
- Enemies, characters, NPC's drawn from these comics are two dimensional on purpose. Think of the Chinese forces in Fallout three here.
- These comic's world settings make excellent adventure locations for AD&D style parties, super heroes, etc. to visit. Add in your favorite mutant monsters after 'thousands of years when Earth is reborn' and your ready to rock.
- When we are talking about alternative Earth's and weird radiation as well as the cosmic rays of strange E.C. comics variety these titles can easily benefit from having PC's visiting them having a radiation check or mutation check at least ever 1d6 weeks for some of the more remote areas and once every 1d4 days for those areas closer to the urban areas.
- Because of the almost too mundane aspects of Atom Age Combat and other titles in 'war comics'lines; DM's often bypass these gems. These are just the kind of timelines that slime covered horrors from beyond love to muck with these petri dishes of mutation and horror just waiting to happen. My most recent excursion into this darkly interesting pond has some of the denizens from Lamentations of the Flame Princess's The Lusus Naturae venturing in. This is because of the split nature of the Lamentation's game itself, on the one hand we've got weird and twisted writing of Raphel Chandler & the tendril and tentacled artwork of Genifer Bone. All marking the gonzo take no prisoners nature of products of the LoFP line with sister in titles like Carcosa, The Monolith Beyond Space & Time, and lots of others. Making way for LoFP covering both the gonzo market and the pseudo historical line all in one shot. That's because of the shot gun approach of some of the titles and I hope that Mr. Raggi doesn't explain it. Because if we look into the background of other LoFP titles there's very well done gonzo running throughout. And DM's don't need to over think this stuff. They can write in material as they see fit. Something other rpg manufacturers should think about stop over explaining every little bit of 'your' world or setting. Let us do that for our own campaigns.
- Don't over think these titles when using them, they're meant to be canvas's and settings where you as the DM and players can add your thumb prints, and paints so to speak. Always remember the Bradbury or Barker rule. The more mundane the setting, the more that the fantastic or weird should exist right along with the 'normal'.
Now I spoke at length yesterday about using these titles for a number of older editions of Gamma World 1st and 2nd edition, Metamorphosis Alpha 1st edition, and many other post apocalyptic games. Pound for pound Atom Age Combat makes excellent campaign filler rather then full on full adventure fodder. It's excellent for creating historical back events, adding in weird retro equipment, and filling out the details of your alternative Earth or historical campaign setting. Most of this material is pre or post Korean war, very much in keeping with the Fallout vibe here.Now with the mutant time travelers/dimension hoppers yesterday from Denny O'Neil (writing as Sergius O'Shaugnessy) and Pat Boyette's Children of Doom. You can start to see the adventure possibilities of adding in your own twisted DM elements to adventures. The gonzo aspect is still there but you get a real sense of danger when the back drop is WWIII. When running these types of adventures DM should sort of get a sense of the Twilight Zone or Outer Limits. Besides the usual sources, take a look at the writings of Rick Worland. He's one of my favorite sci fi writers from the era of classic television too. Don't forget that DYIing the post apocalpytic wasteland doesn't have to be hard. Skirmisher Publishing puts out the Wisdom From The Wasteland line of very inexpensive products that can easily be adapted as the DM sees fit.
I don't want to go into too much of the hows and whys and hows I'm going to be pacing the twisted and odd nature of the elements of Atomic Age Combat, LoFP, and the horrors of The Lusus Naturae. At least until after it happens to the PC's in tonight's game.