Sunday, December 23, 2012

Gene Roddenberry's Pax Trilogy For Your Old School Post Apocalyptic Campaign

With the recent Mayan/Aztec apocalyptic frenzy and bust not going anywhere. I've been recently looking into the various incarnations of the post apocalyptic worlds in fiction and fantasy. A series of television show pilots that don't seem to get a lot of air play is the so called Pax trilogy.
Gene Roddenberry went on to create Genisis II after Star Trek according to Wiki, "In the early 1970s, Roddenberry pitched pilots for three sci-fi TV series concepts, although none were developed as series: The Questor TapesSpectre, and Genesis II. ABC asked to see another TV movie using the characters from Genesis II, but with more action, and Roddenberry produced Planet Earth. He was not, however, involved in a third TV Movie, Strange New World, which used some of the characters and situations from Planet Earth, but with a different original story".

Genesis II was interesting and unique in several ways.  Here's a clip and its very 70s.

Here's the basic plot and it includes a very brief overview of the PAX organization. 
"In 1979, NASA scientist Dylan Hunt (Alex Cord) is working on "Project Ganymede", a suspended animation system for astronauts on long-duration space flights. As chief of the project he volunteers for the first multi-day test. He places himself in chemically-induced hibernation deep inside Carlsbad Caverns; while there, his lab is buried in an earthquake. The monitoring equipment is damaged and fails to awake him at the intended end of the test. He awakens instead in 2133, emerging into a chaotic post-apocalyptic world. An event called "The Great Conflict" (a third and final World War) destroyed the civilization of Hunt's time. Various new civilizations have emerged in a struggle for control of available resources. Those with the greatest military might and the will to use it have the greatest advantage.
Dylan Hunt is accidentally found and rescued by an organization calling themselves "PAX" (the Latin word for "peace"). PAX members are the descendants of the NASA personnel who worked and lived at the Carlsbad Installation in Dylan's time. They are explorers and scientists who preserve what little information and technology survive from before the Conflict, and who seek to learn and acquire more in an effort to build a new civilization. Members of PAX find Dylan Hunt still sealed in the hibernation chamber. They revive him, and are thrilled to meet a survivor from before the Conflict.
The Subshuttle deep within Carlsbad Caverns; PAX HQ.
An elaborate "Subshuttle" subterranean rapid transit system was constructed during the 1970s, due to the vulnerability of air transportation to attack. The Subshuttles utilized amagnetic levitation rail system. They operated inside vactrain tunnels and ran at hundreds of miles per hour. The tunnel network was comprehensive enough to cover the entire globe. The PAX organization inherited the still-working system and used it to dispatch their teams of troubleshooters.
totalitarian regime known as the Tyranians rule the area once known as Arizona and New Mexico. The Tyranians are mutants who possess greater physical prowess than non-mutated humans; they can be identified by their dual navels. Their leader discovers that Hunt has knowledge of nuclear power systems, and they offer him great rewards if he can repair their failing nuclear power generator. However, once he is in their power they attempt to force him to reactivate a nuclear missile system in their possession, with which they intend to destroy their enemies and dominate the region. Hunt is appalled by this small-scale replay of the events that must have led to the Conflict. He leads a revolt of the enslaved citizenry, sabotages the nuclear device, and destroys the reactor.
To Hunt's dismay, the PAX leaders assert their pacifist nature and intentions. They are attempting to rebuild an idealistic society using all that was deemed "good" from Earth's past, and they regard Hunt's interference with a rival civilization and his destructive tactics as antithetical to this end. However, they also see great good in him and value his knowledge of the past. They ask Hunt to join PAX permanently, but only if he can agree to never again take human lives. Hunt half-heartedly agrees. Security Chief Yuloff states that the rationale of taking lives to justify the saving of lives was what allowed "The Great Conflict" to happen in the first place." 

Basically we've got quite a bit to work with here. The PAX organization is a group of Restorationists from Gamma World first or second edition. They're a perfect foil for starting a party, getting them together, and moving the campaign toward a long term goal.
 Their underground base with the vac trains is straight out of Empire of the Petal Throne. I've used the thing several times in Empire as an alternative to the balls that move through the surface of the world that Professor Barker created.
 There is even an old Dragon Magazine adventure called Cavern of the Sub-train that could be used as a PAX inspired adventure. Here's a generic version of the adventure in pdf for 3rd edition Gamma World from the Post Apocalyptic Forge site right over Here
There's lots to mine here.  The Tyranians make a great PC or NPC racial option for a game. totalitarian regime known as the Tyranians rule the area once known as Arizona and New Mexico. The Tyranians are mutants who possess greater physical prowess than non-mutated humans; they can be identified by their dual navels.
 Even the episode guide has some neat ideas for adventures
I'm think if recycling some of these for Star Ships and Space men more on that later
Here's a quick and dirty overview via Wiki : 

Episode concepts

The following are story concepts that were in development during the production of Genesis II that would have become individual episodes had the network approved the series.
  • "Company B" — A "Trojan Horse" suicide squad from the days of the great conflict comes out of suspended animation and attacks PAX. They represent the 1995 A.D. ideal of a perfect soldier.
  • "London Express" — A hair raising journey through submerged portions of the North Atlantic subshuttle tube to mysterious London of 2133 A.D. Dylan Hunt and Team-21 meet Lyra-A there and the mad monarch King Charles X.
  • "Robots Return" — The advanced computers and sophisticated machinery left on a moon of Jupiter by a 1992 NASA expedition have evolved into a new form of robot life and visit Earth in search of the "God" which created their life. They meet Dylan Hunt, formerly of NASA and consider him a messiah. This story idea was later developed into the script for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and, shares that work's thematic similarities to "The Changeling", written by John Meredyth Lucas.
  • "Poodle Shop" — Dylan Hunt is captured and put on sale by the females in a strange society where men are treated as domestic pets and often traded back and forth for breeding purposes. This story idea would later turn into the second pilot, Planet Earth.
  • "The Apartment" — Trapped inside 20th century ruins by a mysterious force field, Dylan Hunt is catapulted through a time continuum back to 1975 where he can be seen as a "transparent ghost" by the girl living in the apartment there. A bizarre love affair with a surprise twist ending. The basic plot appears later as an unused Star Trek: Phase II episode "Tomorrow and the Stars".
  • "The Electric Company" — Dylan Hunt and his PAX team encounter a place where a strong priesthood holds a society in bondage through the clever use of electricity. The simple inhabitants see the flashes of light and the amplified voices as the sight and sound of "God", but Dylan's team ends the dominance of the priesthood when they come up with still better tricks. This episode superficially resembles the Star Trek episode "Return of the Archons".
Source: - Lincoln Enterprises Catalog No. 6

So it was back to the drawing board for Mr. Roddenberry. I really feel for the guy because the network sent him back to the drawing board. According to Wiki :
"Planet Earth was the second attempt by Roddenberry to create a weekly series set on apost-apocalyptic future Earth. The previous pilot was Genesis II, and it featured many of the concepts and characters later redeveloped in Planet Earth. Sets and props from Genesis II also found their way into Planet Earth." 
The second attempt  at a television series is very interesting in its own right. Planet Earth has a lot to recommend it. 

"Dylan Hunt, confronted with a post-apocalyptic matriarchal society, muses, "Women's lib? Or women's lib gone mad.." 
Here's the basic plot according to wiki 
"It is the year 2133, and Earth was devastated by a nuclear war decades earlier. A team from PAX,[1] the one city that escaped the destruction, is conducting a survey of central California. PAX is a science-based society dedicated to restoring civilization and peace to the world. Returning to PAX headquarters, the team is attacked by a group of militaristic, mutant humans known as the Kreeg, whose commandant is played by heavy character actor John Quade.[2] After a struggle, the PAX team manages to escape in a subshuttle, a vehicle that can travel between settlements via tubes, built during the early 1990s, before the final conflict of the 20th century. One of the team, Pater Kimbridge (Rai Tasco), is severely wounded and, to save his life, requires a bioplastic prosthesis to repair the damaged pulmonary artery sheared away by the Kreeg's rifle shot.
PAX Team 21, led by Dylan Hunt (John Saxon), with members Baylok (Christopher Cary), Isiah (Ted Cassidy), and Harper-Smythe (Janet Margolin) heads out to locate a missing doctor, Jonathan Connor (Jim Antonio), who is the only surgeon who can perform the delicate heart surgery in the time Kimbridge has left to live. Their search leads the team to the Confederacy of Ruth, a society of latter-day Amazons, where women are dominant and men are enslaved. As a ruse, a woman in the PAX group, Harper-Smythe, binds Hunt and enters the city with him. Once there, she meets Marg (Diana Muldaur), the leader of the women, who claims Dylan as her own property. Harper-Smythe makes her way to a nearby farm and meets a woman who explains how the society operates (and how there are fewer and fewer children).
While captive, Hunt learns that the men, (referred to as "Dinks,") are subjugated by a drug in their food. Despite his efforts, he soon succumbs to the effects of the drug. Harper-Smythe arrives at the village in time to reclaim her "property" by challenging, and defeating, Marg. Unable to find Connor in the village, Marg invites Harper-Smythe to her farm where she can see her newcomer Dinks. Connor soon comes forward with an antidote for the drug and Hunt recovers. The three decide Harper-Smythe should swap Hunt for Connor, allowing the doctor to return to PAX. Marg agrees to the exchange and Connor and Harper-Smythe leave for PAX after first distributing the antidote in the Dink food supply. That evening, free of the influence of the drug, Hunt seduces Marg.
In the morning, a small party of Kreeg arrive and demand the secret to making men compliant. Hunt leads the un-drugged men in overpowering the invaders. They learn the men in the other households were equally successful in fending off the Kreeg. As a result, the women's council decides to suspend the drug treatment program on their males. Kimridge soon recovers from the operation."
Well this  tv pilot movie is certainly very, very, 70s with everything that goes with it. This is actually a superior production to Genisis II in many respects. This basically might be thought of as an advanced post apocalyptic game campaign. There's more at stake in this pilot then Genesis II. Sure we've got many of the same plot elements but we've got a more complex plot line. What is there to mine from this? An Amazon society of agriculturally aware ladies who drug their men and another tribe of mutants who might be an offshoot of the Tyranians mutant race. This production has a whole range of Star Trek like devices that might be used for your own Mutant Future or Star Ships and Spacemen games. 

Strange New World 

The last of the PAX trilogy is Strange New World and this is the one that Roddenberry opted out of and it shows. The whole feature has a completely different feel to it. There's still things to mine from this one but its a very different movie.
Wiki paints a different picture to the ones we've previously seen. 
"Strange New World was a TV pilot based on concepts envisioned by Gene Roddenberrywhich first aired on March 23, 1975. It starred John Saxon as Captain Anthony Vico (PAX team leader), Kathleen Miller as Dr. Allison Crowley (team navigator and communications expert), and Keene Curtis as Dr. William Scott, M.D. (Team Physician/Doctor).
Strange New World was the third attempt by a production company to bring Roddenberry's dystopic future vision to the small screen. Prior efforts, called Planet Earth and Genesis II, explored an Earth after a nuclear war and focused on an organization called PAX that was working to bring peace and order to the world.
Although he was closely involved in the previous two incarnations, this time Gene Roddenberry opted out. As a result, the character names, as well as some of the main plot points were changed in order to avoid any potential litigation.
John Saxon himself had starred in Planet Earth, but his character name was changed (in the previous film, he had been named Dylan Hunt). The movie did, however, share a dark future concept of Genesis II and Planet Earth. The title of the film, meanwhile, was borrowed from the famous opening monologue of Roddenberry's Star Trek.
Strange New World is considered by many observers to have been the weakest production of the three attempts to envision the world of PAX. It, like the previous attempts, was not developed into a weekly series.
Unlike the previous versions, which focused on a single cryogenically frozen survivor working for an established organisation called PAX,Strange New World had three astronauts return to Earth after being cryogenically frozen and looking to re-establish the organisation (PAX) that had sent them into space.
The opening of the movie featured an explanation of the PAX team members, and described the disaster which befell the Earth (a swarm of giant asteroids) and how PAX headquarters changed the orbit of the their space station so that it would orbit the sun and return to Earth in 180 years (the amount of time that their suspended animation was extended), and what their orders were upon returning to Earth (mainly, to free the hundreds of volunteers below PAX headquarters in suspended animation), and two unrelated "episodes"." 

Now here's the thing this is the last of the PAX episodes and certainly there's nothing to mine from this for your games or campaigns right? Ummm No actually there's lots here that can be mined if used correctly. 

The central core of the plot is a perfect backdrop for either a Star Ships and Spacemen game,  a Terminal Space opening or even a Stars Without Numbers game.

 Namely this bit "PAX headquarters changed the orbit of the their space station so that it would orbit the sun and return to Earth in 180 years (the amount of time that their suspended animation was extended), and what their orders were upon returning to Earth (mainly, to free the hundreds of volunteers below PAX headquarters in suspended animation), and two unrelated "episodes"."  " 
 Imagine having a crew aboard a space station in deep orbit freeing the colonists in deep sleep after an apocalyptic event.  The world that they remember is gone and completely changed. A DM could effectively run two game adventures. A before the "Event" and an after the " Event"  where party explores and deals with the various mutant wildlife and cultures across this world. 
Using PAX In Your Retroclone Games

 Taken as a whole the Pax organization is the perfect lead in for a Mutant Future or Star Ships and Space Men Second edition combination. An organization calling themselves "PAX" (the Latin word for "peace"). PAX members are the descendants of the NASA personnel who worked and lived at the Carlsbad Installation in Dylan's time. They are explorers and scientists who preserve what little information and technology survive from before the Conflict, and who seek to learn and acquire more in an effort to build a new civilization.  The various incarnations of PAX might all be related and provide the DM with the perfect camouflage and blend of possibilities for a broken up and isolated organization for a campaign. The organization of former Nasa members from  some era has access to and knows how to use the Mutant Future/Gamma World level technology. They also have this Restorationist faction vibe going on throughout all of  the movies. You don't really have to pick a version to use as well. The conflicts of the movies isolated the various chapters of Pax and enable inter organizational conflicts to arise. Even a game like OD&D is a perfect foil for a PAX cell to awaken in a "fantasy" world where the locals have been reduced down to the level of a new dark age. Here the mutations have settled into a Monster Manual Gygaxian ecology.
The other advantage about using Pax is their entire charter is anti prime directive. They want to get right into the thick of the locals and begin rebuilding a new or improved civilization. 
I can see endless conflict between Pax and the Federation. They're not going to get along at all. Pax might be roving the universe and interfering left right and center.

 There might be thousands of Pax scientists and personnel out in the universe frozen. There simply waiting for party to come along and awaken them. This could well be the plot line for a game like Stars Without Numbers or Terminal Space.  Imagine that there could be groups of Pax agents sent up in DY 100 sleeper ships during the time of Kahn just now sailing through the galactic hub. Their sub-light drives moving them faster and faster near the speed of light as their distress beckons echo in the depths of space. 


There is one one technology that allows the Pax to stand out from many other science fictional organizations. The suspended animation technology that Pax has is unique. Its a  one way trip through time and allows its members a very distinct perspective in whatever areas that the Pax operates in.
 Each member of Pax is unique in its skill sets and ideologies and their able to survive in many places. Each cell seems to operate independent of the whole. This allows great variation on the part of the DM. If you need a cell to show up on Carcosa for example. Then its right there where the DM needs it. There are several distinct races and geno-types even among the ranks of the organization. Character generation is going to depend heavily on technical and survival based skill sets.
 Each member of Pax is going to know a wide variety of post apocalyptic and Federation style systems.
One of the ideas for using Pax in a science fantasy campaign might be using those headquarters that the organization seemed so fond of as a megadungeon location. A sort of reverse Barrier Peaks type of thing. Where the descendants and such must find the cache of lost technology and the ancestor gods who sleep under the mountain.
 Pax as faction. When working with a game such as X plorers or Stars Without Number a truth about Pax becomes apparent. This is an organization that knows that something is going to happen. There are either precogs among the organization or psychics. They know that something is coming and their prepared.
This is a vast organization that wields considerable power within the twilight years of the apocalypse to come.
 All of their technology is built to last. And their resources are impressive. They know about cloning, genetic manipulation, gene therapy  and many of the destructive technologies that abound before the apocalypse. 

This is a government branch or organization that treads very close to a military start up. These are the rebuilders. The descendants of an off shoot of NASA or at least another world's version of it.
 PAX Faction  SWN 
Attributes :Forces 6 Cunning 3 Wealth 6 
Hit Points : 29 
Assets : Post Tech Force 5  Planetary Defense/Forces 6, Informers/Cunning 2 Bank/Wealth 4 
Tags: Civilization Builders,Colonists

In the latter years of the coming apocalypse Pax will resemble something out of the marrow project rpg. Each cell choosing special operatives willing to give up everything to start over in the coming world or galactic community. Many extreme factions will see Pax as nothing more then noisome meddlers who should be elminated  as quickly as possible.
Pax sees itself as the best hope for humanity on Earth or among the stars. 


  1. That is fantastic - I'll have to find and watch those!

  2. Glad you like those and they are on DvD and I think on Netflix. Thanks for the comment. Happy Holidays


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