The Portland Aftermath Game Home Page

In the Beginning . . .

This campaign is set in a world that diverged from ours in the spring of 1985. At that time, Gorbachev was toppled from power by a coalition of party hard liners and the military, who worried that the general secretary's plans for put the revolution and their own power too much at risk.

Despite the removal of Gorbachev, the underlying crisis facing the Soviet Union remained: the decline of productivity, general public apathy, and the relative rise of Western economic and political power. Looking at the poor long-term prognosis, the new Soviet leadership decided to use military force to destroy the West before its own relative military declined to impotence.

Early in August 1985, the forces of the Warsaw Pact attacked NATO and Western interests worldwide. This war started out on a strictly conventional basis. In Western Europe, the Soviets struck westward, airborne units landing on both banks of the Rhine in the Ruhr Valley, reinforced by a powerful armored thrust over the North German Plain. Simultaneously, a Soviet airborne division landed in Alaska as a diversion and to provide airbases in striking range of the U.S. west coast. The initial Soviet success was short lived as NATO forces mobilized and were reinforced from the U.S. and Canada. By the first part of October, the Warsaw Pact was unraveling as its forces reeled eastward from a massive military defeat. A panicky Soviet government ordered the use of limited tactical nuclear strikes against NATO logistical centers. NATO responded, and a brief, sporadic nuclear exchange resulted.

Only a small percentage of both side's nuclear stockpiles were used. Even so, a large percentage of the population of the world was killed in the exchange or its immediate aftermath. The collapse of infrastructure, health care, and social order, aggravated by the early onset of a winter worsened a declining population spiral. Harsh and early winters in 1986-87 and 1987-88 brought death and starvation to millions more. By 2005, the population of North America was less than 10% of that of 1985.

The campaign began in April 2005.

Early in April of 2005, two men climbed out of a large canoe and stepped on the long, floating pier in the tiny trading hamlet of Bayshore, nestled in the ruins of the large Alaskan city of Anchorage. They were tired and broke, having been rescued after their small trading craft sank in the treacherous waters of Cook Inlet. Needing money and gear simply to survive, Gary Diamond and Robert Allen began exploring the ruins of the city, looking for anything they could salvage to sell or use. Both men were trapped by a starving Black Bear in the ruins of a store once known as Liquidation Sales. The bear liquidated Diamond, the first of many, many characters to perish in what would be known as the Portland Aftermath Game. Allen would live and prosper to become a rear admiral and military governor of the Hawaiian Islands for a government that did not even exist yet. He too would die violently, killed by a spear thrown by a Hawaiian warrior on the big island.

The Beginning, in Our World: How the Campaign Was Shaped

In the spring of 1893, one of my friends picked up an interesting-looking boxed set of rules at the local hobby store, alas long gone now. It was AftermathTM, published by Fantasy Games Unlimited. The world was troubled, (when is it not?,) in a different way than it is now. Ronald Reagan was president. The Soviet Union was show its first signs of the instability that would bring Marxism-Leninism tumbling into ruins. And it was a world that had the threat of a catastrophic nuclear exchange hanging over it, with thousands of warheads poised to be launched at a moment's notice. There was a faint hint of Apocalyptic catastrophe on the air, and not the religious kind. There was talk of nuclear winter. Survivalism was a topic of commonplace conversation. This new set of rules truck a cord with the times.

I was the GM for our gaming group, so I sat down, read the rules, and with a friend, rolled up the first two characters. What would evolve into the Portland Campaign as it later became known began small. We started with only a few premises:

    1. It would start twenty years after the catastrophic event as suggested by the rules.
    2. It would take place in Anchorage, Alaska. The rules suggested setting up the game in a local setting, and we lived there at the time.
    3. The catastrophe would be a limited nuclear war. Apocalyptic, but not bad enough to wipe out the human race.

    These premises naturally led to some more, derived from the first set:

    1. Anchorage had to be spared being nuked. Since even a cursory amount of research told us that it was on the top ten list of targets in North America, the Soviets had to have some reasons not to hit it.
    2. A friend had spent some time with the local U.S. Army unit, at the time, the 172nd Light Infantry Brigade (Seperate). And he told me that Alaska was basically indefensible against a serious Soviet attack. Not, mind you that they could actually get anywhere from the place. Therefore we decided that a conventional war had broken out and the Soviets had landed airborne and special forces troops in Alaska, and particularly Anchorage to divert troops from Europe, and that a limited and erratic nuclear exchange took place after the landing.
    3. This set up one set of villains immediately, the surviving Soviet paratroopers! We placed them in the agriculturally fertile Matanuska-Susitna Valley north of Anchorage. Somehow, they had developed into a band of well armed slavers and cannibals!
    4. A couple of ultra-Fundamentalist preachers who had annoyed myself and my players enormously became the other villians, with the assumption that their flocks would have the cohesion to keep together during the bitter years that followed 1985.
    5. Finally, we needed a "neutral" place for the players to start, and which would act as an outlet to the greater world. We created the tiny community of Bayshore, the neighborhood near where we lived.

    Then we were off! Most of the first year or two of gaming revolved around an attempt to become a band of pirates! As all good role playing games do, this one took on a life of its own. We didn't bother much about the greater world at first, but events outside the Anchorage area forced the development of a wider, and wider area, forcing me, and my friends, for this background has truly been a group effort, to eventually create a whole world, though a world where the detail is very sparse in areas not dealt with by the players and very detailed indeed in places. I have a lot of material that hasn't made it yet into the website. My block-by-block map of the condition of the buildings in Anchorage! Many of the most interesting and dramatic places and cultures arose from chance random encounters, or some player's offhand remarks. The Mongols, the Weirds, the Terminators, the Sultanate of Indonesia are all examples of this.

    The game itself has become a living thing on its own.

    Current Status of the Game

    I now live in Indiana and my closest live player lives in Texas, so it has been slowly creeping through the year 2046, played only in fits and starts, though I've attempted two PBeM versions that faltered primarily due to my own inexperience in that medium, by attempting far too ambitious scenarios. I do have a number of ideas:

    Currently Recruiting

    The Socotra Campaign

    A purely military and diplomatic oriented game involving the invasion of the island of Socotra, at the mouth of the Red Sea by the Tamil Empire. This game would put players in the position of heads of state and military leaders throughout the region. Combat would be adjudicated by me, the players would make the decisions, and I would fight the resulting battles using Command Decision 3TM for land combat, and Command at SeaTM for sea and air combat. Knowledge of either game system is not required to play. Some of the position will require a basic knowledge of World War One or Two naval and land tactics. This is set up now, and could be started at any time. Current start time is estimated to be mid-October. Click on the above link for more information.

    Have a question or idea? Want to detail out part of this fascinating world? E-mail me here.


    Note: AftermathTM is a role playing game by FGU, long out of print but highly recommended. This website is my own creation, not the work of FGU's authors, and is entirely fictional and solely for the entertainment of my readers. Any characters named after any individuals, living or dead, societies, cultures, nations, or religions are fictional, set in an alternate universe, and make no pretense to the truth, even as I see it!