Setting

Late in the 20th Century, the world’s oil supplies were rapidly running low and mankind turned to harnessing the power of the atom. This led to the construction of many wondrous technologies powered by nuclear batteries and reactors. Despite the emergence of many technologies that made human life better, the continued dwindling resources caused various wars between the Middle East and Europe to break out in 2052 when the U.N was dissolved. After a further 23 years of warfare, the United States of America and Communist China were the only remaining superpowers in the world and had been fighting a long and bloody war. Communist China was desperate for natural resources of all kinds, and drew up plans for the invasion of N.Z. Its abundant natural resources and position on the edge of the pacific, making it a valuable strategic target. The Red Army landed on Ninety Mile Beach on October 15th 2074 and quickly seized Auckland and the Northland, claiming they were “bringing the light of communism to the oppressed working class of New Zealand”. The New Zealand Military fought the Communist invaders at every step, drawing the fight out for a full year. However, then all contact with the South Island of New Zealand ceased; all attempts at communication failed and those sent to investigate seemingly vanished. The New Zealand military was crippled by the loss of its southern resources and coupled with the continued onslaught of the numerically and technologically superior communists, the New Zealand government fell. 

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For two years, the population of N.Z’s North Island was subject to a brutal occupation by the invading communist army and then one day, everything went silent. All communications and contact from the outside world ceased. The Chinese Generals were nervous; all attempts they made to contact the Chinese Homeland were met with silence. As word of this silence began to spread amongst the population, panic began to set in. Soon, a great dark cloud gathered on New Zealand’s horizon, eventually coming inland and covering the western half of New Zealand in a cloud of ash and black dust. The plants began to wither, and become twisted, leafless husks. Animals became sick and died; their young were born deformed and grotesque. The same was happening to the many of the human inhabitants, and for those in the affected coastal regions, the flesh of a rare few began to necrotize and fall off; their bodies becoming shrivelled and dead looking. However, some were sentient - alive, and seemingly able to resist, even be healed by the radiation. Soon dubbed “Ghouls”, the only common factors were that those affected remembered seeing great white flashes a few days before the ash began to fall, and that they had been near beaches or out at sea when it happened. These Ghouls faced great persecution from the Communist Authorities and most resigned themselves to exile in the ash covered wastes. Even normal people began to report mutations appearing amongst new born children, some dying at or before birth and others bearing grotesque or terrifying mutations. These mutants too were forced into exile, joining the ghouls in the ash choked, irradiated wastes of N.Z’s western coast. These lands became known as “The Dead Shores” and were declared by the Chinese to be “home to horrifying mutants that will eat your skin and consign your soul to darkness”.

After a few months, boatloads of Australian refugees started coming ashore, bringing tales of nuclear fire covering the world, of Sydney and the other great cities reduced to irradiated rubble and corpse choked ruins and the end of human civilisation. On October 23, 2077, The Great War had culminated in an all-out nuclear strike by both sides, with most other countries firing their arsenals at one another in the process. This had rendered much of the world a desolate nuclear wasteland, and billions of people had died instantaneously. New Zealand however, with itsinvaluable naturalresources was not a sensible target, and thus was spared the nuclear fires. Life as human kind had known for the last few millennia was over. The Communist Regime declared all “Boat-People” to be “irradiated deviants come to rape and murder the citizens of New Zealand” and ordered their immediate execution on sight, leading many to hide in the Dead Shore or go underground.  Next, the Communist Regime declared word from mainland China had reached them, that the Great War had ended in China’s victory, and that they had received orders to “Rebuild and await the Party’s orders”. They circulated their propaganda and arrested countless people for various crimes, including anyone speaking out against what was known as their “Purity Regulations”; sending them to forced labour camps. At this time many Boat-People were smuggled into the various settlements that had popped up around the North Island, or lived in hidden communes within the Dead Shore. They were often assisted in these efforts by the few members of the New Zealand military to survive the war and those members of the New Zealand parliament that had managed to elude capture.

For the next Thirty-Eight years the North Island suffered at the hands of the Communist Regime as well as a grim and uncertain existence, with no form of economy, money, industry and half the arable & habitable land they previously had. Very early on, many already existing gangs and other criminal organisations formed what came to be known as “Raider Clans”, groups of junkies and thugs who would pillage and steal from any too weak to fend them off, often enslaving the prisoners they took to use them as forced workers or for other, more horrible purposes. It was also at this time that the few surviving members of the New Zealand parliament and military, along with the surviving Australian refugees who managed to make it inland, formed a resistance movement in Wellington known as “The Shadow Parliament”. One of the primary advantages the Chinese invaders had during the initial invasion was access to more advanced technologies than the New Zealand Military did, such as cloaking devices, Nuclear powered Chimera tanks and other terrible devices. New Zealand, however, had been slow to adopt the newer fusion based technologies, given their relatively neutral status and abundant resources. The Australian immigrants however came with schematics and examples of advanced American technologies gained from their alliance with the U.S.A during the Great War. The most notable of these were suits of powered armour and laser weapons, as well the training to use them. Though they were few in number, it gave the resistance an edge against the invaders, allowing them to make the occupation of the North Island an unpleasant prospect.

During this time another faction also emerged, a government department that had managed to survive un-noticed in the city of Auckland. This faction was the IRD. A single office, and its employees had somehow managed to survive the war and following chaos, and this office had grown into a thriving trade hub. The IRD declared itself to be an independent civilian organisation, but was willing to comply with Communist Regime’s authority in order to re-establish some form of economic structure to promote stability and quality of life. The Communist Regime, ever eager to convince the native residents of New Zealand to accept their rule, agreed to the IRD’s terms; dubbing them to be “For the People”. The IRD began to encourage bartering as a new form of economy, trading services or goods, and were among the first to adopt bottle caps as a form of currency to replace coins, notes and credit cards.  Slowly the North Island began to rebuild, farmers once again grew bountiful crops and raised large herds, craftsmen and experts of all sorts began to ply their trade again, and the Communist Regime grew complacent while the Shadow Parliament quietly built their strength and waged a secret war against them. The IRD made certain to remain a neutral faction, refusing to work directly for the Communist Regime or the Shadow Parliament, citing their “Dedication to spreading economic prosperity to all business minded individuals” whilst selling goods to both sides and offering “membership” to any and all merchants or experts. The IRD hired people to provide security and debt collection for members, dressing them in suits and dubbing them “Security Contractors”, though they quickly came to be known as “Suits”.

New Zealand had settled into a somewhat uneasy but steady state of normality. The Shadow Parliament funnelling refugees of all kinds (Mutants, Ghouls or Australians alike) to safe havens in the Dead Shores and quietly spreading anti-communist propaganda, undermining the Red Party’s authority and carrying out covert raids and strikes where possible. The IRD ensured trade between cities and that its membership expanded while the Communist Regime spread its propaganda and carted people away to various forced labour camps dedicated to “rebuilding public works” for all manner of superfluous or perceived crimes, most commonly charges of sedition or treason for spreading anti-communist rhetoric, refusing an order from a Communist Regime Member or disobeying the “Purity Regulations”. Then, on the anniversary of the invasion, General Bai Xiang made a public declaration – “The People’s Global Chinese Republic has communicated to our glorious leader Bao Deshi the next phase of their grand plan for human kind. New Zealand is now to be known as “The People’s Republic of Sinsilan” The ruling regime will be known as “The Red Party” and membership will be available to all loyal citizens, and though ultimate authority will remain with the Premier General and his military council, the Red Party will serve as an advisory council and manage the Peoples Republic in its day to day operations and serve as the voice of the people and the common worker! In order to ensure this glorious Communist utopia, new social reforms are to be commenced with immediately! Sedition or Treason will be punishable by internment or death; as such anti-communist behaviour is harmful to the soul of The Republic. Ghouls or Mutants are to be executed on sight or birth; as such abominations are harmful to the body of The Republic. Boat-People or other foreigners are to be subject to immediate internment; as such deviants are harmful to the security of The Republic. Forced labour camps will now serve as “Re-Education Facilities” where criminals will help to rebuild public works and learn to better function as part of the new communist utopia that our victory in the Great War assured us!”

This declaration came later came to be known as “The Red or Dead Declaration” and was a signal to the Shadow Parliament that the Communist Regime had become determined to wipe them out, and they began to plan a revolution to oust the Communist Regime. After another year, the Shadow Parliament had grown increasingly concerned. They had lost all contact with their agents within the “Re-Education” Facilities, and had received reports of people coming out of these facilities dramatically changed and unwilling to help the resistance in any way, and in some cases even turning against them and joining the Red Party. The Shadow Parliament put together a strike team with the intention of carrying out an armed assault to liberate the Wellington Re-Education Facility and signal to all members of the Shadow Parliament that the time for revolution was at hand. They sent in forces equipped with laser weapons and the precious few suits of power armour they had, allowing them to quickly overcome the guards and liberate the prisoners, but what they found inside was even more horrifying . The Red Party had been secretly developing mind control technology for the last few years and had accelerated their plans in response to the Shadow Parliament. The Peoples Republic was using criminal and political prisoners as experimental subjects, and had perfected a method of using computers and implanted electrodes to reprogram a human mind, forcing a subject to become a perfect agent for the Red Party. They had also been experimenting with robots, placing the reprogrammed human brains into robotic bodies in the hopes of creating robotic soldiers, painting them red and calling them “Terracotta Soldiers”. The Terracotta Soldiers were crafted in the likeness of traditional Chinese warriors, and designed to be brutal melee combatants resistant to gunfire and other weapons. Fortunately for the Shadow Parliament something about the process drove the robots insane, and they became frenzied killing machines attacking friend or foe alike. The members of the Shadow Parliament were horrified, and publicised their findings, causing many outrages citizens to flock to their banner, this combined with resentment over the “Red or Dead Declaration” sparked many riots, and led to many taking up arms in a full blown revolution

The Shadow Parliament moved swiftly to organise the revolution. They accepted any person who volunteered to fight, and trained them to fight as part of a disciplined army, calling them “Shades” as a result of the guerrilla style tactics they were often trained in. The first, and later, most famous of these Shades were the First “Erebus” Shade Battalion, many of whom had been resistance fighters. In addition to the Shades, the Shadow Parliament recruited skilled freelancers or volunteers who were not quite suited to serving as Shades, to serve as “Shadow Councillors”. These councillors served as agents for the Hidden Senate and advanced the interests of the Shadow Parliament as well serving as advisors for their respective Departments. The new forces of the Shadow Parliament managed to seize control of the city after a week of bloody fighting, utilizing surprise, rapid strikes, backroom dealings and assassinations to isolate, and then destroy the various Red Party forces throughout the region. The Shadow Parliament declared that Wellington was free with the public execution of the Red Party’s military governor appointed to Wellington, Major-General Da Min-Zhong by Brigadier William Peterson who afterwards issued a public statement: “Wellington was once a bastion of democracy and civil liberties, but under the heel of the Red Party, it has become a place of horrors and oppression. Let it be known, that from this day of August 30th 2115, Wellington will stand stand for freedom, democracy and human decency once more, and it will remain such as long as the Shadow Parliament stands!” The statement was broadcast across every radio and television frequency imaginable and the words “The Shadow Parliament Stands!” became a rallying cry for dissidents and rebels all across the northern island of New Zealand and many smaller settlements rose up waving the Shadow Parliaments flag.

At the onset of the fighting, The Red Party rapidly deployed units to hold back the Shadow Parliament’s forces. The Red Parties forces made the fighting drag out as long as possible, building trenches and makeshift fortifications in buildings. Communist soldiers were known to make suicide charges rather than surrender if defeated; they also used prisoners as human shields, implanting bombs in prisoners & themselves as well as other similarly vicious and ruthless tactics to make the nascent rebellion pay dearly for each kilometre they took. It seemed as though they were determined to keep the rebellion contained to the immediate Wellington area, but then one day, the guns of the Red Army fell silent. The Shades found that the Red Army had suddenly abandoned their fortifications and withdrawn north. As they advanced into the Central North Island, , the Shades discovered that the Red Party had taken us much food, weapons, raw materials and anything else they deemed useful and could take, destroying anything they could not and had abandoned the region to the predations of raiders and other such dangers.

The Shadow Parliament sent the Fourth “Hades” Battalion into the Waikato region under the command of Lieutenant- Colonel Avery Jackson, with the task of assessing Red Party strength in the region and the feasibility of reclaiming the greater Waikato region. The Expeditionary force entered Hamilton in March 2116, and was met by the cities few surviving inhabitants. They told the Shades and Councillors that met them that the Red army had largely ignored them since the initial invasion and occupation, only bothering to send patrols into the region to take goods from the various settlements and farms that had grown after the bombs fell. These soldiers would often leave the people with nothing, and would occasionally kidnap people, executing any who opposed them claiming the goods would be “Distributed for the good of the common worker” and that those taken or executed were “Dangerous Seditionists”. Otherwise they and most everyone in the Central North Island had been left to fend for themselves. This had resulted in several unique and new groups forming to try and survive the predations of raiders, slavers, mutants, feral ghouls and other hazards of what came to be known as “The Frontier”. The first of these were groups of Maori and Caucasians who retreated into the remaining bush and countryside, which had become rough and untamed without any human interaction. They made a return to pre-colonisation Maori beliefs, cultural ideas and practises, forming into various tribes that established their own communities that would trade, fight or ignore both one another and the other inhabitants of the Frontier whilst following their own practices and beliefs.

Many of the other inhabitants formed small independent settlements that had long been trading with the IRD (pronounced ‘err-d’) as they had come to be called. The Ird had gained a reputation for enthusiastically sending the Suits in to carry out “audits” or sanctioned beatings of those who owed money to a member of the Ird as well as those who resisted becoming a member of the Ird. In the frontier a group of warriors clad in arms and armour styled on the ancient pre-war world and began using both sword and gun to protect settlements from raids, as well as escort wandering traders and defeat groups of dangerous mutants and the like. In return for this protection they asked a modest tithe of goods, services or caps. They called themselves “Knights of Ash” and they had been formed by the many re-enactors and LARPers who lived around the region. They used their skills and resources to set up a few small forts where they trained new recruits and manufactured new weapons using the knowledge they and their forbears had gathered, and accepting those who proved themselves worthy into their ranks. Two, less formalised groups also arose; the inhabitants of the many independent settlements that came together were known as “Independents” and the other made up of the many people who chose a nomadic life, some selling services, some trading, others acting as guns for hire.  These nomadic folk came to be known as “Wanderers” or “Drifters” and became the modern day adventurers, of whom some tales of extraordinary feats and heroism were already being told around campfires.

The Expeditionary force continued its journey north, coming across many more independent settlements, skirmishing with raiders and certain tribal groups. They eventually came to the outskirts of Huntly, discovering that the Red Army had constructed a large barricade across land, road and river, barring the route north. The expeditionary force retreated to Ngaruawahia and Lt. Col Jackson reported the situation to the Shadow Parliament, who ordered to him to fortify and await reinforcements before laying siege to this “Great Wall” and mobilised the Third “Tartarus” Shade Battalion, leaving the Erebus and Elyisum Battalions in the south. Lt. Col Jackson began to construct his fort in the old military base, and began sending his scouts into the nearby regions. It seemed that the Red Party had largely stripped the area of resources for use in constructing their Great Wall, even taking metal from roofs and walls. Lt. Col. Jackson put all his men to work building a well-entrenched fortress and largely left the region alone otherwise, forbidding forbidding his men from looting any abandoned buildings. The fort had come to be known as “Avery’s Castle” after a mocking sign that a soldier had placed over the fort entrance due to the iron discipline its commander enforced. It took a month for the Tartarus Battalion to reach Avery’s Fort, but they eventually made it there with the artillery and a few vehicles to tow them which the shades needed to successfully lay siege.

Lieutenant-Colonels Lynn Patel and Avery Jackson began to draw their plans for the siege of the Great Wall, but chaos chaos broke loose on May 6th 2116, as hordes of Terracotta Soldiers began to burst out of the ground and abandoned buildings. The Shades were caught totally unprepared and many hundreds were claimed in the first few minutes, but they regrouped and mounted a desperate defence against the horde of crazed robots. After hours of fighting they had managed to defeat the Terracotta Soldiers, though the force of 2000 Shades had been reduced to 500 men and women. It was at this point the Red Party mobilised its forces, the elite Red Army Dragoons leading an assault to wipe out the beleaguered soldiers of the Tartarus and Hades division. Only the 42nd “Furies” Platoon under the command of Sergeant Harper Hughes made it out of Ngaruawahia, eventually delivering their report after an arduous month long journey evading Red Army patrols, fighting raiders, and negotiating with Tribals before delivering their report to the Shadow Parliament. The loss of two battalions was a devastating blow and curtailed any ideas of trying to push the Red Party out in the immediate future, meanwhile the stories of “The Furies” became greatly popular, and a memorial to the soldiers lost in “The Ngaruwahia Massacre” was constructed in Hamilton. It was at this point that the Shadow Parliament declared a line from Napier to Waverly as its border, stating that the Frontier would remain an autonomous region, but that it would continue to send regular patrols into the region and trade with any willing settlements or tribes.

A hundred and sixty-eight years have passed since the Ngaruawahia Massacre, during which the north island came to be called Dead-Zealand and things settled into an uneasy peace. The Red Army and Shades regularly skirmish in the Frontier, while the Independents continued to survive the predations of the raiders, deal with the tribals and trade with the Ird. Drifters continue to roam the ruins of the Old World, salvaging what they can, finding adventures, and either causing or righting wrongs. The Far South is still a land of the unknown; the Shadow Parliament maintains its border from its capital of Wellington and the Shades operating their their headquarters Fort Limbo in Napier. The Peoples Republic of Sinsilan maintains it’s Great Wall in Huntly, regularly sending out soldiers to enforce its laws and taking from the populace “for the common good”. Boat-People continue to make their way from the “Land of Oz” bringing examples of advanced Old World technologies or on salvaging ships that make their way across to try and loot those technologies. Ghouls and Mutants continue to make their way out of the Dead Shore to try for a normal life or make a living using their abilities to withstand radiation to survive and salvage the Dead Shore. It is at this point, around November of 2281, that the Ird puts out a call to all wanderers, drifters and enterprising folks who seek to make some caps for an expedition into the dead shore…