“What better way is there? We only got where we were before the Fall by working together, and it’s the only way we’ll get back there. Yeah, sure, some of my neighbors are assholes, and I have to tithe nine-tenths of my production to the leaders, but it’s a small sacrifice… I think.”

While the apocalypse was an immensely destructive event, humanity did survive, and human nature is to band together in groups and try to survive as a community. It also has been a significant period of time, and real communities have sprung up all over Sokal and other more distant parts of the world. While these communities do attract the more peacefully minded, they have become favorite targets of roving Bandit groups. When they meet in the Wastes only one of two things can happen. The Bandits will extract what they can from the community until it’s bled dry and dies out — a fate that has happened all over Sokal — or the community can put up enough of a fight that the Bandits will decide it isn’t worth it. Any community that has lasted more than a decade in Sokal has thus become sufficiently militarized or come up with some other means of defending themselves from the Bandit threat.

Every community, however, fears the sweeping threat of Raiders more than anything. While Bandits can be deterred or negotiated with in most cases, Raiders simply seek to destroy all in their path. They will wipe out entire communities for no reason other than they’re in the way. Most people would rather be mobile than possibly subject themselves to a Raider attack, an attitude that is often found in those who argue against settlement formation.

Building a community therefore means creating: a solid defense or economy with which to discourage or negotiate with Bandits; a decent amount of luck and a stable location — usually an old world ruin of some sort; and finally, and probably most importantly, a motivated community of some sort, so the population is willing to band together in one place despite the threat of Raiders.

The Great Warrior Clans of SCX

Your style is weak!”

Far to the North of Sokal sits the Great Bay and the blasted remains of a massive city now called San Chuan Xiao. A strange place to be sure, inhabited by even stranger groups of people called the Clans. The Clans are a series of warrior groups, each organized around a different philosophy and fighting style. The Clans battle constantly with each other for dominance amongst the ruins of SCX and only ever unite to drive off “foreigners”. Each Clan believes that their style of combat and philosophy is the inherently correct one and constantly battle to prove it.

At any given time, one Clan will be ascendant. The process for claiming the ascendency is unknown to outsiders, but it is clear that whichever Clan is ascendant sets the tone in SCX. They determine who can come and go, and since whoever is in charge right now has determined that no one may enter or leave, SCX has become a very inhospitable place to outsiders.

The Machine Heads

“They’re a strange bunch. They live out on this boat and build all sorts of things. Some say they have some of the best tech in Sokal, and I’d believe it based on a few things I’ve seen. But no, I’d never live there. I’m a god fearing man, and they don’t truck with that.”

Living on a huge scuttled ship off the coast of Lost Angels, the Machine Heads have found their niche in the Wastes and aim to keep it that way. A sort of anarchist, super secular group of highly skilled engineers, the Machine Heads sell their skills to just about anyone who asks as long as they do not bear any religious or political ideological affiliation. According to them, the systems of religion and government were responsible for the Fall — or, at least, the inability of civilization to recover from it. The only things that can be relied upon are machines and technology. The Machine Heads seek to master technology and engineering and use it to usher in a new age for humanity.

The Machine Heads are renowned as some of the finest machinists, engineers, and craftspeople in the Wastes. If someone has a choice piece of gear somehow manufactured after the Fall, chances are it was built by the Machine Heads. This intense focus means that the Machine Heads are constantly trading their wares for needed materials and food to support their isolation. Machine Heads Recovery Teams can be seen ranging all over Lost Angels and Sokal, trading their craft for food and salvage.

Zales Free Enterprise Conglomerate

“You don’t deal with them so much as hope that they don’t screw you over too badly.”

Zales owes its success as one of the largest communities in Norkal to the Zales Free Enterprise Conglomerate, a fact of which the Mayor and Town Council remain painfully well aware. The Master Merchant Floyd Biggs, known throughout the Wastes as the Robber Baron, has used the threat of pulling out of Zales several times to keep them from creating trade tariffs or similar tax levies. Needless to say, there’s a bit of tension. However, with the constant threat of Bandits just waiting to descend on Zales and pick it clean like a week old corpse, they usually find a way to agree.

The Zales Free Enterprise Conglomerate, despite the rather grandiose name, is really just an organization of merchant caravans, traders, and scavengers. Working together under Floyd’s able leadership has enabled them to increase their profits and create the first semblance of a stable market economy in two centuries. Still, the Conglomerate hasn’t gotten as far as it has without an agenda all its own. The only law members recognize is that of supply and demand, and any town that tries to create trade laws, levy taxes, or prohibit the bartering of certain items will usually find its trade for necessities drying up as well. Rival trade groups are bought out almost immediately or simply “disappear” from the wastes if they refuse, most likely victims of the Robber Baron’s private army of caravan guards and mercs. Floyd wields the Conglomerate’s huge market share like a sledgehammer to smash any and all restrictions or competition.

Robber Baron enjoys a love/hate relationship with just about every community he’s become ensconced in. While they love the more or less steady influx of needed goods, they hate the fact that they have to trade tremendous amounts for the security that comes with it. Basically no one is allowed to regulate the goods the Conglomerate trades. Communities with access to the Conglomeration can quickly find themselves flooded in drugs, weapons, pornography, whatever, especially if these items are black market. Most communities just hunker down and deal with it; it’s the price they pay for reliable food and water.

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