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Walking In A Winter Wasteland: A Different Kind Of Post Apocalyptic World


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We're all familiar, through the Mad Max franchise and others, with the idea of a post-apocalyptic world where all or most of the planet is a scorching hot desert environment. How about a one-eighty on that concept: how about a winter wasteland? The idea is the planet is in a new ice age and even setting foot outside requires you to either be physiologically adapted to intense cold or put on full cold weather gear like an Eskimo. Perils could include raging snow and ice storms, attacks by mutant polar bears, etc.

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Nuclear Winter is a thing that could happen, so that would be one way such a world could come into being.

 

Is it a wet cold or a dry cold? You could easily have a desert without snow. It's just freezing cold instead of scorching hot.

 

I think D&D's Dark Sun setting was originally going to be a frozen one, but the story I heard is that they changed it to a desert to show more skin in the artwork for it.

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Well, the desert scenario has been done many times. Most famously in Dune and repeated in all the global warming books. The lack of water is the universal problem. If you have it food will come to it.

 

The cold scenario has the problem of finding surviving plants in large enough concentration to sustain a life cycle. Finding an energy source or even just a reliable supply of fuel for fires will come next.

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We're all familiar, through the Mad Max franchise and others, with the idea of a post-apocalyptic world where all or most of the planet is a scorching hot desert environment. How about a one-eighty on that concept: how about a winter wasteland? The idea is the planet is in a new ice age and even setting foot outside requires you to either be physiologically adapted to intense cold or put on full cold weather gear like an Eskimo. Perils could include raging snow and ice storms, attacks by mutant polar bears, etc.

We had to dig our car out this morning, didn't we?

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What if mankind was able to build vast underground / under ice domes to live in? They could draw their power from the geothermal energy from the earth to heat an area. Water was not a big issue since they had vast supplies of ice all around them / above them but because it is so cold, venturing out of an area could easily spell doom. A few decades or generations pass and people are still meeking out a life with almost no knowledge of outsiders and the corruption of those in charge has begun to spell doom for what little life still exists. 

 

Of course there are stories, stories of vast interlaced structures beyond the walls of one's home. Cities and civilizations where the food is abundant, the rulers just, and hope abounds. If only... If only you could get there. What would you risk? The things that survived the Freeze are not things to be trifled with. To leave the sanctum is to welcome the cold agonizing hand of death - or worse. 

 

 

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For me I am thinking of a world that has suffered two  major cataclysms. The first more gradual than the second: wide scale global warming followed by The Freeze. All of the polar ice melted and that combined with several seismic disturbances had crippled the world's population. Nations fled into sea-domes. These structures acted akin to imagines of Atlantis - vast inhabited structures that are either fully or largely submerged in water. Most of them using boats and a wide array of underground tunnels to stay connected. 

 

But that is when the second tragedy struck, literally. A planet killing asteroid / comet struct land. This set off a chain reaction where the Earth's spin became more erratic and the ensuing dust clouds that swallowed the Earth plunged it into a new ice age. In a way the Earthlings were lucky that the waterworld disaster came first because they were already stationed in largely self sustaining structures that could keep out the cold. But with quakes destroying their connecting tunnels and The Freeze cutting off their sea travels, people are left alone in isolated structures that can not grow and expand with them. Suffocating under the slow stagnation of  confinement. 

 

While there was no nuclear winter in my scenario, the damaged incurred by the atmosphere left the surface more prone to solar and galactic radiation. Generations of animals have survived all of this but have been left changed. Some horribly so. Existence on the frozen surface is not a joyous one. 

 

Just a starting idea when I heard about a Winter Post-Apoc. 

 

Soar. 

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I must admit that I'd go with something along the lines of The Day After Tomorrow as my scenario.  PC's start out above the "evacuation line" and must now survive the hypercold storms bringing in the new ice age.  After those storms, they must now still survive their changed world.  Do they head south where they can work out that all 8 billion humans are crowded into a region within about 30-degrees latitude of the Equator and try to carve out a little piece of territory, or do they try to adapt and survive to the conditions farther north and less crowded?  Either way, there are survival challenges as civilization and society break down, people start starving and freezing, etc.  

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I happened to see The Revenant this weekend in the theater, and in many ways it reminded me of Mad Max, only with ice instead of deserts. Food, fire, and clothing become the scarce resources in such a setting--and that's not even a fully iced over area; there were still plenty of trees and sources of running water for people to take advantage of. A howling wasteland of ice and snow would be another level entirely.

 

Cold survival is more difficult in many ways than in the desert. There's so many little ways to get killed in the cold. Let the fire go out, you die. Lose your flint and steel in the snow, you die. Get your clothes too wet, you die. Crevasses, avalanches, blizzards, slipping on the ice, breaking through the ice, caught outside at night, die die die die die.

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Most of the cold-climate population lives right off the ocean, both because of the climate-moderating effect of the liquid water, and the availability of large high-nutritive-value food animals in the sea. Inland cold-climate people tend to follow herds, either wild or domesticated. Whether the ecosystem was stable enough to have reestablished any of those food animal populations is open to question.

 

An intriguing idea would be a quasi-Iceland area, with glaciers and ice always present, but volcanism always present as well, giving the possibility of harnessing geothermal sources. In fact, I could imagine a surviving geothermal plant being a high civilization center that dominated an extended area (or was under continuous assault by snow barbarians).

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