Deathlands Environment

Page version 1.12

This page will deal with the environment and geography of the Deathlands. It is my wish to cover the weather, people, and other generalities of the series on this page.


General: Nearly every section of the globe has suffered seismic damage caused from the war. Not a single section of the globe was untouched. Highways, ruins, even the mountains themselves show evidence of the earth movements. Entire coastal sections slipped into the oceans. Islands were created where there were none. Rivers changed course. Lakes dried up and new lakes were born. Entire mountains disappeared while new mountains were born elsewhere.

So many nukes exploded over the continent that huge areas have become uninhabitable for possibly thousands of years do to so much hard radiation. Some area's of the globe may never be habitable again due to 'Dirty' bombs which saturated the area with hard radiation. This of course spawned the mutants that roam the land. Due to the sheer amount of radiation, most people carry miniature rad counters which alert them to potential hot spots, which anyone with any sense would studiously avoid as much as possible. Radiation sickness is still a major killer in the Deathlands, as well as Radiation induced Cancer which claims lives at a horrendous rate.

The fact that so many weapons landed caused a great deal of damage to the planets tectonic plates. The result were earthquakes. Some so massive they wiped out entire mountain ranges, caused most of California to slip into the ocean, and quakes to occur in places that never had quakes before. Everyone in the Deathlands have encountered quakes at least several times in their lives. It is nearly a daily occurrence in some parts of the world.

Rumors abound about Russian soldiers invading parts of the US through Canada and elsewhere after the initial exchange.

Alaska and Eastern Siberia: Massive earthquake and volcanic activity inundate Anchorage, the Kamchatka and Alaskan Peninsulas and the Aleutian islands. Chemical weapons severely damage the entire region. The entire area is permanently locked in a deep freeze, with temperatures rarely rising above freezing, even during the summer months. Very few people live here, as the conditions are far too harsh. Those that do have to contend with huge mutant Polar bears and extreme snow storms and blizzards.

The West: The coastline was completely sculpted by the soviet 'earthshaker' bombs. Volcanoes along the Cascades triggered by ICBMs Land subsidence creates sizzling lagoons, fjords. Salt lake city is now beneath the waters of a lake. Los Angles and many of the other coastal cities disappeared beneath the waves of the Pacific, or became island chains. Seattle, even though it was hit during the war, eventually grew to become on of the biggest trading centers in the Deathlands, where many people who call themselves traders would stop by to ply their trade.

The Midwest: The scoured terrain, usually devoid of vegetation. Can get incredibly hot. Often the sky burns. Clouds a mile thick with radioactive junk. A huge section of Minnesota became a tropical jungle, inhabited by all manner of mutant insects and tropical plants. In many places the Mississippi River has changed course, wiping out entire towns and changing the shape of the land forever.

The Southwest: Even with the massive destruction wrought by the final war, area's such as Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico survived relatively unchanged as they have for thousands of years. The other areas such as Texas, were heavily affected. Originally, the were hot and dry. Quite often new rivers were being created as the storms changed the terrain. Acid storms and boiling winds would blow in from the Gulf, killing anyone unprotected. The swamps and bayous of Louisiana became toxic cesspools of mutant gators and humanoids. Many of the cities in this area were hit by neutron weapons, killing the people, but leaving the cities relatively intact.

The Arizona and Colorado Plateau. This section of the states was hit devastatingly hard during the war, but the nuking had mixed blessings. During the build-up of the cold war in the late nineties, the government sunk uncounted billions of dollars into hidden redoubts and missile bases along this area. Thus when the war broke out it was blanketed by the soviets. Neutron bombs were used mainly on the population centers, and the nukes that did fall were of low fissionable material, meaning that there are few dangerous hot spots in the area. Nearly all life was wiped out in this section, but as with everything, life slowly returned.

The East Coast and Florida: New York is an overgrown ruined city filled with mutants and gangs trying to survive. The east coast was hit and hit hard during the war. Entire sections of the coast ceased to exist, or were so heavily bombarded they will be radioactive for hundreds, if not thousands of years. The Southeast was hit hard by chemical weapons launched from submarines. It's now filled with night dark toxic swamps, filled with all manner of mutated life. Huge lakes of acid are known to exist around the ruins of New Orleans.

Washington DC. This is where it all began on January 20, 2001. The first nukes when off here, triggering the Skydark. The city was decimated, hit so hard and so many times that all that is left is a ten mile wide, incredibly radioactive crater. Many of the suburbs survived the attack, and, as it is with all major cities, life slowly returned to the suburbs. The ruins near the crater are avoided as they house incredibly mutated and deadly life forms. On the outskirts of the city a volcano erupted and created a mountain that is now nearly five thousand feet in height and miles across at it's base.

The 'True' Deathlands

Throughout the Deathlands are areas that are totally alien to anything we consider normal. What caused these areas remains pure speculation. It could have been a combination of chemical and biological weapons, the destruction of industrial areas filled with chemical plants, and so forth.

These areas are for the most part devoid of life. However, the life that does exist in these areas are usually so mutated as to be nearly alien in nature. A prime example is the land surrounding the ruined ville of Lonesome Gulch. The life they encountered there was unlike anything any of the creatures they have seen before, such as reptilian flying alligators, rat fish and the like.

The area appeared to be permanently shrouded in a thick fog, no matter the time of day the sun would never been seen. Even with the mist, the water found was totally un digestible, as it filled with chemical taints. A river encountered was not water, but more like a thick, scummy oil.

The plants encountered were sickly white, covered in yellow veins. One common effect of the environment is the disintegration of the surrounding area, usually in the form of unstable ground. Earthquakes are also quite common. Could it be from the acid content in the mist? Who knows.

The Weather

Since the last days of nuclear winter which ended around five years after the last nuke detonated, the weather patterns across the united states, as well as across the entire globe have change radically, as well as permanently.

The clouds high overhead are no longer fluffy white or gray. They are various colors, leaning mainly towards the reds and oranges, but yellow, and green are not unheard of.

Storms appear suddenly and usually with very little warning. It could be a beautiful sunny day one moment, and within half an hour it could be snowing, raining, or hailing. The severity of the storms can be unimaginable! Hail stones the size of baseballs, if not larger. Down pours so heavy an unprotected man could drown standing up. Winds blowing at such speeds as to topple the tallest, strongest trees. In the first few years so many chemicals and ash were in the atmosphere that the rain would often be so highly acidic that it could strip a man to the bare bones in a matter of minutes. As the generations passed, these storms came less and less often and are now quite rare. These acid rain storms are still quite common around the gulf of Mexico.

In low lying area's these storms can be deadly in another manner. They can cause massive flash floods.

One common factor is that there is usually at least one severe storm every couple of days. As mentioned above, in the northern parts of Canada, as well as Alaska and the territories the land is gripped in a permanent winter. The ice age has returned to the north with a vengeance.

General Data

It is not uncommon to see shooting stars on a clear night, or even during the daytime. The near orbit surrounding earth is filled with all manner of space junk left over from the war. The boosters from ICBMs, space based weapon platforms, space stations, satellites. As the orbits of these various pieces of technology decay, they re-enter the atmosphere and burn up spectacularly. As the years progressed, these events became less and less common.

Many of these pieces of high tech meteorites caused even more damage as they re entered the atmosphere and crashed to the earth. Some contained nuclear power plants that ruptured and spread radiation over the land where they landed, while others, carrying nuclear weapons, detonated upon impact, decimating an already suffering population.

The People

It may be hard to believe but the people who live in the Deathlands are not all cold blooded killers waiting to take a life at the drop of a hat. They are for the most part, hard working honest folks who just want to be left alone to live and make a living for themselves. However, due to the nature of the land itself, mutants, the weather, and other two legged predators, people have become very untrusting. This is purely a survival mechanism. The people have to be wary of any stranger, or 'Outlander' encountered because those met may want to kill you for your weapons, food, clothing, shelter, women, or any number of reasons.

More often than not a stranger will be shot at before they are given a chance to speak, unless it is a community. In that instance, they are met with an air of uncertainty all the way up to open hostility until they prove themselves to be worthy of the folks trust. A stranger has to be regarded as an enemy from the start or you might find yourself on your back starring into the rain.

In what is left of the grain belt, many of the farmers have banded together to create small farming communities. These communal farms resemble the fortresses of the wild western days.

One of the most common rules in the Deathlands is that of ownership. When you hold something, it's yours. When someone else holds something, its theirs. Scavenging and salvaging are a way of life for many people, especially in the ruins of major cities such as Washington and New York. Some people, like the Enigmatic Trader, or Harry Stanton of New York were able to build quite sizeable empires or reputations for themselves from scavenging.

Due to the very nature of the Deathlands, the people living are not only quite hardy, but are quite healthy. This is due to the fact that the sick and the weak do not live long. People when they get ill tend to recover quickly, as well as heal from wounds or injuries quicker than they did before the birth of the Deathlands.

Medicine in the Deathlands is primitive at best, or the equivalent of the early 1800's. In the most primitive communities medicine is nothing more than 'Witch Doctors or Shamanism', where they believe that sickness is caused by demons or spirits that have to be driven away. This usually involves human sacrifice. The people of the ville of Markland believed that the radiation poisoning they were suffering from was actually caused by Mildred Wyeth, and they thought that the only way they could spare themselves was to kill the woman. Of course, this never happened.

One thing that most of the people who live in the Deathlands is their mutual hatred of Mutants or Muties. This is due to the fact that so many of the muties are nothing more than primitive killers, such as the Stickies. Deformities are also very common and are usually treated only slightly better than other mutants. Anything unusual, such as albinism or unusual hair, eye color, height and the like are looked upon with suspicion.

Another sad but common occurrence in the Deathlands is the amount of inbreeding. Many small or isolated communities had very few people living in them, and since strangers were usually turned away or driven out, they were forced to inbreed. Mother slept with son, father with daughter, brother with sister. Thus a lot of damage was done. Mutations and deformities were incredibly common, as well as retardation and other problems. It is expected that many of these communities will simply cease to exist as the inbred generations get weaker and weaker, die off, or become sterile.

Due to the fact that nearly no formal schools exist anymore, the illiteracy rate in the Deathlands is upwards of 90%. Most people are far more concerned with day to day survival than learning how to read, write or do mathematics. Only the rich and powerful barons have the luxury of a formal education, but even then the standards are no where near where they are today.

The first few years after the war, during the five year long nuclear winter that blanketed the globe, many people turned to cannibalism to survive. After the winter ended and people were able to begin growing crops, the practice died out, except for isolated groups, and in some cases, it became ingrained in their religion. The most common cannibals are mutants. Stickies and many of the deformed mutants are known to eat human flesh. 'Cannies' as they are now known, are universally feared and hated, even more so it seems than mutants.

One off shoot of the lack of food was the fact that people would tend to eat anything they could get their hands on, no matter how rotten it was, simply for survival sake. North America before the war had ample food and in general people tended to be quite wasteful. After the war, this ended. You sometimes never knew where or when you would get a meal so you ate what was handy, no matter what. Once again, its usually only the barons who are able to willfully waste food.

Cleanliness is regarded more as a luxury in the Deathlands than a necessity. Quite often the resources to keep oneself clean simply are not available so people clean if and when they have the chance or time.

Privacy is also a thing of the past, so it's not uncommon to see people eating, sleeping, making love, talking and so forth together in a small room.

No one except for the insane go anywhere unarmed. Fire arms and ammunition are worth their weight in gold, as because the Deathlands are so dangerous, being unarmed usually means a quick death. Most people will have killed before they have even had sex.

Women in many communities are treated as second class citizens at the best, and as plain and simple property at the worst. A prime example would be the ville of Ginnsburg falls in Oregon, where the male population outnumbers the female population seven to one. Here females are used simply for sexual purposes and home keepers. The female children that are born are taken out into the wilderness. Those that survive one night and are not taken by local predators are allowed to survive.

In other communities, such as the ville of Markland in Minnesota, females are treated well, but are used only for mates, cleaning, tending the children and other such duties. No female is allowed to carry a weapon or to be a warrior, of do the work of a man (which usually entails hunting, fighting, etc.)

It is incredibly rare for a woman to gain respect or power in the Deathlands. Very few have ever managed to do this.

Due to the violent nature of the new world, one of the most common rules is that you always try to save one last bullet for yourself, as then you could give yourself a quick, relatively painless passing. If you don't, your death could be long, and VERY hard.

As one would expect, life expectancy of men in women in the Deathlands is rather short. The average male lifespan is about forty, and for women the mid thirties.


The old American greenback ceased to exist after the last weapons detonated. It is quite possible that in some area's local barons still accept it as currency, but for the most part, every ville or region produces it's own Currency, or Jack as it has become to be known as. The currency comes in many forms, everything from home printed paper to minted coins. Most communities will only accept local or regional Jack, but many will buy it at a higher rate, say 3 foreign Jack for 2 local Jack. It is very rare for any community to accept foreign Jack at a one for one basis.

Still, the most common method of exchanging goods and services is done by trade or barter. If you want a meal, a bath and a place to sleep, it could simply cost you a few rounds of ammunition, or if your a female, a night of sex. That's the way it goes in the Deathlands.


Many barons use slave labor for their mines, salvage operations and so forth. This has created a new breed of slavers in the Deathlands that have not been seen since the sixteen and seventeen hundreds. It is a cheap and effective way to work for the Barons as all they need to do is provide shelter (and that is usually done so, but it's barley adequate), and enough food to survive. Those who die can easily be replaced. Some of the most notorious slavers were the Scalies in New York city who were constantly capturing people to work in their salvage operations, and Major Commissar Zimyanin who used the Gateways to scour the land for new 'recruits' for his Sulphur mine.


During the final war, many weapons released on both sides carried genetically engineered virii and tailor made diseases. Nearly all of these diseases have disappeared, as when the hosts died off, the disease had no way of surviving. However, the radiation released during the nuclear explosions caused many of these tailor made horrors to mutate, allowing them to survive, using animals, plants and so forth as hosts to survive. In many ruins and hidden sections of the devastated country, they lie in wait, patient that someday a suitable host will arrive, allowing the disease to spread, wreaking havoc across the globe.

The radiation also caused many common diseases to mutate. A prime example is the bubonic plague. A strain encountered by a wagon train while traveling through New Mexico was so virulent that it reached it's terminal phase within forty eight hours. As mentioned above, many people in the Deathlands are very hardy, and resilient to disease. However, due to mutation some diseases have cropped up that no one has immunity to, making sick even the most healthy of individuals.


Unlike the days before the Skydark, Religion is quite scarce in the Deathlands. Most of the old religions have survived, but few practice them. Many people hold the view that if there was a god, why did he allow such death and destruction happen.

Many new and twisted religions have cropped up in the ruins of the nation. In Alaska, a small group of people worshipped a burnt image of Jesus on the cross. In The ville of Snakefish California, the inhabitants worshipped giant snakes. Many people in the south west cling to the old religions and it is not uncommon to find several self ordained preachers in any ville or large group of people.

Some of these new religions are harmless, where as quite a number of them practice cannibalism, human sacrifice, orgies, and so forth. These are the dangerous groups.


The massive amount of radiation released during the last war damaged the genetic structure of every living creature on the globe, everything from the tiniest insect, plant all the way to man himself. Mutations of all sorts were born. As it is with many mutations, most of these creatures died at birth, or were miscarriage. However, enough survived to spawn entire new genetic Races such as the Stickies, Troggies, Scalies, and many, many others.

Mutations were most often than not harmful, such as physical defects. Many mutants were born with extra limbs, or twisted body parts. Facial features could be scrambled. However, quite a number of mutations were beneficial. Many mutants found that they possessed superior senses, enhanced strength, usable extra limbs, and in some rare cases, Psionic abilities.

Many Mutants that possess Psionic abilities are known as Doomies. These mutants are generally able to see the future, but usually only the bad events. There have been mutants that possessed a limited form of telepathy, as well as a limited form of mind control or hypnotism. Mutants such as these are exceedingly rare.

As mentioned above, mutants are universally hated and feared. In the vast majority of cases, it is justified. There are exceptions to every rule however. Many of the most hideous mutants can be the kindest and gentlest of people. The way a person looks doesn't always reflect on the soul of that person.

Most 'Racial' mutants share similar mutations. Stickies have suckered hands, feet. Scalies have scaled skin, and look reptilian. But it is not uncommon to see differences from one group to another. Some Scalies encountered have been incredibly hard to kill, possess no nose or hair and are animalistic. While another group have hair, noses, and are quite intelligent and live in clean neat communities.

The intelligence of mutants is not set from group to group. One group could be little more than animals, while another group of the same gene type could be highly educated, intelligent and organized. It all depends on how the parents of these mutants treated them after they were born. If they were left in the wilderness to fend for themselves, they would revert to primitive ways, where as if they were cared for, and taught, their intelligence would reflect this. In some cases, low intelligence is a factor of the mutation.

Deformities in mutant 'Races' are not uncommon either, and the birth rate is still unusually low, as there are still large numbers of still births and miscarriages due to the genetic damage. As time progresses many of these 'Races' will die out, while others will weed out the weaker members and the gene pool will stabilize.


Before the war, many species of wildlife were on the brink of extinction. Many lakes and rivers were stocked with fish, certain animals such as wolves were captured in Canada and transplanted to the national parks in the states, and entire species were in danger as their habitat was slowly destroyed by man.

After the war, many of these species did in fact die out, but once the long winters ended, some of the species, notably the wolves, deer and so on, came back, and with a vengeance. No one has to worry about starving in the Deathlands if they know how to hunt or fish, as there is plenty of game everywhere. Many of the lakes and rivers that had to be stocked before the war are now teeming with fish. It is not uncommon to see deer walking down the streets of a ruined ville. Of course in these ruined villes the main form of life to be encountered are rats and other such vermin.

Nature has its ways. Life always finds a way.


Many ruins across the Deathlands have been left unlooted. The reasons are that for the most part, there simply were not enough survivors, especially around the ruins of the large cities. A huge portion of isolated communities, farms and other facilities have also been left untouched. As human and mutant populations grew, as well as the number of 'Scavs', more and more of these untouched buildings began to be opened and looted. But uncounted hundreds of thousands of buildings and homes remain closed and unlooted for the hardy and brave to find and explore.

Considering how heavily nuked the nations big cities were during the war, its amazing that anyone would venture within one hundred miles of the ruins. But the cities have long since become home for all manner of mutants. Normal humans rarely venture into the ruins unless they are either scavengers, or looking for sexual perversions, as well as drugs such as jolt, joltsky, or other hard to come by substances.

Created on 09/15/97

Updated on 01/11/97

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