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Old 08-02-2018, 12:55 AM   #1
Luke Bunyip
 
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Default Post EMP dystopia, viability as a RPG setting?

Been thinking about options for a setting in a near future dystopia. Nuclear War seems a bit of overkill, so I've been considering what an industrialised nation could look like after a war using conventional and Nonnuclear Electromagnetic Pulse (NNEMP) weapons. From my rudimentary understanding of the technology, it can be designed to target either small electronic components, or large items such as electric motors / generators and power lines.

Question: Which would be more likely to be used in a medium scale conflict? I can envisage the potential operational usefulness in targeting airports, railway sidings, container terminals, and manufacturing plants, with microwave wavelength EMPs, but would it be simpler to just wipe out power generation and transmission lines? Or, by the gripping hand, both?

I'm after something which makes large urban centres unlivable, but doesn't preclude post war limited occupation, salvaging, and scavenging. Game will be set in a remote area, without major military targets (thinking not dissimilar to Utah or Nevada).

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Old 08-02-2018, 02:27 AM   #2
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Default Re: Post EMP dystopia, viability as a RPG setting?

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I'm after something which makes large urban centres unlivable, but doesn't preclude post war limited occupation, salvaging, and scavenging.
Then I wouldn't go with EMP. It might destroy the city's economy, causing it to be unsustainable and have massive population loss, but it won't in any direct way make the area unlivable.
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Old 08-02-2018, 02:39 AM   #3
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Default Re: Post EMP dystopia, viability as a RPG setting?

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Then I wouldn't go with EMP. It might destroy the city's economy, causing it to be unsustainable and have massive population loss, but it won't in any direct way make the area unlivable.
Depends on what make the area livable although the DIRECT qualifier is well taken.

If the pumps moving water to LA were fried and/or the trucks moving food in were inoperative LA would become a death zone in weeks... but that's indirect.

For the EMP thing to really work it has to be world wide, otherwise relief would arrive within a few weeks if not days... and really, absent some secret lab with an experiment that goes wrong, who is going to set off an EMP in the BFE outback of Australia?

EMP fries some of the electronics currently operating but a lot of things that were shut off or protected will still work as will anything brought into the area of effect from outside. EMP is instantaneous, the effect doesn't linger.
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Old 08-02-2018, 02:49 AM   #4
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Default Re: Post EMP dystopia, viability as a RPG setting?

Even cities in areas with enough rain you get major problems. If the electric grid is down and will be for weeks or months and many to all trucks have their electrical systems fried how do you get enough food and water into the city for the inhabitants. Big generators have construction times of months so if they've all fried it would take years to replace them even with building up production capacity.
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Old 08-02-2018, 02:58 AM   #5
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Default Re: Post EMP dystopia, viability as a RPG setting?

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If the pumps moving water to LA were fried and/or the trucks moving food in were inoperative LA would become a death zone in weeks... but that's indirect.
And it wouldn't really prevent people from moving back later, assuming they still had a reason to do so. I mean, you can certainly cause mass casualties with attacks on infrastructure, but it doesn't create a lasting unlivable zone, it just kills lots of people.
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Old 08-02-2018, 03:12 AM   #6
Mike Wightman
 
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Default Re: Post EMP dystopia, viability as a RPG setting?

How about a natural disaster?

A Carrington event may fit the bill:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_storm_of_1859

A solar storm of this magnitude would wipe out electricity generation, power distribution, computer and telecommunications systems...

"It has been suggested that a geomagnetic storm on the scale of the solar storm of 1859 today would cause billions or even trillions of dollars of damage to satellites, power grids and radio communications, and could cause electrical blackouts on a massive scale that might not be repaired for weeks, months, or even years"

And it is just possible there may be bigger storms...

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Old 08-02-2018, 03:30 AM   #7
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Default Re: Post EMP dystopia, viability as a RPG setting?

Incidentally, if your goal is to cause mass casualties, you probably don't use EMP; sure, it can work, but you're obviously not concerned about international disapproval at that point so you might as well use NBC.
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Old 08-02-2018, 10:58 AM   #8
Fred Brackin
 
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Default Re: Post EMP dystopia, viability as a RPG setting?

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Originally Posted by Luke Bunyip View Post
Been thinking about options for a setting in a near future dystopia. Nuclear War seems a bit of overkill, so I've been considering what an industrialised nation could look like after a war using conventional and Nonnuclear Electromagnetic Pulse (NNEMP) weapons. From my rudimentary understanding of the technology, it can be designed to target either small electronic components, or large items such as electric motors / generators and power lines.
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I went tot he link you provided jsut in case there was soemthing new but my provious knowledge and it said nothign about burning out electric motors much less power lines. You could certainly induce power surges in electric lines and cause blackouts but that wouldn't damage the lines themselves.

If you wanted to do long or at least medium term damage to infrastructure you'd drop a bunch of those armor-piercing 2000-lbers they used all over Iraq.
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Old 08-02-2018, 10:00 PM   #9
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Default Re: Post EMP dystopia, viability as a RPG setting?

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And it wouldn't really prevent people from moving back later, assuming they still had a reason to do so. I mean, you can certainly cause mass casualties with attacks on infrastructure, but it doesn't create a lasting unlivable zone, it just kills lots of people.
Well, the LA basin is a desert without the water being pumped in. There’s a few rivers but 90% of the area is barren. A few people could live there but not the millions that do today.
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Old 08-02-2018, 10:58 PM   #10
malloyd
 
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Default Re: Post EMP dystopia, viability as a RPG setting?

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I'm after something which makes large urban centres unlivable, but doesn't preclude post war limited occupation, salvaging, and scavenging.
So why not just say that? How did that happen? Who cares? It's a setting assumption that it did somehow.

Note that vaguely realistic EMP isn't going to be enough. It is simply not all that bad. Even if you did kill everything electrical, blackouts usually don't render cities *unlivable*. They're inconvenient, sure, but cities existed fine before electrification. The transition period may be relatively unpleasant, but it's not going to kill everybody or keep some fraction of the population from living there. Several parts of Puerto Rico have been proving this yet again in these last few months

And realistically you can't kill everything electrical. If it's not plugged in and lacks an antenna, it's virtually immune - generating an EMP pulse that will kill vehicles was something people were hoping to weaponize for a while, but has apparently failed to work well enough to be worthwhile even though modern vehicles are loaded with presumably sensitive microprocessors and you get to deploy your weapon at basically point blank range. Lots of stuff that *is* plugged in but on the far side of a surge protector, or circuit breaker, or fuse, is likely to survive too, that's what this stuff is for after all, and it often works. Even getting enough of a pulse to arc across a turned off switch is pretty challenging.

Killing the electrical grid is also mostly a fantasy. Temporarily disabling it is more plausible, but electrical grids are *designed* to cope with current surges, since they happen all the time. They trip circuit breakers, which takes sections down until somebody goes and resets them all, which might conceivably take a few days, and if you were really unlucky you might have lost a generator or two when the loads vanished and something went wrong with their automatic shutdown, which may leave you somewhat short of peak capacity, but that's about it. Note that almost all electrical grids will have generators that will have *not been in use* when you hit the grid - down for maintenance, used only for peak loads etc., so even if you did somehow miraculously kill everything connected, there's still *some* generating capacity available next week.
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