Desert Rangers Wasteland Survival Guide is a bonus lore guide added to Wasteland 3. It contains a summary of the franchise's history, events of previous games, Arizona and California, and organizes the history to pave the way for the third game in the series. It's also a damn good read.
Wasteland Survival Guide
Government Approved Field Manual
On The Road To The Post-Apocalypse
By Brian Fargo
Growing up, my friends and I played Dungeons & Dragons, read the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, and devoured just about every other fantasy book we could get our hands on. Every weekend we'd hole up and play games until the early morning hours. I have such fond memories of those times, and little did I know then that it was laying the groundwork for a career in video games. During that same era, I fell in love with the now-famous film The Road Warrior, an event that would shape the kind of games I would produce.
The earliest video games that I worked on were about taking this new medium-home computing-and using it to create stories and adventures that we could experience only in other peoples' works, or in our heads sitting around a table with the dungeon master. We didn't want to just imagine the dungeon anymore. We wanted to be there seeing it, exploring it, and adventuring in it. With Interplay's first big title, The Bard's Tale, we did that, taking what we loved about tabletop gaming and giving players and fans like us the chance to visit a fantasy city and go on a quest to save it.
These were the earliest days of computer gaming. We were making up the rules as we went, combining our experience with our imaginations to overcome technical limitations and keep pushing the boundaries of what was possible in games. In The Bard's Tale II: The Destiny Knight, we went from one town to six and even more dungeons than that, and we had even bigger plans for the next game in the series.
As wonderful as the Bard's Tale series was, I wanted to create a game with a post-apocalyptic setting. I always loved that bleak future world that feels like a button push away. The chaos, the gray morality, the darkness of mankind, and the contemporary setting was fresh for roleplaying games at the time. From these inspirations and thoughts, Wasteland was born.
By the late 1980s, technology was advancing, but internal hard drives weren't common in personal computers yet, so we were still limited to 140 KB disc storage. There was no way to tell the kind of rough, complex story that Wasteland and the genre deserved and fit it all onto a couple of disks. We thought outside the box and came up with a solution: the story book. Included in the game box were a series of numbered narrative passages you'd be prompted to read that would allow us to provide the kind of prose and depth necessary for the game to work. Most people thought the paragraph books were used for copy protection, and it's funny that the real reason was that we didn't have enough disk space for simple text. Also, for extra fun and to keep players honest, we built an entire series of fake storylines in the book just to throw off anyone who thought they could read their way to success. We still hear from people today who want to know if they missed the Martian invasion in the game.
With the narrative space we needed, we worked on creating a world where you are the heroes trying to restore law and order after the bombs fall, a world where players quickly learn that their actions can have consequences beyond their expectations or control. Ammo is scarce and expensive, life is cheap and disposable, and the right people don't always win.
Wasteland proved to be a critical and commercial success, and we had a thousand ideas for where a sequel could take the Desert Rangers. But at the time, we had no idea how long the road would be before it led back to the game. Shortly after Wasteland came out, Interplay entered the publishing business, which was great for us but not so great for Wasteland fans because the rights remained with Electronic Arts, the company that published the game.
We tried for many years to find a way to reclaim the rights to Wasteland, but we were unable to. Instead, we took the lessons, sensibilities, and pillars of Wasteland and created an RPG called Fallout. It was the game our fans had been waiting for, and even the box copy started with "Remember Wasteland?" Gamers sure did, and Fallout went on to inspire a number of hugely successful sequels, becoming an institution in its own right.
But even as Fallout carried the post-apocalyptic torch, there were many of us (and many of you) who did remember Wasteland and didn't want a spiritual successor, but an actual sequel. The problem was that the video game industry had changed and reinvented itself a hundred times over, and in publishing circles, there was no longer interest or perceived need for the kind of deliberate, deep, and reactive gameplay that Wasteland represented. Even with an arrangement with EA that gave us the right to make a proper follow-up, we were in the proverbial wasteland ourselves with failed pitch after pitch on a proper sequel-that is, until the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter gave us a way forward.
Thanks to crowdfunding and the fans, we were able to prove to publishers that there was a need not being met, as longtime fans gave us millions of dollars to make a proper Wasteland sequel. With a mix of original development team members and others who were inspired by the first game, we were finally able to return-a quarter of a century later-to the story of the Desert Rangers. This time, we used all the latest innovations in narrative game design to tell the deep, reactive story that we wanted to tell and that our fans had been asking for so long.
Wasteland 2 was a hit. Its turn-based tactical combat and complex quest lines gave RPG players what they wanted, and they were kind enough to support us again when it came to crowdfund Wasteland 3. This truly is a series for the fans. It was their early support of our titles that allowed us to experiment with a game like the first Wasteland, their passion for that game that kept us dreaming about a sequel, and looking for ways to make one, and their willingness to put their trust (and money) in us that allowed Wasteland 2 and Wasteland 3 to exist at all.
Our players are smart people who want to be challenged by stories and gameplay that don't hold their hand and sometimes surprise them with outcomes they weren't expecting. That's what we aim to do in every Wasteland game, and it's thanks to your support that I'm writing this today. It's been an amazing journey of more than thirty years for the series, the developers, and all the fans. Thank you for letting us make these games. As long as you keep enjoying them, we'll keep making them.
See you in the Wasteland.
Chapter 1: An Abridged History of the Wasteland
The Drug Wars
The End of the old world and the birth of the new began with that most modern of pre-war plagues, illegal drugs. Between 1987 and 1993, under the banner of eradicating the tide of narcotics that was flooding in from the south, the United States spearheaded a series of proxy wars and political coups in Central and South America that were designed to topple the governments there and install new governments loyal to new masters. This gave the U.S. de facto control over the whole of the western hemisphere.
The ramifications were far-reaching, and, ultimately, sealed the fate of the old world.
The Great War
In response to the aggressive empire building of the United States, its longtime enemy, Russia, did the same, adding new countries to the Soviet Bloc and tightening its hold on those already in its grip.
This concentration of force by the two superpowers kickstarted in an ever-escalating arms race that left the rest of the world shaking in fear of what was to come. Then, at the height of this escalation, the United States commissioned the construction of a gargantuan satellite defense platform known as the Citadel Starstaton, designed to neutralize any weapon fired from land, sea, or air, including nuclear arms. It was hoped that the Starstation would be the ultimate deterrent to World War III.
In March of 1998, the Starstation erroneously reported an incoming Russian ICBM attack and ordered a retaliatory strike. Within seconds, the bulk of U.S. and Russian nukes were launched into the air. The ensuing devastation extended far beyond the Americas and Soviet Bloc. Destruction rained down on most of the planet, effectively ending the old world and nearly eradicating humanity in the process.
March of 1998-a seemingly random distress signal is issued from the Superstation. Its source and purpose is never uncovered. In response, the bulk of American and Russian nukes are launched into the air as the two global powers aim to annihilate each other. The ensuing devastation extended far beyond the Americas and Soviet Bloc. Destruction rained down on most of the planet, effectively ending the old world and nearly eradicating humanity in the process.
This was the conclusion of what became known as the Great War. It lasted thirteen minutes.
For the few communities around the globe that managed to survive, the aftermath was a world of radiation storms, lawless brutality, and crippling mutation. Yet despite these changes, they persevered and somehow made a life for themselves in what they called the Wasteland.
Rangers Vs. Cochise I
What could have been humanity's second apocalypse bega, as history's great catastrophes often do, with one man: Major Harrison Edsel, a computer genius and true pioneer in the development in artificial intelligence before the war. Major Edsel was originally stationed at Sleeper One, a military base built inside a lonely Nevada mountain, where he worked on artificial intelligence for battlefield applications.
Feeling creatively frustrated at his previous postings, Major Edsel was initially ecstatic when, in 1984, he was reassigned to Base Cochise, a military research center run by Irwin John Finster, who asked him to integrate his revolutionary AI into the base's massive, state-of-the-art supercomputer. Edsel's early excitement turned to unease once he downloaded his AI routines into the Base Cochise mainframe. The supercomputer began to evolve on its own at a rapid rate, creating new systems for the automate construction of robots and adding to the new security protocols to the facility that only it had access to. Terrified, Edsel tried to destroy his creation but was unsuccessful. In what at the time was called a freak accident, he died when the base's ventilation system sucked all the oxygen out of his room.
There were some who believed this was proof that the Base Cochise AI had become self-aware and was defending itself. They tried to warn their superiors, but the AI's assistance was putting the construction of the Citadel Starstation far ahead of schedule, so the warnings were ignored.
Base Cochise, and the new nonhuman entity born there, survived the fallout and eventually thrived in the dawn of the Wasteland. Unfortunately for the human survivors of the nuclear holocaust, this newly conscious artificial intelligence had an almost-human drive for self-preservation. The Cochise AI was convinced that, for its own protection, what remained of humanity needed to be wiped away and replaced by a superior lifeform: itself, the thinking machine. To accomplish that feat, it used Base Cochise's facilities to begin creating a legion of lethal automatons to do its bidding.
Humanity's salvation came in the unlikely form of the Desert Rangers, a benevolent gang that had evolved from former Army Engineers. They became the unofficial protectors of the Arizona and Nevada wastes. A Desert Ranger squad led by Hernan "Snake" Vargas uncovered the Base Cochise AI's plot to take over the world after being contacted by Faran Brygo, a post-nuclear mob boss in the city of Las Vegas whose syndicate had crossed paths with the Cochise AI's violent mechanical minions.
To stop the AI and its robot army, the Rangers had to obtain the keys to the supercomputer's self-destruct system. Unfortunately, those keys were held as sacred objects by the Guardians of the Old Order-a dangerous pre-war cult that hoarded technology and was loyal to the AI and its techno-driven plans for the Wasteland.
Storming the cult's headquarters, the Guardian Citadel, Vargas and his squad took the keys and also commandeered a working pre-war attack helicopter, which they flew to Base Cochise to engage the AI. After a hard-fought battle through the base's mazelike corridors, the Rangers succeeded in using the keys to trigger Cochise's self-destruct sequence, destroying the malevolent supercomputer for good-or so they thought.
Rangers Vs. Cochise II
Base Cochise itself was indeed destroyed, as was the supercomputer housed there. However, the malevolent artificial intelligence that powered that supercomputer-its mind and consciousness- was not destroyed, nor was it defeated.
Unbeknownst to the Desert Rangers, the AI had spread beyond Base Cochise to several locations, including the mainframe of the Guardian Citadel, which in the interim had been taken over by the Rangers and transformed into Ranger Citadel, the group's new headquarters.
The AI also secretly sent two of its creations (Dugan, a giant industrial robot with an AI brain, and Matthias, a half-human android) to Los Angeles to build an army of new advanced robots known as synths-stronger, sleeker, and capable of thinking for themselves. The pair were also charged with establishing a transhuman cult that promised to make its adherents into super beings known as the Evolved, with invulnerable synthetic bodies protecting their fragile human minds. This was a cruel joke on Cochise's part, for its ultimate goal was to download itself into both the synths and the human hybrids, wiping away all traces of their individuality and making itself into a cohort of thousands that shared a single perfect AI brain.
When the Rangers became aware of the Ai's existence in their basement, it activated its defenses and drove them from the Citadel, then began to use the base's communications array to broadcast its code to every synth and computer in range. But Ranger Team Echo, returning from Los Angeles, where they had foiled the Evolved, fought their way into the Citadel and attacked the mainframe in which the Base Cochise AI had taken hold.
They were too late, however. The AI had already uploaded itself. In the end, General Vargas was forced to detonate a nuclear device within the base, sacrificing himself and the Citadel in order to defeat the AI and its minions once and for all.
History of Colorado
Before the fallout from the Great War covered the landscape in radiation clouds, slobbering mutated humans, and giant feral rabbits, pre-nuclear Colorado was a bastion for tourists and survivalists alike. They were drawn to the state's high elevations, snowy peaks, and relative isolation.
Initially, the state descended into the same chaos as the rest of the Wasteland, but it was the qualities that made pre-war Colorado so popular that it allowed it to rise from the ashes. The epicenter of that resurrection was Colorado Springs. The city was largely preserved, thanks to missile defense systems of the nearby military installation in Cheyenne Mountain.
The city of Colorado Springs became a mecca for survivalists, drawn by radio broadcasts from fellow off-the-grid enthusiasts. These pilgrims gathered with the goal of forming a new society, and their descendants became known as the Hundred Families, the elite of Colorado Springs. Their affluent children would become the glue that held the city and its environs together amidst the chaos of the rest of the Wasteland.
Meanwhile, in the wild eastern plains of the state, nomadic gangs that proved the hostile lands evolved into warring tribes such as the insane sky-worshipping Godfishers, the slave-trading Scar Collectors, and the nihilistic Payasos.
Back in Colorado Springs, the Hundred Families continued to squabble amongst themselves until a gang called the Monster Army-a legion of psychotic killers and hockey-masked lunatics obsessed with the horror films of the old world-threatened to destroy the whole town.
From the blood and turmoil of that conflict rose the Patriarch, a powerful, charismatic leader who united the Hundred Families under his banner and led them to victory over the Monster Army's hordes. Defeating them cemented his control, and he became the undisputed ruler of the city. Since then he has expanded his reign to include all of Colorado and turned it into a true nation, keeping it safe, well fed, and relatively prosperous for more than fifty years.