Post-apocalyptic worlds feature a society in disarray. By definition some traumatic event has crumbled the world as we know it, leaving individuals or small bands of people struggling to survive in a harsh new environment. These worlds are primal and are often used to explore humankinds’ more animalistic natures. Here, endurance, hope, and instinct are pitted against hunger, violence, and despair. Yet beauty is also a recurring theme to these worlds, as the demise of human society can bring about a return to a more natural, pristine state.
The central question to any post-apocalyptic world, whether answered explicitly or not, is how the world fell apart. That event, and its aftereffects, are the primary drivers of any post-apocalyptic world.
THINGS TO CONSIDER
Was the event sudden and abrupt, or was it gradual? The pace of your apocalyptic event will affect how people, animals, and society adapted to this new normal.
Has society rebuilt and to what degree? Has a system of government been reestablished or does anarchy reign? With the fracturing of a more global network, society may have divided itself into smaller collections of people. These groups may vary in their cultures and may not all coexist peacefully.
Often in post-apocalyptic worlds there are safe havens, bunkers or fortified areas that either provided protection during the apocalyptic event itself or continue to provide safety from the aftereffects. These may be secured city/towns, areas, or singular buildings.
Buildings & Areas
In post-apocalyptic worlds, certain buildings and/or areas take on greater importance due to factors such as food availability, the promise of safety, or means of escape. These locations may play outsized roles in these worlds.
- Gas Stations
- Gun Stores
- Sporting Goods
- Camping Stores
- Grocery Stores
- Military Surplus Vendors
- Police Stations
- Fire Stations
- Military Bases
- National Parks
If your post-apocalyptic world is not modern, or is not based on the real world (such as science fiction or fantasy worlds), think of your world’s equivalent to these locations.
Ruins are common to post-apocalyptic worlds. They serve as a constant reminder of the world as it once was. Additionally, they serve as locations that survivors can search for supplies or areas of increased danger.
Bartering may be common. The value of goods may have shifted so that more utilitarian items are more highly valued. Things like fuel, food, weapons, and ammo, may be the primary trade goods.
Vehicles can play a central role in post-apocalyptic worlds as they represent a (potentially) diminishing means of long-distance travel. This may mean cars and trucks are central with fuel to power them being critical, or it may mean that the collapse has returned the world to using pack animals as a method of travel.
Ancient transport systems can be a great element to include in a world!
New and Old Religions
These may feel like the end times, or whatever time comes even after that. The people of these worlds may be turning to whatever new or old religions may guide them through this difficult period. Will these pursuits offer a buttress against growing evil, or are they only a mirage of safety?