Monday, 6 January 2020

Randomly Eroded Messages

I was reading about WIPP and other long-term nuclear waste disposal sites, and it occurred to me that the proposed warning markers (for after the site is decommissioned in the next couple of decades) are an interesting thing for adventuring PCs to stumble across while hexcrawling. Both the physical shape of the markers -- an attempt to convey meaning through architectural form alone -- and the textual messages, which would rely on maintenance and future civilisations appending copies translated into their own language.

So to facilitate this -- and for any other case where you might want to generate multiple copies of the same text each damaged differently (e.g an abandoned library) -- I wrote a small script. You can change the font to wingdings or something if you want to give untranslated copies to players, or hand them out as-is if they have access to comprehend languages or proficiency in ancient languages. The Python script and a PDF of 20 pregenerated messages are on my google drive. The PDF is A4-sized -- just print out single-sided, cut each page in half, and you'll have 20 copies. Roll a d20 or just hand out a random one each time the party finds a new marker. Even with aggressive "erosion" the message is still quite readable, so if you want to obscure, say, the word "radioactive" some more, tear off the top of the message to simulate a broken marker.

An example message:

These structures mark an area used to bury radioactive wastes and hazardous materials. This place was chosen to put these dangerous materials far away from people and other living things. The rock and water in this area may not look, feel or smell unusual, but may be poisoned by radioactive wastes and hazardous materials. When radioactive matter decays, it gives off invisible energy that can destroy or damage people, animals, and plants.

Do not drill here. Do not dig here. Do not do anything with rocks or water in this area.

Do not destroy this marker. This marking system has been designed to last 10,000 years. If the marker is difficult to read, add new markers composed of longer-lasting materials and copy this message in your language onto them.