The British Isles often aren’t very well covered in the post apocalyptic genre, and it’s a shame because – at least for games – it makes for a much more controlled and isolated environment. Game worlds like Fallout and movie franchises like Mad Max, which largely own the post apocalypse in the public imagination, barely touch on what may have happened on our shores. It’s a little disappointing, because there is a whole genre of British post-apocalyptic fiction from The Day of the Triffids, through Survivors to The War of the Worlds, which helped define these other attempts.
Fallout is a long-running computer game franchise, set in an alternative timeline where atomic technology (and physics) is much more that presented in Popular Mechanics in the 1950s, as a tool in everything from cars to planes and all points in between. The atom was very much tamed… apart from the war of course, which blew everything to hell. It’s as though WWIII took place in the 1950s and everything that remains is a smashed remnant of the 50s utopia of American exceptionalism.
What we know about the UK in the Fallout Universe
The point of divergence in the timelines is 1945, and so a great deal that happens after that point in our timeline can be questioned.
We do know that the UK was a member of the European Commonwealth in the Fallout universe. This Commonwealth was a federal European Union with a unified military which fought as a bloc in the resource wars and went to war with the Middle East from 2052 to 2060, the first major conflict of the Resource Wars. When that war came to an end, having been fruitless (the wells dried up) the Commonwealth fell into civil war, breaking apart into its pre-union countries for the most part.
October 23rd 2077 was when The Great War exploded, with the USSR (still existing), China and the USA all going nuclear. We know that the UK was also targeted, despite the EC being a largely spent force, which suggests that it was still considered a priority target for Easter Bloc forces. Even though the 2076 annexation of Canada is likely to have strained US/UK relations to the absolute limit. Perhaps the UK had been operating as a base of operations for the USA in exchange for technology and resources – one way the UK could have stayed powerful and relevant.
We know that Alistair Tenpenny came to the USA from the UK (somehow) implying that there is now some contact – however fleeting – between Europe and the USA and that a rich man may avail himself of it in order to seek his fortune in the USA – implying that the UK is not in good shape at all. Tenpenny is also entirely accepting of slavery as a concept, further implying the harshness of post-apocalyptic Britain.
Desmond Lockheart was once a member of British Intelligence and controlled radiation exposure turned him into an immortal ghoul. He is part of a ‘great game’ of spying and secrets still being fought between survivors and descendants of pre-war industrialists, politicians and intelligence agents.
Martin (first or last name?) was a ghoul whose ancestor ran a successful software company in the UK, until it foundered.
Sten Guns (developed from the old WWII SMG exist in the Fallout universe).
The LSW, a squad support version of the SA80 exists in the fallout universe.
The XL70E3, an experimental 5mm assault rifle was manufactured by the British.
The Bren Gun exists in the Fallout universe.
The Boudicca 78/S – An energy-powered motorbike with sidecar – was manufactured and used by British forces.
Postwar Britain was a grim place, recovering from the war. Glamour and ‘shininess’ came from the USA, a holdover from both American troops stationed there during the war and the effect of Hollywood films. Rationing came to an end in 1955 but Britain didn’t really escape the shadow of the war or the sheer intensity of ‘propriety’ and the class system until the youth revolution of the 1960s.
A Britain trapped in the mindset of the 1950s will still see itself as an imperial power, its life and relevance extended – reluctantly – through the European Commonwealth and a stronger – in this timeline – connection with the British Commonwealth.
Britain was still arrogant and had not adapted to its new position or crumbling power in this period and sank a great deal of money and effort into technological progress, capitalising on wartime advances in jet technology, radar and computing especially. It seems likely in a Fallout timeline that this attitude would have continued with the UK determined to keep up with – or exceed – US technological advances especially in computing, robotics and aeronautics. This would include solutions like Vault-Tec.
The British 1950s science-fiction, which would inform any design cues in a British Fallout universe was all rayguns and brushed, anodised blue steel. This is, perhaps, best exemplified by Dan Dare, a character in The Eagle comic, lovingly illustrated in fantastic detail by Frank Hampson.
A British-themed Fallout is likely, then, to fixate on certain key issues.
Britain has always been deeply skeptical of the European project and much closer to America and the Commonwealth in our world. It seems likely that despite membership of the European Commonwealth into the Resource Wars, Britain was never, truly, fully committed to that cause despite sending troops and material in the Middle East.
When the EC fell upon itself following the Resource Wars it seems likely that the UK distanced itself further and renewed ties with both the USA and its British Commonwealth friends. Links with Canada and Australia would have ensured the UK some trickle of the remaining Uranium and the North Sea oil and gas fields would have enabled it to hoard some energy resources, especially if it renewed its alliances with the USA.
Having withheld from EC action in the Middle East the UK would have retained much of its military might and as a key producer of military gear it would have been in a relatively good position after the Resource Wars, especially as an island nation, largely free of the civil war that followed. In that Civil War, Britain’s chief economic and military rivals – Germany and France – are likely to have formed the core of a loyalist alliance, embroiled in the European Civil War until it was interrupted by The Great War.
For seventeen years then, 2060-2077, Britain would have stood aloof from the European civil war and would have been forced to forge stronger links with former British Commonwealth allies (most especially Australia and Canada) and with the American superpower. The Americans are likely to have had bases in Britain, as they did during our cold war, and Britain is likely to have maintained its own atomic missile ‘defences’ and a robust military technology base, bolstering Australia against the Chinese threat with elements of the Royal Navy in exchange for preferential trade on the remaining Uranium.
When the war came, then, Britain would have taken a severe battering from Soviet and Chinese atomic weapons, though it is unlikely to have been invaded (having little worth taking save shrinking gas/fuel resources in the North Sea).
Things unfold as above. The UK stands apart from the EC Civil War, despite pleas and demands and even threatens to use its independent nuclear deterrent when factions in the war threaten them. Refugees are not accepted and the UK turns away from Europe to look elsewhere to secure its future. Bonds with useful British Commonwealth countries are renewed and various guarantees and promises of protection – largely from a very well equipped and effective Royal Navy and Royal Airforce – are exchanged for uranium supplies and food. Bonds with the USA are also renewed and the UK makes a perfect staging point for American nuclear powered bombers to threaten the USSR and China.
When the USA annexes Canada the UK is forced to pick between sides but despite posturing and protest simply cannot afford to go against its American allies. Protests and riots within the UK do nothing to change the government’s mind and seeing the writing on the wall preparations for nuclear war move to top speed with emergency powers installed and a vicious government crackdown involved.
There wasn’t truly time for this matter to resolve before the war exploded full force and the UK was subjected to considerable bombardment from Soviet rocket forces and bombers, while RAF, Royal Navy, BRF (British Rocket Forces) and USAF forces simultaneously battered the USSR and China. Under a secret directive – Operation Agincourt – the British also hit select targets in France and Germany in order to try and lessen any postwar threat from the continent.
Losses were enormous, especially across the South of England and any hope of contact with Australia, Canada or the USA was immediately lost.
USAF/RAF joint bases across the country were nuked along with the main Royal Navy bases at Portsmouth, Plymouth and Glasgow.
In total a hundred different cities and sites were targeted across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, most located in the South of England – the greatest population, communication and governmental centre. The largest city to escape bombardment was Bradford, a de-industrialised town to the North while virtually every industrial city or major population centre was hit.
In the aftermath, nothing was the same.
Britain reeled, utterly leaderless, destruction on a massive scale. Large parts of the navy and elements of the Royal Air Force had survived – along with the USAF – but they had few bases left to return to. Surviving airfields in more remote locations filled up with returning pilots and the American elements were attacked by rioting civilians who blamed the USA for the war. The RAF pilots were largely spared such attacks but their landings – largely at surviving commercial and military training fields – would spawn new settlements, powered by bomber reactors, at places like RAF Barkston Heath.
There was no leadership, no continuity of governance, no orders and so the UK fragmented. Scotland grabbed its independence, Ireland fought a bloody war for unification, Wales fractured away and England broke apart into rough segments with internal warring between warlords and former military elements warring over the remaining resources and sections.
Surviving military elements established their own centres of operation, the RAF setting up camp at their newly militarised stations, the surviving army elements taking over several old market towns and fortifying them. The Royal Navy returning from the seas and from around the globe took over Falmouth and took stock, establishing themselves as the dominant power in the Southwest of England.
For twenty years the warlords and the military fought for control with the average citizen caught between the two. Waves of feral ghouls swept out of the cities in waves, hunting for food, as did waves of non-mutated refugees and survivors like locusts, stripping the land of supplies, stores and anything edible.
It was a dark and horrible time of danger, cannibalism and strife and led to the rapid emergence of a feudal system, fortified towns protected by the military or the militias and toiling for their superiors in terms of military might and technology. An uneasy peace eventually settled, roughly along the lines of the old Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, constrained by geography in much the same way.
- Kernow (Devon and Cornwall) under the protection of the Royal Navy.
- Mercia (the Midlands) under the protection of army and air force factions in uneasy alliance.
- Anglia (the east) under the protection of army factions.
- The North (northern England) a scattered collection of warlords and rogue elements.
- Scotland – A loosely united nation though with no industrial base left, constantly pressing south.
- Wales – In a similar situation to Scotland.
By 2097 an uneasy peace or détente had been reached and the former military elements were back in communication, coordinating on plans to rebuild and reunify the country as best they could. Postwar children were now beginning to reach the age of majority and with them came the emergence of tribal cultures in the less ‘civilised’ parts of the country, Wales, Scotland and The North.
Nascent hopes of unity were destroyed when the bunkers opened under London and the other major cities, where the great and the good from before the war – the luminaries, the royal family, the industrialists, re-emerged, some of them rendered immortal via deliberate ghoulification to ensure their survival. Suddenly some 40,000 pre-war leaders and their guards, soldiers and pristine technology and equipment emerged. In constant communication via secret, secure lines and with good intelligence on the surface world from robotic scouts this group, calling itself the Continuity Government emerged in force, retook the otherwise abandoned cities and sought to re-establish itself as the ruling class using the power of their bunkers, technology and carefully hoarded supplies.
The older generation was split between duty to the old government and disgust at having been left to rot. Many were also disgusted by the ghoulification of the pre-war Royal Family and government leaders. The younger generation, many of them ‘squires’ to the old military, navy and air force powers were even less inclined to give in.
A civil war broke out between the two factions in the military protectors, the remaining civilian population and those few elements of the newly emerged bunker survivors who had developed a conscience.
This second English Civil War lasted ten years, from 2097 until 2107. The Republican or ‘Roundhead’ forces were pushed to the north by the Monarchist or ‘Cavalier’ forces, loyal to the Continuity Government emerging from the bunkers. The war only came to an end when the mysterious forces of Aldermaston – protected from a direct atomic strike by an experimental shield – launched a nuclear weapon from an Isle of Wight facility and detonated it on the edge of space as a show of force, demanding that hostilities cease.
The treaty of Castleton cemented the peace, the Commonwealth of Great Britain (CGB) now occupied the old area of Northumbria – contested by the Scots to the North, while the Royal Domain of Great Britain (RDGB) occupied everything south of that with the independent ‘Aldermasters’ maintaining the peace under threat of renewed atomic fire.
This has been the uneasy but ongoing situation for a hundred and seventy years, but things are about to change.
A second emergence, a plan put in place by The Enclave 200 years ago, will see some 14,000 zealous Americans, raised over generations to be fanatically loyal, with advanced technology and fighting zeal, emerge from the long forgotten Vault-Tec bunkers beneath the atomic hellholes of the USAF bases in an attempt to conquer the UK as a new base for The Enclave and with atomic powered aircraft like the Vertibird other Enclave Forces may even be able to cross the Atlantic to join them.
In the world of Fallout the climate is pretty universal, dry and desertified. Britain is likely to be cooler and wetter, being further north, a lot cooler if the Gulf Stream has been diverted by the ecological collapse. Here and there sheltered valleys allow for some growth and despite the radiation reforestation is underway, albeit with twisted and mutated plants.
It’s a hardscrabble existence with most civilians living close to the fortified towns of the factions, scrabbling in the dirt to grow enough food to feed themselves and to support their protectors.
The south is more exposed and drier, but the seas still produce some food and the old bunkers are still able to feed the elite while some sheltered valleys support the warrior class.
The north is a grim, post-industrial wasteland, more equitable and class-free but employing slavery of tribals and criminals to dig out coal – the only really remaining fuel source – to be converted to ‘gaz’ to run powerplants. The Republic is also in constant conflict with the north.
Scotland is relatively green and able to produce a relatively large amount of agricultural produce. Though it is divided between warring clans and tribes they unite, regularly, to raid The Republic or to repel incursions by The Republic seeking to alleviate their food problems.
- Ghouls are still extremely common, especially in the cities. Many of the poor, reduced to taking shelter in metro systems, were turned into ghouls and some intelligent pre-war ghouls survive amongst the ‘serf’ classes, an irony since many of the ruling class are also ghouls.
- Trogs, or something very similar to them, can be found – often in old mine tunnels or caves.
- Dogs and cats are relatively common, albeit often mutated and feral.
- Rats can be found in huge numbers, especially in the cities, sometimes grown enormous by mutation.
- The stable Brahmin mutation is especially common, both wild and domesticated.
- Bloatflies can be found everywhere.
- Giant Ants can be found everywhere.
- Mirelurks and Swamplurks can be found wherever there is water and around much of the coast.
- Boom Bugs are common in the summer months, especially in the south.
- Vicious mutant badgers are a real threat in the mutated woodland.
- Giant wasps are a horrible plague, especially in the summer.
The Scottish Tribes are divided by clans, each clan taking in several tribes and with tribes moving between clans on occasion. The scots tribes value prowess and might and often vie with each other by contests of strength and violence, heading south to claim trophies or competing during ‘The Games’ to establish dominance. Were they united they would be a truly dangerous force.
The Welsh Tribes have no such similar organisation to the Scots tribes and raid less often into the East. They are largely content to keep themselves to themselves, raising mutated sheep in great herds and battling each other over grazing land. As with the scots, were they united they could be a significant force.
The English Tribes are scattered in the wasteland between the settlements of The Republic and The Monarchy. Unable to draw any real strength they are highly mobile scavengers and raiders, frequently resorting to cannibalism.
The Warlords rule small settlements beneath the notice of the major powers or paying tithes to them to be left alone. Warlord settlements may profess all manner of different political and economic arrangements but in practice are all led by one strong leader.
The Aldermasters are the remnants of the technological and industrial researchers. Aldermaston was untouched and had access to the most advanced atomic and other technology of the pre-war period. The Aldermasters still have access to rocketry and atomics and claim Oxford, Aldermaston, Bletchley and The Isle of Wight as their own. Abetted by the descendants of their old guards (Templars) the ‘Venerable’ Aldermasters fight to preserve and hoard old technology and to create new technology and advance knowledge. Unlike The Brotherhood they are not primarily a military order but a scientific one. Their leaders – The Elders, go by letter designations and their current, mysterious leader ‘Professor Q’ is said to date back to the pre-war and to be advised by a sentient computer housed at Bletchley, called Newton.
The Republic is a military dictatorship that occupies what was once the North of England. Life in The Republic is austere and brutal, under constant threat from the Scottish Tribes. Everything is rationed, military conscription runs everywhere, the land beyond the settlements is lawless anarchy, full of tribals and outlaws and in the settlements life is ruthlessly controlled. The Republic is justifiably paranoid and on a constant war footing, just in case. The Republic enslaves tribals and criminals, putting them to work in coal mines and in other jobs, working them – frequently – to death. The only way they can maintain the rest of their society at a functional level.
The Monarchy controls what was once the Midlands and the South of England. It is relatively wealthy and stable but utterly constricted by class with virtually no social mobility. The ruling class dwells in the remnants of the cities, in their luxurious bunkers. Many of them are ghouls or otherwise preserved against the depredations of time and so they are not going to be displaced any time soon. Below this ruling class the military class is the fist of the monarchy, protecting the people but also enforcing the will of the leaders. Below them, the traders and ‘yeoman’ and beneath them the serfs, who are considered property of the higher classes and who toil – scavenging, digging and growing – to keep the system fed.
The Enclave is ready to emerge from their bases, mostly in the South of England. Their presence and interference is likely to spark a third civil war when their disruption of The Monarchy may lead The Republic to make a desperate push South, Aldermasters or no Aldermasters.
The Merchant Marine is an independent faction of smugglers, pirates and traders. Atomic powered merchant vessels from before the war have been fitted with weapons and travel globally, slow and steady, based from old Anti-Aircraft platforms at sea, Napoleonic forts and scattered islands. For the right price you can even travel to America – or further.
Technology and Armaments
The United Kingdom retained its own technology base, even while part of the European Commonwealth, as well as incorporating some American weapons. As well as conventional bullet-firing technology laser weapons are quite common, including British variants on the standard laser pistol and laser rifle that look more polished and ‘science fictiony’ than the standard.
Plasma weapons are not present in UK forces but may become known as The Enclave emerges.
British mastery of radar did, however, lead to the development of the RE2 Microwave fun, a heat-based rifle weapon also capable of messing up electrical systems.
Gauss weapons, supplied during the Resource Wars by German allies are also relatively common.
Shotguns, used widely by civilians pre-war, are absolutely the most common firearm to be found.
Many tribals have resorted to the longbow and spear.
Body armour and tin helmets are relatively common, still able to be manufactured in the ruling class’ bunkers, along with ammunition, supplies of food, drinking water etc.T
Gyrojet weapons were experimental and cutting edge technology and may be found in the hands of Aldermasters.
Androids can be found amongst the Aldermasters, apparently independently created to those found in the United States, though communication is not impossible between the two groups. Aldermasters see them as true equals – even better than human – but outside their enclaves they’re treated with superstitious terror.
A scattered few American robots can be found, imported private purchases or survivors from American airbases. Mr Handy/Gutsy and Protectotrons being the most common. The British Robotics Corporation built most British robots however, though there were competitors. None were ever built as hovering, this being regarded as wasteful of limited energy supplies. All British robots were tracked, wheeled or legged. The Jeeves valet model and Hussar military model both being derived from the Archibald industrial chassis. The Valiant robot-tank, a tracked robot, was built atop the Jacktar loaderbot chassis and this re-use and reinvention was common for robotics in Britain. Robots were much sought after status items and nowhere near as common as those in the US. British advances in computing technology also made them much more reliable and much more loyal and those built by prewar ruling classes had failsafes, making robots a powerful supplementary arm of the royalist forces during the second civil war.
British power armour development began after the deployment of T45d power armour by the Americans in 2067 was confirmed. The Americans would not share this technology and so began a rapid development process, independent to the American effort, knowing only what could be gleaned from espionage and propaganda. After five years the prototype FA01 (Fighting Armour) ‘Arthur’ power armour was complete. Heavier than the T45d and slower, but with a much more efficient atomic powerplant, the FA01 was only ever made in small numbers, it was rapidly followed by the creation of more advanced variants for each of the armed forces. The FA01AR ‘Lanceleot’ was the army variant, with heavier armour, the FA01NV ‘Tristan’ was the amphibious version, intended for the Navy and Royal Marines, lighter of armour but fully sealed with an effective rebreather while the FA01AF was the model intended for the airforce, lighter, faster and with short range atomic gas jets allowing it to jump short distances or be airdropped without a parachute. Large numbers of these were never manufactured as Britain didn’t expect to engage in a land war, though more have been manufactured since, exclusively by The Monarchy and the Aldermasters, who also produce FA01X, prewar experimental armour which incorporates technology derived from their ‘force field’, for limited extra protection and immunity to energy weapons and radiation.
Vehicles, especially the Boudicca and its derivatives are much more common in the UK and most now run off coal-gaz or energy cells, replenished by the atomic powerplants of grounded planes or naval resources.
Summary and Adventure Ideas
The UK in the Fallout setting is going to be relatively crowded and relatively orderly, despite having been nuked into oblivion. You have a ruling class of industrialists, politicians and royalty from before the war, now immortal and with relatively high access to resources from stockpiles and an industrial base from their bunkers. The class system there is stultifying, while elsewhere the military government is absolute and as oppressive as Orwell’s worst nightmares.
You can be free elsewhere, but you run the constant risk of being attacked – and possibly eaten – by tribals or wild beasts and any remaining scavenging areas are likely to be hotly contested by the Aldermasters, serfs or warlords.
This would be why Tenpenny left.
Still, there might be room for mercenaries and freelance scavengers. The pirates are still free, the outlaws beyond the walls are still free and rivalries within the ruling factions could provide opportunities for intrigue. The cities are still barely under control, even two centuries later, and there’ll always be work clearing out ghouls or recovering resources. In the north revolution – from the slaves or amongst the common people – is a possibility. Then there’s the Enclave, about to emerge, about to start a new war and everyone will have to pick a side then.
- Delve into the irradiated wasteland of Cambridge to scavenge the university.
- Aid in clearing out sections of the London Underground of ghouls (some of which turn out to be sentient, pre-war survivors).
- Assassinate a key leader of The Monarchy on behalf of the The Republic, or vice versa.
- Recover an important artefact from a pirate gang.
- Avenge a slaughtered settlement on the Scottish barbarians.