15 Jan 2001 0800H. Cape May, New Jersey.

As soon as the meeting with Resper and the Congressman ended, Moss hurried back to his team’s quarters in Avalon.

He’d pulled two of his recent trainees from the recent Pine Barrens Exercise to fill out his crew – The boats had positions for eight. Moss had remembered chit-chat about them having Small Watercraft skill, something lacking in his crew. They’d be needed to helm the assault boats.

The group wasted no time in pulling their gear together. Moss had all their NBC equipment brought out of storage. Resper had reminded him that the Washington DC strikes were ground bursts, which scatter a lot of radioactive fallout in the local area. Three years after the bombs dropped, most of the unstable isotopes would have half-lived to less-dangerous levels.

The primary danger – outside the craters – would be accidental ingestion of radioactive debris or prolonged contact with same. Kicking up dust in a building, eating or drinking local supplies, collecting souvenirs, etc.

The crew boarded the USS Bigelow, which would transport them with all haste to the mouth of the Potomac River. Their assault boats were hoisted on board as well. A tanker had arrived from the Persian Gulf; Moss’ mission was deemed critical enough to get a full tank of diesel for the Raider boats, plus extra jerry cans.

Why are they going? Answer: Winter Quarters: Tale of Two Congressmen

15 Jan 2001 1000H.

The Bigelow made good time. The weather was cooperating, 20s – 30s F. Light breeze. Overcast. No precipitation. Moss had his team rest, as this could be the last for a while.

Around 1800H the destroyer stopped at the mouth of the Potomac. Moss’ Raider boats were lowered into the water, and the Captain told him that the Bigelow would loiter out in Chesapeake Bay. Comms were established.

It was dusk. Moss had mixed feelings about cruising the Potomac at night. The cover of darkness would be welcome, but river hazards at night would be tricky, even with night vision. Moss split the difference, travelling at half-speed for the first period of 4 hours, then found a quiet place on the banks where’d they’d rest for the next 4 hours until sunrise.

16 Jan 0600H. Potomac River.

The river was mostly deserted, and several kilometers wide at this point. The team spotted the occasional fishing boat in the distance, but they were ignored. The highway 301 bridge had collapsed, apparently from the hulk that had drifted into it. The wreckage took some maneuvering, but the assault boats were so small and shallow draft it was not difficult.

GM Notes

Encounters: I was using the Potomac River encounter table from Allegheny Uprising. The Encounter table I believe is intended for upstream of Washington DC, but it serves here as well. I always forget about the bell curve results from a 2d6 table. Every roll I made was “No encounter” or “River impassable” (but the Potomac is far too wide here to be impassable, so I just interpreted this as a delay to skirt a hulk or wreckage in the river) So it was a quiet trip. Which fits the post-apocalypse Potomac in the middle of January, right?

2Animal/Special danger
3-6River impassable
7-9No encounter

The Napco Raider can be found in the Nautical/Aviation Handbook for Twilight 2000, 2nd Edition.

Weather: I use this site for historical weather records.

Closer and Closer

After passing the downed bridge, it was getting into the afternoon. The weather got warm (60 degrees!), and very windy.

The closer they approached the radioactive ruins, the river narrowed considerably. The river and shore were deserted. Moss kept them going a while after dusk, then found a camp just south of the ruins of Quantico.

Daybreak 17 January, they continued upriver. The weather was cool again, and the winds continued, with gusts up to 30mph.

Quantico had been home for the USMC and FBI, situated on a flat bank next to the river. It too had been hit with a ground strike. The Soviets had been targeting Presidential Emergency Shelters throughout the relocation arc in Maryland and Virginia; presumably they’d identified one here.

Moss could see where the crater was, filled with river water. Quantico had been erased. The Geiger counters came alive for the first time. The two raider boats hurried past.

The Ruins of Washington DC

17 January 2001 1400H

DC had been walloped. Moss knew the White House and the Pentagon had been hit, and much of the capital city as we knew it was damaged.

District of Columbia: The main target in Washington, DC was the White House, in an effort (a successful one, as it turned out) to destroy the executive leadership of the country. A sizeable portion of the downtown area was damaged, not by the blast itself (which was a small one), but from the seismic shock and radiation of the ground burst and the flash-induced fires. The population that wasn’t killed by the strike and its immediate aftereffects either fled the city or died in the subsequent civil disorder.

Howling Wilderness

Moss knew from a map where his objective was, the Ford Office Building. It was closer to the Capitol Building, which meant there was a good chance it was still standing. He had the boats go upriver to scout around a bit until dusk. They found the Raider boats were relatively quiet when the engines were throttled low.

They passed the site of the Pentagon. The crater remained, bare rock. Unlike the rest of the city, which was slowly being overgrown, nothing would grow where the Pentagon once was. Visibility was excellent, as virtually all the trees near the river had been blasted to stumps. Everyone looked expectantly at the geiger counters, but radiation was just slightly elevated above background.

As the Raider boats probed an inlet, the group had their first encounter.

Animal. I’d already decided to roll on the African animals table in DC, as the National Zoo had been emptied by keepers with more compassion than sense, and few humans passed through, making DC a wildlife park as seen in the Chernobyl exclusion zone.

On the shore, the team saw antelope-looking grazers at the shore.

They also noted the bridge in the inlet had been so badly damaged that it was impassable even for the Raider boats.

As dusk fell, Moss has the boats drift back downriver to explore the other inlet.

They rounded the bend, and headed up the Washington Channel, looking for the closest approach to the Ford Building. The winds continued blowing steady.

The docks on the shore looked like broken teeth. The Raider boats had no need of them anyway, just be pulled up on shore.

The group had their next encounter. Animal again! (I won’t be posting this encounter table, as it’s still in use.)

As the boats were pulling up, they disturbed three bedraggled lions at the shore. The lions observed them for a bit, then walked – not ran – away.

They tucked their boats among the derelicts on the shoreline. They might be found, but only if somebody stumbled on them. For good measure, Moss had the diesel engines disabled while they were away. He didn’t want to leave anybody there to watch them.

The team hiked inland. It was very difficult terrain; it would be slow going. Especially in the dark.

The geiger counters were picking up local, specific sources of radiation: Chunks of metal or debris tossed over here by one mushroom cloud or the other.

Still spotted no people. The team crossed over a ruined highway, choked with rusted vehicles. The Ford Office Building was in sight, seemed in decent shape, though the southwest quadrant looked damaged from this vantage point.

to be continued next session.

Modelling the Destruction

Twilight 2000 characters in the classic campaign will have already encountered a city destroyed by nuclear fire: The Ruins of Warsaw.

There is a big difference however, between Warsaw and DC. The Polish capital was levelled by airbursts: “Six of the eight warheads of a Trident II (D-5) missile fired from a British submarine.” Airburst is the more typical targeting option for nukes, causing greater damage over a wider area by detonating at several thousand feet altitude over the target.

Washington DC’s nukes were targeted at the surface, the preferred option if a specific installation must be destroyed, along with any underground shelters. Surface blasts also have the side-effect of throwing radioactive debris in the local area: Fallout.

I used the popular Nukemap site to model the explosions at the Pentagon (500kt) and White House (250kt), remembering of course to set for ground burst.

I suspected that, with surface bursts in an urban area, buildings would shadow other buildings, meaning you wouldn’t get perfect concentric circles of devastation.

Remembering the recent Beirut blast with that warehouse full of ammonium nitrate, I looked up blast maps of the incident. It was a surface burst of course.

This heat map was developed by radar satellites and software, basically comparing before and after images, and noting where buildings were missing.

The Beirut blast was “only” about 1kt yield, but the principle remains. The blast did not extend deep into the city, as buildings shadowed other buildings, breaking up the blast wave. Instead the blast went longer along the shoreline.

The Howling Wilderness notes on DC mention “seismic shock” damaging a lot of structures, and I find that easy to believe. Thump nearby ground with nukes, and I’d reckon that would cause local earthquake tremors.

Unlike Warsaw, where locals were beginning to move back to reclaim the city, I decided that the persistent radiation hazard would discourage all but the most motivated from the ruins of Washington DC.

I’m enjoying this scenario immensely. I read Logan’s Run and Logan’s World when I was a kid, and watched the movie. The scenes of post apocalypse Washington DC are carved into my memory. Here are some cool pics from the movie.


See Also:

The Black Baron of Warsaw

Northeast USA in the Twilight 2000 America Campaign