Greetings wastelanders! If you’re just tuning in, my name is Johnny Atom-Bomb, your humble host broadcasting live from Old Line Radio, the Tri-State Wasteland’s only radio station, excepting derelict government civil defense broadcasts or other dubious transmissions. The wasteland may not look like much, but she’s all we got, and I’m here to help you see another sunset. So load your gun, turn up that dial, and stay tuned.”
—Old Line Radio Opening Sign-on Announcement
The rules of TNT could be used for any post-apocalyptic world, but the official setting begins in the heart of the Tri-State Wasteland, a part of the old Mid-Atlantic States of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Below is an excerpt from the book describing the world as the wastelanders know it:
The Way the World Is
“Welcome to Maryland! While this great state is known for their famous blue crabs from the Chesapeake Bay, did you know the western side of the state is the home of the National Road, the nation’s first highway built by the federal government? Or that the historic C&O Canal stretched from Cumberland, Maryland, all the way to Washington, D.C.? It’s true. You can learn about the storied history of the mountain side of Maryland at any of our great stops along Interstate 68. Remember, we’ll always be here.” —Pre-Fall Advertisement from the Biscuit Box Traveller Restaurant
Following the Great Fall and the Long Night, the United States has changed greatly. Where there once was a unified nation-state, now there exists an only broken and disparate territory. The wider world can be divided into the Unknown Lands and the Known World. The Known World, for a lack of a better term, comprises the Mid-Atlantic region along the East Coast. At its heart is the Tri-State Wasteland, the primary setting of This Is Not a Test. Its immediate surroundings include the Penns, the Burning Lands, the Eastern Pale, the Capital Deadzone and the Wild Highlands.
The Unknown Lands
The fate of most of North America – and indeed, the world – is simply unknown. In wasteland parlance, all areas, whether south, north, east, or west, are generically referred to as the Unknown Lands. Exploration and communications are exceedingly difficult in the post-apocalyptic world. Before the Great Fall, a strange weapon known as Scatter Dust was deployed in the upper atmosphere. Scatter Dust was designed to disrupt long-range communications and is very effective against most types of broadcasting, both sending and receiving. Though its effects are slowly weakening over time, Scatter Dust, and the destruction of electronic devises caused by the EMP bursts, are the reasons why virtually all radios and communications devices emit nothing but static.
Scatter Dust, however, is just one of many threats in the skies. For example, a killer satellite, known in the wastes as the Slag Maker, orbits overhead, still actively pursuing its singularly lethal mission: to disrupt and destroy enemy logistics and vehicular traffic. Operating on a pattern all its own, the Slag Maker targets vehicles and aircraft with a high-yield laser beam, often striking without warning out of a clear blue sky. For this reason, most wasteland travel is limited to simple vehicles powered by animals, steam or vegetable diesel.
The Known World
Prior to the Great Fall, the Appalachian Mountains were well known for the underground coal deposits which dominated the economy in the region. After the nuclear firestorm of the Great Fall much of these deposits were set alight and continue to burn to this day. This vast, simmering blaze is spread across many parts of the wastes, to include the western areas of the Wild Highlands, formerly West Virginia, to the north into what was southwestern Pennsylvania, and even branches into the Tri-State Wasteland proper. Within the Burning Lands, firestorms are common and the land is mostly scorched wastes wracked with emberquakes, poison gas clouds, and ash storms. Permanent settlements do not exist –cannot exist – within the Burning Lands, and only the most foolhardy or desperate will travel through the blighted landscape.
Formerly known as the Piedmont Plateau, the Eastern Pale lies to the immediate east of the Tri-State Wasteland and serves as a buffer against the worst of the Capital Deadzone. The Pale’s proximity to the Capital Deadzone makes it extremely dangerous. It is a haven of deadly mutants, raider warbands, cannibalistic tribals and a multitude of radioactive monsters. The Pale is susceptible to wasteland weather extremes including poison gas clouds and radioactive hotspots. Despite the constant danger one major settlement exists in the Pale. Called Devil’s Crotch, the settlement lies where the Old I-68 meets the I-70 interchange, forming a natural travel nexus for those pushing into the Deadzone.
The former capital of the United States, the Capital Deadzone is made up of the eastern parts of Maryland, the northern tip of the state of Virginia, the dead remains of the Chesapeake Bay, and the former District of Columbia. One of the most populous areas of the United States before the Great Fall, the region was mix of urban centers with near-continuous suburban sprawl. After the Great Fall, the Capital Deadzone came to be the most dangerous wasteland area due to its extreme weather, impossibly large radioactive horrors, devolved mutant cannibals and extremely high levels of ambient radiation.
Explorations of the western areas have been only partially successful, and attempts to reach the Chesapeake Bay and the eastern sections via the Potomac River have utterly failed. The fate of the eastern areas of the Deadzone is unknown. The former city of Baltimore is reportedly in ruins, having suffered significantly heavier damage than Washington D.C. There are no permanent settlements or hints of civilization in the Deadzone, and most mutants encountered here have shown little intelligence and are extremely aggressive. Scavengers have reported seeing robots moving aimlessly through the shattered ruins even though it has been surmised that the environment has caused a rapid deterioration of their components. Despite these dangers, the Capital Deadzone is a treasure trove of lost relics and sacred technology. For those who can make and survive the trip the Capital Deadzone presents the ultimate test.
Making up the bulk of the former state of Pennsylvania, the Penns features two distinct areas. The western half of the state contains the northern stretch of the Burning Lands, which bars safe passage from the south. The eastern half of the Penns contains numerous settlements and its own wasteland culture, but much of this area is under the control of two warring groups. The first are the Sons of Able, a mysterious military theocracy who protect the Amish and Mennonite communities which have flourished since the Great Fall. The other is known as the Society, a strange conglomeration of historical reenactors. The society presents itself as a united group, but actually is a mixture of petty fiefdoms ruled by warlords. Despite this internecine warfare, both sides share a hatred of foreigners, keeping the Penns off limits to outsiders. Outside of either group’s control, the most significant site is the ruined city of Philadelphia. Rumors tell of a large mutant tribe that calls it home.
Situated against the polluted Potomac River, much of the District of Columbia lies in ruin, but some of the strongest buildings remain intact. It is believed the capital was targeted with biological weapons, nanite missiles and nuclear air bursts. Presumably, some faction intended to occupy DC after the war. Though the buildings still stand the population suffered a much higher casualty rate than most other American cities. The fate of Congress and the President are simply not known. They are presumed dead. The city itself has long been thought impossible to explore. Only scavengers with some immunity to radiation, such as mutants and robots, can explore the ruins. For many the District of Columbia is the ultimate symbol of powerful technology and lost heritage; an enduring symbol of what has been lost yet could be regained. This there is no shortage of wastelanders looking to reclaim this lost glory.
The Wild Highlands, or Wilds for short, is composed of the eastern parts of the state of West Virginia not incorporated into the Tri-State Wasteland or ravaged by the fires of the Burning Lands. Prior to the Great Fall, West Virginia was a state with rugged mountainous terrain and a small population. Presently, the Wilds are home to only a few settlements and several independent tribal communities. The remoteness of the Wilds makes it a mystery to outsiders and its secretive communities are generally hostile except to a few traders. Travel within the Wilds is further complicated by the higher than normal number of mutant cannibals and unusual creatures. Nature has also come back with a vengeance. Strange plant life and fungal growths dot the verdant landscape.
The heart of the Known World is the Tri-State Wasteland. Though it lacks defined borders, it is generally accepted that the Tri-State Wasteland is made up of the western half of the state of Maryland and also parts of southern Pennsylvania and eastern West Virginia. The Tri-State Wasteland is “safe” enough to allow long distance travel and trade since it is partially stabilized by the presence of the Free City of Cumberland, located near its center. Cumberland is by far the largest settlement for hundreds of miles.