Thinking about it in greater detail, I think I’d go down the post-war apocalypse route for a tabletop roleplaying campaign. Natural disasters would make for a good story and viral outbreaks are fine for that ‘it’s like everyone just disappeared!’ angle, but it doesn’t really lend itself to an exciting setting, in my opinion. Veterans of the original war, the people having to live with the legacy of the conflict and old grudges and hatreds can make for a great game.
I think I’d avoid the zombie apocalypse scenario. It is a great setup – and God knows I’m really enjoying The Walking Dead right now, that’s the zombie thing done right for me – but I can imagine myself getting bored of it after a while. Shuffling zombies, abandoned cities and man’s inhumanity to man is a great tale but I don’t think I could get a long, ongoing campaign out of it. Mad Max falls into that category, too; I adore the setting but I can’t see myself getting a long campaign out of it.
Games Workshop’s old ‘Dark Future’ setting, while not strictly post-apocalyptic, would make for a good game. Factions, points of light in a dying world, cars with heavy ordnance mounted on them – sounds like fun. Other than the primary areas there’s an entire world you could build from that, and things could change as the world slips away into total anarchy.
For variety and scope, the setting of Bethesda’s ‘Fallout’ series hits the right tone for me. It’s sharp and well-defined, the setting has a rich history and the design is fantastic. With supermutants, ghouls, crazy beasts and different factions all vying for power and influence spread across a world that still has plenty of gaps to fill, it’s a prime place for gaming. It also doesn’t take itself too seriously; ‘Mothership Zeta’ is proof of that. It’s gruesome and over-the-top violent and sometimes cartoonish, but the choice and variety the setting gives you enables plenty of scope.
Every post-apocalyptic setting has it’s benefits, and at the end of the day it the tastes of the group, but you have to go with what gives the most options and avenues of adventure. Post-war gives me the options I’m looking for, and I know what my group is like. Any chance to get their hands on any military equipment.