- Dustin Glatz
Dystopia Rising launched in 2009, but the oldest parts of the game system date back to 2001. Co-owner/co-founder Michael Pucci was writing it as a then-unnamed pet project between day jobs. It coalesced into its current form in 2008. Inspiration struck while he was at Gathering of the Vibes, a Connecticut music festival, when a heavy storm tore through, trashing the tent city. According to a five-year anniversary article written by DR social media manager Catherine Griffin, the morning after the storm, a man came through to sell popcorn and hot dogs to the huddled masses, for five bucks each.
"It became concrete in my mind, right then," Pucci said in the article. "No matter what happens in the world, we will always have people trying to better themselves at the expense of others while clusters of others would latch together. That sort of human nature, and the way people clung to one another, was the basis of what would later be my envisioning of post-apocalypse culture."
That vision presents a world generations after nuclear warfare and zombies wiped out civilization. During that fall of humanity, some people had chance genetic immunity to the zombie virus, and though infected, they didn't turn into mindless undead. The survivors adapted, not just culturally, but biologically, diverging into different varieties of sorta-human, called Strains. Strains range from rowdy redneck Mericans to visibly decayed Retrogrades, to blunt, angry Yorkers.
Survivors try to form functional societies while fighting off zombies, rabid humans called raiders, religious fanatics, mutated animals, disease, and as often as not, each other.
Some take up arms — actually Nerf guns and foam weapons called boffers. Others become artisans and experts, from brewers and builders to doctors and draftsmen. Many take up faith — cargo-cult religions that have formed around everything from radiation-induced mutation to pre-apocalypse TV and music broadcasts.
When Pucci and his partner, co-owner/co-founder Ashley Zdeb, launched the game, it proved "really fortunate timing for us, since Fallout 3 came out in October 2008, Borderlands in 2009, and The Walking Dead was 2009/2010," he tells the Indy. "Having the material existing, running, and supported before the apocalypse and zombie explosion happened across all media really helped us bring LARP to non-LARPers."
Dystopia Rising didn't come to Colorado until 2014, when Meyer heard about it from a friend. At the time, she'd been LARPing for around 14 years, having picked up a game called Vampire: The Masquerade in college. Excited, she introduced the concept to now-Director of Storytelling Raymond Bruels III, a 23-year LARP vet, himself a former member of the Mind's Eye Society LARP national storytelling staff. Both fell in love with the world and its systems.
"I have always been a fan of post-apocalyptic settings and [am] a lifelong lover of the horror genre — Dystopia Rising gave me both," he says. "The idea of pitting players... against the elements in a struggle for survival with a backdrop of fending off a host of zombies and crazed raiders sounded just too good to be true."
Over the course of a year, the two co-created DedStop, working with the national branch to develop specifics and make it click with the established world. They drew inspiration from existing media — HBO's Deadwood and AMC's Hell on Wheels, among others — as well as the Centennial State's past.
"We looked at the rich history of Colorado's mining and railroads," he says. "We researched a number of areas and visited local museums to try to narrow down our thoughts and ideas."
Meyer adds: "We build a concept that would allow for our players to put the flesh on the bones of the idea. DedStop doesn't come to life until our players walk onto the stage, after all."