When I venture into a new historical gaming period or conflict, I usually spend the better part of a year researching the subject before spending the first dollar on it. I like to learn about the peoples involved in the conflict; culture, religion, ways of daily life, perspective about life, motivations, what are they fighting for, etc. I usually learn a lot, probably misunderstand more than I learn, and then get to the game. The beauty of sci-fi/fantasy games is that I don't have to spend a year researching to get to the game.
So I decide to finally build my PA terrain, and what am I spending the most time on...researching. Kind of a funny idea really, researching what hasn't happened. Most of it involves looking at abandoned and destroyed places, and noting damage and decay. Mostly it involves collecting info about those things that would populate the PA landscape, but it also involves the perils of gathering that information.
The funny thing about abandoned places is that they are never abandoned. You find all sorts of interesting people, some of them just curious, a photographer, an artist spraying the side of a building, a homeless person, people exchanging a package, people looking funny at you and your camera..time to leave. Interestingly, I've not been directly threatened by anyone in these situations, though I did have to make some effort to avoid an unhappy dog one time. As far as people go, a menacing glance maybe, but no real threats. Can't say the same for people in the "civilized" places.
One day, I was walking around town, taking photos of detail items; street signs, storm drains, roadway markings, etc. While taking photos of the highway overpass near my home (and featured in my PA terrain), a car veers over towards me, honks its horn, somebody inside screams an obscenity. I'm on a sidewalk, I turn, see whats happening, (taking photos the whole time) jump back as the car jumps the curb, loses part of a now shattered wheelcover, and blows its tire. They miss me by 18 inches, veer off of the curb, and continue down the street on the fresh flat. What are they thinking? They just screwed up Dad's new Toyota, could have seriously hurt or killed me, and we are only like 40 feet from a police station.
Another day, I figure I'll take a couple of pics of the vending machines by Walmart. As I'm walking over to them, I notice a car parking in the handicap spot with no handicap plackard (the driver, a young, athletic and affluent looking woman (at Walmart??) had no obvious disability), another car was parked in the fire lane in front of the store, and kids on skateboards where running over people on the covered walk outside the stores in the plaza (skateboarding there is a violation of local ordinance, and is posted).
I take a side view pic of the end vending machine, a couple of shots of the fronts. A couple people are looking at me, as I do this. Funny how when you take photos of things, people look at you like your murdering a bus-load of orphans. I stood there for a moment , just about ready to leave, noting some details of the bottons/hardware on the front of the machine, when I hear, " Sir, I need to ask you to step away from that pop machine". I turn, and there is a security guard standing there with his hand on his can a mace. You have got to be kidding me. The 14 year olds on the skateboards have just run into someone coming out of a store, the empty car is still parked in front of two "No Parking, Fire Lane" signs and on the giant "NO PARKING" letters painted on the ground. Handicapped people are walking from Mongolia to get to the store. And I have to step away from the machine?
"Sir, what are you doing?"
"I was taking photos of the vending machines"
"Sir, why are you taking photos of the vending machines?"
I think quickly, knowing that explaining that I'm building the end of the world in my basement for little people to fight and die over is not a good answer, and say, "To build miniatures for a model railroad."
"Well sir, I'm going to have to ask you to leave."
Really surprised, I blurt out, "You're kidding."
I then mention the illegally parked cars, the kids on the skateboards, and question why he stops a guy from photographing a vending machine, an act not in violation of state or local law. He then threatens to call authorities and have me forcibly removed. So I willingly go home, without pepper-spray eyes, where I will build a model of a blown-up, burned down, looted Walmart with the remnants of an over-zealous security guard being munched on by turkey vultures.
Let this be a warning for you post apocalypse terrain makers, the post apocalyptic wasteland is a dangerous place.