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In a modern society, everything is so interconnected that any product is the result of that entire society. People who put products together, people who got the materials the products are made of, people who run the machines that generate the power required for those things... et cetera. Even the things people tend to forget or disassociate with the production of a product: people who write the manuals, people who act as "gofers" for all the other people, middle-management, etc.
Then consider all the people behind the construction of the tools required to do each of those
things, and then who make the tools required to make those
, and so on, and so on.
Now, suppose a large majority of mankind were to be suddenly wiped out? There would be huge holes in the knowledge of how to produce things. Sure, someone might know how to fix the engine of a car, but if there's no one who knows how to make spark plugs, one is forced to hope they can find workable ones in the debris left After the End
. And then there's the need for gasoline. And oil, and tires, and antifreeze and batteries, and... well you get the idea. And even if someone does know how to make those key components, all that knowledge is little more than useless trivia if the infrastructure of society has been disrupted to the point that the raw materials can no longer be supplied. It would quickly be forgotten as humanity focused on more important things, like finding enough food to keep from starving. A dog
will prove pretty handy in one of these places.
These knowledge "holes" would tend to grow larger as generations went by. Society would have to rely on scavenging workable machinery without the knowledge of how it was made
or the basic principles it works on
, eventually resulting in Low Culture, High Tech
This is the basis of a Scavenger World, and if enough of the cogs are lost you end up with Lost Technology
Moreover, the physical cogs don't last forever; a Scavenger World that goes on long enough usually has to invoke Ragnarok-Proofing
to explain why anything
still works at all.
In terms of combat, expect most people to be kitted out in Improvised Armour
and wielding Improvised Weapons
An elaboration of Schizo Tech
. Possession Implies Mastery
is always averted here. After the End
examples of the Scavenger World often overlap with Crapsack World
, though Scavenger Worlds no better or worse than the modern have occured in fiction here and there.
Compare Cosy Catastrophe
. Compare and contrast with Apocalyptic Logistics
. See also Disaster Scavengers
. If you ask a scavenger about where this stuff came from, they'll say it was all made in The Beforetimes
. May also involve an Archaeological Arms Race
. When technology is rebuilt from scavenged trash it's Scavenged Punk
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Anime and Manga
- After War Gundam X has an entire class of people called "Vultures" dedicated to scavanging technology, their After the End was a pretty bad one too. 10-Billion casualty mass colony drop. It's lucky any humans survived!
- Casshern Sins: metal parts that aren't corroded by The Ruin are very valued and coveted by both humans and cyborgs.
- Gunnm — Rather justified by the trash of (and occasional exiles from) the apparently utopian sky city being dumped into the middle to town.
- The colony world (or far-future Earth, depending on your interpretation) on which Mai-Otome is set seems to be in the beginning stages of this. Certain technologies — like the Otome nanites — are only available in specific cities, and there generally isn't sufficient scientific skill elsewhere to reproduce them. This is, in fact, a major plot point.
- Nausicaš of the Valley of the Wind. Very few people know how to make or repair most of the machines in the film, and the weapons that caused this After the End scenario are hoped to remain Lost Technology. In the manga, characters are always concerned to salvage the engines from downed aircraft, and the Valley of the Wind maintains its independence from two large empires by virtue of owning a two-seat pre-collapse gunship.
- Earth in Suisei no Gargantia. After an apocalyptic event, the entire surface of the planet is covered by ocean. People live on floating cities and scavenge the ruins under the ocean. Good scavengers seem to be respected.
- In Trigun, most of the human population of the planet "Gunsmoke" has settled near the broken remains of the spaceships that brought them there. Very few people survive who know how to fix and repair the surviving ship "plants", and the current tech level of society has apparently decayed quite a bit from the level it once had just to make the trip.
- In Desert Punk, there are the remains of whole cities that are occasionally found with scavengable supplies, though by the story's start one hasn't been found in decades. The Oasis Government, seemingly the only ones capable of producing food in the manga, supply everyone outside of their Elaborate Underground Bases with resources to get by for the sole purpose of having a workforce to doing the scavanging while its citizens on the inside have whole corporations based on reverse-engineering it.
- Kaze No Tairiku (or The Weathering Continent) is set in a desolate world ravaged by disasters and other catastrophe leaving people to scavenge for precious resources like water.
- The Two Thousand AD comic strip Nemesis the Warlock features a warlike human culture, Termight, who are at war with everyone else in the universe despite the fact that culturally and technologically, they are regressing. They fight with medieval weapons, their Humongous Mecha are recycled, one of them can only move its feet with the aid of men turning capstans etc.
- Wasteland, a comic series by Oni Press, takes place in a scavenger world thanks to "the big wet".
- Babylon A.D.: Russia has become a ravaged country with areas controlled by warlords and nuclear contamination zones.
- A Boy and His Dog: Despite the Talking Animal angle, definitely Not For Kids.
- The British dystopian sci-fi movie Doomsday plays with this trope: The walled-off Scotland looks like something from a Mad Max sequel with no or few gunpowder weapons in use, very limited electricity and really ramshackle cars kitbashed together from old wrecks; the rest of Britain still bears a passing resemblance to what it's like today but seems to be turning slowly into this, as we see its authorities treat tanks as Lost Technology.
- Hardware superimposes a Scavenger World with a functioning military-industrial complex going to hell in a handbasket. Scavenging is central to the plot: the story kicks off in war-blasted desert when a wandering scavenger finds a dismembered robot buried in the sand, and takes the pieces back to the City to sell.
- Hell Comes To Frogtown is another work inspired by Mad Max.
- Mad Max 2 was successful and influential in bringing the Scavenger World trope to the big screen. The tone and visuals inspired many subsequent works.
- Oblivion: The underground world beneath the surface of the Earth, where the remaining humans live.
- Sky Blue: The Diggers' society works much like this; some, such as Shua and Moe, know how to assemble machines, but they mostly have to steal the parts from Ecoban.
- Post J-Day The Terminator.
- The middle section of the 1930s movie Things to Come shows a scavenger society slowly breaking down.
- Threads: The legendarily bleak British Docudrama is indirectly based on this trope, the title threads being those that hold society together - the food we produce, the goods we make. Following a nuclear war, we follow an increasingly desperate struggle for survival in a grim world where deputised traffic wardens shoot looters on sight, a pregnant woman is forced to eat raw sheep and mill her own grain after stealing it from a government depot and the only remaining form of powered agriculture is an antique traction engine. Not to mention the horrific parody of school played on a barely functional VCR.
- Warlords of the 21st Century, a.k.a. Battletruck.
- Waterworld. Scavenged anti-aircraft machinegun used as a terrestrial (well, aquatic) attack weapon? Check. Small town/islands made of scavenged sheetmetal and random equipment? Check. Scavenged oil tanker, moved with oars? Check.
- The Matrix. The real Earth is a wasteland. Mankind has cobbled together technology to form the sole oasis for humanity, underground. The kicker? All but the One aren't aware that the Machines destroy that city every 100 years or so, when the One shows up, keying the required reloading (reboot) of the Matrix. According to the Architect in The Matrix Reloaded, they've blown Zion up five times before Neo. Zion is used to allow uppity humans that reject the Matrix a place to hangout so the Machines can keep most others unaware and enslaved in the Matrix.
Live Action TV
- Aftermath: The episode "World Without Oil" explores the hypothetical scenario of what would happen if the earth's oil reservoirs suddenly disappeared. It involves society's slippage into one of these as people scavenge the dumpsters for electronics from which they can extract precious metals as well as plastic products that they can reuse.
- Babylon 5: Implied in "The Deconstruction of Falling Stars". Far in Earth's future, a "great burn-out" has pushed humanity back into the medieval age. The Rangers try to slowly reintroduce technology, but have to rely on extraterrestrial help to come by supplies like gasoline
- The Colony: This show is a simulation of life in a world where most of the population has been killed by a virus. The objective is for a group of strangers to build a working society using stuff left behind in a (mostly) empty city.
- Falling Skies: Takes place in a world six months after an Alien Invasion has destroyed most major cities and wiped out a large majority of humanity. The survivors first priority (as well as making sure to avoid the aliens) is raiding stores and warehouses for remaining food and weapons. In the pilot, the protagonist is captured by a gang of outlaws. The leader offers him a beer, which the protagonist is surprised to learn is cold. Apparently, the outlaws managed to salvage a working generator and a fridge. The survivors also have to extract fuel from cars to use in their own vehicles (all pre-microchip, as the aliens used EMP on a massive scale).
- Jericho: Follows the immediate aftermath of an apocalypse, but there is a bit of this: improvised or scavenged sources of electricity, scavenged weapons, no food outside of what can be grown locally, etc.
- Revolution: Set fifteen years after the electricity goes off all over the world. The Monroe Republic is able to make their own black powder muskets but have to scavenge for more advanced technology and cannot manufacture ammunition for their pre-Blackout weapons. They have a functioning railway but their steam engine was salvaged from a museum ("Soul Train"). In contrast, the Georgia Federation is much more advanced and is building new steam engines and seagoing ships ("The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia").
- Scrapheap Challenge or, as it was known in the US, Junkyard Wars: Probably part of the inspiration behind this show. Two teams comprised of three engineers go into a junkyard and build anything ranging from buggies to firetrucks, and they always end up looking like something from a Scavenger World.
- The Tribe: Deals with a world After the End, where a virus wiped out every person beyond the age of 18. The remaining kids and children, of course, struggle with exactly this trope.
- The Walking Dead: As a result of Zombie Apocalypse.
- BattleTech started out this way, with the destruction of almost all the infrastructure to build the instellar starships (FTL warship shipyards were all lost), and most of the factories to produce advanced technology were destroyed or abandoned, causing mechs and tanks to be pilfered for spare parts. Things eventually got better with the discovery of a data disc containing schematics for the destroyed factories and the underlying science for some equipment. Battlefield Salvage is still a critical component of most games.
- d20 Apocalypse (an expansion for d20 Modern) specializes in the post-apocalyptic setting, and features rules on scavenging supplies and bartering with them.
- The RPG Deadlands: Hell on Earth takes place After the End, and has hosts of broken machinery that not many people know how to use. (Then again, unless it helps keep your head out of an irradiated zombie's mouth, most people don't care.) Enter the Junkers, "techno-shamans" who duct-tape together odd amalgams of old tech and enchant it back into working order. A player character can even be a Junker, and Junkers are known for (re-)creating odd bits of technology that seem at odds with the rest of the world's current level of knowledge.
- In Exalted, the River Province of Creation is more widely known as the Scavenger Lands, because it's the only place with a fairly large stock of half functioning First Age tech (much of which has not yet been recovered) available in societally usable quantities.
- The society of Fading Suns is locked in a Feudal Future a thousand years after the collapse of non-feudal civilization. Although it is functioning, most technical advances are still caused by recovery of pre-collapse tech. Discovery of a decent stash can be a major tilt to military and political balance, and there is a major guild specializing in digging up lost tech.
- Gamma World Scrounging stuff from pre-apocalyptic ruins was the game's usual equivalent of dungeon-crawling.
- Twilight2000: With the nuking of most major cities and the plagues and starvation that followed, the world has become this.
- In Warhammer 40,000, much of the Imperium of Man's technology is ancient and only kept running by a specialized religious priesthood performing maintenance by ritual. It gets a bit ridiculous, to the point where they worship tanks. Big, impressive, Titan-killing tanks, but tanks nonetheless.
- The Adeptus Mechanicus don't worship tanks directly, but rather the "machine spirit" (but only as an alternate manifestation of the Emperor, because it would be heresy otherwise). The Imperium falls somewhere between Scavenger World and Lost Technology; because they're not actually scavenging existing technology for the most part (except for a few ancient and notable pieces of equipment); but rather are dependent upon use of ancient "templates" used by their automated manufacturing plants. The technological caste functions more as archeologists than researchers; and any "advances" are not due to modification of existing designs, but re-discovery of lost templates. Scavenger World applies best to the really big weapons systems like Titans and superheavy combat vehicles; where there are no templates left, and thus no ability to manufacture more.
- It's actually the opposite for Orkz. All Orkz have knowledge of basic physics and mechanics literally encoded into their genes, thus every Ork can smelt metal to make their choppa & scrounge enough junk together to make a functioning shoota. Some Orkz, the Mekz, have an even greater instinctive understanding of these principles, and can make teleporters, laser & plasma weaponry, massive walkers & even spaceships (with assistance of course). The problem is, the Ork doing the building doesn't really understand what he's doing, because its mostly subconscious, which is why Ork technology looks so ramshackle & generally isnt standardized.
- Myriad Song is a bit of a mix, there are a number of well-developed prosperous planets, but also many "derelict" worlds in ruins.
- The planet of Bara Magna in BIONICLE.
- The original minicomics packaged with the Masters of the Universe figures had Eternia as such a world, devastated by "the Great Wars" (however, the Wind Raider was still a recent creation of Man-At-Arms). This is absent from later minicomics and other media.
- The world of Aurora Danse Macabre, thanks to a yet unexplained apocalypse.
- In the world of Glorianna, old-time tech is generally used only in the crudest fashion (e.g., a tribe living in the hollowed-out remains of an old cargo plane), and only the small, fanatical cult of Syons actively tries to get ancient devices working again.
- A Moment Of Peace is a Lighter and Softer version of a post-apocalyptic scavenger world.
- Post-Nuke takes place on what remains of Earth after a nuclear war. The main character wanders around with his dog, and can't trust anybody. Everybody is trying to get what little there's left, and so it's hard to make friends. Some are even continuing the war...
- It's never explained why "Wastelanders Anonymous'' takes place in this setting but the population of Earth has somehow dropped to almost none. There's no electricity. Most people are in survival mode except Anne who's trying to build a museum in order to salvage as much heritage from the former world as she can.
- Leslie Fish's song "The Discards", from Firestorm: Songs of the Third World War, describes a post-apocalyptic encounter between super-sophisticated transports, "sleek and bossy, all stuffed with high-tech gear", and scavenged vehicles composed mainly of simple but effective "armor, wheels, and gun".
- In fact, several songs from that album fall into the Scavenger World category: notably "Black Powder and Alcohol", "Blue Bread Mold", and "Hello! Remember Us?"
- These pieces of concept art by Keith Thompson.
- Definitely Truth in Television in poor nations without native industrial capacity, especially where high-tech imports are scarce. Especially in Cuba, due to laws banning all technology after their revolution. And North Korea, with its crumbling infrastructure and isolationist policies.
- Some poorer parts of the developing world (e. g. some countries in Africa, or India) can afford little new technology or replacement parts to speak of, forcing them to weld metal using old car batteries or welders with transformers made out of cardboard, which is actually impressive resourcefulness from the people in question.
- Some second and third-world countries buy planes off the first-world's airlines. This isn't so bad at first because many first-world airlines replace planes every five years or so. But then these second-hand buyers sell on those planes to a lower-class airline, who will sell those planes on and further on... and then the planes get cannibalized until it gets to the point where some third-world airlines own planes that are a combination of third, fourth and fifth-hand planes.
- In India many poor people will pore over rubbish dumps and tips for anything useful/worth selling to recycling companies. It has been described as one of the most efficient recycling methods ever. Unfortunately, India (like many poor countries) is a dumping ground for vast quantities of toxic waste that First-Worlders don't want to bother recycling, like electronics. The scavengers picking through these things are unknowingly exposed to all kinds of lovely toxins such as PCB, lead, cadmium, mercury and various poisonous solvents and carcinogens.
- China, in particular, is one of the world's most polluted countries because many people there buy broken-down computers and other tech-junk to burn off the plastic to get to the valuable silver and gold in the circuit boards. The resulting smoke is incredibly toxic, and these people work 9, 10, 11-hour days in this smoke.
- Many areas that are hit with war or major natural disaster become this.
- Became quite common during the Great Depression as hardly anyone could afford to buy anything. One of the best examples is the Hoover Wagon, a car rigged to a harness and pulled by a horse or donkey, as the owner couldn't afford gas.
- In his semi-satirical treatise on economics, "Eat the Rich", P.J. O'Rourke illustrates how even something as simple as a pencil requires the combination of so many differing component parts (wood, graphite, rubber, steel, paint) and specialized skills to get each of those (botany, geology, mining, carpentry, milling, metalworking, chemistry, painting) that it's functionally impossible for any single person to make one on their own. Yet a single pencil is seen as a cheap throwaway item because modern industrial society can mass produce them seemingly effortlessly.