As surprises probably no-one, I am a fan of post-apocalyptic settings. (My boxed copy of Wasteland 2 came in recently!) But I was thinking lately about skillsets that would be useful in a post-apocalyptic setting that don’t get a lot of attention paid them.
Disclaimer: “post-apocalyptic” covers a huge range of stuff, from your generic brown whoops-the-bombs-fell-pass-me-my-gas-mask setting to Fritz Leiber’s chill dark “A Pail of Air” to the slow burn of On The Beach or Stross’s bureaucratically gleeful Mythos-drawing “A Colder War”. So yeah, not all post-apocalyptic settings require those skills, but they strike me as the kind of thing where it’s… hmh. Worth confirming that you don’t need them, if you don’t?
Cobbling. I mean, honestly, there is so much walking in so many of these settings; driving too, and the occasional ornithopter, but… shoes. Sooner or later the pre-existing shoes are going to be scavenged, or you’re not going to be in a spot where you can get more, or you’re just a really common size and everyone else got there first. And yet I don’t think I’ve ever seen or heard of a cobbler in a post-apocalyptic setting. Everyone’s too busy selling spit-cooked rat or something.
While we’re on rats and food… Food preservation is going to come up at some point, unless there is no way to ever raise, grow, hunt, or gather more than you need on a day to day basis. I, for one, have no idea how to can or preserve food (I think you boil it and then pour wax on it; I think I’m missing some critical steps), and would fully expect meat to rot before it became jerky.
Pharmaceutical training, too. Medical skills are a given (again, remember, this is not a discussion of skillsets that are obviously useful, it’s a discussion of useful skillsets that aren’t often paid attention to; this is why mechanics and doctors haven’t and won’t be mentioned), but even just knowing how drugs need to be stored and what interactions you can expect would be useful. Pharmacies in Canada at least often don’t print expiry dates on the prescriptions they dispense; it’d be nice to at least know where to look to find those.
Speaking of knowing things? Archival skills. It’s awesome that you have a printed copy of… well, Wikipedia and the Mayo Clinic site. But even leaving aside that modern paper tends to be acidic, what’ll you do when the black mold gets in? How’re you going to make more copies (where will you get the ink)? If it’s a single huge print-out, who’s going to index this in a useful way now that you can’t just click on a link?
I mean, I am sure there will be workarounds, and I’m not saying a post-apocalyptic setting needs these things, or needs to dwell on them. I am saying it is possibly quite cool to examine the possibilities of developing these things.
There are more, but I really do need to run off and Do Things. I just wanted to note this down while I had a moment.