Ah, late winter/early spring. 'Tis the season for rampant viral outbreaks, and I have succumbed. First honest-to-goodness head cold in I don't even know how long. Of course, the upside of being sick-but-not-too-sick is that you get to catch up on DVDs you've been meaning to watch and do a lot of thinking about imaginary worlds.
More on the latter once I'm feeling up to it (specifically, my take on Rifts Europe), but in the former category I'd like to pass along a hearty recommendation for anyone running any sort of post-apocalyptic game: a History Channel special on DVD that I picked up from the library called Life After People. Yes, obviously a shameless ripoff of the similarly-named book The World Without Us, the TV special nevertheless does a pretty spiffy job of examining what would happen if heretofore inhabited areas suddenly became uninhabited and "the wild" reclaimed planet Earth. All those niggling questions, like what would happen to nuclear power plants or what would New York City look like after a century of neglect, are addressed. The best part is that it does this in discreet installments, starting with intervals of days, then weeks, then years, then decades and into centuries. So no matter how long "after the bomb/virus/whatever" you set your campaign, there's bound to be useful information--both in terms of what has happened and what hasn't. The 90-minute special tells you most of what you need to know about the state of the world after civilization collapses and the CGI graphics--from a GMing standpoint, the major advantage over reading the book--are quite decent, even inspirational at times.
I was pleased to note that my decision to set my version of the world of Rifts a century after the Cataclysm does indeed jive with the level of post-apocalyptic ruin I'm looking for. I was also quite pleased to be reminded that, thanks to zoos, a North America after people would most likely play host to all manner of "exotic" animals (lions, tigers, rhinos, etc.) living, even thriving, in the wild. Oh, and that lap dogs would be among the first domesticated species to die out.