The OREZ was created in 2009 when a wave of energy swept over the land, most likely originating at the Graphite Reactor at the ORNL. Nearly everyone was killed in that initial wave, creating a dead zone around Oak Ridge.
Rescue efforts into the zone failed miserably both to the hazards of the zone and the inability to find significant numbers of survivors.
The most major effort in recovery was the Knoxville Recovery Effort. Unfortunately, enough anomalies and zombies plagued the area so as to make true recovery impossible. The whole zone at that point was cordoned off and access granted only to scientists and government officials.
This cordon proved too weak. Within a couple of years it became obvious that people were getting into the area, salvaging its treasures (some with national security value), and selling them.
A second wave emanated in 2011. While not as destructive as the first, this heralded the arrival of Monolith and also most of the horrors that can be found today.
In response the Army tightened the borders and negotiated with the groups already in the area, creating the Exclusion Zone we all know.
The OREZ can be a dangerous place. While factions and other interests control much of the area, the majority is considered wild and hazardous. Any area outside of a controlled zone can be very surprising.
Bizarre anomalies in the fabric of reality plague the landscape. All of the elements are represented and can claim an explorer's life. If spotted, they are easily avoided, but often times the density of anomalies can bar passage. Some fade in time, others appear to be more permanent.
These roving creatures are crazed by the pain of their daily lives. Typically animals (boars, pseudodogs, monorats), humans seem to have been affected as well, sometimes horrifically (snorks, bloodsuckers, pseudogiants).
As far as can be determined, zombies are the result of alien bacteria that affects the central nervous system. While zombies do show some signs of intelligence most scientists believe it is a secondary affect of bacterial control.
The Guard is committed to stopping the expansion of the Zone, maintaining order, and ultimately destroying Monolith. Originally a mercenary organization funded by the US Government, their mission has evolved and those ties have been severed (although not completely some would say).
The Guard has clashed with the Army on occasion, which does underscore this separation, and they clash all the time with Freedom, whose hippie liberal ranks wish to simply coexist with the zone. About the only thing Guard and Freedom agree upon is that Monolith is bad.
These areas have a much stronger paramilitary presence. It is relatively safe, but most Explorers don't use it as a base camp unless they are aligned with The Guard or have too many enemies in the null zones.
The Knoxville Guardianship is the headquarters of all Guard activity.
This area is a strong protectorate by the forces of Freedom. Freedom's purpose is to ensure the pursuit of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness even in the Zone. They maintain a tenuous peace with the Guard, although the two often clash over territory and objectives.
The Wartburg Freeland is the headquarters for all Freedom activities. Liberty is the nominal HQ.
Monolith represent the forces that protect the purity of the zone. They are fanatically loyal to the Monolith - the rumored source of the Zone and all of its environmental effects.
Most key entries into this area (bridges, cuts, roads, etc.) are monitored if not guarded by Monolith soldiers. Where possible, Monolith has made an effort to make such entry impassible if not by foot, at least by vehicle.
It is unclear where Monolith receives its supplies. When questioned, Monolith soldiers only say, "Monolith Provides".
It is also unclear why Monolith soldiers can freely operate in the Hazard Zone.
The Exclusion Zone is maintained by the US Army in an effort to contain the Zone and its effects. It is highly successful.
- Primary defense is an electrified double fence.
- Secondary defense is a 20m field of mines between the two fences.
This is supported by guard towers every 500 meters, which are generally unmanned but act as surveillance points
The outer perimeter is supported by dog runs and a rugged patrol road.
Additionally, air support is available, although no air platform has successfully flown over the Monolith area.
Even entering the perimeter of this area will give the trespasser headaches. No one has penetrated this area.
This area is actively contested by multiple factions, including Monolith. There can be found many outposts of these factions, including even small settlements.
This is what Freedom is fighting for. This area was too rugged to be segmented by the exclusion zone so it had to be incorporated. Anomalies, mutants, and other hazards exist here, but with far less frequency. It is the only area that can be considered both wild and relatively safe.
Freedom some day hopes to use this to provide a safe haven for those committed to liberty. If the OREZ is someday safe, perhaps Freedom can maintain independence as a free city-state.
This is the only Army presence that extends into the zone. The gate is maintained primarily to ensure Army access to the zone should it ever be necessary.
No civilian traffic is allowed, although rumors abound that Guard affiliates pass through here from time to time.
A small camp of 20 or so regulars, there is a small trading post and often some small opportunities for rookie explorers.
There is a small bridge here that is passable to foot traffic although it is Guard controlled.
The primary trader contact in Laurel is "Smitty". He will sell Basic gear to anyone with trade, and can will offer Standard gear to those who earn his trust.
This area is one of the few Monolith controlled regions that non-monolith people can visit. It is hostile and generally unsafe. It's primary purpose is to recruit more Monolith soldiers and if you ask the right questions you may learn the secret of entering the city without being killed.
Rumor has it the secret can be learned somewhere in the Oak Ridge Null Zone but why would you want to become a Monolith fanatic?
One of the few prosperous non-aligned settlements, the Oakdale Freemarket is a bustling center of commerce. No weapon-play is allowed in the town limits, punishable by expulsion and censor.
Gate 1 (Knoxville)
This is the primary entrance to the Zone. Most explorers entered through here during the Knoxville reclamation effort (failed).
A handful come through each day, although most return within the three day amnesty period, having discovered, most likely via unscrupulous "businessmen", that life in the Zone isn't the glamorous wasteland Hollywood makes it out to be.
Gate 2 (Lake City Gate)
While the gate exists, and is manned, everyone knows that passage is almost always blocked due to some security concern or another.
Gate 3 (Freedom Gate)
This is the most popular entrance for would be Explorers. However, few who reach the gate are allowed to pass - the beaurocracy seems to overwhelm the process most of the time.
The primary flow through this gate, as a result, is outward only. Those who leave are documented and rarely allowed to reenter.
Gate 4 (Harriman Gate)
Next to Knoxville, this is the busiest gate. Busy means maybe 1 or 2 enter each week.
The biggest advantage of this gate is access (I-40), Rockwood for supplies, and direct access to both Freedom and Guard zones.
Gate 5 (Ft. Loudon Gate)
No civilian traffic allowed.
Gate 6 (Lenoire City)
CLOSED. This gate is no longer in service, although there is a constant Army presence here.
The bridge is known to be wired and there is no easy crossing available.
Gate A (Kingston Gate)
NOT OPERATIONAL. Guard is actively trying to build their own gate presence, and rumor has it they are in negotiations with the US Government to maintain and operate such a facility. It is not online as of yet, and all Army security measures are still in force.