Over the years I’ve only played with a handful of gamesmasters, some of whom have been very good while one or two I haven’t got along with as we have very different ideas and playing styles. I would like to think of myself as a good gm and that is something one of my players was telling me after each session; his feedback was really good and I’ll admit is was something of an ego boost for me.
So it is hard for me to pick out one specific GM and say they are the best overall since each have had their own unique ways of doing things. One of my friends managed to create such a spellbinding atmosphere, it was almost like being hypnotised and we were rudely snapped out of this state when a door in his house suddenly slammed shut; I don’t mind admitting that I jumped out of my seat when that happened!
During the Cyberpunk 184.108.40.206 Night City Blues campaign there was one particular session that really sticks out as I managed to weave two or three sub-plots into a scenario along with the main plot for them to discover and I received some very positive feedback about that.
When it comes to crafting my own scenarios I tend to go with the three act model as this works really well for me and gives room for creation of sub-plots. This style also works if you decide to play a pulp based game and I cribbed plenty of advice from the Lester Dent Master Plot formula, if you haven’t seen it, it’s worth a read and I was able to use this advice to create a random pulp adventure generator. I’d like to share it with you all, but as it’s based upon a few commercial products I can’t as not only would it violate copyright, it could also hurt the sales of them.
It was only a little while ago that I wrote about Zombie infection spread table for Savage Worlds and I gave you a link to an article containing a complex mathematical formula for modelling a zombie outbreak. Since then Alexi Alemi of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York and his colleagues have developed an interactive simulator.
The New Scientist website has a link to the story and also the simulator in question and you can read all about it here: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn27067-zombie-simulator-lets-you-plan-your-own-apocalypse.html#.VPeJL-GQ_KM
One of my guilty pleasures is watching B movies and I’ve had a lot of enjoyment from them and I can’t help sometimes thinking if I could use the film as an inspiration for a game.
Recently I got hold of Chopping Mall a film about a mall that employs robots as night time security. This sparked my creative urge and I wondered what a mall patrolled by robots would look like in a zombie apocalypse scenario.
Empty and patrolled.
In this scenario the mall is controlled by a small group of individuals who have overcome the malls defences before being able to reprogram the massive mainframe computer that governs everything. The security doors are permanently locked and the robots patrol their designated areas but leave the survivors alone while they have their lanyards and identity cards on them.
This means the building is very much abandoned with only the robots moving at night.
The dead walk
The lower level still has the exterior doors locked against intrusion but there are a few dozen zombies wandering the lower level, the upper levels have the robots constantly on patrol; they are able to go down in the lifts when required and the dead leave them along since they aren’t a source of food. There are still humans living here but they don’t go down to the ground level unless it is an emergency.
Everything is under control
In this scenario the outer doors are left unlocked during the day and the robots bring zombies up to the top floor which has been converted into a lab. Here experiments are performed on the dead, including implanting them and turning them into cyberzombies and hooked directly into the mainframe.
These cyberzombies are free to patrol the mall and also venture outside as a robotic drone to gather whatever the controller needs from them.
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This month the Campaign Mastery blog plays host http://www.campaignmastery.com/blog/creeps-up-behind-you/ With A Twist .
Sometimes you need to do something with the characters to keep the players on their toes and throw them an unexpected surprise or two. I may have perpetrated a bait and switch in my time and this is by far one of my favourite techniques to challenge both the players and myself as I have to be prepared for the results of my actions. I don’t do this all the time otherwise it would lose its impact and the players would come to expect it so it would no longer be With A Twist but rather mundane and the norm.
Take the classic damsel in distress, what if the damsel is really an evil character who has charmed or cajoled a dragon into taking her hostage and what if she wants to inveigle herself into a position of power? By having a group of misguided adventurers rescue her she can achieve these goals or some other nefarious plot?
How about an adventure in the fabulous Dream Park or some other similar reality where holographic recreation is an accepted pastime. Having the characters enter a scenario before having it glitch and replaced with an entirely different adventure can cause some people to relish the challenge but you may have a player cry foul and yell for the exit so that they can play something they want to.
I have mentioned before about doing a similar thing with Twilight 2000 and All Flesh Must Be Eaten and this is still an idea I would like to explore with the right group of people. Until then I shall keep working away at my current ideas until something comes of it.
Or All Flesh 2000 🙂
While looking for the pdfs of Dark Conspiracy I got from the Bundle of Holding I came across the pdfs of Twilight 2000 I purchased a little while ago. I bought them with the intention of running it with the group as I thought it may make a change of pace from what we’d being doing beforehand.
Then I remembered what happened the last time we’d try to play it. Jonny Nexus had bought two copies of the first edition Twilight 2000 reprint volume and cut one up as a players guide for us to use and one copy for himself. We proceeded through character creation and my PC was abysmal to say the least, he failed to make any of the front line roles and had to settle for being a mechanic in a support function. We ran through the initial encounter and had started on finding out about Operation Reboot when the game took an unexpected turn for the worst.
I managed to identify the person we were looking for as Jonny had given us his photo from the adventure and left his real name on it and not the alias; which didn’t help; things went from bad to worse after that and we lost interest in this game and it was forgotten about; until Jonny moved.
Rather than shifting stuff he no longer wanted he asked us if there was stuff he had that we wanted and after pawing through his stuff I found the Twilight 2000 books, maps of Poland he’d bought, figures and dice.
With all this stuff in hand and the recently found pdfs I wondered about spinning the game slightly. I was thinking of using the background material I had for Twilight 2000 and combining it with All Flesh Must Be Eaten, so Operation Reboot would have dealt with animating the fallen soldiers and having them fight on.
System vs system.
I propose to use Unisystem to drive things, perhaps with the Band of Zombies book to handle some of the crunchier side. I’m also trying to decide whether or not to use a fixed amount of cash for the players to acquire their starting gear or a package system found in Spycraft or even to allow them to have an amount of equipment based upon their encumbrance thresholds which is how Twilight 2013 does it.
I may not be able to run this with one of the groups but it never hurts to have an idea or two on the back-burner.
Recently someone asked me if I had a “Zombie infection spread table for savage world” and I have to admit that I didn’t, although a smarter person than me has already created a mathematical formula for it:
This equation could spell your doom: (bN)(S/N)Z = bSZ. That is, if you ever found yourself in the midst of a zombie pandemic.
That’s because the calculation describes the rate of zombie transmission, from one walking dead individual to many, according to its creators, Robert J. Smith?, a mathematics professor at the University of Ottawa who spells his name with a “?” at the end, and his students. Smith’s work has inspired other researchers to create zombie mathematical models, which will be published with Smith’s work in the upcoming book, “Mathematical Modeling of Zombies” (University of Ottawa Press, 2014).
The person never asked me why they wanted such a detailed model.
I wouldn’t worry about such a detail as with most survival games I’d pluck a rough figure out of the air and use that to calculate the number of human survivors in an area. For an urban environment I’d say 5% to 10% of the population have survived and go as high as 33% for wilderness areas.
I’ve always felt that the point of a good zombie apocalypse fiction; be it game, book or movie is to have fun and see how long you can survive before you succumb to the inevitable.
If you have any further questions, please comment or contact me and I’ll do my best to answer them!
Have fun and try to stay away from the hordes 🙂
I have lots of games I’d love to play on my shelf but never had the chance to do so.
If there was one game I’d love to play it would have to be All Flesh Must Be Eaten.
Since the first time I saw the ground-breaking Evil Dead movie I have been fascinated with zombies. I was still at school when this banned video nasty appeared and became the hot film to see. I can’t remember how I saw it but I recall it left a very strong impression on my imagination. Years later I got around to seeing the classic film of the genre, George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. While Night lacked the gore of Evil Dead it appealed to me more as the group of people trapped in the farmhouse gives you an insight into what it means to be human and how far would you go to survive.
You could say at that point I was hooked and wanted to try some zombie survival horror gaming but a lack of systems and support for the genre made it a tricky prospect. I had tried beforehand using Call of Cthulhu but I was ultimately disappointed by the end results; CoC is a fantastic system but it didn’t handle things the way I wanted. I even tried using Palladium’s Beyond The Supernatural and this did work better but ultimately I was still unfulfilled.
I remember seeing an advert for All Flesh Must Be Eaten (AFMBE) and I tracked down a copy of the first printing. This piqued my interest as this was probably the first specifically themed zombie based RPG. So I ordered a copy from my FLGS and what I saw impressed me.
The main book is a somewhat unusual size, a smaller edition that a standard game-book with all the rules to play within this one self contained volume; including yet another copy of the Unisystem rules. In my opinion Eden Studios could just publish the Unisystem rule in a single book and release source books that still tie into the setting, something similar to the Savage Worlds books.
Once inside the book presents you with some background fiction which helps set the tone and a brief history of the genre including a discussion of the zombie.
Character creation is fairly detailed and flexible using a point buy system so you can get the sort of survivor you want to play. These points vary depending on whether your character is a “survivor”, “norm” or “enlightened” plus there are also a few archetypes for you to pick up and play with. To round things off there are also a selection of advantages and disadvantages. As this is classic Unisystem there are a number of skills available for selection including the combat skills but also some unusual ones; like Beautician for example.
The mechanics are solid, Unisystem uses a single D10 for resolution and add the result to stat + skill and if the total is nine or more you succeed. Depending on the final total, different success levels are obtained and this can help by allowing you to accomplish tasks faster or deal more damage in combat.
There is also the obligatory chapter with a short list of equipment and weapons to purchase or acquire, although basic it does cover the bases needed to get up and running.
Zombie Masters Section.
The real meat of the game can be found in the game masters section along with the zombie creation rules are the various campaign settings you can play with called rather amusingly: Deadworlds.
Anatomy of a zombie.
This chapter details how to create the zombies that will plague the players, from various weak spots to special abilities; you can design them all. Whether you want the run of the mill shambling mindless flesh eater to some of the exotic zombies from popular video games it’s all here.
Each Deadworld has a write-up and explains what sort of undead can be encountered along with their weaknesses and powers. The standard Romero Deadworld is here with one or two unusual ideas about how the infection spreads; if you’re bored with being bitten then you can have the infection spread as an STI.
For my current campaign I had the players select from the characters in the excellent starter adventure Coffee Break Of The Living Dead, as I wanted to get the game up and running with a minimum of fuss.
Since the success of AFMBE several other games have appeared on the market. I would list them here but I haven’t really had a good chance to read through them all yet.
War of the Dead.
Billed as a campaign epic for Savage Worlds and published by Daring Entertainment it certainly has a lot of meat on the bones. Each chapter is designed to be an evening entertainment and there are thirteen or so chapters to each of the four volumes in the series you have a years’ worth of play ready to go. It shouldn’t take much work to create the various characters in AFMBE and that’s what I plan to do at some point.
If you have a favourite game then why not leave a comment below and I’ll check it out.