Saturday, November 5, 2011

Zombie Apocalypse Game

I'll admit that the first reaction I had when Goblinoid Games announced Rotworld was "SON OF A BITCH I WAS GOING TO DO A ZOMBIE GAME!!!!!!!"

I quickly calmed down when that little voice in my head said, "haha, yeah, when?"

But looking through the table of contents, I was disappointed to see that it was almost all system. 43 of its 64 pages are system. The Dead Rise and Zombie Creation (another 10 pages) I guess are necessary...

But to me, the heart of a zombie apocalypse game isn't system, it's not even really the zombies. It's finding out what and who's left and how difficult they are to get to and deal with.

Chapter 6: People You Meet (p44-46) and Chapter 9: Corpse Master Tools (p57-61), that's the game in a zombie RPG. "We go there. What's there? Anything useful? How infested is it? Anyone alive? What's their condition and disposition?"

And it's 8 pages out of 64 in the game.

I know it's not fair because I haven't actually read the game, but I can't help but feeling they have it all backwards. Put in a short and sweet system (suitable for "you want to play a zombie game? *BAM* you're ready!" ... and zombie combat pretty much comes down to "Are you surprised? Are you surrounded? If no and no, Are you armed?"), and then tons and tons of support for on-the-fly gaming. Basically a billion and one random charts that cover everything from "what's left in the convenience store?" to "how difficult is it to run I-95 between Jacksonville and St. Augustine?"

Basically the zombie experience is a heaping pile of random encounter charts, reaction rolls, and random treasure charts.

This sounds like I'm challenging myself to do something I don't have any time to do.


  1. I like Rotworld. I liked Chill.

    But the perfect zombie game has already been done; it's All Flesh Must Be Eaten.

    IF I ever play Chill again then yes hands down I'll use Rotworld.

  2. In B/X the "Adventures" section is 4 pages. The "Encounters" section is 6 pages.

  3. "All Things Zombie" by Two Hour Wargames is great also.

  4. I actually did something like what you describe as my entry in a 24-hour RPG challenge. Except it wasn't zombies, it was a world-wide plague. The game was Last Breath, and it got only one playtest; at some point, I'm going to use my copious free time to re-do and finish that game as a more general "mid-apocalypse" disaster game, which could include a zombie apocalypse.

    The key bits are the resource trackers. You have limited food, water, medical and fuel supplies, and the dead bodies piling up reduce sanitation, which is treated as another resource. A zombie game (or a Panic in the Year Zero game) would probably add an ammo resource as well. Also, locating other survivors is an indirect resource, because it builds hope. Gameplay revolves around protecting and increasing those resources, with the GM doing everything possible to threaten those resources.

  5. Sir, you already have published that which you seek!

    Grindhouse Edition + Vornheim makes a fantastic zombie apocalypse sandbox. I used it a month back at a minicon. Hopefully I'll be running it again for the NY redbox guys soonish.

    But I guess you mean a MODERN zombie apocalypse game...

  6. I'd use Chaosium's BRP for the rules then lots and lots of d100 tables.

  7. Maybe this is the perfect chance for you to write a Lamentations Modern RPG, with zombies, nuclear waste, and vehicle rules.

    And lots of tables for things like "What's in the Food Can with No Label" or "Virulent Plagues of Arkansas".