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[WotD] Ongoing game report - Spoilers alert
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Wibbs
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 10, 2012 11:41 am    Post subject: [WotD] Ongoing game report - Spoilers alert Reply with quote

Hey all,

I've been running War of the Dead for a while now, and am currently a little into Chapter 2. I've recently started keeping a summary of what happens each session, and as various other people have done, thought it might be good to share my experiences.

Needless to say, this thread will contain a lot of spoilers as the story progresses.

The Characters

Donald Peterson

Before the world fell apart Donald had had a reasonably successful country and western career, though more recently he was reduced to working the cruise ship circuit. He spent a lot of his money on fast cars, and is more than a little useful around a race track. He's vain, selfish and a coward and most people other than his fans don't like him at all, and throughout the story he has looked at every situation purely to see what personal gain he can get out of it.

Victor Rowan

A South African with experience in the special forces, Victor was plying his trade as a security officer on the Pinnacle when it all kicked off. He's tough, heroic and loyal, with an ugly scar down one side of his face. The injuries he sustained earlier in his life took their toll, and Victor is only just starting to regain confidence in his physical and mental ability to do his job. As the story has progressed he has found himself increasingly thrust into a leadership role he is really not comfortable with.

Dr. Josh Miller

Dr. Miller served his time in the Vietnam War, and is quiet and very cautious in everything he does. He was working on the Pinnacle as one of the ship's doctors, and is keen to get to Colorado to see if his brother and family are still alive.

Hugo Bartolemu

Hugo was brought up on a farm, and a combination of curiousity and boredom quickly led to him learning how to find his way around anything mechanical. In adult life though he became something of a drifter with no real goal or ambitions, and started to resort to petty theft in order to get a little money. The world and the way it has changed might just have stopped his descent into more and more serious crimes, and he has finally found a place for his skills amongst the survivors he meets.

General Comments

Victor, Donald and Dr. Miller have been with the group since the very start, whilst Hugo's player only joined about half way through the first chapter - the group found him holed up in one of the bombed out buildings in Jacksonville whilst they were on the way to the supermarket for supplies. There have been a few other characters/players that have come and gone, including a cop, businesswoman and pot head, and the only death so far has been the aforementioned cop, who had her ankle bitten off by a zombie.

I think the campaign has worked really well so far, and has led to all of the characters being well rounded and complex. There is definate tension within the group, particularly between Donald and Victor, which I have a distinct feeling will come to a head as the second chapter progresses.
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Jordan Peacock
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 10, 2012 12:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That sounds like an interesting cast of characters. I'll be curious to hear more about how the campaign has been going. I'm having trouble remembering, but I think you mentioned something about transplanting your campaign to the UK, right? (Or am I mixing that up with someone else's campaign?)
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Wibbs
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 10, 2012 1:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I had considered setting it in the UK at one point, but eventually decided against it.
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Wibbs
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 10, 2012 3:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Preamble to the first session summary...

For those of you not familiar with the War of the Dead campaign, so far the characters have:

Chapter 1
- Sunk a cruise ship where they first encountered the zombies knowing that significant numbers of people onboard were still alive. This decision caused the first inter-party conflict that ended with guns being drawn and all sorts of other fun.
- Washed up on the North Carolina coast where they discovered the infection was world wide.
- Made enemies of a group of bikers led by a guy called Helle Fuerrie, involving a stand-off with Victor threatening to blow everyone up with two grenades he was holding.
- Got to Jacksonville just as it fell to a massive horde of zombies, and found out that the safest place to head for would be Citizen Relocation Zones out towards Colorado. They also learnt that most cities were no-go areas.
- Got taken in by people at a nearby church, who promptly all died bar one 9 year old kid called Samantha Hickman.
- Got chased by some bikers again.
- Got involved with a seemingly nice town that was actually being run by nasty men feeding the populance to zombies they were experimenting on to try and find a cure, which they intended to sell to the highest bidder. It was here that Donald found out that he and Samantha were both immune. Interestingly he chose not to pass this information on to anyone else in the party.
- Escaped the town as it fell to zombies.

That all took around a month in game time. Between chapter 1 and 2 another month passes, and it is assumed the characters are now travelling on foot with almost no supplies, food, ammo etc.

Chapter 2
- Found a gated community with seemingly no zombies inside. Broke in a searched through a couple of the houses, nearly getting eaten by a newborn.

House Rules and Other Changes
- Players cannot benny a critical fail
- Players succeeding with 3 or more raises get some narrative control
- Newborns have been beefed up considerably and made into Wild Cards. I have also tweaked the encounters to make them much rarer as a result. I believe either Ferret or Jordan originally came up with this idea, and its worked great. The players are genuinely terrified whenever I even hint that one might be around Very Happy
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 10, 2012 3:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Session Summary

Meet the Murrays

The session starts with the group approaching a house in the gated community cautiously, as they'd noticed 'non-undead' movement inside. They were met at the door by a scared, desperate woman pointing a shotgun at them.

After some quick explanations as to who they were, helped significantly by the presence of Samantha, they convinced the woman and her husband that they meant no harm. The couple introduced themselves as Caitlin and Jeff Murray, who had two children, Barbara and Selina. They were also on their way towards Colorado, and as the conversation flowed and everyone got to know eachother, they shared some of the supplies they had.

Overnight small numbers of undead gathered outside the walls of the community, and a decision was quickly made that the group needed to move on, with the Murray's in tow. By the time supplies had been gathered though, it was too late to go that day, so they waited until daybreak.

During the wait the group investigated another of the houses they'd noticed earlier, finding a small workshop in the basement. After dispatching the two shufflers there they helped themselves to various useful tools. Hugo fashioned a couple of stink bombs from various household products designed to mask their trail from the undead, and also used his newly acquired tools to permanently fix knives to shotguns to be used as bayonets.

The next morning they set off after using their last molotov cocktail to take out as many of the horde that had gathered outside the walls as possible. This also acted as a good distraction generally, and meant that they were able to make their escape over the back wall unhindered. Donald then used some of his old dirty clothes to lay a false trail in an attempt to hinder any following them.

Arrival at Hirschbeck Estates

A couple of hours of walking showed that Caitlin was more than comfortable with her gun and the general situation (unusual for a stay at home mum), and saw the group happen upon a small, rural community that from a distance appeared to be continuing a relatively normal life. Solar panels were on most of the houses, and adults and children were outside enjoying the day. To one side of this was a large, modern church, and the other was a small abandoned farm.

The group were met by a party of four horsemen, suspicious as to what they were doing. Again, the presence of children in the group helped significantly to convince them that they meant no harm. They were then led back into the community and introduced to its leader, James Caden, and the priest, Father Kenneth.

James, a former fire fighter, explained that the community was largely self sufficient, living on venison from the surrounding forest, and taking some supplies from a nearby population centre. Although there had been some attempts by a nearby raider base to attack them, these had not yet been successful. Venison burgers were prepared by Father Kenneth, and the group had their first warm showers for over 2 months. Fresh fitted clothes were also found, and people generally started to relax. However, a request by Jeff Murray for cigarettes showed a lot of tension between him and Caitlin.

After a good nights rest at the farm, the group breakfasted on fresh eggs before being introduced to Michael Rhodes, a retired policemen in charge of the community's security. It was proposed that he took them on a hunting trip for venison to show the community that the group could be trusted. This was agreed, and they set off armed with hunting rifles.

The trip was successful, wiith Donald and Hugo downing two large deer. However, Victor also noticed the presence of a large group of undead. Luckily, he was alert enough so that they were able to hide rather than facing them in combat. It was also established that the undead were not heading directly for the community, but given the creatures' tendency to move in larger groups it was decided to head back and tell James of their find as soon as possible.

Assisting the Community

In a meeting with James, Father Kenneth and Michael, Victor was asked to assist with the border patrols, whilst Hugo formed part of a scouting group that headed of to see if there were any larger hordes in the vicinity. Dr Miller was asked to assist with Father Kenneth's general day to day duties, and Donald to help with the community's general morale.

On the way back to the community, Donald was approached by John Cardilles, a young boy who wanted to suprise his mother, a huge fan of Donald's music. After finding an acoustic guitar, Donald went and had coffee and a sing with Jenny and her three children. Despite a rather awkward start, people quickly relaxed, and Donald heard that Jenny's husband had been lost early in the outbreak. Towards the end of things, she hinted to Donald, rather embarrassed, that she might like to meet with him later when the kids were in bed.

Dr. Miller was called upon later in the day when a man on one of the patrols accidentally stepped on an old bear trap. After a quick assessment he decided that amputation would be necessary given the seriousness of the break and the amount of dirt in the wound. He was assisted by Father Kenneth and Victor, and despite nearly losing his patient the operation was successful.

Victor spent some time with the communities patrols, and identified a number of areas where they could change their practice to make them more efficient. The men also got a morale boost from being spoken to by a man who was clearly experienced in his field.

The community then heard some bad news on a small radio, which had picked up a transmission from someone claiming to have seen the Vice President's plane crashed, with him dead and having turned into one of the creatures. This significantly lowered the mood, but there was still a sense of hope that the President and military might still have made it.

Meanwhile, Hugo, who had left on the scouting mission earlier in the day, showed his stealth skills and perception, and was quickly trusted by his team. Unfortunately, he went on to discover a large horde of hundreds of undead heading straight towards the community and approximately 48 hours away.

Incoming Raiders

The peace was then shattered by James' walkie-talkie, with reports of six Jeeps and twenty four raiders incoming.

GM Comments

- The group have given each type of zombie their own names, shufflers being the shamblers in the book.
- I decided to make the exit from the gated community a bit tougher than as it is written to give some of the characters with non-combat skills a bit of a challenge. I thought the stink bombs and false trail ideas were excellent, and they were justly rewarded.
- I like giving the players alternatives to combat, particularly against zombies, as there are many such situations in the game. The hunting trip is one example of this. Victor's Notice roll was so high that I ruled he would have seen them in plenty of time to avoid having to fight them.
- I fleshed out the story in Hirshbeck estates considerably, adding individual challenges and uses of skills for each character. I think this worked really well, particularly Donald's romantic relationship with Jenny Cardilles, as it helped give later plot developments a real emotional punch.
- Dr. Miller's player has built a reputation for critical fails every time he is in the spotlight, and did not disappoint in this session when trying to stabilise the man with the bear trap around his leg. However, he was incredibly lucky rolling for the man's Vigor with a -6 penalty and still succeeding Smile


Last edited by Wibbs on Wed Apr 11, 2012 3:14 am; edited 1 time in total
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Jordan Peacock
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 10, 2012 4:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wibbs wrote:
- The group have given each type of zombie their own names, shufflers being the shamblers in the book.


Cool! That makes sense, really, as even if the term "zombie" were common, there's definitely a need to distinguish between the various types encountered -- but it also provides an interesting way for the players to leave their mark on the setting, in a way.

Wibbs wrote:
- I decided to make the exit from the gated community a bit tougher that it is written to give some of the characters with non-combat skills a bit of a challenge. I thought the stink bombs and false trail ideas were excellent, and they were justly rewarded.


Pretty neat ideas, actually. Smile

Wibbs wrote:
- I like giving the players alternatives to combat, particularly against zombies, as there are many such situations in the game.


Great idea, I think. I figure that if the heroes go to an effort to bypass an encounter, the encounter still provided a challenge. (Plus, the fact that the heroes AVOID encounters with zombies when possible, rather than just gleefully charging into combat, underscores that the PCs see zombies as genuine threats -- which is as things SHOULD be in a horror setting.)

Sounds like a great campaign!
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Wibbs
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 11, 2012 7:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Session Summary


Raider Attack

With a group of raiders fast approaching Hirshbeck Estates, the party had to act fast, and quickly got the community militia together. A decision was made to move non-combatent residents to the church, overseen by Father Kenneth. The party (minus Hugo who was still out scouting), James Caden, Caitlin and Jeff Murray and 12 militia were then divided into four groups.

Victor led one group to some farm out-buildings where the lay prone on the roofs acting as spotters. Another group was taken by Donald to hide in the tree line. The last two groups were led by James and the Doctor, hiding in and on the last buildings overlooking the overgrown fields.

It wasn't long before the sound of the approaching jeeps was heard, and they quickly came into view. It was also clear from their approach that the raiders were not going to try to be stealthy. They moved in groups of 4 across and around the field closest to the community's homes, and the plan was to cut them to pieces from four directions as all the hiding groups opened fire.

Victor made the call, and his group shot first getting a suprise round. This was extremely effective, dropping a number of the raiders before they had even had a chance to react. The subsequent firefight was as brutal as it was short. The raiders panicked, trapped in a four way crossfire, and the tactic of picking off those at the back proved effective in disorientating them, particularly when their fallen comrades started rising as shufflers.

Three prisoners were taken, as well as the six valuable jeeps, twenty four M16's and large amounts of ammunition. One of the three, who had fallen in with the raiders and found himself unable to escape once he'd realised the type of people they were, decided to switch sides after Dr. Miller healed him. The other two were less cooperative, and after a short discussion, it was decided to keep them as prisoners until Michael Rhodes returned from his scouting mission.

The community celebrated their victory, breaking into the limited supply of alcohol, and spirits were generally high.

Tragedy with the Cardilles

Later that evening, Donald met up with Jenny Cardilles and they did what couples do having arranged for her children to sleep over at a friends. At around the same time, Victor and Dr Miller witnessed a row between the Murrays after Jeff jokingly suggested they might see whether the raiders were better situated to hook up with.

The night was interrupted by a loud female scream, followed by constant wailing. By the time everyone had got to the source a large crowd had gathered outside the house where the Cardilles children were staying. The scream had come from the seven year old child Cathy, who had witnessed their father returning as a shuffler and killing the youngest. John Jr., the eldest, had been listening to music, whilst the woman looking after them had fallen asleep. Jenny and Cathy were in pieces, but John Jr. immediately withdrew, blaming himself for the tragedy.

The father/shuffler was dragged into an open area, tied to a stake and covered in lighter fluid. James was about to set him on fire, but was interrupted by John Jr. who very quietly insisted it should be him that did the deed. Meanwhile Father Kenneth, Dr. Miller and Victor had the job of dealing with the small child, who would soon reanimate. Few people slept that night, and Donald stayed up to make sure the rest of the Cardilles family were OK. However, Jenny had already made it clear that she wanted some time alone, so this had to be done from a distance.

The next morning saw the funeral of the child, which was attended by the entire community. Part way through Hugo returned with Michael Rhodes and news of the approach horde no more than 48 hours away. A meeting was immediately called which the group were invited to attend.

Community Meeting

After some discussion, James revealed their plan to evacuate the community to Fayetteville, a city approximately 20 miles north of them where a group of survivors had established a safe area. They also explained that this was the source of the community's supplies. Discussion turned to possible uses of the jeeps, and ways of ensuring the approaching horde would no follow their scent. Before any decisions were made, the meeting was interrupted by a knock at the door, and the man who entered looked at the group with a grim face - "It's the Cardilles".

GM Comments

- The whole point of the fight with the raiders was to give the players the chance to take part in a largish scale skirmish, and there were around 24 people on each side. Given Victor's work with the community's defences, I ruled that they would have more notice than normal of the attack and also gave them quite specific details of the force they would be facing. The tactics the group chose were absolutely spot on, and to be honest it was completely one sided. I was keen to emphasise the untrained/uncoordinated nature of the opposition, and thought it appropriate that their tactics were minimal and that they were easy to break. It also helped to reinforce the power of the characters if they use sensible tactics in combat, something I'd had problems with earlier in the campaign.
- Donald's reaction to the loss of the Cardilles' child was suprising. Up until this point he had been selfish, vain and unpleasant, but this incident seemed to draw out a little bit of humanity. Victor and Dr. Miller volunteered to help prepare for the funeral without being asked, which was also really pleasing.
- The community meeting was my first opportunity to raise issues around justice and crime, and what these meant given that society had effectively collapsed. As these themes will come to the foreground through the rest of this chapter, I was really pleased that it provoked some really interesting discussion between the characters and some excellent roleplaying.
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Jordan Peacock
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 11, 2012 8:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wibbs wrote:
I was keen to emphasise the untrained/uncoordinated nature of the opposition, and thought it appropriate that their tactics were minimal and that they were easy to break. It also helped to reinforce the power of the characters if they use sensible tactics in combat, something I'd had problems with earlier in the campaign.


That makes sense. This is still fairly early on in the "Apocalypse," so I can really see a case where a bunch of thugs get a bunch of guns and basically get easy pickings on various scared survivors, thanks to the advantage of being the aggressors (you get to pick where/when your attack happens, and defenders can't be on full alert 24/7), and the likelihood that other groups didn't get such a lucky break ... and then, hey, they run into some solid opposition, aren't prepared for it, and get creamed. I'm a firm believer that in a "realistic" campaign, not all fights should be "fair" -- and I especially want to reward my players when they really get into the tactics and such rather than going for dumb slug-fests.

Wibbs wrote:
- Donald's reaction to the loss of the Cardilles' child was suprising. Up until this point he had been selfish, vain and unpleasant, but this incident seemed to draw out a little bit of humanity.


One thing about this particular episode I'm wondering about: How did you deal with the matter of HOW the zombie father got in? From the way the scenario was written, it struck me as a little ambiguous what had happened. I suppose it's not critical, as basically an NPC goes off to investigate the breach in the defenses and "deals with it" off camera.

(Chapter 2, Week 2, p. 10, second paragraph. "James isn’t seen for over an hour. When he finally returns, the characters overhear him mention to another resident that they’ll have to replace the north border guard tomorrow. Nothing else is said on the matter, and James won’t answer any questions.")

Was the north border guard dead, killed by the zombie father, and James discovered that? Or did James go pay a visit to the incompetent north border guard and either kill him or beat him to a pulp, hence the need to "replace the north border guard tomorrow"? Or something else? I'm not quite sure what to take from this, and even if James "won't answer any questions," it seems to beg the question of who's guarding that border right now, and what any PCs might find if they decide to investigate.

I suppose I could just fill in the blanks for my own game, but I was curious how others were reading that particular passage.

Also, I'm not sure, but I'm guessing you skipped the attack by 18 Living Dead (mentioned in the right column on p. 10)? (It sounds like there was plenty going on already, so it seems reasonable enough to leave that part out. Wink )

And ... ouch. If this progresses as written, it looks like things are likely to turn nasty for Donald. (One thing that occurs to me is that if Donald has been personally involved with Jenny, I'd be tempted to give him a sense that SOMETHING IS WRONG about this picture, when the next scene occurs ... but the problem is, that might run the risk of "derailing" events a little too early, so I'm not sure.)

I'm eager to find out how you deal with what comes next. Week 3 is something that I thought would be a real challenge to run properly. There are so many events to happen, with the big assumption that the PCs won't throw a spanner into the works at some point.
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Wibbs
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 11, 2012 9:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jordan Peacock wrote:
One thing about this particular episode I'm wondering about: How did you deal with the matter of HOW the zombie father got in? From the way the scenario was written, it struck me as a little ambiguous what had happened. I suppose it's not critical, as basically an NPC goes off to investigate the breach in the defenses and "deals with it" off camera.

The way I was prepared to explain it in my campaign was that one of the border guards had taken some alcohol away with him from the celebration after dealing with the raiders and let his concentration slip. But to be honest, I didn't think it was that much of a stretch to imagine that a single zombie travelling alone might get slip through their defences anyway, which turned out to be what the players assumed had happened. This meant that I was able to drop the explanation and resultant confrontation between James and whoever let the zombie through completely.

Jordan Peacock wrote:
Also, I'm not sure, but I'm guessing you skipped the attack by 18 Living Dead (mentioned in the right column on p. 10)? (It sounds like there was plenty going on already, so it seems reasonable enough to leave that part out. Wink )

As will become clear in the next session summary, I rejigged the order of events in the next part of the story a little, and the zombie attack happens later than its written to in the book to help fill what I thought was a slight hole in the plot.

Jordan Peacock wrote:
And ... ouch. If this progresses as written, it looks like things are likely to turn nasty for Donald. (One thing that occurs to me is that if Donald has been personally involved with Jenny, I'd be tempted to give him a sense that SOMETHING IS WRONG about this picture, when the next scene occurs ... but the problem is, that might run the risk of "derailing" events a little too early, so I'm not sure.)

I didn't really have to highlight things being wrong at all - Donald's player jumped to all sorts of conclusions that I was more than happy to let him believe Laughing. He portrayed the conflict between his selfish side and his feelings towards Jenny really well, which gave me almost nothing to do as GM.

Jordan Peacock wrote:
I'm eager to find out how you deal with what comes next. Week 3 is something that I thought would be a real challenge to run properly. There are so many events to happen, with the big assumption that the PCs won't throw a spanner into the works at some point.

Week three was certainly........interesting, and the players did indeed derail things. Luckily I was able to think on my feet sufficiently to keep things moving in broadly the right direction. I ran this part of the adventure last week, and should have the write up ready to go tomorrow. Then I'll be up to date with where the group actually is, with sessions every other week.
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 12, 2012 6:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thoughts on Planning for Week 3

As Jordan commented in a previous post, an awful lot happens in week three of chapter 2, and the way it's written makes it very brittle if players do something unexpected. The approach I took was to identify the things that absolutely must happen no matter what, which eventually turned out to be:

- John Cardilles Jr. attacks and seriously injuring someone important. As written this is specified as James Caden, but I could see no reason why it shouldn't be someone else depending on the circumstances.

- A discussion takes place where the issue of how to deal with people who are beyond help and who become a danger to others as a result is considered. I felt this was important because it draws on themes started in the previous week, and sets things up for a number of difficult decisions that will need to be made during the rest of the chapter.

- Final agreement on plans for the evacuation, preferably as part of a community meeting.

- John Jr. escaping and attacking Jeff Murray. This event is absolutely essential as it acts as the catalyst for Jeff leaving the community with the children.

- Jeff drugs Caitlin and takes the kids away from the community. I thought long and hard as to whether this was essential to the plot, and at one point I decided to ditch the whole section where the PC's rescue the kids from the raider base. My issue was how Jeff would get away with three small children without someone noticing either in the community itself or as part of one of the border patrols. I eventually decided to keep it in, as depending on how the characters act during the childrens' rescue, Donald's decision not to tell anyone that he and Samantha are both immune could very easily lead to her being killed by a mistake if he is not there at the time. Even if he is there then its going to create a very tense situation between him and the rest of the group, and I felt that this was too good an opportunity to miss. In order to justify Jeff not being spotted, I decided to move the minor zombie attack that should have happened earlier in the story to coincide with Jeffs escape, as I reasoned that this would provide a sufficient distraction for him to be able to get away.

With all of the above events, I tried very hard to make them as location and time neutral as possible, so that they could be moved around depending on the players' actions.
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 12, 2012 8:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wibbs wrote:
Thoughts on Planning for Week 3


I love these sorts of insights. Smile It's enlightening to see how someone else runs an adventure, but especially so to see how one goes about planning for it. Prioritizing elements is a great idea. Honestly, I don't know how I would have been able to run WOTD if I'd played it as it released. There's a lot that happens that you only realize is essential once you see a few "weeks" down the line where it comes into play again.

Wibbs wrote:
- A discussion takes place where the issue of how to deal with people who are beyond help and who become a danger to others as a result is considered.


Right. That's something that seems essential for any post-apocalyptic survivor group to deal with eventually. Do you leave it to some hot-head trigger-happy self-appointed "enforcer" type to just blow the brains out of anyone who's a "liability"? (A la the TV version of "Walking Dead" ... or what tended to happen in my own group over the protests of others.) Or, is some sort of "trial" in order, or just a "group vote"? And if there's a vote, do some votes count more than others?

I think it's a fascinating conundrum, especially if any group decides to go the "democratic" route, it could introduce some new and disturbing dynamics to the matter of adding any new members to the group (since they might have entirely different priorities than the original core group). Plus, there are other matters to consider such as personal property vs. sharing (a factor that can complicate things if you decide your only option is to "vote with your feet" and bail out of the group; the rest of the group might decide that the nice, useful gun & ammo you've been carrying is too valuable to the group for you to take with you ... or maybe that your SKILL as a doctor is too valuable so you're not ALLOWED to leave).

I never really got into that with my particular group, since it took a hard left turn right toward the end of Chapter 1, thus we missed most of the "group dynamic." So until I manage to round up another zombie campaign group, I'll just have to live vicariously through others' WOTD reports post-chapter-1. ;D

Wibbs wrote:
- John Jr. escaping and attacking Jeff Murray. This event is absolutely essential as it acts as the catalyst for Jeff leaving the community with the children.


Good point. I think Ferret ended up engineering a different version of this, with separate motivations for Jeff. Basically, he ended up presenting the raiders as less overtly hostile, more "reasonable," but with underlying bad vibes that the PCs could still pick up on. (I.e., they really WERE bad guys, but at first presented enough of a veneer of respectability that Jeff could more plausibly think that going over to them was a GOOD IDEA.)

Wibbs wrote:
- Jeff drugs Caitlin and takes the kids away from the community. I thought long and hard as to whether this was essential to the plot, and at one point I decided to ditch the whole section where the PC's rescue the kids from the raider base.


I'd be tempted in that way, too. At least for my own campaign, I'd need to significantly alter the episode, since I'd drastically altered the role of "Samantha," and I didn't want to turn her into "the useless sidekick who gets kidnapped every week" -- especially since if it happened too often, the PCs would likely get wise to it and NEVER LET HER OUT OF THEIR SIGHT, thus complicating further attempts to stick to the adventure as written, for the NEXT inevitable kidnapping.

Anyway, great call with repositioning the zombie attack, so it serves as a distraction. It's a bit "convenient" for Jeff, but it's not like the guy keeps getting lucky breaks; his luck definitively runs out pretty soon afterward.
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 12, 2012 9:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jordan Peacock wrote:
I think it's a fascinating conundrum, especially if any group decides to go the "democratic" route, it could introduce some new and disturbing dynamics to the matter of adding any new members to the group (since they might have entirely different priorities than the original core group). Plus, there are other matters to consider such as personal property vs. sharing (a factor that can complicate things if you decide your only option is to "vote with your feet" and bail out of the group; the rest of the group might decide that the nice, useful gun & ammo you've been carrying is too valuable to the group for you to take with you ... or maybe that your SKILL as a doctor is too valuable so you're not ALLOWED to leave).


Hmmm, some interesting ideas I hadn't thought of there, particularly around people being forced to stay if they have essential skills Twisted Evil

Okay, I'm afraid the next update is a long one....

Session Summary

Unfortunately Hugo's player was unable to make this session. Given how lethal this setting can be, my general rule is that absent players just fade into the background unless there is a very clear, obvious way of explaining why they aren't taking part in what's going on.

The Cardilles' Implode

The group carried on where they left off last time, in the middle of a meeting with the community leaders to discuss evacuation of Hirschbeck Estates. However, they were interrupted by a man at the door, saying simply "Its the Cardilles'".

Making their way across to the resident housing they found a crowd had already gathered outside the Cardilles' house, and could hear the sound of a child screaming. Once inside the house the found a horrific scene in one of the bedrooms. It appeared that Jenny Cardilles had taken her own life, and then when she had turned into a zombie, John Jr. had put her down for good with a hammer. The group found him standing over the body with a hammer and a knife in each hand.

Cathy, John's seven year old sister, was quickly whisked away by Father Kenneth, and a duvet was placed over the body. The group then attempted to calm John Jr., trying to persuade him to put down the weapons he was holding after he stated far too calmly, "I had to do it, there was one of those things inside her."

As he was approached by the group something snapped inside his head, and his face filled with a demonic look of hate as he screamed, launching himself at James Caden. Luckily Donald was quick enough to intercept him, and managed to pin his arms to his side. After a short scuffle the group was able to tie the teenager to a bed. James then ordered guards at the front and back of the house, and the group followed him back to the church to continue their meeting, which now had an additional item on the agenda.

This was the first deviation from the story as written, where John Jr. is supposed to attack and badly injure James before anyone can react. I thought this was unfair on the players and altered the scene so their interruption of his attack was possible. This then caused a problem of how to get John to injure someone else though...

A Community Meeting

There was a lot of discussion about what to do with John Cardilles, given that society as they had known it no longer existed and there simply weren't the resources or expertise to even try to rehabilitate him - Victor, Dr. Miller and Father Kenneth had seen soldiers respond in similar ways on the battlefield and given the severity of his reaction, doubted that he would ever be able to return to normal. It was agreed that in the short term he would be sedated, but that the final decision would be put to a full community vote. Father Kenneth made his apologies and left the meeting to do this.

My cunning plan was for John Jr. to attack and badly injure Father Kenneth whilst the characters were still in the meeting. This would have the added benefit of making Dr. Miller's healing skills even more important to the community, as he would become the only trained doctor left standing. Twisted Evil

Next up for discussion were the two raiders they had captured, and it was decided that they would be kept alive until they became a threat to the community as a whole, in case their presence could help in some way during the evacuation.

Finally the evacuation itself was addressed. There was considerable discussion around the logistics of moving 50 people and sufficient supplies so as to not burden their destination, and it was agreed that both the horses and jeeps would be used, with those unable to walk the distance being driven ahead of the rest of the residents. Beyond this would depend on the precise situation as it unfolded.

This discussion went really well. I had to work hard to get across that John Jr. was a serious threat given that he hadn't actually hurt anyone yet though. Luckily, I was able to use Victor and Dr. Miller's background in the forces to indicate that from their experience people like him have little to no chance of being reintegrated in society.

John Cardilles' Jr Escapes...

The group were dispatched to inform the community that a full meeting would be held. Whilst doing this a loud shot was heard from the direction of the Cardilles house. Looking over, the group saw a shuffler grappling with one of the guards at the front door whilst those from the back rushed round to help.

Dr Miller and Donald attempted to help, and were shocked when one of the guards accidently shot and killed the guard being grappled with a shotgun. After recovering from this, they quickly put the shuffler down, and raced inside to try to locate Father Kenneth.

Meanwhile, Victor had moved to the rear of the house, fearing that it was no longer guarded. He was greeted with the sight of John Cardilles Jr. racing across the overgrown fields towards the farmhouse where Jeff Murray and the kids were staying.

Despite valiant efforts to catch up he only managed to reach the house a little after John had entered, and found him wrestling with Jeff on the floor, both covered in blood. A swift and very effective rifle but to the back of the head put John out cold and Victor sent the guards who had followed him over to get medical help urgently for Jeff as he stayed with the three children.

I pretty much knew in advance that Victor's player would work out the back exit was unguarded, so gave John Jr. Fleet Footed so he could get to Jeff before Victor caught up.

Back at the Cardilles house Donald and Dr. Miller found Father Kenneth bleeding to death in one of the bedrooms. The doctor was able to stabilise him and then arranged for a mattress to be used as a temporary stretcher. He was then transported to the church whilst the doctor ran over to Victor's aid at the farm house. Donald went back to talk to James Caden and make him aware of the situation. On hearing what was happening, Caitlin also ran across to the farm to protect her children.

...And is Dealt With

It was decided to move John to one of the farm outbuildings well away from the community, and he was left bound and heavily guarded. Caitlin stayed with the kids at the farmhouse whilst Jeff was stabilised and then moved to the church with Father Kenneth, where they were both tended to by Dr. Miller. Donald, seeing that both Michael and James were well out of their depth and failing to lead the community, took over coordinating the plans for the evacuation.

John eventually woke up, and Victor and Dr. Miller were called across to assist. It quickly became clear that he had lost his mind, and he admitted to killing his mother and setting the scene to look like she had committed suicide. The maniacal grin on his face as he said this was extremely disturbing, and Michael and James took the conversation about what to do with him outside and out of his earshot. Over in the community, Donald had his hands full with a splinter group forming a lynch mob who were after John's blood. He managed to delay them before going across to make the others aware of the developing situation.

Once he was there, Donald was left guarding John whilst the others continued their conversation about what to do with him. Unfortunately, John made Donald aware of the fact that he had killed his mother, the woman who had become romantically involved with Donald the night before. Donald reacted instinctively, firing his shotgun twice; once to John's torso and the other to his head. Michael and James could not handle the fact that a teenager had been killed in cold blood whilst bound while in their care, and walked away. Victor on the other had was disgusted with what had happened, and this led to the first of a number of confrontations between himself and Donald.

Making their way back to the community they were confronted by a group that had decided they were leaving and had a better chance to fend for themselves rather than staying with a community that was rapidly tearing itself apart. Donald approached the situation confrontationally, worried they would take supplies needed by those staying. He also seriously considered whether he might be better of leaving with them. He eventually decided to stay, and James mediated and ensured that the group had safe passage away from the community.

Back at the church, Jeff Murray had responded extremely well to treatment as it transpired that his wounds were relatively shallow. Once up and around he made his excuses, saying that he wanted some time alone with his wife, Caitlin, and went back to the farm house.

A Minor Horde Attacks

An hour or so later, with the community still preparing to evacuate, James' radio crackled into life with reports of a horde of around 20 zombies approaching from the south. It quickly became clear these were sprinters and not the usual shufflers. After another furious argument between Victor and Donald it was agreed to attempt to take them out rather than rush the evacuation forward.

The horde were confronted a little distance from the community, with the group and its allies making good use of their time to set up an ambush. Despite a minor scare where Michael mistakenly thought he saw an approaching new born, the zombies were efficiently dispatched using the M16s obtained from the defeated raiders.

Jeff does Something Really Stupid

Back within the community night drew in and the group retired to the farmhouse for a well earned sleep. On arriving they quickly became aware of an unnatural silence in the building, and Victor discovered Caitlin passed out cold on her bed with Jeff and the kids nowhere to be seen. Dr. Miller located a rag smelling of chloroform, and a letter was found from Jeff to his wife explaining that he had taken the children away from the community that he thought was more dangerous than fending for themselves, no matter whatever she thought about it.

Other GM Comments

- As expected, this was a challenging session to run, and I had to make a number of changes on the fly to keep things moving in roughly the right direction.
- The role playing between Donald and Victor was great fun, and they nearly came to blows a few times. One thing I am going to have to do is talk to the players about how to deal with this if it escalates further. I know people have differing views on physical conflict between PCs, and want to make sure everyone is happy with what is agreed.
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Jordan Peacock
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 12, 2012 12:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wibbs wrote:
Hmmm, some interesting ideas I hadn't thought of there, particularly around people being forced to stay if they have essential skills Twisted Evil


Yeah, it just seems like one of those messy circumstances that I could imagine coming up. I mean, seriously, would you want a doctor operating on you who is being FORCED to stay with the group, who would otherwise leave at the first opportunity? It could get out of control really fast. (I.e., even if the hypothetical doctor does his best to serve the group, out of a sense of honor and duty, all it takes is the next inevitable case where he CANNOT save the patient, and then you have an angry bereaved parent/loved-one who insists that he DELIBERATELY let so-and-so die.)

But even simpler than that, there's the ever-flexible matter of "fairness." You have one guy who was actually prepared for the Apocalypse, actually has his own RV, supplies, etc., and his own family to care for. If he hooks up with a group of less-well-prepared people, it's practically granted that he's going to end up giving more than he gets. You can have people who might individually be willing to make sacrifices "for the good of the group," but then you get a protective parent who feels justified in crossing any and all moral lines in the name of "I've got mouths to feed!"

I've seen that come up in fiction a lot -- at least as far back as the Twilight Zone (episode #68, the Shelter -- just saw that not too long ago on NetFlix), and more recently in stuff like Lost (where Michael would justify just about anything with "They took my son!").

Hmm. Actually, now this makes me think that if/when I manage to keep going with a zombie campaign, I might just have a situation where some NPC member of the group has some useful resource (a vehicle that can carry a lot of people, tools, supplies), and there's a falling out, and he wants to just take his family and leave rather than putting up with the rest -- and someone's going to make a compelling argument that HE CANNOT DO THAT -- and it'd be up to the PCs (presumably in leadership positions) to decide where they stand on the issue. Do they have the right to force him to stay "for the good of the group"? Or, he can leave, but his STUFF stays with the group (which might be much the same as sentencing him and his family to death, depending on how hard it is to find supplies)?

Not that I deliberately want to make things more miserable for the group, but it just seems like a potentially defining situation. Characters with a strong sense of value in independence might rule that he's free to leave with what's his ... though they'd favor trying to BARGAIN with him to change his mind (and run the risk of giving him too much power over the group if they make concessions to get him to stay). Characters who are just flat-out selfish might just force him to stay or give up his stuff ... and then come to rue their decision later on if THEY ponder breaking ranks with the group.


Wibbs wrote:
Unfortunately Hugo's player was unable to make this session. Given how lethal this setting can be, my general rule is that absent players just fade into the background unless there is a very clear, obvious way of explaining why they aren't taking part in what's going on.


That's what I've had to do. I've tried so many ways of dealing with absent players, and I could probably write an essay on just how many ways it can go wrong. My preferred method now is just to say the PC is in the background, off camera, off set, and the whys and wherefores are DELIBERATELY LEFT VAGUE. If the PC has some unavoidably crucial role such as driving the group's vehicle, healing the injured, etc., then I tend to just try to hand-wave it if possible (he drives you from Point A to Point B, no rolls required), but if I have to roll for him or the other players do, all too often there are Critical Fails involved or other unpleasantries. There's just no clean, painless way to take care of it, it seems, unless I have players eager and willing to just gloss over it and keep going with the game.

Wibbs wrote:
This was the first deviation from the story as written, where John Jr. is supposed to attack and badly injure James before anyone can react. I thought this was unfair on the players and altered the scene so their interruption of his attack was possible.


Quite reasonable, especially if the heroes are "on guard" and already alerted that Something Is Not Right; players will want the chance to roll something, even if it's at a hefty penalty. My thought on handling this would be to treat anyone who's watchful and on guard as if "On Hold," but rather than doing opposed rolls (since John Jr. is an Extra, not a Wild Card, right? so there's a very good chance that John Jr.'s Agility roll would be very underwhelming) I'd ask folks to make Agility checks at -2 to get a chance to act. Even then, that'd be no guarantee of anything, but if everyone gets FLAT Agility checks, that's practically a given that one or more of the PCs will stop him.

Wibbs wrote:
My cunning plan was for John Jr. to attack and badly injure Father Kenneth whilst the characters were still in the meeting. This would have the added benefit of making Dr. Miller's healing skills even more important to the community, as he would become the only trained doctor left standing. Twisted Evil


Good one! And if the PCs didn't think to send someone with Father Kenneth to make sure he was safe when dealing with a potentially freaking-out kid ... well, that's a lesson to learn for next time. Wink

Wibbs wrote:
I pretty much knew in advance that Victor's player would work out the back exit was unguarded, so gave John Jr. Fleet Footed so he could get to Jeff before Victor caught up.


Yeah, my players are genre-savvy enough not to fall for that business of "We have you completely surrounded ... from the front!" ... except when THEY are the ones in a building that's being surrounded by enemy forces and then they think that the easy way out is to "escape out the back" as if no mere NPCs should be smart enough to think of covering the back. ;D

Wibbs wrote:
Donald reacted instinctively, firing his shotgun twice; once to John's torso and the other to his head. Michael and James could not handle the fact that a teenager had been killed in cold blood whilst bound while in their care, and walked away. Victor on the other had was disgusted with what had happened, and this led to the first of a number of confrontations between himself and Donald.


Ouch. Yeah, this is the sort of problem that I would expect to arise in groups I game with. You can have all the deliberations you want, but all it takes is one PC to whip out his gun and blow someone's brains out, and negotiations are over with. Not that I have the LEAST bit of respect for John Jr., and anyone the least bit genre-savvy would expect that he's going to somehow break free of any restraints he's put in, and kill more people, just because Evil Works That Way. And even if you weren't using "genre-savvy" to explain it, John Jr. just became 100% liability and then some.

wibbs wrote:
Donald approached the situation confrontationally, worried they would take supplies needed by those staying.


Oho! That came up sooner than I'd expected. Very Happy

wibbs wrote:
He also seriously considered whether he might be better of leaving with them.


This is a situation where it wouldn't have been too hard to "get back on track" even if the PCs had taken this route, because their next stop could be in Sanctuary anyway ... but it would've definitely been problematic if it split the PCs up. Good thing that worked itself out, I guess.

Wibbs wrote:
- The role playing between Donald and Victor was great fun, and they nearly came to blows a few times. One thing I am going to have to do is talk to the players about how to deal with this if it escalates further. I know people have differing views on physical conflict between PCs, and want to make sure everyone is happy with what is agreed.


Whew. Well, that says a lot for your group if you can make arguments fun! Very Happy I have a hard time with my group trying to make sure (hoping and praying, anyway) that in-game arguments don't turn to out-of-game conflagrations.
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 13, 2012 11:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just poking my head in to say how much I enjoy reading this thread and I look forward to more.

For anyone else interested in this subject, here is a similar thread over on rpg.net about a Zombie Run campaign:
http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?297873-Savage-Worlds-Zombie-Run

One word of warning - the author stops posting before the adventure is completed. Maybe zombies got him! Surprised
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 13, 2012 12:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jordan Peacock wrote:
Not that I deliberately want to make things more miserable for the group

But isn't that the main point of a zombie apocolypse game? Very Happy

Jordan Peacock wrote:
Whew. Well, that says a lot for your group if you can make arguments fun!

Indeed. I laid down some very clear ground rules very early in the campaign, which I think really helped. That's not to say we haven't had a few issues with this kind of thing, but certainly nothing serious, and I make sure things get discussed as a group as soon as something untoward happens.

JamesG wrote:
Just poking my head in to say how much I enjoy reading this thread and I look forward to more.

For anyone else interested in this subject, here is a similar thread over on rpg.net about a Zombie Run campaign:
http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?297873-Savage-Worlds-Zombie-Run

Thanks! - I cut my teeth on a run through of Zombie Run before starting the War of the Dead campaign, and know it very well.

Planning for Week 4

Okay, now I'm up to date with where the campaign is currently at, its time to start planning for my next session on Monday.

There are a couple of areas where I want to tweak the adventure as written.

The first is that I want to make use of the fact the Hirshbeck community has a defected raider. I figure that he will volunteer to go with the group who rescues the girls as a thank you for the doctor healing him up and him being accepted into the community. This should mean that there is no need to capture and interrogate the second group of scouting raiders, as he will be able to fill the group in on the layout of the base and where the girls are most likely to be kept.

The second is that I'm going to cut most if not all of the random encounters. I see this week as a mini-climax for this part of the chapter, and feel that these would break the momentum of the story too much. My intention is to keep things as fast as possible, hopefully reaching a crescendo with the race to Sanctuary.

The last thing I am serious thinking of changing is the massive horde that the group encounters on the way to Sanctuary. The issue I have here is that it feels a bit forced to have them run into the horde without being able to react. The obvious solution is to remove them altogether and run the climax as a straight chase scene. This shouldn't be too much of a problem, as I anticipate the group will have enough vehicles between the 6 jeeps and whatever humvees they get from the raider base. The only thing I need to work out is how to bring the chase to an end. I'd rather not just say "and you lose them...", as it would feel very anti-climactic.

Thoughts?

Wibbs
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 13, 2012 1:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wibbs wrote:
Jordan Peacock wrote:
Not that I deliberately want to make things more miserable for the group

But isn't that the main point of a zombie apocolypse game? Very Happy


You'd THINK, but if things are too dark and dreary, I lose some players' interest. Out of my original zombie campaign crew, I've only got ONE player who has expressed any interest in doing more with zombies. He's the guy who basically voluntarily let his character be "voted off the island," so to speak so that his goodie-two-shoes character's in-game conflicts with the other PCs wouldn't spill out into meta-game unpleasantness; his character split off from the group, and if I get the chance, I intend to carry on with his PC in Chapter 2, if I can recruit some new players.

Right now, however, I'm running a Pirates RPG campaign (restarting next weekend after a four-month hiatus after the game store closed where we were running games, and I finally gave up on it reopening again) with that one player, plus a few new recruits. I've had some interest expressed by a couple of players in the new group in a zombie campaign, since it would be NEW for them, but I need to get the Pirates game to a good stopping point first -- and even then, I still need to manage expectations a bit. If things are too dreary, too depressing, too hopeless, then if my players are getting into the game at all, it's NOT FUN. So I try not to pile it on too thickly.

Wibbs wrote:
Jordan Peacock wrote:
Whew. Well, that says a lot for your group if you can make arguments fun!

Indeed. I laid down some very clear ground rules very early in the campaign, which I think really helped.


That's a good idea. I think one "rule" I'm going to have to institute when starting a quasi-new group is that I am NOT going to move Heaven and Earth in my games to enforce an arbitrary rule that "the group must stay together." I'd strongly prefer PCs to be ideologically compatible, unless the odd-man-out is fully prepared for his character to be "voted off the island" (or worse) and replaced by another on occasion, with no hard feelings.

This isn't one of those silly D&D games from my high school days where one player would be a Lawful-Good Paladin and another a Chaotic-Evil Assassin and the DM would be fine with it and come up with all kinds of crazy excuses (even decrees from the GODS that this party is "destined to save the world") to keep the party together no matter what. Wink

Wibbs wrote:

Thanks! - I cut my teeth on a run through of Zombie Run before starting the War of the Dead campaign, and know it very well.


Ohhhh, I could go into SUCH an analysis of that one. I'll have to check out the thread.

...

Wibbs wrote:
This should mean that there is no need to capture and interrogate the second group of scouting raiders, as he will be able to fill the group in on the layout of the base and where the girls are most likely to be kept.


Sounds reasonable. One thing that comes to mind, however, is the issue of trust. As in, "Can we trust this guy?" As a GM, I can't really give the players all the context they need to be able to figure out whether their characters would be able to make educated guesses on whether to trust an NPC or not. Sometimes I'll boil it down to a Streetwise check at a penalty vs. the NPC's Persuasion skill (rolled secretly) or a minimum TN of 4, failure meaning "he seems persuasive, but you can't be 100% sure," because even an HONEST character could still be persuasive, and even if he's true AND honest, a PC could still be as skeptical as he pleases, and "Persuasion is not mind-control." I figure "Streetwise" is the best skill I can think of to represent being able to tell if someone is pulling a fast one on you, if it's even possible at all.

Wibbs wrote:
The second is that I'm going to cut most if not all of the random encounters. I see this week as a mini-climax for this part of the chapter, and feel that these would break the momentum of the story too much. My intention is to keep things as fast as possible, hopefully reaching a crescendo with the race to Sanctuary.


Makes sense. That's one thing I struggled with a bit in the "overland" parts of my WOTD (and later Zombie Run) scenarios. There were times when I figured there SHOULD be zombie encounters along the way, but the group had its act well enough together that I could assume the heroes wouldn't be bogged down by such incidental encounters. The question would then just be ... HOW efficient are the heroes at bypassing those encounters or dealing with them quickly?

Sometimes, I ended up boiling it down to a few choices based on the situation. I used a phenomenon of "self-cooperative rolls" where, for purposes of abstraction, I'd let a player roll an "associated" skill/trait to boost his main roll, as if it were a cooperative roll, to represent the different tasks that would be involved. I.e., everyone rolls Stealth, assisted by Notice, meaning that everyone is officially rolling Stealth, but each person ALSO gets to roll his Notice die (without Wild Die), and each success/raise on that can give his own Stealth roll OR SOMEONE ELSE'S a +1 bonus, up to a maximum of +4. This gets complicated, but the players don't have to memorize this stuff. I just give the players a few abstract options, suggest a few possible pros-and-cons, then once they make their choice, give them something to roll, and a target to shoot for.

Each team member is expected to roll the "primary trait" to see how well he does; success means best-case. Fail means a drawback. A raise usually means a success you can grant to someone else who didn't make it.

"Secondary trait" is something you can roll as well, IF YOU HAVE THE SKILL (or other prerequisite). You DO NOT get to roll your Wild Die again on this. Failure has no effect (unless there's a cost associated with making the roll, such as Shooting using ammo, in which case you just waste ammo). Each success/raise grants a +1 bonus you can give to YOURSELF or an ALLY, up to a maximum of +4 (as per cooperative checks).

1) Go cautiously/stealthily. Pro: Avoid using resources (bullets) by avoiding combat. Con: Very slow; *IF* you fail, good chance of a larger encounter (because if you've been passing zombies, at any time you have zombies BOTH in front of AND behind you if you draw attention to yourself).

Primary skill: Stealth. Failure means an abstract encounter (c.f.). Critical Failure by any party member means an actual played-out encounter with a double helping of zombies UNLESS the party heartlessly leaves Mr. Incompetent behind to fend for himself.

Secondary skill: Notice. +2 if you have nightvision goggles.

Tertiary skill: Shooting/Throwing. ONLY if you have a silenced weapon (crossbow, compound bow, throwing weapons, gun with suppressor, etc.). Rolling (success or fail) costs you 2d6 units of ammunition. If you don't HAVE that many, you use what you have, at -1 to your roll for each shot you fall short by.

ABSTRACT ENCOUNTER: A new series of rolls from everyone. Each person rolls Fighting, Shooting/Throwing (uses 2d6 ammo, but with an automatic +2 bonus to your roll because you can get them at range), Taunt, or Stealth (just to stay out of the way). Team needs a total of 6 successes to make it through the combat unscathed. Failure to get at least 6 successes/raises means this turns into a real combat with a double-helping of zombies (but anyone who successfully made a Stealth check is automatically safe from harm in this particular encounter).

Note: If someone has a gun that can spew out even more bullets (full auto!) I might give the option of wasting *far more* ammo, with a better bonus on the Shooting roll to contribute to the conflict. Great way to burn through those resources. E.g., someone with 3RB might be given the option to "burst-fire" the whole time, eating up 3x the ammo, but granting +2 to his contributing roll. Double-tap eats up 2x ammo, but grants +1 to the roll. Full auto eats up ROF^2 the ammo (9x for RoF 3), but grants +RoF to the roll. +2 bonus to Throwing if you're using Molotov cocktails (and only 1d6 "ammo" used); +4 bonus to Throwing if you're using hand grenades (1d6 ammo).

(Sorry for the sheer complexity of all that. Again, I wouldn't be forcing a player to read through all that. I'd just, as GM, give him some options and bonuses, and that's all he'd have to worry about, unless he comes up with some new tactic/idea, and then I might have to modify it on the fly.)

2) Meticulously take down anything that moves. Slow, likely to run into trouble if you bite off more than you can chew, but straightforward.

Run it as the "abstract encounter" above, but we need *8* successes to pull through unscathed. However, upon a failure the group only has to take on a regular helping of zombies.

3) Mad dash. Very, very risky, very high chance of getting overwhelmed, but best hope of getting where you're going QUICKLY, if you can survive it.

Run as the "abstract encounter" above, with *8* successes needed to pull through unscathed. Encourage players to find other skills that could be used to contribute, such as Driving if someone's going to try to help drive a zombie-fighting wagon through the premises to ferry everyone through. Failure to meet the success quota means an actual encounter with a TRIPLE helping of zombies ... but if the heroes somehow survive that, they get to the scene as quickly as could be hoped for.

(Alas, as we know, that isn't really going to help any, because the damage has already been done. But it's still a tactical decision the heroes COULD make, and every now and then I try to figure out how it might pay off if the heroes decide to throw all caution to the wind and rush to their destination. Sometimes I have the character who was going to get bitten "just seconds before you got here" is NOT bitten yet, because the players were so determined to rush to the scene.)

Anyway, this is a little like Dramatic Tasks, but my intent here is to gloss over something that might take rounds upon rounds of combat and action, do a bit of hand-waving to say, "And, yes, on the way you had to kill or evade several zombies," and the guys using guns get to waste some ammo, and we move right along.

...

Wibbs wrote:
The only thing I need to work out is how to bring the chase to an end. I'd rather not just say "and you lose them...", as it would feel very anti-climactic.


Hmm. Are you working with any actual road maps? I ended up placing Dalesbury, etc., in actual locations, and using Google Maps to show the area (modifying it with a few made-up place names in Photoshop as necessary).

Possible ways to end chase:

1) A bridge! The group crosses a bridge. At this point, they're far enough ahead that the zombies can't attack, and they could just keep going, but eventually the horde is going to catch up. The convoy squeezes its way through several abandoned vehicles to get to the other side ... but it might occur to the heroes to stop (maybe only SOME of them while the rest of the convoy keeps going) to see if the vehicles can be moved to form a barricade. While it wouldn't hold zombies forever, it could at least hold them up enough that the convoy can keep going and the zombies "lose the trail" and start wandering after whatever NEW distraction gets their attention. If the PCs go for this, maybe call for a cooperative Repair check at -2, or whatever skill is appropriate for their plan. It needn't be difficult, and the "cooperative" roll could be assisted with other traits such as Strength (several guys get together to push a car into place "locking" it into the pile of other vehicles), etc. As for zombies that spill over AROUND the bridge, the heroes can get the satisfaction of seeing what happens when zombies come up to sharp drop-offs, and still have the weight of a horde behind them, forcing them forward. (Fall ... splat ... repeat.)

2) Actually, losing them after surviving for X turns doesn't sound bad. Zombies, even sprinters, SHOULD NOT be outrunning vehicles. The only way it can still be a "chase" is if basically the heroes are forced to flee perpendicular to the path of the horde, because that's the way the roads go, so the wave is still crashing in as they go. Eventually, they reach the edge of the horde, or get to a straightaway (a clear section of highway!) where they can open up and leave any shamblers and sprinters in the dust.
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Wibbs
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 13, 2012 3:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think you misunderstand me - it's going to be raiders who are chasing them not zombies Smile As written the raiders stop chasing after the group encounters the big horde, but with no big horde there's nothingt to stop the raiders continuing their pursuit.
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Jordan Peacock
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 13, 2012 3:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wibbs wrote:
I think you misunderstand me - it's going to be raiders who are chasing them not zombies Smile As written the raiders stop chasing after the group encounters the big horde, but with no big horde there's nothingt to stop the raiders continuing their pursuit.


Bleargh! I need to go and re-read things properly before I comment, obviously.

Okay, re-thinking this.

Questions to consider:
1) Do the members of the convoy have any way to communicate with each other while fleeing? E.g., CB radios in two or more of the vehicles?

2) Has it been clearly established *how many* survivors/vehicles there are in the town?

3) Which Chase rules are you using? SWD caters toward "Chase ends in X turns, one way or another." SWEX caters toward slowly-but-surely outrunning the bad guys or being forced into confrontation/capture. (Works great with Micro Machines as markers for the vehicles.)

Not knowing the answers to that in this particular campaign, ideas for the sake of brainstorming:
1) In the mad panic of fleeing raiders, one or perhaps a few of the vehicles split off from the main convoy, ill-advisedly. They run into trouble, and the raiders are on them before there's a realistic chance to react. Machine-gun fire, blood everywhere, most of the raiders slow down to fight over loot; the convoy gets away, but with losses. (However, not plot-impacting losses, and none of the PCs or major NPCs, of course.)

Possible complication: A PC with Loyal or Heroic might insist on going back against impossible odds to rescue those left behind (even though it's clear they're dead and/or done-for). Hence the need to make it clear that it's resolved before there's a realistic chance to intervene. (Bullets get there faster than your SUV can do a 180 and reverse course to intervene.)

2) Or, similar scenario but more heroic, someone deliberately splits off in order to act as a decoy. This could either be volunteered by someone at the end of the line, or perhaps discussed as a ploy over the radios.

Again, possible complication is if a PC volunteers for the task, or argues forcibly against such a ploy.

3) Rather than just chasing through generic, featureless terrain, have a series of locations/features/landmarks the chase will pass by. I actually did this for my Zombie Run game, and made some custom cards with "chase events," illustrated with a few different road signs (some with blood splats or bullet holes on them) for visual interest and to make it plainly clear to the players that I wasn't "making it up as I go."

For instance:

* Zombie Crossing: Small horde of zombies encountered on road! Driving checks, or suffer collision with soft obstacle and, provided your vehicle is still in the race, penalty to your Driving checks next round (because your vehicle slowed down from hitting zombies). Bonus to rolls if you are driving a huge vehicle (semi truck, bus, which can hit a few zombies without slowing down), or an especially maneuverable one (motorcycle, etc.).

* Barricade: Someone actually put up a road block here, presumably as part of some sort of anti-zombie defense. Group gets CHOICE of either smashing through barricade (and a chance to position the "ramming" vehicle up front of their choice), OR they need to take a detour (suffering a penalty to Driving checks for Chase positioning next round because the raiders can cut corners to gain ground on them).

If they opt to break through: Lead vehicle (however that's determined, preferably the biggest vehicle, with a Wild Card driver) has to smash through, suffering a collision with a Soft Obstacle (it was meant to keep zombies on the OTHER SIDE), but driver can automatically make a Driving check as a "soak roll" (as per the Ace Edge, but without costing a Benny). Assuming the barricade is successfully busted through (here's hoping it DOES work), the resulting gap is wide enough for the remaining vehicles in the convoy to get through, but extra-wide Humvees (assuming your convoy doesn't have any, and only the raiders do) end up running into trouble, and they have to slow down. Only a few motorcycles get through. Chase continues for a round or two more before the motorcyclists figure out they're WAY ahead of the rest of the raiding group (especially if they take any hits from shots made from the convoy) and decide to break off for now. End chase as long as PCs don't do something silly like stop and take a break right there.

* Handy Distraction: Action-movie-ready powder-keg just waiting to be blown up, if a PC thinks of it. E.g., crashed vehicles, tanker truck with overturned tank and gasoline or Mysterious Chemical X spilled everywhere. If someone gets the bright idea to drive past, then shoot the "powder-keg" and blow it up, then call for a simple Shooting check (or Throwing, as someone tosses a lit Molotov cocktail, or whatever), and, voila, it works! Kablooie. It won't destroy the raiders, but it creates enough of a distraction that the raiders SLOW DOWN rather than racing right through the burning gas/chemicals, thus buying precious time for the convoy to get away.

The key here would not be to call too much attention to the "handy distraction" as being *meant* to allow an escape. Instead, treat it like, "Oh no! There's this dangerous-looking spill up ahead. Lead vehicle must make a simple Driving check to avoid crashing headlong into it!" and then any trailing vehicles get enough advance warning by this near-miss to avoid the hazard. If the unthinkable happens and the lead vehicle CRASHES, then ... well, kablooie, and let's hope there weren't any PCs on board, and the rest of the convoy gets the option to race through the building flames, but the fire rises too high for the raiders to risk going through with all their ammo, explosives, etc. to continue the chase.

At other points in the chase, you could just have descriptions of other landmarks passing by -- e.g., a few zombies alongside the road (but easily avoided), a clogged overpass (easily bypassed), miscellaneous debris in the road (Driving check to avoid, or suffer a mere 1d6 damage against the bumper), etc. If there are a few other "landmarks" along the way, then the presence of a gas tanker as another "hazard" doesn't so blatantly say "This was just put here to give you an excuse to escape the raiders."
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Wibbs
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 13, 2012 3:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Blimey, thanks for all the ideas - its given me plenty to think about Very Happy
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2012 6:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

We had a new player join us this week. Although he plays in the Deadlands Reloaded game I also run, he is not that familiar with the rules, so this session was a little slower than normal. His character...

Jim Forrest

A former gun shop owner and survivalist nerd, he was convinced the government was eventually going to do something to bring civilisation down, and planned accordingly. With a scary arsenal of weapons he had stockpiled, he made is way to Ouachita National Forest, intended to rendevous with like minded people. Unfortunately the group fell in with some really nasty sorts, but he could not escape. His chance came with the raid on Hirschbeck Estates, and he was more than happy to defect when given the chance.

Session Summary

Rescue Plans are Agreed

Caitlin soon woke with all the people moving around in the room, but even then she was still extremely groggy and found it impossible to stand. After being told what her husband Jeff had done she was seething. Her stance was that she didn't give a stuff about Jeff as he could no longer be trusted, but that she was going to get the kids back and noone was going to stop her. Victor was dispatched to get Michael and James, Hugo started thinking about transport, and Dr Miller was asked for a very specific drug that Caitlin apparently knew would temporarily counteract the fatigue being caused by the drugs Jeff had given her.

I used this as another hint that Caitlin's background was not all it appeared to be.

The rest of the group were also suffering from a lack of sleep, but all except Donald managed to shrug off the effects. He was offered the same drugs that Caitlin had been given but refused. Dr Miller wisely took a couple of shots with him in case they were needed later.

Donald's player failed his initial Vigor roll, spent a benny and then rolled a critical fail. I have really harsh rules for these in this setting, so the crit had to stand no matter what and could not be bennied. This meant he got two levels of fatigue from lack of sleep.

Back at the community, Jim, the raider who defected, was woken by the commotion outside and went to find out what was going on. When he heard what had happened, he volunteered to help as he knew the layout of the raider base where the children were likely to have been taken. His assistance was gratefully accepted, and he, James, Michael and the rest of the group met up in the farmhouse. In the following discussion, Michael insisted on going with them, as he felt responsible for Jeff and the kids slipping through the community's outer defences unchallenged.

Plans were put forward, and it was agreed to travel light and on foot, as this would be least likely to attract any zombies in the area. Donald spent some time fashioning a couple of molotov cocktails from Father Kenneth's alcohol store, and the group were ready depart. The rest of the community would continue preparing for the evacuation under James' guidance, and they had instruction to leave at daybreak if the group had not returned.

This discussion went on for a while, which I was OK with. The group's characters are quite divisive, and there is usually more than one difference of opinion as to how to proceed, and I feel its important that everyone gets the chance to give their input.

Journey to the Base

The first part of the journey went quickly, with Hugo using the night vision goggles to good effect. Cutting through to the main road to the base using forest tracks saved the group a lot of time, but by now it was gone 1am. A little up the road Hugo spotted an overturned Humvee, and both he and Caitlin scouted ahead of the main group as they scoped out the area. Keeping to the tree line, they managed to get roughly parallel with the vehicle when the caught a glimpse of movement in a low area of bushes.

As written, the raiders attack the group without them being given a chance to stop it. Given that Hugo had night vision goggles, I thought it reasonable to give them a chance to see the attack and respond before being shot.

Hugo attempted to get a better look but was unsuccessful, and the peace of the night was shattered as three M-16s were fired at the group from the bushes in an attempt to suppress them; luckily the shots went wide. Donald made a break from the trees, firing his shotgun in the air as he went in an attempt to draw their fire, finishing prone behind an outcrop of rocks. He was soon joined by Victor and Michael. Jim moved faster than anyone else in the group, and managed to make his way across to a drainage ditch the other side of the road.

The resultant firefight was hampered by the darkness and cover, but was brought to an end by excellent use of one of the molotovs, which set two of the raiders attacking the group on fire. They quickly died from their injuries, but the third was merely badly wounded. He quickly surrendered, but made it clear he was not going to give them any useful information.

When Caitlin found one of her children's teddy bears on the floor with the raiders she took control of the situation, making rather overly efficient use of her bowie knife to make the man talk. He admitted that they had stumbled on a man with three children, and 'after they'd had a bit of fun with him', a retrieval team had come and returned with them to the raider base.

After it was clear the raider had no further useful information, Caitlin went to end his life for good, but was blocked by Donald and Dr Miller. There was then an intense argument as to what to do with the prisoner, which at one point saw a stand off with three of the group drawing shotguns. It could easily have turned very messy, but Caitlin begrudgingly backed down. The prisoner was left bound on the floor, and it was agreed that if he was there and still alive when they returned, he might prove useful.

This was a very tense situation, where I had to manage the reactions of the NPCs very carefully. It would have been perfectly feasible for a firefight to breakout between the group, but I felt this would not have acheived anything of value, and certainly wouldn't have been fun for anyone involved.

It was at this point that Victor chose to ask what Caitlin had really done before the outbreak, as it was clear she had not been a stay at home mum. She relented, and quickly explained she had been the first female SWAT member in the US, and before that she had had other 'unspecified' experience.

While all this was going on Hugo and Jim were working on the Humvee, which was righted with the use of its winch, and then repaired to get the engine started.

Infiltrating the Base

With Jim's knowledge of the base he was able to give details of where the children would be kept, as well information on its layout, the number of raiders, and the fact that a couple of the former military personnel had joined them and been working on getting a helicopter and tank going.

Various plans were put forward as to how to get into the base. Donald was very much in favour of trying to trick them in some way, perhaps by offering a trade of some sort, but the rest of the group felt this was far too risky. A purely stealth approach was considered next, with the possibility of creating a diversion/distraction if necessary, and this was the plan that was broadly agreed.

The group drove the Humvee as close to the base as they dared without being spotted, and surveyed the scene. Loud heavy metal music blared from speakers, the perimeter was lit by large floodlights with guards placed every 60 feet, and inside, there appeared to be a number of vehicles being raced. The most striking thing they saw though was Jeff, who had been strung up between two poles; he was either dead or unconscious, but it was impossible to tell which.

The group used the fact that the raiders had only taken over a very small part of the base to good effect, managing to sneak along the gap between the main base's security fence and high wall. This allowed them to get past the perimeter of guards without being seen. It was at this time that the helicopter rose from the base and headed off in the opposite direction to where the group had entered.

Having read ahead in the chapter, I knew the base would feature again at a later date, and the details written give a rough idea of it's size and layout. I decided that the part of the base occupied by the raiders was effectively the small, main entrance area, with the vast majority untouched. This approach also led to me deciding there would be a high security fence and wall between the two areas, which is what the group used to cover their approach.

Hugo set off for a large pen, in which the raiders had corralled over a hundred zombies into. This was going to be the distraction, and he managed to weaken a section of the fence with bolt cutters from the Humvee, and rig some bungee cord so that it could be pulled away from a distance, leaving a gaping hole in the pen's fence.

Excellent use of the Mcgyver Edge here.

He then retreated, and made his way with Donald to the small motor pool, which had a number of humvees and Jim's pickup truck. Jim managed to sneak into the building where he knew the belongs he owned would be stored. Unfortunately most of the weapons he had stockpiled in preparation for the apocolypse had been taken or used, but he did manage to find a modern hunting bow, streetsweeper shotgun and an anti-tank mine. He then set about transfering these to his pickup truck.

I had lots of fun with Jim, the new character, and used his background as an excuse to introduce some weaponary the group had never had access to before.

A Heartbroken Mother, and Donald's big reveal

At around the same time, Victor and Caitlin headed for the barracks where it was thought the children would be kept, whilst Dr. Miller and Michael stayed in cover, ready to provide fire if anything went wrong. The contraption rigged up by Hugo was used, and the zombies were set free. This immediately had the desired effect, with the horde clashing with the raiders and causing an extremely effective diversion.

Victor and Caitlin found Selina and Samantha tied to chairs and gagged in the first room they entered but there was no sign of Barbara. Once the gags had been removed, all Selina would say was 'they took her into the next room and hurt her'. Whilst Caitlin went about untying the two girls, Victor went for the room Selina had indicated. Once the door was open it wasn't long before a small figure came lurching out of the shadows towards him - Barbara had been allowed to turn into a zombie by the raiders. Caitlin, hearing the footsteps and low moan rushed over, but when she saw what had happened to her daughter, she collapsed into a fetal position. Selina just screamed. Victor steeled himself, and managed to end Barbara's unlife.

Selina's scream had been heard by Hugo and Donald, who were both busy preparing the vehicles for their escape. Donald immediate ran as fast as he could to the barracks. As he arrived, the group noticed that both Selina's and Samantha's trousers had rips in inner thighs, and the skin beneath had been bandaged. When asked what had happened, they were told that the raiders had allowed the girls to be bitten by zombies.

Caitlin, who had regained some of her composure, levelled a gun at Samantha, intent on ending her life now so that she did not have to suffer turning into a zombie. It was at this point that Donald had to try to convince her and the group in general that he and Samantha were both immune. This had been discovered back in Dalesbury, but he had chosen to keep the information to himself up until now. As expected, this took a lot of explaining, and the group were furious with him for what he'd done. Caitlin made it clear that she was sick of the sight of him, but left it at that mindful of the fact that they still needed to escape the base alive.

This was a pivotal moment in the campaign given Donald's decision to hide his and Samantha's immunity from everyone else. Depending on the plan the group adopted, it could easily have been the case that Donald was nowhere near the barracks, with Caitlin shooting the two girls not knowing Samantha was immune. Luckily, he managed to get there in time, but the repercussions of his decision not to make people aware of their immunity are far from over. I need to talk to Donald's player about what might happen next because realistically, it is very likely that he will be banished from the group.

Other Comments

This was quite a slow session, and we ended up only covering about half of what I thought we would. This was partly because we had a new player, so things tended to slow down when we were recapping on things that had happened previously. There were also a lot of discussions, which were really interesting to listen in on.

Overall I think the session was a success, but I am regretting not making the group's infiltration of the base a little tougher. I console myself with the fact that all hell is going to break loose when they attempt to make their escape Twisted Evil
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