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Gearing up for War of the Dead
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DGMiller
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Joined: 25 Jan 2012
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Location: Myrtle Beach, SC

PostPosted: Wed Oct 24, 2012 12:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

jcayer wrote:
Last night, we played again and one of those darn PCs was determined to get killed. At the last second, he backed down, but it was not a pretty scene at the table.

I'm dropping them off in Newport next session to be Hell's distraction. I saw the great model that DG put together, but with 2-3 remote players, maptools is my tool of choice.

How much did you guys build out for this? Did everything happen in the street? Did you rough out several blocks, or just improvise as it came?

I considered Google Earth, but I don't think it's going to work.
All opinions requested.
Thanks


I used Google Earth and picked Beaufort, NC as my town of choice. Then I used "selective compression" to pick out some buildings I wanted to feature and "scrolled" the active area as the players moved forward. I kept to the main street and no more than one block in either direction (the area I chose was built this way). Almost everything happened in the main street and one back alley.
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Jordan Peacock
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 24, 2012 11:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

jcayer wrote:
How much did you guys build out for this? Did everything happen in the street? Did you rough out several blocks, or just improvise as it came?


I ran this part of WOTD twice, for two different groups. (One was part of my "Chapter I" campaign; the other was a one-shot where I just started in the middle at this point, "in media res.") For both, I roughed out several blocks; for the campaign, I used an actual town near Sealevel, NC, and checked on Google Maps to see what sort of stores might be there -- and then I filled in the gaps with a bunch of made-up store names and a rough idea of what might be found in each. (This was a small enough area that "street view" wasn't available for me to see what was *really* there.)

For the one-shot, I broke out a set of "Zombies!!!" tiles to represent the fictitious town in abstract, moving markers to represent the player group as they explored (and the relative location of the biker gang looting a store), and also to represent zombie "clusters" that had been spotted at a distance (by scouting PCs checking down side-streets).

For my run through the campaign, I relied heavily on the "random" events, but rather than rolling randomly, I took the events and assigned them by time or location -- that is, at a certain time, the humvee would be barreling down the street, and much later the helicopter would make its appearance (I figured that the humvee would run into trouble with Hell Fuerrie and his gang, and the helicopter would swing by to offer some heavy firepower support later on). Since I planned ahead of time on WHEN these events would happen, whether or not the PCs would be out in the street when they happened depended upon how they were spending their time.

For the other events, I just assigned (secretly) locations for them on the map, mostly clustered around the most obvious main route through town. The zombie dropping from above, I put on a traffic light pole (my idea being that a survivor had climbed up there to escape, but had either already been infected or expired up there for other reasons and then "turned") at one of the intersections, for instance.

I probably could have just "winged it," and rolled the encounters randomly entirely as written, but I figured I'd put a little more work into it ahead of time, so that I'd be better prepared when filling in the narrative gaps. (E.g., if a random encounter calls for "zombie falls from above," then WHERE did that zombie fall from, particularly if the heroes are going down the street at the time?)

Anyway, in both cases, I used a "mini-map" and "skirmish area" for miniatures. For the convention, my Zombies!!! tiles served as the "mini-map" for the town as it was being explored; for the campaign, I just used a modified Google map blown up in Photoshop, to keep track of PC progress in a visual way. Then, another part of the table was used for representing a street or interior scene where a zombie fight might break out -- though for many of the encounters, it wasn't really necessary to set up the "skirmish map" per se. (For instance, the "zombie falling from above" encounter was pretty easy to resolve quickly without having to resort to setting up a miniatures scene.)
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jcayer
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 09, 2012 12:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

We ended up going theater of the mind and that seemed to work for everyone. So now they head back to the Marina for the big shoot out. Since I've drawn the house in maptools, I think I'm going to have them relocated to there.


I have a new problem. Several of the people at work have been following the posts and want me to run it at lunch once or twice a week. I"m ok with that part, but a couple of them have read up till now, so I'm going to have to figure out how to make it original for them....and find time to do MORE game write ups.
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Jordan Peacock
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 09, 2012 3:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lunchtime Ideas:

You could take some of the WOTD one-sheets, perhaps? You could just have a series of scenarios under the presumption of "midway through the Apocalypse..." with the PCs already experienced (Seasoned, 20-25 XP or so), and if the players already know to aim for the head, and know the difference between Shamblers and Sprinters, that's perfectly fine.

Another possibility would depend on where you plan on going with your own campaign. There are 4 Chapters, and it could take a LONG time to get through it all. You might, say, start the lunch group much further along in the campaign (in an area you haven't gotten to yet), with a bit of hand-waving as to how everything got up to that point. It could give you an opportunity to explore territory you might not have otherwise.
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jcayer
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 09, 2012 4:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I was considering starting at the beginning of Chapter 2. Unfortunately, there are just not that many Chap 2 write ups that I've seen. So there would be a lot less back end support.

I would say half of the group of 4 has read the write ups. So the other 2 would be virgin to this. I could just stop them from reading and play it out. In a few weeks, they'd be into new territory. I'm inclined to use this method as 3 out of the 4 players have no RPG experience, never mind SW. They need the intro of the ship to learn the system.

I've got some time. We'll see if anyone else has ideas. I could just start them at week 6 or 7...right after the players leave Henry's house. Start them at level 3-4. That puts them pretty close to my current campaign.

I wonder if I'll have trouble keeping it all straight between the 2 groups.
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ValhallaGH
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 09, 2012 8:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

jcayer wrote:
I was considering starting at the beginning of Chapter 2. Unfortunately, there are just not that many Chap 2 write ups that I've seen. So there would be a lot less back end support.

You could steal a page from Jordan and run them through Zombie Run, though I'd keep the (PC friendlier) WotD zombies.
It's a shorter campaign, with very different assumptions, but that doesn't make it incompatible if you need to have to two be in the same setting.

Good luck!
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Jordan Peacock
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 10, 2012 12:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Re: Zombie Run:

I've had a few gripes about Zombie Run, but those can be fixed fairly easily. Just a few things I'd note:

1) The threat level is much higher, and that's not even counting the scripted "TPK" if your players make the "wrong choice" in a couple of situations. Be prepared with some spare character sheets. Even if you replace the super-ZR-zombies with War of the Dead Shamblers, some of the most severe threats come from the environment and fellow survivors.

2) Zombie Run is far more "episodic" than War of the Dead, and encourages the GM to give the setting an almost "sandbox" open-ended feel. You can mix and match some of the encounters, throw in a few extra one-sheets, NPCs can get killed off, PCs can get replaced, and it's not going to break anything.

3) One major thing I'd change, if I could go back and do it all again, would be to take out the "Mass Battle" that is the most likely ending for the campaign (although which side the heroes end up on is theoretically up for grabs). After the heroes spent all their time being in the spotlight, the abstract nature of the final Mass Battle was a bit off-putting to some of the players. I'd recommend, instead, just letting the players be involved in the planning, and then give them some role to play (i.e., a position to defend) in the final conflict, with a fight scaled for them, and a chance to waste all that ammo they've been hoarding -- and with implications that more action is happening off-screen.

...

Another crazy half-formed idea, just for the sake of brainstorming:

The Moscow Connection

Once upon a time, I'd toyed with the idea of running the Moscow Connection, and then transitioning into a Zombie Run campaign, as it turns out that the "mysterious container" is tied into the unleashing of a zombie apocalypse upon the continent. The heroes would start off better-armed, and presumably have their own wheels (so they don't have to rely upon a bus-load of Extras to give them a ride), but otherwise it could probably segue into a Zombie Run campaign fairly easily, even though this would strongly deviate from the canonical "War of the Dead" setting.

Another possibility: The Mysterious Container has a shipment of medical supplies meant to be secretly distributed to some operatives in the United States. Whoever was behind this KNEW about the forthcoming zombie apocalypse, and perhaps even had something to do with it, but wanted to take action to have operatives in the US immunized against it -- perhaps in some grand plan to conquer the US by biological warfare. (It's not a perfect plan by any means, of course.) The outbreak happens not long thereafter -- and if any of the heroes are "immune," it's only because he or she was bold enough to try using the "vaccine." The remaining shipment could become the "MacGuffin" of sorts -- as the heroes are motivated to get a sample of this to some research center that might be able to replicate it.

(And, no, the heroes don't get to travel with a huge container packed full of the stuff, immunizing people as they go; disaster is destined to strike and destroy the bulk of it, leaving them with only with only a few samples at most. One might worry that if the PCs are "immune," it won't be as scary, but, honestly, there's still plenty out there that can kill them.)

This could then either segue into Zombie Run (there's a holdout of civilization in Phoenix, Arizona!), or else a later chapter of War of the Dead (we must head westward to the Citizen Relocation Zones in Colorado!).
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Wibbs
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 10, 2012 1:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jordan Peacock wrote:
3) One major thing I'd change, if I could go back and do it all again, would be to take out the "Mass Battle" that is the most likely ending for the campaign (although which side the heroes end up on is theoretically up for grabs). After the heroes spent all their time being in the spotlight, the abstract nature of the final Mass Battle was a bit off-putting to some of the players. I'd recommend, instead, just letting the players be involved in the planning, and then give them some role to play (i.e., a position to defend) in the final conflict, with a fight scaled for them, and a chance to waste all that ammo they've been hoarding -- and with implications that more action is happening off-screen.

I couldn't agree more with this. I ran Zombie Run as a tester to see if my players would be interested in a campaign of the length of War of the Dead. I liked most aspects of it, but had a very similar experience with the Mass Battle at the end. I think zooming in on the PCs is a much better idea, and would allow you to tailor what happens according to their characters and anything else that might have happened earlier in the story.
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jcayer
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 26, 2012 9:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It occurred to me I'd said I would post my maps for those interested in them. Everything is done in maptools. Just PM me and I'll be happy to send you the files.
Player tokens are the colored, multi-shaped ones.

Here is engineering, which my group avoided like the plague.


Engineering by jcayer1

And Security, which they opted to flee from after a couple turns

Security by jcayer1

And the battle on the deck to get to the lifeboats.
They came down the stairs on the top right. This is the map, post battle.


DeckEscape by jcayer1

More to come.
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jcayer
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 29, 2012 12:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

We play again in about a week. They'll be leaving Henry's house, and heading out. I'm assuming toward Jacksonville.
I know several groups have gone a bit off the tracks and made it to the military base for some RP about escaping, etc. I'm tempted to do this as I think at adds some depth to what's going on...rather than just have it overrun.

So, what are the pluses and minuses of not having Jacksonville already fallen?
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Jordan Peacock
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 29, 2012 2:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

By the way -- I forgot to compliment you on the MapTool layouts earlier! They very nicely get the idea across.

Re: Jacksonville:

I had a few factors involved in the fall of Jacksonville not happening immediately.

1) I have a history of having events in my campaigns happen on calendars. Several of my players have developed peeves against campaigns where NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO, no matter how many sacrifices you make, or how much time you waste on side-quests, you will always, ALWAYS show up to the final encounter with "mere seconds to spare" to interrupt the world-destroying ritual. This leads to some real meta-rationale when the player group decides on anything that can break the mood.

So, I've made it clear: Even if you don't know how much time you have, *I* know how much time you have. You might show up early. You might show up late. Odds are very low that you'll show up with "mere seconds to spare," unless you blow all your Stealth rolls trying to sneak in and then the reason you have so little time to work with is because the bad guys are rushing to do something right now before you get to them.

Hence, I had a calendar for when Jacksonville would fall, and the PCs didn't really waste much time holing up or fiddling around, despite the wide opportunity for "side-quests" on the way. It could have gone the other way.

The reason I state this up front is as a disclaimer: While I think there are some definite pros and cons, ultimately the reason it went the way it did in my own game was kind of arbitrary.

2) I think civilization ought to take a little while to collapse if it's purely on the basis of roving hordes of (mostly) shamblers.

3) If the heroes are ALWAYS riding on a wave of destruction (i.e., as soon as you get here, the place will be overrun -- no chance to sleep!), it runs the risk of jading the players. Like, hey, this place looks halfway safe. Well, of COURSE the people are cannibals or they're going to experiment on us, or 5 MINUTES FROM NOW, IT IS GOING TO BLOW UP. There's no excuse for the heroes to let their guard down EVER, under such a model.

On the other hand, all it takes is "3 1/2 days later," and I at least have a plausible excuse (aside from sleep deprivation) why the heroes aren't ALL awake right now and ALL on high alert.

4) It gives the chance for a last hurrah for those poor PCs who invested in "civilized skills." Streetwise, for instance, doesn't get much use in WOTD as written unless the GM broadens its use considerably. (I tend to use it for "figure out if someone is being honest with you" on the theory that a "Streetwise" person is wise to the various ways in which he might be played.)

Little patches of civilization open up some interesting opportunities. Perhaps a few survivors pass the night by gambling (use for Gambling skill!), putting up assorted oddball goods (junk food items -- I was about to say "Twinkies" -- spare bullets, batteries, rolls of toilet paper, etc.) as their stakes. Heroes could wheel and deal with the random junk they've grabbed along the way -- some of which might actually be WORTH something to the right person. The area right around a survivor camp is likely to be heavily looted over time, so new arrivals might have "luxury" consumables to trade for a safe place to sleep, information on the area, useful skills ("Give me 5 days, and I can convert your truck to run on bio-diesel!"), etc.

Paper money is probably nearly worthless (or at least there's stellar inflation -- say 100x the listed price in SW, because so many people have found stashes of cash now that the undead have no need for it any longer) -- only NEARLY so, because it hasn't quite sunk in yet for some people that civilization as we know it isn't coming back yet. Certain trade items such as MREs might become the new "currency" used as a theoretical standard for exchange.

And some items might not have the value you'd expect, due to flooding of the market. I.e., M-16s are all over the place, so nobody's going to give you anything for that. The BULLETS, however, have trade value.

5) You can have a chance to sprinkle the adventure with information about the outside world, if you care to. Maybe give someone renewed motivation to "head west" to Colorado, because there's mention of the Colorado Relocation Zones, and that's where someone's family is headed, for instance.
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ValhallaGH
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 29, 2012 4:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

One use that paper money will always have? Toilet paper.

TP will vanish pretty quickly. It gets used up, fast, and it degrades very fast in any kind of sub-optimal storage.
Currency bills are a lot tougher (due to the high fabric content) while still being soft, around the same size, and (thanks to the apocalypse) devoid of intrinsic value.

One of the oddities of an apocalypse that is worth remembering.
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Virgobrown72
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 29, 2012 5:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
One use that paper money will always have? Toilet paper.


That is actually he one thing I never considered, but it makes so much sense... Surprised
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Jordan Peacock
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 29, 2012 6:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hmm. On the topic of things with no "inherent" value, I wonder what would happen to "precious" items such as gold. (Or, for my purposes, what would be "realistic" enough to pass the "willful suspension of disbelief" for my players, and at the same time be interesting enough for game-play.)

In the short term, I could see the argument that gold is of little use -- you can't eat it, you can't really do anything USEFUL with it -- but you might still value it because of the shared PERCEPTION that gold is worth something -- in other words, the faith that you will find someone else that you can trade this gold with to get something that you need, and it has enough value per its weight to be worth more than various other "trade items" you could hoard for bartering purposes.

If Jacksonville hasn't fallen yet, then I think there could be a perception that the Apocalypse is something temporary. People are still flying out to the Citizen Relocation Zone, the President is still in charge (from Colorado), and we'll get a handle on this. Thus you might find the trader who has lucked into getting a whole bunch of MREs who might reason that he's going to have an easier time transporting that gold jewelry and pawning it off later, convincing himself that he's getting a really good deal (he knows what gold "should" be worth, and in pre-Apocalypse terms he's charging you handsomely for those MREs).

Once Jacksonville falls, and for most of the remainder of War of the Dead, gold might not have quite as much value (although perhaps such luxury items might have some trade value for the same reasons in places such as Sanctuary -- for while they last).

And then, in World of the Dead, perhaps gold might find some value again. I'm not really sure on what basis gold HAS any real value other than just its rarity and that we've gotten this traditional, ingrained idea that "diamonds and gold and other shiny natural things are worth a lot," and as long as everyone believes that, and there's someone else to trade with ... it IS worth a lot for that fact alone.

I guess my interest in this is just so that when there's looting/scavenging to be done, there might be some items that are worth considering to load up on (but you can only carry so much, what with carry-capacity, space in your vehicle, etc.). Do you just focus on food, water, and ammunition? Or do you have enough faith that you'll run into some civilized fellow survivors down the line that some of these other compact "luxury" items might be valuable for trade purposes?

For reasons such as this, I've made some ballpark estimates on how much stuff can be loaded into a vehicle. I've arbitrarily declared (since I have *NO* idea what would be realistic, but I'm betting that my players don't, either) that about 300 lbs of gear -- using the Savage Worlds somewhat abstract-at-times estimate of "pounds" to cover both bulk and weight for capacity purposes -- can be carried in lieu of one passenger. I estimate that the average trunk of a car can hold about 300 lbs of bulk/gear (as long as it's big enough that someone could be stashed in the trunk, so, hey, we're consistent Wink ).

For pickup beds and SUVs and such, capacity is based on how many passengers you could alternately put back there instead of extra cargo.

Latching a trailer onto the back of your vehicle is going to penalize your vehicle handling (Driving checks) AND cut into miles-per-gallon. So, even if you've got an SUV, there still might be some element of decision-making when the heroes load up on goods.

I've made a bunch of vehicle cards with estimated MPG, "cargo space," fuel capacity, range, and some arbitrary handling values for my campaign to serve as a starting base, as well as translating vehicle SW speeds into MPH, so I don't have to decide this on the fly -- particularly useful if someone plays the "Hot Wheels" Adventure Card. I've also come up with some abstract rules for handling large "caches" of equipment -- enough stuff that it's too bulky for a single person to carry, and would likely fill up a trunk or more -- so that it isn't necessary to have a complete inventory of EVERY LAST PIECE of camping gear, tools, etc., that the group acquires while quickly raiding a site and grabbing everything that isn't nailed down, to sort through it all later. I might post those to my site sometime, after I've done a little more playtesting.

"Luxury goods," therefore, might cover a bunch of items without any necessary inherent value; they take up vehicle space, but might have some trade value if you reach a large settlement of survivors, if someone makes a good enough Streetwise roll to find an interested party.
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jcayer
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 30, 2012 12:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you, I have idea why gold has value either.

I'm thinking I will not have Jacksonville fall yet. Just to give them some downtime and like you said, not make everything last minute.

They have a fairly limited stash so far, so it will be interesting to see what they chose to barter with.

Time for me to start brainstorming and shamelessly stealing from those who went before me. We play Tuesday.
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Jordan Peacock
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 30, 2012 2:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I wish you luck! As always, I eagerly look forward to seeing how things turn out -- and I like the glimpses into your MapTool setup. For a while, we had someone who was joining us remotely via Skype, and it might have been an interesting experiment if I could have employed MapTool to give our remote player a bit of a glimpse into what was going on. (It just would have required me to have a lot set up ahead of time.)

I run my next game tomorrow, hitting (a variation on) Week 12 of Chapter 2. I still have a couple of points I haven't really settled to my own satisfaction (e.g., what are the old folks in the elementary school eating, or are they slowly starving to death?) but I might luck out if the players just DON'T THINK ABOUT some of these questions I find myself worrying over.
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 30, 2012 2:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I always find it funny when I look for more detail than the players will ever care about. Reasons why NPCs do certain things. The players rarely care.

Our setup has worked out well. With 1 guy almost always remote and another remote 50% of the time, google hangouts has worked awesome. I have a PC hooked up to my family room TV and the guys lounge on the couch. I get a card table and my laptop. Everyone joins the hangout.

When we need a map, I can share it through the hangout or through maptools. So far, it's been a real good solution.

Good luck tomorrow.
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Jordan Peacock
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 30, 2012 3:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

jcayer wrote:
I always find it funny when I look for more detail than the players will ever care about. Reasons why NPCs do certain things. The players rarely care.


Sometimes yes, sometimes no with my group. It really depends on who shows up that week. I've got a couple of veterans of Call of Cthulhu and other "investigative"-focused games, so there is a real focus on solving anything that looks remotely like a mystery at times.

That, and I think at least half my full group has the Curious Hindrance.

Quote:
When we need a map, I can share it through the hangout or through maptools. So far, it's been a real good solution.


I imagine! I'd love to have one of those monitor-table setups (I'd need a wide-angle viewable screen; most flat-screens don't have a wide-enough range for this to be feasible), or else a ceiling-mounted projector pointed at the table, and then turn MapTool into a basis for "virtual" table terrain. Wink
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DGMiller
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2012 12:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jordan really nailed it on the benefits of having Jacksonville intact.

I used it much like Jordan used the Naval Air Station at Cherry Point. It gave the players the chance to see society collapsing in the face of the crisis, since they missed that being on the ship, which was a very limited microcosm of society. They get to see the military reacting and I get to reinforce how the military was beaten, despite all of their weaponry. Also, to get this point across, I read a section of Max Brooks' World War Z about the "Battle of Yonkers."

It gave them a chance to let their guard down. I was able to show the mental breaks that people are having in the face of the apocalypse by having a murderer in the camp (and foreshadowing something that comes in Season 2). It also gave opportunities to my more social characters and the character in the group whose backstory involved being stationed there. I also used it to give more substance to Hauser and Major Morgan, who appear later.

Finally, as Jordan says, it somewhat, but not entirely, alleviates that "the zombies overrun every place we enter as soon as we get there" feeling that will develop by the time they leave Sanctuary.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 05, 2012 12:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Last night my guys visited the church. It was a really hard night for me. It took them forever to decide to go in, despite being invited by Father Raymond. I was fortunate that the nurse and EMT opted to offer to assist with the delivery, but ultimately decided to "keep their hands clean".
Then the problems started. Hell showed up. He barely got a word out of his mouth before they opened fire on him, I had to spend 4 bennies to soak all the wounds, and was lucky I could do that. I couldn't have the bikers fire back, because I thought it was more important to introduce the newborn and sprinter. Then, as soon as they learned the least bit about the sprinter and newborn, they were ready to run for the hills. Michael and Zachary hadn't come back and fixed the RV yet, but the players were seriously considering leaving them behind.
Ultimately, the sprinter killed their favorite NPC and they escaped in the RV without Hell coming back. They did set fire to the church, hoping to kill the newborn.
In my opinion, this week is tough to run as the players really have far too many ways to spoil it as written. They really felt they didn't stand a chance against the Ghost Riders so as soon as they retreated, the players were chomping at the bit to bug out. I think if I were to run this again, I might leave Hell and the bikers out of it and instead force the players to move on because of a herd of shamblers. I think the purpose of the church is more about introducing newborns and sprinters than dealing with Hell. I wanted the action scene while they raced to the RV, but in discussing it later on, the players really felt they would not have had a chance to make it.
So it goes. Everyone had fun. The write up will be posted tonight or tomorrow.

Now I need to go back and mine Jordan and DG's threads for ideas about Jacksonville.
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