broken car

Help, I’m Alive! – Deadworld Design Journal 1

As with so many things, this all started with Kelly telling me she had watched something she really enjoyed. In this instance it was Van Helsing, a television series that details the activities of a mysteriously badass woman who kills vampires in a post-apocalyptic world. She then had me watch it as we worked in the evenings after the rugrats had nested for the night. I liked it well enough. As Kelly suspected, it gave me a few ideas I could translate into RPGs.

She then started watching Z Nation, which she really got excited about, so, once again, I started watching it with her (she kindly allowed me to start at the beginning). I was leary at first.

I’ve watched The Walking Dead to the end of the seventh season. I read the first hundred issues of the comic book. I stopped both because I found them wearying. Their relentless bleakness made me wonder why any of the principal characters wanted to survive aside from sheer masochism. I liked Z Nation more than TWD (or Van Helsing for that matter). It was cheesy, had some bad acting and questionable production values, but its bones were good. And the scenarios and ideas in play seemed like someone had translated their zombie apocalypse gaming sessions into an awesome series of short B movies. In short, its makers remembered that sometimes its okay to be fun or silly, even in the midst of death.

Shortly after I started watching Z Nation, Kelly asked if I wanted to change campaigns while we were on vacation; switch from our Supernatural inspired modern occult investigation campaign to one set in the zombie apocalypse. Sure, I said, thinking that this would be a short term thing. I should have known better….

Location Matters

I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare, so I lightly sketched out zombified North America. The best zombie entertainment, in my opinion, begin in the aftermath of whatever apocalyptic event brought the world to its knees, so I decided to set our game four years after Z-Day. Our game would start in Virginia, at the University of Virginia per Kelly’s character’s background. A portion of the University has been turned into a secure compound under a chauvinistically tyrannical thumb. The rest of the campus is kept free of the dead and other riffraff by the compound’s soldiers, who also make scavenging forays into other less friendly territories. Women, children, and the elderly take care of the compound itself, ensuring that it runs smoothly and that the soldiers are comfortable.

Beyond the compound’s environs, the US is a patchwork of disparate factions vying for limited resources. The larger a community was, the harder it was hit on Z-Day, so there is marginally more safety from the dead in the less populated regions of the country.  Much of Kansas is controlled by a charismatic clergyman and his chosen Redeemers. There is a roughly triangular region anchored by Chicago, Springfield, and Indianapolis where the sun no longer rises. Locals of this area have taken to calling it Neverlight, outsiders merely say that it is Always Dark and avoid the area. It is rumored that there are… things… in the dark. Texas is reputed to be free of the dead and is ruthlessly controlled by four Oil Barons. The waters have reclaimed southern Louisiana; New Orleans is now generally known as The Sunken City. There are points of light as well: the southern tip of Vancouver Island has been walled off and is free of the dead, if rumours are true, though one must endure eight weeks of solitary quarantine if they are to join Utopia, as it is called by the desperate. There are other safe zones out there, somewhere.

Alert Status Red

Being set in the zombie post-apocalypse, zombies will of course be well represented. Regular, lurching zombies, fast zombies, plague spewing zombies… they’re all in there. People with their myriad array of abilities and allegiances of course will likely pose the biggest threat, ultimately. But there needs to be more… Taking a page from Resident Evil and Resident Evil 3, tyrant and nemesis-like undead menaces will present themselves from time to time.

The dead are comprised of more than just zombies as well. As described above, there is a region that never sees daylight. What kind of undead creatures could thrive in such a place? I can think of one or two.. or perhaps more. And… and this is my favourite part… there are ghouls. Yes. Ghouls. What is terrifying to people inured to the horror of the zombie apocalypse? Dead things that are social, intelligent, and ever-hungry for living flesh are. The ghouls, and their queen, have plans. And while they would love to see the population of humans increase, it would certainly be to the detriment of the general quality of life…

The End is Here

I think that is enough to chew on for the time being. Next time, I will discuss the system, resources used, and some house rules that have been implemented to better simulate the system’s implementation of the theme.

Comment below!

What have I missed? What kind of things would you like to see in your zombie apocalypse? Sound off in the comments.

z nation

Z Nation: Was it Written by Gamers?

After enjoying Van Helsing so much I wrote a post about how it was inspirational for gaming, I decided to check out Z Nation.  And I wasn’t disappointed.

It helps that I love discovering an established show with more episodes in the bank than I can shake a stick at, but even more than that, I think Z Nation must have a team of gamers behind it: the strange mix of party members given an impossible quest that keeps them together; the alignments that obviously butt heads from time to time; the way the party can stumble on people and places that have been surviving for some time, only to be destroyed because trouble follows our band of “heroes”…. let’s take a closer look.

Weapons

z whacker

Addy Carver’s weapon is one of my favourites in this show.  We see her pick up the “Z Whacker” in the first episode from a travelling duo who explain its virtues as she tries it out.  Essentially a morning star, this aluminium baseball bat with reinforced spikes (long enough to penetrate the brain, but not so long they get stuck in there, leaving you wrestling your weapon out of a zombie head) is her weapon of choice throughout the show; (spoiler alert) later in the show, her weapon gets upgraded to deliver an electrical charge. Shocking morning star, anyone?

 

Guns abound, of course, but they make noise, which attracts more Z’s.  For that reason, we’ve got blades aplenty.  And the stealthy 10K can make miracles happen with a slingshot and whatever bits and bobs he can find.

 

Basically, there is no one weapon everyone uses, because in RPGs, every character has their preferred weapon, and it isn’t often someone outfits a whole group with the same thing.

That Guy

I don’t want to give away any of the awesome plot developments, but I will say this – you know that party member who does whatever he wants? No matter the cost? The person who thinks whatever he wants is his for the taking? And you kind of want to just off them a few times over, but you can’t because in real life they are your friend and they’d be furious with you for killing their character? Plus you want to keep hanging out with your friends and enjoying game night? What happens when that character is the one that holds salvation for the human race? What happens when good people have to die to keep him safe? (Don’t you hate when your GM does that to you?)

Feats and Skills

All the characters have their own natural abilities – various skills, feats, etc. Some of these are more obvious, like Addy and Mac and their teamwork feats.  And sometimes you wonder why someone doesn’t just max out Profession (mechanic) or Craft (mechanics) when they level up (how many vehicles have they gone through?).

Character and Classes

Some of the characters in this show are easy to see as a particular class, others require a bit more finessing or a third party class.  They can also provide great inspiration for a character build. Plus they show how a kickass character sheet is awesome, but you have to have some personality as well.  I love what 10K can do; I think he’s awesome, but he’s got the personality of a paper clip. Meanwhile, Murphy (love him or hate him) has more personality and quirks than any one companion will ever want to deal with.  He’ll drive you crazy, but he’s the mission. (Side note: I’m also sure he’s a sorcerer in a world without magic.)

The Quest

z nationEvery time these guys take a step forward, they take several back.  This isn’t atypical of a TV show, but seriously – they are always trying to save someone only to leave destruction in their wake, or having their journey disrupted to land them in a heap of trouble on a side quest. Seriously, these guys often seem to happen upon a place where people are largely getting by, eking out a modest existence, and then it’s chaos.

And they don’t really care.  Characters in shows in Walking Dead take everything so seriously, but in Z Nation, it’s like this band of would-be-heroes knows it’s all just about them.   The show even takes it so far as to give over the top monologues, and have people mention off hand how trouble follows these guys and how they are easy to follow based on the trail they leave.

These guys believe they are heroes, just like every group of gamers. But it doesn’t always justify their actions, even if they want it to.

So Bring on The Game!

Z Nation was so easy to see as an RPG, in fact, that we have temporarily sidelined our other game in favor of one that takes place in a dead world.  Zombies run rampant, and with a little imagination and some reskinning, Pathfinder’s collection of undead is doing a great job of providing a variety of zombies to tangle with.

It’s easy to take snippets from the show and use them to inspire a session, a scenario, or the whole darn world.

We are now several sessions into this post-apoloyptic zombie campaign, and I cannot wait to see what comes our way.

Comment Below!

Have you seen Z Nation? Does it remind you of an RPG? Have you encountered zombies in your games? Ever played a zombie focused game?

Ruined Fence

Our World Ended (Not Really)

Our world ended. Well, not really.

Dire Rugrat Publishing has been really quiet lately, and not because of any tragedy.

What happened is this: there were day jobs taking up a lot of time (and still are), we got overwhelmed on a project (it’s still in the works, hang tight), a family vacation happened, and I (Kelly) started binge watching Z-Nation.

The binge watching happened right around the vacation, and I had an idea – set aside the campaign we have been playing for awhile and trade it in for an alternate world with similar characters.  We’ve done this sort of thing before, when a long standing campaign got to be a very high level and it became clear the story had been taken as far as we could go. Exploring alternate worlds briefly, or taking a more in depth look, is a fun way to explore a character.  I enjoy all of the “what-if’s” big time.

We thought this time, given that the world was inspired by things like Z-Nation, The Walking Dead, the Resident Evil game series, and the Fallout game series, that it wouldn’t last long. Depressing world, lots of potential for a grisly death by a swarm of zombies, plus what’s the point really, right? (Isn’t that why The Walking Dead isn’t nearly as good as it used to be?)

Turns out, it’s amazing.  We’re still not sure how long we’ll play for, but in the words of one of the NPCs: “You just have to ride that wave.”  We are playing Pathfinder with some homebrew rules thrown in to make it modern; there are some game systems built specifically for a post-apocalyptic world (Ken shared his experience running one back here), but I didn’t want to learn a new system for what was meant to be a quick and gritty long weekend campaign. We’ve been playing it more hours than I want to calculate, but we are enjoying every minutes of it.

So, we are still here.  We are just busy gaming instead doing anything remotely productive.  But in keeping with what our interests appear to be this month, you can expect a series of post-apocalyptic focused posts. Hopefully they inspire you and your gaming group.  We’re also thinking of sharing a bit more about our current campaign. In the meantime, be safe out there!

Comments? Questions?

Have your own post-apocalyptic obsession? Sound off in the comments below.

inkwell and feather pen

May 2017 Reviews

In case you missed some of our products the first go around, or you’ve been sitting on the fence about them, we’ll compile the monthly reviews of our products into one blog post each month.

The full reviews can be found with the products (linked to in the product name), and in some cases, on the reviewer’s own blog (linked to the reviewers name).

Continue reading May 2017 Reviews