Travels in “Uncharted” Lands

So often we think of adventurers wandering vast swathes of unclaimed lands. They find somewhere to set their bedrolls, maybe a tent, and set watches for the night. If they are reasonable survivalists they might forage for berries or root vegetables, perhaps hunt some game or set snares.

Only, how much land is truly unclaimed?

Has the land long been home to a tribe of nomadic ogres? Is there a hill giant homestead? Is there a village some miles away where the local earl may not appreciate people poaching on the land? Perhaps the patch of berries the adventurer’s found is a food source a local farmer relies on to feed his family.

This blog series provides encounters for your PCs, and an opportunity for them to consider is uncharted land really uncharted?

Ogres in the Mountains

Some distance from a small village, a tribe of ogres has made their home. Four of these hulking giants live inside a vast cave tucked into the bottom of a mountain. Some people from the village have noticed them in the distance and worry about their own safety, and that of their fellows. The PCs are asked to venture forth, exterminate the foul beasts, and save the village.

Complications

A homestead some distance from the village has been relying on the hunting the ogres do.  The local wolf population had grown substantially and threatened the livelihood of the farmers.  Their sheep have fared much better in recent years as the ogres have been attacking the wolves. If the ogres are killed, the farmer and his family fear the wolf population will once again surge, and they and their sheep will be in danger.

The ogres, while quick to temper, are relatively peaceful. They mean the village no harm, and are trying to live symbiotically with the locals.

Lord Alvin Cyris

old fashioned book with a house shield of a black elk on a green and white background

We are pleased to release Houses and Heraldry.

This book sketches out ten noble houses for your campaign. Each house is laid out on one page; the top half contains the house name, its motto, a representation of their heraldic device as it would appear on a shield, and an information block detailing important personages, numbers of troops, and vassal houses. The lower portion provides enough detail about the interesting characters of the house to get your imagination going, but leaves plenty of room for you to add your own details.

The younger son of Duke Cyris is getting ready to branch out on his own. The exclusive blog content below details his family, servants and vassal houses.

Pick up your copy today on DriveThruRPG.


House Cyris

Steady On, A Dragon’s Dawn

 

Lord of House: Lord Alvis Cyris

Spouse: Lady Julianna Cyris (formerly Houghton)

Children: Jarle (son), Raoul (son)

Household Knights, Retainers, Servants: Hal Wainwright (butler), Fiona Wainwright (head housekeeper)

Bannermen: 425 (300 infantry [50 immediately available]; 100 archers [10 immediately available]; 25 personal guard)

Vassal Houses: House Houghton

 

Lord Alvis Cyris is the younger son of Duke Azin Cyris. His title is technically a courtesy title, though he does hold a small parcel of land his father his given him in the family’s duchy. The younger Lord Cyris is quickly securing relationships with other noble houses, and solidifying ones with House Drekyn, the family his mother was born to. He has recently revealed his family crest, which is an amalgamation of his father’s banner with his mother’s.

Lord Alvis Cyris
Alvis is a canny young man who aspires to lead House Cyris upon his father’s death. With his wife Julianna’s support, Alvis is gaining favor and support from his family’s vassal houses, and nobles further afield. Alvis is an accomplished duellist, and has taught his wife how to defend herself. He has a tactical mind, and understands the politics of nobility well.

Lady Julianna Cyris
Lady Cyris was born into a family with strong ties to House Drekyn. When a marriage between her and a grandson of House Drekyn was suggested, her family eagerly accepted. Lady Cyris has been well taught in arts of manipulation and subterfuge, and is eager to see her family rise to great heights. She is working closely with her husband to manufacture a series of events that would see them inherit all of House Cyris.

Jarle Cyris
A short, stocky boy nearing ten years of age, Jarle is already being groomed as the future head of the house. He is often present at his father’s meetings, listening quietly. Afterward, his father quizzes him on what was discussed, ensuring his son pays attention to every detail. He understands how to use various weapons and trains with them each day. He is also very well educated, and is encouraged to spend at least an hour of each day reading books he borrows from his grandfather’s library.

Raoul Cyris
Slighter than his older brother, Raoul is a charming eight-year-old with a cheeky smile and large blue eyes. He is quickly becoming a capable swordsman. He despises his studies, which causes them to drag on longer than he or his tutor wish them to.

Hal and Fiona Wainwright
A serious faced couple in their younger years, Hal and Fiona work as the heads of staff for Lord and Lady Cyris. Hal is the son of Herbert Wainwright, House Drekyn’s dedicated and loyal butler. While he worked for some time at the Drekyn estate, Duchess Gunnilda Cyris requested he relocate from her old family home and become the butler for her youngest son. He was honoured to do so, and arrived with his wife. The two have no children, and have been unable to conceive any. They are loyal to Lord and Lady Cyris, but also to Duchess Gunnilda Cyris and House Drekyn.

 

Pick up your copy of Houses and Heraldry for 5e on DriveThruRPG.

If you don’t think you want the five 5e stat blocks, there is also a system neutral version.

Download a PDF copy of the above. 

flawed rose

Flawed Foes

Over the last year a bit we have been creating Flawed Foes. These NPCs may once have held great potential, alas, their flaws have created substantial hurdles.

5e NPCs: Flawed Foes cover

They are a fun, but flawed group of NPCs, and they have finally been collected into one of our 5e NPC collections.

You can find Flawed Foes on DriveThruRPG.

If you haven’t checked out the other offerings in this collection yet, what are you waiting for?

5e NPCs: Bullies and Brutes is a 35+ page book dedicated to colourful, unique, and competent NPCs that are (you guess it) bullies and brutes. You can check out Deloris, Human Business Mogul, here.

5e NPCs: Goblins! Goblins! Goblins! features 18 different goblins. There are over 35 pages of NPC content and while all of the characters in the book are a goblin of some sort, numerous racial variants, capabilities, motivations, and challenges (ranging from 1/2 to 12) mean your PCs will never look at goblins the same way again. You can meet Eakogs Clutternugget here.

Tangible Tavern 5e Bundle

5 5e Adventures Ripe For A Tangible Tavern

If you aren’t familiar with our Tangible Taverns line, this series of PDFs is dedicated to bringing life back to the local watering hole while making the GM’s job a little easier.

We help you bring the tavern to life with:

  • Detailed descriptions
  • Rumour and event tables
  • Tavern maps
  • Colourful and unique NPCs
  • Complete stat blocks (for Pathfinder and 5e compatible versions)

All of our taverns are designed to be slotted into just about any adventure, but this week we bring you a few specific 5e RPG adventures that can easily host a Tangible Tavern or two.

If you missed our list of PFRPG adventures ripe for a Tangible Tavern, you can find that here.

Continue reading 5 5e Adventures Ripe For A Tangible Tavern

The Hut by Jess Door

Tangible Taverns: The Hut

This week Dire Rugrat Publishing released Tangible Taverns: The Hut (5e). This marks the first tavern released since October 2016 when The Hidden Oak came out, and we are pretty excited about it.

Wayfinder #15 coverThe Hut was initially created back in late 2015 for Wayfinder issue #15, which released in May 2016. Here it appeared set in the world of Golarion, with ties to Paizo’s Golarion canon. It was fun and flavourful, and only 1,500 words.

The Hut: A Tavern on the Sellarn River was like a taste tester.

At the time we had only created and released two taverns, The Bull and The Bear and Tuffy’s Good Time Palace. The Hut was quite different, and due to word count restrictions, was missing so much of what we put into our taverns. A rumour table gave the isolated refuge ties to the world, but there were no events ready for a GM to throw at her PCs, and while the proprietress of the establishment, a motherly figure who goes by “Mama”, had a write up, she was missing a stat block, and there were no “Faces at the Tavern.”

One of my favourite things about being included in the Wayfinder magazine was the art that accompanied my piece of writing. In honesty, I think it was partly this piece of art that stopped me from expanding the tavern sooner.

It was a Tangible Tavern in the making.

At the time The Hut was started, all of our taverns were created with black and white images. Being so small and new, we had no budget for art. The piece Jess Door created was inspired.

The Hut by Jess Door

Art by Jess Door

I didn’t see it until the magazine was published, and as I paged through the fan publication I held my breath.  It was the first time my RPG work had been published by anyone else, had been laid out by anyone else, and had been presented to a larger audience. It suddenly felt very real.

I grinned at Jess’ accompanying picture.  A few weeks later, when I held a printed copy of the magazine in my hand, I grinned again. The Hut felt alive, out there in the world.

Jess’ image of Mama welcoming new comers to the ramshackle refuge still makes me smile every time I see it, and I didn’t want to disappoint this cheerful proprietress by providing NPC patrons that weren’t as colourful as her.

For two years The Hut sat on the back burner, simmering like a pot of stew before the dinner hour approaches.

We thought of it on occasion, wondering what Mama might be up to, what troubles may have come her way, and who may have rested their weary head inside the walls of her dilapidated home.

We were busy with life, rugrats, gaming, and creating a products for some of our other lines. And so Mama and her tavern waited.

Yesterday the answers were revealed.

Tangible Taverns: The Hut (5e) cover

Mama had companions join her. The world around her began to form. Sure, the tavern remains tucked away, but it finally came to life.

Giant-slaying Tryx and her beloved animal companion stumbled on Mama and began to develop an attachment to the kind woman. Rolph, the luckiest dwarf one may ever met, awaits a new band of adventurers looking for assistance. And there’s Dexter… the capable ranger who has fallen for the oblivious caretaker.

Now available in full Tangible Tavern length, The Hut has been updated, NPCs have been added, 5e stat blocks created, and the world it is is set in has been modified, allowing it to easily be dropped into just about any campaign (including Wizards of the Coast’s Tomb of Annihilation!).  It also features a full page colour map, colour art for each NPC, and all the other Tangible Tavern features you have come to love.

Is PFRPG your thing?

If The Hut sounds great, but 5e isn’t your thing, let us know!
The smaller version of The Hut is available in Wayfinder, but if you’d like to see it in all its glory as a Tangible Tavern, let us know!

Did you try out Tangible Taverns: The Hut (5e)?

Let us know your thoughts! Write a review, sound off below, or drop us a line.

And if you haven’t picked up our other taverns yet, you can find them in this discounted bundle pack, available for PFRPG and 5e!

Tangible Tavern 5e Bundle

doorway to another time

Way of the Worlds – A Design Journal

Last week I detailed my thoughts about Paizo’s new Starfinder Roleplaying Game. While the game itself is competent, if uninspiring to me, Kelly and I decided to use it to run a new campaign, partly in order to test the game out and see how well some ideas we have for products might fit. It may not be my favourite game, but hey, if you want to earn a few credits, you sell material for the systems that people will buy products for, right?

Here we go again…

Instead of taking the easy road and running straight from pre-existing material, Kelly suggested running a game inspired by a show she’s devoured on Netflix: Outlander. This is nothing new; Kelly works from home and occasionally the television is on in the background while she goes about her business.

If you aren’t aware of the premise, Outlander is about a young, married nurse who travels from 1945 Scotland to 1743 Scotland where she meets and falls in love with another man. The show is beautifully filmed, and is full of drama, intrigue, brief bouts of vicious brutality, and, of course, romance. It is well worth watching, if you are looking for something in the vein of A Game of Thrones with 100% more men in kilts and 80% fewer naked young women standing/writhing/being… seductive(?), during expository scenes.

But wait, there’s more!

While Outlander is a great place to start, I don’t want the game to primarily take place in the past with only framing sequences and flashbacks in the present. So looking at other stranger in a strange land tropes, I have taken inspiration from the DC Comics character Adam Strange, particularly the Adam Strange: Planet Heist miniseries by Andy Diggle and Pascual Ferry as well as, to a lesser extent, the Adam Strange: Man of Two Worlds (which I believe is just called Adam Strange in its original mini-series release) story by Richard Bruning and the Kubert brothers. Adam Strange also led back to his sword and planet forebears, John Carter (of Mars!) and Carson (Napier) of Venus, both created by Edgar Rice Burroughs of course. As an aside, I’ve always preferred Carson to John Carter.

What do we do now?

So, now we have our premise of a young, affianced diplomat (yes, she is an envoy; our frustrations with this class are pretty well tested) who randomly travels from 317AG to 4717AD Korvosa on Golarion where she will meet another appealing young man who is completely different in temperament from her fiancé. Plenty here to create romance and drama, right? But what will the characters do? Where’s the adventure?

Here I look to pre-published material. While the first Starfinder adventure path is far from complete, I can look to the description of the adventures that comprise it, and adapt from those plot to literally collapse the Pact System via a weapon of mass destruction (called the Stellar Degenerator in the AP, but which I have renamed the Maw of Rovagug for… reasons). From here I have sketched out a solar system spanning series of events, full of action and tense negotiations.

starfarer's companion coverWhile in Korvosa, I am adapting the mostly fantastic Curse of the Crimson Throne adventure path to the Starfinder system (with a little help from the Starfarer’s Companion by Rogue Genius Games). There’s a lot of drama already baked into this adventure path, and set in a pre-Victorian England and France inspired Korvosa, with sharp divides between social classes and plenty of unrest, it is already proving to be exciting! Having the two adventures running concurrently also allows me to move the action from one setting to the other when Curse of the Crimson Throne hits a portion Kelly is less likely to enjoy (namely anything involving a dungeon), or when there is extended travel through the Pact System.

What’s your inspiration?

I really enjoy adapting material that I enjoy into game material, and the rewards thus far have been immense. This has been a great campaign so far, with a lot of drama, and possibly some hard choices looming. It feels a lot like Outlander by way of Battlestar Galactica.

Does it sound appealing to you?

What material have you adapted for gaming, successfully or not?

What material do you think is ripe for adaptation?

Tell us about your experiences in the comments below!

space

5 and 5 for Starfinder RPG

Now that Paizo’s new hotness, the Starfinder Roleplaying Game has been out for a couple months and we’ve had a chance to read the rules and take them out for a spin in our new, ongoing, Way of the Worlds campaign, I’m ready to expound on my favourite and least favourite aspects of the system.

Without further ado, the awesome:

1. It’s pretty. It’s really pretty.  With nearly a decade of being a top dog in the RPG industry, Paizo knows how to make a good looking book. The Starfinder Core Rulebook  is well laid out and is full of gorgeous art, with only a couple of clunky pieces, and no terrible ones. In particular I love the look of the chapters dealing with the races and classes, as well as the gorgeous depictions of the weapons, and the pulp sci-fi fishbowl helmets the space goblins (we’ll talk about that name later) wear make me smile.

Continue reading 5 and 5 for Starfinder RPG

purse contents

Handbags – The Real Life Bag of Holding

If you play PRFPG or D&D you are no doubt familiar with the magical sack that holds damn near everything.  This bag is the answer to an adventurer’s every problem (or close to).  Loads of loot to drag home? Just toss it in the bag, it barely changes the weight.  Need a bedroll or a tent? I probably have an extra one in here somewhere.

Some GMs are more of a stickler for how much you can fit in one of these puppies and exactly what can go in, saying some items are too big to fit inside the mouth of the bag, or that the item itself could puncture the bag, destroying it and either expelling all the items, or sucking them and nearby people into a whole heap of trouble.  No matter how your GM rules, or what you use it for, no doubt this enchanted bag has made its way into more than one game session.  If only there was something like it in real life, right…?

There is.

Well, sort of.  See, during our latest solo-campaign, which was meant to be a one off during vacation, my character was busy scavenging goods to survive in a zombie-filled-post-apocolyptic world after she got separated from the group had been living with, and their secure compound.  Ken, my husband, GM, and fellow Dire Rugrat Publishing companion, hand waved the contents of some purses.  Not much in there, he said. Mints, some recipients, that’s about it, he said.  The room had been untouched to date and I found more in the cheap motel’s bathroom than I did in the middle aged woman’s handbag.  I shrugged and figured she was one of the few women I know who keeps her bag to a minimum.  I wanted to focus on playing, not raise a stink about a hand-waved handbag in a savage story, but it kept happening.

Then it occurred to me: most men have no idea exactly what lays in the depths of these mysterious containers. Indeed, dumping out the contents of my purse at any given time either causes my husband to stare in wonder or back away slowly (I have since been much more careful to remove any perishable food). There’s seemingly no end to the random junk in the bottom of an oversized purse.

Much like a bag of holding, a woman’s purse can produce any number of random long forgotten object, and can store a great deal.  From the incredibly helpful flashlight or screw driver to the useless lone child’s sock, these bags were (at least in my opinion) an untapped resource in a world four years into a zombie apocalypse.

So What’s in There?

In an effort to help him out (*cough* gain more awesome resources), I started making a list.  I dumped out my purse.  I asked around.  I looked up pictures of the content of people’s bags (oh Flickr and Instagram, how helpful you can be). I even found the random bags I’ve emptied my purse contents into before a trip (those were some random items in there I’ll tell ya!) and inventoried what I found.

The result…? Over a hundred various items with varying degrees of usefulness.  Of course, an item’s usefulness is related to the situation and the imagination of the bearer.  I’m sure, given enough pressure and few enough resources, a creative mind could put damn near every item in a bag or two to good use.

Handy Handbag or Pointless PurseThe full PDF of Handy Handbag or Pointless Purse? is now available over on DTRPG, but as a sneak peek, I’ve included one of the tables below. Being the mother of 3 charming (and exhausting) rugrats, I’ve picked the Caregiver Table. This particular list is one that only applies to certain handbags, but the contents could be useful to anyone, depending on their desperation.

Some of the items are more humorous than helpful. Rugrat #1 couldn’t stop laughing about a few of them, but I assure you that either myself, or a friend, has had any one of these items in their bag at some point.

Ready to add these items? Roll 2d4 – that’s how many items from the table will appear in the bag.  Now collect 3d12, total the results and find the matching item.  Repeat for each item and voila! Repeats are okay, unless you don’t want them to be.  I assure you, and I’m sure fellow parents can agree, when in doubt – throw another one in!

Caregiver’s Handbag Table

3 children’s pain reliever 20 1d4+1 matchbox cars
4 snot sucker 21 1d6 miniature plastic dinosaurs
5 children’s sunscreen 22 1d4 adhesive bandages patterned with various cartoon images
6 baby’s bottle with milk or formula 23 child’s hair elastic or hair clip
7 child’s shoe 24 pouch of squeezable baby food
8 partially coloured colouring page 25 small package of baby wipes
9 pair of children’s socks 26 children’s sunglasses
10 plastic spoon 27 small children’s book
11 fruit flavoured snack in animal shapes 28 sippy cup of water
12 single dirty sock crusted with snot 29 soother
13 crushed package of animal crackers 30 1d4 diapers
14 used tissues 31 hand sanitizer
15 rock 32 small bottle of adult’s pain reliever with d10 caplets remaining
16 seashell 33 antiseptic wipes
17 beach glass 34 juice box missing a straw
18 1d3 broken crayons 35 teething toy
19 1d3 small plastic ponies 36 reusable container or bag of dried cereal

Comment Below

Did you try out the table? What did you end up with? What’s your favourite item? We want to head from you!

 

flawed rose

Flawed Foe: Billet Hamperstand

Some NPCs make excellent allies, others are debilitating nemeses, but some are just sad. In this series of posts we bring you Flawed Foes.  These NPCs may once have held great potential, alas, their flaws have created substantial hurdles.  Don’t let that stop you from enjoying some good old role-playing fun though!


“What foul and wretched creatures stand before me? You do not deserve to breathe the air of this world, let alone grace the halls of my home.”

Royston and Petunia were a match made by the gods.  Both dedicated to the intense study of magic, the pair were a match for just about any that crossed their path.  Petunia had begun her studies early in life and excelled quickly.  When she met Royston the two maintained a friendly feud for a time, but eventually admitted how they both felt. Their love was intense and pure, as strong as their combined forces against those that would move against them.

Petunia was kind hearted and generous, no matter how powerful she became.  At her insistence, the pair helped those in need, and always came to the aid of the rulers of the kingdom in which they resided.  They quickly developed a reputation for charity and Petunia especially was beloved by the villagers. After some years together Petunia became with child, and their son was born some months later. Little Billet with his brown ringlets was celebrated by everyone in the kingdom, and Petunia and Royston had never been happier.

One day, when Billet just a toddler, a band of orcs that had been growing restless in the nearby mountains attacked the city. Officials, as well as Petunia and Royston, had been keeping an eye on them, but they had seemed disorganized and scattered.  The sudden organized attack had been impossible to predict.  Petunia and Royston hurried to assist the city.  Petunia hid Billet in a nearby home with some trusted acolytes and proceeded to the hilltop where she would have the best vantage to fend off the opposition.

Billet Hamperstand

Publisher’s Choice Quality Stock Art ©Rick Hershey/Fat Goblin Games (https://fatgoblingames.com/)

She had almost reached her destination, and smiled at the sight of her beloved Royston aiding the town, when a she heard a squeal from Billet.  She pivoted on her heel, concerned her young child had followed her into the danger zone.  Her eyes met his only for a second before the assassin who had snuck inside the walls was upon her.  The unsuspecting halfling was no match for the silent murderer, and right there in front of Billet, she perished. It was a single wound to the throat, but all Billet could see was blood, so much blood.  The young halfling fainted.

Royston, also hearing his son, had turned and seen the whole thing. He and the nearby guards quickly dispatched the assassin, but it was too late.  Despite her husband’s best efforts, and those of the local healer, Petunia could not be revived.  The city managed to fight back the orcs, with a number of casualties, but none were more grievous to the city than that of Petunia.  Royston was devastated, but he collected Billet, and prepared himself for a life without his beloved.

His father, consumed with Petunia’s death, poured all of his energy into his own studies, and those of his son in whom he instilled the idea that he was destined for greatness, that he was to follow in the footsteps of his parents.  Royston became increasingly powerful, eventually surpassing the skill of his late wife and drawing the attention of numerous people, both admirers and enemies.  Royston no longer wished to assist the helpless citizens of nearby towns.  No one else in his family would sacrifice their life in service to the weak and incapable.

Billet struggled with his studies, much to the disappointment of his father.  When he reached puberty, Billet was sent to an arcane academy, where his father hoped he would finally excel in his magical studies.  Billet despised the school. Each day he was expected to spend countless hours pouring over old tomes, making notes, and inspecting and studying various components.  Most of the other students were thrilled at the chance to learn under the watchful eyes of the instructors, but Billet just wanted to explore the world and be left alone with books full of incredible tales of wonder.

Billet would write to his father, begging to return home, but he was always refused.  Royston loved his son, but he was consumed in avenging Petunia’s death and eliminating any threat to himself and his son. His actions resulted in many enemies, and eventually a powerful band of mercenaries caught up with him.  Inside his own home, the great and powerful Royston Hamperstand was slain.

When Billet hadn’t heard from his father in some time, he requested leave to go check on him.  He was denied, but snuck out of the school anyway.  Billet made his way to his childhood home and there he found what remained of his father.  Even with Billet’s lack of medical training it was clear the death had not been quick.  The place was a ruin and remains and blood covered many surfaces of his father’s dining hall.  The sight and smell of blood, dried as it was, caused Billet to faint.

When he came to, slightly bruised from his fall, Billet forced himself from the room and vowed to avenge his father’s death, to make his family proud. He swore he would not return to his studies at the school, and began to amass followers by announcing himself the son of Petunia Hamperstand, the beloved arcane protector.  Many of those who remembered his mother came to his aid. His father’s home was cleaned and Billet began to build a new life for himself.

Inside the walls of the great tower Billet’s arcane studies have ceased, despite the plethora of tomes, but his love of books in general has grown.  The walls of the tower are now filled with any books Billet can procure, and he memorizes the stories, telling the accounts of protagonists as if they were his own, recounting numerous tales of grandeur and adventure.

Inside the walls of his father’s tower, Billet’s hatred of orcs and mercenaries festers. He takes his frustration out on his minions, belittling them with verbal tirades before apologizing to them with grand promises. The occasional reminder of his family’s legacy and his birth right keeps the majority of them devoted, and those who falter are replaced and announced as traitors conspiring with orcs or mercenaries.

 

Billet's Stat Block


You can find more unique NPCs in our Tangible Taverns and 5e NPC collections on DriveThruRPG.

Open Game License


What did you think of this NPC? Did he make an appearance in your game session? 

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.

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