Wednesday, December 18, 2013

ATZ Campaign, Day 60: A Way Out, Part 2

"Tell me again why we are going after this car?" said Chaz as she and her partner quietly skulked between houses and down streets in their neighborhood.  The young redhead was hunched over in a crouch as she loped along.  In her hands was a red plastic gasoline can.  Across her back was strapped a long black assault rifle.
Robb stopped at the corner of a building and peered carefully around it.  In his right hand was a squat, gray pistol.  In the other, a battered black machete.  He whispered to her, "Ultimately it gives us options.  Things are pretty bad right now in the city, but for all we know they could get worse.  The car could help us get out of town in a hurry if we needed to."
Several weeks ago Robb and Chaz had found the keys to the red Volkswagon while rummaging through an abandoned house.  The car, however, needed fuel.  "Okay, that makes sense," Chaz said.
Rob frowned slightly.  "Yeah, only I've begun to wonder if the car battery might be dead at this point.  If that happens, we're screwed."
"God, you can be a ray of sunshine sometimes," Chaz groaned quietly.

It's part two of my homegrown scenario in which Robb and Chaz are trying to recover an automobile they encountered several sessions ago.  They have already succeeded in the first part, having acquired a supply of gasoline.  Now they have to get it to the car, refuel it, hope it starts, and then drive it off the table.
The rules for this encounter are simple.  Like before, the target, in this case the car, is in the middle of the table.  Once there, one PC has to spend two activations refueling the car.  Then, if circumstances dictate, there may be a "The Car Won't Start" (ATZ, pg. 40) roll.  If the car does start, then the PC's have to drive it off the table to succeed in the encounter.
PEF's and zombie placement is normal.  The area is a suburb with an ER of 2.

Initial PEF's were: Red REP 3, zone 3; White REP 5, zone 4; Blue REP 6, zone 1.
Rolling for starting zombies, I got a 6 for Robb, then another 6 for Chaz!  For the random placement, it turned out to have five to their left, five to their right, and two roughly in front of them.  That is a horrible turn of events.

Turn 1: Robb 1, Zombies 3

"There's a whole gang of them over on my side!" said Chaz as she looked over her shoulder.
"And I've got another group over here," replied Robb glumly.  "We need to run for it."
Robb moved towards one of the lone zombies down the street between him and the car.  He aimed his pistol, pulled trigger twice, and the gun clicked twice.
"Didn't you just reload that thing?" asked Chaz incredulously.
Robb grumbled under his breath.

Ten zombies seems like a team-killer to me, so I decided to move them towards the smaller pair, and hope I could outrun the mob.  Unfortunately I rolled two 1's for Robb's two shots and that meant he was out of ammo until I could reload.  Chaz was hauling the gas can, so I assumed she couldn't fire her rifle but had her tire iron out instead.

Turn 2: Robb 6, Zombies 6
Turn 3: Robb 5, Zombies 5

Robb slapped another clip into his pistol.

Turn 4: Robb 4, Zombies 6

Robb fired two shots, one at each of the zombies in front of him.  Both tumbled to the ground.  "Let's get a move on," he said.
"You think?" Chaz wheezed as she continued to haul the gas can.

Two shots, two hits, two Obviously Dead results and no zombies summoned.  Add to that no activation for the mob, and that was the kind of break I needed at that moment.
The white PEF came into view, but it only passed 1d6, ratching the ER to 3.

Turn 5: Robb 5, Zombies 1

With the mob of zombies continuing to close on them, Robb and Chaz made it to the car.  "I'll fuel it up, you hold them off," said Chaz.

Turn 6: Robb 1, Zombies 5

Robb pointed his .45 at an approaching zombie and snapped off two shots as Chaz began emptying the gas container's contents into the car's tank.  The creature's head flew apart and he fell to the ground.

No zombies were summoned by the two shots.  Chaz completed her first of two turns of refueling.

Turn 7: Robb 3, Zombies 6

Another zombie had staggered into view, and Robb fired two more shots, bringing it down.  Two more zombies closed in from around the houses in the area.  "All done," said Chaz, closing off the gas cap and moving around to the front of the car.
"You better hurry," said Robb in a low voice as he eyed the mob down the street.

Robb shot twice at the zombie that had been summoned by his previous round of firing and killed it, but the two shots summoned two more zombies 12" away.  This is a stroke of terrible luck because the mob was still over 12" away but now that two were close by, Chaz would have to roll a "The Car Won't Start" test.  If no zombies were nearby, the car would start automatically and they could leave.

Turn 8: Robb 4, Zombies 4

Dark clouds began to roll in.

Rolling a 17 on the random event (I realized later I didn't need to, the ER was 3, not 4), means that bad weather will come in on 1d6 turns.  In this case, five.

Turn 9: Robb 4, Zombies 2

Chaz tossed her assault rifle onto the passenger seat in the front and sat down behind the steering wheel.  She cranked the key in the ignition.  The engine sputtered, but failed to turn over.  "The car won't start!" she said in a panicked voice.  Robb fired twice towards a nearby zombie, but his aim was rattled and both shots missed.
"Try again, but make it quick," he said.

Chaz rolled a 5 on "The Car Won't Start," meaning, well, it didn't start.  Robb's two shots both missed, and what's worse, another zombie appeared in the general vicinity of the mob moving down the street, raising its number to 12!

Turn 10: Robb 5, Zombies 4

Robb began hacking away at the zombie closest to him with his machete.  It fell it its knees and toppled over, but Robb could tell its head was still intact.  Inside the car, Chaz was trying the ignition again when an arm suddenly smashed through the passenger side window and began grabbing at her.  With wide-eyed terror she grabbed at the assault rifle next to her.  Her hand found the handle and she pulled the trigger and held it down.  Suddenly the car was filled with the deafening noise of gunfire and bullets whanged through the car door and window.  One of them must of found its mark, because the zombie fell away.  Smoke and the smell of cordite assailed Chaz's nose.
Outside, Robb stepped away from the still-stirring zombie and send to more shots into the approaching mob of zombies.  Two more fell down and didn't get up.  "What's going on in there?" he shouted over the roar of gunfire.
Chaz cranked the ignition again.  The engine rumbled briefly, then died once more.

Ugh.  This wasn't a good turn for the zombies to go first.  One was close enough to engage Robb outside the car, another to approach from the opposite direction (attracted by gunfire) and assault Chaz inside.  I didn't bother firing as the zombie approached Robb but went into melee combat.  Robb beat it 5:1, which normally would be enough to make the kill, but I rolled a 6 for the KD.  Inside the car Chaz passed her Being Charged roll by more than the zombie and got off a full three shots with the assault rifle before it got to her.  One hit, and she managed to get the Obviously Dead.
On the PC's activation.  I decided to have Robb step away slightly from the knocked down zombie (it would get up on its activation) and fire two shots and the very close and very large mob instead, hoping to take out the closest ones and widen the gap.  Thankfully he managed to do that.
On the downside?  The five shots between the two of them summoned four more zombies.

Turn 11: Robb 4, Zombies 4

A few feet away, lying in the gutter of the street.  A cellphone buzzed to life and began ringing loudly.  "What the hell is that?" Robb asked no one in particular.

Again, I forgot that we were just ER 3, not 4, and rolled an 13 on the random events chart, meaning a ringing cell phone that would force me to roll 3d6 each turn for new zombies until it was turned off, which would then be treated like a PEF, only making human PEF encounters zombies instead.  One appeared this turn from the ringing.  Like I needed that.

Turn 12: Robb 5, Zombies 3

The zombie at Robb's feet staggered up.  Robb swung his left fist and clocked it with the butt of his machete and it fell down again.  "C'mon c'mon c'mon..." Chaz repeated to herself as she tried the ignition a third time.  Again the engine rumbled slightly, but failed to catch.
Robb continued to fire into the oncoming mob whose ranks seemed to swell with each passing second.  There were so many he couldn't fail to hit something at head height, and two more went down.  It seemed to have no impact on the zombies' numbers, however.  He knew they were running out of time.  "It's time to go!" he shouted to his partner.
"No!  I almost got this!" Chaz shouted back as she fiddled with the keys in the ignition.

The zombies went first again, and were now literally inches away from Robb.  He dealt with the one whom he had knocked down previously, but only managed to knock it down a second time.  I felt comfortable with Robb facing one zombie; it was the horde that was too close that I was really worried about.  I again had him fire into the crowd to try to remove the closest ones, and again got lucky.
Chaz, though, for a third time failed on "The Car Won't Start."

At this point, I had a choice to make, one that could have a huge impact on the adventure, and the campaign.  Based on those choices, four outcomes could occur.

Option A: I could lose the activation roll, and Robb and Chaz would be overwhelmed by zombies.
Option B: I could win the activation roll, have Chaz start the car, and they could head away in the other direction.
Option C: I could win the activation roll, have Chaz fail to start the car, and if the zombies activated, would have the two of them overwhelmed by zombies.
Option D: I could win the activation roll and just run away.  The session would be a failure, which could result in Chaz leaving the group in the denouement portion of the story.  A slight risk, but it has happened before...

So, as with all dramatic moments in this blog, you can find out what happened after the break.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

ATZ Campaign, Day 60: A Way Out

" Happosai gets to drink the magical water, the wedding is postponed until the engagements can be sorted out, and the series ends with Ranma and Akane going back to school together."

Chaz finished her story with a contented smile.  Robb stared at her with puzzlement.  "Wait, you mean he never gets married?"

"Nope," said the young woman sitting across from Robb in his small cottage.  "But you know Akane is the best match for him."

"I can't believe I listened to that whole story and he never gets married," said Robb wearily.  Chaz had turned out to be a welcome companion after his girlfriend had died several weeks ago.  She was clearly glad for someone to talk to, and had been regaling him constantly with discussion about movies, comic books, and a host of other topics.  Robb gazed distractly towards the drawn curtains, where vague shadows moved slowly.

"Are you thinking about going out?" Chaz asked.

"I'm thinking about a lot of things.  First, I'm thinking about the helicopter that flew overhead the day we met, and where it might be going.  There's really no way to tell how far off it could be, however.  I'm also thinking about that car we found, and how we might gas it up in case we need to get out of here in a hurry.  The zombies haven't been too bad, but it could get worse.  Third, I'm still wondering about the other people out there.  I've met a few others, but they didn't seem interested in sticking together.  Maybe now they feel differently."

"If they are still alive," Chaz pointed out in a matter-of-fact way.

Robb grimaced slightly.  Erin had left under bad circumstances, but for good reason.  He hoped she had somehow managed to find her family, even if that seemed highly unlikely.  "Well, the only real problem I can address is the gasoline situation.  There's a filling station not too far from here, and I think we can scrounge a few containers.  We'll get some gas, get to the car, and then drive it back here.  Hopefully the noise won't be too big a problem."

Chaz thought for a moment.  "Some food wouldn't hurt either."

After a very long hiatus, the All Things Zombie adventure of Robb & Co. continues!  To kick things off, I thought I'd try my hand at creating my own scenario, in this case a two-part story.

In part one, the heroes must make their way to a gas station in the middle of the table.  One hero must spend two activations pumping gas (while the other does whatever is necessary), and then make it off the table.  Because they are hauling a heavy load by hand, they can not Fast Move after getting the gasoline.  The table is ER 2 (suburbs), and the PEF's and starting zombies are handled normally.

In the beginning, there are three PEF's: Red (REP 4, zone 4), White (REP 3, Zone 4), Blue (REP 5, Zone 3).  Starting zombies for Robb are 1, Chaz 6 (bummer).  They are placed using my d12 home rule (where I roll a d12 rather than 2d6 for more variation).

Turn 1: Robb 4, Zombies 2

Robb and Chaz began to make their way towards the local gasoline station.  They had not gotten far before they noticed they were attracting a lot of attention.  Several zombies began closing in from different directions.
"So much for this going quietly," Robb sighed.  He drew his Colt .45 ACP and fired off two shots in the direction of a pair of zombies.  One shot went wide, while the other plowed through the skull.  Chaz fired her assault rifle, and the shot caught the zombie in the thigh.  It stumbled to the ground.
"Head shots, de-.." said Robb reflexively, but then caught himself.

Robb continues his steady average of 50% when it comes to killing zombies with two shots, one hit, and one Obviously Dead.  Chaz fired once (I'm antsy about running out of ammo and the noise) but only got a Knocked Down result after hitting it.  No zombies were summoned by the shots.

Turn 2: Robb 5, Zombies 1

"Damn, there's too many of them!" said Chaz as the zombies closed in.  "Get behind me!" shouted Robb as he moved between the young woman and the two zombies that had managed to get close enough to start clawing at him.  He swung up the black-bladed machete he called Belle, but he was clearly out of practice.  He connected with one and it staggered back, but his strike hadn't done any damage to the creature's brain.  The other one began grabbing at his right arm, trying to manage a bite.
As Robb wrestled the zombie off him and to the ground, the other zombie was getting back up.  Chaz quickly ran over and battered it back to the ground with the butt of her rifle.

On the zombie's activation, two make it into close combat (the heroes have moved towards them, trying to tackle them piecemeal.  I had deliberately moved Robb, who was REP 5 and had a decent hand weapon (albeit in his off hand), into close combat over Chaz, who was REP 4 and had only the improvised weapon of the assault rifle.  In close combat with the first zombie, Robb had only two successes to the zombie's one, and didn't roll well enough on the result to get anything but a KD.  Worse, the second zombie managed to tie Robb at 2 apiece, and he was locked in combat.
On the heroes' activation, Robb was locked in combat and got 4 successes to 3, knocking that one down.  I moved Chaz into melee with the zombie that had been knocked down (hoping the one die advantage would help) but only she only got a 2:1 and another KD result. I should have popped the weasel this turn, but I thought Chaz might have a chance.  Close combat was not going as well as I had hoped.

Turn 3: Robb 1, Zombies 6
Turn 4: Robb 1, Zombies 5

"Enough of this!" said Robb angrily as he fired a quick shot into the head of the zombie on the ground.  Chaz followed suit with the second zombie.  "We need to keep moving before we are completely surrounded," she said.
"Then let's warm up the band," said Robb, walking briskly towards the gas station, firing as he went.  One of his shots caught a zombie in the shoulder and it tumbled down.  Chaz's aim was better, catching another in the head.

The two heroes were moved closer to the zombies up the road, again trying to catch them in small groups rather than all at once.  Robb fired twice, hit once, but got a KD.  Chaz fired once and got the OD instead with the Easy to Kill rule. Unfortunately, all three shots ended up summoning zombies to the area.

Turn 5: Robb 2, Zombies 3

Robb took a deep breath and began to focus on what he was doing.  He fired two shots at two zombies closing in on his side and both their heads splintered with the impact of the bullets.  Behind him, Chaz was having less luck.  Her shot at an approaching zombie had missed, and now the zombie had drawn up to her.  It's mouth opened with a horrible moan, but then caught the stock end of her rifle.  It tumbled backwards onto the ground, but the blow hadn't much strength behind it.

Robb's two shots were good, but Chaz's miss summoned yet another zombie.  The neighborhood was a lot more crowded than Robb had hoped!  The sole zombie in range fought with Chaz, but lost 2:3 to the costumed heroine.  It only suffered a KD, though.

Turn 6: Robb 3, Zombies 4

Robb pivoted in place and fired two more shots.  Two more zombies went down and were still.  I could do this all day, Robb thought with a grim smile.  Chaz fired her rifle from the hip, putting down the zombie she had shrugged off.
"I knew there was a reason I picked you to be my sidekick," Chaz said with a grin.

Chaz again popped the weasel, and thankfully no zombies were summoned by any of the shots.

Turn 7: Robb 5, Zombies 3

"Kid, I'm pretty sure the middle-aged guy with the big gun is the mentor figure!" said Robb as he continued firing at the approaching zombies.  Two were hit, but only one went down.  "Not the chippie in the spandex!"
Chaz flipped the switch on her assault rifle.  "I'll show you whose got the bigger gun, Inspector Gadget!"
She fired off a burst of shots at a nearby zombie, and it flew apart.

Three more zombies were summoned by the shots.  At the rate is was going, the heroes were failing to kill more than they brought to the fight.

Turn 8: Robb 4, Zombies 6

"Okay, 'Penny' let's get what we are here for," said Robb as they ducked into the gas station's main building.  Inside, two former customers and a woman in a polo shirt with the station's logo wandered inside, their dead eyes turning towards them as the small bell on the door jingled.
"I need twenty dollars on pump number three," said Robb as he fired at the two closest customers.  Both their heads snapped backwards, but the slide on the gun stayed in the back position.  "Guess you're done for now," Robb said to the empty pistol.
The decaying attendant lurched with unexpected speed towards Chaz.  She brought up the rifle across her chest to try to push back the zombie, but the dead woman kept coming at her.

Rolling 6d6, I got three zombies for the interior of the building.  Robb rolled a 5, added his REP of 5 for his reaction result of 10.  Chaz rolled a 1 for a total of 5, and the zombies rolled a 6, which was added to three (the number of them in the building) for a total of 9.  So the order is Robb, zombies, then Chaz.
Robb fired and hit twice, but rolled two ones on the "Easy to Kill" rule, meaning he was out of ammo and needed to reload.  The lone remaining zombie attacked Chaz and the two tied at 2 each.  The zombies continued to do well in hand-to-hand combat this game, and they were locked in combat.

Turn 9: Robb 6, Zombies 6
Turn 10: Robb 2, Zombies 6

Robb pulled the zombie away from Chaz.  The two of them grappled each other, trying to get the upper hand.  Chaz charged into the zombie, knocking it to the ground.

Robb entered melee to assist Chaz, but only managed a 3:3 tie himself.  Chaz squeaked out a 4:3 win, but only got the KD result. It is hard to kill zombies in melee combat.

Turn 11: Robb 3, Zombies 6

Chaz reared back, leveled her rifle, and fired a quick shot into the zombie's head.  "Did you actually make a pop culture reference a minute ago?" she gasped at Robb.

A zombie was summoned, naturally.

Turn 12: Robb 2, Zombies 5

"I didn't grow up under a rock, you know.  I watched the cartoon, you know.  Not that Matthew Broderick crap." said Robb.  Chaz grabbed a gas can.  "I'll fuel up, you hold them off," she said as she headed back out.
Robb reloaded his pistol and followed her outside.

This turned counted as one of the two for the purposes of pumping gas, since Chaz didn't do anything while Robb reloaded.

Turn 13: Robb 1, Zombies 6

"Fresh bullets.  Get your fresh bullets here!" said Robb as he stepped outside and fired a shot into the head of a nearby zombie.  Chaz moved to the pump and began filling the red plastic container.

I noticed that the zombies had actually failed to activate for five straight turns.  That more than makes up for the dodgy luck in close combat.  By the way, no zombies were summoned with the single shot.

Turn 14: Robb 5, Zombies 3
Turn 15: Robb 4, Zombies 4
Turn 16: Robb 4, Zombies 5

"I got the gas.  Let's get out of here," said Chaz as the zombies on the street drew closer.  Robb charged towards one of them, swinging the machete.  He landed a hit that would have killed a living man, but only stunned the ghoul.  Chaz swung the rifle around at the second and crushed the side of its head.

I was getting a little worried about the number of zombies that were closing in from the south, so I decided to risk melee combat again.  Robb won 4:3 for a KD result.  Chaz got an impressive 5:2 win and on Obviously Dead result.

Turn 17: Robb 1, Zombies 3

Robb and Chaz ducked into the space between two houses across the street from the gas station.  There was a faint noise, and Robb turned quickly to face a man wielding a samurai sword.  Robb quickly took in the man's clean and intelligent appearance and stepped back.  "We're alive," he said calmly.
"I can tell," said the man, who was bald and wearing a gray hoodie.  "You're making more noise than a demolition derby."
Robb winced slightly at the word "derby" but pressed on.  "I'm Robb, and this is Chaz.  We're trying to make our way to a car.  You're welcome to come with us, if you want."
The man looked at the two of them and frowned.  "No thanks.  The two of you are way to careless.  You'll attract every zombie in the city with the racket you're making.  I'm better off on my own."
Robb started to try to argue with the man, but Chaz tugged at his coat.  "They are still right behind us.  If he doesn't want to come with us, that's his problem.  Let's go."
Robb relented and followed her towards the red VW beetle.

The remaining zombies were too far away to catch Robb and Chaz before they moved off the table, but there were two PEF's that had made their way to the far edge, and were now in sight.  The first one just passed 1d6 and raised the ER of the session, but that allowed the second to become an encounter.  I lucked out and rolled a single Survivor and brought out Peter, whom I had just painted.  A random die roll on the Survivor chart showed him to be REP 5, which wasn't a good thing because it would make it harder for him to be recruited.
And sure enough, Robb failed to beat Peter by 1 success, meaning they would just exchange pleasantries and move on.  Given Peter's preference for quiet weapons and the number of zombies I had summoned with gunfire, I figured Peter wouldn't care for Robb's loud tactics.  Hopefully he would change his mind later.  But Robb's success with recruiting other people hadn't been that great throughout the campaign.

I didn't need to roll to see if Chaz stuck around, since I had the guarantee from the game last March.  Rolling for REP increases, Robb failed to increase his REP, but Chaz rolled a 5, raising her to Robb's equal. Perhaps our Star might end up eventually a sidekick after all!

Well, Robb and Chaz made it through the first half of the two-part scenario.  Now to see if they can make it to the car, and if all of their trouble will be worth it in the end.

Comments always welcome, and it is good to be back!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

McTavish, Survivor(?)

Another Copplestone Casting Future Wars figure, this one a middle-aged, portly fellow with a Luger pistol.  I have thought if using him as a survivor, but I also considered using him as the boss of some organized crime gang that has been managing to do well for themselves in the zombie apocalypse. 

Speaking of which, I think it is time for Robb's misadventures in a world gone to Hell to continue sometime soon, don't you think?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Book Review: Fighting to Survive by Rhiannon Frater

So as I was hanging around Thanksgiving break with a broken ankle and thinking about the upcoming ATZ demo game (see previous post) so I thought I would get in the mood by reading a zombie novel, in this case Fighting to Survive by Rhiannon Frater.  It's the second in her "As the World Dies" trilogy, the first being The First Days.

In broad terms, the book is about a community of survivors of the zombie apocalypse who are living in a fortified construction site.  They decide to expand into a nearby luxury hotel in order to create more space and nicer accommodations.  In the meantime, a roving band of gangers becomes more and more of a threat to them.

The book's two protagonists are Katie and Jenni.  Both lost their families in the first days of the zombie attack, and both are developing new relationships in the survivor community.  For Katie this means overcoming her grief of losing her wife and realizing that she is falling in love with Travis, a leader of the group.  For Jenni this means dealing with the trauma of her previously abusive spouse and the death of her children.  Jenni isn't the most stable of individuals, and her sanity gets more precarious as the book goes on.

I have said in other reviews that for me the mark of a good zombie story--book, movie, or other--is how it handles the people element, not the zombie gore.  What this book does right is explore how a small, isolated community like this one has to cope with the challenges in a post-zombie world.  Some members of the community struggle with the collapse of class distinctions.  The question of how to address crime within the group is gone into detail.  There is also the issue of the role of vigilantism and the post-zombie social contract.  It's not dissimilar from what is going on right now in The Walking Dead with Carol being expelled from the TV series' community, and it what makes the book particularly interesting.

That's not to say the book doesn't have its grisly moments, but they are not gratuitous in nature.  In terms of pathos, the book is actually pretty light in tone, which could either be a plus or a minus, depending on the tastes of the reader.  There's distinctly a romantic overtone to the book as well, which wasn't a negative per se for me but might not be everyone's cup of tea.

A good read for hanging out by the pool in a leg cast.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Pics from the convention game

Saturday evening my church hosted a board game night, complete with a Munchkin tournament.  I ran a demo game of All Things Zombie with six players taking on the roles of six survivors while I ran the zombies.  I made a point of using some of the survivor miniatures that never made it into my campaign.  The scenario was a simple one: the six survivors had to make it from one end of the table to the other, stopping off at building to attempt to acquire at least one resource before exiting the table.
I ended up running the scenario twice that evening, both times each group made it off without difficulty, although there were plenty of tight spots including one pair of survivors jumping from one office building roof to another to flee a horde of zombies!
Pics below, and as always click to see a larger version.