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.

Turn 13: Robb 3, Zombies 4

"We are going to die if we stay here!" shouted Robb as he grabbed Chaz by her leather jacket and pulled her from the car.  He shoved her in the opposite direction from the mob down a side street.  A lone zombie stood there, and Robb fired wildly at it.  His shot hammered into the zombie's chest and it fell backwards.
Overhead, rain began falling in sheets.

Yeah, they don't call it "the better part of valor" for nothing.  I wasn't ready to risk both my PC's lives on a single "Car Won't Start" roll.  When you have to run away, you run away, pure and simple.  I tried to get Robb to Fast Move, but he passed 0d6, meaning he would not get a benefit from running.  He did pass his Being Charged test, however, and fired twice, hit once, and Knocked Down the charging zombie.
Plus, the severe weather kicked in, because of the aforementioned random event.

Turn 14: Robb 1, Zombies 1

Chaz cried out in pain as she stepped awkwardly into a pothole in the road.  She grabbed at her twisted ankle.

Another random event, this one legit.  The roll of 11 meant a random PC (Chaz) would now move at 6", not 8".  Thankfully they were very close to the edge of the table.  Just one more obstacle...

Turn 15: Robb 5, Zombies 6
Turn 16: Robb 4, Zombies 2

A zombie that had been lurking in the shadows lunged out at Robb, who shot it once through the head.  Gathering up Chaz under one arm, he said, "Okay, let's get back home," and gently pulled her away from the baying mob of zombies behind them.

Robb tied on his Being Charged test, but could still fire one shot, which thankfully did its job.  That having been done, the PC's moved off the table on their activation.

The rain continued to pound on the roof of Robb's cottage all that night.  By the dim candlelight Robb carefully wrapped Chaz's ankle with a bandage to hold it in place.  Chaz smiled thinly, but her eyes couldn't hide the pain.  "You're pretty good at that," she said.
"Lots of practice," Robb replied, not looking at her.  They were both quiet for a time.
Chaz suddenly spoke up.  "I'm sorry I couldn't get the car started," she said.
Robb jolted slightly, as if awoken from some reverie.  "Oh," he said with a start, "it's not your fault."
With a sigh he sat back.  "It's my fault for coming up with the idea of trying to get the car.  It almost got us both killed."
Chaz stared at him.  "You couldn't have known that.  And if you hadn't pulled me away when you did, who knows what would have happened."
Robb rubbed his face with both hands and sighed again.  "I just...I just wanted a way out," he said wearily.
"I know," Chaz replied, her voice almost a whisper.

All that remained is the "Keeping it Together" roll.  Robb got three successes to Chaz's two, so she remains.  Another session or two and I think I'll upgrade her to Star level and not worry about that.  As a side note, there were 15 zombies active on the table at the end of the game.

In the end, the adventure was a failure, but failures make for good horror stories as well.  Thanks for reading.  It's good to be back at this.  Comments welcome.


  1. Great episode. I really thought they would get the car. But as in any good story, failure is an option. Good that Chaz stays. Robb had been out of luck for too long time. As long as a gang is not trying to break into their house, I think they can handle the zombie for few more weeks.

    1. I think part of the appeal of the zombie/horror genre is the fact that it has that element of pathos and tragedy that is lacking in so much fiction and entertainment these days. When I was done with this adventure, I was genuinely pleased with the way the plot seemed to mirror that traditional "zombie" story.

  2. Good batrep, Excellent choice to cut and burn. Well done.

  3. Knowing when to run is just as important (if not more so) as knowing when to fight. I'd have made the same decision if I was playing this encounter. Mind you, rotten luck in trying to get the car to start! The best part - Chaz and Robb stay together. Woot!

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    2. I've learned the hard way that ATZ heroes are not invincible, even at high REP's. I'm also very glad not to lose Chaz. For one thing, having the interplay between characters in fun to write. For another, it helps to have a team when it comes to surviving in this game.

  4. Fantastic, love the fact that they didn't 'win' except it was still a great game and an engaging story and in my mind this will make them all the more determined to make themslves some good luck for a change

  5. Hah, I think you could teach my group a thing or two about playing ATZ. For example, knowing when to run away :-) .

    Mind you, I really felt for the humans: they'd failed their mission, been attacked fiercely, got hurt and then it started to rain. Miserable!

  6. The rain coming down gave it a more dramatic feeling of failure.

    1. I thought it was a nice (but random) touch

  7. Just when you think things can't get any worse, - they do !
    An excellent write-up to quite a dramatic encounter with every decision by the party seemingly close to a life threatening one.

    1. As I think it should be. I like the fact that even though Robb's been around a while and killed his share of zombies, he's still pretty fragile.