Zombie campaign - how do i handle the undead hordes? - play examples

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I'm currently running an AW-campaign set in the Swedish archipelago where the Zombies roam the earth. I do however have some problems with how to handle the fights between the PC:s and the Z's. The Z's in this campaign are on about the same danger level as the ones in walking dead.

1:st situation, Hardholders leadership roll:
Charles, the hardholder is leader for a large boy scout camp at an island. One night a group of Zombies float ashore and the alarm is raised. The boy scouts have to defend their camp!

The defending gang is small with 2-harm and 1-armor in total. I decided to class the 30-ish zombies as a 1-harm 1-armor small gang.

Charles rolls and make a solid 10+ hit. He chooses to make a hard advance. In this case I choose to let them drive the zombies into the sea thanks to good discipline and a tight spear formation. No one in the boy scouts where harmed.

Should I have traded harm for harm here?
Should I have zoomed more into the action and played the battle out?

2:nd situation, Battlebabe seizes some zombies by force
After the situation above Charles the hardholder sends some of his gang + his friend Mike the battlebabe to go and get material to reinforce the palisade of the hardhold.

However, the warehouse with the material is blocked by another group of Z:s. I decide they are "a few" with 1-harm and 1-armor. The battlebabe tells the boy scouts to stay back an draws his katana and seizes the entrance by force.

He hits a 10+ and we trade harm for harm. He takes 2-harm due to size difference but his 2-armor makes him take 0-harm. He kills the Z:s off and make a good show for the boy scouts. He doesn't take harm or make any more rolls.

Some thoughts

I'm not sure if I even should handle the Z:s as gangs when the PC:s encounters them. If I should, what do you think appropriate stats as for groups of Z:s?
Maybe I should create a few custom moves to handle battle with Z:s one on one and groups of them?

Re: Zombie campaign - how do i handle the undead hordes? - play examples
« Reply #1 on: August 21, 2013, 05:57:06 AM »
When you take harm from a zombie roll +Cool.

10+ - Both
7-9 - Choose 1
You didn't get bit
You didn't alert the horde

On a miss, you're bitten and you've alerted the horde.

Re: Zombie campaign - how do i handle the undead hordes? - play examples
« Reply #2 on: August 21, 2013, 06:24:46 AM »
1st situation:

I would have handled it as a Size by force roll. The hard advance from the leadership is what makes you able to do that roll at all! Definite hold would have been driving them into the sea.

Generally:
What makes fighting zombies different here than fighting people? I guess their gangs do no break after X harm. How organized are they? If they fight with coordination the optional battle moves could work well defending a position etc.

Re: Zombie campaign - how do i handle the undead hordes? - play examples
« Reply #3 on: August 21, 2013, 07:15:52 AM »
When you take harm from a zombie roll +Cool.

10+ - Both
7-9 - Choose 1
You didn't get bit
You didn't alert the horde

On a miss, you're bitten and you've alerted the horde.

I like this! But it does make it VERY dangerous for non-cool characters to fight Z:s since a miss results in getting bit. I guess that is a good thing. I want people to be afraid of them.

1st situation:

I would have handled it as a Size by force roll. The hard advance from the leadership is what makes you able to do that roll at all! Definite hold would have been driving them into the sea.

Generally:
What makes fighting zombies different here than fighting people? I guess their gangs do no break after X harm. How organized are they? If they fight with coordination the optional battle moves could work well defending a position etc.

1:st situation:
Thanks for the clarification of how the leadership works together with seize by force! I didn't know that.

Generally:
I think fighting Z's is a bit different since they just keep coming with no regards to their safety. They also do not fight as a group but as individuals. I'm debating with myself if 1-armor or 2-armor is most appropriate. They only die on a headshot but they are also not wearing any armor in general. I think going with 1-armor as standard is the right way.

Is one Z as strong/dangerous as one human? I don't think so. Does this mean that a small gang of Z's is a larger amount of individuals than the small gang of NPC's?

Re: Zombie campaign - how do i handle the undead hordes? - play examples
« Reply #4 on: August 21, 2013, 09:51:02 AM »
When you take harm from a zombie roll +Cool.

10+ - Both
7-9 - Choose 1
You didn't get bit
You didn't alert the horde

On a miss, you're bitten and you've alerted the horde.

I like this! But it does make it VERY dangerous for non-cool characters to fight Z:s since a miss results in getting bit. I guess that is a good thing. I want people to be afraid of them.

Yeah, personally if I was running a zombie game I would want people to be very scared of taking them on if there's a chance they might suffer harm back. They should be looking for ways they can Go Aggro on zombies, rather than Seize By Force.

But then, I would also do a countdown clock for infection, getting bit by a zombie advances the clock a segment or two, so it's not an automatic death sentence if a PC gets bit. NPC's are fair game of course!

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Re: Zombie campaign - how do i handle the undead hordes? - play examples
« Reply #5 on: August 21, 2013, 01:14:48 PM »
I think you did the right thing, staffing them as Gangs.

About their danger level: it's kinda important how the infection spreads. If a bite is a death sentence, that's kinda rough. If that's the case, I'd make a habit of pitching softer moves on a Miss, like "it's got a tight grip on you, you see teeth flashing, what do you do?" Instead of "welp, you're bit. Screw you."

And Krippler is right, a hard advance just means the team doesn't break and run away. You should usually roll the appropriate move as well.

Re: Zombie campaign - how do i handle the undead hordes? - play examples
« Reply #6 on: August 21, 2013, 04:47:13 PM »
I do have a countdown clock for infection after bites. So far i've been thinking a bite is a death sentence so i like the idea of having the zombie grabbed you instead of a certain bite.

I'm still not 100% used to this rules. How do i go aggro on a zombie? It's not like they will ever back down pr give you what you want.

Is a use of a go aggro if i for example manage to get close to one single Z and then cut the head of with the sword?

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Re: Zombie campaign - how do i handle the undead hordes? - play examples
« Reply #7 on: August 21, 2013, 07:01:09 PM »
Combat in AW is pretty much based on what you want to accomplish, not just inflicting harm for harm's sake. Usually, you're fighting a person with goals that conflict with yours, so the Aggro options reflect that. Seize By Force is a little more "let's all just hurt each other," so people often go to it first as the obvious "rpg combat" choice. Seize works just fine if the character is trying to get something from the zombie horde, keep something from them, or run out in their midst, flailing swords like a crazy woman.

(Edit: I wrote up some stuff about a custom move, but changed my mind. This is what I wanna say instead:)

The more I think about it, though, the more I'm kinda like "either they're out there just fighting or they're not," so Seize often works fine. What are you really fighting zombies for? To clear the safehouse? Then you're 'securing your hold,' that's a Seize. Are you just trying to kill a bunch of walkers like, just to do it? That's probably dumb of you, but that's basically just Seize as well.

Basically, if you eliminate Aggro for zombies (because you cannot threaten it or change its behavior), that leaves Seize. And Seize is inherently dangerous and risky... which is maybe exactly what you want fighting zombies to be. If you want to stay 100% un-bitten by zombies, don't go out and fight them, right?

Aggro is good for going all sniper on a dude, but who really cares if you shoot a single zombie? It has no friends, no relationships we care about. If the player gets out her rifle, I'd probably just go "sure, great, its head explodes" and save the dice for risky entanglements, handled by Seize and Under Fire. Makes sense to me.
« Last Edit: August 21, 2013, 07:16:52 PM by Scrape »

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Re: Zombie campaign - how do i handle the undead hordes? - play examples
« Reply #8 on: August 21, 2013, 07:11:14 PM »
So, to answer your question, going up to a zombie and cutting its head off with a sword maybe isn't Aggro at all. Maybe taking a katana to a zombie is just something people have to do in the world now and it says nothing about how Hard you are at all, it's really Acting Under Fire. Maaaaybe Aggro is for people only, and that's what Hard is about.

And of course the fire is, does the zombie grab you before you cut its head off?
« Last Edit: August 21, 2013, 07:20:42 PM by Scrape »

Re: Zombie campaign - how do i handle the undead hordes? - play examples
« Reply #9 on: August 22, 2013, 02:27:57 AM »
So, to answer your question, going up to a zombie and cutting its head off with a sword maybe isn't Aggro at all. Maybe taking a katana to a zombie is just something people have to do in the world now and it says nothing about how Hard you are at all, it's really Acting Under Fire. Maaaaybe Aggro is for people only, and that's what Hard is about.

And of course the fire is, does the zombie grab you before you cut its head off?

I really like both your comments about hordes and size by force. It's the way I've been viewing it so far.

 I think acting under fire is the right way to go when we are handling Z's in a hand to hand situation with a katana for example and it is also dependent of how competent the PC is we will roll or not. Or maybe that is reflected by his/her cool-stat. Shooting one Z with plenty of time and no stress is for sure not a roll.

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Re: Zombie campaign - how do i handle the undead hordes? - play examples
« Reply #10 on: August 22, 2013, 09:27:59 AM »
Yeah, if you look at the genre in film, people are always killing zombies as a matter of course. Like, scout the gas station, kill a zombie, go out back, kill a zombie... It's not particularly violent or even a big deal for them. It's just a dangerous chore, y'know?

Re: Zombie campaign - how do i handle the undead hordes? - play examples
« Reply #11 on: August 22, 2013, 04:23:13 PM »

The problem with using Seize By Force is that generally speaking, zombies don't do Harm. They either bite/kill you or they don't. Sometimes you take harm, as part of the encounter with zombies, sure -- like as you're running away you tear your hand on some barbed wire, or whatever -- but it's not like the zombies are punching you or stabbing you. An encounter with zombies is absolutely not an exchange of violence by (relatively) equal parties, and that's what Seize By Force models.

Personally I would suggest a custom version of Go Aggro to use when perpetrating violence on zombies. Replace most of the 7-9 results with genre-appropriate zombie reactions/consequences, and remember that zombies will often just suck it up and take the harm, as a rule.

This is similar to just using Act Under Fire, of course, but I think it will a) let you fine-tune the consequences of violence specifically and b) also not completely fuck over all the Hard playbooks, if zombies are your primary sort of violence-threat.

Of course, Seize by Force might sometimes still be the right move -- like, when things are definitely being seized by violent means -- but you should probably be explicit to yourself and the players if taking Harm from zombies means being infected/bitten or not.

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Re: Zombie campaign - how do i handle the undead hordes? - play examples
« Reply #12 on: August 28, 2013, 01:50:12 PM »
Either version works fine: a custom +hard move or plain old Under Fire. Just ask yourself, "if this was a movie, how would I present the zombies? What does it look like when protagonists fight them? Is it cool or is it hard?"

Remember, too, that zombie movies aren't about the zombies. They're about the victims. Those movies are exploring humans in crisis mode, and their interactions under forced cooperation. That's why when something goes wrong, it is almost always the fault of a human. Zombies are just a big faceless threat that basically exists to push the characters into conflict amongst themselves.

I guess I'm underscoring my idea that killing zed's is a +cool thing to do. When you find yourself killing another person, though... now that's +hard core...

Re: Zombie campaign - how do i handle the undead hordes? - play examples
« Reply #13 on: September 13, 2013, 07:03:19 AM »
Either version works fine: a custom +hard move or plain old Under Fire. Just ask yourself, "if this was a movie, how would I present the zombies? What does it look like when protagonists fight them? Is it cool or is it hard?"

Good point. I'm also thinking about an Apocalypse Zombies game, and am leaning toward using a Dungeon World style "do something under fire" move for dealing with Zombies. That is, the first question is "how do you act under fire in relation to the zombie threat?". If its by powering and pushing through, then roll +hard. If its by keeping your head calm and avoiding their bites, then +cool. 

Re: Zombie campaign - how do i handle the undead hordes? - play examples
« Reply #14 on: September 14, 2013, 12:44:47 PM »
Either version works fine: a custom +hard move or plain old Under Fire. Just ask yourself, "if this was a movie, how would I present the zombies? What does it look like when protagonists fight them? Is it cool or is it hard?"

Good point. I'm also thinking about an Apocalypse Zombies game, and am leaning toward using a Dungeon World style "do something under fire" move for dealing with Zombies. That is, the first question is "how do you act under fire in relation to the zombie threat?". If its by powering and pushing through, then roll +hard. If its by keeping your head calm and avoiding their bites, then +cool.

Thanks! That is a great comment!