Monday, April 12, 2010

Dawn of the Dead

The remake to the original Dawn of the Dead took many of the familiar elements of the original and 'cranked' them up a notch. To some, this is not a good thing. To others, it's a fine remake with several nods to the originals.  Zombies in RPGs are nothing special. They are a standard type of undead in many Dungeons and Dragons variants. There's even a whole game line to tell these types of stories and a comic book series, Walking Dead, to follow adventurers of those who fight the undead. How does that effect your current campaign though?
1. Determine the scope/duration. If you're not ready for a zombie apocalypse, don't do it. Have a small outbreak occur in a remote mountain village. Have it occur at a walled town where the town itself is then cut off from the outside world. Have it occur in a demi-plane where the residents can't leave.

2. Define the disease. This isn't necessary in any real sense of the world, but I mention it because in a role playing game, essentially, if you're bit, you're dead. Might be a tad harsh in the old rpg realm on the newer versions of the game where character creation can take a half hour or more. Might want to make it a progressive disease, or one that the players have somehow become immune to, or one that can be cured by the great quest.

3. Define the zombies. In 4e, it's probably easiest to look at these type of zombies, those that go down with the head shot, as minions. That may sound crazy considering the amount of sheer physical trama they can take, but if thep layer rolls low enough to miss in the first place, describe his weapon hitting the creature solidly with chunks of skin and bone flying off with apparently no other effect.

4. It's about the psychosis of man. This one can be hard to pull off but a good zombie movie isn't necessarily about the zombies at all. It's about what will you do when the world is ending. Do you strive for the common good? Do you horde? Do you enslave? Do you put others at risk to save yourself? It's also about character growth and evolution. If the party is one that will work together, then even if at the start there are members who are selfish, they may learn the benefit of keeping the other members alive. Those that may once have had a different calling, may now find themsleves doing things they would'ven ever thought possible.

5. Remember, the characters are all professionals. In the remake, across the way is a gun shop owner called Andy. He easily uses his sniper rifle to blow away several zombies in order to provide entertainment to his friends. His skills with the weapon are remaked on several times. All of the players are Andy. They are all specialist. None of them are, in game mechanic terms, the helpless young teen who has just watched the last of her family die and needs a man. Mind you, Dungeons and Dragons runs that way, as does Rolemaster and most other games. If you're playing a low end Hero or Gurps point total, then yeah, ignore that. the point is, the playes will probably be able to bring it to the table in a manner that those in the movies simply cannot.

6. Supplies are both unlimited and limited. Much like I mentioned with the Omega Man, supplies tend to be easy to come by. However, this limitless bounty also goes in reverse for specialized supplies or for supplies that are not easy to get to. For example, Andy, despite his vast wealth of weaponry, suffers the pangs of starvation. In games like Mightnight, the OGL game by Fantasy Flight Games, the setting relies on the weather and the lack of supplies to help wear down the characters. That can be true in a zombie based campaign just as well. Magic hasn't gone away, it's just all of the specialized components to use it are increibldy difficult to find. Clerics might still be able to commune with the gods, but all the sanctified symbols are gone and all the holy water is inert from lack of maintenance.

7.Direct confrtonation is hopeless. Even with minion status, the whole fear of the zombie isn't the lone zombie. It's the horde. It's the endless wave. It's the withering army. Any direct confrontation with the zombies should rely on the zombies using mass and teamwork, not necessarily cordinated but waves of them, to pull down their enemies. Grappling rules might make for an interesting twist to get characters pulled to the ground, as might disarm attempts disguised as weapons getting lodged in bone.

Dawn of the Dead has some solid action sequences, some character growth, and some characters that you love to hate. Those looking to expand their zombie lore could do worse then to check it out.