Sunday, October 20, 2013

Halloween 2: Zombie Campaign

After going through all that on Are Zombies Tough, I thought of a good idea for a campaign. I have often said that there has to be something wrong with a person to make them an adventurer. Why would a normal person decide to risk their life for money? Are there really no better options for earning a living?

OK - so here is how this one sets up. The GM makes up a whole bunch of characters, but not adventuring types - civilian types. I know, those games that don’t recognize civilians make this hard. Might be time to switch to an actual role-playing game (like Legend Quest). Anyway - say there are a dozen playable characters, and the players take one or two each. Then their town is assaulted by a pack of zombies. The zombies are barely together. They wander the open town, attacking those they see, but can be found wandering in ones and twos and dealt with by gang ambushes. The GM should kill some of the playable characters not controlled by the players, just to show it can be done.

OK - put the survivors aside and next game session - a new town, a dozen new playable characters (again civilians) and another pack of zombies. This pack might be a little better organized, maybe they have a goal of some sort, like the church (probably where all the non-used playable characters are hiding). Again, team work and tactics should win the day, but now they understand that the zombies were not really attacking the town, but instead the church.

Third session, third town, third team of civilians, third zombie attack. This time, a necromancer is discovered and captured. Under questioning, it is revealed that he is a disciple of some evil god who is trying to have a war with the god who’s churches are being attacked. Yes, it took three attacks, but now they know there is a holy war brewing between the god of necromancers and the god of the farmers (a god of light? agriculture?, whatever).

OK, so now, the players get to look at all the survivors from the three towns and choose the “posse” that is going to go out against the necromancers’ base. Now they are adventurers. Now they can start thinking about arming themselves with real weapons and armor. Why do it this way? Well, every campaign needs to start somehow, and this beats the whole, “You all meet in a bar”. This writes their character history while starting the campaign. This team will find that the first necromancers’ base is only the tip of the iceberg. They will have to work against the cult to avoid a holy war, and possibly avert a civil war or necromantic coup. Once they accomplish all that, they will be mid-level adventurers and will likely stick together to adventure. They might also be approached as soon as this is done to take on another undead threat, being seen as the region’s local band of undead hunters. I may write this up as one of our Campaign Starter Kits, but you have all the ideas here.


  1. Brilliant! That's why you are the best.

  2. Okay, here goes. On the eve of a certain decade of my life passing, I thought back to this post tonight. I have often and almost as a rule use civilians to create my characters, creating backstory to explain their skills, sbilities, traits, etc. We run a role-playing heavy campaign, rules light, character heavy.
    Anyway, recently I re-created an old character and brought her back into our world. She is half-elven, and we aren't really up on keeping too much detail about age, so I said she is about 20 years older than where we left off, maker her some kind of Elven middle age. Because she has a past in the campaign setting, and was for the last 2 decades sailing with sea pirates a half world away, we had two options - give her her old levels back or start her new with some flourishes. Of course, being role-players seeking hardships, I chose to maker her 1st level, but augment her with a story of what she had been to for the last two decades.
    So, this thought is probably not unique, so please run with it if you think it is any good, but it struck me that instead of it being so advantageous to have young, spry, healthy characters, maybe there is a good way of starting with an older, wiser, stronger, more influential (STR, WIS, CHA) character. I choose these traits because I know so many older people who, at say, intervals of decades, have more knowledge / caution (WIS) , more strength (ever meet a middle age laborer?) (STR) and more charming, intimidating, serene, commanding (CHA). DEX always seems to suffer at some point in age, with eyesight, arthritis, etc., INT loss of memory, just not as quick and sharp, CON just can't go for hours and hours any more...
    What I am getting at is that my middle-aged character, so experienced at first level, had some advantages. She had learned Ship craft, sailing, rope-use, learned the hundred and one uses for a cutlass, had scars all over, some gravel to her voice, and developed "the look" that meant any further intimidation usually wasn't necessary. I gave her extra skills, upped her STR, WIS, CHA and had to come up with the compelling stories as to how these happened. I added a few hit points in her case, but otherwise she was a first level character.
    Like I said, maybe you could give this nonesense your professional treatment, but I think that the idea of civilian-come-adventurer is brilliant, and I have dealt with it in my own way. To have a simple way to create an age-diverse party can only be beneficial, because it means that characters won't have to necessarily rely on having characters have good physical skills of youth just to get to the point where they can have the more interesting and varied character that they want.
    Plus, explaining how a character got to middle age is much more fun than explaining how they got to be 16, or 18...that just generally sucks for everyone (players included). I am not one for mechanics, and you have a knack for making them simple without being vague.


  3. This is going to sound like nothing but a sales pitch, but hopefully you will forgive me: You are fighting against your rules. You want to reflect that people's attributes change over their lives and are not simply stuck (due to random chance) at one point. You need a game system that encourages (not simply allows) attributes to change. I agree completely - Older, wiser, more experienced folks have benefits, and intimidation is simply the most obvious one.
    In Legend Quest, Your attributes and skill levels can be improved using "character points" - experience. All the things you mentioned (except for the scars) can be enhanced with character points. My biggest beef with the system I think you're playing is that everything revolves around combat. You get experience for killing things. (OK, good GMs do get around this by rewarding extras) Your "level" affects how good you are at killing and how tough you are at dying. I like having politicians who could talk/trick you into nearly anything, but can barely hold a sword or a bow. That's who should be ruling kingdoms, not some idiot barbarian who happens to have made a certain threshold and built a castle. Those skills you mentioned - ship craft, sailing, intimidation - They should be just as important in a role-playing game as how you kill someone.
    Oh - and just in case anyone disagrees with your observation that guys who work all day long (real work, not what I do) are stronger, they can use the training rules to lower the character’s strength attribute. In LQ, unless you are “training” (actually using the attribute) it will atrophy. A certain daily amount of exercise is necessary to maintain those muscles. When the soldier becomes an officer and spends more time behind a desk than training, his Strength will start to decline. Age has its benefits and its drawbacks.
    So my “professional treatment”: You are right! You need a character that has some experience, but not necessarily combat skills. The problem is I don’t think you game was intended to let that happen. If you have to play those rules, then you’ve modified them in a good way. If you don’t, please find a better game!

  4. You are right of course. A couple of nights ago I re-read the entirety of LQ, and realised how foolish I have been to disregard what at first seemed like a "too-complicated" skills / points character builder setup. But I was wrong. LQ has exactly what we need. Because My GM and I put so much emphasis on role-playing (we rarely use violence to solve problems, his problems are just not that easy) we have always modified whatever system we are using (mod'ed PFRPG right now) we haveused the books really only for their lists and skills, etc. Our characters are simple
    Lvl, HP, AC, SDCIWC attributes, skill points on a favorite weapon, and Melee + (#), Ranged + (#), and Dodge + (#) and usually every level I grab a new skill or skill level if I've used or learned it. The three, Melee, Ranged and Dodge, I get to "up" one by a point, which I select, and maybe put "up" an attribute. I add a few HP's and off we go. So level's don't mean a whole lot anyway for us.
    In combat, my GM will give a general Difficulty #, like a 15, to roll above, but it is all relative and sometimes pretty slack and vague.
    I guess what I am saying is in all of our years of modifying games to suit our style of play, we have generally arrived at a place similar to Legend Quest.

    Thanks for pointing out the "concealed" obvious in my problem. I am running a few practise runs in LQ just to get the hang of it. To me it all still seems a bit "complicated", but certainly much less so than PFRPG and more intuitive as well as realistic for those who aren't interested in Power Gaming. We like our characters weakened, disadvantaged and desperate, just to add the fun part (You know what I mean)