For the Thursday afternoon slot at Games on Demand, my wife and I went with Zombie World (designed and published by the team at Magpie Games). Our main reason was the game’s GM, Mark Truman-Diaz, co-founder of Magpie. Mark is both a stellar GM and an all around awesome human being so we knew we were in for a great experience. Two additional players joined our table and we were ready to begin.
Zombie World is another game that is Powered by the Apocalypse. Unlike with Masks, and most PBtA games, Zombie World uses playing cards instead of dice for resolution. Character creation involves drawing three cards and referencing an Oracle document for their meanings. The cards represent your character’s Past, Present, and Trauma. Each aspect provides specific moves or boons that only your character will have, as well as informing you on how to roleplay that character. Character creation in this style makes you think on your feet to connect what has the chance to be three very conflicting, yet compelling, aspects.
My character’s Past was Social Worker, Present was Scavenger, and Trauma was Imperious (I interjected myself into social conflicts, always wanting to solve problems). Holloway, was a social worker who still had a sense of concern for others, but this was balanced with his survival instincts. Getting involved in other’s arguments could shore up power and over time he could be seen as a de facto leader, or least open up avenues to get much needed resources if he was seen as a helper. He made a good Scavenger because his job required him to find resources for people in need and he also navigated the tougher parts of the city for many years.
Our particular game was set in an abandoned prison, which came with a playbook that we at the table collectively fleshed out. Cards were used to determine resources, threats, needs, etc. Once we had our characters and settings complete we began. Mark described a caravan of vehicles, some being manually pushed along a road outside of town. One of our hunters had spied the scene and said there was a chance a devastatingly large horde was following in the wake of these people. Two characters, our sharpshooter and a former cop, took the direct approach on the caravan while a third character, a guard who worked at the prison, led a group of Syrian refugees that had been living with us out into the woods to provide backup in case relations went south. Holloway, my social worker, didn’t volunteer to go, but snuck out of the prison to spy from a distance.
Things definitely fell apart and, while no one died, the characters suffered a number of serious setbacks, injuries, and were forced to make brutally hard choices. Conflict resolution was done by triggering one of the Basic Moves in the fiction of the game, then drawing a number of cards equal to the relevant stat. The highest card drawn would be used to determine how successful an action was. Jacks were complete successes, 8-10 was a success with a cost, and anything less than a 7 was a failure. Queens represented expendable resources and their effects and were removed from the deck after a use until they could be replenished or maintained in the fiction. For instance, our prison had a strong fence. Having a strong fence could have allowed you get very restful sleep because you didn’t need to be walking the perimeter all night. That rest could be what helped you stay alert in a firefight. But, if you don’t look for damage to the fence periodically or a massive horde crushes it to the ground then that Queen would not be reinserted into the deck again. Aces could be successes but required the player to take Stress if they wanted that boon.
I felt the character creation had light touches of Fiasco with the use of the Oracle. The drawing of cards created a sort of meta-tension. It worked even better because the higher your stat the more cards you had to draw. So being good at something actually meant the tension could be higher with each pull from the deck. From a fictional standpoint, the game completely got across the atmosphere of popular character focused zombie media (The Walking Dead). The zombies were there but not necessarily the greatest danger to our characters. As is typical with this sort of thing, it’s the other human beings you need to worry about. The game seems incredibly well suited for both one shots and small campaigns. It’s yet another Magpie production that has me excited as a hell to get my hands on it and run for friends. Zombie World does not yet have a release date, but Mark said it is pretty much at completion and will be released in the near future.
Later today: Urban Shadows.