Thursday, July 2, 2009

Zombie Cinema

We didn't have anything on the plate last night, so we dabbled in some RPG stuff. We're planning to run through a D&D 4e campaign, so we worked on our characters a bit. Then, we decided to break out Zombie Cinema and give it a go. Zombie Cinema is a small, rules-light, "storytelling" RPG, where the players are survivors of some sort of zombie breakout, in the vein of Night of the Living Dead or any of its stylistic descendants.

The aren't a lot of components, and they are packed into a black VCR tape case!

The main piece is a zombie track, which dictates the amount of involvement zombies are allowed to have in the story. Initially, there are only rumors of zombies, without any direct interaction. As the black zombie pawn advances, they appear more often, more violently and in more places, until civilization melts down at the end of the track. Each player has a pawn on this track, too. At the end of the track, just past the zombpocalypse, is the survivor's escape. Once they move their pawn off the track, they have survived. If the zombie pawn is ever in their own space, they are eaten by zombies.
That's the primary mechanic. The active player sets the scene, and then all players freely narrate the actions of their character and any secondary characters. After a few minutes, a conflict between player interests is developed. The players roll a d6 against each other. The winner gets to essentially be GM for the conflict of the resolution, and players on the winning side have their pawns advance towards the end of the zombie track. The losing side have their pawns dropped backwards towards the zombies. In the event of a tie, the conflict is unresolved as the zombies interrupt, and the zombie pawn moves forward.
It also includes three decks of character idea cards that you can use to get ideas for your characters. I drew the following: Dependent, Mental Problems, and Injured! Thus, I said I would be playing a crippled crazy person currently in a mental institution-- the best of both Timmy and Jimmy, so to speak. Mik drew Officer, Loved Ones, and Temper, playing an angry cop trying to protect his family. Chris M. got Independent Woman, Naive, and You Are Special, and played a Scully-style FBI agent.
The action opened in my mental institution. Mik was dropping off a patient, while Chris was working on connecting network equipment to tie into the FBI's database of the criminally insane. I had somehow made it out of my room, and, bashing on orderly on the head with my crutches, made a break for the front door, escaping. However, the angry Mik sets his K-9 unit after me, and then takes his time about getting it back off before returning me to the institution. Chris later tours the institution to check on my injuries. I use his distraction to try and palm keys off the orderly, whereby I'm seen by Mik, who breaks my arm getting me back into the cell.
At this point, I realize that, since this is so free form, it's not like I have to mechanically escape. I open the next scene several hours later at the hospital, getting my broken arm treated. A distraught mother has brought her sick child, bitten by a supposed homeless man, into the waiting room. Mik is there with his HR rep to file a report on his use of excessive violence on me. Chris is in the morgue investigating the recent outbreak, when a corpse appears to wake up. He blazes away at it with his gun, as the kid in the waiting room turns violent. In the chaos Mik and Chris flee the hospital and I hide myself.
Mik opens his second scene at his house a week later, where he is loading his family into the station wagon to get out of town. I show up in the neighborhood and hobble over to him, asking to be taken along so the zombies don't get me. Mik tries to stop me, but his wife and kids are sympathetic and don't want to leave the crazy cripple to be killed. However, in the conflict, there's a tie, and the zombies show up. Mik blazes away at them and tells his wife to drive off, meeting him later at their vacation house.
Chris and his fellow FBI agents show up, and in the melee, their car gets busted. They stop Mik's family and try to commandeer their car. Mik and I try to stop them-- but there is another tie, and the zombie pawn catches up to me. As I'm trying to fight off the FBI agents, the zombies catch up to us, and attack me as I'm sprawled on the hood of the family's car.
I turn into a zombie, and start to attack the family. Mik forces me away, and gets into the car with his family and drives off. Mik's pawn is off the board at this point, so he and his family survive this crisis. Chris and the only other surviving FBI agent attempt to hold off the zombies, but as his fellow agent goes down under a feeding frenzy, Chris makes a break for it.
A couple of weeks later, Chris has fallen in with a group of survivors trying to get to the nearest big city to seek a refuge camp. Along the way, a redneck takes exception to her being such an independent woman, and while they are away from the others, disarms her and tries to kill her. She escapes into the woods.
The next day, hungry and thirsty, she finds an abandoned service station. As she approaches, a zombie deer charges her, and a shot from a hunting rifle rings out. The bullet doesn't down the deer, but drives it away. Chris meets the hunter, an older woman.
Later, they are both holed up in a remote cabin in the woods, living off the land. While there, a rogue National Guard squad comes into the area. They see them murder a survivor. The huntress begins to pick them off with her rifle as Chris barricades the house. One busts in, and Chris blasts him with a shotgun.
They team up with a couple of Guard survivors, and their guns and Humvee. They head north, hoping the cold will kill, or at least slow down the zombies. Along the way, the Humvee stalls, and they struggle to get it started as shambling shapes appear in the distance. Eventually, Chris and the huntress grab supplies and leave the Humvee, as the soldiers try to get it started again. In the distance, Chris hears their screams.
Chris and the huntress are in the cold now, but the zombies don't appear to be affected by it. They are trying to cross a lake covered in thin ice, when the zombies spot them. More and more zombies begin to follow them, all of them adding to the weight on the ice. When it becomes clear to Chris that they aren't going to make it, she throws a grenade at the zombies, shattering the ice and dropping them into the freezing lake. The huntress falls through as well and dies, and Chris freezes to death trapped on drift ice.

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