Playtest game reports
Played on Tuesday 7th February 2006
Note: the version used was the 3.2 Edition: the current rules may differ from the game described here.
How we set up
First, the players picked a setting; after some creative discussion started going off at tangents, they eventually settled on Houston, Texas, in the 1980s. The infection was described as the spirits of angry Aztecs possessing the bodies of the living to wash away the usurpers of their land in a tide of blood, so we a had a little bit of a Ghosts of Mars riff going on.
Next, we created characters; I made an executive decision to skip Archetypes and Quirks and just gave each player on index card on which to write down a quick description of their character along with a Niche they felt was appropriate to them. I also let them pick their own Agendas and write those down on the back of the cards, stressing that they should pick something with the potential to involve other PCs... you can judge for yourself how well all that worked.
Robin: Playing a wealthy Yuppie who had contacts everywhere (Arm Up) but saw the 'zombie apocalypse' as merely an obstacle to acquiring a really expensive new suit! Richard: Chose a muckraking journalist who had seen it all (Creepshow) and wanted to get a sleazy story to sell. Noah: Created an 80's style soft-metal rock musician with a liking for drugs and groupies(Relax) who secretly wanted to write an historical novel!
I skipped having pre-authored Locations on the table, on the feeling that there was a strong possibility that no-one would like my choices! Instead, I introduced the players to the authoring rules and let them create a couple at the start of the first Travel phase. We ended up with the exclusive and expensive Dimaggio's Restaurant and the Airport.. I could see right away that the latter could be trouble...
Looking back, I can see its at this point that my assumptions about the game set the players up for an easy ride; I settled into 'Fair & Impartial GM' mode, so I wasn't actively trying to kill the PCs! In the first Travel phase, I let Richard & Robin off with a Creepshow as they made their separate ways to the restaurant, describing how a bloody, angry Aztec stepped in front of Richard's bicycle and almost made him swerve under the wheels of Robin's taxi! I hit Noah with a horde of possessed Hare Krishna at the Airport entrance and he ended up across the road in the car rental office with 0 WTL.
Inside the Restaurant, Robin insisted the waiting staff help him to clean up after his near-accident in the taxi (Relax), but Richard went straight for his Agenda, leading to a great dialogue with Robin about how he had built up his business on the bodies of his rivals! This Agenda worked really well and Richard got an Escalate result, so it stayed active..sadly, we never got a chance to explore this further, as I felt it could have lead to the revelation that Robin's company were implicated in the infection!
Meanwhile, Noah got busy with the receptionist as the car rental office (Relax)
On my action, I had 'zombies' burst out of DiMaggio?'s kitchen; it became clear later that I had got the rules wrong on this, since I had assumed that all Oustings resulted in the PC moving to a Location of the GM's choice. As a result, Robin simply left the restaurant as normal, but Richard got pushed into the kitchen during the scuffle! I was happy with that result, though, since the actual rule would imply that there was no consequence of losing to an OverRun? as long as one player in the group succeeds... but given my record so far, I may have got that wrong!
Noah exploited the vehicle rules and chose to stay where he was (i.e. he travelled back to car rental office).
Robin was now at Crazy Enrique's Guns 'n' Suits! Yes, he was pursuing his agenda, but also leaving an opening to Arm Up later. Richard grabbed a time out in the kitchen. Noah searched the office and found a gun!
By this time, we were all a lot more comfortable with the rules and started to pick up speed; it was cool at the start of this act when I removed my giant d6 and replaced it with a giant d8 and said "That's what I'll be rolling now..."
This time around, it was Robin and Noah who ended up heading in the same direction; Noah authored a Location called 'The Best Little Gunhouse in Texas' and just drove right over any zombies who got in his way! Robin ended up taking a secret tunnel from Enrique's basement during this act... I think we got a little carried away here, since Robin nearly managed to get a taxi down here! Mind you, it created a good Creepshow, since Robin now had his suit and was terrified of getting it dirty.
Richard headed back to the Airport, but went straight for a plane waiting to take off! We were all really getting to grips with the Sub-Location rules by now and having a lot of fun with them. I also, belatedly, introduced Dependant NPCs by letting Richard acquire the pilot of the plane as a companion, after they had fought off a zombie together. I just houseruled that instead of gaining a WTL for his Relax, he got the DNPC instead... I even went a little bit crazy and let him author the DNPC with a Niche! This is just another example of my being too lenient!
We were running out of time by now and barely made it to the end of the act, by which time Robin and Noah were in The Best Little Gunhouse's backroom and heading for its bunker! Richard had a claymore mine and Noah had a rocket launcher! Fortunately, with 2d8 to roll for the Danger here, I was able to put up a good fight and we ended on an exciting combat; at that point though, we had to pack up and go home, so for an epilogue we said that Richard and the pilot flew to safety, while Noah and Robin sealed themselves comfortably in the bunker and waited the crisis out.
We all enjoyed this immensely and are keen to have another go, this time getting all the way to the Final Stand! Reflecting on my own implementation and interpretation of the rules...
We didn't really miss the Quirks; I thought they might be a bit of an information overload for a group just learning the rules and, on later study, found that some of them were significantly weaker than others, to the point where 'Fan of MacGyver?' is actually a hindrance! I was way too easy on the players: though they often ended up with 0 WTL, they never get gained so much as a point of infection between them. This was entirely my fault: your rules for WTL gain and loss seem well balanced, I was just skipping some of my attack actions to try and give the PCs a chance, without realising that they already had a chance and I was supposed to be trying to Infect them!