My untitled zombie RPG rises from the grave...

edited February 2011 in Story Games
Please excuse the lengthy preamble, but I think it may help by way of context. Most of my pre-teen and teenage gaming was carried out at my good friend Bryan's house, in his parents' basement. I'm sure many of you can identify with that. Typical gamers' basement - filled with our accumulated books and boxes, miniatures, was stacked to the ceiling with nearly every RPG and supplement released from 1977 - 1995. I lost contact with Bryan for a while, got back together, lost contact - typical growing up stuff.

We re-connected again a couple of years ago and it was amusing to me that his mom's basement (his dad having passed away several years earlier, while we were out of touch) had become a time capsule of our shared gaming history. Every once in a while Bryan will call me to let me know that he's dug up a character sketch or a folder containing some Star Frontiers campaign material that never came to fruition. Last month he called me and said he'd found an old RPG I designed when I was 14 - a 'Dawn of the Dead' RPG, as it turns out.

Though the specifics of the game are a little hazy to me, I vividly remember handwriting the entire thing on sheets of loose-leaf notebook paper - character creation, combat, skills, etc. At the time, my gaming interests leaned pretty heavily towards military simulationism - primarily Twilight 2000. I recall poring over lots and lots of copies of Handgun Magazine and Soldier of Fortune Magazine to come up with an insanely long list of firearms (the stats for which were determined, no doubt, by how bad-ass the gun looked. Being a big Mack Bolan fan at the time, I'm sure there's a .44 Automag in there somehwere, and I'm certain it's the baddest gun in the game...)

I even drafted an introductory scenario based on the shopping mall location in the film - this served as the single play session we ran using my ruleset. I even took the world Romero had established and expanded it , deciding that humanity would withdraw behind walled city-states not unlike the one Romero himself depicted in Land of the Dead.

So - the point of this whole rant is that I'm currently planning on typesetting the whole thing in a professional manner, give it a visual polish - but without changing any of the text. Where there are misspellings, I will preserve them. I will make no effort to provide rules clarifications or make any changes to make the game more playable. It will be exactly the same game I crafted 27 years ago. I may add some illustrations, and the map of the mall will probably be updated. I will include scans of the original pages as an addendum to the document so readers can compare the two.

That's the current plan, at any rate. Bryan's coming over to my house tomorrow and he's bringing the game with him - it'll be the first time I've seen it in over 20 years...I'm curious to read through it and see just what a mess it is.


  • This is an interesting approach to game nostalgia. Makes me want to pull out some of my old designs, although I don't think I ever wrote anything out in full.

    I'm curious: how did the original look and what's your feeling now you've seen it?
  • I still have stacks of my old gaming notes, things I just can't bring myself to throw out. Among them are my notes on how to make Top Secret S/I into a sci-fi/post-apocalyptic game.

    I'll be curious to see your zombie game. Thanks for sharing it with us :)
  • Posted By: merb101Among them are my notes on how to make Top Secret S/I into a sci-fi/post-apocalyptic game.
    That sounds sweeeeeet!
    I used to love Top Secret S/I, way back in the day. If you ever decide to scan those notes and post them, I'd love to see them.

    As for Alex's zombie game, that sounds like a worthy plan. I keep regretting not keeping more of my notes from when I initially started writing my own games. I had one that I finished near the end of high school, ran one game of it soon before graduation, and everyone had a blast (though they treated it about as seriously as Family Guy treats politics...I remember characters of such dubious distinction as "Angus McHaggis of the Clan McHaggis").
    I will keep my eyes open, though, for the results of your resurrection ceremonies.
  • Risen From the Grave could be a good title for the game...
  • So I finally hooked up with Bryan this weekend and obtained my old game-notes. Holy-moley, this game is weird. Five pages of weapon stats, lots of notes on poisons and anesthetics, an insanely unwieldy and needlessly crunchy combat system (lots and lots of cross-referencing multiple results tables). In some ways it feels like the Advanced Squad Leader RPG.

    Here are scans of the first six pages, including a character generation section which has no rules for character generation (but some explanation of the stats):






  • I love it.

    I like how there's both a lethality and a damage rating. Cause those obviously need to be carefully differentiated when you're shooting zombies in the head.

    And I dig that there's an accuracy rating and a modifier rating. Because I'm guessing that the modifier will be added to the accuracy, making the separation totally meaningless and redunant. And superfluous. And unnecessary.

    (See what I did there? :) )
  • Man this brings back memories. Lots of the games I designed of this vintage were very similar: D&D stolen stats and pages of weapons. Very cool to see.
  • Posted By: RobMcDiarmidI love it.

    I like how there's both a lethality and a damage rating. Cause those obviously need to be carefully differentiated when you're shooting zombies in the head.

    And I dig that there's an accuracy rating and a modifier rating. Because I'm guessing that the modifier will be added to the accuracy, making the separation totally meaningless and redunant. And superfluous. And unnecessary.

    (See what I did there? :) )
    There is a chart for Accuracy, which determines the base % to hit. The modifier is apparently added to this %. Wait until you see the combat rules - they're mystifying.

    I'm having a serious WTF reaction to these rules - makes me want to take a time machine 25 years into the past and hit myself over the head with a lead pipe.
  • This looks pretty cool.
  • So there's a stat, which then goes to a chart to get converted to a percentage, and then there's another stat to add to that?

    Wow, that's so awesomely stupidly overcomplicated.

    And I love the long list of weapons. And the lack of any good reason why a random citizen wouldn't just grab an M16 and some grenades.

    I almost wonder if you shouldn't just print the scans as the book. With the ink pen crossouts and everything. I love seeing that, despite how fiddly and useless the M column is, that's the one that you fiddled with the most.
  • Amused to see that yes, indeed - the .44 Automag is in there and it is apparently more lethal than either the flamethrower or RPG-7.

    My current plan is to compile and typeset the existing copy, re-do the maps, and the charts as a .pdf. The original scans will be in there too, as an appendix. Full character generation will be in the appendix as well, as I want the book itself to be as true to the handwritten stuff as possible. I'd love to see other people try and hack character gen stuff for this trainwreck of a game.
  • This stuff is gold! I wish I had some of the games I made when I was younger.
  • Publish this with a "commentary track" in the margin and I'm sold.
  • I think this calls for an AP podcast.:)
  • edited March 2011
    Yes, I think a Yellow Menace AP episode is in order :)

    Here are a few more pages...the combat system!



  • Wow. It's almost impossible to ever get a hit! Most of the guns have a base chance to hit of about 30% and it's WAY easier to get a negative modifier than a positive one. You could easily stack up a -50% modifier and have no chance of hitting at all.

    To minmax, you'd be well off with a nunchaku and a bandolier of one-shot pistols, just because you'd have a reasonable chance to get hits.That's awesomely horrible! I can't believe you gave the nunchaku that high of an accuracy value.

    Suddenly the 44 AutoMag doesn't look so hot.

    Wow. You can totally tell that you never actually played this game. If you had, you'd have been blown out of your chair by the wiff factor.
  • Actually, it did get played once. Emphasis on once. I don't recall being disappointed in the mechanics at the time. I'm sure my thought-process was that using guns should be hard - like Twilight: 2000! Hits are rare, but deadly! Because that's how real guns work. At least in my 14-year-old-mind.

    Once you factor in the hit-location chart (yes, there is one) killing zombies is nearly impossible, since they can only be dispatched with a hit to the head.
  • Okay, working on typesetting and layout, but because this is how I roll - here's the logo (and, incidentally, the title):

  • edited May 2011
    Update: The text layout is mostly done. Working on illustrations for the cover and interior right now (see below for some preliminary sketches and a sample of the layout!) Also, a friend / collaborator of mine suggested that I include something that people can actually play to add some actual value to the book. We discussed doing an RPG about being a 15-year-old gamer, which is pretty brilliant - but I'm not sure I have the game design chops to pull of something that meta yet. I'm more comfortable at this point doing genre emulation, so I've started working on a rules-light zombie rpg with a central mechanic based on altruism vs. self preservation. (The way I see it, in all good zombie flicks it's not the zombies that are the real threat, it's other people...the primary struggle is the pull between one's need to cover your ass versus protection of the 'tribe'.) The idea is to re-design Horde of Corpses the way I'd do it *now* to serve as a contrast for my teenage self.

    Also, the character generation system is totally missing. Either I misplaced it or it was in my head at the time. At any rate, one thing I've toyed with is inviting people from SG and other forums to contribute chargen systems for inclusion in the appendix - the wonkier the better, as long as it results in a character that works within the existing HoC mechanics. If anyone's interested in that, let me know and I'll send you a copy of the raw, in progress .pdf.

    With any luck, I'll be able to run off a few POD copies of HoC at LuLu before Gen Con and bring some with me...


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