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 Post subject: Zombie Apocalypse Initial Premise
PostPosted: Sat Apr 07, 2012 5:38 pm 
Minotaur
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I've been wanting to run a BRP modern game that would, during the first game session, devolve into a zombie apocalypse. My problem is, I don't want it to start as a zombie apocalypse game. Rather, I want it to start as "x" game that turns into the former, hopefully shocking the players. However, I can't figure out what the initial premise would be for players to create normal, everyday investigators without giving the real premise of the game away. I've gotten a few ideas online (prison, school, college, supers, film crew, class reunion, Survivor or survival, The Sims) but that still doesn't give me my initial (false) premise, my "This is what the game is going to be about."

I feel like I'm explaining this badly. When you start almost any game, one of the questions is "What kind of game is it?" The answer is fantasy, horror, or the like. I need that initial fake premise that will get the players interested, get them to make normal people as their characters, and leave them completely blind-sided when zombies start showing up when they shouldn't even be in such a game. The premise should be 20th century <what>.

Here's a good example that worked in play. Year of the Phoenix started out with the characters part of a NASA anti-terrorist space force in 1999. Characters were part of the military but trained to pilot shuttles and deal with terrorism in space. However, during the initial scenario, when they take the shuttle Phoenix to the international space station, which has been taken by terrorists, the space station explodes as they close to dock. Everything goes black. They wake up on the shore and guess that they managed to get out of the shuttle. Turns out they are probably in the Soviet Union (which still existed in the game) and help some rebels fight against them. However, by the end of the mission, they find that they are actually in the 24th century and the Soviet Union now runs the world.

Any advice or ideas are welcome. Thanks.

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 Post subject: Re: Zombie Apocalypse Initial Premise
PostPosted: Sat Apr 07, 2012 10:15 pm 
Puce Guardian
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Not sure ... maybe something with investigating groups of survival militia that appear to be bent on taking over the country, fringe groups like that aren't as uncommon as we'd like to think - but these groups are being fed real money by some major corporations. This could lead to something like the Umbrella Co, a multi-billion dollar company creates zombies and realizing the eventual ruin it will create, are training militia groups to guard their own planned nest of humanity. Your group thinks they fighting terrorists or possibly foreign spies creating trouble, or some mad super villain billionaire .... till...

I'm not sure how you want the zombies to start .. if we know, then we might better be able to come up with a cover game story.


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 Post subject: Re: Zombie Apocalypse Initial Premise
PostPosted: Sun Apr 08, 2012 1:07 pm 
Minotaur
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I haven't decided how or why the zombies start. My first inclination is a virus of some kind, ala Resident Evil. It would either be from space (meteor crash) or human made. The virus essentially reanimates dead flesh and then tries to reproduce by biting more humans (I don't think it would spread to animals or anything else).

I also haven't figured out an incubation time for the disease, though it would either have to be very fast (in the area of killing and instantly transmuting into a zombie in a few minutes to a very few hours) or very slow (incubating after it kills the victim over a period of days before suddenly animating the body). Those are the only two ways I could see the virus spreading quickly while not being airborne. If it takes days for someone to become a zombie, dying a slow, lingering death, it would only affect a few people before it would (probably) be contained. Of course, the virus could easily mutate and start as one, then progress as another.

I've also toyed with the idea of an airborne version of the virus that only affects children from newborn to about five years old but sets in, kills them in a few hours (or even minutes), and then urges them to spread it via bite to adults (probably wouldn't be effective in toothless newborns so it might be limited to children ages 1-6 or so for some reason).

I hope that helps. What I'm really trying to do is trick the players into thinking they are playing one game, then switch it to another. But I can't figure out how ...

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 Post subject: Re: Zombie Apocalypse Initial Premise
PostPosted: Sun Apr 08, 2012 3:24 pm 
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A warning: Make sure your players really LOVE zombie apocalypse scenarios first. I've tried something like a few times with my groups and more often than not, it was a failure.

The reason is this: Players make characters with certain expectations. When you dramatically change the world the characters were designed for, they'll most often be disoriented and disappointed.

Example: "We're playing Star Wars!"
Great. I make a Smuggler who has a huge debt to pay off. I give him some character flaws that I hope to overcome through game play. I look forward to spaceships and laser guns and droids and aliens and light-sabres....
Session 1: "Your Star Wars character is an action figure, we're really playing Toy Story: The RPG".
All my plans and expectations fall through the floor. No lasers, no droids, no spaceships. I have to reorient this character I've invested all this mental energy into creating and now face the problems of climbing up and down huge carpeted stairs and beating off the house cat with a plastic blaster accessory.

Deception RARELY goes over well in an RPG situation.

Examples in my experience that didn't go well:
During a D&D session, all the PCs were in a shipwreck and they all seemed to drown. They then woke up and found they'd been converted into merfolk versions of themselves. It was only meant to be for a couple of sessions, but there was some grumbling and discontent.

A D&D character selected a girdle of gender alteration and slowly turned from a man into a woman. Once he realized what was happening to him, and how difficult it would be to switch back, he lost all interest in the character and stopped coming to sessions.

The one time I used this sort of thing that I remember it going well was when I ran a "Space:1999" campaign for a bunch of players who knew either very little or nothing at all about the original show. I said "Trust me on this, make up a character who works on a space station". They did and at the end of session 1, the big disaster happened, the moon blew out of orbit and the space station they were on shot off in the other direction. Session two was all about recovery, rescue operations and then discovering that they were adrift with no way to get back home. They LOVED it. That campaign lasted about 2 years and I officially ended it with them finding a new planet to colonize.

So be careful about what you're doing to your players and be sure they'd be enthusiastic about the apocalypse scenario. Otherwise you may get some eyerolls and thrown pencils. Every time I intruduced a zombie-like thing or something vaguely Doctor Whoish into a campaign I got them.

The honesty up front aspect works well, too. I ran a game set in the George Romero "Living Dead" universe and told them up front that's what it was. The players went into it enthusiastically making survivor characters and excited to see exactly how the 'rise' would affect their lives. That game was very successful though we only played a few session since only a small percentage of my regular players were interested in the genre. Others of our group would not come to it at all.

We had: A coroner (who was a little bit of a necrophile. He had the BEST lines. "Hi security? Yeah, I lost a patient. THAT'S NOT SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN!!!")
A schoolbus driver who had a bus load of children to look after.
A farmgirl with a pickup truck and a pump action shotgun.
A cop (long before "The Walking Dead" series)

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 Post subject: Re: Zombie Apocalypse Initial Premise
PostPosted: Sun Apr 08, 2012 9:33 pm 
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The only time I saw a non-zombie fans go for the genre was where they were trying to prevent it by destroying the lab where the 'zombification nanites' were being developed. Then again, that was more 'Fight the Borg' than 'You're starring in a Romero movie'.

Anyway, heed BK, for he is wise and all-seeing.

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 Post subject: Re: Zombie Apocalypse Initial Premise
PostPosted: Mon Apr 09, 2012 5:15 am 
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I would agree with BK but i can think of one way to bypass that: do not tell them what the game is going to be but do tell them to prepare normal characters working for an organization you plan to tie to the zombie outbreak.
If it is a virus maybe they work for the pharmaceutical company that made the mistake. They could be doctors or security or CEOs, going about their business, maybe finding a clue or two before the plot gets hijacked by Romero.
I can imagine myself being dissapointed if i had to cast aside a character i made with a certain setting in mind, but if you give them no false promises and then proceed to use the elements they insert in their characters in the zombie plot, it would work fine and even give you ideas.

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 Post subject: Re: Zombie Apocalypse Initial Premise
PostPosted: Mon Apr 09, 2012 5:45 pm 
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I agree about making sure your characters are okay with zombie apocalypse game. It's not everyone's cup of tea ... and even if they are into it... fighting four year old zombies? Earth's population ends because all kids are zombies by age 4? Or one? I mean, sure, most of them can't walk very well, and humanity could be saved by very large staircases (elevator buttons would be out of reach) and the return of playpens, but are your average zombie apocalypse fans going to enjoy taking the machine guns to face a crawling mass off toddlers invading the streets and day-cares of the world? Sure, they'll bite some adults, parents and caregivers, before it's figured out, but doesn't really leave you with only the deadbeat dads on the side of humanity? ...which is sort of an oxymoron ....


kay :P

Well, anyway, I think the doctors and nurse idea or the special task force investigating terrorists would do for the Umbrella situation. For space meteorites spreading disease, I'd say the doctors and nurses would still work, or possibly an X-files team that thinks they are fighting possible alien invaders. Which they might very well be, if the zombie plan is the first attack. (I mean, how long do zombies last?)

For the baby zombie swarm attack... I got nothing. I can't even wrap head around it. Unless your characters are supposed to cure the baby zombies... but even then... I can't see the adventure as something folks are anxious to play. I'm not a zombie fan myself, but always pictured the typical zombie RPG player as someone who liked to blow things up, and then shoot them and then blow more stuff up. With some arson thrown in. I'm not sure baby zombies would be what they were hoping for.


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 Post subject: Re: Zombie Apocalypse Initial Premise
PostPosted: Mon Apr 09, 2012 5:48 pm 
Minotaur
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Per responses both here and on other threads across the vastness of the internet I'm leaning more, now, towards just starting out telling my players we're doing a BRP modern game and that the premise will become clear soon enough. Perhaps even telling them if they don't know the premise in advance, they will more likely have a more enjoyable time. I'm hoping that will be enough.

Comments?

I'm also tempted to go with triffids instead of zombies ...

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 Post subject: Re: Zombie Apocalypse Initial Premise
PostPosted: Mon Apr 09, 2012 8:57 pm 
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Max_Writer wrote:
Per responses both here and on other threads across the vastness of the internet I'm leaning more, now, towards just starting out telling my players we're doing a BRP modern game and that the premise will become clear soon enough. Perhaps even telling them if they don't know the premise in advance, they will more likely have a more enjoyable time. I'm hoping that will be enough.

Comments?

I'm also tempted to go with triffids instead of zombies ...


?? From zombies to TRIFFIDS??? Just hold out until it rains, guys. The end. I hope you'll be making them more dangerous than the ones in the book or movie. Either that or let them know that they'll be BLIND for the entire campaign.

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 Post subject: Re: Zombie Apocalypse Initial Premise
PostPosted: Tue Apr 10, 2012 12:04 pm 
Minotaur
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Actually, I thought the book triffids were quite dangerous. Instant-kill poison? Able to hide almost in plain sight (in rough enough terrain)? Group hive-mind with the ability to learn? Ability to communicate (of a sorts) over long distances and draw others of their kind to prey? The best part is that the players will think exactly what you think - "Stupid, useless plants. No problem." Not that they would have a clue what they were when I first introduced them anyway.

I'm sticking with zombies for now, I think, but triffids might be another campaign - or an addition to a zombie campaign maybe ...

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 Post subject: Re: Zombie Apocalypse Initial Premise
PostPosted: Tue Apr 10, 2012 6:18 pm 
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That would lend to the X files scenario set up. Just when they think they've figured out the twist in the game and are fighting off zombies, out come triffids, the mushroomish invaders from space.


Maybe decaying zombies make the best fertilizer.


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 Post subject: Re: Zombie Apocalypse Initial Premise
PostPosted: Thu Apr 12, 2012 7:16 am 
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Max_Writer wrote:
Actually, I thought the book triffids were quite dangerous. Instant-kill poison? Able to hide almost in plain sight (in rough enough terrain)? Group hive-mind with the ability to learn? Ability to communicate (of a sorts) over long distances and draw others of their kind to prey? The best part is that the players will think exactly what you think - "Stupid, useless plants. No problem." Not that they would have a clue what they were when I first introduced them anyway.

I'm sticking with zombies for now, I think, but triffids might be another campaign - or an addition to a zombie campaign maybe ...


Don't remember the hive-mind telepathy. As I recall they just follow sound.
And once you can identify the 9' tall broccoli as the triffid, they're not so good at hiding in 'plain sight'. Which is why they all needed to be blinded for the disaster to work.

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 Post subject: Re: Zombie Apocalypse Initial Premise
PostPosted: Thu Apr 12, 2012 6:00 pm 
Minotaur
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According to the book, once a trap succeeded on them, others wouldn't fall for it again, suggesting something more than just animal (or vegetable) intellect or instinct.

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 Post subject: Re: Zombie Apocalypse Initial Premise
PostPosted: Mon Apr 23, 2012 12:35 pm 
Minotaur
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Back to Zombies for a post: Here's my newest idea on how it could work:

Starts with meteorite falling in graveyard or possible bioweapon test by foreign power in nearby town. Investigators are sent to investigate.

Alien or biological virus (probably alien) that starts, when it is first released on meteorite’s crash, as an airborne virus that lives for several minutes and moves quickly to encompass roughly a one-square-mile area. All humans (sapiens) in this area die within a few minutes, usually too quick to even call for aid. Virus within human bodies (that caused their deaths) mutates at this point, making it no longer airborne. It powers and raises the bodies and then creates aggression against non-zombies in the people in order to further spread. The virus is now spread by bite or blood, fluids, or saliva entering the bloodstreams of others. Bites, if not immediately fatal, fester quickly and spread, resulting in death in less than a week. Amputating the bit area might save the victim.

The virus, though not self-aware, is able to control the dead body to the extent of trying to spread itself. It is somehow also able to stave off rigor mortis and power the body as well, acting as the bodies new nervous system.

Virus continues its mutations. First zombies created by airborne virus are fairly slow, but those zombies created by being bit or the like tend to be faster and more in control. They can sprint. They are a bit smarter. The initial zombies are shamblers but those that they infect end up as runners.

It should be noted that some in the area of the initial airborne infection sometimes survive due to their environment (disinfected or the like) or situation (those on oxygen or completely cut off from the outside world are safe) or even physical condition (certain physical affects (being drunk, already diseased, or something - unsure what yet - think Andromeda Strain). The airborne virus only has a lifespan of a few minutes or so, after which it dies and becomes inert.

At end of first scenario, the investigators are greeted by seeing meteors falling in the distance and reports of a “massive meteor shower” across the western hemisphere as the planet passes through a “debris field” of some kind. The shower continues for over 24 hours, peppering the entire planet.

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 Post subject: Re: Zombie Apocalypse Initial Premise
PostPosted: Tue Apr 24, 2012 4:50 am 
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So they would have to deal with damaged infrastructure, damaged roads etc. This would give you extra story ideas.

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