Friday, October 29, 2010

Tommy's Take on War of the Dead: Chapter Two Weeks One through Three

War of the Dead Chapter Two, by Daring Entertainment, has begun. The first chapter saw the PCs begin on the cruise ship Pinnacle, run afoul of some bikers, have an explosive battle in a church and get welcomed into a new community that utterly went to Hell.

And that was just the first 13 parts.

Since then, a couple of free adventures have been released to tide groups over until Chapter Two began. As before, you can buy these adventures individually, or you can subscribe to the Chapter Two Subscription and save money in the process.

And yeah, that does say "Weeks One through Three"...tread lightly, as there are spoilers, because I have chapters two and three already.


Week One is 20 pages, bookmarked and layered, and fully searchable as well as clickable Table of Contents links.




We get helpfully brought up to date with the reminder that the PCs have been on the road for a month, and supplies are getting more and more scarce. Vigor rolls are now being required in order to avoid fatigue levels due to hunger. They also have to make Vigor rolls to avoid Fatigue from exhaustion, which can get ugly for the PCs and their remaining allies very quickly.

Their little girl mascot from Chapter One will helpfully point out that she's starving, if the PCs are apprehensive about raiding the nearby homes...leading to what could be a fairly comical scene with a zombie.

They soon hit on a gated community, reminiscent of The Walking Dead, (assuming they aren't too paranoid to venture inside)...and we get another awesome random encounter chart. Some great hits are a basemet holding a pair of half-starved dogs that'll attack the first fresh meat they see (the PCs), a cat lady (zombie) who ate her 15 cats and a bondage nightmare.

After linking up with another family in the community, the group finds themselves threatened with a growing legion of the dead that senses life inside the community...and so get to choose between making a break for it or being there when they break through.

After another stint on the road, the group finds a second community, this time manned and maintained, and even has some electricity...

We get the relevant zombie stat blocks reprinted here, as well as a pai that appeared in the Paper Dead, the Rager and the Feral. Finally, the Week one file ends with a list of all of the relevant NPC stats throughout Chapter Two, much as Chapter One, Week One did.

Week one slows everything way down and sets the stage for the rest of Chapter Two, and rightfully so. Obviously, things cannot last. There is ample opportunity for action and roleplaying in this Week, not a lot of moral ambiguity and some morbidly absurd zombie encounters.

CHAPTER TWO WEEK TWO (Available 11/1/10)

The PCs and their allies get to settle into the new community, with tons of roleplaying opportunities.

Several NPCs are provided to interact with, and there's plenty of room for more. We get a conspiracy theorist who found out what was going on from the internet, before it died out... a grandma-type, suffering from cancer, a retired cop and a mother of three whose husband took off early on in the outbreak.

The PCs have the opportunity to go on a hunting expedition (hunting deer, don't worry), as well as catching a pirated radio broadcast that clues the community in a bit on what is going on in the outside world...(hint: The government as we know it has collapsed). The PCs also get to help fend off a human assault on the camp.

The relative peace of the community is broken up by a tragic assault as a lone zombie apparently makes it past the perimeter and into one of the homes: coincidentally, the home of his former family...this sets events spiraling out of control for the family, leaving the group with a very sticky situation on their hands, just as the community is pondering relocation due to the increased attacks by the raiders.

There are a couple of complaints to be had here, and they are interlinked. Namely, it seems like this Week has a *lot* of interactions between NPCs...interactions that, if used in their entirety, could easily lead to a lot of "PCs sitting around and watching NPCs". In Chapter One, during the early weeks, there were points where the PCs were involved almost to the point of straining credibility (and one of the NPCs comments on how the PCs always happen to be around when stuff happens)...this is the opposite. Definite recommendation to play it all as loose guidelines so the PCs can get into the middle of things.

Also, on the same note, the couple that the PCs picked up in Week One are having marital difficulties that are going on around the PCs throughout the week...and it could get annoying to the point that the PCs, depending on their temperment, could be inclined to toss both of them to the zombies. The arc is sound, and I see what the author is going for...I just don't know if it's going to translate well with two NPCs in a roleplaying scenario.

Don't get me wrong, this is far from bad, and the complaints listed can be dispensed with without affecting the meat of Week two, just some bits I noted.

CHAPTER TWO WEEK THREE (Available 11/8/10)

Week Three turns into an excellent change of pace as a survivor *completely* snaps, and the community's constable loses complete control of the law and order there...especially after the first attempt at detaining the deranged survivor fails, and the PCs (and allies) spend a good chunk of the adventure trying to pin him down while he wracks up a body count, killing off the NPCs in the community.

The PCs get to wind up in the middle of a stand-off with the leadership of the community and Caitlan, the wife with the marital problems, as she tries to put the killer down. The PCs are meant to at least defuse the situation to the point that the killer isn't murdered in front of Caitlan's children...but again, with some groups, I think that encounter is as likely as not to end with one of them shooting the killer while everyone else is arguing.

Finally, the community completely shakes apart and the PCs lose Samantha, the girl that's been with them from chapter One, as a consequence of that marital fallout mentioned above.

Week Three is a really nice episode for the chapter, hitting a completely new scenario with the deranged survivor and the horrific fallout of that event. Chapter Two is getting off to a great start, continuing the story from Chapter One while taking it into new directions.

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