Friday, December 17, 2010

Tommy's Take on War of the Dead: Chapter Two: Week Eight

Week 8 has been out for almost a week and I'm just now reviewing it...if that tells you what kind of week I've had (what with the last blog post also being a week ago).

Week 7 ended in an ambush and, as is often the case, this week resumes where that one left off.

The PCs and friends begin sandwiched between Sprinters and Ragers, and this one is pretty much a battle to the death. However, the PCs are better armed than they have been through much of the War of the Dead thus far, so hopefully this will be one of those moments where they kick some tail and don't worry about taking any names.

The sidebar at the beginning of the chapter warns that the PCs are going to be put in a very tricky situation with a child, Brandon Russo (son of Edward Russo, who is leading the zombie charge).

In fact, once that ambush is resolved, contact from an NPC sets the PCs on the trail of their missing kids, who have been captured by Brandon and his father's undead.

This turns into a chase through the sewers, with the Russos playing mind games with the PCs, using the kids to do it. Rather than the random encounter charts I love so much, we get some fairly set encounters, including a trigger happy survivor camp that can turn into an ugly detour if use.

Of note, this week moves away from "scripting" NPCs and more towards providing guidelines for how the NPCs are reacting to situations, to guide the GM.

The author Goes There and flips the Nightmare Switch when the chase ends, as the Russos have infected the children (except Samantha, who is instead VERY badly injured). I would recommend multiple bennies per PC at this point. It's really kinda warranted.

Even though the author does not expect the PCs to go fully automatic in this scene, given the numbers they will be facing, I would advise GMs to be prepared for some ticked off players who need the catharsis at this point. Probably the *only* thing that would keep my usual group of guys from killing everything in the room (or dying trying) is Samantha's injuries...and that's probably a coin toss.

Back at the UniMed Safe Zone, the PCs get to witness/participate in a big argument about the nature of the Living Dead and what, precisely, should be done...just as the compound falls under siege and the remaining UniMed executives bail out.

Yeah...more than any Week so far, I could see this one being the hardest to keep on the rails, once the revelation of the kids being turned to ghouls hits. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it's bad...I'm saying that it's liable to provoke very strong reactions from any PCs who aren't self centered bastards. Honestly, I would even be hard pressed to use the guilt mechanics on anyone who decided to headshot Brandon Russo then and there. Kid or not, that's kinda running into Full Blown Evil mode, at least from the perspective of Zombie Apocalypse Survivors.

I do like how the "script" seems to be loosening up, as it probably should given that the PCs are getting stronger and more experienced, literally becoming more in control of their own destiny.

Make no mistake, I probably think this is one of the strongest segments of this chapter thus far, as even flipping the Nightmare Switch didn't come across as just aiming for shock value, but instead meant to be another psychological twist in the story.


  1. If I had some players who were just "going through the motions" in the campaign, who thought no more of snuffing a kid than anyone else, I would think the "guilt" mechanic to be in order as a reminder that this is NOT the normal order of things for civilized people.

    However, I personally see this as a GM option ... and I doubt I would exercise it for my own group. Screaming and pumping the little, calculating, child-kidnapping-and-murdering monster full of lead seems like an entirely appropriate (if not rational) response to the situation.

    In fact, if I were playing a PC in that situation (depending upon my PC's Hindrances, etc.), I might go ahead and do it *even if* the GM warned me outright that such a transgression would earn a penalty to Spirit. I'd probably argue over being saddled with GM-mandated *guilt*, however. There are already plenty of inherent ways the GM can stick it to the PC (e.g., "Daddy" is likely to focus attacks on him for revenge, other characters might shoot at you for shooting a kid...).

  2. Very valid points...and, by this point in the campaign, I would hope that the GM would be able to react appropriately to whatever his PCs opted to do.

    I do agree, though...I tend towards "mostly good" PCs when I am a player, and when I read that, my first reaction "shoot the little bastard, consequences be damned"...the slightly spiteful part said "make sure it's in the head, so Daddy's Boy doesn't 'live' on".