Game Review: D&D Insider

OK, not strictly a game, but it’s close enough.

I’ve had a D&DI subscription for a little over a year now, and if – as I was a year ago – you’re wondering whether it’s worth it: Yes, I think so. Why? Read on for details.

First, the cost. My subscription costs about £50 per year, which is about what I spend on coffee every couple of months, so it’s not a huge drain on my resources – Your Mileage May Vary. (Hmm, maybe I should cut back on the coffee. Perhaps it’s got something to do with the hundreds of green moles crawling over the walls? No, surely not.)

The much-vaunted online gaming table never appeared, much to my disappointment; but there are a number of third party alternatives, like d20Pro, Screen Monkey, and Fantasy Grounds. I’ve run games over MSN Messenger, and that works well enough. So I can work around this, but I’m still a bit disappointed.

What you do get is access to Dungeon and Dragon magazines, the online rules compendium, the Adventure Tools, and the Character Builder. There are also name generators, character sheets, maps, and so forth, but those five are the big ticket items.

Adventure Tools is still in beta at the moment, and so far only has the monster builder tool, which allows you to browse existing monster stat blocks or create your own. This isn’t a complete replacement for the numerous Monster Manuals, as you only get the stat blocks, with some tactical info for some monsters. There are four other buttons greyed out (actually, bronzed out) at the moment, so more may come later. You can export monsters as RTF, or print those green stripey blocks one gets in the Monster Manual or published scenarios. This is useful as I can then take only the monsters I need with me, or cut and paste them into scenario notes. Rating: Good.

Character Builder allows you to create and maintain characters (surprise!) using any or all of the options from any of the numerous Players’ Handbooks or Dragon articles. You can then print or view character sheets, with or without power cards. I find I don’t need character sheets at all in most games; I print out the power card pages (which can be set to include abilities, skills and basic ranged or melee attacks as well as powers and magic items), laminate them, and play the character as a card deck. It’s very fast and intuitive, turn the power card over when you’ve used the power up for that encounter or that day; and I’m seriously thinking of adopting that approach for other games. I’d like to see cards for rituals too, but so far the only ritual we’ve used is Gentle Repose, and by definition your character has time to stop and think about a ritual. There’s a lot more background information for characters than for monsters, and I’m easily able to create and use characters from Players’ Handbooks I haven’t even bought. Rating: Excellent.

Dragon magazine continues to be 1,001 ways for power gamers to optimise their characters; new (or expanded) races, classes, deities etc. I very rarely venture beyond the basic dozen or so races or classes myself, and don’t see the need for my players to do so either. So there. Rating: Not my cup of tea, thank you.

Dungeon magazine is a mixture of adventures – ranging from short side treks to fill out gaps in a regular campaign, up to 30-level adventure paths – and designers’ notes. I can generally get a couple of usable adventures from each issue, and not just usable for D&D, either; currently my baseline EPT party and Dark Heresy group are both running through D&D scenarios, if only they knew it. (Since I run both under Savage Worlds, it is fast and easy to convert the monsters and treasure from any other setting.) Rating: Excellent.

Finally, the Rules Compendium is a database of about 8,000 entries, in which every creature, item, race, class etc is described. I was disappointed when the PDF versions of the core rules were taken offline, especially since I hadn’t bought them yet; this database could partially replace them, but only if I’m online, which I might very well not be while playing. I would like there to be some way to view this offline, or better still, be able to buy an ebook version of the core rules. I find it the Compendium a bit clunky to use, but on the plus side it has entries from every book, adventure, and article, so pretty much everything is there, whatever the navigation is like. Rating: Could do better.

I will say that setting up an account was one of the most complex and least user-friendly experiences I’ve had on the web, and I spend a lot of time here; but you only have to get that to work once. (Admittedly it took me nearly two evenings of trying.) Overall, though, I think it’s well worth a pound a week. Your call.

Tekumel: Dungeon Levels

I woke up far too early today (that happens more and more as I get older) so here are the levels of the dungeon beneath Jakalla, using the London Underground as a map. This has no references to game system as such, so could be used with baseline Tekumel or the reskinned version I’ve been pulling together this week.

  1. Bakerloo Line: The sewers and drainage system of modern Jakalla.
  2. Central Line: The uppermost of three levels built during the Second Imperium. The architecture here is familiar, and inscriptions are in the intricate glyphs of Classical Tsolyani. A layer of meandering passages covering several square kilometres. Two important shrines are maintained here; the enormous temple of Hru’u, and the upper level of the temple of Dlamelish. The temple of Thumis maintains a priestly academy and library on this level. There is also a strange circular temple to Chiteng, and the River of Silence, in the midst of which is an island where Death himself dwells, or so it is said.
  3. Circle Line: The middle level of the Second Imperium, containing the middle level of the shrine of Dlamelish.
  4. District Line: The lowest of the Second Imperium levels, including the lower level of the shrine of Dlamelish. Since this level was the first one built after the Time of No Kings, when legendary figures like Hagarr and Subadim reigned, their treasures are most likely to be found on levels 4 or 5.
  5. East London Line: The first of the Engsvanyali levels. These levels are characterised by smooth, graceful, sophisticated and somewhat effete styles. Inscriptions are in an elegant, delicate cursive script. The typical coin is the Suor, a large gold coin worth about 150 Kaitars. There are many dungeons and torture chambers to hold and torment the enemies of the priest-kings. Since this area was the last built before the Time of No Kings, when legendary figures like Hagarr and Subadim reigned, their treasures are most likely to be found on levels 4 and 5. This level is notable for the Garden of the Weeping Snows, and Lelmiyani, the Sweet Singer of Doom.
  6. Hammersmith & City Line: The middle Engsvanyali level. Includes the shrine to the mysterious He Who Laughs Forever.
  7. Jubilee Line: The lowest Engsvanyali level, including the tomb of Rekmilish III. This level holds the earliest representations of, and shrines to, the Lords of Stability.
  8. Metropolitan Line: The uppermost Bednalljan level. Bednalljan areas of the dungeon are recognisable by their grotesquely baroque murals and bas-reliefs. Inscriptions have a syllabary of curliques and awkward shapes. The earliest Sakbe roads and the walls of Jakalla were built at around this time. Nonhumans reappear in illustrations (there are none of levels 9-11).
  9. Northern Line: The lower Bednalljan level. Sites of interest include the tombe of Mnekshetra. The earliest shrines to Sarku, Hru’u, and especially Dlamelish are found on this level, consequently there are no Qumqum. Allegedly there is also a sealed shrine to the Goddess of the Pale Bone, a goddess so nasty that even the Lords of Change are afraid of her.
  10. Piccadilly Line: This level was built by the Dragon Lords, and is characterised by their leaping flame-and-dragon motif. The Great Shrine of Vimuhla is on this level. Also here is the earliest temple to Ksarul; consequently there are no Mrur or Qol below this level.
  11. Victoria Line: The Llyani level. Script here is squat and square. There are no representations of nonhumans above this level until level 8, since they became isolated after the Interstellar Era. The earliest temples to Vimuhla are on this level.
  12. Waterloo & City Line: The ruins of Humanspace Alliance facilities from the Interstellar Era. This level is a twisted mass of collapsed metal passages, inscribed with geometric embellishments and angular scripts. A current of cold air blows up from the caverns below. This is the most likely place to find Eyes, Ru’un or Yeleth; other ancient creatures such as Thunru’u, Sagun, Tsu’uru etc have likely wandered upwards in search of food.
  13. Docklands Light Railway: Prehuman caverns from before man’s arrival on Tekumel. The walls here are inscribed with Ssu script, rows of perfect circles of different sizes, depths and patterns, incomprehensible to humans.
  14. National Rail: The transcontinental subway system, installed by the earliest human settlers as a system of underground rapid transit.

While theoretically the dungeon should be about 50 levels deep (25,000 years or more of habitation, with a new level added every 500 years), I reason that (a) people always exaggerate how old things are, (b) there would always be a reason to put off the expense of rebuilding all the cities in the Empire, and (c) some cultures would not have left ruins. Thus, I have collapsed the long history of Tekumel into the 14 layers on the Underground map. At some point I might align the above sites of interest with specific Underground stations, but now it’s time to start the long commute to work, so off I go.

Tekumel Reskinned: The Dungeon

And now the dungeon. For the overall dungeon map, I’m going to use the London Underground map; it’s big and complex enough to be a megadungeon, and there’s one on the internet and in the back of just about every diary printed in the UK, so I’ll be able to get to it anywhere. You could use any other city map or underground map you like, and if the party explore dungeons elsewhere I can use another one – possibly Milan, because then I could have enigmatic grafitti scrawled everywhere: “The Third Line advances!” (I know what that meant in Milan, who knows what it means on Tekumel?)

For those not familiar with Tekumel, every 500 years each city is razed to the ground in a complex religious ritual, then rebuilt on the ruins. However, conservative priestly factions insist on rituals being performed in the original location, clans need cellars to store things, and so on; the net result is that each city stands on the ruins of many previous incarnations, each of which is honeycombed with a labyrinth of corridors and chambers, laced with treasures guarded by men and monsters. It’s a good explanation, and means the city is right on top of the dungeon.

I scan a copy of the Jakalla map from Swords & Glory, print it out reduced to A4, and then print the London Underground on top of it so I can see easily what is on top of what. (Both images are copyrighted so you don’t get to see that, sorry.) A couple of measurements and some quick arithmetic tell me that the tube lines themselves, which are going to be the main corridors between room complexes, are about 20 feet wide compared to the map of the city above. (Excellent, that means I can use a chessboard folded in half as a battlemat for a main corridor section – there are chessboards everywhere too, and they generally come with pieces that can be used for the party and its enemies; the bishop represents the cleric, and so on.) It looks like stations are never closer together than 5mm, so as long as none of the room complexes is much bigger than 100′ x 100′ I should be alright.

The levels descend in the order they’re listed on in the key; I can tie that in to Tekumel’s history so that, for example, there are lots of strange circular markings in the cramped and convoluted tunnels which make up the 14th level. That will keep for a later post, since I don’t need all the levels for the weekend; just the first couple. Level 1 is the Bakerloo Line, and is the contemporary sewer system; Level 2 is the Central Line, which is where I expect the PCs to enter because it lines up most obviously with known entrances.

Stations marked by a little square show where the room complexes are. I need a way to map those that I can carry with me, ideally in my head; each station has a name, so I shall use the initial letter of each name as the corridor layout for the room complex, and add rooms to taste. Here’s a simple example for the letter D:

Example room complex for stations beginning with "D"

Since I plan to do this on the fly, the same room complex will probably wind up with different layouts over time. I don’t think this matters; do your players visit the same complex again and again? I thought not. (If they do, I can say that temple patrols and workmen have made modifications for some reason not immediately clear.)

Stations marked by a larger circle connect levels. Each is a large circular room, built around a well which connects all the levels (Tube lines) which meet there. The well is actually a lift shaft containing a giant Tenser’s Floating Disk for use as an elevator. Runes and glyphs on its surface, if trodden on in the correct sequence, will move the Disk to another level like a lift, or teleport the party to any other Disk on the same level. There’s more to that, but that’s for another post I think, this one is getting long enough as it is.

Why did I pick D for the example complex to detail? Well… traditionally, the entrance to the underworld beneath Jakalla is from the tomb complex just outside the north-east wall. I look at the composite map and pick a pyramid which is squarely over a Tube station; there are about five to choose from, and I pick Debden underneath the Tomb of the Lost King because it’s the first one for which a theme occurs to me; Debden – the den of someone called Deb. OK, that can be a medusa in contact with the local Thieves’ Guild (which doesn’t exist in baseline Tekumel but will here), acting as a fence and crime boss. A medusa is perhaps a bit stiff as opposition for two first level PCs, so we’ll say she’s out when they come calling. The complex will contain storerooms, slave pens, guard quarters, a meeting room, and a luxurious ladies’ boudoir with no mirrors in it. Hur hur hur.

Whatever they do encounter will be appropriate for the second level, since that is where they enter. When using the DMG random encounter tables, I’ll base the level of encounters on the dungeon level rather than the PCs’ level; that gives them more choice about what they face, and they will probably figure that out eventually.

An adventure session will take about 30 minutes to set up, 30 minutes to pack away, and an hour per encounter. We won’t get more than three hours straight, so I’ll prepare three encounters – two I expect to use, and a third as a contingency. Rolling on the tables on p. 193 of the DMG gives me:

Encounter 1: Easy, Commander and Troops, no extra feature. From DMG p. 58, that’s a Commander (controller or soldier) of level n (i.e. 2) and 4 Troops (brute or soldier) of level n-3 (let’s call that 1). Let’s try a Needlefang Drake Swarm and four Stormclaw Scorpions, it’s becoming a family joke that every 1st level encounter is with Kobolds. They can be just opportunistic vermin. I don’t want to give out magic items this early in the game – I’m stingy with them – so I roll 1d6+4 on the treasure parcels tables, and determine the PCs will find 60 gp when they defeat these chaps.

Encounter 2: Hard, Wolf Pack, replace one monster with Trap. 4 skirmishers of level n+5 (i.e. 7). Three Crimson Acolytes fit the bill, probably here to trade with the Medusa; the fourth one is replaced by a Whirling Blades Contraption, evidently set in the meeting chamber to deal with those guests who just won’t take a hint and leave. These guys are worth 40 gp.

Encounter 3: Moderate, Wolf Pack, no extra feature. 5 skirmishers of level n (i.e. 2). Human Bandits, again here to trade. These fellows have 200 gp.

There we go, ready for the weekend gaming slot, and took about an hour to sort out, most of which was spent drawing the map. That will get faster with time, I’m sure.

Tekumel Reskinned: Monsters

For a while, even before Savage Worlds corrupted me utterly with its shiny Trappings, I have thought that there are archetypes throughout RPGs; in particular, there are certain monsters that appear everywhere, filling the same ecological niches and dramatic roles but with different descriptions. I suspect the variation in game stats is more about how different authors see the creature than anything else.

I had planned a lengthy, scholarly post explaining which EPT monster matches up best with which D&D monster, and indeed which Savage Worlds monster; but you know what, that’s a waste of time – I’ll just go with the standard D&D monsters and the random encounter generator in the DMG, and spend my time preparing encounters rather than converting monsters.

This is not the Tekumel you’re looking for…

“Once you have purchased this book, moreover, you are welcome to pick and choose from it and use it in your own gaming as you wish. There is no need for “your” Tekumel to be identical with “my” Tekumel. Introduce other characters, different animals, further races – after all, my terrain maps show only a portion of the planet’s northern hemisphere, and there is lots of room around the other side! Change the social structures, throw out or ignore features which do not appeal to you. Use your own imagination to bring in features which you and your players will enjoy. The game can function as a springboard into your own fantasy mythos, and if you go on to develop this, we shall all be the richer. If you already have a campaign which uses some other set of rules, you may still wish to utilise these background materials either directly or as a stimulus to enhance your world. Even were we to issue a monthly newsletter or exchange data by telephone, there is no real way to prevent your history from diverging from mine. I can indeed provide further materials – and some are already available from the publisher of this book – but we cannot keep your Tekumel from drifting away from mine. This is as it should be. You have just bought MY Tekumel. Now make it YOUR Tekumel.” – M.A.R. Barker, Swords & Glory Volume 1 – Tekumel Source Book

A combination of factors last weekend led me to promise Nick and his friend Buster that I would run a D&D 4e campaign for them. The girls are both getting married and moving out, so we need new directions for the family gaming sessions; we had a blast at the D&D Encounters session at our FLGS; and Buster will only play D&D 4e. Thus does the infection spread.

I want to run a sandbox game which I can use with several different rules systems for different groups, which requires some kind of detailed setting. I could write one, buy one, or reskin one I already have for 4th Edition. Writing one is great fun, but takes up time better spent playing. Since I’ve just renewed my D&D Insider subscription, my gaming budget is wiped out for the next couple of months, and I promised a game next weekend. So, it’s back to the dusty recesses of the Thing Under The Bed where old games go to die. (It’s just a storage box. Not some kind of extra-planar entity that wants to entice me under the bed so it can assimilate my soul. I think.) And what should emerge but Empire of the Petal Throne?

Now, I’ve been playing EPT on and off since 1977, so I’m familiar with it. However, judging by their reaction to the Dark Sun setting, the boys want something a bit closer to baseline D&D; so I will reskin EPT for D&D 4e. The Savage Worlds concept of trappings has taken root and grown aggressively. Tekumel purists look away now, because it burns, Preciousss, and the goggles – they do nothing.

Nations and Races

The political, religious and clan structures of the Five Empires can stay, but the nations and races need to change. The basic 1975 EPT has five great empires:

  • Tsolyanu and Mu’ugalavya are human-dominated and can stay that way. However, there are enclaves of Pe Choi on Tsolyanu’s north-west frontier; woods dwellers closely integrated with humanity. They can be elves then; and the N’luss barbarians can be Goliaths.
  • Salarvya has always seemed vaguely dwarvish to me, largely because of the beards and obsession with money I suppose. They can be dwarves.
  • Livyanu, the land of tattooed sorcerers, can be Eladrin.
  • Yan Kor is populated by hostile, swarthy, bow-legged types, so they can be Orcs. Baron Ald is a renegade human in a matriarchal society, which partially explains where half-orcs come from.

Then there are the non-human races:

  • Ahoggya. Obnoxious, eight-limbed things. Not a favourite, not sure what I’ll do with them; quite possibly throw them overboard when no-one is looking.
  • Hlaka. Furry flyers. Nothing obvious here. Kenku possibly? No matter, they’re two months’ travel away from Jakalla so I can figure it out later.
  • Hlutrgu. Swamp-dwelling savages. Lizardfolk seem like a good fit.
  • Hluss. Giant poisonous insects. They’re cool, so they can stay.
  • Pachi Lei. Eight-limbed tree-dwellers. No obvious match in D&D, but I never liked ‘em anyway, so the wood elves can kill them and take their stuff.
  • Pe Choi. We’ve already reskinned those as wood elves. Their close association with humans explains the number of half-elves about.
  • Pygmy Folk. Capricious, friendly, great travellers. They can be hobbits – errm, sorry, Halflings.
  • Qol. Conan-style snake-headed humanoids. Yuan-Ti, I think.
  • Shen. Man-sized reptilian mercenaries. These just have to be dragonborn.
  • Shunned Ones. Fearsome magic users, ragged and spectral, who stink terribly and seek out magic items. I think these can be mind flayers, one of my all-time favourite monsters.
  • Ssu. Deadly enemies of man wrapped in grey shrouds, smelling of cinnamon. These are sort of drow-like, but they’re such a key part of Tekumel for me that I will probably leave them in as they are.
  • Swamp Folk. Four-legged pacifist sailors. Another race I didn’t see the point of; they will not be a part of the new Imperium.
  • Tinaliya. The gnome-like ones. Hmm, perhaps they should be gnomes, then. Mind you, I’ve always despised gnomes in D&D, so maybe the Halflings can kill them and take their stuff.

Tieflings don’t fit any of the above, but can be explained as descendants of the First Imperium, which worshipped the Gods of Change. We can use that to explain the infernal bloodline; one deal too many made with Ksarul – errm, sorry, Lolth or Zehir (see below). Warforged are easy to explain as relics of the Interstellar Age, held in suspended animation until revived; in effect, EPT Ru’un. Nick likes to play warforged, so there’s a ready-made hook for him; find and awaken his brothers in arms. Not sure what to do with Shifters yet.

Gods of Stability

These would be lawful or good in most D&D worlds.

  • Hnalla / Dra: Pelor.
  • Karakan / Chegarra: Kord and Bahamut, respectively.
  • Thumis / Ketengku: Ioun.
  • Avanthe / Dilinala: Corellon, Erathis, Melora and Moradin are all aspects of Avanthe, I think , since she is the goddess of nature, civilisation and industry (in the sense of being industrious, not of building machinery).
  • Belkhanu / Qon: The Raven Queen.

Gods of Change

These would be chaotic or evil.

  • Hru’u / Wuru: Asmodeus, largely by process of elimination.
  • Vimuhla / Chiteng: Bane, Gruumsh and Torog cover these domains, although none is an exact match for their Tsolyani equivalents.
  • Ksarul / Gruganu: Lolth and Zehir both fit well in this space.
  • Sarku / Durritlamish: Vecna
  • Dlamelish / Hrihayal: Tiamat, I think, because her association with greed could easily spill over into hedonism.

I’m not sure what to do with Avandra yet. One interesting outcome of using Tekumel is that the Great Concordat logically suggests that Lolth, Vecna and so on should have legitimate temples and priesthoods inside the Empire. That would suit Buster, who likes to play drow.

That’s enough for one night. Next up, Tekumelyani monsters; then, the dungeon beneath Jakalla, the city where I shall start them off. It’s traditional.

28 Months Later: Reed – 19 January 2013

“Wilf and Ernie left us a couple of days ago; we didn’t actually fight, but we reached a terse agreement to split the food and other stuff evenly, and they took off in one of the 4x4s. The group hasn’t been the same since we lost Jules and Annie. Connie and Nick have stayed with me, but we don’t talk much any more.” – Reed’s journal.

Another discovery mission in daylight, as Reed & Co. try their luck in the nearest town, looking for supplies and maybe a new group member or two. This mission took just over half an hour, and used three human figures and 10 zombies.

I set up the group one move onto the board, then dice for zombies; there turn out to be eight of them, bunched up as usual.

Start of Turn 1: "Zombies, Reed! Fight or run?"

Turn 1

Initiative: Player 2, zombies 5. Reed rolls to Fast Move, getting an extra d6 as he is a Born Leader; he rolls 2, 4, 5 vs Rep 3and passes 1d6. Everyone on his team within 4″ of him takes the same result. Reed & Co fast move towards the closest building, which is behind them to their right, and stack up around the door, waiting to burst in on their next activation.

End of Turn 1: "In here, quickly!"

Turn 2

Initiative: Player 3, zombies 3. Nobody moves.

Turn 3

Initiative: Player 1, zombies 1. Nobody moves.

Turn 4

Initiative: Player 1, zombies 2. The zeds close up. Reed & Co enter the building, and roll 2d6 (3), -1 for it being daytime, +2 for being in an urban area for a total of 4. This indicates there are 1/2d6 humans inside, but the die comes up 1, so nobody’s home. I decide this is a retail store and everybody rolls 2d6 for loot, adding +2 because it’s an urban area. Reed gets a 13, and finds a pistol (at last!); Connie gets a 10, followed by a 4, and finds some luxury goods; Nick gets a 14, which unfortunately can’t be The Cure, so I give him a pistol instead, that being the best weapon you can find in a normal shop.

Turn 5

Initiative: Player 3, zeds 6. Reed takes a gutsy decision to fast move across the path of the zeds into the next building. He rolls 2, 3, 4 and passes 2d6, giving him a 16″ move, which everyone else also gets thanks to his Born Leader. (Man, I love that attribute!) Even deducting 2″ for going through a door, that’s easily enough. I roll 2d6 (9) -1 +2 as before, and get a 10; 1/2d6 zombies inside.

Reed decides to melee the zombies, as the group should be able to take two of them down, and gunshots bring more. He rolls 2, 2, 5 vs Rep (3), using his extra die again, and passes 2d6. In we go. Reed rolls 4d6 vs 3 in melee, scoring 2, 4, 4, 6 and passing 1d6; his opponent rolls a 1 on 1d6 and passes 1d6, so they are evenly matched; as you’ll see, this turns out to be irrelevant.

Connie rolls 1, 2, 3 vs 3 and passes 3d6; her opponent rolls 3 vs 3 and passes 1d6. Connie clearly bears a grudge and hacks the zombie to pieces.

Nick rolls 2, 4, 4 vs the zombie attacking Reed, passing 1d6. It can’t melee, having used its single die on Reed, so it goes down.

Now we loot the building, which I decide is a supermarket. Reed and Nick come up empty handed, but Connie finds some medical supplies.

End of Turn 5: "Eat sharpened spade, zombie!"

Turn 6

Initiative: Player 2, zombies 2. Nobody moves.

Turn 7

Initiative: Player 1, zombies 1. Nobody moves. This is happening a lot today.

Turn 8

Initiative: Player 6, zombies 1. The zeds close up, but as per the rules stop politely once they reach the door. Just as well, since I’ve made two bad tactical errors; first, I didn’t barricade the door behind me, so the zeds can just stroll in; secondly, we are all facing away from the door where they will barge in – I should have left at least one person facing the door to keep watch.

End of Turn 8: "They're behind you!" "Oh, no they aren't!" "Oh, yes they are!"

Turn 9

Initiative: Player 5, zombies 4. The zombies walk right in, up behind our heroes, and engage them in melee from the rear, which reduces their melee dice by two each. Oops.

Reed rolls 6, 2 vs 3 and passes 1d6. The zombie passes 1d6 also, so they are evenly matched. Connie and her zombie both pass 0d6 and are evenly matched. Nick passes 0d6, but his foe passes 1d6, and down he goes, Out Of the Fight. The player group now takes a Man Down test, but Reed chooses to pass 2d6 and they Carry On.

End of Turn 9: "Get 'em off me!"

Turn 10

Initiative: Player 5, zeds 1. Suffice to say that both Reed and Connie were overpowered by their zombie foes. All three Out Of the Fight, no-one to help them, and not even a Star can walk away from this. There’s a zombie feast, but no-one to see it.

End of Turn 10: Can you say "Total Party Kill?" I knew you could.

It’s the 22nd when the next human wanders into the supermarket looking for supplies. Stoner’s practiced eye sweeps the wreckage, and he recreates the struggle in his mind’s eye. The zombies are long gone, with their new recruits; but he pockets the bloodstained first aid kit. As he stoops to pick it up, he sees a discarded notebook under a cabinet. Intrigued, he fishes it out and dusts it off. Handwritten on the cover is the title: “Reed’s Journal”. He starts to toss it away, then thinks better of it; if nothing else, the paper could be useful. He stuffs it into his backpack and steps back outside, into the rain.