"I’m quite all right Barbara, I ran it under a cold tap. We had our jabs when we went to the Isle of Wight. It’s a lot of overblown nonsense, a lot of drug nuts running wild."
– Shaun of the Dead
Here’s the Savage Worlds version of All Things Zombie encounter one. As this session report has a number of things going on, I’ve adopted a key; normal text is me explaining what’s going on with reference to SW, and italics are how I am using the ATZ rules as a GM emulator.
It’s midday on December 28th, Z+7, and Don Savage is out shopping. He has just bought himself a crowbar, and is carrying his backpack, but has left the shotgun and body armour at home today. After all, those stories about the living dead are just stories, right? To recap, Don looks like this:
Don Savage *
- Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d6, Spirit d8, Strength d4, Vigour d6.
- Skills: Driving d4, Fighting d6, Healing d4, Intimidation d6, Knowledge (Battle) d6, Notice d6, Persuasion d6, Shooting d6, Stealth d4.
- Charisma: –; Pace: 6; Parry: 5; Toughness: 5.
- Edges: Command, Natural Leader
- Hindrances: Code of Honour, Loyal, Vengeful.
- Gear: Kevlar vest, shotgun, crowbar, backpack. $40 in cash.
Don’s objective is…. shopping! He gets one experience point for surviving (i.e., getting off the board without being Wounded by a zombie), one if he picks up at least one Item or Food unit, and one if he kills at least one zombie – these are adapted from the standard ATZ victory conditions. The map was created in Hexographer and is displayed in Hex Map Pro; one hex is one inch.
Bizarrely, the PEFs all appear in section 3 of the board; they have Reps of 2, 2 and 4, so I’ll call them 2a, 2b and 4.
In Savage Worlds, each friendly Wild Card has three bennies, and the Opposing Forces have two bennies per enemy Wild Card and one per PC. So, Don has 3 bennies and the other side has one. I move Don his Pace onto the board along the pavement in section 8, and the fun begins.
Turn 1: I’m using Savage Worlds card draws for initiative, with random events happening on a joker. Don draws a Jack of Diamonds, the Opposing Forces draw a 6 of Clubs. Don moves into the nearest building. I’m handwaving the cash situation by saying he is using a credit card, confident that next month’s wages will clear the bill. The bad news is, he’s wrong; the good news is, it won’t matter.
I use the ATZ Defining Moment rules to see what he finds in the building – in an urban area, the ER starts at 5. It’s a single neutral citizen, who exchanges pleasantries with Don. I use the PEF movement rules to see what the PEFs do – 2b freezes in place, 2a and 4 move 12" away through cover. I did wonder initially whether to adjust PEF movement, but since it represents where the PC thinks the opposition might be, and because experience in test games played off-camera suggests it doesn’t matter, I didn’t bother. It’s easier to remember the same rule in both sets of adventures.
Turn 2: Don draws Heart 3, the PEFs Club 2.
Don uses his turn to search for Items, i.e. shop. Using the ATZ search rules, he finds one Item. At this stage of the outbreak I want it to be something legal so I pick Medical Supplies – enough for one use of Healing. Meanwhile, PEF4 moves as far away as it can, into the opposite corner of the board, and PEFs 2a and 2b stay put.
Turn 3: Don Diamond Queen, PEFs Club King.
The PEFs go first, but thanks to their poor Reps, one freezes in place and the other two flee into the corner of the board. This is unusual, as normally my PEFs have Reps of 5 or 6 and are all over me like white on rice.
Don, thinking the chances of shopping or looting won’t be this good again for a while, runs out of the shop and across the road towards the building opposite. I roll 1d6 as a running die, and add the result to his usual Pace of 6; rolling a 2 means he moves 8" this turn.
Turn 4: Don Club 7, PEFs Club 5. Don continues to run across the road, again rolling a 2 so moving 8". PEFs 4 and 2a continue to bump into the corner – they can’t do anything else without moving closer. However, PEF 2b is made of sterner stuff and moves 12" closer through cover.
Turn 5: Don Club Ace, PEFs Spade 4. Don moves into the building in section 9. I resolve its contents as nothing. PEF4 moves closer, PEF2b moves away.
Initiative: Don Spade Ace, PEFs Spade 8.
If Don runs out the back door, he can get line of sight on PEF4 and resolve it; so he does. He rolls a 4 and moves 10" (by the way, I’m counting doors as difficult ground, so they cost an extra inch of movement to go through). I notice Don can now see all three PEFs, so resolve them; PEF4 is a lone zombie, PEF2a is a group of three citizens, and PEF2b is a pair of citizens. As per my house rules for days 1-20, I reroll to see what the zed was before it turned; in days 1-10 it must have been a citizen, and I determine it was Citizen 8 on the 1-3 table, and thus has a Big Ass Pistol. I also dice for the other citizens as I need to know the leader’s Rep for each group; the group of three is citizen 4 on the 4-6 table, plus citizens 5 and 7 on the 1-3 table, so the leader has Rep 4; the pair is citizens 11 and 6 on the 1-3 table, so their leader also has Rep 4. I probably won’t need their other stats in this game, but I save them as pre-loaded PEFs for later games.
Now the zombie and citizens move. The zombie runs right at Don; it rolls 6 for its running die – fortunately this is not a trait roll and so cannot ace. The zed’s basic Pace is 4, so it runs 10", bringing Don within 6" so I rule he must make a Fear check in lieu of the ATZ Zed Or No Zed test. To do this, he rolls his Spirit d8 and a Wild Die d6. He gets 4 on the Wild Die and 2 on the Spirit die, but can choose which result he wants; I select the 4 as that will pass the Fear check without triggering penalties (the usual target number for die rolls in SW is 4). Meanwhile, the zed is firing at him; it opts for a wild attack (seems reasonable for a rager zombie) and the double tap option. It rolls Shooting d6 (2), + 2 for the wild attack, +1 for double tap, -2 for multiple actions because it’s running, and no range modifiers as it’s within 12" of the target; it gets a total of 3 – since the basic target number in SW is 4, it has missed. Just as well.
Off screen, the citizens (now using the NPC movement table) react; Citizens 1-3 stay put, wondering what to do next, while Citizens 4-5 run towards Don to see if they can help; as per SWD p. 65, I roll 1d6 for the group as a whole, and get a 5, so they move 11" towards the fight. Gunfire attracts zeds, so I roll to see if each shot generates a new zombie – neither one does. Finally, the police are invoked by the gunfire and will arrive in 1d3 (1) turns – obviously one of the local beat officers was nearby and heard the shots.
Initiative: Don Heart Jack, OpFor Spade 3.
Staying outside in the open with some nutter shooting a Desert Eagle at you is tactically unsound, so Don steps back into the building and flattens himself against the wall next to the door, readying his crowbar. The zombie can’t see him any more, so it moves at a normal pace to where it last saw him. Citizens 4 and 5 try to get closer to Don to interact with him – the closest route is past the zombie, but since it’s blasting away with a pistol I think the citizens should go around the building in section 6 the other way; this early in the outbreak it seems unlikely they would open fire. Citizens 1-3 try to move away but are already in the corner.
Meanwhile, three squad cars pull up outside the building and six coppers pile out, armed with Big Ass Pistols, and reacting as per their Reps, which I won’t list. They run around and through the building to deal with the situation. This brings Don face to face with police officer 4, so we go to Meet & Greet – under SW I run this as an opposed Persuasion roll, and officer 4 has Pep 2 or Pep d4 when converted. Don rolls Persuasion d6 (1) and Wild d6 (1); I’m not having snake eyes so I spend a benny to reroll, and get 5 and 2 respectively – I use the higher of the two scores as my roll. Officer 4 meanwhile rolls 1d4 and gets 3; neither side gets a raise, so I count that as "same number of successes"; officer 4 asks how he is, and warns him that this area is dangerous (no kidding!), reducing the ER by 1 to 4.
Citizens 4 and 5 decide now is a good time to enter the nearest building, while citizens 1-3 are still frozen in place, shocked by the outburst.
Initiative: Don Spade 3, OpFor Spade 9. There are a lot of people going simultaneously on that 9 of Spades, which can happen in SW.
Don thinks it’s time to go and starts moving out of the shop and off the board. The police move up on the location of the gunshots, staying in cover. Citizens 4 and 5 stay in their building, while citizens 1-3 continue trying to move away. The zed walks into the wall and turns left, then shambles on, which brings it adjacent to police officer 6, so it makes a wild double-tap attack with its Desert Eagle. It rolls Shooting d6 (6, which is an ace, so it keeps the 6, rolls again – 1 – and adds the scores for a 7), +2 for wild attack, +1 for double tap = 10; even if I count this as using a pistol in melee, when the target number becomes the victim’s Parry rather than 4, that’s a success with a raise, which increases damage by 1d6. The zed rolls 2d8 (for the pistol) and 1d6 (for the raise on the attack roll), getting a total of 17; officer 6 is appropriately number 6 on the police table, so has Rep 4 and thus Vigour d8; ATZ shows he should have body armour, so his effective Toughness is 10 – half his Vigour die type, plus 2, plus 4 for a kevlar vest vs bullets; 17 is 7 greater than 10, so the zed has a success and a raise for damage, Shaking and Wounding the officer – and since he is an Extra, with only one Wound, he is at once Incapacitated.
Officer 5 isn’t standing for that, so fires at the zombie. He is number 7 on the police table, so by my conversion guidelines he has Shooting d10. He double taps, rolls a 3 and adds +1 for the double tap, and hits, inflicting 2d8 damage – a 7, which exactly matches the zombie’s Toughness. This Shakes the zed.
Four shots have now been fired so I roll to see if that draws more zeds; two more appear, one crawling out of a squad car – have the police been arresting zeds? – and another one emerges from the trash pile behind the building in section 6. There’s no movement from any of the Citizens this turn.
Initiative: Don Heart 7, OpFor Heart Queen. This suits me very well as I want the zed outside the building to go past before Don emerges and legs it off the board. It’s a busy turn, so I’ll focus on outcomes rather than the details of every die roll.
In no particular order, as everyone except Don goes simultaneously… the zed emerging from the squad car (formerly Citizen 11 on the 1-3 table) runs towards police officer 5, making a wild attack with its shotgun. It rolls Shooting d6 (1), +2 for wild attack, +2 for using a shotgun, and gets a total of 5; this is a hit, and it rolls the usual 3d6 for damage required for a shotgun at this range, getting 11 – the officer concerned (number 3 on the police table) has Rep 6, thus Vigour d6, and is wearing a kevlar vest, so the damage exceeds his effective Toughness of 9, but not by enough to get a raise; he is Shaken. No new zombies are generated by this.
The zed in section 6 (formerly Citizen 11 on the 4-6 table, and thus armed with a shotgun) makes a ranged wild attack at police officer 2, hitting but not quite doing enough damage to Shake the officer, before charging into melee. However, as it’s running in, police officers 1 and 2 (numbers 4 and 8 on the police table) both fire double taps, but not wild attacks (they reduce your Parry, and the officers will likely be in melee next turn); unbelievably, they both miss, and the shots draw three more zombies.
Officers 3 and 4 (numbers 4 and 7 on the police table) burst out of the building in section 9 and try to grapple the zombie. Officer 4 manages, thanks to his FIghting d10, the gang-up bonus and the fact that the zed fails to recover from Shaken.
Don runs an extra 4", which takes him off the board – the final picture shows the position just before he exits.
Don survived unwounded, and picked up an Item, so he gains two experience points and a unit of Medical supplies.
As SW characters are more complex than ATZ ones, it’s more important to "load" PEFs by working them out in advance; but since solo games proceed at whatever pace I want, I can do that as I go, and recycle them later on.
My intent was to name each NPC as they appeared, but given how many of them there were, and that Don is likely to leave the area soon and deal with a completely different set, I didn’t bother during the game.
As is often the case, however simple the initial scenario, the ATZ rules sent the situation spiralling out of control. However, the guidelines for using ATZ as a GM emulator are now working pretty well, and I’m happy with them.
I’m going to need some way of working out what happens first when there are multiple OpFor NPCs acting on the same card draw; the simplest approach is to say that they act in increasing order of distance from the PC, since I don’t have to look anything up that way. I could draw different initiative cards for each tactical group, but I know from previous experiments in the Arioniad that this slows gameplay down dramatically.
Zombies that can run don’t seem to be much more dangerous than shamblers; but zombies that can shoot are more dangerous than I expected, because I hadn’t considered that their gunfire would draw more zombies. Never mind, it only lasts a few encounters.