All Things Zombie: PEFs and Factions

We’ve skipped a couple of our usual Saturday sessions, due to the release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and Christmas, so I’ve spent some time thinking about PEFs for the co-op game. I want a way of creating PEFs quickly during play, without having to prepare beforehand or slow the game down by looking things up; and I want some factions in the play area, to keep things interesting for my players in the long term – a sandbox environment to generate adventures, if you will.


Rather than look up the tables, I decided to use a simple die roll to select groups from my collection of eM4 prepainted figures:

  1. Police. Used to represent gangers after Day 30. (Don’t read anything into that, I just don’t have enough gangers otherwise.)
  2. Recce Squad. Used to represent survivors after Day 30.
  3. Recce Squad. (I have two Recce Squads, thanks to a sale at my FLGS.)
  4. Chequers Gang. Gangers.
  5. Mercenaries. Citizens.
  6. Roll again, at least until I get some more figures. Or I could use the Aliens set if I wanted to worry the players.

Then, I just haul out the relevant group, and that’s what the PEF is. To my mind, each of the eM4 groups has an obvious leader, who will be Rep 5, Pep 4, Sav 3; an obvious runt of the litter, who will be Rep 3, Pep 1, Sav 2; and three normal guys, who will be Rep 4, Pep 2, Sav 3. Most groups picked this way will be 5 figures, but this is the same pool of figures that gets raided for Stars and their Grunt sidekicks, which will mean some groups enter the table short-handed. I’ll adopt a rule from earlier versions of ATZ, and not bother with attributes for NPCs. (For Savage Worlds, I’d rate the leaders as Experienced Soldiers, and the Rep 3 or 4 members as Soldiers.)

Gear: THW games often suggest you pick a figure for your Star, and he or she has whatever the figure has. I’ll extend that to NPCs; they have whatever the figure has. Three of the figures have medical kits, so they have medical supplies; none of them have obvious food or luxury items. Too bad, the Stars will have to loot buildings for those. To compensate, though, there are a lot more figures with body armour than the tables on pp. 74-75 of ATZ: FFO would suggest. One or two of the figures have backpacks, which I will allow players to search as if they were buildings, so long as what they claim to find would fit inside a pack.

Zeds: I’ll use the Mongoose Battlefield Evolution figures for zombies until I get some proper zeds. They’re the only ones I have enough of, and I need to replace the red and green pawns with something that shows facing – facing is important in ATZ. Or maybe I’ll try the free download zed standees from Pinnacle’s website.


This is more for solo play, really; it allows me to run games using just the encounter tables in the QRS, without looking up what’s on the bodies in the main rulebook. I crunched some numbers about who carries what, and came up with this as an alternative to looking up loot on ATZ: FFO pp. 74-75.

When a figure is vanquished, roll 1d6 for each of Food, Luxury, Medical and Body Armour to see what it’s carrying. (Actually, I suppose I should roll for armour when the figure appears, as it may affect combat.)

  • Food: 1-3 figure is carrying one unit, 4-6 it has two units.
  • Luxuries: 1-2 none, 3-6 one unit.
  • Medical supplies or Body Armour: 1-5 none, 6 one unit.

That doesn’t give the correct relative frequencies, but in the long term it averages out at roughly the right levels.


The lazy way to add these is to say that each encounter table (for example, Gangers 4-6) is one faction, a recurring ally or enemy. I did some analysis of who has how much of what compared to the averages, picked some likely-looking leaders for the groups, and let my mind wander for a bit. I won’t bore you with the percentages, but this is what I came up with; numbers in ( ) show which group member I mean when I say someone is the leader.

Citizens 1-3: The Commune. Led by a council of four equally capable leaders, David (2), Kim (3), John (10) and Michelle (11), the Commune has no surplus of anything, and is short of everything; charitable players could easily befriend them. They have more women than most groups, however, and if things get bad enough they might be tempted to swap them for something edible; any of the ganger or survivor groups would be credible partners in that trade.

Citizens 4-6: The Farm. Led by Robert (10), a Born Leader, who has three right-hand women; Amy (2), Angela (4) and Melissa (11 – a medic). This faction has more female members than any other; they also have a surplus of Food, which they will trade for Luxuries or Medical supplies.

Gangers 1-3: The Kings. Led by Chris (7), a Greedy old man. The heir to the throne is his Fast grandson Will (4). They prefer to trade Food to get Luxury goods and Medical supplies, although they have no actual medic.

Gangers 4-6: The Jacks. Nominally led by Brian (2), who is Dim; the power behind the throne is Tammy (12), Brian’s young mistress. While she is the ruthless brains of the outfit, though, its heart is Mark (8), a badly injured (Rep 2) but charismatic consigliore. The Jacks would also offer Food and ask for Luxuries or Medical supplies.

Survivors 1-3: The Righteous. These are led by Mary (12), a mature but Agile female, whose second in command is Richard (2), a young male Brawler – I picture him as heading up the Arm Militant, who defend the rest of the Righteous. The Righteous are intended to subvert the post-apocalyptic trope of the mad, vicious fundamentalist Christian group; these guys are indeed fundamentalist Christians, but they have retained their essential decency. (That will please those of my group who are devout Christians, and worry those who play Silent Hill.) The Righteous have a surplus of both Food and Luxuries, but need Medical supplies (and a medic who can use them).

Survivors 4-6: The Libertarian Militia. The Militia is a group of doomsday preppers who have been waiting for this day for years. They are well-equipped, well-prepared, and well-organised. They are nominally led by Jeff (12), a mature male Poser, but the real power is with Scott (2), a young male and a Born Leader. This group has the lowest number of female members, and if they cannot adjust their gender imbalance by civilised means, at some point they will probably raid one of the Citizen groups and steal some women. Like the Righteous, the Militia have Food and Luxuries, but want Medical supplies – they had envisioned an apocalypse, but not one with this much disease or this many injuries.

So, short version: Everyone wants Medical supplies, and almost everyone would swap Food for them. If the campaign gets sufficiently grim and dark, Citizens 4-6 might offer women to Survivors 4-6 in exchange for Luxury items, while Citizens 1-3 might offer women to Survivors 4-6 for Food, and any of the ganger or survivor groups could raid either of the citizen groups for women. (It would be equally valid to say that all groups are ~50% female, but preferentially send males out scavenging, so the players meet more men than women; but a darker interpretation lends itself better to the classic damsel in distress scenario and is more in line with my original inspiration, the movie 28 Days Later.) Less disturbingly, any of the 1-3 groups might offer any of the 4-6 groups Items or Resources to gain access to their medical skills; and Stars with that skill in their tactical group could probably find employment too.

I did think about doing a large-scale map showing which faction was where compared to the Stars, but lacked the motivation to do so. Maybe later.

All Things Zombie Reboot

In honour of Zombtober, and bearing in mind the continued lack of Garstrewt and Athienne, this weekend the guest game was All Things Zombie: Final Fade Out. In about 90 minutes we created characters, ran through some rules examples – a firefight, for example – and played the Day One scenario (a free web supplement from the 2HW site).

The Warforged’s player generated a character with Rage and Brawler, which he declared was a doomsday-prepping survivalist kendo teacher who had been praying for this day for years; Nessime’s player created a Greedy Medic; Gutz’ player had a Runt/Born Leader car mechanic armed with a nailgun; and I had a character with very little background beyond having Poser and Rage, because I spent most of my time interpreting the rules for the others, who have never played ATZ before. All the characters were Rep 4 Citizens.

This session didn’t flow as smoothly as I’d hoped – I really should have played a couple of games solo first to get the hang of the rules, but I thought I could get away with it because I’ve been playing so much 5150: NB. (One of the advantages of solo play is I can stop and puzzle over a rule I don’t understand for as long as I want; that’s much more stressful for me when I’m introducing new players to a game I want them to like and don’t understand how to do something.)

Still, by the end of Day One we were holed up in the nuclear bunker underneath the kendo teacher’s combination house and dojo, and the mechanic and the doctor had both seen and killed a zombie (the doctor took its head off with a spade, while the mechanic was still coming to terms with it being a former friend).

The players took this badly-prepared session in good heart, and decided to think of it as the cut scene introducing the game (they are all keen videogame players). We agreed to finish off the outstanding Savage Worlds scenario (Vengeance of the Branded Devils) next time we meet, then try another ATZ game, and then I’ll hand over the reins to the Shadowrun GM for a session. Meanwhile, I’ll shift my solo focus to ATZ for a while to get the hang of it, and GM the game until everyone is comfortable enough with the rules not to require explanations.

Their plan for the next encounter, incidentally, is to raid a military base for guns and explosives. On Day Two of the zombie outbreak. I do not think this will go well.

Blood Angels vs Jafar

Well, not quite. It happened like this…

My view is that players are generally much less concerned about the rules and setting than the GM, and I don’t think that’s just me; if the GM is enthusiastic, it’s easy to get the players involved; if the GM loses his enthusiasm, as I am, then the game falls apart. I’m starting to feel a bit burned out on Savage Worlds, and I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to see if any of the 2HW products would tempt the group as a change of pace; I was thinking of Labyrinth Lord as an alternative, but another picaresque fantasy game won’t be different enough for me to recharge, I fear.

This weekend we found ourselves with very few players, not much time, and a sickly GM (me –just a cold, but enough to take the edge off my usual fiendishness). So, rather than not play at all, we opted for a guest game – Chain Reaction Final Version.

How complex was character generation, they wanted to know. You are Rep 5, I said; pick a figure, you’ve got what the figure has.

Of course, based on that, I should have expected The Warforged’s figure to be a Blood Angels Space Marine with a rocket launcher (he kindly agreed not to play a terminator marine with lightning claws). The others were more restrained, picking a SAW gunner and one of my two female figures with assault rifles; I went with an MP and two grenades.

The whole game lasted about an hour, including briefing them on the rules, and got to the end of turn three. By that point, all of the PEFs had been resolved (as an improbably large number of Jafar – I ran out of figures and had to use lion men for some of them) and slaughtered, mostly with explosives.

The verdict from the players was that it was even faster and more furious than SW, and that because of the chain reactions from things like In Sight Tests, they weren’t waiting as long between turns, so felt more involved in the game. I warned them that 2HW products essentially view the story arc as a way of justifying and bridging the combats; but in honesty that isn’t too different from most RPGs. How about a campaign, I asked, as a change from SW? Fine, they said.

Those present were all keen Team Fortress 2 players, which I think helped their decision. We bemoaned the lack of TF2 figures, agreeing that we could do tabletop TF2 very easily with Chain Reaction.

So, which 2HW game, then? We discussed 5150, ATZ and Warrior Heroes – after the fact, I wondered about a Warhammer 40,000 game, which would be easy to do, and would give me an excuse to buy 5150: Star Army. As if I needed one.

By a narrow margin, All Things Zombie beat 5150; the group thinks we have enough fantasy games already, and that 5150: NB would overlap too much with the Shadowrun campaign. So, once we reach a natural break point for Shadows of Keron, we’ll park Beasts & Barbarians for a while and go zombie hunting.

Travelling Light

“He who is outside his door already has the hardest part of his journey behind him.” — Dutch proverb

In my review of 5150: NB a couple of days ago, I mentioned a little extra work would be needed for adventures outside New Hope City.

That’s true, but it isn’t much.

Arion & Co spend most of their time in starports, with the occasional trip into the wilderness. Starports are easy to do; mechanically, they are all the same as NHC, except that people you could run into again are specific to planets; so if Arion makes a hated enemy in NHC, then travels to Halfway, he won’t usually meet that person again there.

For game purposes, the wilderness can be a public park with no roads, or maybe just one road running through it. Or you could replace the roads with clear terrain and the buildings with hills.

Interstellar travel is basically just travel, with any PEFs encountered being in another ship, lifepod, or whatever. At this point I’m not using any ship combat rules, so any such encounter would either be with stowaways or a boarding action – which would be like an encounter in a single building, except using one of my collection of starship deck plans instead of a building layout. And, you’ll notice I don’t need a star map for that.

Not so hard, is it?

For an example of this sort of thing, take a look at Chroniques du Fort Bastiani, where there is a 5150-Stargate crossover game in progress… and some very nicely painted figures.

Escape from WHAA

After Ispitan’s recent escape from Valdemar, one of the authors of WHAA (Bob Minadeo – thanks Bob!) kindly advised me that in earlier drafts of the rules, the alarm was raised if the die roll was the turn number or less on 1d6, and suggesting that as an optional rule.

Here are the chances of the alarm being raised per turn, and cumulatively, under either approach…

Turn RAW This Turn RAW Cumulative Option This Turn Option Cumulative
1 17% 17% 17% 17%
2 17% 31% 33% 44%
3 17% 42% 50% 72%
4 17% 52% 67% 91%
5 17% 60% 83% 98%
6 17% 67% 100% 100%

Assuming your group moves 8” per turn, and starts in the centre of the board, 24” from the nearest edge, it has a better than even chance of escaping without the alarm being raised using the Rules As Written, and about one chance in four of doing so using the optional rule.

Your call – whatever you think would suit your game better.

Ispitan – May 986

Ispitan’s little band moves from the countryside of the Border Kingdoms to the border with the Goblin lands, in search of herbs for the Sable Mage. Once they are into Goblin territory, I will start using the quest table to look for herbs, but since the patron specifically said they were only found in Goblin lands, I won’t do that before we arrive.

The Border Kingdoms borders have an ER of 5, +1 because it is still spring, so I automatically pass 2d6 – there will be an encounter. A roll of 5 tells me we have not encountered locals (p. 41), and a second 5 tells me we have found some Goblins. A roll of 5 followed by a 6 on the tables on p 45 show that we have encountered them in a mountain city. A 2d6 roll of 5 indicates we are going to Talk the Talk with some Goblins. How hard can it be?

Ispitan’s next stop is the city of Sangfroid, harassed by driving mountain snow at the best of times. Goblins come over the border to trade and raid, and sometimes the weather is so bad that even Goblins and humans see each other as fellow creatures, striving together against the greater enemy that is the cold.

Ispitan and his surviving friends are moving across a deserted square, in search of an inn with beds free for the night, when a group of Goblins enters from the city gates on the opposite side. Unsure of their position, both sides halt. Ispitan and the goblin leader move towards each other to parley.

A roll of 6 on the How Many Of Them? table shows that the two sides are evenly matched, with 5 CV each. Rolling on the goblin army list I get two goblins, a goblin rider, and a chariot. The leader is probably riding in the chariot, so he will dismount. One of the advantages of the Twilight alignment is you’re not opposed to anyone. Nobody outnumbers anybody, and we’ve not met before, so the only issue is that the goblin gets +1d6 for thinking we’re foreign. We now each roll as many dice as our Rep, scoring 3 or less as a success. Goblin first; 3, 3, 5, 6, 6 – two successes. Ispitan rolls 1, 3, 4 – two successes. Since we score the same number of successes, there is no conflict.

“Human,” the goblin charioteer grates out. “Not want fight. Too cold. Fight other time maybe.”

“Maybe,” Ispitan replies. “Maybe not.” He holds up a herb. “Do you know where I can find these?”

“There,” says the goblin, pointing with a spear. “Other side of border. Ten, twenty sleep. East side of mountains.”

“Thank you,” says Ispitan. “Go in peace.”

The two parties shuffle past each other warily, and enter different taverns. As the chariot rattles past, something shiny falls off the back; Ispitan grabs it, and quickly folds it into his cloak.

As often happens in THW games in campaign mode, an encounter passes without combat. Ispitan has survived an encounter and so rolls to increase his Rep, Hardiness and Social Standing; 3, 5, 3. He is now Hardiness 3 and SS 3. Why do my Stars never increase their Rep, eh?

Name Class Rep Hard Weapon AC Move Notes SS Align
Ispitan Missile 3 3 Staff 2 8” Caster 3 TW
Rufus Melee 4 Sword 4 6” SS
Eyjolf Melee 4 Spear 2 8” SS
Galen Melee 4 Sword 2 8” Healer SS

Talomir Nights – the House Rule

My players have been known to complain that I’m so fond of house rules, they never play the same game twice. Even though part of the fun for me is tweaking the rules, I have tried to rein that impulse in over recent years, mostly to avoid that complaint, but also so that I’m sure I understand the rules before I change them.

However, I’ve reached the point with Warrior Heroes that I want to make a change, and since I play it solo, no-one can stop me! I’m changing the rule for generating the opposition so that it’s based on the number of figures in my party, not their CV. That brings it into line with most other THW rules sets.

Why? Well, my party will probably stabilise at 4-6 figures, because that’s the size of troupe I prefer to play. If I use the standard THW encounter rules, this will mean opposition of half to twice my numbers, namely 2-12 enemy figures.

If I stay with the Rules As Written, opposing forces will be based on my party’s Combat Value. Over time, I think the advancement rules mean this will stabilise at about 10 for each figure in my force, giving me a total CV of about 50 for a party of five. That would mean the enemies would be 25-100 CV in total, and since they have a CV of 1-2 per figure, I would be facing off against 12-100 figures. That moves away from the skirmish gaming I prefer; and most games would consist of the five man band moving onto the table, not liking what it sees, and moving off again.