Category Archives: Roleplaying Games

Tabletop RPG design and writing I’ve done

Role-Playing Games and Collaborative Storytelling in the Age of the Internet

This is the final project, an “Un-Essay,” for my Fall 2014 ENGL 3340: Technologies of Text course at Northeastern University. taught by Ryan Cordell. The class focused on understanding the intersections between technology, media studies, literature, and more as pertaining to the history (and future) of the written word. My ultimate intent for this piece is to lengthen it into something of a “manifesto” on role-playing games and storytelling in the future, but as the class was not focused on RPGs as such, I am limiting the scope for now.
What follows are my own beliefs and opinions on the topics of role-playing games, the purpose of rules and systems in collaborative storytelling, and some interesting developments in that field. These views do not represent those of Northeastern University, Ryan Cordell, or any individuals or institutions mentioned herein.

On RPGs and Rules

As those around me are quite well aware, I am a fan of tabletop role-playing games. I define these as games wherein a group of friends gather around a table with the goal of telling a collaborative story featuring themselves as the stars in a safe and fun setting. Role-playing games (abbreviated as RPGs) offer a chance to become someone else for a few hours, to adventure or problem solve in a variety of genres and scenarios that real life may not accommodate normally. Whether this means taking on a new occupation, a new class or gender, or even a new species in a new world, the RPG experience is one about telling stories of great achievements in a world shared among friends.

RPG Dice

Typical RPG Polyhedral Dice

Whether they are taking down corrupt mega-corporations with cyberpunk tech and magic in Shadowrun, delving for riches and power in Dungeons & Dragons, or taming the dangerous wilderness from a rodent’s-eye view in Mouse Guard, the players take on character roles not their own in doing so. To facilitate each character having similar narrative control over the story, role-playing games use systems that describe not only how to make characters that fit the setting, but how to use characters’ strengths and abilities to drive the action forward. Though many RPG systems use dice, cards, or some other method to determine an element of randomness in the game’s world, that is not required. In fact, all that players need to make an RPG experience fun is a desire to do cool things worth talking about with their friends, and an environment where they can do so.

As a gamer and game designer, reader and writer, I feel that the benefits of role-playing games should be highly valued. They provide a safe space for creative problem solving, they improve empathetic thinking patterns, and they allow players to experience different worlds. Players can act out in ways that modern society typically does not allow for, either due to social mores, or the fact that there is no way to cast a Fireball spell using magic at present. However, when a new player typically is introduced to the hobby, the experience is often tarnished by frustration with pages of meaningless numbers, obscure or arcane references and in-jokes among the community, and an aura of ostracism and strangeness that has lingered since the first opponents of the hobby started damning it as a tool of the devil (which it is not). RPG systems are thus often facing an identity crisis: evolve, simplify, or die.

While evolving and simplifying may seem to be a natural progression for a game or hobby, in RPGs there has always been some level of distrust when that occurs. Despite Dungeons & Dragons currently being in its 5th Edition (though there were half-editions, the “0th-edition” and many other spinoffs since its inception as a product of the tabletop wargame Chainmail), there are still people playing older editions… and defending them against all interlopers. The D&D “Edition Wars” still rage on to this day, as gamers cling to THAC0 and mile-long skill lists, miniature battle grid mats and “treasure-as-experience.” Because of this, Wizards of the Coast even announced 2014’s D&D 5e as having the intent of “reuniting the tribe,” while also bringing new players in via simpler rules and more modern storytelling mechanics. That said, despite the new edition’s early success thus far, the D&D community is just as fractured as it was before the announcement of 5e, and this could easily result in more players being dissuaded from pursuing the hobby. Just imagine going into a store that sells RPG products and finding people bickering over which edition is the best, and why all other editions are bad. I don’t know about you, but if that were how I was being introduced to the hobby, I would likely not take to it without hesitation. Instead, I would rather the people in a FLGS (friendly local gaming store) tell me what fun stories they’ve had with RPGs, and how to role-play, and who some notable authors and designers in the field might be. “Get people excited about the stories theu can tell, and how the mechanics help tell these tales,” is my go-to attitude towards introducing new players to RPGs, because that’s the only way the hobby will survive beyond this generation.

Though advances have been made in more accessible and simple RPG design, the idea of abstraction of mechanics from story remains in the most popular systems. What this refers to is the development of rules by the game’s designers that affect the flow or outcome of the story. Consider the following example to see what I mean:

In the Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition RPG system, to climb a stone wall, a player would need to roll an Athletics Skill “check” (the result of a twenty-sided die roll, plus their character’s Strength ability score modifier, plus a character’s level-dependent Proficiency Bonus if they are Proficient in Athletics). If the check exceeds the Difficulty Class (DC) of the challenge before them, (in this case, the Climbing DC of the wall, as set by the game or the rules arbitrater), they succeed and scale the wall! If the result of their Athletics check is too low, they fail to climb the wall.

Simple, right? However, there are also many systems which eschew this granular view of mechanizing rules and their means of determining success or failure. Certain story-focused systems state that if there is no meaningful consequence for failure, a character can automatically succeed at most tasks. What this means in the above example is that if there’s no one standing guard at the top of the wall listening for the player falling on a failed Athletics check, or if the character isn’t trying to escape something at the bottom of the wall, or there is no other similar threat to their being able to climb the wall, then they automatically succeed in ascending. This prevents time wasted at the table rolling dice, and speeds the narrative along so players can find out what happens next. After all, the game system should be there for two reasons: to inspire players to tell fun stories, and to facilitate the story being told in a fair and meaningful manner. Everything else is just tertiary padding, and often gets in the way of fun.

On the 0th Rule of RPGs:

There is an old idea in RPGs dating back to the days of 0e D&D (the one pioneered by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson) that has become known in some circles as the 0th Rule. The 0th Rule lauds this idea of fun above all else, even adherence to the rest of the rules. Tom Moldvay stated it well in the Foreword to his Basic Dungeons & Dragons rulebook in 1977:

“No rule is inviolate, particularly if a new or altered rule will encourage creativity and imagination.”

Tom Moldvay's

Tom Moldvay’s “Basic Dungeons & Dragons”

Moldvay continued on to say that rules changes should always go through the rules arbiter (often referred to as a Game Master (GM), or in D&D, the Dungeon Master (DM), who serves as the laws of physics and plays as everyone else in the world the rest of the players are exploring), but it effectively remains true in all but the most strict “play by the rules-as-written only” groups: the rules are more like guidelines. They are there first and foremost to show how to have fun playing the game and telling the story. Secondly, they are there to keep the play balanced. After all, if one player has the means to wipe all life off a planet in a breath while another can barely swing a sword, it’s not fun for every player at the table.

Because of its reliance on a Dungeon Master or Game Master’s interpreting the rules or vetoing changes, though, the 0th Rule is also often stated more bluntly as, “The GM’s rule is final.” I take issue with this interpretation, though, as it often puts GMs in a perceived position of power over the other players, when in reality they are telling the same story as the rest of their group. They may have a different set of moves they can make, but they are still a player who is discovering the story alongside their friends. While it’s always necessary to eventually decide just how much damage a particular effect does, for example, I feel that the most important deciding factor of that should be, above all, “Does it make the story more interesting, or create a fun situation for the players?” If it doesn’t make the story more interesting, (say, by stymieing the players’ attempts to reach a goal without reason), or more fun (by denying players a chance to do cool things worth talking about), then a rule or ruling has failed.

On Crowdsourcing of RPGs

One of the easiest ways to make tabletop RPGs accessible to a wider audience of new players is to hide the mechanics from most players entirely. This can be done by having the GM make all the rolls and rulings necessary, then telling the results to another player in response to their actions. This is, in effect, how a video game functions: players provide input in the form of button presses, and the GM (in this case, the game) spits out the results on screen after the input has been processed by the rules and scenario. While it removes mechanical agency from the player and makes them more of a “suggester” than a “player,” (not to mention taking away the fun of rolling dice, which feeds into a feeling of controlling one’s own fate), the benefit is that anyone then can add to the story without needing to know all the mechanics going on behind the scenes.

That said, one player still needs to know the rules in this scenario: the GM. They become a machine that processes not only the players’ actions, but also the actions of those responding to the players in-game. This, in turn, leads to an immense amount of strain on the GM in larger games with more complex rules, or when dealing with multiple players. This reliance on a skilled GM who can keep all roles and rolls straight makes this format of play extremely difficult to pull off, though in certain instances it can work in short term scenarios (such as in “amnesiac” situations in-game, when a character may not be aware of their own talents or abilities).

One strange multimodal method of communicating story to players based on their input was the Twitch Plays Pokémon (TPP) experiment of 2014. While Pokémon is classified as an RPG, it differs from tabletop RPGs in that it is not telling a story of a group of friends around a table in one shared adventure, but rather there is one player telling their story of an adventure through the game’s mechanics and visual/auditory aspects. As such, it is more of a solitary experience while tabletop RPGs are communal. That said, TPP illustrates a hybridization of the traditional tabletop RPG experience and the above system of suggestions to a GM combined with a video game, and its creation of a community.

TPP Animated Gif

Twitch Plays Pokémon

In TPP, the video game streaming site Twitch.tv hosted a chat box that players could write commands into, which were translated into button presses, and finally fed into the game as user input. The result was, to say the least, chaotic. A few days in there was a feature added where players could vote for “Democracy” or “Anarchy,” where being in the first state (as viewed on a sliding scale) would tally the commands every few seconds before acting out the most popular button press, while in the second state the game would continue processing every command without gauging which was the best (or at least most popular) option.

Helix Fossil Fan Art

Helix Fossil Fan Art

The results of this experiment in crowdsourcing an RPG experience were fascinating. In 16 days, 9 hours, 55 minutes, and 4 seconds, the collective of TPP beat Pokémon Red. Whole movements had formed around Anarchy, Democracy, and the Helix Fossil item; memes were produced, comic artists poked fun at it for weeks, and the video game community at large enjoyed a good laugh. Though it was inefficient, and the “story” itself was strange in its final narrative (walking into walls repeatedly for hours is great, right?), there was no doubt that they had accomplished something and told a story. Sure the story’s been told over and over again since Pokémon Red’s release in 1996. As the game’s code did not change in the subsequent 18 years leading up to TPP, the only thing to change was the way of playing the game. The medium of Twitch subverted and changed the nature of playing Pokémon in the experiment.

Making the story of one character a group activity was a novel thing for this single-player video game. Crowdsourcing control is an interesting extension of the connectedness of the internet, however, there are other games where this has been attempted before offline. A fun introductory RPG called Everyone Is John (2002) takes the idea of TPP and puts competitive tabletop role-playing mechanics into the hands of the players, rather than just taking their suggestions and throwing them against a computer’s rules. The setup is simple: there is a GM who describes the world, and everyone else plays a voice in the head of a crazy person named John from Minneapolis. Each player decides on a secret goal for John that they get victory points for him completing, but only one voice controls John at a time. Each voice comes with personality quirks and talents, but whenever John gets injured or does something stressful, other players can seize control of John by wagering control points to try and accumulate victory points more directly. When everyone runs out of control points, John goes to sleep, and the game ends. It’s a fun party game, though I find the control check format makes the game run slower than it could, but it illustrates the TPP method of acting out a story. As TPP showed, though, taking every suggestion for the actions gets chaotic when orchestrated on such a massive scale. Thus, “Everyone Is John,” in splitting up control among the players one at a time, makes sense of the madness that multiple “voices” can bring.

On Enhanced CYOA Stories

Another way of dealing with multiple votes towards what a single character should do in a story is to take the “Democracy” route of TPP. In the experiment, Democracy was a text command used to influence a change in the mode of accepting commands to help get the character in Pokémon through tougher areas that required more finesse than chaos and “Anarchy” would allow for. One fun example fusing this democratic approach to commands and tabletop gaming is a “Choose Your Own Adventure” (CYOA) thread, of which many have existed over the years. These draw on the themes of the old “Choose Your Own Adventure” book series written by Edward Packard in the 1970’s, such as using second-person narration (where the main character is “you”) and listing multiple options that send the story in various directions.

Dark Heresy CYOA Screenshot

Dark Heresy CYOA Excerpt, 4:35 AM EST, 12/5/14

One of these threads which I am very familiar with, run on the SomethingAwful traditional games forum by a good friend of mine, (LowellDND in the forums), is a “Dark Heresy CYOA” fiction. Dark Heresy is a tabletop role-playing game published by Fantasy Flight Games in 2008, and set in their Warhammer 40,000 setting; LowellDND uses the game itself as a background piece for generating impact of the main character’s actions, such as effectiveness in combat or searching for clues.

Since its start on August 16, 2014, the actual fiction had reached over 32,000 words, (with an additional 5,000 in background notes, according to the author) by 1:00 PM on November 27th. It was rated as a “Gold” thread thanks to community votes, and there had been 1,303 posts on the thread, both of forum-goers suggesting a course for the story through votes, or of the story itself. Voting periods on what the main character (a tech-priest acolyte on a massive Rogue Trader spaceship, as determined by the group’s initial voting) will typically last between one and four days, depending on interest and availability of the writer, who intends on keeping the thread running as long as there is interest.

votingresults

DH CYOA Ongoing Voting Results, 8:36 PM EST, 12/6/14

An interesting option left on most of the fiction posts’ voting sections is “Other.” Oftentimes voters come up with ideas for different actions to take beyond those suggested by LowellDND, or develop “hybrid” options that utilize aspects of two of the listed paths. The interesting thing about an internet-based approach is that people around the world can participate in this shared storytelling, thus making it a communally shared and appreciated story. As well, while the original CYOA story games were restricted to options printed in the book at the time of publishing, the internet has enabled users to have more control and give feedback on the narrative, thus bringing a sense of ownership to the fiction. They can even ask for clarification on rules and the world, meaning that those who may not be as familiar with the setting or process of collaborative storytelling can still remain engaged. The fiction always comes first, and by using reader input and votes to improve and guide it, this type of story has garnered excellent responses. The writing’s pretty great in this one, too.

Conclusion

Ultimately, I believe that this “internet-enhanced CYOA” trend is a good thing for the RPG community for a few reasons. As evidenced by the media buzz of such stories as that of TPP, the world loves a fresh take on the familiar, whether that’s through an updated look and feel, like in re-releases of older games (or movies, as evidenced by the glut of Hollywood remakes and reboots in recent years), or through remediation, like what Twitch Plays Pokémon utilizes. The success of CYOA threads such as the Dark Heresy one proves that people want to participate in this activity still– which is a relief to me as someone who wants to design games based on the principle of collaborative storytelling.

I could go on for hours about why a given game is good or bad, but as long as people are playing it, enjoying it, and talking about it and the stories told through it, then it is good. Reading the posts on LowellDND’s CYOA thread, I am struck by how many people are engaging not only with the voting, but with the game’s setting and mechanics as a whole. They are playing Dark Heresy, even if they don’t realize it, and this makes the future of RPGs just that much brighter.

Useful Links:

Twitch Plays Pokémon:
http://www.twitch.tv/twitchplayspokemon

Everyone is John Rules PDF:
http://pftdcast.com/resources/EveryoneIsJohn.pdf

Dark Heresy CYOA” (SA Forums account needed to view the full thread):
http://forums.somethingawful.com/showthread.php?threadid=3657951

The Committee for the Advancement of Role-Playing Games:
http://www.car-pga.org/

Tabletop RPG Guide for Parents of Young Roleplayers

This is a pamphlet I wrote for a writing class at Northeastern University, which is meant to introduce parents of new RPG players to the hobby. Below is the context document explaining its purpose, execution, and possible distribution methods. Copper Frog Games is the name I am intending to publish certain tabletop games under in the future (pending incorporation).

RPG Pamphlet

Context Document: RPG Pamphlet

As tabletop role-playing games (TRPGs) such as Dungeons & Dragons are very niche when compared to other group activities such as sports, drama or music, and as they only sprang up in the past few decades (rather recently in the world of entertainment), many parents may be undereducated about the games that their children are playing. Most of the media exposure D&D got was in the 1980’s when it was falsely linked to youth violence, witchcraft, and suicide. An information source for parents about TRPGs is therefore important for three reasons. First, it will serve to to dispel any parent’s fears concerning their child partaking in this activity. Second, it will educate parents on the benefits of role-playing games. Third, it will introduce them to the hobby and how they as parents can support their child as they learn more about it. The ideal method for delivery of this information is a small pamphlet, as it is able to be distributed both digitally (to be printed at home) or in locations such as game or book stores. By distributing it in a game store, it is very likely that there will be employees around who can further explain the differences between different role-playing games, offer suggestions for meetup groups, and more, if parents want to further research the topic. As well, by taking a physical form, it can be tucked in with a gift of a game for indirect distribution.

The pamphlet presented is targeted primarily at the parents or guardians of children just getting into TRPGs. Whether they pick up the pamphlet when bringing their child for a D&D Encounters session, or decide to independently research the topic by asking an employee at their child’s gaming store, this document should serve as an exciting glimpse into the world of TRPGs. Through the use of an informative yet positive tone, the pamphlet will put parents’ minds at ease and help them keep an open mind when examining their child’s behavior. By citing real-world examples of RPG players who made it big, addressing concerns and questions that are very common when the hobby comes up, and by keeping the information about different RPGs unbiased in relation to each other (which many forums on the topic do not do), it will appeal to the parents’ logical nature rather than their snap emotional judgments. While I will not be citing many sources directly, (barring a quote from Vin Diesel which has become very widespread in the gaming community), I will direct parents to a few additional sources regarding the hobby. This pamphlet will avoid linking TRPGs to any other major movements so as to keep the reader focused on the benefits of the games themselves, rather than any cultural importance. The information is kept light in terms of language, with occasional bits of frank humor put in to keep the readers relaxed and enjoying the piece; after all, TRPGs are games, and thus joy should be associated with them whenever possible.

The layout primarily follows a Q&A format, with the first thing the parents seeing when they open the pamphlet fully being “What are Role-Playing Games?”, followed by information on how to support young role-players and what some examples of TRPGs are. Bolded text and blocks of color pull out and emphasize the most interesting or important pieces of information, and an image of a red d20 adds a splash of color to the inside of the pamphlet. Further, small snippets of information which are not as pertinent to issues being discussed on a first read-through of the pamphlet are placed in the colored band at the bottom of the pamphlet should the reader decide to study the pamphlet more in-depth. This use of color makes the pamphlet’s contents easy to find and follow.

d6 Zombie Apocalypse Survival Horror System

This is a tabletop roleplaying system I made for a friend back in December 2010 for him to run with a few of his friends (though he never actually did). It was intended to be a very basic, rules-light d6 system for roleplaying in a zombie apocalypse setting. Thus, fear and panic are important mechanics.

I tried to keep the document a tiny bit lighthearted in the descriptions and examples, since grimdark has never been my cup of tea (and in fact, I really dislike zombies and the zombie apocalypse genre in general; they’re my second least favorite type of monster). However, I am aware of the tropes that are involved in zombie stories, and appreciate the depth that some of them hold, meaning I could still work on a zombie project in the future… though it wouldn’t be the first game I’d make.

I have not updated this system since I finished what appears below. Thus, it is a pure distillation of my game design interests and abilities at the time.

d6 Zombie Apocalypse Survival System

ABILITIES (roll in order):

BRAWN: This represents your physical toughness,strength, and stamina. It is used to determine your melee attacks and hit points. To determine your BRAWN, roll 1d6 and add 1.

REFLEXES: This represents your manual dexterity, reflexes, and grace. It is used to determine your ranged attacks, ARMOR, and move speed. To determine your REFLEXES, roll 1d6 and add 1.

LUCK: This represents your innate luck in life. It is a static value that you roll at the start of the game. Your LUCK cannot exceed the number you initially roll. LUCK recovers from being spent at a rate of 1 point per day. To determine your LUCK, roll 1d6 and add 1.

SMARTS: This represents your logic, mental acuity and capacity for learning. It is used to determine which skills you are trained in. To determine your SMARTS, roll 1d6 and add 1.

NERVES: This represents your bravery and sanity in a world gone mad. If your FEAR ever exceeds your NERVES, your character becomes Panicked. To determine your NERVES, roll 2d6 and add 1.

Derived Values:

ARMOR: This is your durability and nimbleness in combat. It is used to determine how hard you are to hit. To determine your ARMOR, add 5 to your REFLEXES.

HIT POINTS: This represents how much physical damage your body can handle. If you drop to 0 HP, you die. To determine your HP, add 5 to your BRAWN.

Movement: Your land speed is 5 feet per round per point of REFLEXES you have. Vehicle speeds vary depending on the type of vehicle.

SKILLS:

You can be trained in a number of skills equal to your SMARTS divided by 2 (round down). If you attempt to use a skill untrained, your FEAR goes up by 1 each time you attempt to use the skill. You can spend one point of LUCK once per round to reroll a failed skill check. However, you must take the result of the reroll, even if it is worse than the first roll.

To use a skill, roll 3d6. Tell the GM what the total of all three dice is. To succeed on a check, you must roll lower than the target number of the task (as determined by the GM). If you succeed, your action proceeds as normal. If it fails, your FEAR goes up by 1. If your check fails by 5 or more, your FEAR goes up by 2.

Depending on circumstances, the GM may give you a bonus in the form of 1 or more fewer d6 rolled, or a penalty in the form of 1 or more more d6 rolled. Additionally, some skills take more time to use than others.

Skill Names And Descriptions:
-Athleticism: Can be used to climb, swim, jump, tumble, or balance
-Drive: Can be used to pilot boats, planes, tanks, or automobiles (within reason)
-Knowledge: Can be used for understanding problems, nature, the occult, religion, etc., or to intuit direction
-MacGyver: Can be used to improvise traps, weapons, and other items from readily available materials
-Medicine: Can be used to treat injuries; see below
-Repair: Can be used to repair or modify broken items or weapons
-Rogue: Can be used to bluff, sneak, or steal
-Sense can be used to see far off things, search for hidden things, or hear quiet noises

The Medicine skill allows you to heal your own or someone else’s HIT POINTS. Once you make a successful Medicine check, roll 1d6 to see how many HIT POINTS you heal. If you succeed on the difficulty of the check by 10 or more, you heal 2d6 HIT POINTS instead.

Example Difficulties:

1 – Purging the world of all undead through prayer
2 – Reasoning with a zombie to not eat your brains
3 – Landing on your feet after jumping off a third-story rooftop
5 – Jumping over five zombies on a motorcycle
7 – Creating a diversion to throw a pack of zombies off your trail
8 – Rigging a booby trap with a grenade and tripwire
9 – Hotwiring a car
10 – Patching a stab wound with a standard first aid kit
13 – Smelling a gas leak before the canary dies
16 – Proving to a human guard that you are not a zombie
18 – Cooking food with ample ingredients and facilities

FEAR:

If your FEAR ever exceeds your NERVES score, you panic. A character can spend a point of LUCK to remove one point of FEAR, but not before becoming Panicked. When Panicked, a character can only Swing Wildly when attacking, and cannot use Called Shots. They also take a +1d6 penalty on all skill checks.

If your FEAR exceeds twice your NERVES score, you become Catatonic (also known in-game as “lunch” or “PDM” [prime distraction material]). A Catatonic character can only move up to 5 feet per round, and cannot attack, use skills, or even speak (they mewl a bit, but that’s it) until their condition is improved to Panicked.

Attacking: 2d6 + Brawn OR 2d6 + Reflexes

Roll 2d6 for your attack roll and add either your Brawn (for melee attacks) or Reflexes (for ranged attacks). If you match or exceed the target’s Armor with the total of the dice, they take damage according to the weapon you used. If you deal enough damage to bring the target’s Hit Points to 0, the target dies or is destroyed.

You can also choose to call on LUCK for a Called Shot, or can Swing Wildly. If you call on your LUCK, you deal double damage in exchange for spending one point of LUCK. If you Swing Wildly, only roll 2d6 for your attack roll, but deal an extra 1d6 on your damage roll.

If you choose to attack with 2 weapons (One Handed weapons are the only ones that can be dual wielded), take a -2 penalty to your attack roll with each that you use in a single turn.

Example Weapon Damage:

Ranged Weapons:
Rifle – 2d6+2 damage – Two Handed
Grenade – 2d6+2 damage – One Handed
Handgun – 1d6+1 damage – One Handed
Bow and Arrow – 1d6 damage – Two Handed
Baseball – 1 damage – One Handed

Melee Weapons:
Sledgehammer – 2d6 damage – Two Handed
Baseball Bat – 1d6+2 damage – Two Handed
Machete – 1d6+1 damage – One Handed
Knife – 1d6 damage – One Handed
Big Rock – 1 damage – One Handed

Armor:

Armor (be it kevlar, plate mail, or a riot shield) impedes a character’s evasiveness. Thus, it doesn’t afford any additional bonus to ARMOR. However, if it’s heavy it may slow you down or make your movement less stealthy (shown as a penalty of 1 or higher on those checks).

Initiative:

Whoever has the highest REFLEXES acts first in combat. In the case of a human-human or zombie-zombie tie, the two characters act simultaneously. In the case of a human-zombie tie, the human goes first. After a player’s actions end, the character with the next highest REFLEXES takes their actions.

On a character’s turn, they can move up to their Movement speed and attack once (or twice if wielding two weapons). You can talk at any time, even when it isn’t your turn, and can also drop a held object at any time.

The Undead:

Zombies are mindless abominations born into the world of a mysterious mix of disease and dark magic. Merely shells of their former selves, zombies have no emotion or intellect, only instinct. They have animalistic tendencies and a hunger for living flesh.

Zombies are terrifying in the manner by which they reproduce. If a zombie kills a human, that human rises 1d6+1 rounds later as another zombie with full HIT POINTS (assuming they still have a means of movement). They lose all semblance of self and humanity, and will attack whichever living creature is nearest to them.

However, while they are fearsome in respect to creating more zombies, and have immense numbers on their side, zombies have little else in the way of power. They have no LUCK, and poor REFLEXES, although they are tough due to their undying (though rotting) flesh. They also have no fear, due to their lack of a functional brain; thus, they have no NERVES score. They can be instantly killed with a Called Shot (representing a headshot). They are slow-moving creatures, only able to move half the normal movement speed of a living creature with their REFLEXES score. Zombies are proficient in 1 skill each, due to having the minimum SMARTS a creature can have (2). This is usually SENSE. The other abilities for a generic zombie are as follows:

ZOMBIE STATS:

BRAWN 3
REFLEXES 3
SMARTS 2
ARMOR 8
HIT POINTS 5
SKILLS: ANY ONE