Feeling some fatigue after finishing up a story arc in a giant fighting robot game I'm running I proposed something different for us to play. A basic Zombie survival game I had cooked up in a moment of inspiration some weeks past. Lacking imagination at 2 in the morning the game started off in the house we were playing 2 days after the zombie outbreak. The players grabbed what supplies they could and bolted once zombies started crawling into the garage. They escaped into the next house where two of the players spent a few moments bickering over whether or not to use the measly ammo they had while the third survivor walked up and started braining zombies whose faces were planted firmly in yesterdays mashed potatoes.
Unfortunately one of them got a lucky shot in and bit the offending survivor killing him. At which point the remaining two players opened fire and fled into the garage finding the newly rolled character ineffectually huffing carbon monoxide in his still running car. They slapped him to his senses and sped off into the night. First stopping by a nearby gas station to siphon gas and then down the road to find shelter in the motel with the least amount of shambling walkers. They ascended the stairs and wiped out any zeds on the top floor and summarily passed out ending the session.
The system itself is pretty basic. If you've played Shadowrun then this should certainly feel familiar. It's designed for character creation to take about 5 minutes since the life of a survivor is generally a short one. The nature of setting allows players to drop in and out almost at will since there's always a zombie somewhere just ready to eat your character or a dark hallway for your panicking character to flee down presumably dieing off camera. When a new player enters the game it shouldn't be too hard to incorporate finding a survivor. When in doubt use a hero closet!
Without further adieu here is the basic bare bones system we played with.
A roll of 5 or 6 is considered a success. A roll of 6 allows you to keep the success and reroll the die to try and gain another. If you roll more 1's than successes the result is considered a critical failure where the GM cooks up something terrible to happen either immediately or in the near future.
When the player proposes an action the Game Master (GM) calls for the player to roll their die pool equal to the sum of a relevant attribute and skill as determined by the GM. Some are fairly obvious, Physique modifies Fighting and Coordination modifies Shooting. At other times the attribute used depends on the situation. As an example driving down the freeway the GM may initially call for Awareness + Driving to see the runaway car veering towards them to allow them to safely get out of the way. Failing that the GM may then call for a Reaction + Driving to swerve out of the way before being hit. If that check fails as well then the GM may then ask for Coordination + Driving to maintain control of the car as the cars collide.
Physique: Represents your physical well being and your ability to dole out punishment in a melee.
Coordination: Represents your hand eye coordination and manual dexterity. Useful for shooting zeds.
Knowledge: The catch all attribute where one's mental capacities are needed.
Awareness: Useful for finding hidden stashes of canned goods and noticing the dead shambling towards you.
Reaction: Used for when you need to get out of dodge and determining who goes first in a round.
Breaking & Entering: Unlocking doors, breaking glass without hurting yourself and knowing where valuables are stored.
Driving: Used primarily when the living dead are crawling all over your escaping vehicle.
Fighting: Covers everything from throwing a punch to swinging a bat to throwing rocks.
Mechanics: Ranges from repairing mechanical objects to jury rigging vehicles and assembling effective barricades.
Medicine: Ranges from first aid to field surgery; digging out lead from less than friendly survivors.
Science: If what you're proposing involves volatile chemicals, trajectories or electrified golf clubs this is the skill you're looking for.
Scrounging: Finding hidden caches of ammunition and canned goods. Hopefully a can opener too.
Shooting: Slightly more advanced than a point and click interface.
Sneaking: Anywhere from moving silently to not drawing attention to yourself. Invaluable if you're not looking for a fight.
Survival: Ability to live off the land and find food, water and shelter.
Panic is added to a d6 you roll the first time your character encounters a zombie in a scene. A roll of 1 or lower indicates you stand frozen with fear. A roll of 2-4 indicates you flee in any direction that doesn't visibly have zombies. A roll of 5-6 lets you stand your ground. A roll greater than 6 lets you rally your comrades letting anyone that would normally flee stand their ground as well. You can rally a number of comrades equal to your roll minus 6. Anyone frozen or fleeing gets to roll panic again at the start of their turn to see if matters change. This trait ranges from -5 to 5 and starts at 0.
Luck is added to the players to the 2d6 the player rolls to determine starting equipment. Additonally:
Positive luck gives a survivor points they can spend each scene that can either counts all 5's as 6's for one roll or have fortune smile on them letting the keys to the car be in the sun visor or finding a resting place with a backup generator.
Negative luck gives the GM points they can spend each scene that allows them to force the survivor to reroll all dice greater than 1 or to have something in the scenery fail nearby the survivor such as a catwalk collapsing, a car refusing to start or a gun jamming.
This trait ranges from -5 to 5 and starts at 0.
Any starting character begins with 25 points.
Attributes start at rank 1 and cost 3 points to increase in rank.
Skills start at 0 and cost 1 point to increase in rank.
The max rank for either an attribute or skill is 5.
At character creation both abilities and skills are capped at 3. Choose one attribute to have a max rank of 5 and two skills to have a max rank of 4.
Trait's start at zero and can be improved to a maximum of five at a one to one ratio. Alternatively, you can assign negative values to these traits to gain bonus points at a one to one ratio.
A character can withstand a number of wounds equal to 10 plus their Physique before being incapacitated.
Starting Equipment Table
Roll 2d6 and add your Luck Trait. Don't add your Luck if you are rerolling (Result 13+). Consult the following list to see what you got!
X<2 = A thermos filled with salt water
2 = Can of beans
3 = More Canned Goods
4 = Soap Bars
5 = Cowboy Hat - +1 Bad Assery
6 = Cool Shirt - Rating: Awesome
7 = Crossbow, two bolts
8 = Double Barrel Shotgun, but only one shell!
9 = Hunting Rifle, comes with a scope but sadly no ammo
10 = Sweet Ride (Just above E)
11 = Horde of batteries, gasoline or ammo: roll a d6 for each type (AA, 9V/Bullets, Shells)/ # of gallons
12 = Utility Belt complete with Bat-Anti-Shark Spray
13 = Roll Twice: Choose one.
14 = Roll Thrice: Choose one.
15 = Roll Twice: Take both
16 = Roll Thrice: Take two.
17 = Roll Thrice: Take all three.
Mowing down Zombies:
Since zombies don't dodge all that matters is whether or not the survivor can hit. Physique + Fighting is used for melee weapons, Coordination + Shooting is used for ranged weapons, Coordination + Fighting is used for thrown weapons and in the event the players secure a machine gun turret or rocket launcher Physique + Shooting is the die pool they use.
There's only one way to kill a zombie: destroy the brain. A roll of 6 on a weapon's damage roll is counted as a head shot killing the zombie instantly. If no 6's are rolled then the number of successes are counted and added to the zombies wounds. The number of wounds a zombie can have depends on the condition they are in but an average walker has 7 wounds, a more decrepit zombie has a d6 of wounds. Once a zombie sustains too many wounds it falls feebly to the ground where it will continue to crawl towards a survivor and bite their ankles. Some zombies may fall over instantly the moment they take a wound and will stand up the next round. If the GM is feeling devious they can spends a player's negative luck point and the zombie(s) will get back up whenever the survivor's have forgotten about them.
Melee weapon's do not have damage pools, instead any 6 rolled on the attack roll is considered a blow to the head killing the zombie instantly. If no 6's are rolled the zombie is instead pushed down for the round.
On your turn you may elect to split up your die pool allocating a set amount of dice for each attack made. You cannot have more sub die pools than your relevant attribute score. For example a character with coordination of 2 and shooting 3 could only take 2 shots. Multiple attacks with a projectile weapon will use up that much ammo accordingly.
Survivors have a speed of 5 plus their physique which lets them move that many feet each round. A wounded survivor has their movement reduce by 1 for each wound they have, although their minimum speed is 1.
When not in danger survivors can use either Knowledge + Medicine (what to use to treat a wound) or Coordination + Medicine (wrapping bandages and stitching up wounds) to heal any wounds they have received at a 1:1 ratio for successes to wounds. Pain killers can be used to temporarily ignore wounds.
Each weapon has a damage pool which is used if the survivor manages to hit and a clip size indicating how many attacks the weapon can make before needing to reload. Lastly each weapon indicates what ranges they function at. In case you're wondering close means the zombie is primed and ready to eat your face. All other ranges are determined by hand waving.
Ammo type: Bullets. Count 5's as 6's for head shotting purposes up to short range.
Pistol - d6 ; Clip 10 + d6. Up to Long
Magnum - 2d6 ; Clip 6. Close, Short, Medium
Ammo type: Arrows/bolts.
Crossbow - 2d6 ; Clip 1. Up to Medium. No noise, reusable ammo.
Compound Bow - 3d6 ; Clip 1. Up to Medium. No noise, reusable ammo.
Ammo type: Magazine. Cannot headshot when splitting die pools. Bonus d6 when firing at close range.
Submachine Gun - 2d6 ; Clip 10. Close, Short, Medium. Can split your die pool an additional time.
Machine Gun - 4d6 ; Clip 5. Close, Short, Medium. Can split your die pool two additional times.
Ammo type: Cartridge/Shell. Count 5s as 6s for the purpose of headshots in close range.
Carbine - 3d6, Clip 6. Close. One hand, Shotgun.
Pump action Shotgun - 4d6, Clip 8. Close, Sohrt. Halve your coordination when using multiple die pools
Double Barrel Shotgun - 4d6, Close, One barrel for Short, another for Medium Range. Clip 2
Sawed off Shotgun - 6d6, Clip 2 Close.
Automatic Shotgun - 4d6, Clip 10. Close, Short
Ammo type: High caliber bullet. Count 4's as successes to hit when not in immediate and impending danger.
Rifle - 3d6 ; Clip 1. Medium, Long
Sniper Rifle - 5d6 ; Clip 1. Medium, Long, Far.
Assault Rifle - Burst 3d6 ; Clip 8. Up to Long.
Spray 4d6 ; Uses 3 shots. Up to Medium. Can split your die pool an additional time.
Survivors are slow, tired and most importantly frightened. Eating them isn't the problem, getting to them is. On their turn zombies either shamble 3 feet towards the living and/or loud noises or take a bite out of a nearby survivor. Simply being within biting range of a survivor is enough to deal one wound to that survivor at the start of a zombies turn.
Biting survivors is somewhat more difficult since the player gets to roll Reaction to see if they get out of the way of the Z's gnashing teeth. Zombies attack as a ground and the GM has an attack die pool equal to the number of zombies clustered around the survivor. If he has more successes than the players reaction successes then the survivor is bitten and takes a d6 of wounds.
Depending on the game the survivor is either immediately infected and will soon turn into another of the living dead. Otherwise the survivor has a 50% chance of survival and the GM rolls a d6 in secret. An even roll indicates that the virus did not take hold and a roll of 6 indicates immunity. An odd roll indicates the virus has taken hold and in a number of hours the transformation will be complete. A roll of 1 indicates system shock and the survivor falls limply to the ground, another meal in the zombie apocalypse.
GM Tips: Close quarters is your friend, zombie's are swiss cheese out in the open. Hordes of zombies are a good way to lower the survivor's ammo supplies. When in doubt throw more zombies at them, roll a d6 each turn they make loud noises or otherwise attract attention. That number is how many zombies have shambled into view.
Living survivors at the end of an episode gain a d6 of experience points per scene to improve their skills. Learning a new skill costs 5 experience and improving a skill costs experience equal to it's current rank.
Raising an attribute costs experience equal to three times it's current rank.
Thoughts, ideas, and criticisms are welcome!