impulsiveingenue: (Default)
Once upon a time, I had a brilliant idea. Given the percentage of games that fail due to player or GM flakeout (I will not comment on how many of these flakeouts are my fault), I had the idea to create a game that would procedurally generate a zombie apocalypse scenario, right down to the buildings, item drops, and zombie spawns. The idea was to create a game that could be run with literally zero prep time, so that a GMless group with nothing to do could sit down, roll some dice, and end up with a map and a bunch of zombies to kill. In theory, this was a goddamn brilliant idea. I called it "Autozombie" and was certain I was going to take the tabletop subculture by storm. Then I sat down and tried to write the rules for it, and learned why Dwarf Fortress is such a gigantic processor-eating lag explosion. Procedurally generating things is stupidly crunchy.

So, that was the end of that. I still have the rules, and some of the concepts from it are still valid, I think (the building generation worked pretty well, even if it took way too long), but the overall project is kind of dead and has been for a while.

Then, while sorting some books at work, my brain returned to the idea of a zombie apocalypse game. This time, though, the idea was less to fully model the entire scenario down the tiniest detail, but to model the human reaction to the scenario itself, which is the entire point of zombie movies anyway (or at least, it used to be). Eventually I realized that, given the nature of zombie apocalypses, the primary mechanic would inevitably be the adrenaline rush, or combat high.

And so, while I was shelving in the 600s, my brain was frantically turning over the possibilities for how to do this, and I wound up with the seeds for what I think could be a pretty interesting game.

There would be five basic attributes - Physical, covering feats of strength and overall durability and endurance; Reaction, which would be both reflexes and the ability to think quickly under pressure; Critical Thinking, which would cover problem solving as well as general intelligence and similar things; Interaction, the all-purpose social stat; and Focus, which would represent both self-control and the ability to push through difficulties. These would be ranked 1-10, with 5 being average.

Skills would probably come into play as dice pools of d10s, the basic mechanic being a simple rollunder with the relevant attribute as the target. I haven't given this part of the system as much thought yet, because I wanted the dice pools to be reliant on how much adrenaline the character has built up. On the other hand, I'd also had the idea that while a high adrenaline level would benefit Physical and Reaction tasks, it would penalize Critical Thinking and Interaction tasks.

In addition, I wanted to somehow model the adrenaline rush as a two-edged sword in general, so more dice should give a higher chance of overwhelming success but also a higher chance of extreme disaster. There would be two playstyles, really; staying safe and avoiding confrontation, or charging in Frank West style to cover some wars, you know. One is much more likely to survive than the other, but one is much more likely to look like a total badass before he gets eaten by zombies. People want different things out of a zombie game, after all. ;)

I think that this could be a much better system than poor old Autozombie. I'll probably post about it some more here in the future, especially if people show interest in the idea.
impulsiveingenue: (Default)
Right now, I'm downloading Left 4 Dead 2 over Steam (yay, Mac people get love from Valve) and considering playing some more Dead Rising 2. This, of course, after a little bit of Unhallowed Metropolis, which I've been rereading bit by bit lately. I think at this point it is fair to say that I have something of an obsession with zombies.

I find this especially interesting because I am an enormous hypochondriac. I actually avoided the anime Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni for two years because someone described it to me as a biological disaster involving airborne super-rabies (surprise surprise, I finally watched it and it didn't freak me out nearly as much as I thought it would). The same thing happened, or near enough, in Quarantine (and, of course,REC - no true zombie aficionado could resist seeing the original), but I ran straight for the theater when Quarantine came out because it included the magic word: zombie.

It has historically been the case that if something involves zombies I am basically guaranteed to buy and/or see it at some point. As a result I have seen some pretty horrible movies and read some pretty horrible books. Gangs of the Dead springs to mind. It's unfortunate, but the zombie movie genre has pretty much degenerated into "Well, fuck, I dunno, let's have some people lurch around and try to eat other people." This is especially disappointing for me because I really enjoy the subtext of early Romero; specifically, that zombies were more a force of nature than an antagonist, and that other humans and human nature in general were the real enemy. Now, it's just "well hey dead cannibals sure why not."

It is getting to the point where I voluntarily pass on some zombie-driven media. And that's a little sad. I actually didn't see the latest Romero movie because basically everyone I talked to said it was a complete mess, and after seeing Diary of the Dead I could believe it. This from someone who seriously made plans with a co-worker about how to best defend our workplace in the event of a zombie outbreak.

I guess fans and fandoms change over time. But I still really like zombies.


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July 2011


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