Stay the Night...
Let’s face it, in the zombie apocalypse, you aren’t gonna be some badass gun-toting hunter of Satan’s rejected party guests. You’ll be you; a normal human being reacting to the world gone to shit. Whether or not you handle it with a clear head, by completely snapping or huddling in a corner, is up to you (and your friends) to decide.
Just like in real life, if you do something long enough, you will eventually get better at it. That’s why this game has Survival Levels. Now, upon first outbreak you probably won’t be too experienced against the ravenous hordes. If you’ve been surviving for a while, however, then chances are you’re doing fairly well for yourself. This is tracked at the start of the game by your Survival Level. At the beginning of the game, the GM chooses one of the three Survival Levels below.
-Fresh Meat: The apocalypse has started, and you’re just an average Joe that needs to survive. You’re new to this whole “undead” thing, but that just means you have room to learn things and truly grow… Assuming you survive. Players who are Fresh Meat start with 42 Attribute Points.
-Walking Dead: You know how to kill a zombie without much empathy, even if it has a familiar face. You have been surviving for some time now, or you’re a hardened cop caught in the fray, or you’re a survivalist who’s been anticipating this moment for a long time. Whatever the case, you know fairly well how to handle yourself… Walking Dead start with 48 Attribute Points.
-Hell’s Janitor: You hear the unholy sounds of a ravenous horde, their footsteps pounding against pavement. You see them coming towards you at full sprint, their eyes and teeth glinting in the moonlight. You simply smirk and turn up the boom-box’s volume as you load your shotgun… Hell’s Janitors start with 54 Attribute Points.
Attributes are the qualities that make up your physical and mental properties. The physical ones are: Strength, Agility, and Vitality. The mental ones are Intelligence, Alertness, and Willpower. In order to figure out attributes, you use the points given to you by your Survival Level to purchase dice that correspond with the points used, with d2 being the lowest. You can only use points that add up to an actual die (the exception being the d2 – the reality is that people with attributes this low probably wouldn’t survive), and if you get above a d12, you start adding a second die (for example, the dice go d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, d12+d2, etc.). Now, a d6 in an attribute denotes an average amount of skill for that certain attribute, so a football player would have large dice in strength and agility, but possibly not so much in intelligence.
Derived Attributes: Derived Attributes make up your basic needs for survival. There are 5 in total: Health, Sanity, Energy, Hunger, and Thirst. Your goal is to keep these numbers from falling too low, because you’re gonna be in a whole lot of trouble if any of them hit zero…
-Health: This is your basic health bar. It shows you how much of a beating you can take before things go dark. Now, damage will mainly be for simple bumps and falls, and will slowly drain if you begin to bleed out. However, this bar won’t do you much good if you sustain a shotgun blast to the chest, and it will drain quite quickly after a zombie bite, so it’s best to be careful. Try not to get hurt in the first place! You calculate your Health total by adding together your Vitality + Willpower scores. For example, if you have a d6 in Vitality and a d8 in Willpower, then you will have 14 Health. You can regain health by using medicines and you can stabilize health loss from wounds by stopping the bleeding. However, it’s only a matter of time before you succumb to a zombie bite…
-Sanity: Let’s face it, the zombie apocalypse isn’t gonna be pretty. Seeing grisly crashes, the walking corpses of your dead friends, and a zombie mother eating her child can take its toll on the psyche. Your Sanity bar is a representation of how much horror your mind can take before it breaks down. Those with strong wills can keep sane after defending themselves against hostile survivors, while those with weak wills can break after firing their own shotgun. You can take medications to increase your sanity, and things like talking and resting your mind with something you love can help you forget for a little while. If your Sanity bar gets low enough, you’ll begin seeing things and become more on edge. If it reaches zero, then you’ll completely break down and you’ll be useless until you can get ahold of yourself – or until you go irreparably insane. Breaking down in the middle of a fight can mean the difference between life and death, so don’t overtax your mind. You calculate Sanity by adding together Intelligence and Willpower.
-Energy: Staying awake and ready is important in a life-or-death situation; that’s why it’s a good thing to keep well rested when you can. Your energy is a representation of how awake you are: nearly every action you do costs energy, some more than others.
For example, wrestling a zombie off of you while trying to keep its mouth away will cost a lot more energy than pushing a cart. You can regain energy by sleeping or resting, or you can opt for a quick boost of energy from drinking energy drinks and other supplements, but be careful of crashing! If your energy falls too low, then you start to get agitated and must make rolls every so often in order to stay awake. You may get a fight-or-flight response that boosts your energy by a lot, but the aftermath will be very taxing. You calculate energy by adding your Alertness and Willpower together.
-Hunger/Thirst: Two of the most basic needs to keep the human body running, eating and drinking will play an important factor in surviving. Your bars will decrease normally over time, but some actions, such as running, will increase their rate of declination. Eat food and drink liquids regularly in order to keep them up. A drop in hunger will result in distractions and faster energy depletion, and can take away from your Strength and Health in extreme cases. Dehydration can result in hallucinations and headaches, causing penalties across the board. You calculate both hunger and thirst by doubling your Vitality. Having a high metabolism results in increased hunger depletion.
Where attributes tell us how innately good or bad you are in certain raw abilities, Skills show how competent you are in specific tasks. Things ranging from talking to people, to shooting a gun, to cooking, and even how well you can act are recorded here. Like attributes, prowess in skills is determined by dice. A d2 shows basic familiarity in the task; for example, a d2 in medical expertise shows that you know how to patch up a wound using bandages and some Neosporin, but you wouldn’t be so useful at extracting a bullet or applying stitches. A d6 shows a good amount of competence on a general level. You also have the option of specializing in certain areas of a given skill; for example, surgery under the medical expertise skill.
Skills are divided into two categories: General skills and Specialties. General skills represent a broad area of knowledge that you can have. For instance, you can use the athletics skill to run, jump, dodge, climb, and swim. However, you can only go up to a d6 in general skills; if you want to go beyond that, you’ll have to specialize in one of the skills specialties. For instance: you can only go up to a d6 in athletics, but seeing as how you are on the track team, you can advance your run skill up to a d10 and your jump skill up to a d8. There is no cap for specialties (note, you add the cost of the specialty to the cost of its general skill, and you must have a d6 in the general skill in order to train in its specialties).
In order to purchase skills, you start with 20 points plus the points that you get from your Survival Level (A Fresh Meat gets 62 skill points, a Walking Dead gets 68, and a Hell’s Janitor gets 74). You buy skills just like you bought attributes, paying the same amount as the faces on the die.
Skill Rolls: when doing an action that requires a skill, you combine the skill roll with a role from an attribute that fits the situation. For example, you are trying to fix a jam in your shotgun. The GM may tell you to make an Alertness + Guns roll in order to identify the source of the jam, and then roll Intelligence + Guns in order to try and fix it.