Last night I ran chapter three of my zombie apocalypse role playing setting, "...And a Little Child Shall Eat Them" using the All Flesh Must Be Eaten game system with a few twists borrowed from Savage Worlds. In the first session, the players were caught up in the outbreak. The crisis started with children of all ages vomiting up gobs of black ooze as the little darlings transform to feral, horrifically fast and strong monsters with a curious taste for "the sweet, warm screaming flesh of man." If bitten by one of the feral children, or Growlers, and the victim is fortunate enough to survive the encounter, he can expect to succumb to an infection that will render him a zombie as well. This type of zombie is a shambling, slow moving, stupid sort called a Moaner. At the end of the first session, the players escaped the Calhoun town square.
In the second session, the players picked up two new player characters and Jim Adler, the Texas Hammer. The survivors navigated traffic jams, blew up a hospital, and found themselves at last on the calm waters of Calhoun's Lake Ramsey after losing one of their number to the zombie infection.
The Players and Their Characters:
- Peter Badger - High school history teacher played by Rodger, who is in fact a high school history teacher.
- Prof. Blaise Pettigrew - College physics professor played by Gary, who is not in fact a colleg physics professor though he's played one in radio drama.
- Jaques Washington - Chef and owner of Washington's, the four-star restaurant on Calhoun's Lake Ramsey. Played by Josh.
- Gary Ventura - An out of work DJ, Ventura formerly worked at KEVL Evil Radio!, the premiere Rock station in Calhoun county. That is, until last week when they underwent a format change and became easy listening (spin that Perry Como!). Given that Gary hates easy listening, he tendered his resignation (by flipping off his new boss and storming out.) He took a couple days off at home and then went camping. He's been camping out near the lake since then. Played by James.
Last night's game started where we left off last time. The survivors had ventured out to the center of the lake to catch their breath, get some rest. As dawn broke across the water, the warning tone of the Emergency Alert System blared over the radio:
"This is a message of the Emergency Alert System. In accordance with Executive Order 12656, a national emergency has been declared and a state of Martial Law exists. All food, fuel and energy resources are under the control of Federal authorities. A national curfew of 4:00 pm has been assessed. Violators will be shot. Looters will be shot. Stay in your homes. Avoid contact with strangers. Remain alert for further instructions. This has been a message of the Emergency Alert System..."
Paddling toward their boat in a canoe, the survivors were joined by former local DJ Gary Ventura. Ventura had been camping in the woods when the zombie apocalypse started. Since then, he's been paddling for a clear shore with no luck. Moaners had lined the shores.
Despite the EAS warning, the players decided to seek out provisions. Thus they set about looting a lake house chosen for its pier-style dock and absence of zombies. This scene didn't roll the way I thought it would. I thought for sure that the guys would get bogged down in the lake house, that they'd make a loud entry thereby attracting all those darling children.
But they surprised me, choosing a quiet entry from the roof. Inside, I described a bloody scene where some terrible feast had been consumed. Evidence available suggested that a Growler entered through the round, stained glass window over there front door. Blood and viscera scarred the living room.
"There are bits and pieces of flesh and mismatched body parts littered about," I said, "But not enough to assemble an entire, complete person."
"Should one be so inclined," Josh added.
In the carnage I had anticipated, I planned on splitting the party. You see, Aaron (aka Sgt Fielder) and Jamie (aka Sean) were unable to attend the session. Thus, I figured I'd have them disappear...
But the scene didn't roll out that way and the party stayed together.
Back on the boat with zombies - both Growlers and Moaners - on their heals, the party escaped with additional provisions including a two-meter handheld radio. They were able to pick up some additional news...
"...Ardmore's a complete loss. There's been no communication out of there since yesterday!""...We were caravanning... eight cars and trucks along with a Greyhound bus... those, those... children came out of nowhere ... more than a dozen of them...they hit the bus! They flipped it over! A Greyhound bus! Flipped over by babies! They tore everyone inside apart!"
"...Ardmore was declared a quarantine zone."
"A CDC field team is in Calhoun...""...Dallas has been declared a quarantine zone..."
"They're bombing the quarantine zones!"
On the shores of the lake, the throngs of Moaners grew larger. Growlers were occasionally seen and while the Moaners might wander and disappear into the water, the precious babies clearly did not care for the wet.
The following morning the players awakened to another EAS message:
"This is a message of the Emergency Alert System. Effective at 4:01 pm today local time, the city of Calhoun will be designated a quarantine zone subject to sterilization protocols. Evacuation procedures for the city of Calhoun have begun. Proceed at once to The Rockin' M Ranch located north of County Road 49 on Cattleman's Drive. The final evacuation transport will depart at 4:00 pm local time. This has been a message of the Emergency Alert System."
With quarantine zones being bombed, the survivors were in immediate agreement that they needed to make haste to the evacuation site. The problem then was the number of zombies on the shore line. Much discussion followed.
- Can we in grand summer blockbuster fashion ram the boat at top speed onto the shore?
- Do we really need to leave the lake? Fire bombing won't hurt us here, right? Surely they're not nuking the quarantine zones...?
- We're about eight miles away from the ranch. We'll need a car. It'd be closer to hit one of the lake houses on the north side of the lake... but we can't see the cars from the water.
- Or we could hit the public access boat ramps at the south end of the lake. It's further from the ranch, but we'd have a better choice of vehicles... something like a Hummer...
The boys decided to go the route of the public boat ramp. To draw off the zombies, they set the boat on a slow course close, but parallel to the shoreline. To attract attention, they cranked up the radios and sound systems while rigging the horn to continuously blare. The survivors then loaded onto the canoe and paddled away to land as the larger boat puttered away drawing the attention of the undead.
Only one of the characters had any experience in a canoe, Gary Ventura. The rest were all amateurs. More than midway to the shore, several were flipped into the water: Sgt Fielder, Sean, and Jim Adler.
All three were attacked by zombies lurking beneath the waves. Jim Adler, beset by two Moaners, disappeared under the dark waves of Lake Calhoun not to be seen again.
Sean evaded the creatures and rushed up onto the beach where he sat, waiting for the others.
Remember, Sgt Fielder and Sean's players were not present. I was running their characters as non-player characters. Sean is autistic, but has the ability to enter a savant trance enabling him to perform highly complex actions. Regrettably, I couldn't get him a successful roll allowing him to enter said trance.
Sgt Fielder was a having a devil of a time dealing with his aquatic assailant.
I have to admit being terribly surprised that the other players rendered aid. Really, it would have been easy for them to land the boat and get the hell away. Their diversionary tactic had worked brilliantly. The Moaners and Growlers on the shore were distracted by the other boat. It made sense for them to leave their mates.
But these guys turned back to help, much to my amazement.
It wound up being a rather dramatic scene. In fact, one of the moaners landed a successful bite onto Sgt Fielder. Had Josh not reminded me that Fielder was wearing body armor (aquired in session two), our sharp-shooting marine would have caught him some zombification. As it was, the kevlar replled the zombie's bite and Fielder avoided infection.
And of course, he was lucky that he fell from the boat in a fairly shallow area. Otherwise, he'd have sunk like a stone!
Fielder hurled the biting, legless zombie away from him just as the rest of the survivors noted that a pack of Growlers had spotted them. The precious, darling children raced towards them. The survivors splashed their way to shore, sprinting for the parking lot. Gone were any plans for some kind of sports utility vehicle. All they wanted at that moment was any kind of locomotion that could get them away.
Hitting the beach, Sgt Fielder hauled Sean to his feet by the collar, dragging him along.
Gary Ventura reached a Volvo station wagon. The door was open, and with his mad mechanic skills successfully hot-wired the car (GM's Note: it is a well established fact that all auto mechanics can hot-wire a car. In fact, most auto mechanics get their start in the trade as car thieves. That's why most people feel robbed after visiting the auto shop. Additionally, due to their early years of crime, many mechanics have prison in their background. Which explains the sense of violation one generally feels at the auto-shop. Sad, but true).
Ventura, Mr. Badger, Chef Jacques, and Professor Pettigrew all made it into the car. Sean wasn't so lucky. He fell to a couple of the Growlers. Try as I might, I couldn't roll successfully to get him into that savant trance.
Sean will be missed.
Gaming at my house, I use a cigar box in which I roll my dice and I provide another such box for the player's table. Last night, my cigar box was regularly referred to as "The Death Box."
Sgt Fielder again had problems, rasslin with some Growlers. Again, the survivors paused their escape to help their chum, but not without some dissention.
"Leave him!" Mr. Badger urged.
Professor Pettigrew boiled out of the car, firing on the zombies.
"Dammit!" Badger growled, following suit to assist.
Car door open, Chef Jacques fired on a few before being attacked himself, a Growler chomping down on his tender, supple flesh. With a cry of both alarm and horror, the Chef threw himself and the zombie out of the car just as a Growler landed on the hood of the Volvo smashing its hand through the windshield clawing for Ventura.
He narrowly escaped the wee one.
Fielder, Pettigrew, and Badger dispatch the Growlers on their side of the car. Two of them hustled back into the car while Fielder charged after Chef Jacques, firing on the creature atop him.
He pasted the annoying biter.
The marine hauled the Chef up, legs churning the way back to the Volvo as the Moaner horde approached...
"Open the trunk!" He cried, "Open the trunk!!!"
Fielder dumped the Chef into the back and climbed in after him while laying down covering fire to aid in their retreat, Growlers and Moaners close behind.
Ventura at the wheel, they sped out of the parking lot.
Navigating the roads leading up to the evacuation site, they encountered much of the same problem as they did in the earlier session. Burned out and wrecked cars littering the streets serving as an obstacle course. The way riddled with barriers and their vehicle not the most maneuverable, it was slow going.
Along the way, they came upon a van bearing magnetic signs identifying it a CDC vehicle. Of course the Centers for Disease Control have a way to address the zombie infestation. Right?
The boys stopped to check it out.
The van had been attacked. A bloody, broken driver's side window was evident. Gobbets of flesh remained in the seat. Otherwise the van was vacant of passengers (undead or otherwise), though it was full of equipment, samples, and serum.
The boys resolved that something here might be valuable. They took the van and abandoned the Volvo.
Motoring on, they passed subdivisions consumed in flames.
Moaners and growlers pursued them, but they were able to stay ahead of the monsters. As they approached a group of survivors moving quickly on foot, the boys realized they will have led the zombies right to them. There were eleven pedestrians.
"We shouldn't stop," Badger urged. "Just keep going."
The group's decision was to the contrary.
Four additional passengers could be accommodated in the van. But no more.
The Chef, shoulder wound bandaged, and the DJ decided to run over to the neighborhood ablaze and grab another car to meet the demands of their transportation needs.
Zombies fell on the party, reducing their number and thereby the size requirement of whatever additional car they would boost.
Putting his mechanic skills to work, Ventura hot-wired a Toyota Celica. He, Jacques and their new guest all hopped in and fell in behind the CDC van.
Arriving at the Rockin' M Ranch, the evacuation site, they found a compound well-defended by Texas National Guard troops. The grounds leading to the ranch were littered with the bodies of slaughtered Moaners and a few Growlers. Sentry posts were stationed all about the ranch's game fence.
Heavy lift transport helicopters were positioned about the acreage with lines of people boarding.
The survivors, all but Jacques, were directed to the helicopter lines.
To Jacques, one of the Guardsmen said: "Sir, we need to get that bite taken care of. Get him to the medical tents!"
He was escorted by a soldier and medic to a tent where his wound was treated and provided with an IV.
The other survivors were all lifted into the air.
Jacques looked about observing a curious lack of medical personnel... or any personnel for that matter.
And that's when the bombs fell, consuming Calhoun, the ranch, and Chef Jacques.
I'm pleased with the way this resolved, though sorry that two of my original players couldn't make the game. These three chapters set the stage for the larger story I want to tell. And there are actual survivors to carry forward intp session #4.
Everyone had a good time.
From all three of these sessions, we lost three player characters to the zombie hordes: The Doctor (played by James in session #2), Sean (Jamie's character and NPC'd by me in session #3), and the Chef (played by Josh in session #2 and #3). Rest in peace, boys.
I'm already making notes for the next chapter in the zombie apocalypse, but I don't believe I'll be running it for the next session. Nope, I'm really wanting to run my SF setting, THIS EMPIRE EARTH. I think that'll be the next thing I run.
Of course, James is also talking about running something. He wants to run... wait. I'll let him tell that secret. He's working up something for the next Fear The Con that he wants to try out on us. Can't. Wait.
I've got some personal business I'm taking care of, so we're taking off the month of June. We should be back at it in July.