Zombi: spitballing a ‘lookout’ mechanic

After playing Left4Dead probably a little too much, I’m left with the interesting problem of wanting to emulate a little of the in-game mechanic in my (and your) favourite RPG about Zombies.

I’m also somewhat inspired by the Trust mechanics from “The Mountain Witch“.

I’m looking to emulate the advantages of sticking together, of taking a risk when you know there are others looking out for you and the ability to ‘summon a saviour’ which, in Left4Dead, is handled in music, dialogue, and video graphics.

Zombi: resurfacing on RPG.net

ZOMBI got mentioned on RPG.net tonight.

Originally Posted by CHARLIBANANAS
I’d also say ZOMBI The earth won’t hold the dead…I was surprised to see mentioned so quickly, I have AFMBE and Savage Worlds but zombi does exactly what I want from a Zombie game, and it was cheap…Other than that WoD.

Originally Posted by BigJackBrass
Zombi is a great little game and rarely seems to get mentioned. Since I’m pushed for time I’ll just direct you to Jeff’s gameblog and his description of it as one of Five Overlooked RPGs.

Excellent. Special thanks to CHARLIBANANAS and BigJackBrass.

Left4Dead, on Expert

“It’s a ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, I can’t be held accountable for my actions!!!!”

Some of us (me, Savage_MF, kinnygraham and Pulse4333) have been playing this in the evenings and I must say it’s probably the best FPS I’ve played in a while due to the need to be co-operative rather than selfish.

And it has Zombies. So it’s win-win as far as I’m concerned.

Not the first time I’ve been Left4Dead

From the Wikipedia page for Left4Dead
Left 4 Dead is a co-operative, survival horror, first-person shooter game by Turtle Rock Studios.
“Left 4 Dead puts four human playable or AI-controlled Survivors of an apocalyptic pandemic against hordes of aggressive “Infected” (zombies). These Infected are controlled by an AI that dynamically balances difficulty and mood depending on the players’ progress and situation. In an alternate game mode, human players can control up to four different monsters with special abilities and cooperate to stop the Survivor players.

The common infected encountered during the game are fast and agile, weak individually but overpowering the survivors with numbers. Besides common infected there are five boss infected, whose mutations grant them special abilities that make them much more dangerous.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed playing Left4Dead over the last couple of days – there’s something really satisfying in playing one of the ‘boss infected’ and stopping the PCs from reaching their safehouse. The music is excellent and really adds to the atmosphere. I’ve written up some statistics and additional rules for running a Left4Dead game using the Zombi rules and I’d love to hear your thoughts on them.

The stats for a basic zombi are:

GunPlay:0 CloseCombat : 5
B&E Action: 3 Stealthing: 3
Movement: 5 Awareness: 5
Scrounging: 0 Persuasion: 3
Survival: 3 Medical: 0

Modified Rules for Left4Dead:
Fast Zombis:

Rule: When someone comes within sight or hearing range of a Zombi it will run at the source of the noise and climb over objects to reach the source. This is especially dangerous where car or building alarms are concerned – the Zombi is especially attracted to these sources of noise, something that can be taken advantage of when a grenade is retrofitted with sound and light emitters. Zombis move at normal humans speeds.

Ganging Up:

Rule: When large numbers of zombis gang up, they will attempt to beat, hit or bite the survivor. Zombi attacks are simple closecombat attacks but if a PC is attacked by more than 4 zombis, then they have their panic rating reduced by two for every 4 zombis present – this can be very serious if attacked by 10+ zombis. A GM will roll the attack once for four zombis involved in the attack and if the result is a hit, add one point to the damage score. e.g Four Zombis attack a Player. They score a hit and roll once for damage, (1d6/3)+1 giving a result between 2 and 3 points of damage. If eight zombis make the same attack, it is treated as two groups of four. The only defense against this is a Shove which is a CloseCombat attack made by the survivor against the group. Only one group of four can be shoved at any one time and this requires that the Survivor make a successful CloseCombat attack taking into account his reduced Panic rating. There’s an advantage to keeping your back to a wall.

Fire Damage:

Rule: All zombis are severely affected by fire and even a small blaze will cause 1d6 damage per turn.

The most common boss infected is the Hunter, who has a pounce attack that pins survivors to the ground and renders them unable to defend themselves while the Hunter attacks.

Rule: The Hunter can leap up to sixty feet ( 20 metres ) in any direction. If it makes a successful Movement, then it will land on a Survivor within range and pin them. The only defense on this is assistance from other Survivors (or shooting the Hunter first by winning initiative). Once pinned, the Hunter does not need to make CloseCombat rolls to successfully hurt the Survivor but inflicts 1d6/3 every turn.

The Smoker has a long, grasping tongue which can capture survivors and drag them away from their teammates.

Rule: The Smoker may make an Awareness roll to ensnare and drag a Survivor up to thirty feet (10 metres). The survivor may again only be released through the intervention of another Survivor. Once ensnared, the Survivor is helpless against other attacks (from other Zombies) and after 1 turn of dragging, will also be attacked by the Smoker itself for 1d6/3 per turn.

The Boomer, a bloated infected whose vomit and bile attract the common infected and temporarily blinds the player.

Rule: A successful Movement roll means the Boomer has successfully vomited over every Survivor within 10 feet (3 metres). If shot, the Boomer will explode and coat everyone within the same range in his foul-smelling bile. The Boomer only has 5 hit points so this can happen easily. Once covered in the bile, the Survivor’s panic rating drops by a full five points for two turns as the liquid distorts vision. The bile will also attract every Zombi within a kilometre (half mile) to the Survivors (GMs will likely roll 2d6+6 to see how many show up.

The Tank is a huge, muscular infected and the most difficult to kill. The Tanks can knock the survivors back a distance and throw objects in the environment or large pieces of earth.

Rule: The Tank’s CloseCombat Score increases to 10. It may also pick up rocks and anything to hand and throw them using it’s Movement score with a range of 100 feet (30 metres) doing up to 1d6 damage. This may be dodged. The Tank has thirty hit points and will therefore take a lot of gunfire to take down.

The Witch is not aggressive, unlike the other boss infected. She will not attack the player unless provoked; by loud noises, lights or being near her. However her attack is the most damaging, on all difficulties her attack will knock down a player in one hit and on the expert difficulty is instantly fatal.

Rule: The Witch has Movement 10 and CloseCombat 10. She also has 30 hit points. But she will not move unless there is loud noise within 10 feet (3 metres). She will then attack doing 1d6 damage per successful hit.

Terms (Left4Dead, Hunter, Smoker, Boomer, Tank and Witch) and contexts used in this post are likely trademarks of Valve Software and is not meant to infringe. The game is $49 on Steam and also available in good games stores worldwide.

Fonts, fonts, my kingdom….

I’m having trouble identifying a font I used for the original printing of ZOMBI and this is the replacement I have come up with.

The original was quite clean and had a name like ‘corroded’ or ‘corrupted’.

The potential new one is CM Corruged by Charly Masci (link is down).

I think it’s actually an improvement.


I’ve spent the last week working on the PDF version of zombi. I’ve been updating bits and pieces as well, adding in references for “Fast Zombies” and other things which have been popular in the years since the book was released. Hard to believe that it’s nearly ten years since it was first published.

New Downloads

Some people were looking for them so I’ve put some downloads on the books page:

Wildtalents fanzine 1 60K PDF
Wildtalents 3 fanzine 1.5MB PDF
Wildtalents 5 fanzine 373K PDF
23rd letter character sheet 22K PDF
zombi character sheet 86K PDF

If there’s anything else in particular that people are looking for, please mention it and I’ll see what I can dig up. Please note that this wildtalents fanzine was something I was doing nearly a decade before Wild Talents (the superhero RPG) was released.

Zombie Links

This isn’t a link blog, but these are very fun.

Zombie World News

“ZombieWorldNews.com is , as far as we can tell, a departure from other Zombie sites. Instead of the reader being a spectator, we hope to draw you in through a dynamic, ever changing scenario, that you can just read and enjoy, or jump right in and contribute to yourself. The main focus is on the world wide impact and reaction to a credible Zombie virus. How countries deal with it. Become insular, close borders, increase security, quell panic, fear and paranoia, even make arrangements for undead disposal. We also want to touch on some often overlooked aspects of a Zombie rising. Such as, how do you cope with shooting someone? For most people it would not be like a shooting gallery. It would be horrific. Is there remorse? These were people, friends, neighbors. What is the personal toll? The psychological effect.”

The Zombie Squad

“Q: What is Zombie Squad?
A: Zombie Squad is disaster preparation community.
We focus our efforts towards promoting the importance of emergency preparation awareness and working with local communities around the globe to teach them what is needed to survive whatever crisis may come along like natural disasters or man made disasters. Our mission is to make sure you are prepared for any crisis situation that might come along in your daily life which may include your home being invaded by the undead menace. Zombie Squad also supports other local and international disaster relief organizations/charities. Check out our events page for the latest charity event we have coming up.

TTN: Zombi

Tonight at TableTopNorth, I decided to eschew my plans of running 2300AD because, simply, the setup is massive and I don’t know my players very well. They seemed to want an action game so I dug out a copy of Zombi, one of my own games, and decided to force them into some hot undead action.

I decided to set it in late August of 1999. Mere weeks after the first recorded rising. Things were about to get ugly in the city (which the players decided was Kansas City) and the police force has been tasked with covering it up. They know the dead walk but there’s a pogrom on talking and desertion has meant that the City has had to hire private security companies to fill in.

Througha combination of impro and planning, the players made up two characters. Jim Buin, a combat cameraman who spent years with the troops and has a recurring nightmare of Mogadishu and Frank Connor, his wealthy socialite anchor. They were dispatched to riots in town by the Head of News, Gaylen Ross. They’re given a official TV van and a big camera.

In town, they fast-talk their way past a dumb uniform cop and find their way through the detritus of a deserted downtown to a riot scene. Ducking into an alley they encounter a half-corpse and decided to scale a fire escape to get a better view of the riot. Once upon the roof, they shoot a live feed of the police containing rioters, rioters who are under attack by another mob and to their horror they realise that this second mob are attacking, biting and eating the rioters!!!

They watch in horror as a pair of SWAT vans arrive and 16 SWAT troops disembark, take up positions and summarily execute the rioters and the second mob. They’re horrified and try to escape but are apprehended by two SWAT cops who try to bring them back to their Lieutenant, a stressed out guy who will do what it is required to keep this shit under wraps. They encounter the still-moving other-half of the half-corpse…which is killed immediately by the SWAT officers (and gives the players the hint that head shots are where it’s at).

While one of the officers is absent, they subdue the other, take his pistol and escape into the alleys with gunfire ringing in their ears. At one point, Jim breaks left and Frank breaks right. Frank reaches their van and tries to drive quickly though he’s clearly panicked and drives the can straight into a grocery store front. He’s concussed but rescued by Jim who throws the van into gear and gets them the hell out of there.

While heading back to the city, they call in and Gaylen tells them to get out of the city. She’s leaving the station now with her fiancé using the traffic helicopter and suggests they do the same. They divert to the local gun store to find widespread looting and the gun store locked. Frank rings his father who suggests they make tracks to his ranch, 40 miles outside the city. They turn the van around and hit the freeway…Jim makes a call to an old army buddy who tells him to get out of the city and he’d call when he is in a position to give him a sitrep.

…40 miles later they’re pulling up the long drive to the Connors Ranch. They open the front door and Frank is horrified to see the lobby is awash with blood. Jim immediately activates the centra locking on the van from his remote. Frank stumbles into the hall and spies his father, obviously injured, feasting on the remains of his younger brother. His father drops the body and starts to approach Frank and Jim. Jim fires warning shots at Mr Connors but he keeps coming, a murderous look in his eyes. They start to back away and Frank, already established as a rich but incredibly unlucky man, feels an icy hand on his shoulder – his father’s wife, Missy! Already blue from the rigor, she attacks him immediately. Jim, empties the pistol and hits nothing but air and nicks Franks ear and starts to run. Mr Connors is still approaching and Missy grabs Frank’s arm and bites down hard, taking a lump of flesh and gobbling it greedily down. Jim aims carefully and with a careful shot, takes Missy down with one shot to her temple, showering Frank with blood and gore. They back away from Mr Connors and make their way upstairs to his study where Frank says there are rifles and pistols. They’re watchful for the other members of the household – Frank’s sister Lucy, the two stablehands, the maid… – and once in the study they start ringing the other phone extensions in the house to see who answers. José, Ricardo and Lucy are in the stables! And unhurt!

They secure the rifles and the pistols as Mr Connors starts to pummel on the door so they slide out onto the roof and drop to the ground and run to the van and load up. As they start the van, they notice Mr Connors and another walker coming out of the house. They wait til they are close by and BAM! reverse the van over them. They step out of the van and Frank shoots his father’s undead corpse a couple of times and, true to form with his bad luck, also manages to shoot out a tyre in the van. He also notes for the first time that there is blood pumping out of the bite wound on his arm….

They make their way down to the stables to find José, Ricardo and Lucy who are very happy to see them and Jim immediately gets the two men to change the tyre. Frank’s arm is still bleeding profusely and Ricardo uses his animal nursing skills to suture the wound and bandage it up.

Jim rings Gaylen. She’s about 450 miles north but needs to refuel and the only place is a small airfield about 60 miles away from the ranch. they decide to meet up. She tells Jim that the dead are walking, they kill and eat people. Those they kill, get up and kill. Jim looks at Frank very closely….

And we finish up with them loading into the van….and heading for the airfield…..