Sunday, 20 May 2018

Small Town Zombie Chow - All Flesh Must Be Eaten

Perhaps it's just me, but as the heat intensifies with the onset of summer I feel the need for zombie goodness. I'm also a fan of Outside Xbox, which is how I came across this video:

Don't feel obliged to watch the whole thing if you don't want to. I post it because it sparked a train of thought: why is it in these zombie games towns never look like towns?

Sure, they have certain town-like attributes, but tell me truly: have you ever seen a small town in one of these games that doesn't look as if it were put together with Lego? People live here, work here, are born here, die here - and in a zombie apocalypse they're still dying here. Yet it's all oddly designed houses and suspiciously well-positioned radio towers as far as the eye can see. There's no sense of history, no real indication of what this place was like before the zoms came to zom everything up.

So this time out I'm going to draw on All Flesh Must Be Eaten ruleset by Eden, probably the best zombie survival game in print. My copy's the 2005 revised edition. I assume this is a game for Normals, in which the Basic Zombie (p146 main book) is the most common adversary. This means a player character with 50 build points can handle up to 10 zombies at a time. About 10% of the walking dead are improved versions of one kind or another, which get 10 extra Power points spent on them. That's the crunchy rule bit of this post.

I'm also going to draw on this article about the 27 most successful small business ideas for small towns. This is where I'm going to get my location inspiration. Finally I'm going to pick a town from this list of the prettiest small towns in Georgia, because why the hell not. Never kill yourself with work when someone else has already done it for you. Besides, I'm told there's a popular zombie series set in Georgia.

I'm reluctant to set this anywhere there's more than 4,000-odd people. That excludes a few towns on that list. So let's have a pop at Madison, Georgia. It even has a useful tourism website.

Named after an American President and incorporated in 1809, this township is Georgia's largest historic district. It avoided destruction during Sherman's march as one of its residents was a prominent pro-Union politician. This meant its antebellum plantations and homes survive in remarkable condition, luring tourists by the thousand.

This is a fictional version of Madison so let's not call it that. Let's call it Monroe, after Madison's successor. What's it like there? Well, Monroe has:
  • art galleries
  • museums
  • antebellum architecture
  • fancy restaurants & bars
  • Civil War memorabilia, including a statue donated by the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
  • a farmers' market
  • antique shops
Plus other locations to be detailed. Already you should be getting a picture of Monroe, Georgia. You could probably name some of the streets if you tried, and some of the kinds of homebrew you can find on tap in the bar.

OK, time to add the zombies.

I'm not going to get too detailed here. There was an outbreak. It went about as well as you might expect. We are now two months in. Initial attempts at quarantine failed miserably, as did most federal and state bodies. While there probably is a federal or military presence somewhere, it's nowhere near Monroe. There is no state-wide power grid, but there are still plenty of generators and fuel for same. Communication is spotty, and almost entirely radio-based. Some landline telephones work, none of the mobile phones do. The internet is offline for good.

Human population of Monroe has shrunk to about 10% of pre-apocalypse numbers, split 50/50 between locals and non-locals. Assuming a pre-apocalypse count of 4,000, that means there are 400 people left alive scattered across a mostly rural or historic area something like 24 sq. km. large. Further assume that 10% of that 400 were in positions of some authority before this happened. State police, former members of a Federal organization like the CDC, local politicians - anyone who might reasonably be expected to lead and organize people. 

Now we come to those 27 small business ideas. I'm not going to go through all 27. That would break my brain and yours. However I am going to pick six, and see what a zombie apocalypse might do to them.

Coffee Shop & Bar: Before the apocalypse this place served coffee during the day and liquor after 4pm. Warm Discussions is near the farmer's market, just off the corner of Plum Street and S Main. A fire in the business next door shortly after the outbreak damaged the exterior, but the walls and roof are still sound - it's mostly smoke damage. Décor: exposed brick, brass & leather finishing. Location can be secured if the following entry points are dealt with: broken window front, main entrance, fire exit. Partially scavenged. Food & liquor on site in small quantities. Two Molotov cocktails on site. High velocity handgun on site with a dozen rounds. Location overrun by (Z=PCx5) basics plus one special with The Lunge, Teeth.
Bakery: Born and Bread in Monroe is a 1920s brick build on James Avenue within sight of Centennial Park. A firefight shattered most of the front windows but they have been boarded up. Bullet marks pock the exterior. Décor: glass, art deco, tile. Location has been secured. Location occupied by four survivors including one soldier, leader of the group. Food and liquor on site. Small stash of medicine on site. Three firearms, over a hundred rounds total, and three clubs on site. Group attitude: unwilling to trade unless materials to fix their radio are on offer. 

Food Truck: The Gourmet Machine specialized in BBQ with its signature Satan's Surprise mustard sauce. A firefight blew out its two front tires and it hit a wall on Bacon Street. If the tires were replaced the truck is in fair working condition and could be driven away. It would need further repair, but nothing too serious. Style: black & flame red exterior. Site has been secured, but it's a food truck - breaking in is not difficult. Location occupied by former CDC scientist, who is using it as a temporary base of operations after her last safe house was destroyed. Food on site, including plenty of Satan's Surprise. CDC medical equipment (travel bag) on site. One handgun and twelve rounds of ammunition on site. Survivor attitude: grateful for any assistance. Prefers authority figures.

Flower Shop: After all, it worked so well for Silent Hill. Pansy Petal was a family business run at the same location for over 15 years. The ground floor has been completely abandoned; there are survivors on the roof, growing vegetables. Décor: 90s chic, with a thick overlay of zombie destruction. Ground floor overrun by (Z=PCx4) basics. There is a means of getting up to the roof, but not through the flower shop; it can be done by going through the building next door. Food on site. Small supply of medicine on site. Location occupied by two survivors trying not to draw attention to themselves. One baseball bat on site. Survivor attitude: grateful for any assistance.

Bowling Alley: Splittsville is a 50s theme alley with vintage jukebox and pinball on site. The alley has been boarded up and is obviously being defended; it has working security cameras and a radio antennae on the roof. Décor: Happy Days, right down to signed posters and Fonzie for President chotchke. Food and liquor on site. Medicine on site. Power supply from portable generator runs security cameras & electric traps on the main doors. Location occupied by half a dozen survivors three of whom are cops. Two shotguns on site, 50 rounds. Three heavy handguns on site, 80 rounds. SMG on site, 50 rounds. Sword on site. Clubs on site. Group attitude: unwilling to cooperate, feels that its supplies are just enough to keep group safe without taking risks. Prepared to steal from others.

Pet Grooming and Boarding: Bark and Buzz Spa & Board is a very new business that, had the apocalypse not intervened, was due for Chapter 11 by the beginning of the next financial year. Décor: cheap and desperate. Paint, carpet, equipment all lowest possible standard. Lots of pet toys. Food on site, so long as you like eating dog chow. Radio on site. Pedal bike on site. Location overrun  by (Z=PCx7) basics plus one, the former owner, with Animal Cunning & Long-Term Memory.

So what did I do, exactly?

First, I picked a real-world location and copied some of its characteristics. This gives Monroe a lived-in feel. Then I borrowed some business ideas from a small business website. That gave me potential locations and some cues as to what those locations might be like. Then I searched online with terms like 'pet grooming store names' or 'bakery names'. There's any number of marketing sites out there which do this sort of thing all day long. After that I pencil in a few details about the occupants and the kind of gear that might be found on site. Nothing fancy. The folks at Splittsville might be major antagonists, or bumps in the road - no way to tell until the game starts and the players add their own flavor. For all I know the CDC researcher might end up the supreme villain. Or it might be one of those games where the actual antagonist is the situation, and the only thing the characters have to do is survive.


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