We gathered again yesterday at Dice Age to play some more Gamma World. It was brutal. It wasn’t a TPK, but there was a lot of player character death. I am always wary of killing off player characters. I want the players to have a good time, but at the same time, I want to make the players work, and realize that there are risks.
The game was a full house. We had eight players, along with me. Dice Age was packed also. We had a completely new player from work, Teague. Bill also showed up again. With eight people plus me at the table, we had many parallel and crossing conversations going on. Since Dice Age was packed, we had a lot of noise from people playing other games at nearby tables. We didn’t have much time or ability to mess with Jirimiah, which was OK. He was pretty busy with customers, so it was probably a good thing that we left him alone.
We played Gamma World again. Mike showed up with his new Dungeon Fantasy powered by GURPS box. I got mine earlier in the week. It is a piece of awesome. Mike is stoked. both Mike and I emailed the same comment to Steve Jackson Games… When will there be a Post Apocalyptic box set powered by GURPS? We both know that there is already a lot of PA stuff for GURPS in the basic GURPS 4th Ed and 3rd Ed stuff. However, the Dungeon Fantasy is already covered by a lot of stuff, like the basic set, and the expansion books for Fantasy, Magic, Thaumatology, Low Tech… But having one concise set of books for Dungeon Fantasy is pretty sweet.
I am a horror fan in general. The horror can range from anything from ghosts, zombies, vampires, space, genetics gone wrong, and just about anything between. I prefer more thinking horror rather than splatter horror. I prefer a little bit of jump scare, and leaving the movie thinking “damn, that is messed up.”
For example, one of the movies that I keep coming back to is The Rapture, starring Mimi Rodgers and David Duchovny. The story is about a swinger who lives a life of hedonism until she discovers Christ and is saved. However, due to a series of horrible events, she loses her faith. In the end, the rapture occurs, and she must reaffirm her love for Christ, or be damned to hell. OK, not ghosts, goblins, psychotic jump scare horror, but the movie was effective in making you sit there and think “damn, that is messed up”. And for several days later, I was still thinking “damn, that is messed up”.
Another subtle horror movie that is a favorite of mine is Mister Frost, starring Jeff Goldblum. In this movie, he is a murderer who is arrested and put into a psychiatric ward for murdering people and burying them in his back yard. But he may be more than just a murderer. There is this ongoing thing with baking and prepping fancy cakes and then throwing them out that adds an odd touch to the mystery of the movie. There is no gore. It is all psychological. But creepy at the same time.
Now, with all of that, I also truly enjoy a good straight up horror film. I will watch every movie in the Underworld series. I will also watch most any zombie move or TV show made. Molly likes vampire stuff. She doesn’t like the zombie stuff. She dislikes the zombie movies for the same reasons that I like the zombie movies.
In a vampire movie, there is one protagonist. Maybe a coven of protagonists. And there usually is no overt breakdown of society. In general, the vampires try to hide their depraved acts from the overall society, since their weakness would be if people got smart and started hunting them effectively. While a vampire is strong, it still can be defeated.
Zombies on the other hand, represent the complete breakdown of society. There are multiple threats in the complete breakdown of society. The first one is the overt threat of the horde of zombies coming for you. The other threats include what the human race will do to each other to try to survive. Then there is the issue of quickly dwindling resources. Where are you going to find food, water, ammunition, medical supplies, fuel…?
This triple threat is fascinating to me. Not fascinating to me in the way that I want to live it, but fascinating to me in a clinical way. In some ways the zombie threat is almost a lens at looking at ethnic cleansing in certain parts of Africa, or the Balkans.
I believe that the primary reason why we are “nice” to each other is because we have a rule of law that keeps enough people from stealing, murdering or other horrible acts on each other. The reason for this is that the results of getting caught are worse than what their position would be if they keep in line. Religion adds to that. Do what the Good Book says, or you will be banished to an eternity of pain and suffering. Some people do bad things regardless of the consequences. They are driven by madness, hate, intolerance, or a lack of general empathy. I believe that most people are generally weak, and all need some form of crutch to do the right thing. I am not excluding myself from this list. Most people have one or more of the following that they use as a crutch to do the right thing…. religion, drugs, fear of what happens if they don’t do the right thing (go to jail instead of living their lives)… the list goes on and on.
People have some level of empathy, but many people are weak, and given the right conditions, such as basic survival, or being brainwashed into thinking that all of their problems are created by person of <X skin color, X religion, X ethnic background, X belief system>, they can compartmentalize them as undesirable to their own self.
So where am I going with all of this? I don’t really know. I am just typing out what I am thinking at the time. That is what a blog is for, isn’t it?
So I love zombie shows and movies. I started watching Z Nation last week on Netflix. Molly is not impressed. I like it. It has the right combination of desperation, snark and gore to appeal to me. It deals with the issue of lack of equipment via a deas ex machina method. Oh, the truck ran out of fuel, we walk until we find another vehicle just before the zombie horde comes… In one episode, they were in a town in the mid west when a zombie horde came through. The people ended up hiding in a mortuary, in the corpse refrigerators while the horde passed.
I also appreciate that most of the show was filmed in the Spokane area, and they try to pass the terrain in Spokane off as though it is upstate New York, or the midwest. Ok, maybe that isn’t a real selling point, but I still enjoy that aspect.
So far, Z Nation is holding my interest. Many times, a show like that holds my interest for a while, then I get tired of it. I followed Walking Dead for about 4 seasons, then got tired of it. It is a good show, but I realized that they were just building up in each episode to the uber gore scene. Then, there was the gratuitous zombie kill scene, or every fourth episode, one of the main characters would get glicked. I read the comics for about 7 years. Then I got tired of it too.
This probably is due to my ADHD. I just get bored, and need something new. Even if I am enjoying the show, I move on. For instance, I really like some of the Netflix shows from the Marvel universe. Luke Cage is pretty awesome, so is Daredevil. I was able to get through about a half dozen episodes of Daredevil (which is so much better than the movie), and even got to the point where Vincent D’Onofrio was introduced as Wilson Fisk (Kingpin), and went AWESOME!. Then, I stopped watching it. I love Vincent D’Onofrio. I love Kingpin. The show is really good. I just lost interest.
I initially watched about 4 episodes of Luke Cage, and really liked it. Then… I stopped watching it. It was really good. I just lost interest. The characters are compelling, the plot is good. The show is edited well. I just stopped wanting to watch it.
It is kind of odd. I can read an 800 page book, and stay engaged in it. I can read a series of books, and stay engaged. But when I watch something on the TV, I get bored. It may be that when I watch things on TV, I am consuming another person’s vision of what the world is, what the actors look like, how they sound… When I read a book, I am allowed to use my own imagination to fill in the voices, background, colors… Reading a book is not a passive thing for me. I am actively engaged in the story (assuming the story is halfway good). That is the same thing for roleplaying games for me. The book, or module provides some portion of the story, and I need to fill in the rest of the world with my imagination, and that is done as part of a combined storytelling effort with friends at a table. This is probably why I don’t care for video games. The same reason as I get bored with TV and movies. My mind is consuming, as opposed to being creative. Well, video games are also a problem for me because my hand to eye coordination sucks. I mean really sucks. Really really really sucks.
So what does all of this have to do with zombies or post apocalyptic role playing games? Not much. I was writing the blog for a while this morning while Molly and Kitty were asleep. Just me and the dogs. Gavin was working. Then Molly came in about four or five paragraphs back and we chatted for about an hour. Then Kitty came in and added to the conversation while the dogs were lounging. My mind was in a different place after the conversation than before… hence, the blog blather changed.
So I was talking about zombies. I am fascinated by the possibility of total societal breakdown. I have been fascinated by the concept of anarchy since I first heard about the concept. Not that I want to live in a broken society, in a state of anarchy. I happen to really like the fact that my house has power, which allows me to have hot coffee (with the grounds purchased from Safeway), and the heat and AC work, along with the Internet where I can purchase books on Amazon, along with knowing that my Kia Soul has a full gas tank, and I can drive around town without having someone attack me.
With all of that, the concept of anarchy is clinically fascinating to me. Once again, I am not interested in living in a state of anarchy. The possibility of the human condition existing in a state of anarchy creates many possible futures. These could be after the bomb, a zombie apocalypse, a Red Dawn situation where Cuba attacks Spokane, or some other thing where our world is consumed by chaos.
I spent six years as a nuclear, biological, chemical warfare expert in the Army. I learned about how things worked when you did nasty things to people. I also grew up during the cold war. The possibility of a nuclear attack was very real. Still is. We are now in a time when the Russians have lost track of their fissionable material, rogue groups are trying to do horrible things to each other, and the leaders of North Korea are rattling sabers with the rest of the world, and specifically the USA. The possibility of a dirty bomb or an actual fissionable device blowing up via shipborne or airborne attack is very real. It doesn’t help that the current US President is acting like a petulant fool, and is willing to play double dog dare with North Korea. This is like a sick version of sticking a tongue on the frozen flag pole from a Christmas Story.
The sad thing is that this is funny when the kid is sticking his tongue to the frozen pole, but it is not funny at all when we have two highly immature world leaders who are calling each other names on the world stage. I mean really, what the hell good can come from President Trump calling Kim Jong Un “Rocket Man”. What possible good can come from that?
Will North Korea be able to nuke enough of the US to destroy us? Probably not. They could do something like a targeted shot against a western port, like Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, San Francisco. They could also release an EMP pulse which could do huge damage to the electronic and electrical infrastructure. We retaliate, as President Trump has said we would to “destroy North Korea”
“The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”
Which he stated in his UN Speech last week… So where does this all get us? Closer to anarchy. It could be through nuclear combat. It could be through more people emboldened by a president who has little diplomatic skills, with the emboldened people thinking that they should show off their Nazi beliefs…
I long for a time when Yoda sat with King Faisal as the king signed documents entering Saudi Arabia into the UN Charter. We need more times of contemplation and deep thought that will help us use clearer heads.
I don’t think that this is too much to ask for.
It is certainly better than when Darth Vader worked with the British and French governments in 1919 to divide up the Ottoman Empire to create the current day middle east countries via the Sykes–Picot Agreement. We all know how that ended up.
So, you say… “Rob, we have suffered through almost 2,500 words of blather, and still know nothing about what happened in yesterday’s game.”
Well, that is not completely true. I did mention at the beginning that to loosely quote Julius Caesar, “Venimus, vidimus, et mortuus est” which means “we came, we saw we died” This is not as good as the term “Veni, Vidi Velcro”, which loosely translated means “we came, we saw, we stuck around.”
Last week, it was more like “Sanctus cacas nos nimis eruditionis habes” which translates to the English equivalent of “Holy shit, we are fucked”
Now, you ask, do I know Latin? No. But I do love the movie Life of Brian, and I found an English to Latin translator on google.
I barely speak English competently.
So the players met, all eight of them, plus me. We sat around a table and started in the first kill box. This encounter involved moving down the steps from the last encounter, and attacking several badders. They found the same type of sniper badders as the last game, and they found a new type of badder, this one can hit them with a psychic wave of damage. They also found that the overall dungeon was crowded, and difficult to get around.
Shari helped out by triggering her ability to cause radiation damage to any character within 3 squares of her… but that was problematic since she placed herself in a place which was very hard to get around that space and still attack the bad guys. The cluttered area was good for the bad guys, since they were already set up. Shari made it challenging.
The party came rolling into the first room, and were able to do some damage, however, the new type of badders released several psychic blasts which really hurt the players. Teague went down. Hard. Her character was the first to go down. Dead dead. Not an auspicious way to get back into roleplaying games. Die in the first few minutes of the encounter.
The combat was horrible and nasty. In the end, Teague, Sue and Shari all died. The male players all lived. I am not sure what to read into this, as I was trying to randomize who would attack whom. The problem for the players was that the psychic blast badders would recharge their psychic blast if they rolled a 5 or 6 on their turn, and they kept rolling 5’s and 6’s.
In the end, to be fair, I asked Sue if the badders should be mean or not. She would roll a dice and say “evens mean, odds not mean”. If the evens came up on the die roll, then they would pop off their psychic blast if they could, and most of the time they would. Now, I didn’t tell Sue what to do to make them mean. After all, Sue could have said “mean only if I roll a 1 on a d20”, but she rolled the d6 for evens / odds.
The party did figure out how to stop the carnage. This is where the roleplaying comes in. Someone, I think it was Bill decided to try to use his power to stun the badders in one group, then have the m fight each other instead of the party. This worked well. Then the party tried another RP, where they gave temporary amnesia to two of the nasty badders with the psy attack and then convinced the remaining badders to leave. They did. The party lost three characters before they figured out to do this.
The living party members rested for five minutes while Sue, Teague and Shari picked out new characters, rolled for equipment, and we started the second encounter.
This one seemed to go pretty well. The chamber included glowing blue moss all over the place, along with a spiraling pit path leading down to a lower level. There were two dog sized moths (not moth sided dogs) flying around in the room along with three blood red birds. The dog sized moths looked like this:
This went poorly for the party also. They thought it was going to be a cakewalk, until the moth hit the party with radiation burns from the eyes. The attack was pretty nasty. The other thing that surprised the party was that with the Yexil, it could do some nasty radiation damage with its eyes, but that was a one-shot, and the Yexil couldn’t to it a second time.
The moth, AKA Blaash, could use their radiation eyes over and over again. The birds also were nasty. If they pecked at you with their beaks they did both physical damage, and they also burned you with radiation if you started your turn next to their square.
The party ended up killing off most of these critters, and were feeling pretty confident, until the reinforcements arrived. Two psychic badders, and two normal badders. These guys did some real damage to the party, killing off several members including Bill, Eric and Shari.
Brian bravely moved to a spot far away from the party and the bad guys and proceeded to attack from the far side of the cavern. Teague tried to fly to the last remaining moth to kill it, and was hurt pretty badly.
Mike survived because I forgot to pop off a dying strike from one of the badders. If that had occurred, Mike’s Verminator would have been killed too.
All in all, everyone had fun. Even in death, the party enjoyed itself. At least, they made eye contact with the game master, and said “we will be back for more next week”, except Teague, who said something like “I may be back next week… ”