The Western Zombies Game

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Daniel Solis recently blogged about "rolling to hit" in RPGs, and how to approach the issue in various ways. This reminded me of a game I threw together for a game-day back in 2002, so I went and dug through some old boxes and found my notes.

The Western Zombie Game

  • Each d6 is a bullet. You have 6d6 in your trusty Colt Peacemaker pistol.
  • When you shoot at a zombie, roll Xd6, up to the number of bullets remaining in your gun.
  • The numbers rolled tell you where you hit. 1,2: legs, 3: arms, 4,5: torso, 6: head.
  • A head-shot instantly destroys a zombie.
  • A leg-shot slows a zombie (moves 1 instead of 2). Two leg hits immobilize a zombie (it moves zero and can’t lunge, but can still bite and claw).
  • Any number of arm hits weaken a zombie. It attacks at lower strength (-1d6).
  • A torso-shot has no effect on a zombie. EDIT: A torso-shot blows through a zombie. Roll the die again as a hit on any target behind the zombie, up to 2 squares away.

  • When you reload, pick up a number of dice equal to the number of bullets you want to reload. The GM also picks up one die. Count down, 3! 2! 1! then you both roll your dice.
  • GM: Acting like a lumbering zombie, pick up another die. Moan. Roll the die. Does it match any of the dice you’ve rolled? If it does, shout URGH! Reloading stops right now and the zombies nearest the player take a turn! If the dice don’t match, pick up another die, moan, and repeat until reloading stops.
  • Player: After you roll your dice, you have to quickly pick them up again -- one at a time -- and place them back on the table with their top faces in numerical order, starting with 1 and counting up. If you do this, shout LOADED! Reloading stops right now. If you beat the GM (you shouted LOADED before she shouted URGH) then you get to shoot before the zombie(s) go.

The Map
Use a square grid map. Draw in some buildings like a western frontier town. Indicate where some weapons are scattered around, too.

A zombie can move 2 and attack.
  • Zombie Claws & Teeth: Range 1. Damage 2d6.
  • Zombie Lunge: Range 2. Damage 1d6, knocks target prone.

A PC can move 2 and do something (shoot, close a door, pick up a gun, reload) -or- move 3.
  • Sawed-Off: Range 3. Holds 2 shells, which are d10s. Any 6+ hit destroys a zombie.
  • Pistol: Range 4. Holds 6 bullets, which are d6s.
  • Shotgun: Range 5. Holds 5 shells, which are d8s. Any 6+ hit destroys a zombie.
  • Rifle: Range 6. Holds 12 bullets, which are d6s.
  • Dynamite: Range 4. Damage 10d6, distribute hits to target square and every target adjacent.

That's all there is. I guess we figured out the missing bits, because I remember playing this and having all manner of fun. Maybe there's enough there for you to give it a try, if you have a mind to.

Anyway, to Daniel's point, there's a game that's all about shooting zombies and it manages to be tense and fun, even though you can't ever miss.


Blogger John Harper says:  

I guess a torso hit is kind of like a miss, though, since it has no effect. Hmm. So, instead, this:

> A torso-shot blows through a zombie. Roll the die again as a hit on any target behind the zombie, up to 2 squares away.

That seems like fun.

Blogger Kit says:  

Any way you could make this a beautiful PDF with your delightful skills?

Blogger John Harper says:  

If it ever turns into an actual game, yes. :)

Blogger lucek says:  

Cute. Will play it tomorrow on the convention :-)
We love you, John Harper! (the Official Polish Church of John Wick Alive on Earth).


Blogger John Harper says:  

Cool! Let me know how it goes.

Blogger Micah says:  

I know that "mini-game" is used mostly negatively, but I don't see it that way. I think of it as a really fun (other-wise it would be called an "in-game mini work assignment") game element that helps draw a player into, or contributes to, the fiction. Reloading here, is a great example of a mini-game that really works.

Good stuff.

Blogger lucek says:  

Aaaaand we played... Lady Blackbird! And failed a bit ;-)
We will play The Western Zombie Game tomorrow (2).


Anonymous Gimomo says:  

Damn it! Nice work as per usual.

I've been drafting out a lite rpg game that's sort of Black Hawk Down meets 26 Days Later. Think commandos in a balls-to-the-walls situation, complete with a simple deck of glossy cards to represent random events and loot ("mission assets" like a gunship strafing run).

You pulled off the mechanics much better than I did, though.

Blogger Pete says:  

Thanks for posting this. We had a blast at the high school gaming club playing it.

P. Figtree
an exploration of gaming in the classroom

Blogger John Harper says:  

Cool! Glad you enjoyed it, Pete.

Blogger Daniel Solis says:  

Linked to this on my blog! (Accidentally attributed to Josh Roby, because I'm dumb.)

My only suggestion? Get some western drawl in the title. "It Don't End When Ya Bury Me"

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