Monday, December 27, 2010

All Flesh Must Be Eaten initial thoughts

With our current Shadowrun campaign having ended we’ve decided to play a couple of other games over the next several weeks before we start up another. Next up on the agenda is the zombie horror game All Flesh Must Be Eaten. No one in the group, including myself, has ever played this before so it will be a new experience for all of us. Character creation is scheduled for this week so I’m trying to learn the rules since I will be adding Zombie Master (ZM) to my resume. Going into the game I do have some concerns about how the game will go. Before proceeding I would like to say that All Flesh Must Be Eaten is the greatest name in the history of roleplaying games.

The zombie genre is characterized by hordes of mindless combatants overpowering a group of survivors who are, most likely, at each other’s throats. To me that does not sound like a great game to run. Except for the players being at each other's throats. Why? Well, for starters the main enemy that I will be throwing at the party is mindless. Not even mindless in the way that gnolls and robots are mindless, but more like masses of gelatinous cubes coming after the party. What do I do with that? I mean, I love gelatinous cubes. Once every other campaign it’s great for an unsuspecting rogue to get trapped inside and have their equipment eaten. But if the vast majority of the opposition are all cubes? Even the occasional ochre jelly wouldn’t be enough to spice it up. It’s hard to play it dumb. I’ve always taken the approach that I place enemies in the world and they have an agenda and then they just sort of do their own thing. Sure, I’m controlling them but they are really like windup toys unleashed against the players. I think with All Flesh Must Be Eaten I need to take a more active role in things happening to the party in relation to what they do. Normally I wouldn’t do that, but I think it might make for a better game. More dead ends when being chased (as opposed to Path A being a dead end, and Path B leading to freedom), more crumbling staircases, more party strife and the like. I think I would also like to experiment with more “smart” zombies, but that is a little further down the road.

The other aspect that really concerns me is combat. In general combat against great numbers of weak foes is about the most boring approach. It takes a while, the party is never really in danger, and there is not much reward for it. From time to time it’s fun to do and allows the party to kick some ass. Right when that wizard gets Fireball or the rigger picks up a new autocannon, hordes of enemies are great to just mow down like target practice. But when that’s the norm? I’m not so sure. But that’s the thing about zombies. They are scary because they are essentially endless. You can never kill all the zombies. I hope that the party doesn’t try to. And I realize that an adventure in AFMBE isn’t about killing the boss, it won’t be structured that way but I would hate to see things drag as a result slow combat. And since this is the first time that we are playing I imagine that things won’t be running at top speed.

I like games and I always excited to try new ones, as is the case with AFMBE. If nothing else we have a fun group of players and I’m sure that we will enjoy the game. There are several types of characters in the game, ranging from norms (just what it sounds like) to Inspired (who have magical powers). We have chosen to play norms because it seems most representative of the actual genre. I think it’s also worth noting that no one in our group is a total zombie fanatic (not that I know of), so I don’t feel a ton of pressure to adhere to the genre to a tee.

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