I will never be an artist. It was fun to tinker with water colors after 30 years. Sure, I used a coloring book because I cannot draw. Get it. Time for more paint.
I wrapped up reading Welcome to Mortiston, USA over the lunch hour today. Overall, I was quite pleased with the work.
78 pages, Available June 8th
Mortiston is first and foremost a modern setting supplement. While it is billed as a generic zombie apocalypse setting, the zombie element is not significant. If you are looking for detailed zombie apocalypse back story along with the uprising as a focal element, Mortiston will fall short. In fact, game masters can easily ignore all mentions of zombies and just use the locale as a setting for any modern apocalypse setting. Just shift the zeds to some other invader or group and the supplement will work out of the box.
The author, Mark Cookman, focuses primarily on people, interesting places, and the shifting dynamics within the small city. He strikes a great balance of detailing important personas and locations while allowing the GM to add as much detail as desired. The non player characters are presented in detail. Each and every major survivor has a good history with interesting hooks. The trope of skeletons in the closet is a bit overused but doesn’t detract significantly from the focus of the work. Mortiston supports five different systems. Stat blocks are presented for each NPC for every supported system inline with the text. While the multi-system support is admirable, I would have rather seen the stat blocks for each particular individual in an appendix rather than inline. About 1/3 of the page for each character is devoted to statistics.
Locations, like characters, are well represented. Each location is detailed on an individual page containing not only a description but also loot worth items across the timeline. Characters present in the locations based on the timeline are also discussed, which really helped pull together the people presented in the character section of the book. Many locations include a relationship table for the differing groups within Mortiston. However, the groups are not detailed until the subsequent section. As I was reading, I kept wondering why the table was present. It is a useful feature but I’d have preferred having the group dynamics detailed prior to the locations. What really left me wanting was the complete lack of individual location maps. No location is represented in map form. The descriptions are detailed but every GM is going to need to sketch out a set of maps to aid players.
The faction/group section of the supplement doesn’t show up until near the end of the book. Throughout the characters and location sections, factions are mentioned in passing but the linear reader has no idea of the general groupings in town. The section should have prefaced the characters and locales. Especially considering it is a brief 2 pages. Likely an oversight of editing with comprehensive knowledge of the environment.
The last major element of the book is both at the start and at the end — the Timeline. Day one is presented at the start of the book while Z+1 and subsequent events are not detailed until the end. For a reader, I understand the split because the initial Z-day timeline provides a great hook. As a game master, its bothersome because I have to flip between two discrete sections to correlate the details. Not a major negative but I’d have preferred it consolidated (even repeated) in one location within the book. Especially for the PDF — pages are cheap in PDF form. Not so much in a printed work.
I like the overall work but minor fiddly bits bothered me. The overall premise of Z-day seemed too busy. Four major events occur in one day. While they are correlated, I kept thinking it didn’t need to be so complex. The premise is one entry point. Absolutely nothing prohibits me from modifying the introductory events to meet my style of play. The author dictated on numerous occasions that the GM would need to fill in details. Shifting the introduction was not one of them but I’m certain he’d take no offense to changing it.
Zombies are almost completely absent in the book. For a zombie apocalypse setting, the token mentions are completely peripheral to the work. Odd? I thought so but the dynamics of the survivor groups make Mortiston more interesting. Survivors are the menace not the undead. Still, I would have liked to have seen more influence on the zombies in the overall work. Especially during the early days after the onset. My take is not the intent of the author. Early on he mentions zombies are just “icing”. Take that for gospel. Zombies are a very minor element.
Google+ has a great number of RPG folk on it. In turn, those cool people know more cool people. That’s how I stumbled onto Bryon Rempel and his 1000 Zombies project. Byron is offering to convert pretty much anything into a zombie for a $10 donation.
Byron is drawing each and every one of the 1000 zombies. Getting yourself transformed is quite simple… Here’s the process in his own words from his latest interview.
BR: There are not very many steps to getting zombified. Step 1 – the funding… a minimum donation of $10 lets you get someone or something zombified, either yourself, your pet, your family, coworker or boss, or anyone else you want to see join the walking dead. The donation can be made via PayPal (email@example.com) or you can contact me to get my mailing address and mail out a money order.
2nd step – send me a picture of the future victim, and let me know if I should go all out or keep the gore to a minimum. You can even suggest colours or backgrounds. I might not follow all the suggestions, but it never hurts to have your input. This is a publicly funded and directed art project after all.
Step 3 – the waiting game… you’ll get your turn, but in order. So if you are number 543 in the list, you get your zombie when number 542 is finished.
You can find Byron on Google+ or at idrawzombies.com. Why are you still reading this? Get your zombie on. I have 3 people in Byron’s queue. When they hit completion, I’ll be sure to post up the results.
Game prep always leads to thoughts on random generation. Up to bat are zombies. More specifically, I’m pondering zombies for ROTWORLD. I have already hand-crafted a dozen that will be featured in the game. Still, I’m going to need filler at some point.
My needs are more fluff than crunch. Good information on a random set of the folks behind the scenes so I can expound when needed and just cross them off the list as they’ve been terminated.
The bare bones process I’ve worked up includes sex, general age range, ethnicity, hair color, hair style, wound locations, wound severity/descriptions, and clothing style. Not all of the elements are well defined yet. Wound descriptions and clothing are still in progress.
I may add information regarding the rigor stages for the newly undead along with decomposition states as defined within ROTWORLD. Even those are mostly fluff. Usable information with little impact to game mechanics.
For the crunchier bits, I could add occasional occurrences of differing ability scores, movement, and specialized attacks. Doing so is trivial but all zombie worlds vary so I am leaning against it. The same goes for different intelligence levels and talents.
Do you need zombies? If you do, would you like options to enable the crunchier bits of the ROTWORLD system? Are there descriptive elements I have missed?
Zombies don’t feel. Why is that fact important? Modern weaponry is predominately designed to instil fear into a population. Most of the United State’s current weaponry has been developed to deliver a pinpoint attack with minimal peripheral damage. Smart bombs destroy confined targets as designated by GPS and laser designation.
The arsenal does have weapons delivering wide scale destruction. Those don’t matter. The stockpile of weapons can never be enough when the force to be countered lacks a survival instinct. Shock and awe are great buzzwords when fighting a population who can be scared into not responding. Zombies don’t care. So ninety percent of a group is killed? The other 10% keep marching forward intent upon feasting on the deliciousness of their kin.
Undead hold no concept of civilization or human constraints. Bombs can rend them along with an orphanage. Humans will shudder at the loss of the children. Zombies will march along blissfully unaware. Unless a succulent toddler is detected. The survivors will break upon the rocks of their own atrocities.
As survivors pile up the death toll outside a walled bastion, the zombies will keep marching forward. The dead zombies are nothing, were nothing to them. Feet atop exploded heads, the ghouls will march forward. The dead are nothing more than ground to walk upon. Ribs, femurs and skulls are a conveniently provided ladder toward the ultimate goal.
Humans once split time into two domains: B.C. and A.D. Sticking with history, we have again split time. Now we simple refer to Before or After. Exactly when Before stopped and After began depends on where you were when the dead started standing up. The outbreak was logarithmic. It started slow but within six or seven months it had circled the planet. Somewhere in that short span, After began for those who have survived.
The last shortwave news broadcast was over a month ago. News is a stretch. Mostly the man was repeating what he’d heard from others. Someone mentioned at least 5 billion souls had fallen. Over half of them had risen from death. Before, there were around 7 billion humans on Earth. Two billion humans versus 2.5 billion or more undead. Not good odds.
The United States was hit hard. Before, people lived in densely packed urban zones in temperate regions. Zombies thrive in regions where people cannot escape quickly. Like humans, they seem to prefer moderate temperatures. Those trapped in the metropolises of Before have long expired only to be reborn into a menace for the rest of us. Of the 300 million souls in the U.S., less than 10% remain. Likely far less.
The majority of the survivors were in the central regions and Alaska. States like Montana, Wyoming and others with small populations and large areas were less effected. Other areas with few large cities have had far fewer causalities. Suffice to say those who were mobile, more prepared for hardship, and willing to make unconscionable decisions are easier to find today. Those who chose to live in cities, had little food and water available, and were not prepared to exist without modern conveniences are now a minority. Survival requires grit. Being prepared and being capable of a bit of everything helps.
Back in June, I posted a commentary on FM 999-3 Counter Zombie Operations at the Fire Team Level. The field manual is a humorous take on procedures for an army fire team dealing with a zombie outbreak. Other than the cover, the work is obviously not a real field manual.
Today, I was informed not once but twice that I was violating federal law and was going to go to jail. No, not jail, I’m apparently heading to the Federal Pen. At least according to this fellow.
The first contact was a comment on the original article by dead man walking. The moniker makes me wonder if he isn’t one of the undead trying to thwart the distribution of the manual. Probably not, but he does have his underwear in a knot.
It was listed that a hard copy of FM-999-3 was available on this site. Obviously another lie. Production of any manual that “looks” authentic still is punishable by Federal law. That means 10-20 in prison for you morons who think this is all some game. You can not print anything that is marked as being from any Department of the Military without prior approval.. I work for the Army and have informed my superipors of this print and they will follow-up with proper recourse action.
Apparently I lied before lying. Very confusing. There is a quoted link to a hard-copy distribution site from the manual. However, it doesn’t lead to any location that distributes a dead tree variant. I’m unsure about the original fib. I suspect he was easily fooled and thought the work was more than it appeared. Humor is a dangerous beast. Hopefully his superipors [sic] possess a sense of humor.
This fellow has time on his hands. Posting the comment was not the end. He also hit my contact page and delivered an email. Again, he was dead man walking with an email address of widow.maker54@. After some thought, I discarded the notion he was the 54th zombie that only attacks married men. I want to believe he has strange predilections but based on all the lore I cannot comprehend the undead filling out a contact form. Yep, I’m slow on the uptake because he probably couldn’t post a comment either if he were dead. Unless he is one of those oddball smart zombies. Could be. More threats were delivered in the contact email:
All who are responsible for production of the FM-999-3 will and can be punished by Federal laws. It is NOT permissible to print ANY form of Military/Government manual/writings without the prior approval from that Department. Anything produced can be punishable by Federal Law. What you think it’s a”hoot” to do this? And it’s alright to make anything for a laugh? Well when you are sitting in a prison cell I’d like to see who is laughing then.
Federal Pen. Check. Not permissible. Check. Underwear wrapped around his left testicle cutting off brain cells. Check. Obviously he can read because he referenced the word hoot. I used it in the post. (Sadly, this is another strike against him being undead.) Reading doesn’t equate to comprehension. I want to respond to the email. First I need to work through all his points.
All who are responsible for production of the FM-999-3 will and can be punished by Federal laws.
Response: You need to reread what I posted. I’m not responsible for the production of FM-999-3. Why would I provide a bunch of links that don’t generate traffic to my site? The inter-tubes have this cool utility to check ownership of domains. Not to mention, if I were that witty, I would have stated ownership. I didn’t.
It is NOT permissible to print ANY form of Military/Government manual/writings without the prior approval from that Department.
Gotcha. I’m certain the original authors didn’t print it. Or claim it was a Military/Government manual. Sorry, widow.maker54, you cannot even get a copy of it here. It’s not mine (see above).
Anything produced can be punishable by Federal Law.
Check. You covered that in the first sentence. Are you sure you aren’t undead? Wait, maybe you work in the Department of Redundancy Department. They have cool t-shirts. You can buy nice knock-offs far cheaper. Wait, I got off track.
What you think it’s a”hoot” to do this?
Yes. Congrats on using the word hoot. Hoot is a difficult word to work into written materials. Very uncommon in conversation. Except when you are discussing owls.
And it’s alright to make anything for a laugh?
Not anything. Multiple subjects are off limits. I could not cross the line to mock the carnal sex lives of vampires. Unless they bother to fill out the contact form telling me its okay. I might wet myself if they do. However, dead but-not-undead man who walks, I did not make anything to make people laugh. You’ll have to track down the guy who wrote it. (See above).
Well when you are sitting in a prison cell I’d like to see who is laughing then.
So you are going to come visit? Shouldn’t we start as pen pals first? Having never been in prison, I think we need to work through the bureaucracy of visitation rules first. If you think I’m going to approve you for conjugal visits, you need to pull back on the reins. I’m not that easy.
I do wish you luck in sending your superiors (turns out you spelled that wrong) after me. I’m going to go mate with a friendly succubus. She promised she would visit me in prison.
I look forward to corresponding with you further. You may want to adopt a different moniker. Dead Man Walking makes you sound incarcerated for horrible crimes like pointing to satirical works. Not to mention widow.maker54. If you are looking for impact, being #54 doesn’t cut it. You seem like a low-level assassin whose about to get his ass kicked. The use of a hotmail address was top-notch. Nothing portrays authority more than a free email service.