Can You Survive?
Preview Character Creation in Zombie Apocalypse
“We just gotta survive. If we can hole up, we’ll be fine. The government will handle this. I mean, we’re just regular people. What could we possibly do?” –A survivor who hasn’t quite grasped the situation
It’s up to you and your friends to survive the rise of the undead in Zombie Apocalypse, the first book in The End of the World roleplaying line! Future books in this line will pit you against the Wrath of the Gods, an Alien Invasion, and the Revolt of the Machines, but for now, it’s your job to keep yourself safe from hordes of zombies desperately hungry for your brain.
In Zombie Apocalypse and every other book in The End of the World line, you’ll find a shared set of rules and five distinct scenarios, each offering a different take on how humanity may enter its final days and continuing through the post-apocalypse, as humanity adapts to a world forever changed. These books also give you the chance to experience the apocalypse in a unique way: as yourself, using your own skills, talents, and equipment!
Today, we’ll take a closer look at character creation within Zombie Apocalypse, exploring how to bring an abstracted version of yourself to life. In this preview, I’ll create a character version of myself for a game of Zombie Apocalypse.
What if I don't want to play as myself?
The character creation rules in Zombie Apocalypse and the rest of The End of the World roleplaying line allow you to create characters very unlike yourself. Instead of creating stats based on your own characteristics, you can simply envision a different person and create a character who embodies the traits and abilities of that person.
Physical, Mental, Social
Before you face the reanimated corpses rising from their graves, you’ll need a way to accurately reflect the characteristics that serve as the basic building blocks of your character.
There are six distinct characteristics that help define your character in Zombie Apocalypse and The End of the World roleplaying line. These six characteristics are split into three categories: physical, mental, and social, each consisting of a pair of characteristics. The physical characteristics are dexterity and vitality, the mental characteristics are logic and willpower, and the social characteristics are charisma and empathy. Each of these characteristics receives a number between one and five, which forms the basis for determining your success during a test, as we’ll explore in a later preview.
When I begin creating my character – an abstract version of myself – I have ten points to split between the six characteristics. Each characteristic starts at one, and none can be raised higher than five. I start by adding points to my mental characteristics, which I think of as my strongest category. It can be important to consider the differences between the offensive and defensive characteristics within a category when you assign points. In Zombie Apocalypse, logic represents your awareness of your surroundings and your ability to think on your feet, while willpower is your memory and mental resilience. With this in mind, I assign two points to logic and three points to willpower, raising them to three and four, respectively.
I split the remaining points between the physical and social categories, ending with a dexterity of two, a vitality of two, a logic of three, a willpower of four, a charisma of three, and an empathy of two. In Zombie Apocalypse, I’m most at home using my mind to outsmart the zombies, rather than facing them in combat or gathering a strong group of other survivors.
After I create the initial characteristics for my character, the group has the chance to vote on the accuracy of the result. For each category, the group secretly votes whether a characteristic should be raised or lowered. In my case, the group determines that one of my physical characteristics should be raised, and I raise my dexterity by one point, giving me a final dexterity of three.
What Makes You Different
Characteristics form the starting point for building your in-game version of yourself, but that’s not enough to differentiate you from the dozens of others fighting to keep their brains intact and survive another day at the end of the world. What truly sets your character apart from any other are your features – the strengths, weaknesses, special training, insecurities, and quirks that set you apart from everyone else.
During character creation, every player thinks of a positive feature and a negative feature for each category. A feature can be nearly anything you can think of – anything that makes you different from other survivors. For my physical category, I have the +Fast Reflexes and -Very Nearsighted features, along with +Well Read and -Easily Startled for mental and +Cheerful Disposition and -Too Proud for social features. Whenever one of these features comes into play in the game, it can add positive or negative dice to a test, as we’ll explore in a later preview.
The characteristics and features on my character sheet
In addition, because the group voted to raise one of my physical characteristics, I must either remove my positive feature for that category or take on another negative feature. I don’t want to lose my positive feature, so I add the -Gets Hungry Quickly feature to my physical category – a serious drawback in any apocalyptic scenario!
Grab Your Gear
Your game of Zombie Apocalypse begins with your group sitting down to play a roleplaying game, which means your gear is limited to whatever you may happen to have close to you. My list of gear consists of the objects close to me, and I’ll need to make important decisions about what to bring. I have a backpack and a half-full water bottle with me, as well as my wallet, which has $6.85 in cash. My cellphone has roughly ten hours of battery life left. I need to decide whether or not to take my laptop and its charger – it could prove useful for maintaining communication or gathering information, but it’s heavy and no one knows how long the Internet will keep functioning as more dead rise daily. I also find a welcome surprise in one of my backpack pockets – a fully-functioning compass that I’d forgotten!
Unfortunately, I don’t have many weapons at this point: I’m limited to a small, folding pocketknife and a pair of scissors. Finding better weapons means venturing out of the office, and it could prove a deadly first outing for me and my coworkers. We don’t have much food at the moment, but the Fantasy Flight Games Center across the parking lot could prove a valuable source of non-perishable food or kitchen knives for weapons… provided other panicking civilians haven’t had the same idea first!
Every survivor in the midst of the Zombie Apocalypse is massively different, and between features and characteristics, any player in your group can create a character that reflects himself. You may rely on your skills with making friends to survive, or you may manipulate those you encounter into helping you. Your fight for survival begins wherever you live, from sub-arctic climates to the equator. Zombie Apocalypse gives every player the chance to live (and die) in humanity’s last days!
Fight to Survive
Your characteristics, your features, and your equipment and gear all form parts of your character as you struggle to survive the impossible danger of Zombie Apocalypse. In our next preview, we’ll turn to rules developer Andrew Fischer for a discussion of how the rules for Zombie Apocalypse developed, including how players complete tasks and fight to survive in the last days of civilization!
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