It was a warm evening for January, the horizon viewable through the glass doors at the end of the great room was still golden orange and cloud streaked. Hunched over the table in the open-plan dining room I was sketching a map on the freshly unrolled battle map spread across the dinner table with dry-erase markers. It was a map of the south end of the lakeshore of Lake Ponchateaux. This included the gravel beach, the concrete flood control outlet next to the Old County Highway, along with a small boat launch with a rowboat and a few boathouses visible from the road at the far eastern end of the lake with two-story houses built at the tree line all the way around.
Jenn was cleaning up in the kitchen a few feet from me. We were waiting for Gil to show up with Isis and Cris, he would scoop them up on his way down from Glendale. We were already aware that the Carlos’ would not be attending as they had a family emergency a few days prior. It was not long after that I started drawing the map on the battle mat than the doorbell rang. Gil, Cris, and Isis walked in, Jenn greeting them. It took me a while longer to finish the map and by then everyone had already settled in and were ready to play.
Cris (to me): “So I guess we’re getting’ nuked today! Haw! Haw!”
Gil (suddenly looking up and over from his tablet device): “Whhat!?”
Cris: “During the first test play for Zombie Horror, the game ended with the city being nuked. We got caught in the shockwave, crashed our helicopter, and all died.”
Me (the GM): “Oh yeah. Hee, hee. I forgot about that.”
The adventurers’ caravan was at a dead stop. The walking dead were choking the east and west ends of the Old County Highway. They were trapped. At the head of both hordes were the large 10 ft. tall monster zombies complete with tank-like armor over their torsos, faces, and legs. The ominous red lights in their faces clicked in time to the zombie hordes’ march.
Kenny Logan the young soldier and William Fodder the survivalist were standing in the middle of the road as the others broke for the ditches at one side of the road and hopefully into the trees beyond. Though the landscape seemed to drop just after the tree line into a steep hillside. The group had positioned the tow truck and the other two cars to provide at least some barrier to the onslaught when they thought they were going to fight it out. Meanwhile, the remaining pair were going to “hold off and distract” the converging hordes armed with a flamethrower, M-16, and RPG-7.
Neither was going to get very far even if they tried to run with the others. Both were still badly wounded; William’s gut wound had begun to bleed again. He was going to bleed out without proper medical attention soon anyway. Kenny’s slash wounds from the grizzly had not yet healed and Lilith’s improvised brace still supported his bullet-crippled leg. He would not be able to traverse the sharp decline from the road.
As they ran through the trees and stumbled down a steep hillside, the others could hear gunfire, exploding grenades, and two rockets explode. Lilith (played by Isis), Wesley (played by Jenn), El Guapo (played by Gil), and Steve McCullen (played by Cris) ran blindly down the wooded slope trying to find their way to the lake.
Onto the Bloody Shore
The four survivors stumbled through the bush into a tight clearing where they could see a paved road that they assumed, rightly, turned towards the lakeshore from the Old County Highway ahead of them. They followed it taking concealment from the roadside foliage until it turned off sharply north. The group stumbled onto the gravel of the beach strewn with broken glass and old beer cans. They were next to a hummock, coming out of its face was a concrete slope and flood channel opening that drained runoff into the lake. There was a steady stream of foamy water flowing down the center of the concrete slope forming a bank of dirty white suds at the edge of the water.
They would have to either walk across the sudsy concrete or climb over and around the top of the rocky tree-strewn hummock to get to the beach proper. The group thought the flood control slab was too much of a risk and thus they began to climb the steep slope of the hummock.
They moved slowly up the steep hillside, El Guapo had to catch Lilith by the hand to keep her from taking a tumble back down towards the soapy drainage. Ahead of them all was Steve McCullen. He had climbed farther than the others by pulling himself along grasping at tree branches and the stave-like stems of shrubs. He stopped suddenly as he caught sight of an inflatable zodiac dinghy.
It was poorly camouflaged with freshly snapped branches and clumps of leaves thrown haphazardly over it. He climbed up to the dinghy and saw there was a satchel explosive device in it along with a remote detonator which had a red blinking light. The light caused Steve to recall the red blinking lights on the faces of the armored titan zombies. He bent down to examine the contents of the raft throwing aside the crude attempt at camouflage. There were fresh boot prints all around it, he could smell the freshly turned soil. Suddenly, he noticed a red laser dot dancing on his chest.
The bush erupted with automatic gunfire bursting from the crown of the hummock. Shredded leaves, pine needles, and shattered wood exploded all around the group as they hit the ground. Steve peaked above the raft and could see three commandoes crouching behind a low bush and another off to the right on his belly behind a mostly buried boulder.
Lilith pulled her 9mm pistol spasmodically shooting the ground right next to her in her panic. Steve looked back and sure no one was hit pulled the 30-06 rifle from his back and shot at the closest commando, the one behind the rock. A good portion of the boulder shattered spraying shards of decimated rock over the area forcing the soldier’s head down. A soldier at the top of the hill fired and winged Steve with an aimed shot. Another missed Lilith by a mile and a third hit Wesley causing a flesh wound and a bullet fired by the fourth soldier (behind the shattered boulder) whizzed by El Guapo’s head. Wesley shot back with her Desert Eagle blasting a chunk out of a tree near soldier number 3. El Guapo threw a headshot at the fourth soldier, the bullet skimmed off his helmet.
Lilith shot at the first soldier at the top of the hill correctly assuming he was the commanding officer, her shot shaved the bark off a tree just behind him. Steve steeled himself and readied his rifle. All heard the distinct sound of a safety lever popping off a grenade, the commander tossed a grenade at Lilith, it landed in the bushes and exploded blasting the area with choking clouds of dirt and disintegrated leaves.
Lilith had leaped to safety behind a rocky ridge and Steve had dropped to the ground playing dead. El Guapo was on his back wounded badly by the explosion he tried to recover his senses. The second soldier shot at Wesley hitting her in the side. The third peaked his head above cover with a spotter’s scope. He appeared to be counting. Wesley pulled her second Desert Eagle and took shots at both the third and fourth soldiers striking and killing the fourth but missing the third.
Steve fired from the ground missing the third soldier and still on the ground reloaded his rifle hoping the still inflated raft would serve as sufficient cover. The commander tossed another grenade perfectly landing it next to the zodiac forcing Steve from cover before it exploded destroying the raft but leaving its contents intact. Following his lead, the second soldier pulled a grenade and threw it hard nailing the tree directly in front of him. The grenade bounced back and landed in the box of grenades within all the remaining soldiers’ reach. All three screamed in horror under their gas masks a second before it exploded. Seconds later, the air was still foggy with flying leaves, pine needles, splinters, and smoke, the survivors could hear some of the trees creaking as they fell in slow motion. Most of the hummock was now clear of bush and tree.
Isis: “Well, somebody had to hear that!”
They dusted themselves off, assessed their wounds, and rushed to ascend the hilltop. Steve followed as he had taken time to pilfer the blinking device and several plastic explosive devices plus the remote that had been hidden in the dinghy.
Lake House of Bloated Horrors
They stumbled down the shallow incline into a clearing about 20 feet from a large two-story L-shaped lake house. Their ears were still ringing, and they were clearing dirt from their tearing eyes. Only Lilith saw the horde gathering, some very rotten, at the other end of the lake oozing out of the various other large lake houses.
Lilith: “Oh! Here they come!”
They finished clearing their eyes, pulled their guns, and started moving carefully around the L-shaped house. A small group of slow-moving zombies was milling around the open door of the house. They easily wiped those out when they realized the others from the next house over were already beginning to reach and surround them. Just as they were starting to pick those off a large, bloated greasy thing with a tentacle-like tongue dangling like a purple-black snake from its swollen blackened lips squeezed and slid through the open door.
Gunfire ensued. Collectively the group missed only a handful of shots though it still took a short while to put the zombies down. The bloated mutant, however, took several headshots before its head split like a rotten cantaloupe. Wesley and Steve had to dodge to avoid the thing’s tentacle-like tongue which had a razor-sharp tip. In the fight, Steve’s rifle jammed and he resorted to his bow. After the bloated horror dropped, he took the time to unjam the rifle as they beat it towards the rowboat.
However, admiring a large motorboat in the distance, El Guapo contemplated out loud about trying to get to a boathouse to try to get a motorboat, but the rowboat was the closest, a corpse and some spilled gas cans were on the beach near where the rowboat was tied to a short pier.
El Guapo: “Come on we can make it!”
Steve: “Are you sure? Man, look where they’re at and those big things! We’ll never make it!”
El Guapo: “They’re slow, especially the really rotten ones!”
Steve pointed out the large single horde that had formed and amongst them, several bloated horrors at the far end of the lake. It would be a race just to the rowboat. El Guapo convinced they took turns moving and shooting their way there. However, as soon as El Guapo reached the boat he saw that it had only a single oar. Steve took the time to turn the nearby corpse over when he reached it, its head mostly gone already. There he found the missing oar as Wesley and Lilith started to catch up to him. Wesley shot two zombies that were too close for comfort. Steve leaped into the boat and started to cut the rope with his knife.
Two bloated types were already getting close to the little pier as the last of the group, Lilith, jumped into the boat. Steve and El Guapo rowed furiously as a tentacle-like tongue shot over the water at them. Wesley plugged its owner right in the head with a double shot from her paired desert eagles. The horde began to gather and crowd the beach.
Steve: “Damn! Those yellow things are fast!”
El Guapo glanced over the side of the boat and spotted a blackened, slimy corpse just under the clear lake water. Steve spotted another on his side of the boat. Before they could say anything the creature on El Guapo’s side leaped up out of the water and gripped the side of the boat. Lilith missed it with her gun. Steve smashed it with an oar, but it kept its grip on the boat and began to pull back with its body weight almost capsizing the small rowboat. The other thing leaped onto the other side with a splash of water. Steve desperately tried to use his knowledge of boating to counterweight the first zombie to try to keep the boat from turning over.
Meanwhile, the second zombie lifted itself into the boat and snatched up Lilith’s arm after her gun misfired and sank its rotten teeth into the flesh of her arm. El Guapo smashed its brain out with his oar and Wesley splattered the other’s head with a bullet. They briefly contemplated just putting Lilith “out of her misery” right there and then but she convinced them otherwise. Steve worried that this decision would “bite” them “in the @ss later” (pun intended).
Smoke on the Water
The water was calm, and their wooded surroundings were strangely quiet, the sloshing of the oars and the water against the sides of the boat had a slight calming effect on all of them. After bandaging her arm with a generously donated rag torn from Steve’s shirt, she picked up and started to rig the satchel charge Steve had taken from the zodiac. Shortly, she handed Wesley her cell phone. She had wired it to be the remote for the bomb as she had disabled the blinking detonator “just in case”.
The exhausted group took turns rowing while letting Lilith alone to finish her work. They noticed what at first, they thought was a fog forming over the surface of the water until they saw the fires in the distance. The forest was burning. Far off in the sky, they heard several sonic booms before Steve spotted multiple jet streams far above them.
Steve: “Aw great! We’re gonna get nuked!”
Suddenly, a roaring jet screamed into view over the woods in the distance and a trail of fire exploded behind it as it lifted away. The military was firebombing the forest around the lake. Eventually, as the group neared the platform at the center of the lake, they briefly contemplated what the commandoes’ mission could possibly have been.
They bobbed towards the floating launches all around the base of the elevated platform. They could see a large freight-type elevator on some a stable concrete platform and two large apparently empty water taxis floating aimlessly next to the launches. When they got closer, they could see the visible interior of those boats were smeared with blood. They tied their boat off and approached the elevator. Steve inspected the doors. He could not put his finger on it, but something was bugging him about the elevator.
Lilith assessed it and found that it was functional. So, she got ready to press the button to open the doors while Wesley and El Guapo readied themselves on either side of the elevator doors. Steve stood a short distance away by the boat. After nodding and getting identical responses from El Guapo and Wesley, Lilith pushed the button. The doors squealed noisily and slowly open. Immediately the reek of rotten meat and the coppery stench of coagulated blood assaulted their nostrils. As the doors screeched to a stop, they revealed a solid wall of quivering gelatinous gore and shredded flesh from which some scraps of clothing hung like rags.
The wall of gore fell forward just missing Lilith as she jumped to the side. It began to slither its way towards Steve like an inchworm. Wesley, after realizing that it was too late to close the elevator doors, backed away from the awful biomass. El Guapo tossed a frag grenade into the creature, and everyone crumpled tightly to whatever structure was nearest. The thing blew apart in a black spray of foulness coating everything and everyone in a thick chunky layer of pungent grue.
After they made sure there were no more immediate threats, they entered the reeking blackened elevator and rode it up to the platform.
Belly of the Beast
As they entered the front door of what appeared to be the main building atop the platform El Guapo adjusted his new tactical vest taken from the sole zombie they encountered upon exiting the elevator. The dark blue vest had SECURITY emblazoned across the shoulders in bold white letters. They walked into the small waiting room; a receptionist/security desk was next to a long hallway. The fluorescent lights were still mostly working, about half were off and a few were blinking on and off and buzzing loudly. The entire place was as quiet as the grave. About halfway down that hallway, they could see swinging double doors which they guessed probably opened into a cafeteria.
Wesley was in the lead with El Guapo following. Lilith and Steve were taking up the rear as they moved carefully down the hall. The other end turned a blind corner, but they figured the elevators or stairs were there granting access to the other levels of the place. Wesley approached the cafeteria doors her back against the opposite wall. She could see bloody handprints all over the doors. In addition, she could hear faint scratching noises from behind the door.
She signaled behind her for the others to be quiet. She slid along the wall and El Guapo followed. Steve crept slowly and was a few feet away from the door when Lilith let out a loud groan as she doubled over in pain. The very second that they all let out a sigh the doors burst open as a group of zombies charged through the door. The group was split with zombies in between the two leading and the other two following.
Both parts of the group opened fire and kept shooting every zombie that began filtering through the doors. As the bodies began to pile high crowding the narrow corridor El Guapo tossed a grenade into the cafeteria. They finished off the surviving zombies one at a time. After all the zombies were taken care of, Steve and Lilith crawled over the pile of zombie bodies clogging the hallway. They finally made it around the corner and to their relief found an elevator and the door to the stairwell.
However, the elevator had no power. They noticed the elevator had a sublevel button in addition to the buttons for this floor, the one underneath, and the one above. As a result of the inoperable elevator, the group decided to take the stairs up and found the door that opened into an office choked with cubicles. However, the door was jammed with zombies trying to open the door by forcing it outward. Fortunately for the group, it opened inward. They tried the door anyway and found it was impossible to open while the zombies were piled and pushing up against it. They tried going downstairs. There they found a very solid security door that could only be opened via a keycard.
Steve: “Well, I think what we’re lookin’ for is downstairs.”
They spent the better part of an hour ransacking offices and closets and periodically checking the upstairs office door and the lower security door. Lilith even tried to open the electronic lock downstairs but triggered its failsafe effectively permanently locking it. Eventually, Steve walked all the way to the back of the hallway around the corner from the elevator finding a second security desk and small office. He found a power switch to the elevator behind the desktop and switched it on.
After a comparatively long elevator ride the doors opened up revealing a half-lit area of utility tunnels; bare concrete walls and pipes, conduits, and cables completely obscuring the ceiling from which the occasional light hung. It was El Guapo that first heard something following them via the ceiling hidden by the tangle of pipes and wires as they began to move down the tunnels.
After a few shots that ricocheted off the pipes, the thing dropped to the floor from the ceiling before charging Steve. It had long fangs, razor-sharp claws, and no skin; The creature was all raw slimy muscle and exposed bone. It wounded him savagely with a claw and was able to dodge a few bullets before Wesley got the brain shot.
Wesley: “I’m almost out of ammo.”
Steve: “Same here.”
El Guapo: “Yup.”
They continued on and Lilith got the idea to follow the power conduits to a large generator room. Inside was a large highly advanced generator that was covered in radiation warnings and nuclear material stickers. Next to that was a control booth with large observation windows. Through these, they could see a zombie security guard wandering aimlessly in circles that is until it saw them. The control booth door burst open, and the zombie shot at them with the 9mm pistol hanging loosely in its bone-white hand. Lilith took it out with a single well-placed shot.
Lilith (wiping the cold sweat from her forehead): “This is it! I’m gonna rig up the bomb to this thing and set this to overload. It’ll be a big boom!”
The group agreed to leave her here and proceed down another hallway that terminated in a single steel door. What Lilith did not tell them was that the wound on her arm had turned black and was weeping puss.
Wesley, Steve, and El Guapo had found their target was another keycard activated security door and it was locked. It took several minutes of ransacking the few offices down here to find the keycard they needed. They opened the door and found an empty room behind with another electronically locked door with a number pad and a small screen that had a warning in red letters running across it: REMEMBER 10 SECONDS TO INPUT SEC CODE AFTER CARD READ!!!!
They ignored it and used the card to open the door which had a 10-second countdown before the lock opened. As soon as the lock snapped open, a laser turret in the corner of the room shot and horribly wounded Steve. They ran from the room to take cover on either side of the outer door. El Guapo tossed a grenade in the room and hoped for the best. Surprisingly, he took out the turret without damaging the security door control pad. They continued on into what consisted of two crossing hallways and a series of small labs and some airtight chambers. The trio desperately combed the area for anything that would tell them what to do and, in their desperation, they split up.
El Guapo was walking past several large glass liquid-filled tubes each containing a muscular skinless corpse save one. He stopped when he realized he was walking in a large puddle of foul-smelling liquid and the last tube appeared broken and empty. His call to his companions was cut short as it was crushed out of him. A large skinless creature had snatched him up in its powerful arms from behind. He could not break its grip and it sank its teeth into his shoulder but could not bite through his tactical vest. A single shot rang out, one of the creature’s eyes exploded, and a gush of liquefied brains splattered right into El Guapo’s face. Wesley had saved him from the far end of the hallway with a carefully placed shot.
Steve hurried over shouting that he had found something. They followed him to a vault door that was already partially open. Peaking inside they realized it was an airlock with another such door on the opposite stainless-steel wall. They entered and pushed the button to open the door and seal the other behind them. When they entered the room, it was lined with shelves holding an unimaginable number of labeled vials and bottles.
Wesley: “Ha! Ha! This is it!”
El Guapo: “Okay. So, what are we looking for in here?”
His rifle was pointed at the far end of the irregularly shaped room. At the opposite end was a large square pillar obscuring the far part of the chamber which was basically an alcove. They heard slow methodical metallic and heavy footsteps coming from behind the pillar. The thing that stepped from the alcove was covered in some kind of gleaming black composite armor and wearing a full helmet complete with face mask. Built into one of its arms was a mini-gatling gun.
El Guapo: “Aw, s#*t!”
The zombie super-trooper sprayed the room wounding them all badly. They nearly emptied their guns at it thanking fortune that the creature was very slow and robotic in its movements. In a last-ditch effort, El Guapo tossed a second grenade, his last, at it. It retaliated by blasting him into a bloody mist leaving a galaxy of craters on the blood-spattered wall behind him. Steve tossed his only grenade and managed to blast enough armor from it for Wesley to put a bullet in its pickled brain. They both let out an exhausted sigh of relief.
Wesley: “Phew! Good! I have like four shots left. Two in each gun.”
Steve: “Yeah, I got about five left for the rifle.”
Suddenly, fear paralyzed both as they heard familiar heavy footsteps coming once again from behind the square pillar. Wesley made for the airlock while Steve covered the alcove. She made it into the room as he was torn to pieces by a deafening spray of bullets. She hit the button and the airlock door closed just in time to block another spray aimed at her.
Wesley ran back to where she had left Lilith. Wesley found her on the ground sitting in a puddle of her own black vomit. Lilith told her to get on the rowboat and use the cell phone she gave her to blow the place sky-high. Unfortunately, she probably would not survive the blast either, so she wished her “good luck” as she resigned herself to her fate and collapsed against the mini reactor.
It was not long before Wesley was standing in the rowboat having paddled herself almost to shore. The smoke from the forest burning was almost intolerable, her eyes, nose, throat, and lungs were on fire. Still, she could see the shore crowded with legions of the walking dead, and several giant cyber-zombies towering above them their evil lights clicking away. Ash and glowing cinders rained like snow. She shrugged her shoulders and triggered the bomb. It seemed like ages until she noticed something in the water. She gazed down into the murky depths and realized the reactor had blown and watched as a giant glowing bubble, the explosion, raced up to her. The waters began to rise with the tiny boat atop. A violent blast of steam and nuclear fire smashed her into the sky. Then nothing.
Meanwhile, somewhere in the next mountain valley an old man, a small dog cradled in his arms caked with mud emerged from an open storm drain grating. He finished the bottle of booze in his other hand with one final swig and tossed it aside. It was Lilith’s father and the dog, they had gotten separated in the race to the lake, fortunately for them. They had taken refuge in a flood control tunnel and simply followed it to its end traveling along the line until they reached the next town over. The brown and white smoke from the forest fire was still thick as it swirled all around them but for the most part, they were safe…for the moment.
With that, the game and thus short campaign ended. I didn’t feel I had done a great job this session, the reason why it took a year to blog about it. I mentioned this sentiment at the time out loud as everyone was getting up from the table after packing their books. Gil said, “What!? Are you kidding that was awesome!”
Cris: “Yeah, it was good man.”
I took the compliments in stride and turned to my wife, Jenn.
“See I didn’t kill the dog.”
Jenn: “What dog?”
Jenn (suddenly giggling): “Oh yeah, Thanks honey!” She pecked me on the cheek.
A little while later, Cris, Isis, and Gil had just left, and Jenn had headed off to bed. I picked up the empty beer bottles (there were many), dropped them in the recycle bin, and started to wipe down the battle mat. Halfway through cleaning the marker off I realized that I never bothered to draw any maps for this campaign. I had them in my head and translated them directly to the mat. They had been based on the maps found in the Zombie Horror (RGS1010) book though except of course for the lakeshore. Meh. I had figured somebody had taken some pictures of the maps as we played, seemed like the last few sessions were well photographed. My bad.
The End (Session played 1/18/20)