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The Cabal of Eight II Pt.11: The Labyrinth of Weird Death

The paths and twisted walls of the labyrinth disappeared in all directions into a hazy blue-green horizon. Clouds of blue-green mists rolled over the impossible landscape and the fabric of reality itself seemed to seethe and roll, as do the deeps of the ocean. The dense, moist air was cool and made her head swim. It smelled overwhelmingly of fresh-cut greenery carrying the spice of moldering wood. The walls of the labyrinth also seemed to shift with the tide rearranging in the wake of each swell. She could see no center, no goal towards which to strive.

The Decapitator Throne

Again, she began drifting towards the black iron spikes atop the wall. Fauna (played by Jenn) canceled the power of her ring of levitation. She had snagged the ring from the group treasury, the hiding place in the clubroom back at the Red Helm Tavern. The druidess had made a quick stop there before heading out to the secret meeting in the secret caverns beneath the Old Amphitheater.

Her feet landed softly onto the cold stone. She found herself back in a narrow lane of the maze. The floor was of damp flagstones and the walls were a chaotic patchwork of adobe, fired bricks, natural stone, and mortar. From every crack, uneven surface, and fissure grew twisted woody branches, clumps, and patches of hairy and bright green mosses, as well as flows of yellow slime molds. The great flagstones were also uneven causing the floor of the lane to undulate up and down, so deep in places that one could hide in the dip easily from others approaching from either end of the seeming infinite lane.

Fauna exhaled and began moving forward turning with every corner into identical lanes, some short, some dead-ends, and some choked with woody vines and dead branches. Occasionally, she happened upon the corpse of a fellow competitor for head priest/priestess of the Brotherhood of the Rope. She turned a corner and saw a giant pale mushroom blocking the way with the terrified face of an initiate sinking and disappearing into it. She turned the corner.

Not long after that, she found a huge clump of limp black roots blocking her way lying across the way. The druid was going to climb over it until she saw a pale human arm hanging out of the clump banded by purple bruises as if squeezed by ropes or tentacles. She quickly changed direction. Along the way, she managed to avoid a tripwire, a trapdoor, and a spring-loaded scythe blade as she progressed. Eventually she came upon a high narrow red-lit opening in the wall that glowed yellow with firelight.

She slipped into the lit and comfortably warm chamber. The walls and low ceiling were of finely masoned but large blocks of stone that shone red-orange in the firelight that blazed from the two large golden braziers. Before her was a throne carved of the same stone as the wall blocks with an imprint of the reclining human form in the stone with a golden and jeweled crown where you would expect, over the crown of the human-shaped crevice.

She noticed a young girl with long black hair standing against one of the walls, another initiate. The girl had sneered at her in the lineup.

Jenn: “I hope that b***h dies.”

Isis: “Sis!”

Jenn: “Well, she was mean to me!”

Stepping in front of the throne was yet another blue-robed petitioner, Fauna also recognized him from the lineup. Certainly, she and this pair seemed to be the only surviving pledges to have reached the center of the labyrinth. The man contemplated the throne, at its foot was a high step carved with druidic script. It said, “A good druid is humble.”

He strode over to the step bowed his head, said what sounded like a brief prayer and sat in the broad stone seat. Immediately the golden crown dropped to his shoulders around his neck, he screamed, then the seat and back of the throne opened like a trap door and his body and severed head dropped into an unseen sepulcher. Consequently, the stones swung back and the blood that covered it slowly faded and disappeared. Fauna grabbed her neck.

Jenn & Isis (in unison): “Oh boy!”

The young girl chewed her upper lip then stepped forward violently. Then she yelled at Fauna to “step back you heifer!” She strode forward full of class-born bravado. The girl stopped on the step of the throne suddenly aware she had no solution to this puzzle. She turned to Fauna and the expression on her face turned from terror into an arrogant reserve.

Young Girl (solemnly): “If I am fated to die then I am reserved to my fate.” She lowered herself lightly into the cold, hard seat. The crown slid down and she let out a “gack” at the same time as Fauna heard a mechanical spring sound. Blood burst from her mouth. Her severed head and the decapitated corpse fell into the depths beneath the throne. The spots and spatters of dark blood disappeared. The throne was solemn again and even more threatening.

Jenn: “Crap it’s my turn right?”

Isis (to Jenn): “Oh my gawd! You’re gonna die!”

Isis (to me): “Can’t we help her solve this riddle!?”

The GM (me): “Nope.”

Cris: “Naw we can’t help her! We’re not there! Sorry but we’re not there!”

Jenn: “Maybe I should just sit down on the throne.”

Isis & Cris (in unison): “NOOO!”

Finally, Fauna sat with her legs crossed, she contemplated the throne and the inscription at its foot. She took a small dose of Yellow Lotus powder from her robes and snorted it. Shockingly, she was able to maintain consciousness. What played repeatedly in her fevered brain afterwards were Anishi’s words just as he pushed her into the labyrinth’s aperture, “Tread with care my child and be humble”.

Fauna: “Ah-Ha! I got it!”

Immediately she walked over to the step before the throne and kneeled upon it as if in prayer. The stone gave the slightest bit and she could hear a click somewhere inside of the throne. She then rose and sat down in the seat. The gold crown dropped onto her head then she saw a section of wall to her right suddenly slide down and reveal a recognizable chamber in the cave beneath the amphitheater. The crown rose back from her head and she rose as if in a trance towards the exit.

In unison both Jenn and Isis let out a loud sigh.

The next thing Fauna could remember was that Anishi put a necklace of polished raw gems around her neck. After that, she only remembered slogging home through the streets and the hammering light of dawn in her normal dirty robes. She was starving and every muscle screamed along with her lotus-soaked brain. It felt as if she had been in that place for several days rather than a few hours. Her feet really hurt.

Jenn (a sudden realization shooting through her eyes at me): “Oh my gawd, I could have really died.”

The GM (me, shrugging): “Well, yeah.”

To Be Continued…

Creating a Dungeon Map

Mapping is an integral part of Game-Mastering any roleplaying game. Maps are infinitely useful. They functionally visualize settlements (towns, fortresses), ships, or caves, ruins, and dungeons as well as over-maps of landscapes and countries. I also know it can be tough even to get started much less work through to a completed map.

Over a couple of decades of Game-Mastering, I have worked out a certain routine. A routine to follow when formulating and creating maps. Just to be sure of this, I took notes while I created the map for Manifold Maps #2. This routine can get my mind moving and the creative juices flowing even when caught at a standstill. Occasionally, however, I do still run into roadblocks.

Portions of the map I am not happy with or the inability to get a solid picture of what I am trying to do are common obstacles. I also sometimes just seem to run out of ideas somewhere near the beginning. I have learned to work through these dry spells. However, I never try to force it. Eventually, not counting for a possible time-crunch though, I can get going at it again. Although I can stall out for more than a day or two sometimes. Most map-making does involve some stops and starts.

Writing this piece was a personal exploration into my own creative process once I started to realize that I had a process and was working through steps to achieve a completed piece that I was ultimately satisfied with. I hope that others will in the very least find this interesting if not helpful in their own mapping endeavors. The first step in map-making is to have a symbol key at the ready.

Make the Master Key

It is important to have a clear and legible symbol key. This is in order to populate your maps with objects, features, and scenery not to mention encounters, treasures, and traps. A Map Key also sometimes referred to as a Legend is a listing of symbols with their meanings. It is needed to understand a map that uses its symbols. The key can be on the map itself often quartered off. However,  often Games-masters(GMs) might want to use as much of the sheet as possible. So using a Master Key, a universal map key often on a separate sheet of paper, is most useful.

roughing a chamber for map
Roughing some chamber ideas

I have a standard master symbol key that I use for most of my maps. I also may use a few alternate symbols required in certain situations. The key that I use includes adopted symbols and has been refined over a period of several years. So, it might take a while to build or collect a master key suited to your purposes. Personally, I am more concerned when using my key with speed and clarity. I wanted to include symbols in my Legend that are easy to recognize and distinguish from each other. They also had to be easy to draw fast and easily especially when sketching. When in doubt, find already existing ones and crib and adapt them to your needs.

To Start With

I often start with the vision or concept of a single chamber. Which for one reason or another is interesting to me as well as clear in detail. It is often a central or entrance chamber that gives the players a visual taste or general atmosphere of the entire place but not always. Frankly, I grasp at whatever I can clearly visualize. This can be a central or entrance chamber, some side passage, or even the outside mouth/entrance to the place.

An alternate method is to just start laying down features then work a single chamber around those features. This to get the starting point from which to work outward. This I do when the first method is not working for me. This technique is a little more hit or miss. However, I usually come out with something if not a handful of possible chambers to begin plotting.

The map starts to grow from the central chamber

Going back to the visualized chamber; I will sketch this room and try to fumble around with surrounding chambers. How they relate on the map to the central chamber and how they connect. I make a real mess with a pencil on a piece of paper trying to refine the central chamber. Including as I try to find a layout and develop a few chambers that I can string together. This includes creating additional chambers to place on the paper like puzzle pieces, trying the best and most pleasing fit if not the most sadistic or unexpected configurations.

Once a map starts to form, I also try to gain another main idea that may add to the map in a few different ways. These central ideas or main features can include canyons, large pits or fissures, bodies of water, burrows or dugouts that were not a part of the original structure, historical additions or modifications, etc.

The Big Idea

rough sketch of the map
A refined sketch with the big idea

This idea should fill a decent portion of the map, run through it, or help to shape the map and arrangement of chambers. This idea can be a natural or not-so-natural feature, the purpose of the structure that I am mapping or the history of the place that would shape it or its features. With this in hand, I will take a new sheet of paper, sketch the chambers that I designed previously, and use my new idea to arrange the layout.

After I have the layout sketched, I try to add as many details to each chamber (using the SYMBOL KEY) as possible but not so much as to crowd the sketch. I also write notes (sometimes with arrows) around the sketch that I need to draw the refined rough draft or those that need to be included as notes for the map even if they are not present on the map itself. This is also the time that I start writing down ideas for a title.

The title is often times, but not always, based on the central feature or main idea of the map because it is easier to conceive of a name that way. Other things to consider when running through names for your map are its history, current or former uses, what or who may or did reside there, and its reputation (if any). I also like titles that are eye-catching i.e. sound cool and maybe a bit cheesy.

Refining the Rough

ink lined sketch for map
The finished sketch in ink

Now I have my messy pencil sketch. The next step is to carefully pencil a copy of the map on a piece of graph paper. I try to include any notes or symbols on the original rough version. In addition, I take the time to refine my map, add, change, or subtract chambers or other details. In addition, I decide which notes are convertible into symbols and the need for any new ones.

I prefer working with my hands although most of you might want to use other methods, which is fine. Also, I already have all the art supplies so I should use them. My roughs are done entirely in pencil. This refined rough draft is what I use as my blueprint.

I then trace only the parts of the map I will ink. Those are scanned into Photoshop where I have all my Legend symbols ready to place.  I trace the main non-keyed features and walls then clean it up in Photoshop. This is while dropping in the keyed elements and text resulting in the final draft of the map. Essentially, I use Photoshop to create the final polished version of the map. It looks cleaner and the quality is easier to reproduce across several maps if need be.

Recap

  • Decide on a Master Key/Legend to use
  • Try to come up with a single chamber as a starting point
  • Refine it and start thinking about other chambers around it and how they fit together with it
  • Add a central feature or idea to help shape the entire map
  • Start penciling a rough draft from your preliminary sketches
  • Trace off, detail, and refine a draft from the former that will be used as the map blueprint
  • Draw your map based on that blueprint refining your design were necessary
Tabernacle
The finished map

Summation

It is through this process that I draw maps. These include those found in the Zombie Horror book and hopefully future publications. The difficulty really is coming up with the bits and pieces then fitting them together into a coherent, useful, and hopefully aesthetically pleasing map. Start small and work your way out adding in new, bigger ideas as you refine the map. Eventually, you will end up with a complete map. Remember that it does not have to be huge or too complex to be useful. Lastly, the tools to produce should not matter as much as your own personal skill and knowledge with them.

Manifold Maps #2: Tabernacle of the Bottomless Gorge

Tabernacle
The Tabernacle Map

This is a map to the Tabernacle of the Bottomless Gorge, a hidden temple carved from the living rock of a hollow mountain top. This is a free fully marked-up map (only lacking encounters, traps, treasures, etc.) for use with Dice & Glory. It uses a basic key (Note: the small triangular arrows denote edges of a domed ceiling) and numbered portions for the ease of GM’s wanting to populate them. A legend is included as this map uses a variety of symbols.

Manifold maps can be used at the discretion of Game-Masters to add a new crawl type adventure or dueling field to their game. These are self-contained maps that fit on a single page and require only the prep-work to populate them as well as descriptions to flesh out certain areas.

This map was designed around the idea of a hidden temple/tabernacle built around a large gorge. There is a chamber designed to catch rainwater in a reservoir and a simple cave system serving as a secret escape route. The map is contained enough for a brief raid or limited crawl. The terrain is also varied with roughly hewn chambers, temple chambers, caverns, and cliffsides. The scale is meant to be 5 sq.ft. per square.

Manifold Maps #2 – 1 MB

The Map PDF is hosted on Mediafire.

The Armatelorum: Folio of Ancient & Medieval Arms & Armor Released!

Armatelorum cover

The Armatelorum: Folio of Ancient & Medieval Arms & Armor released!

The Armatelorum is a 90-page resource manual filled with pre-generated weapons and suits of armor using the weapon and armor construction rules from the Dice & Glory Core Rulebook. It is a valuable resource for any Player that has a need to customize their character. Game-Masters will also find it invaluable to equip their NPCs with a variety of arms.

This fully illustrated book has 10 chapters: Medieval Weapons & Armor, Melee Weapons, Missile Weapons, War Engines & Artillery, Shields-Helmets & Pieces, Suits of Armor, Stone-Age Weaponry, Ingenious Weapons & Gimmicks, Special Training, and Improvised Weaponry. Some chapters reprinted and expanded from the Character Codex series of books as well as portions of the weapon & armor chapter from the Dice & Glory Core Rulebook.

This sourcebook focuses on every major category of ancient weaponry such as swords, pole-arms, bows, scythes, even siege engines. It includes rarer versions of weapons and armor such as zweihanders, the zanbato, weapons of the samurai & ninja, messers, recurved bows, shillelagh, and ball & chain weapons even muscle cuirasses.

The weapons and armor found within this manual were written with historical facts as well as keeping the fun factor of fantasy roleplaying in mind. Each weapon or piece/suit of armor has a table statistics entry and a short paragraph description with some variations mentioned along with applicable stats and modifications.

The appendices include notes on punch weapons, prosthetic weapons, crystal weapons, and there is an index of stylized martial arts. A full resource of melee weapons, ranged weapons, siege weapons, and shields, helmets, and armor!


Get it in PDF format here:


https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/305309/The-Armatelorum-A-Folio-of-Ancient–Medieval-Arms–Armor?src=newest

Death Poll Discussion

Adventure comes from the brain pan

Last month I posted a quick and dirty poll about the feelings role-players have about in-game death when it occurs. The results were interesting although I think I could have been more specific. Perhaps I would add in a few other options should I ever post another similar poll. I published the results here if you have not already seen them in the original post. In addition, I try to clarify my intentions with the poll.

Death Poll Results

Above all, here are the results of the poll. You can view the entire original blog entry HERE.

How do you view death in the games that you play and/or run?
151 votes · 151 answers

My Poll Answer

Subsequently, where I fall in the results would be a combination of the top three options. Although on the poll itself, I would have probably selected the top option. My reason is that I want death to mean something. Therefore, the occasion would be somber, maybe my in-game plans are dashed by the death (this has happened with my evil characters). This would allow my character to express their feelings about the situation in their own way. I find it fun to try to figure it out and then carry it out.

I like trying to construct and figure out my character’s emotional life. It’s fun to build their backgrounds, physical bodies, and spiritual qualities as well as working out their abilities and powers. After that, it is all about building their actual hearts during role-play taking every opportunity to explore them as well as using them to explore the game world.

What I Intended

 I intended to try to find out how other Players and GM’s feel about the event of the death of Player Characters at their tables. Consequently, judging by the comments, I was perhaps not clear enough on that front. I was (and am) interested in the emotions directed at the game and its participants that character death provokes. That was what I was pursuing with this poll.

What I Forgot

A few of the comments about the poll did point out that I had forgotten at least two points. These being Death for Drama’s Sake and In-Game Death serves to reinforce the idea of Death as a Looming Force. Death for Drama’s Sake means that a player willingly conspires with Games-Master to have their character die for dramatic or story purposes essentially, death for the sake of the narrative.

This to me seems to be more applicable to more story-oriented games. However, I do utilize NPC’s in a very similar manner. I try to get the NPC familiar with the Players even perhaps becoming a friend. When the Players become attached I try to manipulate that relationship to my ends. This can range anywhere from dramatic death hopefully towards an end not just for drama, to betrayal by an ally. In the latter case, if the character survives I try to have them become a thorn in the Players’ sides maybe even evolving the NPC into a major villain (see Dark Lords: Building Better Lords of Evil).

Death As Looming Force

I also seemed to forget to address Death as a looming force. If there is a potential for PCs to die even on a bad roll or badly misjudging a dangerous situation then death is ever-present. However, this just adds in the risk factor and the attached thrill when the PCs escape or power-through dangerous scenarios. A Player Character death just serves to bring this looming presence to the fore of everyone’s mind, fully integrating it and making it an actual part of the game world. I might have still left this option off the poll though even had I thought of it. The reason is that I am more interested in what emotions the participants are feeling generally directed towards the game precipitated by the actual death rather than about the general presence of it.

There are inevitably angles that I have still missed. However, as in-game death and even the narrowed subject of the general emotions it brings out, death is still a very broad subject with tons of nuance all over the place. Polls are meant to be focused and provide information about opinions that can be used to build generalities about the polled group. Note this poll was very small serving more of an opinion poll of those who bother to read my blog.

How I See In-Game Death

I see in-game death as a natural risk of adventuring, if you are doing it right then you run the risk of dying sometimes horribly. Similarly, death is an ever-present shadow in the back of any adventurer’s mind. However, I do not think it should be an overwhelming aspect of the game. It should be attached to the major risks and challenges found in a good adventure and sudden unpredictable death should be a rare occurrence but something that can definitely happen on a bad roll. A unique aspect of the game based on the dice.

As mentioned before, I do see it as an opportunity for drama and roleplaying. It is a place where characters can express and build character. Previously, I did go into more detail in Tabletop Meditations #10: Death where I expand upon the idea of the Good Death and talk about Perma-Death and TPK’s. The blood spilled in the course of a quest lends the struggle meaning. Particularly if it is the blood of heroes, allies, and friends. Death flavors the sweetness of victory, enhances loss providing a real drive to dive back in, at least for me.

GM’s Hammer

I definitely do not see it as the tool of GM’s judgment. It is more something that is a part of the game world. It is what is likely to happen in the course of high adventure. When it does happen, it should have some sort of impact whether that is a downer session or an opportunity to turn up the roleplaying aspects of the game.

Addressing a Few of the Comments

Lethality in Gaming came up a lot in the comments concerning certain specific gaming systems. I was not particularly interested in game system lethality in this particular poll. Although maybe an option of “I Play in High Attrition Systems, It’s Just How it Goes” would be appropriate to address this. However, I do not think that the previously mentioned addresses the feeling of someone who is playing a character under those circumstances. I would assume that since they are willingly playing a system with a high mortality rate that they already know their character has a high chance of death so that seems like it would fit under the option No Big Deal, Time to Generate Another Character which did fall into 4th place with 11.26%.

Nuance

Is death a more nuanced subject than the structure of this poll seems to address, well, yes but it is a very simple poll. In short, its purpose was to cull some very specific information on a subject narrowed to produce a specific if an informal range of data. As explained before the purpose was to gauge the feelings tied to in-game PC deaths based on what I have seen discussed across the internet and in my personal gaming experience.

These reactions to death range from viewing it as an opportunity, placing blame, viewing it as a problem to be solved (the 0% popular The Character Build was Wrong for the Campaign option by the way), to indifference. I did miss an option for anger but I have found that those who angry at the table over their character dying very rarely come back to run another character ever again, however, if I run a similar or more finely tuned Death Poll, I would include one or two anger options.

In Conclusion

The death poll was an interesting exercise and in-game death is certainly a point of interest for many other hobbyists besides me. Death would be an overarching subject especially in any adventure game where risk is a part of the fun. Death also can stand for a permanent loss such as a loss of limb or complete isolation from a hard-fought opportunity via a heroic choice but this poll focused exclusively on Character Death. After all, what fun is it playing an immortal or a character that cannot lose in a meaningful way?

Please, if you have suggestions or comments feel free to leave them. Especially, if you have a suggestion for a new poll definitely feel free to post that.

P.S.:  I will be taking a break from the blog for the holidays and New Year. The blog and the Cabal of Eight II will be back in late January. Later that same month the Armatelorum will be released (finally).

The Cabal of Eight II Pt.10: The Blue Thief

20th of Monsoon – Dawn was breaking but the sun’s rays were stifled behind cloud-darkened skies and drowned in the heavy, humid air. Stray raindrops randomly pelted the roofs, and cobblestones of the city as well as the heads of retreating rag pickers and soot-brushes. The fitful sleep of two of the cabal members was disturbed by the approaching ringing bell of one of the many city criers.

The Crier: “Hear ye! Hear ye! The city marshal has declared that all those found to commit the crimes of theft, murder, and assault within the city limits that are not citizens of our great city and are found to be the crew of known freebooter and privateer ships will receive the penalty of death! Ships whose crews comprise of more than a handful of such criminals will be banished from harbor come hell or high water!”

Excor (played by Cris) and Szoo (played by Isis) stumbled and slithered from their rooms, slowly due to their bruised and aching bodies roused by the crier’s bell and spiel. Already, Fauna (played by Jenn) was grinding the remainder of her herbs into two doses of healing salve for her wounded companions. As both Szoo’s and Excor’s wounds were still grievous. Fauna, on the other hand, was in perfect health. After finishing the salve and having applied it, Fauna cleaned out the stable and left for the market district. The other two went back to their beds to heal.

Later, in the afternoon, the sun had peaked between the clouds and Fauna was returning from the market with her horse attached to a new wagon loaded with a few months’ supply of oats and hay. As she led the wagon back home she entered the alleyway and only then noticed a tail, someone was stealthily following her. Calmly, she unhitched her horse and put him back into the stall next to her giant frog, tossed that thing a bag of mice. She left the wagon just off the stables. Suddenly, she rushed through the door and shouted.

Fauna: “I’m being followed!”

Immediately, both of her companions leaped from their beds and met her at the door against which she was leaning.  All she could relate about her pursuer was that he was wearing blue with a short, matching cape.

Isis: “*Sigh* Is this the dragon again?”

Cris: “Who else would it be!? Of course it is! Blue cape, sheesh, of course it’s the dragon! Or her slaves.”

Excor rushed to the door and carefully, quietly, cracked it and peeked through. He scanned the scene outside the door from the alley wall to the stable. By a split second, he missed the fleeting glimpse of a blue cape disappearing into the hayloft above the stalls. Because of his spotting nothing, Szoosha cast Heat Vision on himself. In turn, Excor cast See the Invisible on himself.

Excor peeked back out the door and spotted Thorn the beggar ducking behind a rain barrel. He yelled at Thorn to leave while Szoo, head above Excor’s, spotted a heat trail moving from the ground and up into the loft. Thorn waved as he jaunted off after a shrug.

Szoo: “Guys! I got something! I think he’s inside already!”

Excor immediately slammed shut the door and turned. Almost by accident, he caught sight of a cape trailing behind its wearer as it flapped from above down behind a piece of furniture.

Excor (pointing the blue thief out): “Assassin!”

Fauna readied herself to cast Sleep as soon as she could see her target. Szoo moved around to get a better line of sight and was able to spot the blue thief. The short, brawny man was dressed in a powder blue padded/quilted robe with a bright blue silver-trimmed cape and cowl and a broad black belt. He was armed with paired superior quality silver daggers each with a large quartz crystal in the pommel. Excor cast shadow ribbons but the magic went wild. The black ribbons of shadow suddenly expanded into a cone of blazing red light and the thief shrieked in terror, he stood and turned to run through the back door. Fauna let loose her sleep spell but it had no effect.

The druidess let loose a lightning bolt; the thief dodged the bolt easily and tumbled through the back door into the rear courtyard. Szoosha charged towards the back door and made it outside into the small courtyard amongst Fauna’s chickens and goat. Excor moved up to where he could see the thief readying to scale the wall and cast paralyze I. The thief froze in his tracks.

Cris (to the GM): “That was some sort of crazy fear spell huh? Hey! Can I try to remember what I did with that spell with my spellcraft?”

The GM (me): “Yup, um DC uh 20, it was wild magic. Totally randomly rolled spell too.”

Cris: *roll*roll* “Damn, naw, I didn’t get it.”

Szoo had the paralyzed thief tied up with a rope he took from the thief’s belt. Fauna sensed some very strong magic from the silver manacle around his neck and the medallion with dragon-scratch runes that dangled from it. She simply tried to pull it off as it did not appear to be even locked or clasped but it did not budge. It even seemed bonded to the thief’s skin. Fauna then double-checked the ropes making sure they were tight. Szoo then inspected the collar and found the maker’s mark. It was the mark of the Golden Devil Company (The Cabal of Eight Pt.6: Gold Devil).

Szoo (panicking): “Oh no! We made some BIG enemies guys!”

Cris: “Whatever, we’re adventurers, it’s what we DO!”

The three mages stood around while the chickens clucked and gathered around their feet expecting to feed. They did not know what to do with the man. The magic slave collar without a doubt would lead the blue dragon straight to them. They quibbled back and forth for some time before they finally decided on what was to be done with him. They did not want to kill him; after all, he had no choice whether or not to obey the dragon. They also did not want to take him to the guards. The trio did not know how deep the dragon’s connections went. They decided to freeze the thief in amber.

Excor cast Amber Husk, an ancient spell obtained from a scroll they had found in the Lotus Vaults. Excor looked at his handiwork. The thief in blue could be seen at the center bottom of an iceberg of glistening semi-transparent amber.

Excor: “That’ll do it.”

That situation dealt with, for the time being anyway, the trio decided to try to rest until their next cabal meeting on the 24th. However, Fauna had a meeting with the Brotherhood of the Rope on the next full moon, the 22nd.

The next day, Szoo and Excor were sleeping the day away, Fauna, alternately, had hitched her horse up to her wagon and was going shopping around the Old Market District and the Bazaar. Soon her wagon was packed with a 1 lb. bag of healing herbs, another 1 lb. bag of yellow & pink lotus soaked smoking herb (of which she was currently partaking), a wood cage with four chickens in it, a sack of feed enough for a month, an empty 1-gallon ceramic jug, and 5 potion bottles for Szoo’s naphtha. She had watched Thorn while he had followed her the entire time as well.

She signaled the grey-cloaked beggar to jog up next to her she was riding in the saddle.

Fauna: “So…you old beggar… still spying on us?”

Thorn: “Yup! Just business y’know!”

Fauna (flipping Thorn a silver piece): “No info?”

Thorn: “Well, I’d be amiss in my duty if I didn’t ask about certain Pirate friends, ahem, certain friends of certain people maybe?”

He eyeballed Fauna for a reaction, there was none so he continued.

Thorn (pulling out his pipe; Fauna offered to light it): *ffwwwp* *exhaling* “Certain pirate friends of a certain party stealing from certain other people and yet other people, friends of certain people maybe? No. Well, those people hiding the treasure and those people’s friends maybe knowing something about it?”

Thorn glanced over at Fauna with a squint in his eye. Again, she did not react so he shrugged and took another tug from his corncob pipe.

Fauna (exhaling, her eyes sparkling with lotus): “Maybe we can hire you as…..our… houseboy? We could pay you a lot of money.”

Thorn suddenly tore off after shooting Fauna a polite smile. Someone was evidently waiting for him near the corner the pair quickly disappearing into an alley. However, Fauna could not focus enough to see who had been waiting for the old beggar. She lazily trotted her way home through the crowded streets as she toked on her pipe.

The following afternoon, Excor had spotted Thorn hanging out in full view around the house and he decided to see what he wanted. Excor tried to interrogate the beggar but found the old man was far too clever to get any useful information out of him. Even so, they conversed for quite some time. Eventually, Excor gave up and tossed him a silver to move off. As the grey-cloaked beggar walked down the alleyway towards the street he unexpectedly asked, “Hey! You know anything about a Cabal of Eight?” Excor was shocked but hid his surprise well enough that he was sure the old beggar did not read it.

Excor (waving bye): “No, no. Never heard of it! If I find anything out I’ll tell ya!”

Thorn (walking away): “I’m all ears!”

Cris hissed, “Dammit!”

Isis: “Whhat!?”

Cris: “They’re getting close! Too close! Dammit.”

Jenn: “Meh. We can handle it.”

Late that night when the full moon was high, Fauna found herself standing amongst a lineup of certain other characters, all drawn from the anonymous ranks of the cult, the Brotherhood of the Rope. Those in the lineup and her were all stark naked slick with sweat; the caverns under the old Amphitheater were sweltering. Those not participating in the “trial for high priest” were still in their dark blue ropes and hoods with a golden noose around their necks. Anishi, the caretaker of the grove, was presiding.

The cult had gathered in a deep chamber next to a very narrow entryway carved into the rusty, living rock. Vor Jetl “the dragonfly” had told Fauna that the trial would be a lethal one it would be the labyrinth. “Avoid the traps and you will make it to a final test, fail and no one will ever see you again.” Good advice as far as she could gather, after all, he was “on her side”. Apparently, the narrow opening was the entrance to this labyrinth.

Anishi gave the word and one-by-one the candidates walked up to him and he spat lotus powder into their faces, kissed them on the forehead, and pushed them through the aperture, “Tread with care my child and be humble”.

To Be Continued…

The Cabal of Eight II Pt.9: Fungus Force Five

Map of the Fungus Kingdom
Fungus Kingdom full map

Fauna the druid (played by Jenn), Excor (played by Cris), and Szoo the Black-Scael naga (played by Isis), were surveying the post-battle damage. A few shouldering clumps of slime remained not giving a hint to the tiny creatures’ formerly humanoid shapes. The statue of the four-armed goddess with dragonfly wings had fallen into the cellar up to its golden breasts (The Cabal of Eight Pt.41: The Lotus Vaults Pt.1). The floorboards around it were shattered, soggy and warped.

Cris: “See! I told you we should’ a killed that thing yesterday!”

Jenn: “But we didn’t fight these down there!”

Cris: “What dya think sent those!”

Fauna continued her brewing of healing potions while Szoo inspected the hole. The gap between the statue and the floorboards was enough for either of the human mages to crawl through but it was too narrow for Szoo to slither into the cellar. As the sunset and sky burned gold and pink, Fauna was finished, the trio decided to go back down into the caves below to provoke a final confrontation with the mushroom boss.

Excor holed the statue up in his Portable Hole revealing that the steps into the cellar were completely flattened. He activated his Ring of Ghost Form to float down to the cellar floor. Alternately, Fauna just jumped down after tying a rope off to the marble scrying pool that they had looted from the Lotus Vaults and installed in their makeshift lab-niche (The Cabal of Eight Pt.41: The Lotus Vaults Pt.1). Szoo slithered down into the small root cellar. Fauna took up the lead after finding the secret door wide open, smeared with fishy-smelling moisture and reeking of fungus.

The druid took a few careful cat-steps into the gaping portal into the dark passage. Her nostrils immediately assaulted by the choking stench of wet fungus. She saw about eight tiny sized humanoid creatures identical to those they had already faced above running towards her. The wet sounds of their tiny pseudo-feet slapping on the stone floor alerted the other two mages. As the tiny fiends hit the light of the lantern they appeared composed of black-spotted spongy material with grains throughout and covered in white and greyish hairs.

The battle was brief. Fauna slaughtered them with her dagger and Szoo scorched them with fire. Excor had flung chrono-missiles at them. During the battle, all of the creatures, the mouldmen, had swarmed poor Fauna and dealt some acid damage and drained some of her health (Constitution points). The mages lost no time in rushing into the caverns with Fauna in the lead.

Cris (to Jenn): “See! I told you that thing sent those things to screw with us! Hey, you better let Szoo lead for a little bit!”

Szoo moves into the lead to try to allow Fauna to recover. However, as soon as he took the lead, Szoo immediately spotted the oozing form of a violet blob slithering towards them from further down the main cavern.

Again, the battle was brief but Szoo had been engulfed, as this creature was much bigger than the violet blob that they had faced before (The Cabal of Eight II Pt.6: Facing the Fungus). Likewise, the creature had scored a critical hit on Fauna with a tentacle causing some serious damage to both her and Szoo using its dissolve flesh ability.

Suddenly without warning, a myconid astride a giant centipede charged from the somewhere further down the main cavern followed by two more mushroom-men covered in a thick crust of lichen-like plate armor wielding granite maces followed by an ice imp flying above amongst the dripping stalactites.

Excor whipped out his magic spike and shot a bolt of electricity at the centipede wounding it. Fauna tried to cast Lightning Bolt but the magic got away from her and went wild. A crackling burst of tiny electrical bolts filled the area. Fortunately, Excor was a ghost and unharmed. Szoo was able to avoid the bolts. Unfortunately, their enemies were just outside of the area of effect. The myconid centipede rider held up a small rod carved from red stone and the centipede surged forward heading straight for Fauna, she dodged its venomous fangs. The ice imp soared above the mages and blew a cone of icy breath at Fauna. Her magic shield absorbed the damage. Szoo shot a ray of fire at the centipede dealing some damage to it. The lichen-armored myconids leaped from the wood sled that the centipede was pulling and both attacked Szoo with their bludgeons. Szoo’s shield absorbed both hits.

Excor shot an electrical bolt at the centipede rider wounding it. The rider swung a sling above its head and let fly a stone at Excor but it passed harmlessly through his ghost form. The centipede again struck at Fauna but missed. Szoosha pulled out his fire fang and unleashed a cone of fire at the pair lichen-armored mushroom men barely singing them. The ice imp flew down and tried to kick Fauna in the head with its hooved feet. The druid easily parried the blow. The pair of lichen-armors again attacked Szoo, one missed by a wide margin the other successfully dispersed the shield spell protecting the naga.

Excor cast energy tentacle. Shooting from Excor’s hands a blinding bolt of energy took hold of the centipede rider like a tentacle. Fauna threw a lightning bolt at the imp wounding it. The giant centipede struck at Excor but again his ghost form protected him. Szoo backed up a few steps and cast elemental half-plate armor (fire) on himself. The armored myconids again struck at the naga but parried by his flaming naginata.

Szoo pulled out a bottle of naphtha and tossed it at the armored myconids splashing them both with the pungent substance. Fauna cast a fire ray at the ice imp wounding it badly. The imp again blew a blast of frost at Fauna. The centipede again fruitlessly snapped its jaws at Excor. Excor used the energy tentacle to pull the rider from his saddle and lifted him 20 feet into the damp cavern air. The armored myconids again swung at Szoo who once again easily parried their blows. The rider struggled in the grips of the energy tentacle but was trapped.

Szoo used his fire fang and blasted the pair of armored myconids with fire also igniting the naphtha spattered over them. They took a little damage but were also on fire. Fauna cast another fire ray at the ice imp burning it badly. The imp kicked at and hit Szoo in the head with its hooves but the naga’s fire armor protected him. Again, the centipede struck at Excor’s ghostly form. Excor used his tentacle to toss the unfortunate rider 20 feet down the cavern, a sickly thud sounded from the darkness. The flaming armored myconids both struck at Szoo again, one was easily parried but the other scored a critical hit dealing Szoo a mild wound.

Szoo again unleashed his fire fang on the pair of myconids again causing their armor to start to burn away. Fauna again struck the ice imp with her fire ray this time killing the creature. It disappeared with a blood-curdling scream and a burst of blue energy. The centipede continued to try to attack Excor. Excor tried to cast Force Ram on the giant centipede but failed the chaos of battle overwhelming his senses.  The burning pair of myconids again struck at Szoo but the naga again easily parried the both of them.

Szoo slashed at one of the burning myconids with his naginata but the myconid parried. Excor successfully cast Force Ram and squished the centipede against the cavern wall. Fauna flubbed her spell too anxious to slay her enemies. One of the flaming myconids attacked Fauna and was easily parried. The other attacked the naga and struck home with a massive lucky blow dealing Szoo a mean wound. The battle continued for a few more actions until the last pair of enemies collapsed into flaming smoking heaps.

Isis: “Jeesh! How many more of these guys are down here!”

Cris: “Yeah, he’s trying to wear us down before we get to him!”

Jenn: “Well it’s working! I’m out of shields and low on spells. And I’m kinda hurt.”

Isis: “Same here sis. But I’m still in okay shape!”

Cris: “I’m still pretty good but yeah, I’m out of shields too. … Screw this.”

Excor was going to cast Ghost Form on himself again but thought better of it.

After surveying the carnage and taking time to imbibe in some healing potions, the mages charged deeper into the cavern turning south to where they had previously encountered the boss mushroom. As fortune would have it, they ran straight smack into the monster.

The first round of battle was a blur of lightning bolts, a hurling destructive ball of fungus, a slashing flaming polearm, and a well-placed slow spell. The second was a cacophony of energy rays, chrono-missiles, and repeated thorn blasts that left Excor resembling a porcupine.

The battle raged on and slowed Boss Mushroom went on the attack as the trio of mages went on the defensive casting healing spells on each other, drinking potions, and Szoo casting elemental half-plate armor (fire) on his companions. The monster’s club swept repeatedly catching Szoo once and Excor twice. A well-placed fungus ball spell nailed Fauna wounding her horribly.

The final round found the mages exhausted and all badly wounded unable to take even a mild hit. However, Boss Mushroom was just as wounded. Thorn blasts and energy rays again flew then Excor captured the monster with a shadow ribbons spell. While the horrid thing was trapped, the mages beat and stabbed it to death.

The battle was finished and the trio stood over the large bloated body of the giant mushroom creature. Its flesh was starting to break down and liquefy. Excor observed the still brightly glowing ruby embedded in its chest. He shrugged and reached out to pull the gem from the monster’s melting flesh. To his surprise the gem was set into gold and attached to that was a fine gold chain, it was a necklace. He continued to pull the treasure free though there was some resistance so it took an effort on his part.

He almost had it free of the gross corpse and gave a mighty final yank. The warty skin of the chest split open and a human skeleton, the necklace still about its neck bones, was pulled out with a gush of yellow pus-like liquid matter. The skull clattered to the cavern floor, pulled off in a nervous reflex action by Excor. The necklace was his.

Cris: “Yech!”

Excor identified the gold necklace bearing a large central ruby that sparkled like blood-fire. The gem enraptured Szoo. His eyes sparkled in time with the strange light of it. Excor described the magic abilities of the necklace. It was a necklace of Shield three-times-a-day at level 8. However, something about it was bothering him but he just could not put his finger on it. Szoo grabbed for the gem, Excor let the naga have it. The naga Elementalist immediately donned the magic necklace.

Cris: “I don’t want that stinking thing! It was embedded in a monster-mushroom’s chest!”

Szoo wanted to explore the cavern further but everyone was suffering significant wounds including Szoo who only just realized his condition when prodded by Excor. Disappointed the naga relented. To satisfy the naga at least a little, Excor cast ghost form on himself once more and scouted the cave getting a general sense of where all of the passages and chambers were. The naga seemed even more disappointed afterward.

Exhausted, the trio moved back up into the house for some well-needed rest. Excor grumbled something about having to hire some carpenters to fix the trap door and floor.

To Be Continued…

A Death Poll

in-game death embodied in Natural 1

So, why a death poll? Well, I have seen especially lately, around the internet that many DM’s, GM’s, and Players of tabletop roleplaying games have a wide array of opinions on in-game deaths. Some blame the players exclusively seeing it as a personal failing on the unlucky character’s player’s part. Others see in-game deaths as unfortunate but a great opportunity for some intense roleplaying. There are quite a few other opinions on the matter typically ranging between the aforementioned. So I decided to put up a simple poll based on the most popular opinions that I have seen around. P.S. I have blogged about this very subject in Tabletop Meditations #10 – Death.

This death poll is different than asking how roleplaying games approach death, I am interested in how Gamemasters and Players feel about PC deaths. In effect, I am asking how do you feel about it when your character dies and/or when another player’s character dies? With that, I give you the death poll below.

How do you view death in the games that you play and/or run?
151 votes · 151 answers

Corpse World: The Forest Dark

bear in the forest

The entire gang was at the dining room table: Me (the GM), Jenn, Isis, Cris, Gil, Carlos, and Carlitos. For some reason conversation before the game had turned to the events of the end of the original Zombie Horror test-game some years back – the last pair of survivors outrunning a nuclear explosion in a helicopter then crashing in the desert. It had sprung out of Carlos wondering, “Where this will all end” and if everyone will die by the end of the campaign. Carlitos mentioned that the military will probably nuke the city and Cris concurred.

The original test campaign was a single session escape-the-city scenario that turned into a desperate run-away from everything scenario a la cannonball run. Eventually, the last two players, one of which was Cris, stole a helicopter from a deserted airfield and made their final run for it after finding out the military was going to use a tactical nuclear strike to level the city and wipe-out the zombie-plague. In fact, if I remember correctly, the other two players had shot each other over something dumb with the survivor of that fiasco put down by Cris’ biker character.

Anyway, the conversation faded out and the groups’ attention turned to the session at hand. El Guapo (played by Gil), Wesley (played by Jenn), and Lilith (played by Isis) had survived an outbreak while out on the town at the Goth Club and made their way to Lilith’s father’s Wrecking Yard. There they had a shootout with outlaw bikers and met the other three Player Characters: Steve (played by Cris), Kenny (played by Carlitos), and William (played by Carlos) the next day.

The latter three had been stuck when Steve’s car battery died stranding them on the Old Country Highway during their chaotic flight from the city. Eventually, they decided to group together for protection and then faced a small gang of zombies that threatened the chain-link gate. During the attempt to fight them off Kenny was shot in the leg, hobbled by William’s friendly fire. The group decided to flee in three vehicles: Lilith’s armored up Chevy Sedan, Steve’s Old Police Car, and the junkyard tow truck with snowplow scoop. They outran a giant tank-armored zombie probably sent by the military, plowed through a slowly oncoming herd of zombies on the road, and then finally got on their way to William’s survivalist haven.

Fortress

The three-vehicle convoy puttered slowly up to the chain-locked gates of an 8-foot tall chain-link security fence. They had arrived along a steep dirt road completely enclosed by trees. The rusted sheet metal signs to either side of the gate warned of the electric fence and that trespassers should expect lethal force. Behind the high electrical fence topped with barbed wire sat a small squat ranch-style home. It was sometime around noon but the house and indeed the small yard was cast in cool shadow from the thick umbrage of the crowded pine trees. The musk of old pine filled their noses.

While the line of cars waited for William to unlock the gate, Steve got out of his car. He walked around his vehicle and made a careful inspection of its underside and blood-spattered wheel wells. He wanted to make sure that no corpses or animated parts thereof were “hitchin’ a ride”.

Gil: “Guys, we need to find a cure for this thing!”

Isis: “Where!? Where we gonna look! I can’t do anything!”

Carlitos: “Anybody got any skills that could help try to make a cure ourselves?”

Jenn: “What!? We can’t find an antidote if we don’t know what’s causing it! And none of us are scientists! We’re just a bunch a’ @$$#oles!”

After the cars were all pulled into the yard and the gate locked behind them, the gang began to filter into the small house. Lilith took Kenny down to William’s bomb shelter. They accessed it through a door hidden behind a shelf in the basement and spiral stair leading into the small-reinforced shelter. She needed to measure his leg. She was going to use some junk she had brought with her to whip up a brace for his bullet-crippled leg. Steve had followed them down and changed Kenny’s bandages after Lilith was done with him; at least the wound was not infected.

The Old man, Lilith’s father, had settled in the old easy chair in the front room and was using the duct-tape wrapped two-button remote to flip through channels as he tugged from his hip flask. After everything above seemed settled in Wesley, El Guapo, and William went down into the shelter to convene with the others.

Once they were gathered, William pointed out the bank of video monitors on a table in the shelter. There were cameras monitoring the property inside of the fence and all around the perimeter of the electric fence. The shelter had a small main room with a walk-in gun safe, a small bedroom/bathroom off to one side and a decent-sized grow room and small storage closet. He told them that the house and shelter were running on a large diesel generator housed in a small brick and mortar shed behind the house. He also warned them that there were a few traps outside the fence. They were essentially tripwires that set of firecrackers to scare off trespassers and deer.

As evening approached, El Guapo and William decided to make a quick patrol around the outside perimeter. They made it almost completely around the outer rim of the property, El Guapo remarked on how dark it was. After the sun went down it was pitch black, the glare of the city lights could be seen faintly as a halo around a few of the lower hills from a certain vantage point as well as a few columns of smoke. The city was apparently on fire. They were sharing the common sentiment of being fortunate to have gotten out of the city when they heard a metallic tinkling coming rapidly at them then a few happy barks.

El Guapo (pulling his gun): “Zombie Dog! Zombie Dog!”

Cris: “It’s a zombie dog!?”

The GM (me): “No. It’s pretty obvious that it’s a normal stray dog running happily up to you guys.”

William checked the small dog’s collar for its tag. His name was “Tops”. William recognized him as belonging to a nearby neighbor. The dog looked like it had not eaten for several days. After contemplating this new piece of information silently, William led El Guapo and Tops back into his compound.

Meanwhile, Steve pulled out his laptop from his trunk and set it up on William’s badly worn yellow Formica kitchen table. He found that even trying to access the internet via the phone line was near impossible not because there was no connection but because it appeared that, someone had erected a firewall between the outside world and everyone in Amorset. Wesley came in and took a gander and confirmed his assessment, she also figured that most radio signals were probably also jammed. They both looked over at the television, only the public access channel was broadcasting something other than a test pattern or an emergency system message.

The pair outside came in from their patrol with Tops running inside and jumping into the Old Man’s lap. They explained where the dog came from and all decided that it would be best if some of them would go check on the neighbor. However, they could not agree on a timeframe for that. So, they decided to “sleep on it”.

Jenn (turning to me all of a sudden): “Don’t you kill that doggie, you’re going to kill that doggie aren’t you.”

The GM (me): “Ummm, No?”

Steve decided to stay up, try to hack through the internet firewall, and do a little research on Geno-Chem. At this point, the others had convinced him of the shady bioengineering chemical conglomerate’s probable responsibility for this mess. After about an hour, he had successfully accessed the corporate site and found mostly public relations garbage. However, he also found that the company had been operating a specialized laboratory out of the old oilrig on the lake.

Apparently, they had been cited for improper storage of Class I, VII, and VIII chemicals on the old platform. Geno-Chem also announced that the platform would be a part of their new plan of economic rebirth. From the sound of it as he read it, it sounded like they were about to remake the world into the Garden of Eden.

He shut down the laptop hearing only snoring throughout the house. Realizing how tired he was he went to go sleep in the backseat of his car.

A Jenn’s eye perspective in her parents’ dining room.

The Fleeing of the Forest

It was already evening by the time everyone was ready to start planning again. Earlier in the day, Lilith had finished Kenny’s leg brace and he was moving around again albeit slightly slower. Steve had told everyone what he had found out the previous night and that the internet was completely down now. He also cooked dinner, cheese topped spaghetti with spam cubes in it. William was busy setting up a “war room” around the kitchen table.

After dinner, the crew was huddled around the table looking at the maps that William had pinned to the wall. They had already decided to pursue the oilrig lead and still wanted to send a group to the neighbor out of sheer curiosity. A quiet thumping began to cause the kitchen table to vibrate. They all stood up. The will to speak died in their throats. They turned to the windows their eyes like rabbits under headlights of an oncoming diesel. The glass and picture frames began to rattle as the noise increased in volume and intensity. Vague shapes, just pale blurs, shot out of the dark just outside the electric fence and then just as suddenly flew back into darkness.

Lilith: “Oh Gawd! It’s that big thing again isn’t it!?”

Kenny: “Aww man! I shot it’s leg off! How!?”

William (looking out the kitchen window): “It’s deer? It’s deer.”

El Guapo (also looking out the window): “It’s just deer, whoa a lot of deer. A stampede!?”

The group filtered out the back door from the kitchen onto the covered back porch. The ground was rumbling with the amount of deer running panicked around the house. Occasionally a deer touched the fence and a bright burst of sparks would cause them to jump away and correct course. Then, a big buck tried to correct course at the very last minute and another large buck slammed into him thrusting his bulk into the fence tearing the chain-link from the poles and the whole length of the fence exploded in a white-hot flash of sparks.

The sound of the stampede faded into the distance towards the road. The dust left in the wake of the animals still hovered like a cloud of choking pine-scented smog. The house was completely dark; the entire electrical system had shorted out.

Lilith immediately ran to the generator shed and found that the buck hitting the fence had blown a high voltage capacitor. William did not have a spare. He had gone to town to pick up another one but decided to have a beer instead and then the zombie apocalypse happened.

Wesley: “Crap! We got to get that fence back up!”

Lilith (shouting to the others): “I can get the electricity back up after you guys fix the fence BUT I’ll be bypassing the capacitor and if the fence gets hit again it’ll blow everything, permanently!”

William: “Screw it. Do what you guys gotta do.”

El Guapo and Kenny volunteered to disentangle and pull the buck’s corpse from the fence and repair the chain-link. Meanwhile, Steve and William were going to wait on the porch with their weapons ready and keep a lookout.

The operation was moving ahead at a brisk pace as the pair of volunteers easily cleared the roasted buck from the wire and began to work on bending the chain-link back in shape and a few poles back straight as well. Lilith was waiting for the signal to switch the power back on. William and Steve were keeping their ears and eyes open for anything. Wesley was leaning against the brick generator shed watching El Guapo and Kenny fix the fence.

Mad Bear

Steve shouted, “Look out! Something big is coming in fast!” A huge shaggy shadow was bearing down on the pair working on the fence. Wesley dropped to firing position and waited for a clear shot with her Desert Eagle. Steve readied a rifle from William’s shelter gun-safe. William readied his deer rifle.

Cris: “Dude we can’t shoot!”

Carlos: “What, why? I can hit it.”

Cris: “Cause we’ll shoot THEM! They’re in between us and that thing!”

Carlos: “Oh yeah, I guess. Too bad I wanted to use my RPG.”

Cris: “Wait. What.”

Carlitos (pointing a finger at Carlos): “Dude, do not shoot me again.”

El Guapo pulled his Desert Eagle and drilled the massive animal with a lethal shot. As it began to fall, however, it took a sudden swipe at Kenny hitting with a sickening whap! The creature fell dead heavily to the ground joined by the thud of Kenny’s limp body. The bear had torn open his shoulder and slashed his face with a single bear slap.

Carlitos: “Oh man! Am I dead?”

Cris: “Pff! I dunno! What’re your hit-points at?”

A few arithmetical calculations later, it was determined that Kenny was unconscious and very near death but some first aid worked to stabilize the bleeding. Their attentions turned to the grizzly corpse.

Cris (to me): “Really!? A zombie bear!?”

Isis: “It was a zombie? Is that possible?”

To be safe El Guapo “double-tapped” the dead bear. They could see the steam wafting up from the bullet holes in its head and smell the fresh, hot blood against mixed with the cool night air. It had been a living animal but it also had some disturbing puss-yellow cysts or tumors swelling from under its greasy coat in places. El Guapo lit a cigarette.

El Guapo (exhaling): “Well, there’s definitely something wrong with that bear.”

Steve helped El Guapo to complete the fence and after about another hour Lilith was able to hit the power. Meanwhile, Kenny recuperated in a bed in the shelter wrapped in fresh bandages.

Death Squad

The following day, the group killed time by playing cards while waiting for Kenny to heal up enough to move. They continued to toss around ideas as to what to do. They only confirmed their previous plan to gain access to the oilrig on the lake. After dinner, Kenny was awake and surprisingly almost in traveling shape. El Guapo went outside on the back porch to have a smoke in peace. He puffed readily on his cigarette as he wandered aimlessly around the back yard and wound up near the power shed.

He stood for a while staring at the stars. When he finished he flicked the glowing stub against the bricks hard enough to put it out in a flash. He heard a ricochet, then another, and another. The ground around his feet began to jump and spit and he could hear the semi-automatic gunfire. Almost as a reflex, he leaped behind the safety of the brick shed.

The shots came from the large tree branches that overhung the electric fence. Squatting on the branches above were soldiers in green rubber suits bearing M-16s with drum magazines. Their exposed heads and faces revealed the rotting and partially mummified visages of zombies. With a heavy thump, one of them jumped to the ground. El Guapo swung the A-K from his shoulder and pulled the firing bolt, his back against the shed.

Wesley ran up from the shelter and yelled for the rest in the house to wake up if they were still asleep; she had seen El Guapo’s position from the security monitors. A spray of bullets from all three of the zombie soldiers tore at the bricks of the shed pinning El Guapo down. A second thump signaled a second creature was in the yard. Lilith ran out to the back porch and shot the creature squatting in the tree putting a 9mm slug between its eyes. It fell to the ground in the yard. Steve fired William’s hunting rifle from the kitchen door putting a large hole in the second creature’s forehead.

Wesley rushed out of the door knocking Steve to the side. She shot and took off half of the last creature’s face destroying it.

El Guapo: “They have guns now?”

Wesley: “See! I told you! It’s the military; they’re trying to kill us!”

Lilith: “We gotta figure something out.”

Cris: “Huh. That was kinda easy.”

Lilith (digging at one of the zombie’s forehead with a knife): “Huh. Hey guys, these have those little red lights too.”

After about an hour Lilith was inspecting a microchip she had pulled from the skull of one of the soldier zombies. It appeared to be some sort of control chip wired to receive a specific signal. She also found a built-in electronic locator but easily disabled it. She had no idea how to prevent the control signal from being received or even if she could disrupt it.

No Chill

Come sunrise, Lilith began work on building a set of walkie-talkies with signal scrambling and better range using the electronic parts found around William’s lair and a set of new walkies she found down in the shelter. El Guapo, Steve, and William were going to travel to William’s neighbor to check on things there, they suspected the zombie soldiers had come from that direction. The rest of the gang just tried to get as much rest as they could.

After a quick breakfast of pancakes, sausages, and eggs cooked by non-other than El Guapo, the three that had planned to scout the neighbor’s property packed up and left. William guided them through the woods and down the hill towards a deep cleft between the hills. They soon found themselves walking through a rocky creek bed their feet drenched in its cold gently burbling waters. The streak of sky above, a break in the umbrage was blinding and the direct sun was making them pour sweat.

Steve (to William): “Is it always this quiet out here?”

William: “No.”

Steve: “Okay.”

The dull green of the dense foliage of the trees and bushes swelled on both sides of them. Occasionally, a slight breeze would disturb the leaves the sound breaking the unnatural silence for a few seconds. The shadows in the deeps of the foliage appeared in contrast to a bright almost white clear sky pitch black.

Steve: “Are we almost there?”

William: “Yup, up this way.”

They surmounted a steep dirt path that winded its way over the top of a shallow bluff and into the shadowy cover of the trees. It was a little while longer before they found themselves at an old and ill-maintained cottage with a companion barn, everything covered in a thick brown carpet of pine needles. William walked onto the plank-board front porch and pushed the half-opened front door open. The television on white noise filled the room. The place smelled of rotting meat. The source was the fat old woman sitting in the overstuff-chair before the television. She had been shot through the temple her sawed-off shotgun still in her lap and her slippered feet still on the antique ottoman. William mentioned that she did not like trespassers … and salesmen.

A large black dog also shot was lying in a pool of blackened congealed blood near the front door. The walls around where the dog was bore a few stray bullet holes. The tag on the black shepherd mix’s spiked collar read “Laddy”. Zombies did not do this.

El Guapo: “Man, let’s get outta here!”

About an hour later, the three intrepid explorers returned to home base and delivered the news to the rest of the crew.

Lilith: “I say we get outta here tomorrow morning.”

The rest of the group concurred. The rest of the day went on without interruption. After a dinner of chili beans and canned corn, the gang was preparing to try to get a good rest before what was going to be a rough adventure. At the kitchen table, Wesley was making sure her weapons were in working order when she was done she slung her MP4 on her shoulder. The others were watching the emergency messages on the television and taking notes. She glanced through the kitchen window and saw several red pinpoints of laser light dancing on the table and fridge. She shouted and kicked open the backdoor and ran out onto the porch. She immediately had to duck for cover as the back porch was shredded by automatic gunfire.

A squad of ten commandoes was bearing down on the house. Two of them were setting up an M-249 SAW machine gun. Wesley sprayed the area with her MP4 followed by El Guapo charging out onto the back porch (hey they really did this) and sprayed some of the commandoes with fire from his AK-47. Lilith ran to her car, which was parked, adjacent to the backyard but next to the house. Steve got into firing position behind the kitchen window with his rifle. After a few seconds, William joined him with a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, an RPG-7, in his arms.

William: “Yeah, I’m gonna take these mother@#%$ers out!”

Kenny also charged through the back door and tossed a grenade, it landed and exploded in a vacant area quite a distance from the machine gun, his intended target. William stood up at the kitchen window, took aim, and pulled the trigger hoping to blast the main group of soldiers away. Click. The rocket failed to function it was a dud. The crack of a single shot from a rifle and William collapsed onto the kitchen floor, blood gushing from his belly. Another wave of gunfire washed over the place. Steve took a shot dropping a soldier in the trees and turned his attentions to stopping William’s bleeding.

The firefight lasted only a few more seconds, the motley group of adventurers was victorious against all odds. The generator shed had been shot to pieces but was still standing. The rear of the house peppered with bullet holes. The soldiers had been living soldiers but they had no markings as to indicate that they were government troops. Kenny found a keycard on what he thought was the team leader. The card had the emblem of the Geno-Chem on it and nothing else.

Carlitos: “Well that seals it I guess.”

Cris: “Damn.”

Carlos: “I’m hurt, dude.”

El Guapo (to Wesley): “What’s wrong with you?”

Wesley: “Well, we can’t stay here anymore!”

Jenn (turning to me, the GM): “Damn, zombie game has No Chill! No chill, man!”

Epilogue of the Damned

The group began packing the vehicles immediately. William disclosed the complete contents of his vault. It was stocked with several boxes of 7.62 and 9mm rounds, 2 more rockets for the RPG, a couple of 12-gauge shotguns, several hunting rifles, dozens of automatic rifles, semi-automatic pistols, and a box of dynamite as well as a 1-kilo brick of cocaine.

Gil: “What? Seriously?”

Carlos: “Yeah man, I gotta make my money, I deal with everybody back here.”

Kenny kept hold of the keycard and the vehicles were pulling out onto the dirt road.

Carlitos: “So where are we getting the boat?”

Gil: “What? What boat?”

Carlitos (turning to me): “It’s an oil rig in the middle of a lake right?”

Cris: “Well, there’s lake houses around there somewhere, there’s gotta be.”

Jen: “Yeah, someone has a boat we can steal.”

The convoy of vehicles kicked up a cloud of dust and pine needles as they roared away from the hilltop compound heading back to the Old Country Highway.

****

Later that night, my wife, Jenn, and I were driving home on the brightly lit freeway through Colton into San Bernardino when out of nowhere she turned to me.

“You know if you kill that dog I’m divorcing you.”

 “Um, wha?”

Cris, who was in the backseat, started laughing.

End of Part Three (Session played 10/19/19)

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Corpse World: Road to Nowhere

The eponymous Little Boy that El Guapo and his friends encounter.

The Zombie Horror campaign continues in Amorset, somewhere in the Northwestern U.S.A. This time around, three new recruits join the fray. It has been a single day since all hell broke loose within the city limits of Amorsetville and those that are able have fled, spreading out into the suburbs and surrounding rural county. The radio and television have been broadcasting a general emergency signal stressing all citizens to remain where they are at as the army deploys from the Amorsetville base in a rescue capacity.­

Street Walkin’

Three figures trudged, loping with exhaustion through a sea of boiling air dancing over the hot pavement of the Old County Highway in the midday sun. All three puzzled by the complete lack of traffic along the road. It was terribly quiet, even the sounds of nature that should be abundant out here were non-existent. They could feel the alien silence pressing on their eardrums save for the soft scraping of their feet over the rough road. A couple of hours previously, the motley trio had leaped into the older guy’s car and fled the city during a chaotic night of blood and fire. Their car, an old surplus police car, stranding them on the old road after parking for a brief respite. When the older fella tried to turn it over, he found the battery dead. Thus, they abandoned it knowing that there was a junkyard “somewhere around here”.

The elder car owner, Steve McCullen (played by Cris) was a Supernaturalist convinced that the outbreak had a supernatural origin focused in the old cemetery that was also located in the rural county. His companions were Kenny Logan (played by Carlitos) an off-duty soldier from the Amorsetville base and William Fodder (played by Carlos) a quiet survivalist that actually lived just off the road in the hills. After what seemed like ages, baking under a hot afternoon sun on the blacktop, Kenny spotted what appeared to be a biker at a distance of a few hundred feet shambling clumsily towards them. He was on foot, dressed in a bloodstained denim vest and equally stained denim bell-bottom pants. He also appeared to have several large bullet holes in his chest and belly.

Steve kissed one of the charms amongst the various religious symbols he wore around his neck, pulled his bow from his back, and knocked an arrow. The three stopped.

Kenny (pulling his M-16 from his shoulder): “Is it one of them?”

In response, William got in a squatting position and scoped the biker out with his deer rifle. He could see that the biker’s belly was bloated and seemed to pulsate and move as if something were crawling inside of him. His eyes were yellow and dead, blood crusted around his nose and mouth stiffening a scabby beard.

William: “Yup, it’s a zombie alright.”

Kenny unleashed a 3-round burst into its head bursting its skull like a hairy rotten maggot-filled watermelon.

Quickly, William and Kenny jogged up to the headless corpse intent on looting it. However, Steve remained about a 20 ft. distance behind them. William saw a .22-semi-automatic pistol in the back of the biker’s jeans and reached for it with the intent of tossing it to Steve. Meanwhile, Kenny saw that the biker had a hunting knife in a hip-sheath. As the two manipulated the corpse to grab the loot, the biker’s stomach at the belly button split and burst open in a gross, gory gush of blackened organs.

The organs moved of their own accord like a disgusting blob and similarly, it tried to engulf William. An arrow flew into it with no effect. Shots rang out. Kenny had shot the Viscera Blob a couple of times but to little effect. William dodged and started to run away farther down the road until his disgust got the better of him and he nearly vomited forcing him to stop mid-flight.

Kenny saw that his bullets and Steve’s arrow had little effect and so pulled out a hand grenade, another bit of equipment he had “borrowed” from the base and shouted “fire in the hole!” One end of the creature lifted up like a tentacle and vomited forth acid, spraying William down, he screamed. Kenny tossed his grenade and ran, Steve ducked where he was and William dove away to the side ditch.

Cris: “You have a GRENADE!?”

Carlitos: “Well, yeah.”

Cris: “Your on leave from the base?”

Carlitos: “Yes.”

Cris: “What were you planning?”

Carlitos: “You know, whatever.”

Their ears ringing after the small but intense explosion, the creature liquefied. Black foul-smelling bile splattered everywhere. Steve ran over to William using the water in his canteen to wash the acid from William’s torso preventing further damage. The crisis over, they continued their trek after it was determined that William could still keep up despite some pretty painful and deep chemical burns.

It was nearing dusk when they arrived at the wrecking yard fence, the dirty old sign proclaimed Fletcher & Sons Wrecking & Repair since 1965. As they neared the gate, they could hear an argument in midstream, “Hey don’t knock out my father!”

Starting Foreground Left going clockwise: Carlitos, Cris (hidden), Carlos, Isis, Jenn, The GM (me), and Gil.

Junk Yard Dogs

Wesley, El Guapo, and Lilith were standing by the front chain-link gate of the junkyard trying to decide where they were going to flee to in Lilith’s armored car. All three were debating their “options” when Lilith’s father emerged from the garage. He mumbled as he strode to the gate, mumbling about “nobody here” at work, “lazy S.O.B.’s”. At the same time, the debate became especially heated between Lilith and El Guapo. Meanwhile, Wesley noticed the old man approaching the locked gate and pulling a cluster of keys on a zip-line. He fumbled to find the right key for a few seconds then went to unlock it.

Wesley: “Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! No-no-no!”

She grabbed the old man away from the gate and he spat a nasty sexist insult in her face. Wesley slapped him, hard.

Jenn: “Hey my girl assumes the old guy’s hysterical. So he has to be slapped. Also for what he said.”

The old man stepped back, his face frozen in shock. Lilith and El Guapo were staring caught off-guard by the sudden situation. The old man started to throw a punch at Wesley. She immediately knocked him out with a perfectly timed jab to the jaw.

Lilith: “Hey! Did you just knock out my father!”

Wesley: “Hell yeah! He deserved it!”

Lilith: “Hey don’t knock out my father!”

Wesley: “He threw a punch at me!”

Steve (hanging on the chain-link): “*Ahem* Hey! You open? You guys got any car batteries!”

After a brief bit of talking with the three at the gate and assessing the situation, Lilith decided to let them into the yard. Parked in the yard to the side of the main dirt driveway in a space allotted for a parking lot was two custom choppers and a pickup truck with its windshield shot out. Steve, Kenny, and William noticed there was shattered safety glass all over the driveway outside the gate. El Guapo shared the story of the gunfight the previous night with the outlaw bikers.

Steve was talking to Lilith. Her “goth senses” were tingling and she found the longhaired Supernaturalist very appealing. Kenny talked with El Guapo and Wesley. He wanted to get himself back on base thinking the military probably had a plan. At a minimum, that would be the safest place to be, as close to the army as possible. William remained silent but was extremely distrustful of the government and was not going to go with that plan.

Carlos: “Yeah dude, I’m not gonna go with that plan man. Sorry.”

After all, William believed the military was responsible for this in the first place. He hugged his rifle tighter than usual.

Eventually, Steve and Lilith decided to take the yard “wrecker” and a charged battery to go and get his car. He would then follow her back. At this point, the entire group had decided that there was “strength in numbers”. The round trip would take anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour. They soon left and Wesley took William to the office to try to treat his acid burns with the first aid kit located there.

Meanwhile, El Guapo was bragging to his eager audience of Kenny about the biker gunfight. They walked around to the rear of the garage where they had dragged the corpses. There were five corpses lying there.

El Guapo: “Um. Wait. Something is weird here.”

Gil (to me): “Wait, how many bikers did we kill?”

The GM (me): “The four that walked up on Lilith and Wesley and three in the driveway, then you dragged two from the driveway and the four corpses in behind the garage.”

Gil: “But. I shot ‘em all in the head. Right?”

The GM (checking notes): “The driver from the pickup was the one you guys shot in the face and the other four… Yes, double-tap situation.”

Gil: “That’s six right? And five in the head?”

The GM: “Yupperooni.”

El Guapo: “Uh-oh.”

EL Guapo and Kenny barged into the office and warned William and Wesley that there was probably a walker loose in the yard. They were to stay put and watch the monitors while El Guapo and Kenny tracked it down. Eventually, after several tense moments, the pair of hunters picked up a trail of blood. As they stalked between rows of the high stacks of crushed cars, pillars of old tires, and mountainous piles of scrap, they had a softly spoken conversation. As a result, they realized the biker that Kenny and his two companions had met on the road was probably a biker killed by El Guapo and the two women during the shootout. They had just forgotten the corpse by the driveway outside of the fence.

El Guapo tracked the blood trail further into the maze of junk. Eventually, he lost it. Kenny tried to keep an eye out but started to try to help El Guapo to find it again. They were out of the view of any cameras. Both were kneeling studying the ground when Kenny, by chance, heard a slight noise behind them. A zombie in leathers was stumbling from behind a mound of rusted engine blocks.

Carlitos: “Well, there’s the stealth zombie.”

Jenn: “Hee hee. Ninja zombie.”

The GM: *cough*cough* “No yet.”

Everybody at the Table: 😐

After a three-round burst to the creature’s head, the pair let out a sigh of relief.

Road Rage

Meanwhile, Lilith and Steve made it to his stalled out police car on the side of the road without complication. However, by the time that they arrived at the vehicle Steve’s non-stop blathering about the supernatural cause of the zombie outbreak had gotten on her nerves. Any attraction that might have squirmed in her breast at the sight of his pagan-symbol inscribed charms was stone cold dead.

Isis (exasperated): “Aw gawd, I hate this guy.”

It was not long before Lilith had the car hood up and replacing the battery in lieu of any conversation. Steve was just standing around awkwardly trying to keep watch for any trouble.  Lilith was almost finished when Steve spotted several zombies filtering out of the woods onto the highway some badly rotted. “Damn, it must be the old cemetery.” Lilith finished, slammed the hood, and they got into their respective vehicles. Getting the lead out and into their gas-pedal, the pair made it back in half the time to the wrecking yard. However, before he had completely left the zombies in the dust Steve had seen through his rearview mirror that the road was filling up with zombies, it was a large horde. “Aw man! They’re gonna follow the f*&#@ing cars!”

It was already dark by the time they had got back and alerted the others. They decided that Lilith would finish her car ASAP and create a portable makeshift flamethrower for Kenny (he could use one after all), and three others would take turns keeping watch from the garage roof. Kenny was already there though it was not yet first watch, he would stay until the watches started. After William relieved him, he went into the office and decided to try to get in touch with the base and let them know his location using the CB.

Kenny was soon able to get in contact with his base. At least they had the proper code words. Through intermittent static, he got orders to stay put and got some information about the checkpoints at the borders of the county and other side of the city having problems. The communique ended abruptly, the signal dropped and Kenny was unable to re-establish communications.

Suddenly, William shouted from the rooftop. Ten Zombies were at the chain-link gate. It looked as if it were going be pushed down at any minute. Fortunately, the rest of the fence had an outer shell of old aluminum siding and was plenty sturdy. The metal gate groaned.

Fight with Fire

The group of zombies at the gate pressed themselves into the chain-link seemingly oblivious to the presence of the living within. That was until El Guapo and Kenny ran into the driveway before the gate shouting. Immediately the zombies surged and the gung-ho pair could hear the metal gate strain.

Gil: “We probably should have stayed out of sight.”

Kenny readied his M-16 and El Guapo his AK-47. Atop the garage, William put a foot on the elevated edge of the roof and got into firing position with his rifle at the ready. Steve ran around and stayed half-hidden around the corner of the garage knocking an arrow to his bow. Lilith and Wesley stayed inside of the garage still rushing to finish building the flamethrower having finished upgrading Lilith’s Chevrolet.

Kenny and El Guapo swept the driveway area at a 45-degree angle at head level taking out only about three zombies in total. A shot rang out, a halo of blood and brains around a blonde head, a single zombie dropped. William’s carefully aimed shot had paid off. El Guapo slung his assault rifle onto his shoulder and pulled his machete from his belt. He did not want to do another spray and “waste bullets”.

El Guapo: “Machetes don’t run out of bullets.”

He then doused the blade in gasoline from a container by the gate and lit it ablaze.

Gil: “I’m going to stab them in the head through the gate.”

The GM: “Um, a machete blade is not going to fit through the hole of a chain-link fence man.”

Gil: “The hell? Yeah, it will.”

The back and forth on the machete debate went on for a few minutes until Gil showed me the picture on his phone. “This is what I was thinking.” The picture was of a very fancy custom blade being sold as “the ultimate machete”. I have to admit, it was nice. Eventually, I relented. His argument: “I’m an awesome bounty hunter, so I need an awesome machete!”

The GM (me): “Yeah, whatever. Go ahead and do your thing.”

The Machete Debate

An arrow thudded into a zombie temple, another zipped into a forehead and came out the back of the skull. However, Steve had failed to drop either zombie with his archery. Another shot cracked from the roof of the garage and yet another halo of blood and brains signaled the demise of yet another zombie. El Guapo rammed his flaming custom blade through the fence flamboyantly slaying another creature. Zombies continued to drop as the gate continued to hold them back. Then a shot cracked out again from William’s hunting rifle. Kenny’s right thigh exploded, he screamed and dropped to the ground.

William’s misfire had hit Kenny in the back of the thigh crippling his leg. El Guapo finished off the last zombie with a flaming stab through the gate. He then turned and offered to cauterize Kenny’s leg wound. El Guapo wisely decided not to do that when Kenny loudly objected, as did the rest of the group.

Carlitos (to Carlos): “Dude! You shot me? You shot me in the leg!?”

Carlos (shrugging): “Um yeah, I guess so. Um. Oops I guess, heh heh.”

Carlitos: “Dude you owe me man! You owe me.”

Jenn: “What!? Why does he owe you!?”

Carlitos: “He shot me in the leg!”

The zombies destroyed, El Guapo helped Kenny into the office. There, Wesley stopped the bleeding from the bullet wound; the bullet had gone straight through but it had still broken the bone. He would need a splint to walk. As a result, Steve, Lilith, and even Kenny himself had tried to splint the leg but it still took several tries before Lilith and Steve in a conjoined effort finally got it right. Fortunately, no one had further injured him.

 Afterward, Steve went outside the gate. He took out a can of silver spray paint from his backpack and spray painted protective magical runes on the aluminum sheeting of the fence.

Steve (admiring his handiwork): “There, that’ll protect us for a while.”

Little Boy

By the next morning, the gang was ready to move out. El Guapo was ready to leave his custom chopper to ride in the wrecker with Kenny and his flamethrower. However, before they left, Lilith was going to mount a few plates of armor on it as well bolt the snowplow on the front. While she did this assisted by Wesley, Kenny and El Guapo decided to make Molotov cocktails. By the time the wrecker was armored, by early afternoon, the pair had produced about 5 Molotovs apiece. They put four cocktails in Lilith’s car.

Steve’s old police car, the wrecker with Kenny and El Guapo, and Lilith in her armored Chevrolet sedan began to move out convoy style. However, during their eagerness to leave, somehow Wesley, Lilith’s father aka the Old Man, and William wound up in Lilith’s car along with a substantial load of supplies. Steve was left riding alone.

All of them noticed that a deep thumping sound began to beat on their eardrums and into their chests. This sound was growing more intense by the second until it began to jostle the junk strewn around the vehicles. The caravan of cars pulled to the front gate slowly and stopped. Lilith’s car was in the lead with the tow truck at the rear. Lilith got out of her car to undo the lock on the gate. The thumping was shaking the cars. Kenny shouted. They could all see a large green helmeted head above the tin-sheet fence. It was moving up and down in time with the thumps. The thing came into full view slowly. Lilith ran back to her car and shut the door. The tow truck tore off in a U-turn and took off in the opposite direction.

A 12-ft tall creature made of solid muscle towered over the gate. Its head encased in a green helmet with a single blinking light at the center of the smooth faceplate. The barrel-like torso was encased in a cuirass of similar material, it looked like tank armor. It was humanoid but it was not in human proportions, its legs were short and thick and its long heavily muscled arms hung down to the ground. Following this thing were dozens probably more, zombies undulating to the pace of the blinking electric eye. Some of the pathetic creatures had small red lights, like LEDs, embedded in their heads and temples, all blinking in unison with the large tank-zombie’s light.

The thing flung the gate a hundred feet behind it without effort. Thinking quick, Kenny fired his M-16 at the oil barrels and gas containers near the front gate. Miraculously they exploded and spread burning oil over the driveway. The giant monster stopped and flung an overlong arm seemingly to protect its non-existent face. However, during this brief respite, Lilith panicking had a hard time trying to three-point turn her way around while the other two vehicles were turning around and going out the rear off-road exit to the yard. Staring at that massive zombie-tank, Kenny had a sudden flash of memory.

Weeks ago while jerking around on base; Kenny had stumbled into a “secure area” run by both the government and some corporation. He wandered down the wrong hallway and through an open bay door where he spotted pieces of armor identical to those on the large zombie he currently faced. From around a corner, he had also heard a conversation about a “probably illegal” bio-weapon program and remembered seeing several corporate types in suits strutting around the on-base labs.

Jenn: “I knew it! The damned military sent that thing!”

Carlitos: “Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves now, there could be a good explanation behind this. Right?”

Lilith just had gotten her car around to face the right direction when the big guy hurdled through the fire grabbing her reinforced bumper. Screaming Lilith tried to maneuver her car to try to free it from the monster’s iron grip. The creature lifted her rear wheels off the ground. Kenny fired another burst at the creature but his bullets did nothing barely even scratching its armor. Wesley tossed a Molotov into its face from the passenger side window. It took a step back and let go. All of the cars began to move in a nerve rackingly slow convoy. As they proceeded, Steve saw the creature pat out the flames on its armored face. Galloping on hands and feet, it began to charge the last car, Lilith’s Chevy.

Lilith: “Oh no, oh no, oh no!”

Carlitos: “Wait! I have an idea!”

This time Kenny took careful aim with his M-16 and emptied his clip on one of its unarmored legs, specifically to the left knee. The sound of roaring engines and shouting drowned out the impact of bullets smashing into the bone of a giant kneecap and tearing through the tendons and flesh. The leg fell free of the beast and it stumbled and fell forward crashing into the ground with a tremendous thump. Lilith had just avoided the monster’s mass as it fell heavily into the dirt and the caravan proceeded to the rear of the yard as zombies flooded in.

Eventually, the lead cars moved aside to let Lilith’s vehicle speed ahead to lead. Soon they were out and away via the rear exit, a dirt road that led to a series of off-road paths that eventually led back to the main highway.

Slow Ride

The three-vehicle convoy wound its way back to the County Highway continuing west. They were looking for William’s home. He had a well-equipped bomb-shelter.

Cris: “Damn. We’re gonna run into those zombies.”

Isis: “Uhg, I forgot about those.”

Gil: “Wait. What? Weren’t those back there at the junkyard, the group you guys saw?”

Jenn: “No, but the ones they saw were 11 hours away.”

She had calculated the time that the zombie horde Steve and Lilith had seen would take to get to the junkyard on foot.

Carlitos: “So those zombies came from the other direction then. From the direction of the checkpoint!?”

Carlos: “Wait. What checkpoint?”

The convoy slowed as a dense mass of about 60 zombies came into view, clogging the road.

Lilith: “Screw it! I’m going through ‘em!”

El Guapo: “Hell yeah! We’ll lead with the wrecker and if anybody gets stuck we’ll hook you out!”

El Guapo stomped on the gas and plowed the tow truck right through the center of the crowd mashing every creature in his way, bodies shattering on the angled steel of the snowplow. In turn, Lilith hit the gas and got a corpse stuck in her wheel well stopping her dead in the middle of the gore trail surrounded by several zombies. Steve hit his gas trying to connect with Lilith’s bumper in an attempt to push her out but he only succeeded in getting himself stuck as well.

Seeing this, the tow truck backed up while Kenny climbed out of the window onto the wench with flamethrower on his back. He lowered the hook then used his flamethrower to keep the horde at bay away from the cars as El Guapo leaped out and hooked up Lilith’s car. A few seconds later and Lilith and her passengers were free of the zombie hoard. However, Steve was still stuck, his wheels spinning uselessly in a slick mass of mangled human flesh. All the others could do to help was to keep the zombies away until he could get himself loose. Fortunately, that did not take long and they all sped away at top speed soon after.

*****

After about an hour’s drive up into the foothills and trees, they pulled up to a high barbed wire-topped chain-link security fence. The warning sign stated DANGER – Electric Fence! All was well. However, Kenny was still thinking about rejoining the military somehow, William would probably not want to leave the safety of his fortress home once ensconced, and Steve believed the tank-zombie was a “true undead” calling all of the zombies to him, the reason that his protection runes failed to work on it. Wesley was utterly distrustful of the government at this point and planning to murder Kenny before he could contact the army again. Lilith glanced at her father in the backseat he was asleep. She resolved to get some sleep finally.

After the third session of the Zombie Horror game (the Corpse World campaign), my wife Jenn and I were driving home on the 10 freeway going into Cherry Valley. We had just entered a stretch where it sank into the rising hills and where lights other than on the freeway were sparse. I was drunk and pleased that I had got through all of my bullet points slouching in my seat ready to sleep staring out at the black silhouettes of hills racing by. As we passed under a brightly lit overpass, she turned to me.

“You know. Maybe you should kill at least one of us next game, to make it more suspenseful!”

End of Part Two (Session played 9/7/19)

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