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From the Future

Upheaval, "Radio, Radio", Episode 2

Published March 31, 2023
Episodes THW All Things Zombie Campaigns Upheaval

Catherine sits at a table in a tiny kitchen, all the cabinets are open, drawers exposed, and there is a meager collection of supplies in a box.

Douglas looks over their situation. That’s it, huh?”

Haven’t been the store, was waiting for my paycheck to hit.”

Douglas, aware that his hacking skills haven’t been paying the bills lately, turns to stare out the window. It is quiet out there. We should try to get out and grab what we can.”

Catherine glances at the empty spot where the car keys use to hang.

Douglas tries to change the subject. You know the Rebel Radio building is close…”

Catherine walks over to the radio and tunes the dial. The only sound is static. She looks at Douglas and tilts her head in a why not” motion.

The pair cross Route 68 and walk down a dirt road towards a candy-striped tower. It is eerily quiet, there’s little wind, and the two can hear the hum of the nearby powerlines. Douglas has a pistol drawn and surveys an empty parking lot.

No cars.” says Catherine.

Douglas senses Catherine might be disappointed by this fact. Might mean it is empty, let’s check it out.”

The double front doors are closed with a chain looped through the handles and a keyed lock. Douglas hands the gun to Catherine and pulls a hairpin out of her hair. Watch our backs.” After several minutes Douglas hears a satisfying click and removes the lock and chain. He takes the pistol back from Catherine and hands her the chain. Might come in handy.”

Douglas is first in and the only sound is twangy county music coming from a set of speakers in the ceiling. Weird. They must think they are still broadcasting.”

Catherine sifts through a lobby desk. Nothing useful here.”

Douglas motions down a hallway Let’s find the control room. Folks work late hours here and there must be some food.”

Douglas turns down the dimly hallway and a shot whizzes past his ear. Get down!” Douglas charges forward screaming like maniac, grabs the shooter, and bashes their head with the pistol. Another shooter ducks out of a doorway and pops off a shot that misses. Catherine screams in the background. Douglas pushes the limp body he was holding down and sprints to the doorway. This catches the shooter off-gurd and Douglas uses the moment to lodge his foot into their groin. The assailant is now writhing around on the ground moaning and manages to work out an aww, fuck man” as Douglas unsheathes his knife. There’s no hesitation as Douglas plunges the knife into the man’s head. Douglas looks behind him Catherine? You ok?”

Jesus, Doug.” says a visibly shaken Catherine.

Douglas is pushing past her. Let’s clear the other floors.”

The pair carefully work through the remaining rooms and floors. As they reach the top floor, there’s a low moaning and scratching sound coming from a room at the end of a hallway.

Catherine, now holding a large pistol taken from the downstairs man, is looking over Douglas’s shoulder. Think someone is locked up in there?”

Douglas shrugs. Hello? You should know that we’re armed. There’s more of us than you.” Douglas hopes the last statement is true.

The moaning and scratching sounds continue.

Douglas walks up to the door and motions for Catherine to stand on the other side. He does a countdown with his fingers and then opens the door.

A lone, barely human looking, individual is standing on the other side. They bare their teeth and make a low guttural scream. Anyone present can see that this individual is missing most of their torso but still able to amble forward.

What the shit…” says Douglas as he waste no time plunging the knife into the moaning individual’s skull.

Catherine throws up and coughs.

I guess that’s why our boys downstairs were jumpy.” notes Douglas, who seems unfazed by the horror before them pulls his knife out from the creature. He steps over the body and peers into the room. Clear.” Looking around he sees a shelf with some boil in bag” foods.

Catherine, recomposing herself, comes to collect the food into her backpack. Is this why we have to stay indoors? What the hell was that?”

Didn’t see anything like that downtown yesterday, just a lot of chaos.”

The pair explore a rooftop and find some booze next to a folding chair. They make their way back down to the parking lot and the walk back into Harmony where it is unsettling empty once again.

GM Notes

With the Day One scenario I was able to build out a backstory for my two primary characters and assign them a basic Rep score & weapons. To start a campaign proper I also wanted to assign them some attributes. As I noted in the last recap, All Things Zombie: Evolution is oddly lacking attributes. Every other version of ATZ, besides the forthcoming End of Days: Quick Play, has attributes so I’m unclear whether this omission was intentional or not.

Campaign play in ATZ: Evolution also defines a few other character bits: class, age, the ever useless gender, and an inventory limit equal to your Rep. 

After working through character creation I’ve got the following profiles to work with (updated to include their session-based looting):

Douglas Collins, Star, Rep 5/4/5, G, Citizen
Food-1, Weapon-2 (BAP-2, P-1), Meds-1, Lux-1
IRD-0, DRD-0

  • RAGE: Counts a +1d6 bonus if in Melee.
  • STEALTHY: Opponent counts its Rep at 1 point lower than actual when rolling on the Action Table if the Stealthy Character is alone.

Catherine Watson, Grunt, Rep 3/3/2, G, Citizen
Food-1, Weapon-1 (BAP-2), Meds-0, Lux-1
IRD-0, DRD-0

  • RESILIENT: Will treat its first Out of the Fight result as a Carry On instead.

I’m not counting IRD/DRD at this point because after talking with ATZs creator, Ed Teixeira, I made a house rule change. Typically in a THW campaign game you have two encounters per-month. Problem is, I wanted to play out the first thirty days of the game which will require many more encounters in a month. Ed mentioned an alternative system and suggested only counting IRD/DRD in the last encounter. This has some meta-gaming implications I’m not sure how I feel about but I figured it was worth a try.

I’m not going to post all of the gameplay inline, as I have in the past. It is the same THW mechanics you know and love - roll 2d6 under a number, count the dice that pass, look up the result on a table. This was an involuntary confrontation” encounter with a type of Wrong place at the wrong time” I rolled up. Zozer’s SOLO has taught me the benefit of just making the rolls and reverse engineering what the roleplaying was. I do try to always factor in what is cinematically playing out in my head as I go but I tend to go back in and fill in the details with the effect” of the rolls - how close were the results, how far from a miss or success were they, etc.

There were two NPCs in the confrontation encounter who won the action order but both missed their shots which gave Douglas a chance to leverage his RAGE attribute in a melee charge. The shots fired didn’t attract any Zombies initially, but as I was clearing the floors and rolling for PEFs I came up with a Zombie result. I decided that narratively this must have meant they were in a closed room, unable to actively react to the shooting. The radio station building is in the middle of nowhere and largely soundproof so I ignored checking for the Police to respond. (The police were in route to yesterday’s grocery store fire but before their rounds to arrive” counter was up, the robbery was done, and Douglas had left the scene.)

Not a bad haul of loot from this building. Enough food to get by. Booze can be traded or cashed in for Increasing Rep dice. Everyone now has a pistol at least. Douglas passed his ZED OR NO ZED test with flying colors. Oh and Doug’s apparent calm and knowledge of clearing a building comes from his previous, if limited, military experience I rolled up during his backstory creation. Catherine may be lacking in military background but I’ve met a few theater stage mangers in real life and they are not to be messed with. The show must go on” as they say and if the dice are kind Catherine can play a huge role in this game.