Upheaval, “Howdy Neighbor!”, (Episode 3)
“You seen Gray & Thomas this morning?” asks Catherine who is peeking through the blinds at their neighbor’s trailer.
Douglas, barely paying attention, continues reassembling his recently cleaned pistol. “Nope.”
“We should check on them, they’ve always been kind to us.”
“Fine” says Douglas after loading a fresh magazine into his pistol.
Catherine and Douglas step out of their trailer and walk around to their neighbor’s unit. The door is ajar and the two look at each other with concern.
Douglas readies his pistol and silently walks up the cinder block stairs into the trailer. He can hear sounds of a disturbance in the back room but it does not sound like their neighbor’s voices. He stays still with his gun drawn on the hallway that leads towards the rear of the trailer. Catherine has readied her pistol and is behind Doug’s right shoulder.
Two people appear, they’ve got automatic rifles slung over their backs along with heavy camping backpacks. They are wearing helmets like the ones you might find at military surplus store and generally look much more prepared that anyone else Catherine & Douglas have run into over the last 48 hours. They also look very surprised to see Douglas aiming a pistol at them.
Douglas charges forward and slugs one in the face who immediately falls to the ground. Catherine fires a shot that not only narrowly misses the second person but also Doug. The second individual shoves Doug and runs past Catherine out the front door. Catherine lean back around the door. “He’s gone.”
Douglas ties up the other individual and waits for them to regain consciousness.
“Where’s Gray & Thomas?”
“Hell if I know. Just looting, same as anyone else.”
Douglas paces for a moment and then shoots the individual in their head.
Catherine gasps. “Doug… why? Are we just going to kill everyone we meet?”
“Look babe, we can’t trust anyone anymore.” says Douglas as he takes the assault rifle from the dead body.
“Don’t babe me. You are going to have to learn to make some friends. Otherwise we are not going to make it out here.”
Douglas frowns. He’s spent his last few years behind a screen and interacting with faceless names over text messages. He prefers the quiet solitude after his stint in the Army.
Catherine & Douglas look around the place. There are plates in the sink, like Gray & Thomas had eaten breakfast that morning.
Douglas notices Gray’s favorite coffee cup next to the sink. It is mostly empty but what’s left inside the cup looks fresh. “Maybe they went out for supplies?” Douglas removes the body from the house and cleans up the mess. You almost can’t tell someone died there.
Catherine and Douglas check the other two nearby trailers. Casey, a young woman who is a pre-school teacher, tells them she saw Gary & Thomas this morning loading up their truck. The other local resident, Jay, is clearly drunk and hasn’t seen a thing.
Doug puts his hands on his hips and looks around the trailer park. “Maybe we should head over to the Plaza… the bowling alley? Those two loved that place. Perhaps they hoped to find some loot there?”
Catherine nods and goes back to the house to prepare.
I decided it made sense our PCs would check on their neighbors. Mythic told me that Catherine was into it but Douglas not so much. I figured this was a Find encounter - the goal is to find Gray & Thomas. I rolled up those names randomly and in my head this is a same-sex couple that lives next door. Mythic tells me that they’ve been friendly with our PCs.
There would be 3 “PEFs” in our Find Encounter. THW has it is own bizarre language for things. PEFs, or Possible Enemy Forces, are kinda like “wandering monsters” in a dungeon and Encounters are like like mini-missions with their own set of rules for the “victory conditions.” PEFs can easily turn out to be casual interactions or dangerous combats. If you squint, you can generally paint over the various Encounter types with your own spin on things.
The first PEF would be a confrontation, per the rules, and I rolled up two Survivors loaded with assault rifles. Survivors are formally Citizens who have seen some shit and decided to make a stand. They are technically the “good guys” in the All Things Zombie lore with “Gangers” being the folks are way less than reasonable. I figure it is early though and Douglas doesn’t really know friend from foe yet.
Catherine & Douglas won the Action order and Douglas does what he does best, rush into Melee. Probably a good plan because a shooting match with two assault rifles would’ve been a terrible idea. Douglas easily won the Melee sending the first NPC “out of the fight.” Catherine’s shot missed but forced the other NPC to “duck back.” This triggered the end of the round and a Will to Fight test which the NPCs failed and caused the remaining person to leave the battle. I ran the noise checks for two shots, but no Zombies wanted to come and play.
Douglas is a Citizen interacting with a Survivor so he’s at a -1 dice penalty. I used his Extraordinary Effort to add a dice back in. He only managed to pass the same number of dice as the NPC though which is an “NPC ignores you” result. I thought about what Douglas would do with the NPC and “letting him go” just didn’t seem realistic so I had Douglas execute them. It is cruel and somewhat panicky but I think it fits the profile of the type person Douglas is for now.
Mythic told me that neighbors had been there recently with an “Extreme Yes” result. I also made Doug pass a Challenge test to clean up his mess, which he passed with doubles 1s. I rolled several double 1s in this session which was odd.
The last two PEFs resolved as Sheeple with low Reps. I decided these were just harmless neighbors. One of the PEFs gave up a Clue, part of THW’s mini-game for “Finding” things. At the end of this Find Encounter though, there weren’t enough Clues found to resolve matters. Next session we will run another Find encounter at the Plaza - which is a typical American strip mall. Possibly a chance to score some more loot but also likely to be either already looted or contested.
One thing I’m using from the back of ATZ: Evolution is a Resource system. For each “named” location there’s a table you create that shows how much of the different kinds of loot (Food, Luxury Items, Meds, Weapons) are still available. I like the idea that stuff starts running out. It will force our PCs to have to leave the relative safety of their current Rural area.