There is a Kickstarter for a Zombie game called City of the Dead. The kickstarter can be found here
What is City of the Dead?
As you might suspect from the name, City of the Dead (or “COTD,” if you please) is a zombie apocalypse roleplaying game. Some of you love zombies and apocalypses, others love only one part of that equation. That’s okay! The game actually caters to all kinds of players. COTD is set in The City—a plug-and-play setting that provides detailed but nonspecific locations. You can take pieces of The City or the whole thing, drop it anywhere in the world, add the desired local flavor and be good to go. It’s generic, but that isn’t to say it’s vaguely defined. On the contrary, locations like City Hall or the City Zoo, or the Penitentiary, are all given lots of detailed descriptions and rules for things you might see there, how they could serve as a temporary or even permanent shelter in The City, etc.
You’re a Survivor. It’s what you do. You were strong or smart or maybe just lucky enough to survive the initial Plague. Now you band together with your fellow Survivors to form Communities or maybe just survive another night. The City is in chaos. Many more die every night, and rise up to join the undead. Society as you know it is collapsing. Are you going to eat each other when the going gets tough? Are you going to support one another to endure an environment too dangerous for any one person? While traditional zombie apocalypse tales paint humans as the greatest threat, they’re also your reason to survive. People help each other in disasters. Communities come together to pool resources, maybe rebuild a semblance of safety and order amid the zombie-infested city.
What is the rules system like?
With City of the Dead, we elected to create our own system. I wanted one that did the things I enjoy most for this kind of game. At its heart, the GAEA System uses 2D6 + modifiers versus scaling Target Numbers. Survivors have Attributes and Skills, which for humans range from 1-6. Most basic rolls use an Attribute + a Skill, although modifiers from environmental conditions, equipment, abilities, and so on may apply. Meeting or beating the TNs aren’t the end, though. The game uses margin of success (“MoS”) points for extra effects. If you roll well, you could spend MoS points on finishing a critical task faster, inflicting extra damage in combat, knocking a foe down, or even using less Salvage in a crafting task.
City of the Dead is all about building on this basis, so that things are simple to understand but offer depth and options to those who want it. For example, Skills have Specialties, which are additional abilities you unlock as the Skill increases. A Specialty might do something like subtract one from the MoS points needed for various success options, raise the effective level of the Skill even above 6, or open up new and unusual uses for the Skill.
Survivors aren’t just Skilled, though. Like Sailor Jupiter, they’re Talented! Each Skill has a group of related Talents that players can choose from to improve their characters. These often unlock useful new abilities or enhance existing ones. For example, one of the Criminal Talents, “Casing the Joint,” allows the character to study a Location (which often have their own traits that can be modified by players, like barricading the place!) and learn its traits. She can even learn (“Call it an educated guess!”) or strongly suspect hidden traits, such as likely alarm systems, where the real valuables or weak points might be, and so on. It even gives you a bonus to break in to that Location! That’s pretty cool, right? Another one, “Trigger Discipline,” enables you to use less Ammo when you’re putting down the undead—a handy skill to have in the post-apocalyptic world.
A wealth of Talents exist for each category, allowing you to customize your Survivor the way you want to.
Putting the “survival” in “Survival Horror”
At the most basic level, Survivors need Food, Water, and shelter in order to remain Survivors. The average Survivor needs 3 Food and 2 Water a day, or else they begin to suffer from deprivation. But there’s a lot more to survival than that, isn’t there? You need shelter from the elements (and the hungry dead). You need tools to help you survive. That’s where crafting and Salvage comes in.
Survivors build, repair, and jury-rig a variety of items. They do this with Salvage, which is used to build shelters and barricades, repair vehicles, improvise weapons, and much more. Salvage comes in several forms itself: General, Mechanical, Electronic, Wood. Each of the three non-General types corresponds to a given Craft subskill, while General can help make up some of the bulk Resources needed. For example, a Survivor searches an office for supplies. She might find a half-empty vending machine (2 Food), a full water cooler (2 Water), and lots of computer monitors, paper, plastic, and other office supplies (3 General Salvage, 2 Electronic, 1 Mechanical). If she wants to barricade the door, she could use General and Mechanical Salvage. If she wanted to jury-rig a display system with the monitors, she could use the Electronic Salvage along with General Salvage. For many projects, General Salvage can replace up to a certain amount of the required specific Salvage types, making it useful in bulk.
Ammo operates the same way. The game doesn’t track the minutiae of each individual shot fired, but rather uses Ammo of several varieties, such as Handgun, Rifle, and Shotgun. If players desire more detail, they can limit each type of Ammo by weapon size as they desire. By default, the game favors the ease of tracking Ammo—1 Ammo might represent a single shot (with Talents like Trigger Discipline), or it might represent several handgun rounds. Fully-automatic fire might eat up more than one Ammo in a given round, while something like a Shotgun uses Ammo more slowly (but takes more time to reload).
This approach allows players to add narrative detail and flavor to the game without bogging down in exacting detail. Narrators are encouraged to look up real-world brands (and perhaps make up some similar-sounding companies) if they want, but those who need to can distill the finding of Ammo to its essence: “You find several boxes of shotgun shells beneath the counter—worth about 5 Shotgun Ammo.”
Why check out your game if I don’t like zombies? What makes it different?
One thing it does well enough to stand out among its contemporaries is its focus on mental and social abilities, resources, and effects.
What does this mean? In many games, social skills and often intellectual ones are given vague guidelines, especially compared to combat and physical-based abilities. This works in those games, because they don’t necessarily need rigorous rules for the ability to socialize. City of the Dead places equal emphasis on these non-physical aspects, so that you can build any kind of Survivor and have her shine. Combat is dangerous, risking injury or infection. Physical prowess and fighting ability are useful, but not the only things that are important. Communities need smart and gifted people to thrive.
A skilled leader can keep groups of beleaguered Survivors sane and focused. She can direct them in combat or emergencies, can help restore their Willpower, provide them with bonuses to action, and more. Meanwhile, a brilliant scientist or crafty mechanic can engineer defensive systems, plans to modify locations and items, new means of procuring food, or accommodate an influx of new Survivors. Art and socialization help provide release from the constant tension of survival in The City.
Basically, in this game, all the things that make you feel human: good food, sleep, conversation, socializing, all of those literally help restore your Willpower. The will to survive is all about finding reasons to survive, right?
The basic system is very flexible. It’s usable in all manner of modern settings, like occult thrillers, action and espionage games, or other types of survival situations (like being stranded on an island full of murderous cultists). The rules work especially well for any sort of post-apocalyptic or survival tale.
The zombie creation system is flexible enough to create many different foes. File off those serial numbers and you can reskin the zombies as parasitic hive aliens, hideous demons, killer robots, twisted minions of elder gods, vampires, even ghosts and stranger things. Zombie Aspects even cover “Living” zombies, so you can make prehistoric monsters, shapechanging alien things, or even move from traditional undead zombies into fungus-possessed or rage-driven humans.
City of the Dead takes place in The City—a generic but exhaustively detailed plug-and-play setting. What does that mean? It means that the game includes detailed descriptions of important locations and all the accompanying rules. Yet The City as a whole, and each location within it, are kept nonspecific, so that you can drop them anywhere and add your own flavor. Maybe you want to simply reskin it as locations in your home town, adding local flavor and detail, while using the basic mechanics provided.
You can also take individual pieces as you wish: City Hall, Police Station, City General Hospital, and so on, and use them or change them as you will. Maybe you want to say that one is the site of a small Community struggling to survive. The rules make that easy and fun.
Maybe you don’t need the whole City for a given story. What if you don’t need a City Zoo, but you want to portray a bio-weapon manufacturing lab hidden beneath an unsuspecting city? You can take the zoo and re-skin it as a lab full of mutated monsters. Change the details and description of a given location to make it match your needs. The system details will work for whatever you want, and even if you want to change those, you can.
City of the Dead also provides a wealth of random generation tables to help provide inspiration or even a little unexpected drama. Want to see just what Resources remain in that ransacked home? Roll on the appropriate table, with options to modify by season, location, and more. City of the Dead is about providing options, a toolkit to create the kind of apocalyptic survival scenario YOU want to play.
What do you want to see?
So, I’d like to hear your thoughts, questions, comments, and unholy hungerings for the flesh of the living. This is my first created Kickstarter. I’m sure things will change, go wrong, etc., but we have to start somewhere. What kinds of things would you like to see? What are your questions? I plan in the near future to share the draft with backers who request it, and I’m happy to talk more about any aspect of the game. Note that things may change based on the last few playtests, but mostly I’m looking to improve production values, make the game available in hardcopy, and so on. I’m excited to bring this product to life and I do hope the Kickstarter goes well. Please tell me how I can help interest you in the game, or anything like that. If you’re not happy with the rewards, we can work on that! I’m happy to do everything I can to make this experience better for you.
Again the kickstarter can be found here If you find it interesting please consider funding the project.
– The Game Guy