Monday, July 18, 2011

Zombie Game - Second Session

 (Zombie Beauty Queens)

So ... it seems as though my printer is always out of ink. I've gotten used to not being able to print things and my printer is generally a paper weight sitting on the desk. We had one copy of Five by Five at the table during our first game. I decided to reformat Five by Five for my Kindle so we could have two copies of Five by Five available for the next time. The Kindle handles the existing PDF okay ... but a version specifically designed for the format would be even better.

I spoke a bit about this on a previous post, but instead of importing the text and rearranging it, I just started retyping the whole thing. As I began putting the information down, and looking at things with a fresh perspective following our recent game session. I began to make changes.

The second version of Five by Five was written with the hope that I might be able to expand and advance on the first version to make a bigger and better game. However, bigger isn't necessarily better, and prettier isn't necessarily better either. The second version of Five by Five is not as concise as I prefer to be. It's still a small number of rules presented in a small number of pages. But, looking at it now it still seemed to be extraneous. Also, I am not sure why, but even though I had received a fair amount of positive feed back following the first release of Five by Five, the second one received very little.

I got it in my head that I wanted to go backwards a little bit, strip out some of the "new" stuff in the second version of Five by Five. I scrapped rules for miniatures and movement, that were never used and easily house ruled by those who would want it. I scrapped the tiered weapons and armor rules that just didn't fit and again, were not being used (at least not by my group.)

Also, for some reason, the six equals zero idea was confusing to some during play. I also really wanted consistency between the two-die rolls for task resolution and the one-die roll for damage, and more than one player complained when they rolled a "zero" for damage following a successful hit.

It suddenly occurred to me that 6 didn't have to equal zero and it could still work in exactly the same way.  I changed my terminology, now calling 6 "Trump." Rolling trump would override the roll of your dice and give you something good in return. An automatic success for task rolls, improved damage for damage rolls. I got the consistency that I wanted. I fixed the "zero damage" problem. And, upon play testing the new terminology found that things were less confusing and easier to explain. Wins all around.

The term "Trump" also inadvertently created a new aspect of the game mechanic, something that could be manipulated. More little bits to play with was also a good thing. And, I had one more part of the rules that was bothering me: Doubles. The mechanic just didn't work as well as I wanted it to, and honestly, it wasn't all that popular with play testers either. It needed to go.

But, I like the idea that something fun should happen when you rolled doubles. I hit upon the thought that if you roll doubles, your very next roll would get the benefit of a doubled chance at trump (that is trump on a 5 or a 6). I liked the idea and put it on paper.

This meant that Experience and Advancement had to change. I chose the simplest system I could, and in the process eliminated the XP chart. I did the same thing for Hitpoints, incorporating the assignment of HP more properly into character creation, allowing players to assign it an importance along side their other descriptors, but also making HP equal to a simple: "Descriptor value plus 10", thus eliminating the HP table.

And while I was tinkering with character creation, I decided to add an additional descriptor to the process, there had been a few comments from various sources that maybe three starting descriptors was not enough ... so, I increased it ... but I like the simplicity and speed of character creation so I did so with caution, only increasing the number by one.

I talked to the GM about my changes and he was supportive of my new ideas. He was even excited about the new descriptor everyone would get.

Everyone got together and I explained how HP would now be assigned a value like every other descriptor on the character sheet. Players figured out their HP and then the GM revealed that he wanted everyone's new descriptor to be specifically something Zombie related.

This was cool, because in creating our characters we didn't know that we would be Zombies ... now we got the chance to add something Zombie specific.


My character became:

Old Man Jenkins

6 - Scientist (nuclear physicist, retired)

4 - Tactician (expert chess player, steal initiative)

2 - Awesome Presence (reminds you of your dad, grouchy old man)

4 - Removable (still working) eye-ball

(Eye stops working after an hour away from "home". Must return to socket for 1d6 hours between outings. Task roll is activation upon removal ... if failed, eye must be returned to socket as if following a successful outing.)

12 - Hitpoints

We came up with the rules for the eye-ball in a matter of minutes on the fly. This is really the way I like to do things. Fast and easy. Everything was handled this way. It was quick and painless, it reminded me of gaming in the earliest of days before there was a "rule" for every thing.


The game picked up where the other left off with us running through the sewers being closed in on from two directions. We found a manhole cover and decided to move above ground, but my one footed zombie fell landing on the beauty queen zombie knocking her unconscious. (This was a gimmick as the player who played the beauty queen zombie was unable to make it to the session that evening.)

It seemed like all was lost but another zombie showed up to help lead us out. It was the zombie street kid who had gotten beaten up in the last game. And he was being played by another player who joined our game session but missed the first one.

His character was created as a skater-dude, a young punkish kid with multi-colored "flock-o-seagulls" hair and typical skate boarding street kid attire. He led us back to "his" skate shop, where his handlers promptly used his shock collar to zap him into submission for bringing in strays.

My character "Jenkins" had retained enough scientific knowledge to be able to disable his collar and the collars of his companions, but had not had the chance to do the Skater's collar yet. So, down skater went, and as the remote was turned on us, Jenkins did the same, falling to the ground rather then reveal that the collar didn't work.

Our group, of now 4 zombies (including the still unconscious because her player wasn't there beauty queen zombie) was stacked in the corner like firewood. There we bided our time, waiting for Skater to regain his senses.

When, who should walk in ... but a security patrol who gave the owners of the skate shop our description.

"Sure, they are right over here."

And the combat was on. This combat lasted a good long while with me and Ninja Burger Zombie fighting for our lives. Eventually, Skater woke up, but apparently still suffering under the delusion that he is alive and owns the skate shop, steps in to try and stop his new friends from killing his employees.

It was fun and funny and fast a furious. Again, the system seemed to serve the combat well with the right mix of success, failure and uncertainty.

The new, "Rolling doubles allows you to count both 5 and 6 as trump on your next roll ..." rule worked well and made a difference on more than one roll, including allowing for at least one high damage hit.

We were given XP and several of us (including myself) bought a new descriptor at rank 2. Now with a few combats under his belt, Jenkins added "Brawling."

The only problem I had with the game was that sometimes in the excitement players would forget whether or not they had rolled doubles in the last round.

I already had an idea for how to fix that ... but it would have to wait until our next game ...



Friday, July 15, 2011

5x5 Zombie Game

So we are playing a Zombie game that a friend is GM-ing. He chose to use the 5x5 rules (I didn't even have to pay him!) and I think we are all very pleased with the way things are working out.

Our first session was pre the most recent rewrite of 5x5 (and is what prompted it.) The GM told us to make up the typical victim turned hero type that might appear in a Zombie Apocalypse kind of movie.

He had us pick our three strong traits but informed us that HE would be "giving" us our one weak trait.

It took no time at all for each of us to pick three traits and write them down. Character creation was finished in moments, even though none of us had been prepared ahead of time.

I made a character and chose three strong traits.

Old Man Jenkins

6 - Scientist (nuclear physicist, retired)
4 - Tactician (expert chess player, steal initiative)
2 - Awesome Presence (reminds you of your dad, grouchy old man)

Once this was done, the GM informed us that we were in actuality all Zombies and explained to us the world we lived in based loosely on a movie called Fido.

He then gave us our "weaknesses" based on this revelation. Mine was that my character was missing a foot. Which I turned into a weak rank trait and added to my character.

Weak - Ambulation (dodge, missing left foot)

Add to this that the character is wearing a shock collar to keep him in line, using a walking cane (that serves as a +1 damage improvised weapon), and that he has 10 hit-points and we were ready to play.

We went from no characters, no ideas, to ready to play in less than an hour (including the time the GM spent explaining the setting and our individual situations).

It seems that our characters (and mine especially, given that I chose to create a character whose traits imply something of a brainiac) have become aware of our plight as the "slave labor" force to humankind and we have decided to try to organise some kind of revolt.

The assumed setting of "Zombie Apocalypse" was revealed to be, "Zombie Freedom Fighters" in a setting that seems very much to be like a post "Shawn of the Dead" world.

We began play by "escaping" from our various places of service/captivity to reconnoitre at a prearranged meeting place, the basement of a McDonald's. (Do McDonalds' even have basements?)

This one did, with convenient sewer tunnel access and was the place of employment of one of the other players, a zombie burger flipper who possessed Ninja like skills with spatula weapons and a weakness of "no thumbs."

The GM explained to the Ninja-Burger's player that because of his expertise with the spatulas he would not suffer any penalties while using them, but that other acts of manual dexterity would in fact fall under the umbrella of his debilitating thumblessness.

For the first game, it was just three player characters, and as we intersected with each other on our way to the agreed meeting place, we were spotted by security patrols who enforce a strict curfew forbidding zombies from being out alone after dark.

The last player was a Beauty-Queen turned zombie pleasure slave and of the three of us looked the least zombie like and the most like a normal human (although she is missing an eye - her weakness.)

She fastened collars on our necks to make us appear to be a wealthy human woman in the control of two zombie escorts, which might have worked except ... The patrol wasn't after us, they had spotted another lone zombie, a street hood zombie of some kind and proceeded to kick the tar out of the lone figure.

This, I decided, was just too much for my own character to bear, and I leapt into the fray, cane in hand, yelling, "Oppressors!"

The battle went well. The dice rolls seemed to work to create the right kind of odds, with the ratio of "hits to misses" feeling about like it would if we had been using a seasoned system like D&D.

The beauty-queen was badly injured however, and the GM had informed us that in this setting, the only way for we as zombies to recover from injury was through the consumption of human flesh. Beauty began snacking on one of the security guards, just as some pedestrians (children) came by and began screaming.

Adding to this, the GM informs us that we can hear "moaning" and it seems as though the other security guard is regaining consciousness. In a state of panic we flee the scene as quickly as possible ... by stealing the security guards' patrol car.

(Turns out the moaning wasn't from the downed security guard at all, but from the assaulted zombie laying helpless on the ground, that we now left behind as we fled the scene.)

We return to our perspective "homes" but, being without thumbs, Ninja is unable to remove the "leash" that Beauty had placed on him earlier, and we completely forgot about it.

Ninja's keepers are concerned that someone has attempted to steal their zombie burger chef and they investigate the possibility, discovering the sewer tunnels we've been using to move about.

Ninja is tethered for his own protection but escapes that night to try to rejoin us and report what has happened. In the process he triggers some new security and the chase is on again.

In the cliff-hanger ending of the evening, we are together lost in the sewer tunnels, with security teams approaching from two different directions.

It was, fun. It was exciting. 5x5's lack of rules proves to be liberating as we find that we have just enough structure to do what we need to do and a good framework for improvising the rest.

The action never slows down and the game system stays very nicely out of the way of the game play.

At the end I am concerned by the lopsided distribution of doubles and also with the scant amount. I make a mental note to look at 5x5's "Doubles equals Experience" mechanic with thoughts of replacing it somehow.

But, overall I am very pleased with 5x5's performance. And everyone has fun.

I will talk about the changes that I have made to the 5x5 rules (and why) and about our second zombie game session in my next post.



Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Five by Five Print ver. and Character Sheet

I have put up a print version of Five by Five. Each page of the Kindle/screen version is one fourth of the print page so the print version came in at 7 pages. I went ahead and added a character sheet to make the page count an even 8.

The character sheet design is courtesy of my friend Burl King. Check it out!


Jeff Moore

Friday, July 08, 2011

Five by Five version 2.5

So, it's been ages since I posted. A friend of mine was talking about how he needed to brush up on his writing skills. I suggested that he consider blogging, but this made me realise how neglectful of my own blog I have become.

I usually blog quite a lot if I am working on an RPG project. But these days I don't have any RPG ideas knocking around inside my head ... so, I haven't been writing at all.

That is unfortunate, as I feel writing is a very good exercise for my brain. One of the reasons I have created as many RPG's as I have is just for the exercise it provides me. It's fun, and creative, and very personal. If any of the games I create prove to be playable, and are actually played ... this is an unexpected boon.

So, just for the heck of it I start "re-writing" Five by Five. Not changing it, just recomposing it, in case I might accidentally discover some new elegant way of saying things. I also wanted to format Five by Five for my Kindle. The Kindle can read PDFs but working with multi-column PDFs on the Kindle screen is actually more of a pain then it is on the computer screen.

So I am reformating for an age of eBook Readers, Kindles, and iPods. I also got lazy and cut-and-pasted some of my text in some spots which defeats the whole re-write exercise, but I did find that while I was working on it, I had a few new ideas.

Sixes when rolled are no longer regarded as zero but still work the same way. A simple change in terminology created a new mechanic for the game that adds some fun new possibilities.

I have stripped out a bunch of stuff I added to ver 2 that don't really help the game and have actually taken a few steps back to be closer to the first version of the game.

Things aren't complete, but I felt a need to blog and share ... so, here we are.

Five by Five 2.5