Politician Archetype for All Flesh Must Be Eaten

I wrote this years ago for a website that isn’t around anymore (and I’m sorry to say I don’t remember its name). It’s a politician character archetype for All Flesh Must Be Eaten. Last night during the Democratic debate it popped in my head again, so I thought I’d share it.

Image: NBC



Str 2 Dex 2 Con 2
Int 3 Per 2 Wil 3
LPs 26
EPs 26
Spd 8
Essence 14

Attractiveness 2 (2)
Charisma 2 (2)
Contacts (Governmental) (2)
Humorless (-1)
Obsession (Political Power) (-2)
Resources (Well-off) (2)
Showoff (-2)
Status 3 (2)

Acting 3
Bureaucracy 3
Cheating 2
Dodge 1
Guns (Pistol) 2
Haggling 3
Humanities (Political Science) 3
Humanities (Psychology) 3
Notice 3
Seduction 2
Smooth Talking 4
Sport (Golf) 1

Government I.D. badge, briefcase, smartphone, campaign buttons

I was on my way to the top–the White House was surely only a few years away. All those years of kissing babies and telling the stupid public what they wanted to hear was finally paying off. I had a house in the ‘burbs, a wife and kids who looked great in the campaign ads, and a chauffeured ride to work every day in a government car.

Then this zombie thing started. At first I didn’t believe the crazy stories that people were telling. I mean, come on! People rising from their graves to eat living flesh? But when I came home to find a rotting corpse munching on what was left of the wife and kids, I realized the truth: my bid for the presidency was going to be delayed.

Now my very survival is a full-time campaign. I’ve managed to form an alliance with a few surviving citizens. It’s strange how something like the dead returning to life can make people from such different backgrounds work together–even those damn liberals. But the world has turned into a new two-party system: the Living and the Dead–and the Dead don’t vote.

“Put me in charge, my fellow survivors, and I will lead my party to victory!”

GenCon 2015: Games I Played

Wanna hear about some of the games I played at GenCon this year? I hope so, ’cause here they are!

Ghostbusters: The Board Game

Ghostbusters is a cooperative board game with light roleplaying elements. You play as one of the Ghostbusters and undertake different missions. The one we played in the demo game involved one open ghost portal on the board, several weak ghosts, and one tougher ghost (Slimer).

We started in the Ectomobile, and used one of our actions to disembark. We could then move, zap a ghost, clean slime off a teammate, or deposit ghost traps back in Ecto-1. Your number of actions depends on your level, and is reduced by how many times you’ve been slimed.

Each Ghostbuster has his own special abilities and a unique way of gaining XP. (Everyone gains XP by busting ghosts; these are additional paths to XP.) Playing as Ray Stantz, for example, I could gain XP by cleaning slime off my teammates.

Weak ghosts can be captured by a single zap, while tougher ones require the Ghostbusters to score several hits with the containment beam (represented by putting a ringed token on the ghost in your Ghostbuster’s color). After the Ghostbusters have acted, the ghosts move. If a ghost moves through a Ghostbuster’s square, that ‘buster is slimed. Finally, we roll the special die with parapsychology symbols to see if more ghosts emerge from the portal. (I hope they call this the Zener die.)

Most of the game pieces were still in prototype state during the demo, so it’s hard to tell how impressive the final product will be…except that the ghost pieces were pretty nice.

Dungeon Crawl Classics

Jim prepares to destroy us.

My Internet friend James Walls invited me to join his unofficial game of DCC before GenCon started. I’d never played before, and was eager to try it after reading James’s blog posts about running the game–especially his Star Wars: Stormtroopers version where his players were stormtroopers trying to take down a Jedi.

My Three Characters. None survived.

James ran The Well of Souls for the eight of us. We each controlled 3 level 0 characters. We faced ritual sacrifice, animated skeletons, a wicked puzzle we never did solve, and the most dangerous foe: each other. (James added an evil blade to the adventure to mix things up; he describes it in his blog post “The Blade of Eight Souls.”)

In general, I like how RPGs have evolved over time. I’m not one of those gamers who misses the Good Old Days when we rolled up characters randomly and played simplistic scenarios where gaining treasure was more important than roleplaying. But I found DCC charming for some reason, and after our game I had to buy my own copy.

The Strange

Now available for purchase

Though I’ve read The Strange and enjoyed it, I hadn’t had a chance to run or play it until now. I got to play the Mastodon adventure (available for sale now), written by Bruce Cordell and superbly run by a GM named Randy. As it turns out, none of the players in this session had played the game before either.

This session was one of those where the game was even more fun than I’d been expecting. The end of the adventure was set in the Ruk recursion (which is a sort of alternate universe), and while it was cool to read about Ruk, it was even cooler to be there. My favorite thing about The Strange is the way part of your character sheet (and therefore, your abilities) gets replaced when you travel to a different recursion.

The Strange won several ENnie awards at this GenCon (the silver awards for Best Game, Best Setting, and Best Interior Art), which made me even more glad I got to try it out. And the next day, I was fortunate enough to get my rulebook autographed by Monte, Bruce, and Shanna.

Like many things that happened at GenCon this year, this alone made my trip worthwhile.

Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space


I continued my streak of playing Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space at GenCon—this year being my second. (Granted, it’s not a long-running streak yet.) The adventure was “The Northern Knights” by Walt Ciechanowski. I won’t describe the plot of the adventure, in case you get a chance to play it. (Also, I was focusing too much on being clever to remember all the plot details.) But I wanted to say a few general things about the game.

My fellow players took the roles of the 12th Doctor, Clara, Madame Vastra, Jenny, and Strax, and I got to play Robin Hood! In my opinion, the MVP was the player controlling Strax. He was hilarious and had a great grasp on the character.

We also had a good GM (Jen). She was cosplaying as Captain Jack. What I noticed most about her was her skill at answering player questions in character. For example, a guard was delivering some expository information to us, and one of the players interrupted to ask a question. Jen kept speaking in the guard’s voice, but shifted his conversation pretty seamlessly to answer the player but still impart some extra information. She was also liberal with handing out story points, which I think made us more likely to try actions we weren’t super-skilled at.

Jen also gave us each two tiny plastic cybermats (adventure spoiler!), which cemented her as my favorite GenCon GM ever.

That’s it for this year’s games! Maybe I’ll play more next year, or maybe I’ll go even deeper into the pool of seminars and play even less. We’ll see!

GenCon 2015: New Releases and Other News

I’m still processing all the Gaming Goodness(tm) I encountered at GenCon last week, but I wanted to go ahead and get this info up first. I’ll bore you about the games I played in a later post.

Lots of companies announced new products or presented other breaking news at GenCon. This isn’t a comprehensive list of GenCon announcements, just the ones I personally witnessed.
Monte Cook Games announced a new series of sourcebooks for Numenera, collectively called Into the Ninth World.

“The first product in this line will be a sourcebook called Into the Night, to be followed up next year with Into the Deep and Into the Outside. Into the Night explores the vast reaches of space beyond the Ninth World, Into the Deep details regions beneath the sea, and Into the Outside peers into ultraterrestrial and interdimensional realms beyond our universe.” – MCG

The Into the Ninth World Kickstarter campaign started on August 5th.
Monte Cook Games seminar
Pinnacle Entertainment Group announced three new product lines. The one I’m most excited about is a Flash Gordon Savage Worlds roleplaying game, which they announced with a cool teaser trailer. Gordon’s alive! The other two are Fear Agent and The Goon, both based on titles from Dark Horse Comics. Pinnacle has posted a video of the Pinnacle GenCon seminar on YouTube.
And Wil Wheaton announced at the Titansgrave Q&A seminar that Tabletop season 4 and Titansgrave season 2 will begin production early next year.

Doctor Who Research in the 1900s

© mamsy / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

I realized today, while researching the Victorian Era on my laptop at lunch, that I’ve been writing Doctor Who adventures since the days when research meant driving to the library to dig up books (using the card catalog system) and news articles (on microfiche). That makes me feel just a little bit like a time traveler myself.

Game Log: D&D Dragon Queen Session 5

Happy Pi Day!

We played D&D (5th ed.) for our latest game session, getting farther into Episode 3 of “Hoard of the Dragon Queen.” (See my earlier post if you want to read about our game covering the first part of Episode 3, aka Session 4. I didn’t write about the first three sessions. Hope you’ll forgive me.)

As before, the players were:

  • Dain, male dwarf barbarian, played by Christi.
  • Naeris, male drow paladin, played by Jay.
  • Copello, male human sorcerer, played by Jerrod.

It also turned out to be another special day for our game: it was Pi Day (3.14)! So according to Jay’s wishes, I bought pie. I meant to work pie into the events of the adventure, but it slipped my mind. Now I’m regretting that we missed out on enacting a kobold pie fight.

The PCs continued their exploration into a new room in the caverns they were exploring, which turned out to be the kobold barracks. Naeris led the way, intentionally not looking for traps. (This is because Naeris has, once or twice, taken wounds that would have killed him, yet lived. Naeris’s DM doesn’t believe in killing PCs unless it is dramatically significant, and Naeris has decided the reason he hasn’t died from such wounds is that he is immortal.)

So, Naeris triggered a trap. The ceiling above the following PC, Dain, collapsed, wounding Dain and knocking him down. The noise alerted the 5 kobolds and 5 winged kobolds in the area, all of whom attacked.

Filling in for the kobolds: Zombies!!!

Highlights of this combat included: winged kobolds dropping rocks on the PCs from above; Naeris wondering when the winged kobolds would run out of damned rocks to drop; Copello casting web on the non-flying kobolds; Naeris botching a spear throw and lighting the web on fire; Copello putting all the flying kobolds to sleep; and Dain bisecting a kobold who tried to flee. The party eliminated the kobolds, then rested.

Moving on, the party found a shrine room dedicated to Tiamat. Here they battled Langdedrosa Cyanwrath, the lightning-breathing half-dragon that fought (and technically killed) Naeris in the campaign’s first episode. (No blog post on that one, sorry.) Another enemy was in the room at the start of combat: a barbarian ally of Cyanwrath. Copello’s quick thinking made a major difference in how this scene went down, though: he charmed the barbarian using charm person before combat started, convincing the fellow that Copello and company were his friends. It took another turn or two to convince the barbarian to turn on Cyanwrath, but turn he did. This made the fight much easier for the PCs, and they defeated Cyanwrath. He still made them work for it, though, with his dual attacks and his lightning attack that could hit several opponents. Cyanwrath’s last action was to fatally wound the barbarian. (He was NOT pleased about his barbarian ally betraying him.)

I don’t have a half-dragon mini. But I have a lizard man!

Once the fight was over, our heroes found a treasure chest. They triggered the trap protecting it (of course), survived the damage, and collected a supply of valuables, some healing potions, and a wand that is as yet unidentified.

Copello and the barbarian had a touching farewell, during which Copello asked the charmed fellow if there were any secret rooms in this joint. The barbarian said that the room to the east is a dragon hatchery, and that a concealed rope in this room leads up to a secret room. Then he coughed up blood and collapsed.

The party decided to check out the room up the rope first. Naeris led the way. The rope terminated at the underside of a rug, which Naeris threw aside. As he climbed out of the hole into a study of some sort, the room’s sole occupant (named Frulan Mondath, though I don’t think the players ever learned this) spotted him and moved to attack with her halberd.

Dain and Copello joined the fun in time to hear Mondath call for her guards. Copello immediately cast a web spell at the western doorway, immobilizing one of the six approaching guards and preventing any of them from entering.

The prone figs on the right are bodies the PCs stacked to keep enemies out!

Mondath was not at all happy that her reinforcements were cut off, and she expressed her displeasure by slamming Naeris into a wall and freezing Dain in place with a hold person spell. Copello tried to burn her with a fire bolt spell but missed, lighting the room’s large table on fire instead. Noticing that a large map and a collection of important-looking papers were lying on the table, Copello broke off from the fight to put out the fire so he could examine the documents after the fight.

Naeris recovered and put Mondath on the defensive. Copello taunted Dain about not being able to break out of his paralysis—which had the effect of pissing Dain off so much that he overpowered the spell! The finishing blow to Mondath came from the one-two punch of Dain slashing her with his greatsword and knocking Mondath into Copello’s cloud of daggers spell. All the daggers aimed themselves at Mondath and, in one smooth motion, stabbed her to death.

The party searched Mondath’s adjoining bed chamber, finding a purple cultist robe and a few items of more interesting treasure: a potion of fire giant strength, a potion of mind reading, and a dozen +1 arrows.

This is where we called it a night.

Post Mortem

I bought the 5th edition Dungeon Master’s Guide just before this session, so I could use it to reward the players with a few cool magic items. The campaign itself is mostly lacking in useful treasures, and the players had hinted that they were getting tired of only finding gold and baubles. This new DMG is wonderful, and led to the PCs finding the wand, the potion of fire giant strength, potion of mind reading, and the +1 arrows.

FYI, Lex Starwalker has a great overview of the DMG on his podcast Game Master’s Journey, in episodes seven, nine, and eleven.

Another thing I did before this game was visit the office supply store. (I love that place.) I got a whiteboard of my very own (I’d been using Jay’s) and some index cards in a smaller size than I’d seen before. The cards turned out to be great for tracking initiative order and NPC wound levels.

Another bit of prep I did between sessions was to print another copy of the PDF containing the campaign’s enemy stats. Then I cut out each stat block, so that during combat I could take out the ones I needed and keep them in easy view, like below. This was MUCH preferable to flipping back and forth in the printout like I’d been doing before.

Finally, during this game I experimented with rewarding player behavior with pushes, as John Wick described in Play Dirty. Whenever a player did something entertaining or smart or in character or otherwise praiseworthy, they would earn either an inspiration die or, if they already had one of those, a push token. I like the inspiration die rule in D&D, but players can’t collect more than one of those at a time, and I wanted to be able to reward every single occurrence of great behavior. So in addition to inspiration, a push lets a player add +1 to any die roll. The players didn’t take advantage of their pushes much, so I’m considering bumping the die roll bonus up to a +1d4 or +1d6. I’m hesitant to open up unlimited inspiration dice, but that’s a possibility too.

Have you experimented with anything like this? Or have an alternate idea for how to reward player cleverness (beyond XP, of course–something immediate)? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.