Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Savage Worlds: Zombie Outbreak

In 2012, +Paul decided to run a game of Savage Worlds set in the very near future, based on a zombie outbreak in central Melbourne. Our characters would be relatively ordinary people caught up in the crisis, although we were allowed to have concepts involving combat training, medical skills, or other things that would give us an advantage. This post will be a summary of the whole first arc of the campaign

  • Barb plays Ellen Somerset, a paramedic with an ambulance and a hazmat suit.
  • Matt plays Shawn, a hardware store clerk with a drinking problem.
  • Rohin plays Jeff, a young pizza delivery driver and aspiring criminal.
  • I play Harry Michaels, a University student studying both history and historical fencing.

During the Melbourne Grand Prix, a racing event using an elevated track around the city centre, a military van rolls over on a bridge, releasing its small cargo of zombies into the river. They soon spread, infecting the crowd and wandering further afield. Ellen and her partner, "Good Guy" Greg, tried to help out some people trackside, but Ellen insisted on staying in the ambulance. From memory, they may have also picked up Jeff.

South of the city centre, Shawn failed to notice zombies occupying the hardware store until customers started fighting over the power tools. He "tooled up" and managed to fight his way past a couple of shamblers using a shopping trolley, and fled into the wider city.

My historical fencing group had been attending a seminar at a conference centre in South Yarra, near the river. We saw the disaster starting to spread across the bridge and along the river, and began securing the building. Shawn managed to stumble in, although his craziness and aggression almost led to him being shut out! The ambulance turned up just as we were closing the garage doors.

We stayed put for a little while, trying to figure out the best plan of action. Some of the people started showing signs of infection, so on Ellen's advice they were isolated in a semi-trailer in the secured parking lot. I felt that it was wrong to put potentially OK people in a container with potential zombies, so I insisted on standing guard and looking after them. We couldn't stay put for long, though. The Air Force began firebombing runs on the bridge and surrounds, so we loaded up the rented trucks with food and people and headed South towards the ferry terminal, in the hopes of catching a boat to Tasmania.

We reached the ferry pier to discover that there was no ferry, and no other boats. Some of the people in the back of the trucks had begun vomiting, although thankfully it was mostly motion sickness! We got everybody into a restaurant built at the land-end of the pier, and closed the chainlink gates. We quarantined the worst of our infected, and restocked our supplies from the kitchens. We learned that the coastguard was preventing boats from leaving, and that the ferry had been turned back. Still,we were in a well-supplied defensive location with over a hundred people, and so we decided to stay put until it all blew over. Unfortunately, we'd be forced to move again before too long.

The next day, Army ground patrols came past and cleared out the occasional shambling zombie. They were escorting corporate tankers that were running pipes into the sewers and storm water pipes. We got the attention of one of the army guys, who explained that there were zombies in the sewer and this company was going to pump in a sort of acid or organic solvent to kill them all, and we should just stay put. Instead, the tankers pumped a green gas underground, and the cabs detached and drove away. The Army guys tried to wave them down, but then all hell broke loose. The back of the tanker opened, and several gas-soaked super-zombies climbed out, followed from the sewers by a number of their enervated kin!

We stood and fought from behind the mesh fence, stabbing and burning at the wall of undead! Eventually, one of the faster ones broke through and ran inside. We were already loading people onto trucks for a quick getaway, as a massive horde of undead was closing in on us. I pursued the fast zombie inside, yelling for peope to get out, and managed to strike it down before it killed any civilians. I had to leap from the first floor window onto the back of the semi-trailer to avoid being left behind, and we drove off crunchily through the crowd.

We decided to head East, with thoughts of perhaps reaching Mount Dandenong or finding a way around the quarantined city to the North. We didn't have much information to go on, so we discussed several possibilities. After driving for some time through mostly deserted streets, we came across the site of an overrun Army barricade on the freeway. A few of us went onto the flyover to investigate, and discovered several APCs with weapon mounts, and a troop transport truck. After clearing out the dead bodies and fighting off some enthusiastic crows, we added the vehicles to our convoy. Worried about our food supply, we decided to look for a nearby shopping market supply warehouse.

We soon found a warehouse district. Each building had a spray-painted marking on the front; it looked like the Army had been through and marked them as "clear" or "useful" or something, but we weren't sure what. We found a safe warehouse that was still fully stocked with food and household supplies, and decided to camp out. However, a few problems soon became apparent. Out the back, in a caged-off area with a generator in it, were three obviously mutated guard dogs. We put them down, decapitated the bodies, and buried them just in case they decided to rise from the dead. Ellen found a ventilation pipe coming up from underground, which was slowly leaking a green gas. She took a sample in a jar.

The next morning, some of the people were feeling ill and a few were showing signs of mutation. We couldn't stay any longer for fear of contamination, so we took as much sealed food as wecould and started up the convoy again. Some of the gas-affected people decided to stay behind, despite our promise to find help for them. Ellen also suggested we paint red crosses on the roofs of the vehicles to either attract attention or ward off military strikes.

We headed East again, through a ruined urban landscape. We passed a truck that had rolled over, and witnessed a creature scavenging meat from the dead. Pressing on, we eventually reached a massive barrier wall across the freeway, being assaulted by hordes of zombies clambering over each other in an attempt to escape the city. The barricade was manned, and they were fighting the zombies. We made radio contact from one of our APCs. Unfortunately they weren't able to open the gates for us because of the undead, but they gave us directions to another gate a little way to the North where we might be able to get out.

A tense drive later, we approached the next gate. There were fewer zombies, and we radioed ahead to let them know we were coming. They opened the gates and fought back the undead as we gunned the trucks down the highway and through the checkpoint! The back of one of the vehicles was singed a little from a flamethrower, but we made it without bringing any zombies with us. The gates were shut, and we were safe.

All the people we got out were put through quarantine. The whole city of Melbourne was walled off, and the zombie plague had been contained... so far. I was very suspicious of scientists in the quarantine camp who were wearing the logo of the company who had released the green gas into the tunnels, but they assured us that it had been a rogue element or terrorists using their vehicles as cover. It turned out our small group all had a natural resistance to the zombie virus, and there was some discussion of us being recruited to fight this new threat, should it arise again.

Nobody knows what the future will bring.

It's been a while since we played; if any of the other players or GM read this and remember something differently, let me know and I'll edit it appropriately!

In general, I liked the way Paul ran the game; he adapted to our plans and allowed us flexibility of action, always coming up with new imperfect conditions to stop us from staying in one place while advancing the story of the outbreak.

Over the course of the campaign, I don't think we had as many direct conflicts with zombies and other monsters as I was expecting. I thought there would be more occasion where, despite our generally cautious approach, the undead would find a way through our defences and force a fight. Given that we were facing infectious zombies but didn't know how Paul's game mechanics covering infection worked, we were understandably reluctant to engage them if we didn't have to.

I think that Paul would have liked more combat too, but maybe didn't feel like he could justifiably attack our armed vehicle convoy. Still, even something as simple as running out of fuel would have forced us to make some tough choices or expose ourselves to danger. I wouldn't have been surprised to have super-zombies leap onto the vehcles, or have an acute outbreak amid the civilians we were trying to protect.

Because of the shortage of engagements, we also didn't use the full combat system all that often. I did find that anything lower than a d10 Fighting tended to miss rather a lot. I was having fun picking out new combat Edges to make the sort of doomed, heroic melee-based zombie fighter of my concept.

The campaign ended after we escaped the initial outbreak, although Paul's said he has more plans for if we decide to play again.