[Zombie Cinema] Survivor

Started by Peril Planet, December 13, 2008, 11:04:05 AM

Previous topic - Next topic

Peril Planet

I played a game of Zombie Cinema last night and it was a blast.  There were five players, including the non-roleplayer wife of one of the regular gamers in our group.  While I have run plenty of indie games for this group none had been such a large departure from our normal experience of RPG's (character sheets and a GM, primarily).
After a really brief run down of the rules we tossed around a few ideas for setting and went from an aircraft (Zombies on a Plane!), to a resort island before finally deciding on a tropical island that was home to the latest series of the television show "Survivor".  For those of you unfamiliar with the show, some of our character actions may sound a little bizarre.

We randomly dealt cards to inspire characters;

  • I came up with Bob Oakland, middle-aged underachiever that had been pressured into participating in the show by his overbearing wife.
    Brad created a mechanic (I cannot remember his name) with a bad temper and a habit of blaming others for his problems.
    Robert created Stacey, the ambitious and calculating producer of the TV show.
    Brett played Father Frank a priest with delusions of grandeur.
    Jess was Lucy, a police detective who manipulated others to get her job.
The game started with some fairly common "Survivor" type scenes with our characters trying to get food, reading "tree mail", arguing amongst themselves and that kind of thing.  The first challenge of the game came from my character trying to convince a cameraman to give him a snack bar and the other characters taking sides based on their desire to either eat or uphold the "spirit" of the show.
Our first hint that something on the island might be wrong was when the opposing tribe didn't turn up for a challenge.  Scenes quickly flashed forward over the next twenty four hours with all the players enjoying adding creepy details – strange noises, the discovery of another contestant's body and the radio (won in a off-scene tribal challenge) going to static. Early in the story there were hints and subtle suggestions about voodoo but things were to get far stranger!  The characters went off to another challenge only to be swamped by hordes of zombies.  They eventually made their way to the TV crew's compound in search of a helicopter, only to discover that some of the "monsters" had cameras implanted in them and Stacey was responsible for "spicing" the show up in the hope of increasing the ratings!  They were robo-zombies!  In the end only the wily police officer Lucy escaped the island, everyone else meeting unpleasant endings. 
Characters argued a lot about how to proceed after each strange occurrence or dramatic twist of fate, meaning lots of challenges and movement up and down the board.  Bob Oakland was on the losing end of a few challenges early in the story so I spent lots of my time looking for ways to get involved in conflicts.  He was saved once through a sacrifice by Brad's character (the only sacrifice of the game).  There was at least one challenge that, had it gone the "wrong" way, would have meant the deaths of three characters!  Several times throughout the game hearty cheers went up when one side or the other won a challenge.  At the end of the game everyone wanted to contribute the "final image" so we went around the table and each person added their own ideas, which kind of built on each other.  The very last image of the story was a new shipload of contestants arriving on the island for a new season of "Survivor".
We had a fantastic evening and I can see this game being dragged out whenever we get the chance.  And the game took almost exactly 2.5 hours – spot on with 5 players! Experienced gamers and new gamers alike really got into the spirit of framing scenes and driving the story towards a dramatic conclusion.  I think it helped that I clearly defined the idea that we had two "roles", one as a character that wants to escape and a second one as an audience that wants to see the coolest zombie movie ever.  A few times during the evening we had brief discussions as to whether a player could call for a challenge (we sometimes wanted things to happen but our character's intentions were not necessarily in conflict with the acting character). The interesting (that is, unexpected) thing we encountered was that towards the end of the story the characterless players worked really hard to frame scenes that made life difficult for the remaining characters but also avoided challenging, knowing full well that getting through the scenes quickly will bring the zombies closer!

I cant wait to play again.
Writer; Gamer; Lunatic.  Not necessarily in that order.

Eero Tuovinen

Hah, thanks for playing! Survivor + zombies is a logical combination, no doubt about it. Seems that your group took to the game like fish to water. That tells me good things about the group - getting the game done in a compact time-frame, getting a story out of it and staying engaged even when your own character dies are signs of a group that gets some good gaming done with other games as well.

(That came out of the game's past as a Mountain Witch trainer program. Perhaps you should play that next...)
Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.

Peril Planet

I have a copy of Mountain Witch.  I forgot about it!  I may well pull it out for a game early in the new year.
Writer; Gamer; Lunatic.  Not necessarily in that order.