Follow-up to Zombies on a Cruise Liner

The “Zombies on a Cruise Liner” Halloween Horror game that I had previously discussed ran successfully, I ended up running it over two sessions using the All Flesh Must Be Eaten system. It didn’t go as I had planned, but the players seemed to enjoy it anyway.

One of the main ways it deviated from my plan was that very few of the characters were killed, and therefore I had failed to produce any sort of sense of struggling to survive. That’s not to say the game was a flop, just that it went in a slightly different direction than I thought it would, “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy” as some old stuffy irrelevant general once said.

Most of the players had elected to generate their own characters prior to the session, and to humorous effect a couple of them created highly trained killers, seemingly having decided to take up Royal Caribbean International’s exciting Zombie killing holiday package. In addition to these player-made characters, I had also pre-generated 28 different individuals, a mix of passengers and crew, for players to switch to should their main character die (which I expected to happen more often). These 28 were spread about the ship in small groups.

The main characters were:

  • A female Wiccan goth-chick – She was an “Inspired”, which in the AFMBE system, is essentially someone with divine powers, one of the main powers she used was one called “Visions”, whereupon she asks a question and I give her an image of something as an answer. Main weapon was a Steak Knife taken from a restaurant.
  • A male ex-army engineer – A fairly straightforward highly skilled military type, Main weapon was a Steak Knife taken from a restaurant, made it his mission to locate a gun.
  • A male martial arts weapon master – The player for this character wasn’t able to make it for the first session, so was controlled by the player behind the Ex-Army Engineer. The player made it for the second part, during which he decided to start wielding two Fire-axes as his main weapons.
  • A male scottish computer geek named “Gill McBrian” – One of the players decided it would be funny to play a character based on the GM. Main Weapon was a copy of The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks.
  • A female cheerleader – This player only made it for the first part, the cheerleader was one of the 28 pre-generated characters, the player had originally wanted to play a Special Ops Sniper which she partially finished creating, but gave up and decided to play the cheerleader instead, she even properly role-played the character, complete with accent/attitude.
  • A male fundamentalist baptist preacher – Another of my 28 pre-generated characters, one of the 3 characters I included that were survivors of my previous Halloween game, which was a haunted house in Texas. The player was the same person who played the character in the previous game. He was another “Inspired”, the main power used was one called “Binding”, which essentially prevents Zombies from moving closer for a limited time.

I noticed a problem quite early on after I threw a small test group of zombified pensioners at the group to gauge their capabilities. Their initial attempts to stop the advancing grannies were lackluster, they flailed around trying to stab them with steak knives, Gill McBrian threw his copy of the Zombie Survival Guide at an old ladies head, bouncing off ineffectively. I had expected more creativity, more brutality, more displays of melee training, such as putting zombies in choke holds and snapping their necks. I then realized they seemed a bit lost as to how to deal with Zombies without guns, which meant if I sent a larger group of Zombies at them, they’d all flounder and die repeatedly, which is no fun for them, and would bring a premature end to the game for me.

I had already placed a few guns aboard, handguns carried by the ships security officers, who were mostly all killed battling the early stages of the zombie plague at what was essentially ground zero for the incident. The players were wisely reluctant to venture far into this area to get the guns, because of the number of zombies there. The Priest however, who was at that point wandering around the ship separated from the rest of the group, managed to use his Binding power to move up to the corpse of a security officer unmolested and claim a gun.

Toward the end of the first part of the game, the group had managed to all come together in a nightclub near the bottom of the ship called “The Catacombs”, and it was here I chose to put in a pre-planned event. I had planned the event to trigger the first time the group discover one of the pockets of survivors I had put in. It worked quite well that they only got to this point just when the players were getting tired and wanted to call it a night. What the event consisted of, was that one of the surviving Security Officers, an ex-military Gurkha, would try to talk to the group, attempting to be an official voice and leader of the survivors. At one point of the Gurkha’s speech to the group, he asks the group if anyone has managed to gather together any kind of weaponry, and asking those able-bodied individuals to step forth. At this point a Haitian man comes forth, not with a physical weapon, but with information that could help.

The Haitian man told the group about the evil plot that caused Zombies to spread across the ship, and tells the group that a Haitian Witch Doctor is responsible, having come into possession of an ancient evil artifact, y’know, the usual spiel. And so the first part of the game ended with the group having come together as a stronger force, with direction, a goal, a villain to defeat.

When the second part began a few days later, I thought i’d be able to get things moving along better, with a lot more casualties, more of a struggle against overwhelming odds. I started out with the players still in the Nightclub, but now the Gurkha, taking charge, asked for volunteers, to go get equipment and then find and stop the Witch doctor. The players all came forth, aswell as a handful of the pregenerated characters for additional fodder. This new group set out to ground zero, using the couple of guns they now had (the one the Priest retrieved, and the one the Gurkha had), aswell as the Priests remarkable ability to stop the Zombies in their tracks to get to the bodies of three gurkhas, and so managed to get most of those with Gun skills equipped.

Once the group had some guns, I found they were much better equipped to fight zombies, it seemed to give them the confidence they needed, they were even able to fight off the zombies without actually firing their guns, something they’d been unable to do earlier. I threw quite a few zombies at them, including several much tougher mutated creatures I had dubbed “Zombie Lieutenants”, who took a lot more damage to take down, but now I had the opposite problem, they were being too effective, and most of the zombies were getting slaughtered before they got to attack back.

I did get a few kills though, mostly some of the pre-generated that had come along for the ride, the only player to get killed was Gill McBrian, who got pounced on by a Zombie Granny on a staircase, taking a chunk out of his neck. The player would go on to use one of the pre-generated characters I had brought along, a Hispanic Fireman, who upon picking up a Fireaxe proved quite capable. For the most part, they were able to dominate the fights, and thwart the Witch Doctors plans. The Goth-chick used her “Visions” power occasionally to find out what she could about the Witch Doctors plans and movements, and so were able to avoid a particularly large ambush the villain had planned, which would’ve resulted in many deaths.

The players managed to fight their way through several decks, managed to find most of the other pockets of survivors, until eventually got to the bridge. The players had elected to send the Gurkha to open the Bridge door, followed closely by one of the pre-generated characters, one of the ships cooks, and they had the unfortunate fate to trigger one of the arbitrary traps I had put in, as they approached the door swung open and the Witch doctor came forth, immediately blowing a Neurotoxin dust into the faces of those going for the door, from here he was planning to use his evil artifact to strike down the players, but due to some very unfortunate rolls, the Witch doctor was viciously and quickly stopped by the Martial Arts Weapon Master, who sunk his Fireaxe firmly into the villains head, killing him dead in one blow.

Some lessons learnt for me, there’s a lot I should have done differently, I probably shouldn’t have been so restrained in the first part, but the players all seemed to enjoy their Caribbean Adventure, and I guess that’s what really matters.

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