Was playing D&D with some friends last night, they are a fairly new group to me, but during previous sessions I had related a few tales from my previous roleplaying groups, one of the things i’ve mentioned to them, was that last Halloween I ran a special one-night horror game, which turned out to be hugely fun. There seemed to be some interest in running a similar game for them this Halloween, and I thought it could be fun, so I agreed. Not much else was said during the session, mostly so we could get on with the D&D game.
When the D&D game was over, and my friend Andy and I left to start our long walk home. I asked him what kind of horror game he thought would be fun, He responded quickly with a very short premise for a game, “Zombies on a Boat”… I was surprised that I had not previously thought of that, nor that I had seen it in a film already, but that simple idea led me to decide on the plot I would use for this years Halloween Special RPG Game.
“Zombies on a Cruise Liner”
The idea is relatively simple, the players take on the role of an individual on a long cruise, sleeping in probably quite cramp passenger quarters, eating at buffets, likely drinking a lot of margaritas, watching shows, doing whatever people do on a cruise. But then this relaxed holiday turns into a total horror show, as people fall ill and turn into zombies, chasing you through narrow hallways.
One of the things that made this idea so perfect to me, is that most people have already heard about ships being quarantined due to outbreaks of vomiting bugs, the norovirus or similar, and so the idea to me would be, to have it start out as though its just an outbreak of one of these bugs, everyone on board hear about it, but the ships health and safety protocols kick in and quarantine things, so they relax… which makes the raging flesh-eating zombies even more of a surprise, even after I lay down the groundwork of hints of the coming nightmare.
I’ve ran zombie-based RPG games before, using the All Flesh Must Be Eaten RPG or the World of Darkness RPG. They’ve usually been quite simple affairs, less about sitting and killing hundreds of zombies, more about figuring out whats going on, and how to stop it. This particular game will hopefully turn into a battle to stop this outbreak from hitting the rest of the world, trying to gain control of the ship in order to stop it reaching its destination, containing the undead horde within the metal walls of the ship. This will be my plan anyway, i’m not quite sure what the players will do.
The thing is though, with most zombie stories, you don’t tend to have a “villain” to thwart, the only obstacle is the hundreds of gnashing jaws in your path, and with the amount of narrow hallways and doorways, it may end up being too easy for the players to keep these creatures at bay. To solve this, I would be tempted to introduce a small core group of more intelligent zombies into the story, with a single “boss” zombie who has a plan to allow his brethren to thrive on the mainland. This villain would be who the motley collection of holidaymakers would have to ultimately defeat in order to save mankind.
That’s the idea anyway, I’ve some work ahead of me to flesh things out, to gain a good grasp of what things are like on a cruise liner in order to adequately describe things to the players. Thankfully the internet has plenty of information on cruise liners, as well as a good selection of ship schematics that could be put to good use.