But I am still finding time for actual play, on a bi-weekly/sometimes monthly basis. As coincidence would have it I happen to be planning a campaign due for launch in October, and since the blog carnival this month (which I am amazed is still going) is all about game prep, I think this is a perfect opportunity to both kick Monsters & Manuals into gear and show off my super duper game planning skillz.
The game I am planning is called All Zombies on the Eastern Front (AZotEF!!!! for short) and is a World War II/Zombie Apocalypse game. The core concept of the campaign is, essentially, "You're in the middle of World War II, then something even worse happens" - and in keeping with this spirit I've tried to make it as bad as possible for the players: they begin as Axis POWs in the hands of the Soviets, trapped on a prison train heading into Siberia...an area of the world which happens to be in the first stages of being overtaken by a zombie epidemic. The email blurb I sent out to the players sums things up nicely, I think, and runs as follows:
...All Zombies on the Eastern Front will be about one part Zombieland, one part Twilight 2000-esque “soldiers in a post-apocalyptic Europe”, one part John Carpenter’s The Thing, and one part I Am Legend (the book, not the cruddy Will Smith version). There’s quite a bit of flexibility in that players can be of any rank or branch of the armed services, and can be German, Italian, Hungarian, Romanian, even foreign volunteers in the Waffen-SS (though I stress the focus of the game is escaping the clutches of zombies, not Nazism), and although I’ll be using the Cyberpunk 2020 rules they’re quite heavily hacked (no classes, very different skill list).
Content-wise, there’ll be plenty of opportunity to mow down hordes of the undead with your stolen PPD-40 and its 71-round drum magazine, but combat is by no means the be all and end all, and there’ll be a lot of NPC interaction and investigative stuff going on too, as well as all the travails that go along with post-apocalyptic gaming (finding food, ammo and shelter; overcoming moral quandaries about protecting innocent fellow survivors; avoiding cannibal bandits, etc.) and quite a bit of wilderness exploration.
You read that right; I'm using a hack of the Cyberpunk 2020 rules. This is mainly because I want to lift the Friday Night Firefight rules wholesale; my philosophy on World War II games is that you want combat to be frightening and deadly, and without armour or cybergear believe me, Cyberpunk 2020's combat rules are very deadly. I'm yet to see how it will work in play (I'm slightly worried there'll be a TPK within an hour), but the first signs are encouraging - the players are making noises along the lines of avoiding combat and playing intelligently, which is always nice to hear.
Logistically my prep is involving lots of maps, random encounter tables, random NPCs, and random name generators - stuff which I generally enjoy - as I envisage a lot of travelling on the part of the PCs, and I'm leaving it open ended, which makes for little in the way of pre-planned encounters/adventures. (Whether the players want to head back to Europe, go East and try to make Japan, hunker down and see if they can survive or investigate the source of the Zombie plague is up to them.) I expect all this stuff to run into the pages and pages, which will be a further drain on my time but one I'll actually enjoy - a rarity at the moment.