Rules of Play


Game Concept|Rules of Play|Character Creation|Scene Setting

Overview of Play


Much like a movie, game play flows as a series of Scenes, or defined locales in which events take place.

Players take turns setting the Scene, starting with the Host. At the start of each Scene, characters are created and players bet on whether their characters will Survive or Bite the Dust. The Scene then proceeds through the Play Sequence (detailed below) from start to finish.

When the Scene ends, surviving characters gain a kind of experience, and players who won their bets gain an advantage in the next Scene. Then the next Scene is set by the player of the character who was First Out (first to leave the scene or bite the dust). Finally, the Scene Play Sequence begins afresh: new characters are created if necessary, bets are placed, and so on.

The game continues like this until one team accomplishes its Mission or all the living characters are dead.

Object of the Game

Officially, the first team to accomplish their Mission “wins.” However, sometimes you just wanna see your character eat it big time. So, whoever has the most fun is the real winner.

Team Living Mission
Have at least one living character survive through 5 Scenes.

Team Undead Mission
Eat all the living characters currently in play.

If the last living character in play dies but is not eaten (e.g. died from a fall, not a bite), then neither Team wins.

The Host

One player is designated the Host. This player:

  • begins on Team Undead (all others begin on Team Living)
  • must be familiar with the rules
  • serves as Scene Setter for the first Scene

In all other ways, the Host is just like any other player.

Core Mechanics

Virtually all questions in the game are resolved by one of two simple mechanics: Player Vote, and Risky Action Rolls.

Player Vote

A Player Vote is a yes/no motion proposed by one player and agreed or disagreed with by all others (including the Host). Majority rules, ties yield in a result of no to the motion.

Some standard elements of a game call for a vote, but virtually anything can be subjected to vote. In some cases, a unanimous result may be called for, such as a motion to ignore or change the rules. Whatever everyone agrees upon takes precedence.

Risky Action Rolls

A Risky Action Roll is a die roll to determine the success or failure of a Risky Action. Any action involving significant risk of failure is designated a Risky Action. Any disagreement on whether an action is Risky is resolved by Player Vote.

Zombies automatically fail all Risky Actions other than attacks.

Zombie attacks and any Risky Actions performed by rolling a six-sided die. A result of 4 or higher indicates success. Less than that is a failure. Alternatively, a coin may be flipped with heads yielding success, tails failure.

  1. The action is assigned a Risk Level of 1, 2, or 3. The Risk Levels of common actions are listed in the table below. Any other actions are assigned a Risk Level by Player Vote.
  2. The player rolls a 6-sided die, applies any modifiers (bonuses or penalties), and compares the modified result to the Risk Level’s Success Number. If the result is equal to or greater than the Success Number, the action succeeds.

Play Sequence

Each Scene proceeds through the following Phases.

1. Setup
1A. Scene Setter declares in three words the general nature of the Scene, such as “fly-ridden hospital ER”
1B. Each player makes a character (see Character Creation) and takes one betting token and three poker chips
1C. Scene Setter describes the Scene in detail, drawing it on the play map; there must be at least one Exit
1D. Other players may ask yes/no questions of the Scene Setter, like “Is there an operating table in the ER room?”; if the Scene Setter says “yes”, the detail becomes part of the Scene
1E. Starting with the player on the Scene Setter’s left, each player a) places their character on a square on the play map, b) places their betting token in front of them visible to all with either Survive or Bite the Dust, according to what they bet will happen to their character in this Scene, and c) wagers as many poker chips from their pile as they please, reserving some to influence events if they wish; if their bet is correct in the end, they get double their wagered chips back, but lose their wagered chips if they are wrong.
2. Turn Sequence
2A. If your character begins in a Threatened Square, or moves through such a square any time during your turn, make a successful Risky Action roll or the character Panics (freezes in place, losing all remaining moves/actions that turn)
2B. Determine the Move and/or Action that follows the character’s algorithm best; if other players disagree this is the best match to the algorithm, they may Challenge by proposing a more appropriate move/action, resulting in Player Vote
2C. Movement and actions take place; any Risky Actions or moves through Threatened Squares require a Risky Action Roll to determine success
2D. Next player’s turn (Repeat from 2A).
3. Resolution
3A. When all characters have left the Scene or died, the Scene ends
3B. Any player who bet correctly gets a Victory Point
3C. Still Kickin’ Points
3D. Zombie Spawning
3E. Next Scene (Repeat from 1A).

1. Setup

1A. Announcement of General Nature of the Scene

The Scene Setter announces the general nature of the upcoming Scene in the form of a single word or phrase, such as “ramen shop” or “football field.” The Scene Setter for the first Scene of the game is the Host.

1B. Character Creation

Each player creates a character that is Living or Undead, according to their Team, following the rules for Character Creation.

The player takes one Betting Token for each character.

All players begin with one character each at game start, though events of play may result in multiple characters later.

1C. Scene Setting

The Scene Setter sets up the Scene, according to the rules for Scene Setting. In short, the Scene Setter uses verbal description and a game map to clearly define the Scene (i.e. clearly-defined locale in which play takes place), including Boundaries, Exits, Features, and Items.

Players ask questions until all are clear on the Scene.

If this is not the Opening Scene, the Scene Setter should also include a short description of how the characters got from the last Scene to this one. This may be brief, such as “the characters rushed out of the hospital and down a series of confusing alleys, only to find themselves in a wide open soccer field.” This between-Scene period is purely descriptive and cannot have any impact on Game Mechanics (e.g. characters cannot pick up items along the way and are not healed if they rest).

1D. Turn Order Roll

All characters make a Turn Order Roll, rolling a 6-sided die. The player with the highest result goes first, the second-highest second, and so on. Any tied players roll again to determine order between them. The final ordering should be written down, as it will be used throughout the Scene.

In Scenes after the first, players whose bets in the last Scene were correct may choose to reroll their Turn Order Roll once for each correct bet.

1E. Character Placement and Betting

On their turn, each player places all their characters in the scene. A character may be placed on any square on the game map that:

  • is within the Scene Boundaries
  • is not logically impossible for the character (e.g. a full-sized adult human cannot be placed inside a microwave, though a severed zombie head might).

After placing each character, the player puts a Betting Token on the corresponding character sheet, clearly visible to all players, indicating their Bet as follows:

“Survive” side up
Player bets the character will make it to Scene End without dying or being destroyed.

“Bite the Dust” side up
Player bets the character will die or be destroyed by Scene End.

2. Turn-based Algorithmic Roleplaying

In this phase, players roleplay their characters’ actions. To determine actions, they must follow the character’s Algorithm strictly, but players should narrate how their characters perform each action as creatively (and gruesomely) as possible.

Play proceeds in Rounds, each representing approximately 5 seconds of in-game time. Each Round, each player takes one turn in which actions are determined for all characters he or she controls. Turn Order is the same as for the current Scene’s Character Placement phase. Turns proceed according to the sequence described below (phases 2A-2D).

The Round is over when each player has taken one turn; then the next Round begins. Rounds continue until Scene End (see below).

The following (2A-2E) describes the sequence for one turn.

2A. Courage Roll if in Threatened Square

First, the player checks if the characters he or she controls are in Threatened Squares. A square is Threatened if it is within one or more zombies’ movement rate unless some obstruction prevents their movement to that square. Essentially, any square within 2 squares of a zombie is Threatened unless some barrier, such as a wall or pit, would prevent the zombie from getting to that square in one turn.

If in a Threatened Square, the character must make a successful Courage Roll or Panic (see below).

2B. Determine Move and/or Action by algorithm, resolving any challenges by other players

Next, the player declares what his or her character(s) do. This is determined by comparing the current situation with the character’s Algorithm and Abilities. Characters always maximize the use of their Abilities in order to best fulfill their Algorithm in the current situation.

Each Round, a character may perform the following:

  • one action
  • one movement, before or after the action

Examples of actions include:

  • attack
  • use a #1 Ability (see Character Creation)
  • jump across a pit
  • climb up a pile of junk
  • use an item

Communications (except for #1 Abilities) between living players do not count as actions as long as they are three sentences or less.

Picking up an item does not count as an action, but using it does.

Picking Up and Using Items

Scenes may happen to have certain items of interest lying around (if and only if it makes logical sense to be in the Scene). Characters may pick up an item by moving into the square it occupies. This does not count as an action, players may simply declare the character is picking it up.

Using an item does count as an action. Examples are opening a lock with a key, prying open a door with a crowbar, or treating an injury with a first aid kit.

Zombies never make use of items.

Challenges to Movements and Actions by Other Players

Any action that does not appear to follow the Algorithm of the character may be challenged by the other players. If challenged, the player must do one of the following:

  • declare a different action
  • write their rationale for the action on a slip of paper to be read out at Scene End (and if at that time the action still seems inappropriate, the player suffers the eternal shame of having been “that guy” or “that gal”, and other players may optionally throw their tokens at him or her)

Line-of-Sight and Character Awareness

Actions often depend on what a character can see: they cannot attack or avoid what they do not know is there.

If a straight line, unimpeded by obscuring factors such as walls or shadows, can be drawn between two characters, they have Line-of-Sight on each other.

Characters are considered aware of all other characters on which they have Line-of-Sight.

Zombies are only aware of what is or has been within Line-of-Sight in the current Round. They do not remember information from previous Rounds.

Movement and Threatened Squares

In addition to acting, characters may move up to a number of squares equal to their movement rate, either before or after their action:

  • Zombie movement rate: 2 squares
  • Living characters movement rate: 4 squares

Any living character attempting to enter a Threatened square, defined as a square one or more zombies could enter within their movement rate (essentially 2 squares from any zombie, unless protected by some impeding barrier such as a wall), must first make a successful Courage Roll (see below). A character beginning a turn in a Threatened square (due to previous zombie movement) must also make a Courage roll.

2C. Movement and Actions Take Places, and Any Rolls Are Made to Determine Success

After movement and actions have been declared and any player challenges resolved, the movement and actions take place. Rolls are made to discover success or failure for any Courage Rolls or Risky Actions. Damage resulting from combat or other hazards is also resolved.

Courage Rolls and Panic

To make a Courage Roll, the player rolls a 6-sided die. If the result exceeds the total number of Gimps possessed by all zombies threatening the square, the roll succeeds.

If the roll fails, the character is Panicked, and suffers the following effects:

  • Attempts by zombies to bite the character become Cakewalks (3+) instead of Longshots (5+).
  • If the character was attempting to move into a Threatened square, he or she freezes in place just before it and loses all other actions and movement for the Round.
  • If the character began the turn in a Threatened square, he or she moves or attempts to move to the nearest non-Threatened square, and loses all other actions and movements that Round.

Panic lasts until the end of the Round, after which the character recovers their senses.

Once a character makes a successful Courage Roll, the character is immune to Panic for the rest of the Round and may move and act freely.

Zombies never make Courage Rolls.

Risky Action Rolls

Any action involving significant risk of failure is designated a Risky Action. See the rules for Risky Action Rolls in the Core Mechanics section above.

Zombies automatically fail all Risky Actions other than attacks.

Combat and Weapons

A player may attack another character that is in an adjacent square, provided no impeding barrier intervenes (such as a wall). This calls for a Risky Action Roll, and success indicates a hit.

Note: An attack that fails to hit a zombie in the brain, or does not attempt to do so, still damages the zombie if the result is high enough to succeed for a non-brain hit.

Weapons improve the chances of hitting an opponent for living characters. They come in two Weapon Classes: Light and Heavy, granting +1 and +2 to attack, respectively. Light weapons include small or improvised weapons, such as rocks, knives, canes, candlestick holders, shards of broken glass, shovels, crowbars, and so on. Heavy weapons include items designed to deliver major blows, such as baseball bats, sledge hammers, guns, bombs, chainsaws, samurai swords, and so on. Disagreements over an item’s appropriate Weapon Class trigger a vote in which ties go to the Lighter weapon class.

Weapons that can deliver damage from afar are Ranged Weapons. These may be used to attack any opponent within line-of-sight (provided no obstruction lies between, including a friendly character!). Items not designed to be thrown or fired, such as rocks, clubs, or candelabra, grant no attack bonus. Only items designed for such missile use, such as crossbows, guns, or throwing knives, grant a bonus.

No characters start with weapons. These must be picked up in game play. They are never simply “found” on the character’s own person.

Zombies do not use weapons and always attempt to bite; they never make any other kind of attack.


Damage due to combat or any other injurious situation is resolved as follows:

  • Zombies taking damage in the brain are destroyed.
  • Zombies taking damage anywhere but the brain gain an additional Gimp (see Character Creation).
  • Living characters bitten by a zombie are killed, and reanimate the following Round as zombies (new character sheets are drawn up following Character Creation for zombies).
  • Living characters taking damage from sources other than zombie bites are Injured.
  • Injured living characters taking damage again are killed and removed from play.

Leaving the Scene, Dying, and First Out

Any character that leaves the Scene by an Exit is out of play for the rest of the Scene.

Any character that dies or is destroyed is permanently out of play.

Any player whose living character has died immediately joins Team Undead.

Any living character who was bitten by a zombie is dead, and will reanimate as a zombie in the next Round, starting in the same square. The character is identical to a standard starting zombie with 1 Gimp, though its physical traits will obviously correspond to its appearance in life (to the extent that they have not been mangled beyond recognition!). The player joins Team Undead and should make a new character sheet for the freshly reanimated zombie.

The first to either leave the Scene or die/be destroyed is considered First Out, and the player controlling that character receives the First Out Token. This player will be the Scene Setter for the next Scene.

2D. Next Player’s Turn

Repeat the turn sequence for each player in turn (starting from 2A).

3. Resolution

3A. Scene End

The Scene ends when one of the following is true:

a) all characters are dead or destroyed
b) one of the Teams has accomplished its Mission
c) all remaining living characters have left the Scene via Exits
d) players vote to end the Scene, with ties continuing it

3B. Resolution of Bets

Players who won the Bet for one or more characters (i.e. correctly predicted whether the character would Survive or Bite the Dust) gain the right to reroll their Turn Order Roll in the upcoming Scene, if they so wish. They may reroll once for each successful Bet.

3C. Still Kickin’ Points

Living characters who survived the Scene gain 1 Still Kickin’ Point (SKP), recorded on their character sheet.

A Still Kickin’ Point may be spent to add a +1 bonus to a single Risky Action roll, stacking with any other bonuses, penalties, and SKP.

Zombies do not gain SKP.

3D. Zombie Spawning

Players gain 1 Spawn Point for each complete Scene spent on Team Undead. In the Character Creation phase for the upcoming Scene, each Spawn Point may be spent to buy:

  • +1 Gimp
  • an additional zombie character

Unused Spawn Points are lost; they cannot be carried over from Scene to Scene.

3E. Next Scene

The player whose character was First Out (first to Leave the Scene or Bite the Dust) in the Scene just concluded becomes the Scene Setter for the upcoming Scene.

The next Scene begins, and the Game Play Sequence starts over from Phase 1.

Game Tokens

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Rules of Play

Go Zombie Go! BrandonDrowningInDice