Go Zombie Go!
The Scene Setup phase proceeds through two steps: Scene Description and Questions.
A Scene is a single, well-defined locale in which play takes place. It has three mandatory elements and two optional elements. The mandatory are: Boundaries, Exits, and Features. The optional are: Items and Extras.
Boundaries are the clearly defined limits circumscribing the Scene. All Scenes must have Boundaries. Often these are naturally defined by walls, but they may be arbitrarily defined by the Scene Setter if the Scene is part of a wider open area, such as a city street, forest clearing, or large gymnasium.
Exits include the designated portal(s) through which it is possible to leave the Scene. Exits may be one or more doors, open archways, holes in the floor or ceiling, etc. All Scenes must have at least one Exit. Any route by which it is clearly logically possible to escape should be designated an Exit. It should be physically possible for characters to get to the Exits, but the Scene Setter is under no obligation to make them easily accessible. Characters may have to use considerable ingenuity to get to them, such as piling up Undead zombie bodies to reach a hole in the ceiling.
Features are other significant aspects of the Scene. These are how the Scene is richly described, and all Scenes must be given enough to make it visualizable. Features include both details of strategic opportunity, like a bar counter behind which characters might hide, and atmospheric mood setting details, like blood smeared on the wall.
Items are objects of significant utility for living characters. These may or may not be present in a Scene. Common useful Items include:
- weapons: +1 to attack for Light, +2 for Heavy (see Combat and Weapons below)
- first aid kit: heals 1 injury of a living character
- tools: may be used for appropriate actions, such as keys opening locks, boltcutters snipping through wire fences, etc.; some tools may also serve as improvised weapons, which count as Light Weapons.
- items of materialistic pleasure: useful to those with #1 Ability Infectious Charm
- items of apparently little utility: potentially useful to those with the #1 Ability Makeshift, who can MacGyver two such items into something useful.
The following rule governs the appearance of Items in a Scene:
- The Item must make logical sense according to the nature of the Scene (there are no flame throwers lying around a high school, but there might be a chainsaw in the janitor’s closet).
Items that seem to violate this rule may be challenged by other players, triggering a vote. This follows the same procedure as for an action that seems to violate a character’s algorithm (see Rules of Play).
Apart from this rule, the Scene Setter is free to choose the number and nature of the Items in the Scene. He or she is under no obligation to make them relevant to the particular interests of the living characters in play. Moreover, it is entirely possible that items intended only for mood-setting may end up being useful in the hands of a creative character.
Extras are other people or zombies not created and controlled by a player in the normal sense. Instead, they are just like extras in a movie, part of the backdrop of the Scene. They might be desk clerks, shoppers at a store, or a gaggle of zombies blocking a hallway but otherwise just milling in place. Not all Scenes will have Extras. They make a Scene slightly more complicated, so it is good not to over-use them.
The behavior of Extras is the responsibility of the Scene Setter, and they act on that player’s turn. They can be attacked, bitten, or asked questions like normal characters, but do little in the way of action of their own. They generally do not undertake Risky Actions or make Courage Rolls, and if such should become necessary they automatically fail all rolls. Extras are not affected by #1 Abilities such as Take Charge or Infectious Charm, though the ability Sneak still avoids their attention.
The algorithms of Extras are extremely simple:
- Living Extra Algorithm: 1) run in the opposite direction of any zombie that comes within two squares, otherwise 2) stand in place.
- Zombie Extra Algorithm: 1) Eat any live flesh that comes within two squares, otherwise 2) stand in place.
Any other behavior that seems plainly obvious, like a crowd of people high-tailing it out of the Scene when a zombie appears, can simply be declared. Other players can challenge if they wish, triggering a vote, but in general the minutiae of Extras behavior should not be allowed to bog down the pace of game play. Keep it simple.
Large groups, such as crowds of people or herds of zombies, can be treated as one unit for game purpose, all acting more or less in unison. Don’t let the minutiae of Extras bog down the pace of game play.
Extras are placed as part of the description of the Scene during Scene Setting, not Character Placement.
Challenge by Other Players
Any element of a Scene, whether Boundary, Exit, Feature, or Item that does not seem to make logical sense for the Scene is open to challenge by other players. A challenge triggers a vote in which ties go to retaining the element in question.
Here are some examples of illogical elements:
- a garage with 10 exits
- a school cafeteria with no doors, whose only entrance through in the ceiling
- a clinic with a closet full of rocket launchers
- a kindergarten with a liquor cabinet
Each of the cases above violate logical expectations, and seem clearly designed to give advantages to one character or Team.
Note that there may be logical reasons for certain unusual circumstances. For example, the doors in the school cafeteria above, though present, may have been boarded up to keep out zombies (rendering them useless as Exits for game purposes).
The Game Map
A game map should be used to clearly demarcate all elements (Boundaries, Exits, Features, and Items). Each square on the game map represents approximately 5 square feet. Scenes are usually around 100-200 squares. They must be at least twice as many squares as there are characters to be placed, unless all players agree to waive that rule. Squares may be arrayed in any contiguous horizontal arrangement.
Bridging Between Scenes
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).
After Scene Description is complete, the Scene Setter declares the Scene Open for Questions. Players may then ask questions to elicit anything that remains vague. The Scene Setter’s answers must be consistent with all previously established details.
The Scene remains Open for Questions until the majority of players, including the Scene Setter, vote to declare the Scene Closed for Questions. Ties keep the Scene Open for Questions.
Once the Scene is Closed for Questions, details cannot be added or altered.