Roleplaying Tips Weekly E-Zine Issue #508
How to Run Killer Zombie Campaigns
This Week's Tips Summarized
How to Run Killer Zombie Campaigns
A Brief Word From Johnn
Help Me Take Your GMing To The Next Level
At Campaign Mastery I made a quick post asking for requests
on what GMing ebook I should write next. If you want to help
decide what that book should be, drop a comment on the blog
or email me directly.
How can I help you become a better GM or game more often?
Help Me Take Your GMing To The Next Level
GM Interview Series on Blog
I recently posted #4 in the GM Interview series, where you
can get inside the heads of your fellow game masters and RPT
readers. Having a few of these posted now, I think they
could be made shorter and even more informational.
So my question to is, what would you ask another GM, if you
could, so that the answer might improve your own game?
Roleplaying Tips Blog
Minis Contest Ends, Winners Announced Soon
The minis contest is now closed. Thanks for all the entries!
I'll assemble them and get winners announced next issue.
Well, I am off now to run another Riddleport session.
Tonight the party has challenged a gang of dragonspawn to a
match in the arena. Having easily dispensed their foes in a
scheduled match, and brimming with confidence, the PCs
spotted their rivals in the stands studying them and called
them out. It should be a fun battle.
Give yourself the gift of gaming this holiday season: get
some gaming done!
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How to Run Killer Zombie Campaigns
In RPT#507 GM Josh asked for zombie tips. And boy, did RPT
readers ever respond!
This issue is dedicated to every GM dying to run a zombie
campaign. I say knock 'em dead.
From Mark of the Pixie
Shift combat focus
Most RPGs focus a lot on combat (it's fun and exciting), but
with zombies it's different. Killing mindless corpse after
mindless corpse gets boring fast, so don't use traditional
RPG combat, use zombie movie horror combat. With horror
movie zombies, defeat is inevitable, you can't win, you can
only delay your defeat.
So I suggest replacing your combat stat by the number of
zombies you can face alone, unarmed, before you go down
(your Zombie Ratio). For a normal person this may have a ZR
of 0 or 1. A fit navy seal combat veteran it may have a ZR
of 10 or even 15.
Adjust this to show how scary you want your zombies to be.
Weapons add to this number (a baseball bat may add +2, an
axe may add +4). Guns also add, but only while you have Ammo
(see below). A revolver may be +4, a shotgun +6.
When you get in a fight with zombies your Zombie Ratio drops
by 1 for each zombie you take out. When it gets to 0, you
get bitten, but may still escape. If it goes lower, you are
bitten and dragged off to be eaten (returning later to eat
your old friends).
Feel free to add a secret randomiser (ZR+d6-1d6) to keep
your players on their toes. Food and rest help to slowly
restore your Zombie Ratio.
This simple mechanic encourages players to avoid combat with
hordes of zombies (they know they will die if they do), but
allows them to take isolated zombies without much difficulty
(the navy seal would have no problem taking out 4 isolated
zombies). This more closely matches what we see in the
Note: One of the big advantages of guns is you can kill
zombies from a distance. You can do this without putting
yourself at risk, picking off zombies from a safe position
(Shelter). Guns do not affect your ZR, they just reduce your
Ammo (see below).
Resources are limited. You ARE going to run out of stuff.
So rate the following from what they have Least of to what
they have Most of:
(Change as needed for your game.)
At any one time the PC group will be Out of the first of
these, and Low in the second.
As they make runs to resupply their food, it gets bumped
back up to somewhere on the list, and next session the new
lowest runs out, and the second lowest is low.
Out means you just don't have it. Low means you might run
out at any time, but you still have some left.
If the PCs are well organised and set up in a good position,
then instead of Out/Low, you can have Low/Low. Likewise, if
they are on the run without many supplies you can have
- Food = obvious, without it everyone's ZR starts to drop as
they start to starve to death. If it is Low, you can't
recover ZR with rest.
- Shelter = fortified buildings, good exits, defensible,
isolated, etc. Without Shelter you are at the mercy of the
elements as well as wandering zombies. From Shelter you can
pick off zombies with ranged weapons, but this reduces the
Shelter as it attracts more undead. If your Shelter is Low,
zombies may get in undetected.
- Ammo = e.g., bullets, arrows, grenades. When you run Out,
your guns are expensive clubs. Picking off zombies from
Shelter reduces Ammo. If your ammo is Low you may run Out
- Transport = cars trucks, bikes, whatever. With Transport
you can move your group to new locations (reduces
Transport). Without it you're walking. While you can outrun
a zombie in the short term, they don't get tired, they don't
sleep and they will get you in the end. If your transport is
Low, your vehicle might break down mid-trip.
- Survivors = people with your group. If your Food or
Shelter is Low, they may die (reduce stat). Survivors are a
skill bank. They can fix cars, cook food, keep lookout,
treat wounds, etc. They are also friends, lovers, family.
People you care about.
If the PCs need something done and they don't have the
skill, one of the Survivors does. But when Survivors is Low
it means either you are running Out of them (they died) or
they are getting internal conflicts, which may lead to them
splitting off and going it alone.
If it is Out, the PCs are alone. Survivors can also be pre-
PCs, so a player who loses a PC can take a named Survivor as
their new PC. Look at Ars Magica's troupe style play for
- Other = everything else. Want a CB radio, first aid kit,
rope, medicine, wrench, compass, or even guns (but not
bullets)? This is where you find it. If it is Low, one of
the other categories is treated as Low (random or GM whim).
If you are Out, then medicine, repairs, communications and
so on are all gone.
Types of zombies
Variety is the spice of life. Try mixing up a few different
types of zombies.
- Slow zombies
- Fast zombies
- Big zombies
- Headless zombies
- Burning zombies
- Acid-blood zombies
- Pinata zombies (decomposition gas under pressure, hit =
pop and goo goes everywhere)
Maybe try animal zombies; zombie dogs, zombie rats, zombie
ravens, zombie bears, etc. Makes the zoo a dangerous place
Zombies that get surprise or have weapons or unusual size or
are on fire may count as two or even three zombies when
subtracting from your ZR.
Zombies = Force of nature
You can no more beat the endless hordes of zombies than you
can turn back the tides or stop the sun setting. Individual
zombies can be stopped easily enough, but the six billion
In some ways, it helps to think of zombies as weather -
mindless and destructive, but also unstoppable and
The zombies you are killing were once people. That's
But have one of your PCs notice that another PC is
bleeding....is it a bite? Just a cut? Hard to tell. Do we
tie you up? kill you? Wait for you to turn? What if it is
just a cut?
One of the survivors sees her child (a zombie) in the
street. How do you stop her running out to save her. She is
too emotional for reason to work. Do you let her go? Tie her
up? Kill her so she doesn't reveal your hiding place? How
will the other survivors respond?
The real horror in zombie movies is often not the undead
outside: it is the things the survivors do to each other.
From Aki Halme
What makes a good zombie movie? Or a good game?
Not the case exclusively for zombie campaigns of course,
this goes for everything. Decisions made with limited
information, for long-term consequences.
Should one make noise to inform possible survivors - or stay
silent to avoid alerting zombies? Radio ahead for help and
advice, risking getting betrayed by those who wish to
conserve limited supplies? Keep to moral high ground and
lose friends when supplies run out, or scavenge everything,
saving friends while dooming others? Not use a light and not
see, or use a light and be seen?
2. Limitations on visibility and mobility
Blind alleys, obstacles, darkness, smoke, broken
constructions that might fall to pieces if one runs (to
avoid a fight) or fights (to avoid to run).
3. Moral ambiguities
Is it always ok to terminate a zombie? What if some of them
are not mindless undead flesh eaters, but something closer
to humanity - with manners.
A zombie that crunches skulls to get to the brain but uses a
napkin to wipe its mouth afterwards? Identifying marks, past
history with a PC, some memories or intelligence?
Will the PCs eliminate a half-crushed, helpless zombie as
mercy kill? What if doing so has a cost, such as ammo or
risk? How to deal with the zombie menace? Cure them, wipe
them out, nuke them out?
4. Not just us vs. them
They can be potential allies, but ones with different goals.
Nice-mannered scientists that are doing human experiments?
Docile zombies that fly into homicidal rage only when they
smell living flesh, which is why they have nose plugs?
Survivor groups that are not so keen to share their
resources - or ones that ARE out to save everyone, but lacks
the means to do so, sharing of what little they have,
effectively dooming themselves if the PCs accept their help?
High-morale groups that are out save the world and are
dismayed the PCs are not - and may or may not have the
capacity to do more than get killed?
People who taste bad to zombies and go about their lives as
best they can?
What about the animals? Perhaps the worst danger out there
is not a zombie, but other people.
5. Limitations on equipment
Never enough of it - and not just ammo, but food and light
and shelter as well. Safe locations are rare, fresh water
not always available, and some food does not come as rations
but something more suspect.
Batteries may be full, or not, and carrying capacity is
finite. In addition, weapons may break, as can everything
else. A knife does not run out of bullets, but where to stab
- and does one really want to get in melee range? At some
point, improvised weapons can become preferable.
Petrol stations are perfectly fine as weapons sources. They
have gallons of stuff to kill with, and used right they
explode too. Might take a bit of chemistry skill to get the
most out of it. For example, homemade napalm, fertiliser
nailbombs, molotov cocktails.
6. The Four Horsemen
Famine, plague, war and death. The shortages cause strife,
and death is rampant in all its bleakness. There will be
corpses, there will be wounded. Being a zombie can be
contagious, and it need not be the only disease around,
giving another kind of special resource that is in short
As for famine, the world can only more or less feed the
people due to mass production. The anarchy of a zombie
apocalypse would cause a breakdown of the society. A lot
less order, a lot less food, and a lot less of everything
the first world provides. What happens when the lights go
out for the last time and there is no electricity or
telecommunications? How about oil and fuel? How about
heating? Roads? Currency?
Electricity needn't go out everywhere. A dam can provide
immense water power. It's maintenance that is the issue,
especially over long distances. How much of a society can
exist under such conditions? Can the players help sustain
it? Or will there be war amongst the last remaining pockets
7. Running zombie combats
In combat encounters, the strengths and weaknesses of zombie
hordes need be stressed. For example:
- Hard to destroy, save by special means
- Zombiism might be contagious
- Might not need to breathe
- Can wait in ambush for ages
Usually zombies are shown to be slow, but that does not need
to be so. They might be unable to wield equipment, but that
too could change. Military zombies could be armored and
might also remember enough to operate their weapons.
Zombies are often sees as victims to their instincts and
predictable. Predictable is good as it requires the PCs play
smart. As for instincts, such as the need to feed, perhaps
zombies could have some intelligence until they come in
close quarters with prey. Whether the players can use that
to their advantage would be up to them. Lose some blood to
drive the opposition to unthinking frenzy?
This might also add a few plot ideas: hunting game, there
might be more than one breed of zombies, a sample is needed
for research or cure. A zombie might wear something vital,
such as keys or a uniform required for access, or a grenade.
Alternatively, a story might require the PCs to be the
hunted, in a Mad Max meets the colosseum sort of extended
On campaign level, perhaps the PCs are human-zombie
crossbreeds - people who have been exposed to whatever turns
a person from human to zombie, but also to an experimental
On the upside, that gives the PCs the best of both worlds -
thinking like humans, with the physique of zombies.
On the downside, zombies hunt them and so do humans, as they
need human blood and flesh for sustenance, are carriers of
zombiism by blood contact, and are valuable research
subjects. Some might also want to cover up the existence of
such creatures, and simply want the PCs gone without a
From Da' Vane
All great zombie campaigns come down to three main themes,
and the best advice is to focus on these themes above all
else, and work on trying to make these fun. Many campaigns
take these themes for granted, so normal rules often fall
short or result in a massive grind, so it's often best to
throw out the rules and wing it.
The themes are:
Zombies! Lots and lots of Zombies!
Forget encounter rules. They won't work well because they
are designed for balanced enemies that give PCs a challenge.
This is never the case in a zombie campaign. Besides one or
two uber-zombies, like former comrades or high-ranking
fallen characters, most of the zombies are weak but
numerous. So numerous that they are more like moving hostile
scenery than actual encounters.
Fighting them just depletes the PCs' supplies until they are
on their last hit points, low level abilities, and using
their fists or the bodies of enemies for defence.
Be sure to wave the PCs with numerous weenies, use all their
kickass abilities, generally show off, and then prepare for
the horror when there are still waves more zombies
Low Resources and Improvisation
The PCs need to use anything and everything to survive. The
zombies don't stop coming, so opportunities for resting and
resupplying will be limited. The PCs will have to make these
opportunities for themselves by running away from the zombie
horde, since they can normally outrun them, and spending a
few rounds scavenging for useful items before they turn up.
Players should take care to record their supplies, but you
should keep scavenging light and fun, and part of the
action. Improvisation is good, and this can often be aided
by a GM who is more than willing to say yes to the player's
You might want to spice things up by throwing in reasons why
the PCs need to give up their tried and true trusted weapons
in favour of hunting for new ones. Otherwise, the PCs will
likely go towards acquiring their favourite weapons and
simply wailing at the zombies, which can get boring fast.
The key to the campaign is survival. Even the most basic
necessities become a matter of life and death in the
campaign. Food, water and medical supplies will all need to
be secured - zombies don't need these, but PCs do!
If the Zombies can infect the PCs or dead PCs return as
zombies, there's another problem. PC losses equal enemy
gains and present critical vulnerabilities in what might
otherwise be secure strongholds.
Time is often critical, as is reaching certain points and
achieving certain objectives, and these should be the
primary focus of adventures. It may be possible to stop the
zombies, but this normally requires finding the source, or
some other overly complex objective, rather than just
defeating them all.
I highly recommend the Savage Worlds adventure Zombie Run.
It's one of the best adventures I've seen, and it could
easily be adapted to other systems (you'd need stats for
zombies, plus about 5 boss NPCs and 2-3 human minion types).
It covers many tropes of the genre, such as scavenging for
items, trying to find fuel and ammo, and encountering other
survivors, some of whom are worse than the zombies!
The adventure also has good advice about setting the tone.
While it's written as a linear sequence of events, the
authors put in copious advice on what to do if the PCs
wander off-track, rather than forcing the GM to railroad. It
took my group 8 sessions to get through and we had a blast
War of the Dead from Daring Entertainment is also highly
regarded, although I have not played or read it. It's an
episodic campaign where they release an adventure each week
for a year; I think they're on Week 20 or so. A lot of
people seem to like it.
My general advice is to familiarize yourself with the zombie
genre tropes and embrace them. Players eat that
stuff up. When the zombie apocalypse occurs, people expect
certain things to happen and want to be a part of that.
Part of the appeal is justified violence in a context
that is closer-to-home than the dungeon. Everybody likes to
let loose and issue a beat-down, but some of us have trouble
bringing ourselves to hurt human NPCs. There's no such
hesitation when facing rotting, shambling corpses.
It's also a genre where life is cheap, so if you're a softie
GM like me and want to kill a few PCs for a change, a horde
of infectious undead might be just the thing. (The zombies
need to be a credible threat or else the PCs get complacent.
You want them struggling to survive, not setting up camp and
Another interesting aspect is that the game is set in the
modern world, so you can have your guns and explosives and
use your real-world knowledge, but there's no police to
worry about or cell phone network to help you out of a jam.
This makes it easy for the GM to improvise, because the
setting is basically "Everytown, USA, but wrecked." You know
what to expect of the environment and the enemies should
your players go exploring.
So if you want to run a sandbox or improv game, but are
afraid of the effort involved, a world ravaged by zombies is
a good place to start. My players went off the rails
numerous times during Zombie Run, always to good effect. The
things they enjoyed most were coming up with clever ways to
deal with the zombies, who were numerous and deadly but
For example, they eventually got a roll of chain-link fence
and carried it around with them in their truck to use to
seal off choke points and destroy small groups of zombies
using melee weapons. Ahh, good times.
For me, running horror themed games, whether zombie, Cthulhu
Mythos or other, the best part is the psychological aspects
and presenting situations that enhance or place stress on
the psychology of the characters.
An example would be to present moral dilemmas: relatives of
the characters have been turned into zombies. The moral
conundrum is whether it is more humane to kill the zombies
and put them out of their miserable undead existence, or to
let them live.
This assumes that the undead relatives still retain aspects
of their humanity. Perhaps it's children who still cling to
prized stuffed animals, blankets or other fetters.
I would turn the scenario of gathering ammo into one where
the characters go to visit a relative's home to get ammo
from Uncle Bob, only to discover that Uncle Bob, his spouse
and the children have all been infected with the zombie
The zombies attack, of course. But make it a roleplaying
scene where the players are exposed to the humanity that
clings ever so slightly within the undead relatives.
You could then throw in a situation where the player
character's escape vehicle is low on gas and won't "turn
over" when needed.
From Sean S.
In response to reader Josh's request for helpful zombie
tips, I ran my Wastelanders campaign for nearly two years
and have some suggestions.
Though not purely a zombie campaign (I did have a lot of
minions of evil!), it did offer a lot of insight into the
survival genre, which is the baseline for a good zombie
Keep track of players commodities
Bullets, gas, food and water. If they can run out of it,
write down who has it and keep track of when they use it.
When a player knows you are keeping track of something, they
tend to be much more cautious about wasting it.
Anyone who has played Left 4 Dead knows how important
multiple types of zombies are. I tend to pick one statistic
(Str, Con, etc.) and model a specific breed of zombie
emphasizing that trait.
An intelligent and charismatic zombie would take the party
off guard and make a possible NPC ally. Just as a hulking
zombie, or a putrid puking zombie would make them think
twice before getting too close.
Abuse the environment
Q: How many zombie movies have dark hallways? A: all of
Use blind fighting rules, make them carry torches. Depending
on your flavor of apocalypse, you might need radiation gear
(my group needed it a lot). I even had one chase sequence
where the PCs were trying to escape the big bad guy's
fortress on top of a volcano while the volcano was trying to
Imagine the tension when you aren't being chased by a mere
enemy, but the ground itself as it gives way to lava.
Suffice to say, they still talk about how awesome that fight
Rolling 1's are just as critical as rolling 20's. Have a
malfunction table and don't be afraid to use it. If they
roll a 1 and confirm less than 5 or 10 (be reasonable), have
their gun jam, or a bullet get stuck in the chamber/clip.
They break the stock or lose grip on the gun and it flies
out of their hand.
Each malfunction imposes a simple problem in the weapon that
can be fixed. A chip in a sword, -1 damage; a bullet jammed
in the barrel, -1 ammo; broken trigger or stock, -1 to-hit.
Make a lot of the weapons they find already damaged. This
gives those repair skills more purpose and lends credence to
the environment being a harsh place. Same goes for armor.
Bullets are expensive; so is food. In my world 1 dollar
would only buy a single bullet, a single meal of preserved
food, or a pound of raw produce (depending on availability).
Remember that consumables are in much higher demand when
trading with NPCs. A farmer might sell produce cheap but
highly value a handful of bullets.
Don't be afraid to gross out your players a bit, and
remember to lead the tension. The first time the party
encounters ghouls is much more terrifying if they hear the
murmurs of conversation while crunching and slurping of
bones and marrow before they encounter the monsters.
Giving a monster the appropriate feeling of terror is more
important than making a enemy statistically capable of
killing the party.
A final demon boss in my game was a lvl 10 NPC, but by the
time the group reached him, they were already afraid of what
he could do. A little piano theme music (Phantom of the
Opera anyone?) and the encounter was scary.
After they defeated him, he and his minions were sucked into
a magical vortex. Then the real bad guy emerged and thrashed
the party as expected. Once the big bad had fallen, the
volcano chase scene ensued. they players were on their toes
Safety in numbers applies both ways
Play Dead Rising 2 or just google some videos. HORDES of
zombies aimlessly wandering the streets. Even at low level.
Take a cue from 4th Ed. D&D here. Throw a horde of +0 to-hit
zombies with 10 AC and 1hp at the party; have them all do 1-
2 or 1-3 damage.
A party of 4 lvl 1's should be able to take out 10+ "zombie
minions" like these, but the encounter will scare the party
with just numbers alone. Throw in a few tough zombies or
altered zombies for flavor and to shake things up a bit.
Another Dead Rising 2 cue here (you can tell what I've been
playing lately). Allow players to modify and use the
environment. An improvised weapon might have a -4 to hit,
but a custom weapon created out of improvised materials is
another story. A classic Nail-Bat fills in the role of a
spiked club any day.
Maybe not every game (snicker), but if a player gets overly
confident, make sure to take him down to negative hit points
in the next few sessions. If you have a group that trusts
you, you can even have a total party kill turn into a role
Say the party majorly wipes out and awakes a few hours later
to find out they have been moved to the zombies' hideout. Or
possibly have them awake in the streets having been gnawed
on and now infected (if you are using a transmitted version
Don't let players track their own hit points
I would describe how the impact hurt and how badly injured
they felt and keep track of their HP on my DM sheet. This
made the players treat the situation with much more caution,
along the lines one would expect in a real situation.
It's easy to see a number written down and think "I've got X
number of HP left, I'm fine!" But when you hear the
description of how you have three broken ribs, a serious
concussion, and bleeding from several cuts and gashes, you
start to realize what the lower half of your HP means in
terms of your character's resolve and well being. (For
descriptive purpose, I treat the top 50% of HP as
"endurance" and the lower 50% as physical trauma.)
All things considered, the most important and veteran tip I
can offer is not to get hung up on the stats and numbers.
The PCs' *perception* of the bad guy and their situation is
more important than how much in danger they actually are.
A simple circular saw isn't scary, but placed in the hands
of a lunatic chasing you and it's perceived much
From Ed Smith
I've run a couple zombie games and the best thing you can do
is don't let the players breathe until they get themselves
into a safe place (boarding up in a room and such). The idea
is not to give the players a chance to think.
I use a one minute game timer for this but I don't let the
players know then when it comes to their turn. I run each
person as a combat by themselves using the go-to-the-scene
technique. If they pause to think, they miss their turn and
the zombies move up or attack.
Speed is the key to keep players off balance and add to the
feeling of being isolated.
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Game Master Tips & Tricks
Modern and Sci-Fi City Encounters
The recent city encounters contest generated mostly fantasy
entries. However, there were a number of modern and sci-fi
encounters. Today, all these entries are available to you
below for your contemporary GMing pleasure.
If you missed out on the fantasy encounters in ebook form,
you can download it here:
Fantasy Encounters eBook
- The PCs find themselves in the middle of a firefight
between various police and criminals who have taken up
opposite sides across a street. As they take cover, a
frightened civilian nearby exclaims "that's them!" and
points at the PCs. The police immediately train their
weapons on the PCs and demand them to surrender.
- Upon turning a corner in a rundown section of the space
station, the PCs are surrounded by street urchins of every
size, species and flavor. Upon handing out something or
shooing the kids away the PCs become weary and fall
unconscious. They awake in the catacombs of the station and
must convince the urchins to show them the way back out.
- While eating or resting in a restaurant the PCs are
shaken by an enormous explosion. Air begins venting, fires
are everywhere, and injured people flail and scream about
searching for escape pods or emergency personnel. As the PCs
make their way to a ship or escape pod, a station worker
hands one of the PCs an infant and disappears into the
- As the PCs are making their way through winding hallways
of an older space station, the vents begin vomiting forth
thousands of slugs. The PCs observe the slugs cover a poor
bystander, consuming all flesh from the person in mere
seconds, leaving only bones, clothes and plastic behind. The
only place to flee is a nearby airlock with no ship or
escape pod attached.
- On a landing pad outside a mining town on a small, dusty
red planet, the PCs hear a scream and turn to see a poor
young lady being dragged into access tunnels nearby. A few,
black, ichorous tentacles are spotted wrapped around the
victim before she disappears. There appears to be no one
around nor does anyone respond to hails or shouts.
- The auto-walkways and transport carts suddenly come to a
halt as a heavy rain starts to pour, drenching the PCs. Upon
glancing around the PCs notice that everyone's clothes are
evaporating in the rain, including theirs. Most of the
various wet and naked pedestrians chuckle knowingly and
carry on their business without so much as a skipped step.
- Several religious figures approach the PCs with grim
concern in their faces. They beg the PCs to take them off-
world immediately to prevent an impending existential threat
only this religious order knows about. They have no money,
but if the PCs agree to help, they can offer them vast
rewards once the universe is saved.
- As the PCs near the landing area they are surprised by
dozens of well-armed thugs waiting for them. The leader
insists they are behind on their payments despite the PCs
having never heard of his boss or knowing about any money
owed. The lead thug insists on taking the PCs to the boss to
discuss the situation or he will be forced to take the
party's ship by force.
- A manufacturer's recall is issued on a foreign product,
but the company announces the recall is a fraud. Then a
consumer watchdog group claims the company is covering up
the actions of a honest and well-meaning ex-employee. The
PCs are approached by the recently fired person who is
seeking to clear his name, as he doesn't know anything about
any product recalls.
- A man's wife has gone missing and he asks the PCs to
help find her. However, despite him having photographs and
home movies of him and her, there are no official records of
either the man or woman ever existing. Even their supposed
co-workers, friends and relatives have never heard of her or
- The PCs are passing through another skeleton of a city,
looking for food, ammunition and work. A man carrying a
large box stumbles out of the half-demolished science center
and starts running down the street. The side of the silver
foil covered box shows brown, white and pink stripes along
with slanting letters spelling out "SPACE ICE CREAM."
- While travelling through the alien district, the PCs
notice a large contingent of humans protesting in front of a
strange-looking dome. Suddenly, the PCs become aware of a
rather large human waddling through the crowd. He seems to
be taking great pains to hide a strange cone-like device
under his coat as he makes his way toward the dome.
- While waiting in a subway station, the PCs hear a
chattering noise deep down one of the tunnels. It seems to
be getting louder. Is it getting closer, or is it coming
from both tunnels now?
- A large spacecraft rumbles overhead. A glance upwards
reveals it belongs to a major public figure and that it has
received battle damage. Perhaps the craft met some pirates?
- A freight ship is found floating adrift in space. Its
rescue beacon has been recorded over with a message in the
standard common language to keep a certain distance or risk
infection. All evidence points to the ship having been
adrift for more than 300 years. Records show it was
registered to a minerals consortium, carrying valuable
metals as cargo and listed as lost in space. Do the PCs risk
exposure to an unknown menace to recover a highly valuable
- The PCs board a taxi and ask to be taken to a location.
The taxi-driver refuses to use the meter and quotes them a
flat fare. After bargaining the fare down to what the PCs
consider is a reasonable rate, the taxi-driver drives down
to the next junction and makes a turn - it turns out the
PCs' destination is just around the corner.
- A gunshot is heard. People panic and run.
- A bike messenger impacts the side of a vehicle, spilling
documents on the wet road. Do the PCs help? Do they examine
- A gunfight ensues; a beer barrel gets shot up. Does the
party stop to take a drink?
- A suicidal robot butler has decided to terminate itself
in a squalid neighborhood's abandoned church. It plans to
detonate its fission power core, miscalculating the size of
the explosion, which will be many times larger than it has
anticipated, potentially devastating the heart of a major
city if it can't be talked out of its decision.
- Zanturi-9 is famous for the micro-gardens floating above
every second intersection. When sinkholes start swallowing
the vehicles and gardens to boot, the citizens demand
- While evading his pursuers, a spy slips his data file
inside a passerby's bag, hoping to retrieve it from him
later. The next day he mistakes one of the PCs as the
passerby and approaches him to ask for the item to be
- A group of minor toughs force someone to dance by
shooting at their feet.
- A protest march by a mixture of robots and humans passes
the PCs, demanding equality for AIs. This could be the
beginning of an escalating movement which turns into either
a civil war or reform.
- A broken fusion core from a starfighter was set aside
for repairs and 'accidentally appropriated' by a junk
dealer. He sold it as a household generator and made off
with the proceeds. If that core isn't found and recovered,
it will detonate as soon as someone turns it on.
- A hovercar spirals out of the sky, hitting a nearby
building and showering the PCs with small rubble. The twist?
The building was the bank, and the vault is now accessible
to the PCs and any other enterprising civilian.
- A newspaper vending machine has what seems to be an
issue from the future. Inside are the results of a boxing
event that happens later that day, including betting lines.
- A pedestrian is hit by a store robber's getaway vehicle.
The car crashes into a fire hydrant and the robber comes
out, guns blazing. The pedestrian is seriously hurt and is
in danger of dying on the spot if not reached in time.
- A wealthy corporate citizen, planning to defect to a
rival corporation, hires the PCs to transport his daughter
across the country to a safe house. His 'daughter' turns out
to be much sought after stolen property; a child rigged with
a prototype chemical weapon.
- An actor's strike and a favour owed means the PCs are
hired to do voice work for an advertising firm, either over
the radio or as barkers around town. Local celebrities and
actor's guild toughs are not impressed.
- An information broker contacts the PCs to infiltrate the
corporate headquarters of a galactic-wide business to steal
financial information from the company's CEO.
- The PCs from their last job are rewarded with a day at a
private luxury cabin in the mountains. Everyone is relaxing
out back in the pool, hot-tub, on a chase lounger or
grilling protein burgers (no weapons at hand). Several
characters of the opposite sex arrive, lead by an older
person, and they all are lightly armed (couple of range
weapons and knifes/daggers). The old person announces, "We
don't want no trouble but it's time for my kids to marry and
they come to claim them a mate."
- On a public vid-screen, a newsreader recounts the latest
escapades of the PCs. Passers-by may accost, congratulate or
query the PCs, depending on what they have got up to
recently and how the media relates the story.
- 34. An NPC friend has bought a landspeeder from a nearby
dealership run by jawas. The NPC asks the characters to go
with him to pick up the vehicle. Once the characters drive
off the lot the speeder has a catastrophic failure. When
they return to confront the jawas, the jawas laugh at the
PCs and try to con them into a fight match against Grond.
This is the only way the Jawas agree to give the money back.
At first the PCs will think that Grond is a small and
overzealous jawa who is suicidal. When they enter the ring
for the fight, though, they discover Grond is actually a
seven foot tall, muscular, Abyssin fighting champion.
- The party sits down to order oatmeal at the diner when a
party of doppelgangers that look exactly like them in
different clothes is on their way out. They make eye contact
before the clones dash out the door.
- 36. The characters find (or are given) ship mechanic
uniforms. They infiltrate the city docking bay to steal
valuables from the unmanned starships.
- The heroes get a desperate call from a friend that ends
abruptly. When they investigate, they find a shocked crew
going through printed sheets on which appear to be still
images of the friend reaching out and screaming for help.
- The PCs are required to meet with a contact inside the
security zone of a starport. Starliner tickets are expensive
and imperial security is tight. If they want to cross the
security line without paying for an expensive ticket or
leaving their weapons at home, they will have to find a way
to circumvent the starport's security.
- The PCs happen to learn that a bomb is going to explode
in a crowded place at a given time, and must stop it before
dozens of innocents are killed.
- The sports car outside the nightclub definitely belongs
to the celebrity the PCs are supposed to find and bring
home. Trouble is, the car beside it belongs to his 'greatest
fan'. Even bigger trouble is, this fan has powerful
- A group of aliens notorious for their scoundrel ways
approaches the PCs with a bound person in tow. They are
willing to part with their "merchandise" for an impossibly
small sum, but insist there are no refunds or returns. This
person is beautiful and in perfect health, yet gagged and
prevented from communicating with the PCs.
- As a pair of shootists exit the saloon, the street
clears, window shades are drawn, and closed signs are put
up. A gun-fight is about to go down.
- After receiving death threats, a prominent nightclub
owner hires the PCs to keep him safe during the premier
opening of Stephanie Meyer's Eclipse.
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Johnn Four's GM Guide Books
In addition to writing and publishing this e-zine, I have
written several GM tips and advice books to inspire your
games and to make GMing easier and fun:
How to design, map, and GM fresh encounters for RPG's most
popular locales. Includes campaign and NPC advice as well,
plus several generators and tables
Advice and tips for designing compelling holidays that not
only expand your game world but provide endless natural
encounter, adventure, and campaign hooks.
Critically acclaimed and multiple award-winning guide to
crafting, roleplaying, and GMing three dimensional NPCs for
any game system and genre. This book will make a difference
to your GMing.
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