Life After the Zombie Apocalypse

Lurch (in my front yard...)
My last blog post dealt with the decidedly uncheerful post-apocalyptic novel The Road. It's a difficult book to read. I couldn't imagine ever wanting to play an RPG in such a setting. Heck after posting that marked the longest gap between posts I've had on this blog so it must have drained my will to post...

Aside from a few brief Aftermath and Gamma World games I've not done much gaming in the post-apocalyptic genre. Probably a bit too depressing for my tastes. I like intact societies, not remnants of civilization sulking in ruined cities. With that in mind, one "sub-genre" I have given some thought to gaming in is the "Zombie Apocalypse" genre. The basic premise is pretty simple. The dead rise in the form of zombies. Usually they bite people and the people bitten become zombies. I'm far from an expert in the genre but you can find examples it pretty easily - The Walking Dead comic book and television series comes to mind most easily.

Quite a few RPGs have delved into the zombie apocalypse genre as well. The most famous of these is probably Eden Studios' All Flesh Must Be Eaten RPG (AFMBE). AFMBE doesn't presuppose any specific form of zombie apocalypse, rather it has rules for designing your own zombies. Lots of AFMBE supplements are pistaches of other genres with zombies added in - D&D with zombies, Lord of the Rings with zombies, Star Wars with zombies, etc.

Beyond AFMBE I have a few other zombie-centric RPGs. There is Hunters Books' Outbreak Undead. I've only recently acquired it so I've yet to form a full opinion of it. It seems dedicated to being a type of survival simulation, with rules about establishing and keeping a home base. This strikes me as something which would be useful in a long-term game.

One of the more unusual zombie apocalypses I've seen is New Dark Age's Unhallowed Metropolis. It supposes that in 1905 the dead begin to rise. Now it is some two hundred years later and society has barely survived the apocalypse. The game is set in a largely isolated London in a "Neo-Victorian" society, kind of a cross between a zombie apocalypse and steampunk.


Unhallowed Metropolis in my mind addresses one of the big problems with the genre, that being the "and then what?" factor. AFMBE is often regarded as ideal for one-shot adventures and mini-campaigns. To me that seems an understandable assumption - it seems likely that a zombie apocalypse game would be very easy to start and be a blast for the first few adventures. But then comes the challenge of sustaining it. If your only challenge is zombies then the game is likely to lose steam fast. AFMBE has a supplement, One of the Living, which is dedicated in its entirety to examining the long-term impact of a zombie apocalypse. Unhallowed Metropolis takes it even further, with society having, at least in pockets, managed to rebuild. The Walking Dead comic book is still reasonably close in time to the outbreak of zombies - I believe it is under two years sine the outbreak. However even there the story has progressed to the point that the zombies, while still a huge threat, are not the only threat and are perhaps less dangerous than other survivors.

If you're looking to run a long term Zombie apocalypse game I suspect you don't need to have an answer to "and then what?" from the start but you need to be willing to answer it and not preserve a status quo.

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