About this project
The dead have risen. A plague has swept through The City, killing thousands, tainting food and water supplies with their bloated corpses. This is no ordinary disease, for not even the blackest of plagues can reanimate the dead. In The City, they rise from death in defiance of nature to feast on the living.
City of the Dead is a roleplaying game of zombie survival horror. Players take on the roles of Survivors, those with the determination, skills, and maybe just enough luck to endure the zombie apocalypse. All around you The City falls into chaos as the undead overrun panicked crowds and hastily-erected barricades. Tireless, powerful, they come in many forms, from human to animal to grotesque abominations warped by the Plague. More people fall victim every day, yet every victim rises again to swell their ranks. Zombies outnumber the living, and now only those with the will to survive can endure in the City of the Dead.
As a Survivor, you stand out from the unlucky, the weak, the doomed. You have skills that the others didn't. Maybe you were faster or stronger than the others. Maybe you were simply smarter, escaping the hordes through quick action and intelligent planning. Or perhaps you led others through danger, coordinating their abilities and resources in the disastrous situation.
Good question! This is my favorite part. City of the Dead offers a system that combines narrative flexibility with mechanical detail. One thing it does well enough to stand out among its contemporaries is its focus on mental and social abilities, resources, and effects.
What does this mean? In many games, social skills and often intellectual ones are given vague guidelines, especially compared to combat and physical-based abilities. This works in those games, because they don't necessarily need rigorous rules for the ability to socialize. City of the Dead places equal emphasis on these non-physical aspects, so that you can build any kind of Survivor and have her shine. Combat is dangerous, risking injury or infection. Physical prowess and fighting ability are useful, but not the only things that are important. Communities need smart and gifted people to thrive.
A skilled leader can keep groups of beleaguered Survivors sane and focused. She can direct them in combat or emergencies, can help restore their Willpower, provide them with bonuses to action, and more. Meanwhile, a brilliant scientist or crafty mechanic can engineer defensive systems, plans to modify locations and items, new means of procuring food, or accommodate an influx of new Survivors. Art and socialization help provide release from the constant tension of survival in The City.
It's amazing how much a simple conversation by the fireside, a few laughs, or a thoughtful debate about laws and societal mores can do to reaffirm one's place in the world. In City of the Dead, those things help restore your Willpower and can provide other in-game effects.
City of the Dead is a game in which you can create a wholly social- or mental-focused character and still contribute meaningfully with the rules. Whether that is a teacher with no fighting ability, a wheelchair-bound scientist who speaks through a voice program, or the star athlete, each is just as viable as the ex-Marine killing machine, and has just as much mechanical room to play.
• Communities: By banding together with other Survivors, you can accomplish what one person can't do alone. Surrounded by a sea of undead, you need others if you want to live. After all, a Survivor needs food and water, but a person needs socialization, a greater sense of purpose. Groups of Survivors provide this in the form of Communities.
Communities spring up in the ruins of The City. They rise and fall by the season. Some thrive on the ability and luck of their populations, while others crumble due to treachery, misfortune, or simple numbers. Larger Communities can effect greater change in The City, even come to resemble a functional society, but the greater the population, the more resources a Community needs.
In City of the Dead, players will manage these Communities just as they do individual Survivors. Communities have their own traits, and a scale of play that "zooms out" to measure events by the season. Actions occur by the dozens, hundreds, even thousands. Your choices can lead to a resurgence of law and order, creating a safe haven for Survivors...or damn them to a hellish existence of ravenous living death.
Will you engineer the salvation of humanity or rule a kingdom among the damned?
Not everyone likes zombies, it's true. But fear not! City of the Dead offers a lot for even those gamers of questionable sanity who don't like zombie apocalypses!
The basic system is very flexible. It's usable in all manner of modern settings, like occult thrillers, action and espionage games, or other types of survival situations (like being stranded on an island full of murderous cultists). The rules work especially well for any sort of post-apocalyptic or survival tale.
The zombie creation system is flexible enough to create many different foes. File off those serial numbers and you can reskin the zombies as parasitic hive aliens, hideous demons, killer robots, twisted minions of elder gods, vampires, even ghosts and stranger things. Zombie Aspects even cover "Living" zombies, so you can make prehistoric monsters, shapechanging alien things, or even move from traditional undead zombies into fungus-possessed or rage-driven humans.
The entire game is flexible enough to tailor to your needs. The basic premise is also easily expandable. What about adding supernatural characters to The City? Vampires need neither Food nor Water, but they do need Blood to survive, so it's important for them to keep Survivors alive! Werebeasts might need more Food than others, and their vital natures make them prime targets for zombies, but their physical power helps them survive. Psychics and witches are just as vulnerable to being eaten as anyone else, but their powers give them an edge that others lack.
City of the Dead uses a new game system called the "GAEA System," (Genre Adventure ExplorAtion) developed by Gaea Games. This system provides quick resolution at all scales of play, whether Survivor or Community. It also features a great many "hooks" with which players and Narrators can interact.
The basic game mechanic uses two six-sided dice (2D6) plus modifiers against scaling Target Numbers. Sometimes, these Target Numbers (or TNs) are set by an opposing character's roll, such as when you fight another Survivor for the last remaining scraps of food in the local grocery store. Humans have Attributes and Skills rated on a 1-6 scale, and most basic rolls consist of an Attribute plus a Skill, added to a 2D6 roll.
Rolling the dice and seeing the results of your character's action can be plenty exciting, but the GAEA System takes it a step further. Margin of success ("MoS")—the difference by which you exceed the Target Number—is important, because it generates MoS points. Players can spend these points on added effects. MoS effects include anything from inflicting extra damage on an attack, taking less time to accomplish a critical action, or provide bonuses for other Survivors. You can even mix and match effects when you succeed in a big way, such as inflicting more damage on a zombie and knocking it down.
The game uses flexible, generic measurements such as Time and Weight, so that players and Narrators can adjust the narrative based on what makes the most sense and the most fun. An example of this is in the Salvage system.
Survivors require many things in their daily lives. The System describes these things broadly as "Resources," which come in several forms.
• Food and Water: No Survivor lasts long without fuel to keep her going. In game terms, Survivors require 3 Food and 2 Water each day to live. It's up to Narrators, players, and the current scene to flavor the Food: you might come away with canned vegetables, or microwaveable dinners, but the corresponding game trait is simply 1 Food.
•Salvage: City of the Dead features a robust crafting system. Survivors build, repair, and jury-rig a variety of items. They do this with Salvage, which is used to build barricades, repair vehicles, improvise weapons, and much more. Salvage comes in several forms: General, Mechanical, Electronic, Wood. Each of the three non-General types corresponds to a given Craft subskill, while General can help make up some of the bulk Resources needed.
For example, a Survivor searches an office for supplies. She might find a half-empty vending machine (2 Food), a full water cooler (2 Water), and lots of computer monitors, paper, plastic, and other office supplies (3 General Salvage, 2 Electronic, 1 Mechanical). If she wants to barricade the door, she could use General and Mechanical Salvage. If she wanted to jury-rig a display system with the monitors, she could use the Electronic Salvage along with General Salvage. For many projects, General Salvage can replace up to a certain amount of the required specific Salvage types, making it useful in bulk.
As with Food, it's up to the group (especially the Narrator) to give the Salvage appropriate descriptions based on the scene. While the game trait is the same for General Salvage found in an office compared to that found in, say, a dumpster, the in-game descriptions (and reactions!) are very different. Better still, if players want to keep track of what kind of Salvage is what, it's easy enough to do!
For instance, if a group of Survivors searches an abandoned camp ground, they might find tarps and tents (3 General Salvage). The players mark it down as "3x Salvage (Tarps)," and can keep track of it differently from Salvage they find later in the form of various office supplies. It's easy to go into as much or as little detail as you like.
•Ammo: Ammo operates the same way. The game doesn't track the minutiae of each individual shot fired, but rather uses Ammo of several varieties, such as Handgun, Rifle, and Shotgun. If players desire more detail, they can limit each type of Ammo by weapon size as they desire. By default, the game favors the ease of tracking Ammo—1 Ammo might represent a single shot (with Talents like Trigger Discipline), or it might represent several handgun rounds. Fully-automatic fire might eat up more than one Ammo in a given round, while something like a Shotgun uses Ammo more slowly (but takes more time to reload).
This approach allows players to add narrative detail and flavor to the game without bogging down in exacting detail. Narrators are encouraged to look up real-world brands (and perhaps make up some similar-sounding companies), but those who need to can distill the finding of Ammo to its essence: "You find several boxes of shotgun shells beneath the counter—worth about 5 Ammo."
City of the Dead takes place in The City—a generic but exhaustively detailed plug-and-play setting. What does that mean? It means that the game includes detailed descriptions of important locations and all the accompanying rules. Yet The City as a whole, and each location within it, are kept nonspecific, so that you can drop them anywhere and add your own flavor. Maybe you want to simply reskin it as locations in your home town, adding local flavor and detail, while using the basic mechanics provided.
You can also take individual pieces as you wish: City Hall, Police Station, City General Hospital, and so on, and use them or change them as you will. Maybe you want to say that one is the site of a small Community struggling to survive. The rules make that easy and fun.
Maybe you don't need the whole City for a given story. What if you don't need a City Zoo, but you want to portray a bio-weapon manufacturing lab hidden beneath an unsuspecting city? You can take the zoo and re-skin it as a lab full of mutated monsters. Change the details and description of a given location to make it match your needs. The system details will work for whatever you want, and even if you want to change those, you can.
City of the Dead also provides a wealth of random generation tables to help provide inspiration or even a little unexpected drama. Want to see just what Resources remain in that ransacked home? Roll on the appropriate table, with options to modify by season, location, and more. City of the Dead is about providing options, a toolkit to create the kind of apocalyptic survival scenario YOU want to play.
Let's keep things modest at first, yeah? I intend to sink funds from the Kickstarter into production values, like top-notch layout, commissioning more artwork and so forth. I'd love to make this game the un-dead gorgeous game we all want to see, and I want to be realistic with stretch goals. That doesn't mean we can't have fun with them and explore some options. I look forward to hearing your feedback and seeing some of your ideas for stretch goals.
No More Room in Hell ($4000): How about an expanded Zombestiary? (Yes, that's a word!) Let's throw in all kinds of other zombies and living animals, just in case your games take The City to the coast. We can add aquatic creatures, prehistoric ones, even some sample alien critters! Maybe playable zombies? You, the backers, can help decide what extra stuff to add!
Braaaaaaains...Equals Brawn ($5000): A whole additional chapter to the book detailing psychic powers. Maybe the Plague brought it out in you, or maybe your mind's response to the unnatural horrors was to unlock hidden abilities. This chapter adds a slew of Psychic Powers, new Psychic Talents, and some equally psychic zombie foes!
Stretchin' Like Intestines ($7500): Whoa! If we hit this level, the sky's the limit. What would you like to see? A fiction anthology to go with the game? Additional locations like The Ship or The Wilds? A nice Hawaiian vacation for your poor, half-starved creator? (Ooh, that makes me think that "The Island" would make for a good expansion sometime, too!)
Rodney Sloan - Video design and additional creative input. Check his stuff out at http://www.risingphoenixgames.com/index.html
Amanda Platsis - Logo design
Axel Loefving - Logo design
Drew Dahlman - Zombie Apocalypse (2 weeks, 1 month, 3 months after humans) art • http://drewdahlman.deviantart.com/
Julien Cordebar - City of the Dead title artwork • http://dedorgoth.deviantart.com/
Nico - Zombie apocalypse artwork (used for the last two banners) • http://scabeater.deviantart.com/
Ben Dutter - Additional creative input
Risks and challenges
I'll be honest about the risks and challenges here: I'm a first-time creator, and this is my first developed project. It's new territory for me as a developer, and I know that things will go wrong. I know you know that, too. It happens.
What's important is that I will communicate with you, my dear backers, every step of the way. I will work tirelessly to make sure you are satisfied, and I will make it right no matter what happens. The bulk of the remaining work is fluff descriptions and setting detail, as well as layout and maybe commissioning some artwork.
The timetable may be optimistic, but much of the game is completed. I'm incorporating some remaining playtest ideas and editing a few things for clarity. I think within 2-3 months this baby will be ready, and if it isn't, I'll make sure you know where I am. Completing this and getting it published, as well as satisfying those intrepid souls who backed me when I needed it, are my number one priorities.
I do intend to make the draft available to those backers who request it when it's in a slightly prettied-up form, and I really do mean to work with you at every step to make sure you're happy. If you're backing my project, you are giving some of your hard-earned money to a long-time gamer who just wants to help create the same awesome games that inspired her to begin with.
That, to me, is a reward better than any Kickstarter tier!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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