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The world you knew is gone, consumed by the hungry dead. This is the story of what happens next. Read more

Kent, WA Tabletop Games
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This project was successfully funded on August 1, 2014.

The world you knew is gone, consumed by the hungry dead. This is the story of what happens next.

Kent, WA Tabletop Games
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About this project

You can blame him and his buddies. (Used with permission from the Jackalope aka Wendy Tiggs)
You can blame him and his buddies. (Used with permission from the Jackalope aka Wendy Tiggs)

Fear The Living is a tabletop roleplaying game where you and your friends portray the badass, dysfunctional, and codependent survivors of a zombie apocalypse. You all cooperate to decide on the details of the apocalypse your survivors will struggle to survive, from the tongue-in-cheek splatterpunk of Evil Dead or Planet Terror to the grim melodrama of a zombie series like The Walking Dead.

Placeholder character sheet courtesy of RPGnet's Foxkit
Placeholder character sheet courtesy of RPGnet's Foxkit

Players are thrust headlong into the roles of capable, passionate survivors whose personal relationships and priorities in the midst of the zombie apocalypse are just as important as their training with a rifle or their trusty machete. Relationships give you extra dice in conflicts where you're fighting for or because of what you love, what you fear, or what you hate. Just be careful that someone doesn't use your feelings to manipulate you; the ties that bind can also strangle.

You're Talented. Player-defined Talents further flesh out your character, detailing capabilities as diverse as "Wiccan Dabbler" and "I've Killed Before, and It Shows". No Talent, however obscure, is useless. The more narrowly applicable the talent, the more bonus dice are granted when it applies.

Your character's priorities are power! How your survivor sees the world now that it belongs to the dead is captured by their Attributes: Ruthlessness, Will To Live, Authority, and Humanity. When you act according to your Attributes, you gain crucial extra dice at the cost of temporarily depleting the Attribute. Even the most cold-hearted bastard can only be Ruthless for so long. Attributes are renewed only by acting the part, so if you want to keep taking strength from your inner core of Humanity, you'd better be acting Humanely.

No endless equipment lists! Your survivor's Gear, whether it's as grand as a stolen Hummer with a custom paint job or as humble as a memento from a happier time, a solid cricket bat, or a distinctive sheriff's hat, is all handled through one easy mechanic. Gear grants you automatic successes in conflicts where it applies, but the more successes it grants when the chips are down, the more it can complicate your life. Hummers need gas, your wife's old ring isn't likely to be appreciated by your new lover, and machine guns have a tendency to attract the attention of the undead.

Your character's flaws, failings, and injuries are just as important to them as their gear and talents. With the Liabilities system, anything you can think of that could complicate your character's life can be made into a Liability – from a crippling fear of commitment to a bum leg from a tour in Iraq. You're rewarded for playing to your character's Liabilities, and you'll gain crucial Experience when the GM uses them against you, which can mean the difference between a near miss and a bite that spells your infection. More than anything though, Liabilities grant you a choice: will you restrain your Horrible Temper when faced with the man who killed your son if it means you'll lash out later at those you love, or do you trust your character's self-control?

Everyone's got a type. Your character's way of doing things, or MO, shows what special role they play in the zombie story unfolding at the table. Is your character a Necrologist, obsessed with learning about the walking dead and uncannily good at figuring out what makes them tick? Are they a font of compassion and kindness in the midst of horror, possessing a Heart of Gold? Decide, then watch as your character grows and changes as they're nominated for new MOs by your fellow players for their breathtaking heroism, their blood-curdling savagery, and their compelling idiosyncrasies.

Gain control over your character's story with Advancement. Gained by suffering from your Liabilities, dealing with Risks, and playing to your Attributes and Relationships, the Advancements in Fear The Living offer a temporary respite from the deprivation and danger of the zombie apocalypse. Learn something new, grow callous (or for that matter, grow a conscience), get over your old war wounds and neuroses, find an NPC ally when you need them most, unearth a helpful stash of Gear, get a respite from undead and Entropy for a time, or just get a second chance and tell the GM "My character's come too far to die now."

Mechanically, Fear The Living is a dice-pool system that captures the hard choices that must be made by every survivor of the zombie apocalypse. Characters' Attributes, Relationships and Talents are added together based on the type of conflict – anything from a knock-down drag-out brawl to a tense debate over what to do about a bitten comrade.

Once the dice are rolled, 4s, 5s, and 6s count as successes which are spent on Advantages such as Bribe, Betray, Threaten, Help, and Harm, that capture what your survivor is doing. Each 1 rolled is a Harbinger, and gives the GM Entropy that they can use to make things go wrong for you and your fellow survivors, augment NPC dice pools, or bring zombies down upon your heads. Risks, dangers that must be bought off with spent successes or hard choices, can be declared by the GM by spending Entropy or by using your Liabilities and Gear against you. Do you hack off your own arm, gaining a Liability in the process to outright avoid becoming infected, or do you roll the dice and hope that you have enough successes to say that the bite didn't break your skin?

Resolution is quick and easy, with most minor conflicts being resolved in 1 or 2 rolls. Even large-scale fights and social situations can be dealt with in 3 or 4 rolls that detail each whispered barb, each significant look, each honest hand of assistance and suspicious glance. The sobbing pleas of your eight-year-old survivor can have the same power to save your infected friend's life as your father's cold stare and honest-to-god sword. A man with a knife and the will to use it can single-handedly shape the future of a settlement in one bloody moment. Asking the right questions of your comrades can mean the difference between a life of relative safety and security, and an eternity as a shambling corpse.

The purpose of this Kickstarter is to provide the means to get Fear The Living realized as a fully edited, professionally laid out, beautifully illustrated B&W PDF and softcover (un)dead tree edition. The final product will be 147 pages, 8.5x11” in both a glossy softcover undead tree edition and a B&W PDF, both chock full of zombie goodness. On top of that, Shiro will be making a gorgeous character sheet and success record sheet for Players and GMs to keep track of character stats and successes during Conflicts.

Assuming the project gets fully funded, here's our estimated operating budget:

Editing, Layout, and Graphic Design Courtesy of Shiro: $1,000

Glorious B&W Ballpoint Artwork Courtesy of Jackalope: $1,000

Kickstarter and Amazon Fees: $600

Shipping and Printing Costs: $1,000

Total Funding Goal: $3,600

A Note On Funding: The Kickstarter and Amazon Fees are estimated to be roughly 10% of each donation. As a result, the amount allocated would cover fees for up to $6,000 If we don't reach $6,000 but the project is still funded, the remainder will be used to help pay for shipping and printing costs.

Fear The Dead: @$4,000 We add a 15 page PDF-only supplement that turns Fear The Living on its head, giving you the rules for creating and playing zombie characters. Nurture the rotten shards of your former humanity, or go on the hunt for delicious flesh. Just be wary of the rest of the horde: behave too much like a human, and they'll (tr)eat you like one. (Estimated Delivery Date April 2015)

The Dead, The Living, and The Ugly: @$4,500 We add a 30 page PDF-only supplement providing ready-made NPC survivors, Risks, and Zombies that GMs can use on short notice to make the lives of the players' survivors interesting. (Estimated Delivery Date April 2015)

More B&W Zombie Goodness: @$5,500 We add 8 more beautiful, gruesome B&W ballpoint illustrations to Fear The Living, doubling our art budget.

Your Old Drama Teacher Will Kill Me: @$6,000 We add on a wonderfully over-the-top PDF-only 15 page scenario for Fear The Living that was teased in the apocalypse creation rules. Return to fair Verona to find a city besieged by ghastly Haunts raised by the injustice of Romeo and Juliet's star-crossed love. Take on the role of a scion of Montague or Capulet driven to clean up their family's hands and their city's infested streets.

If that's just not awesome enough go whole hog and take on the role of Prospero, Miranda, Puck, Portia, or Shylock as they try to find a place for themselves in a city that seems doomed to become naught but a pretty crypt. Failing that, try to figure out why the plague seemed to coincide with the visit of a certain German doctor by the name of Faustus. Built for 2 to 8 hours of traffic upon your game table's stage, it's up to you to mend this tragedy!(Estimated Delivery Date April 2015)

Risks and challenges

Fear The Living itself has been in development for over two years and has been playtested extensively both by in-person groups and via online tabletop forums. It has also been subjected to extensive peer review and comment on websites such as Storygames and RPGnet.

The entirety of the text is written. The game itself is done. All that remains is cleaning up the layout and editing, adding wonderful B&W artwork, and getting it printed via CreateSpace's Print on Demand service. So no one has to worry about getting an unfinished game.

Our goal is to have the PDF, softcover (un)dead tree edition, , character sheet done by December of 2014. Backers will receive the PDF and un(dead) tree edition by February of 2015, which will give me the time I need to ensure that I can fulfill of the orders I receive.

Writing for the stretch goal PDF documents is ongoing, but will be done before the end of the year, along with their editing and artwork. During this time, I will stay in regular communication with my backers, and the Kickstarter community at large.

Delivery of the Stretch-Goal PDF supplements will be completed by April 2015. This time line will give the rest of the design team and I the time we need to do the best work possible and to ensure that fulfillment is done in a timely and professional manner.

My artist, Wendy T Nederland (or Jackalope if you prefer) has been making incredible Ballpoint and Ballpoint/Digital hybrid drawings for over nine years. She specializes in drawings for horror and fantasy projects, and has already contributed artwork to another zombie apocalypse RPG. A link to her portfolio can be found in the Funding Goals section of this page.

My layout/editor/graphic design guy Craig Judd (or Shiro Kuro) is a long-time member of RPGnet in good standing, a freelance artist himself of no small renown, and a regular on the Gaming Freelance sub-boards. He has provided editing and proofreading for such games as Tenra Bansho Zero and Golden Sky Stories, and is just the sort of guy you’d want beside you when the undead begin to rise. A link to his Google+ gallery is included in the Initial Funding Goals section of this page.

I welcome your questions, concerns, musings, and criticism. I truly believe in this project, and that I have something unique and well-designed to offer gamers. If problems arise, I will do whatever it takes to correct them, communicating with the public and my backers regularly until the issue is resolved.

I'll be posting regular updates to this Kickstarter to keep all of my backers (and everyone else) appraised of how things are going. If you just can't get enough Fear The Living news, check out the game's twitter page at John Jessop@FTL_RPG.

Learn about accountability on Kickstarter


  • Just add $20.00 to whatever pledge level you make. Once I get the Backer surveys out, you'll have an opportunity to select which rewards you want sent you to. When that happens, just select your favored Pledge Level of $25.00 or more, along with the $20.00 INTERNATIONAL SURVIVOR pledge level and you'll be able to take advantage of international shipping on your undead tree copy (or copies) of Fear The Living.

    Last updated:


  • You selected
    Pledge $1 or more

    7 backers

    A shout out in the contributors section of the book, our thanks, and a copy of the playtest PDF. That, and you might get your brains eaten by a zombie. Don't feel too bad. It happens to a lot of people.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $10 or more

    52 backers

    A shout out in the contributor’s section of the book and the finished Fear The Living PDF in glorious black and white sent directly to you through the interwebs. You might just make it through this apocalypse alive.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $20 or more

    11 backers

    INTERNATIONAL SURVIVOR (International Shipping Supplementary Reward Level) Added to any reward level of $25.00 or higher, this supplementary reward level will get your softcover undead tree editions of the rules shipped to you anywhere in the world via the magic of Fulfillrite fulfillment.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $25 or more

    43 backers

    A shout out in the contributor section of the book along with a copy of the PDF in glorious black and white, and a copy of the undead-tree softcover edition of Fear The Living. You've seen things. Done things. Things you're not proud of. I hope it was worth it.

    Estimated delivery:
    Only ships to: United States
  • You selected
    Pledge $50 or more

    8 backers All gone!

    A shout out in the contributor section of the book, a copy of the PDF, a copy of the undead-tree softcover edition, and your face and form will grace the cover of Fear The Living as one of the survivors clustered around the dying fire. They're relying on you. The rest of these lost and broken souls. Show them the way.

    Estimated delivery:
    Only ships to: United States
  • You selected
    Pledge $50 or more

    3 backers

    FALLEN SURVIVOR. A shout out in the contributor section of the book, a copy of the PDF, a copy of the undead-tree softcover edition, and your face and form will be used for one of the book's glorious zombie illustrations. You're not the person you used to be. You're a bit...hungrier. Might I recommend a nice fresh Braaaaain?

    Estimated delivery:
    Only ships to: United States
  • You selected
    Pledge $150 or more

    2 backers Limited (8 left of 10)

    BADASS SURVIVOR. A shout out in the contributor section of the book, a copy of the PDF, and a copy of the undead-tree softcover. Plus if you create a character for Fear The Living we’ll draw a custom B&W picture of them heading up an as-of-yet unillustrated section of the book and use them as an example character. Did you just kill three zombies with a post hole digger? Yeah, I think you did.

    Estimated delivery:
    Only ships to: United States
  • You selected
    Pledge $200 or more

    1 backer Limited (9 left of 10)

    A personal thank-you in the contributor section of the book, a copy of the PDF, three copies of the undead tree softcover. If you create a character for Fear The Living we’ll draw a custom B&W picture of them which will be used to illustrate an as-of-yet unillustrated section of the book.

    On top of all that I will run a special Fear The Living campaign for you and up to 4 friends (either in person or via the online tabletop medium of your choice, depending on your location). If zombies could feel fear, they’d fear you.

    Estimated delivery:
    Only ships to: United States

Funding period

- (30 days)