Happy Bishop Games

If the bishop's happy, we're happy

Happy Bishop Games - If the bishop's happy, we're happy

Playtest results so far

The latest playtest of Outlive Outdead was a resounding success! What does that mean? Three things:

  1. We found some rules that need fixing but nothing major.
  2. The core of the game is fundamentally sound.
  3. Most importantly, the players had a blast!

After playtests, we collect data from our players using a survey. Of course we listen when they talk to us, but anonymous surveys are more professional and reliable. Here is what we’ve learned about our new game:

  • The overall experience of playing Outlive Outdead gets 4.5 out of 5 (4.5/5) stars.
  • Playing a human character or a zombie character receives 4/5 stars.
  • The rules as a whole gets 3.7/5 stars.
  • The player vs. player element and the karma system both receive 4.2/5 stars.
  • Motivations and plot points receive 4.5/5 stars.

As you can see, even the playtest version of the game is earning positive reviews. There are some areas, however, that need fixing. Some feel it’s too hard for human characters to die, but the biggest concern was miniatures. In our playtest version, we had a distance mechanic that, upon play, would really benefit from minis, mapping, or something beyond the GM scribbling on a sheet of paper. We have plans to fix this and will discuss it here real soon.

But for now, more playtesting! We’ll be running Outlive Outdead at the EN World Chicago Gameday 31 (Mt. Prostpect, Illinois) on Saturday, March 17th for a whole day of gaming fun. Then we’ll be running what’s likely to be our final playtest at COD Con 17 (Glen Ellyn, Illinois) on Friday, April 20th.

If you are interested in playtesting our game, please contact us at wjmacguffin at gmail dot com and we can send you all of the materials needed to run the game. Playtesters will of course receive proper recognition in the final product!

Encouraging you to hide that bite

It’s a staple of zombie media: One of the human survivors gets bitten and hides this from the others. Then he turns into a zombie and attacks his former friends. We really wanted this to happen in Outlive Outdead, but how can we encourage people to hide bites from other players, maybe even to get into fights (the characters, not the players!) over this? We’ve come up with two mechanics that do just that.

The first is based in the setting. In the game, GMs and players can generate a setting before the game officially begins. This includes deciding the Vector (how people become zombies) and the Apocalypse Stage (how bad the zombie situation has become). Vectors include Bite, Contamination, any kind of Death, or others such as voodoo or alien parasites. The time it takes to transform into a zombie after exposure to the vector varies randomly.

Do players and their characters know which vector is being used? That depends on the Apocalypse Stage, which includes Just Started, Full Swing, Almost Won, and Almost Lost. If the game is set in the first stage (Just Started), the GM picks one vector but does not tell the players. If the game is set in the second stage (Full Swing), then the GM tells half the players the truth and lies to the other half.

This means getting bitten by a zombie can be meaningless. Then again, it could be a one-way ticket to zombiedom. You might not know. The other players might not know, but you can bet they’ll be mighty suspicious. Since the time it takes to become a zombie is random for each case, they literally have no idea when you might turn. Do you think they’ll want you in their group? Will they trust you anymore? It’s best to hide that bite until you know for sure what’s going on.

Players also don’t know right away if they’ve been infected. During a game, the GM will give Wellness Updates to players. These are notes, folded over so no one knows what they say except the GM and the receiver, that update how the human character feels. Sometimes they will say, “You feel fine”. Other times, they will say, “You feel a bit feverish and tired” or something similar. A bad Wellness Update doesn’t necessarily mean you’re infected, since you could feel ill from malnutrition, stress, or the common cold. Then again, GMs must give these notes to those who are infected.   This generates a fun level of paranoia in both the receiver (“Why do I have a fever? Did I get infected?”) and the rest of the group (“Why has she gotten three Wellness Updates in the past hour? Is she infected?”)

The second way Outlive Outdead encourages you to hide that bite is through an optional rule adding scoring to the game. Under this rule, players earn points during the game and a winner is declared at the game’s end. Players who finish the game with their human character alive get big points. Notice we didn’t say anything about being infected! That doesn’t matter; just finishing alive.

This gives a competitive reason to hide a possible infection. Let the other players know you’ve been bitten and they will either keep you under close observation at best, or kill you at worst. If you can just reach the finish line soon, you’ll score a lot of points! And since no one knows how long it takes to turn into a zombie, or in some cases whether a bite is deadly, why not hide the bite?


Breaking points

Fighting zombies is fun – in a game. To do that for real would be stressful to say the least. That’s why human characters in Outlive Outdead can break.

As we discussed earlier, human characters have two numbers for each attribute, such as “Fight 11(19)” or “Repair 09(20)”. The first number is the target number for success with rolling 2d10; roll equal or higher and you succeed. The second number is called the breaking point. If you roll over your breaking point, you break. That means you snap, go temporarily insane, take a quick trip to batshit crazy country, etc. Whereas other horror rpgs can have a sanity check or a fear check in certain circumstances, Outlive Outdead recognizes the entire situation is so fucked-up that someone can snap at any given moment.

Breaks come in four levels. The first level usually lasts just one turn, such as the Level One Fight break, “Make a Fight check against the same target next turn, even if the target is dead.” Level Four is some serious breakage such as the Level Four Fight break: “Fight all enemies until they are dead. Then Fight all friends until they are dead. Continue until you are the last one standing or someone makes a successful Fight or Control check against you.”

Which break will you face? Roll 1d10. 1-4 is a Level One break; 5-7 is a Level Two break; 8-9 is a Level Three break; and 10 is a Level Four break. However, this is modified by a combination of Health and Endurance. If you are healthy and reasted, you can’t break no matter what you roll. The same is true for being badly injured and exhausted; you don’t have the energy to snap. The closer you are to being inbetween–say, being injured and tired–then the more likely you are to have serious breaks.

As you can see, breaks are attribute-specific. Rolling a break with Flee means something completely different than rolling a break with Scrounge, which makes sense. Break using Control and you might scream at the person you’re arguing with. Flee breaks usually have you keep running after the danger is passed. Hide breaks can mean you refuse to leave your hiding spot. Break using Repair and you can refuse to give the fixed item to anyone. Scrounge breaks might mean you make a lot of noise, alerting zombies to your location.

These are all for humans. Zombies? They don’t break. They just chase and eat people.

Roll high (but not too high)

As we talked about last time, Outlive Outdead will feature its own system. (For those not familiar with rpgs, a “system” is a fancy word for rules.) It’s basically a “roll high” system except you don’t want to roll too high–unless you enjoy temporary insanity.

Human attributes such as Fight or Flee will have two numbers like this: Fight 09(18). The first number is called the target number. To succeed in using your Fight attribute, players will roll two ten-sided dice (2d10), add them together, and hope it’s equal to or higher than the target number. Using the example above, you would need to roll a 9 or higher to succeed on a Fight check. Simple, quick, and effective.

Well, maybe not that simple. The second number is called the breaking point. It’s not exactly sunshine and roses being a human in the zombie apocalypse. People sometimes snap over the stress. In Outlive Outdead, this is called breaking. If you roll 2d10 and get higher than the breaking point, you still succeed–it’s just that you break and go temporarily insane. Usually this only lasts one or two turns, but in rare circumstances, it can last until another human brings you out of it.

We believe this makes the game fast-moving but interesting. Besides, who doesn’t love watching someone go bat-shit crazy, especially when they have a gun?

Outlive Outdead quickstarter available

We will be running a final playtest of Outlive Outdead at the EN World Gameday 31, and in preparation for that, we have produced a quickstart version of the rules. You can download it for free right here or by clinking on the link to the right under the Downloads section.

These rules are subject to change, of course, and they don’t include much in the way of examples or deep explanations. It’s designed to help players play the game with a knowledgeable GM running things. That said, you might be interested in seeing what some of the rules will be. Pass it on to anyone–it’s free!

Yes! I died!

One of the problems of roleplaying games is dealing with character death. Players can put a lot into their characters, and if they die, that’s it. The character is gone and all that work is for naught.  The worst part, in my opinion, is how the player has no way to continue playing the game. True, she can generate another character but that takes time (in some cases, a lot of time) and sometimes makes little narrative sense. (“How did her sister get this deep in the dungeon?”)

In our first rpg Triune, there is no character death. There’s a penalty for dying, but you still get to play your character. Some players love that idea but others feel the threat of character death is a vital component of the roleplaying game experience. That seems especially true in a zombie-themed game where danger is potentially lurking around every corner as humans struggle to survive in a world overrun by zombies. When we decided to create a zombie rpg, we wanted character death to be a real threat–yet we didn’t want players to lose their human character early in the game and wonder what to do next.

We feel we’ve come up with a unique but obvious solution. In our upcoming game Outlive Outdead, players take roles as human survivors of a zombie apocalypse. If your human character dies, no problem–you will spend the rest of the game playing zombies who are trying to kill the other players’ human characters. The threat of character death is there but you can still play the game. Hell, some people might look forward to losing their human character for the chance to play zombies!

Would you?