Am I close enough to eat him?

Many of the rules in Outlive Outdead are uncomplicated. One of our design goals is to keep the rules quick and fluid so players can focus on the game experience. However, distance and movement are vital to a game about zombies and need extra attention. Because zombies can only harm humans when they’re within arm’s reach, players need to know how far away the zombies are. Since you can play zombies in ¬†players also need to know if they are close enough to eat someone.

All distance in the game is broken down into lengths. A length is purposefully vague. No counting meters or feet here. Instead, the game only worries about how distance can affect choices in the game.

Distance starts at length zero, known as “L0”. A human and zombie at L0 are right on top of each other, and more importantly, the zombie can bite the human. A bite isn’t always the way to make more zombies. That can change in each setting. See this post for more info. That said, humans will likely want to get away from L0 where zombies will always want to get to L0.

At L1, humans and zombies can still fight and hurt each other, just no bites. At L2 and higher, zombies can’t do anything but moan and try to get closer, whereas humans can shoot guns, bows, and the like. This goes on until L10; farther than that means out of range for anything that’s not a cannon.

As for movement, humans can move 2 lengths each round if they are healthy, 1 length if they are injured. Zombies always move 1 length.

All of this works to give players (and the GM) a sense of how close they need to be to attack, escape, and whatnot without bogging the game down with complicated rules. A player with a human character carrying a bat will need to get to L1 or L0 to hit the zombies. A player with a zombie character will always try to move closer, hoping to get to L0 for that bite attack.

This also provides the fear unique to zombies: the slowly closing circle. As the GM maps out the action on the table top, players will see packs of zombies slowly but surely coming at them. It always seems easy at first; just run. Zombies can only shamble. Then you realize there are 20 zombies or more, all closing in on you from different directions. Can you outrun them all? What if you get injured–will the other players help you limp to safety or will they abandon you to your death? Don’t forget that if your human character dies, you get to play a zombie. That means other players aren’t being jerks when they let your character die.

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