Twilight World Action Report
At this stage the novel Twilight has left us at the end of the initial terrible months of the blight. The three phase of the B.D.S. Virus has struck with deadly consequences; literally causing the virtual decimation of mankind in a single hour. However, a third phase of the plague caused by an unexpected mutation cycle within the xeno virus had started a chain reaction, which is turning the corpses of the recently deceased into reanimated killing machines who feast on the flesh of the living. What is left alive of humanity has had to learn to survive in the horrific global aftermath.
Unfortunately, the giant rogue asteroid known as The Dark Star whose meteor dust falling through our atmosphere caused the virus in the first place has also interfered with the magnetic polarity of the Earth... tilting our planet off its axis just enough to cause violent changes to the weather patterns and initiate an unnatural single season climate upon most of Europe... a Mini Ice Age. As the months go by, and the weather stays the same, survivors are already starting to calling it The Long Winter.
As for our main heroes... holed up within an old tumble down hotel resting within the outlying hills overlooking Portestone harbour; as the days pass by, several more survivors from the decimated town stumble upon an old roadside hotel; and soon the house swells beyond sustainable capacity, and food, water, and sanitation starts to become a major issue. However, foraging for supplies is becoming increasingly difficult and extremely dangerous, due to the unnaturally hard weather conditions, and increasingly large numbers of the living dead roaming the lands in packs. Eventually, when the power lines go down, the group are plunged into darkness, and the new Dark Age of humanity has finally begun. Our intrepid group of survivors are finally forced to flee their home and roam the wilds like nomads.
A Necessary Risk
Several weeks after the first outbreak of the virus and everything looks quiet.
Ray cautiously surveyed the scene ahead from his vantage point in the freezing packed snow. He shivered uncontrollably as the biting cold tore through the shirt clinging insufficiently to his back. He rested a hefty cricket bat over his left shoulder with frost bitten fingers, and nervously fingered the trigger guard of the sawn off shotgun held firmly in his other hand. Everything looked quiet in the deep hollow below him where the house and grounds lay desolate and grim.
But he had been in situations like this before. There was simply no way of telling from a distance whether the small cluster of buildings in the distance was safe, not without going to investigate.
The big problem was that the living corpses appeared to be becoming more and more aware as the months rolled by. The foul creatures were starting to develop a simple and instinctive logic. Ray could swear they were actually learning to plan their attacks on stray survivors.
He wouldn't't have believed it if he hadn't witnessed it for himself.
Ray's mind wandered back to the unexpected tragedy which had befallen Terry and Melissa a few weeks past, in a situation quite similar to the scene which now lay before them. The young lovers had volunteered to scout ahead of the group and check over a seemingly deserted warehouse, in the hope of finding warm winter clothing and possibly something to eat. The doors of the Cash & Carry had hung invitingly open, and the excursion looked fairly straight forward.
Ray would never forget the screams of anguish and utter terror as his friends were literally torn to pieces by an overwhelming group of the creatures. The blighted horde had been hiding inside the building, just waiting for some fresh meat to come wandering into the trap that had been laid for them. From the gloom of the warehouse interior, the walking dead had swarmed Terry and Melissa from all sides. The wet sounds of tearing flesh and the couple's futile cries for help would haunt Ray's dreams for the rest of his life. It was something you never grew immune to.
"Well, what do you reckon... is it safe?" Madge Patterson whispered hoarsely. She shook violently from head to toe, and her teeth chattered in her head... sounding uncomfortably like the gnashing jaws of a hungry zombie.
Her shivering lips made her speech sound strained, yet her voice seemed uncomfortably loud in the strange stillness of the dying evening.
Skeptically, Ray continued watching the small cluster of buildings. "I dunno Madge, and that's the plain truth." He replied in an equally low voice, pulling himself back from the silent precipice of his thoughts.
"That place could be crawling with the dead for all we know, and it's all ready getting dark." Indeed, the darkening sky was already turning ashen hued with splashes of bilious grey and deep magenta. The freezing storm of the previous evening had left the landscape sullen and overcast. Nothing moved, and the landscape remained a desolate morgue... a still frame produced from some artist's pallet.
"But we've got no choice, Ray. We'll die of exposure or fatigue if we don't find somewhere to rest soon... I think we've got to take the chance." Madge looked over towards little Katie, and her expression was full of concern for the child.
The older woman stifled a sudden cough which she hacked into the back of her hand. Painful spasms wracked her body in uncontrollable convulsions as the last vestiges of a stubborn cold refused to release her from its grip. After a while she regained control of her breathing. "We can't last out here much longer, Ray." She emphasized.
Ray sighted resignedly, and nodded.
There had been twelve of them when it all began, several weeks ago. Now there were only four survivors left alive out of the whole group. The soulless multitude had eaten its way through most of them... and the unnatural winter had killed the rest. What remained intact of this united knot of refugees had fought a myriad of desperate battles against the undead, and had run themselves into a state of utter exhaustion as they attempted to flee the ever growing hordes.
If they didn't soon find some place safe to rest, if only for a little while, their chances of surviving this macabre winter that had descended upon the world was slim.
"Okay Madge." Ray, nodded, reluctantly agreeing with the old woman. "But no unnecessary risks... first sign of danger and we skedaddle out of there, right?" Ray fixed each of them with his eyes, momentarily treating them as though they were the kids he used to teach back in his school at Portestone.
"Er.... No can do, Ray."
Sola, the diminutive and beautiful Circus woman smiled back at him.
"I don't think we can afford to let this opportunity pass us by. We haven't seen anywhere remotely as promising as this place in days. It's off the beaten track and out of sight.... which means it will be that much harder for more of those things to spot us and come wandering our way..... I truly don't think we have any other choice, Ray. We go in there with one purpose, and one purpose only; to make it secure for ourselves so we can rest for a while. I still have a few packets of that pea soup left in my pack... so if we can risk making a fire, at least we can get something warm inside us." Sola gave a weak half smile at the unofficial leader of their group.
Ray nodded again, suddenly brightening to the idea. "Besides, a nice place like that should have its own generator, which might mean power and heating.... Hey, what you reckon Katie, how'd you like a nice hot bath?"
"Don't, Ray." Madge gently chided. "Don't get her hopes up too soon. We don't know for sure what's down there yet do we?
"Oh Christ, sorry Madge, I wasn't thinking... sorry guys" Ray lowered his head, silently rebuking himself. He felt Madge lay a hand gently upon his arm for a second. Dear old Madge.
She was ever the kindest of them, always helpful, always willing to see the good in everyone, and never once complained about the crippling deep set arthritis she suffered so severely from. Madge was their rock... their anchor.
"So boss.... What's the plan?" Sola enquired; ever adventurous, ever bold. Her plain and blunt slant on events around her sometimes made the other's slightly envious. Nothing was complicated to this girl. She looked life straight down its throat. If she found a problem, she sought a solution, and acted upon decisions without ever looking back or having regrets. Sola carried no useless baggage in her mind, and instead she concentrated on getting on with her chosen lot in life as best she could.
Her strongest character trait was her unswerving loyalty and devotion to those who had now become, by necessity, her extended family and beyond all doubt, she was a dear and treasured asset; though her bravery sometimes frightened Ray and Madge.
Ray took courage from looking each of them in the face. Quickly he formulated a plan. Looking back at the buildings and outhouses one more time, he noticed the sky was darkening swiftly... it would be night soon, if they didn't act swiftly.
The main building had a small courtyard. Probably once an old church, he concluded. It had obviously been converted into a sizable dwelling by its previous owners. The Neo Gothic architecture the world had reinvented for itself, sometimes made it difficult to tell at a glance exactly what anything was meant to be any more. But the house and courtyard had the feel of a place which had been deliberately converted into a livable dwelling. The tower could once have been as a folly, but could potentially be additional lodgings... maybe the place had been a Bed & Breakfast, before the plague struck?
"Okay, here's what we do. Sola, you go on ahead and secure those wooden gates into the courtyard. When we see you've got open them, we'll move up to join you... you still have those old pliers I gave you, right? At the first sign of trouble, we'll leg it towards you as fast as we can manage, and pile in the gates and lock them behind us... try and find something to tie them up with, or better still if there's a padlock or something all ready there, try and get it working.
Madge and I will start to move in the second we see you at the gates, but won't come too close until we can see you've found a way in. Last thing we want to do is disturb any zombies which might be lurking about... Katie, stay close to me and Madge, but if there's any trouble, try as fast as you can and reach Sola at the gates."
Ray looked them each over to make sure they understood the plan. Sola, and Madge both nodded in comprehension. Madge had a look of desperate resolve etched clearly across her face, and Sola looked, as ever, almost cheerful and bright... glad once more to be doing something constructive.
The little girl looked up with tired sunken eyes. Her face was sullen and troubled, but she nodded to show she understood the plan, before averting her eyes once more to the ground at her feet.
Ray nervously exhaled. The sharp outtake of hot breath immediately turned into a cloud of steam as it hit the freezing chill of the endless winter.
"Right then, let's do it!"
Ray motioned the rest of his friends to follow him to a safe position behind the hedges surrounding the grounds, determined to get as close as possible to the buildings in readiness for when Sola was in position.
Suddenly he paused, and looked over his shoulder at the others. Sola was all ready moving away from the rest of the group, but stopped and turned around when she heard Ray whisper. "Oh... and no unnecessary shooting. We can't afford the unwanted attention of even one of those bastards, if it can be avoided."
Sola crawled along the ground on her belly, trying to ignore the biting cold and the occasional rough stone which scraped and tore at her stomach.
Daylight was dissipating fast as the watery sun faded from the sky, causing visibility to become hard on the eyes. Yet she kept moving slowly forward with a cat like grace and efficiency. Her ears were ever alert for any sudden noise. Her blood pumped through her veins like an industrial power plant as it drummed its rhythmical cadence in her ears, and for a moment she felt sure that anyone within a full mile would be able to hear her tell tale heart beating in her chest. But the scene remained desolately still.
Sola reached the cover of an old dry stone wall and peered round the side towards the main building. When she was satisfied she was safe, she began to edge forward towards the gates; a chill trepidation filled her heart, yet bravely she continued her precarious advance towards the building. Thoughts of a warm bed and hot food augmented her stamina and determination to proceed.
Eventually, after what seemed to her like an eternity of slithering on all fours, she reached the closed double doors of the courtyard. She peered through a crack in the wood, and saw that Ray had been correct in his assumption about the place.
The building had formerly been a church, long ago in some half forgotten past; but more recently, the Gothic structure had been modernized and made habitable. The remains of a chicken roost and a coal house lay smashed and ruined within the courtyard. Pieces of broken wood lay sticking up out of the ground like frozen tomb stones. But the bulk of the material was gone. Judging by the direction of the trailing shards and splinters, all of which spread in an ark towards the side of the building, the out houses had been used to shore up the interior of the building against intruders... some was maybe used as fuel for the fire.
Yet most frustratingly, Sola could see no discernable way into the old church from the side the courtyard was on.
Very slowly, she rose to her knees and stood up outside the gate.
The young woman darted her head left and right, furiously searching the shadows for sign of movement. Still nothing moved.
She noticed with some satisfaction that the gates were being held shut by a thin chain and padlock... nothing she couldn't cut open in a few seconds with her pliers. Reaching her hand through the small space between the gates, she tightened her grip on the tool in her hand, and felt the blade bite down hard on the thin metal.
There was a slight crunch, and the chain rattled noisily to the floor.
From behind a tree somewhere over on Sola's right, there was a sudden movement from something terrible and partly dead... sluggish at first, then more determined as single minded intent settled into what remained of its diseased brain.
Sola's heightened senses, playing in overtime, spotted a pile of snow moving out of the corner of her eye, and turning her head in the direction of the disturbance.
The hard packed ground seemed to be opening up, causing showers of fine white powder to erupt like a macabre geyser, and a previously half buried body began to awake from its plague induced hibernation.
As the dead body tried desperately to crawl its way up from the ground towards the sound it had heard, the monster found itself hopelessly trapped in the frozen ground which entombed its lower half.Turning its rotting head at an impossible angle on its shoulders, the thing saw its next meal, and tried frantically to pull itself free from its confinement. With a sickening, wet, tearing sound, the zombie tore the top half of the body away from the rest of its torso and using its hands to steady itself, the creature maneuvered its way towards the woman at the gates. Blackened Intestines and putrescent puss trailed along behind the creature as it moved away from the mangled remains of its lower self.
Turning slowly to face the threat Sola jumped in horror and disgust as she noticed the thing crawling its way towards her. A low moan emitted from its throat, and although no discernable words erupted from its mouth, the sound sent a chill through the woman's spine. All the hatred and all the hunger in the world could not have sounded any more dreadful.
It took all the strength Sola could muster not to keel over and spill the contents of her stomach onto the ground at her feet. Somehow, she kept her composure and stood her ground, and stared into its terrible eyes, and she found herself almost pitying this thing which had once been a living being... a young man, dressed in the tattered remains of a suit and collar, by the looks of it. But as its cold, hate filled eyes locked once more with hers; the fearful purpose of its advance upon her was clear.
More movement, this time from out of the shadows caught Sola's attention, and turning fully around with her back to the gates, she saw the more of the disease ridden creatures stumbling clumsily towards her.... She was surrounded.
Suddenly, Sola finds she is surrounded and in terrible danger.
Rule Mechanics: The Sola miniature possesses a special character Trait called "Scout" which allows her to set up anywhere within 8 squares (80 paces) from any known enemy. She decides to place herself next to the gate of the main building. But before she can carry on with her action, due to the fact she is now within minimum distance of several terrain features, the Activate Zombie Table is consulted multiple times to see whether any of the walking dead are placed on the game board. No less than six checks are made because Sola is within 8 squares of the building and courtyard, a wall, a fence, two separate trees, and the tower away on her left. Sola is actually quite lucky, because only four zombies are activated by her presence, and are placed. They immediately move towards her.
Sola fumbled for the large iron latch behind her back, and leaning against the gates, she was relieved when they pushed inwards slightly with a slight groan of grinding metal.
Without even daring to spend time looking behind her to ensure the courtyard was safe, Sola slipped through the opening she had created, and pushed the wooden gates shut behind her; placing as much weight as she could manage against the portal while her mind raced to think of some way to secure the courtyard from the inside. She prayed her friends would reach her soon.
Ray saw the creature emerge from the frozen ground behind the tree, and watched in horrified fascination as it crawled its way out from the snow.
"Sola's in trouble, we have to go... now!" Ray called back over his shoulder to the others; all ready up and sprinting towards their encircled friend before the others had even gotten to their feet.
But Katie was up and running, and before Madge had time to call her back, the little girl had overtaken even Ray and was tearing towards the dwarf woman like a whirlwind... a little bundle of muscle, sinew and sheer energy.
Ray, Madge, and Katie rush to Sola's aid... unsure whether they can reach their friend in time to save her.
"Katie, don't get too close!" Madge called after her as she puffed along at the rear. Her arthritis was screaming messages of pain throughout her body, and tears of effort streamed down her face as she ran.
From an icy post in the ground, as Katie rushed past, a large crow sat and watched the scene unfolding with extreme interest. Thoughts of its next banquet filled its greedy mind with gloating triumph.... 'Soon', it thought to itself.
Ray watched, relieved, as the brave young woman squeezed herself through the courtyard gates, and barred them as best she could from the inside.
But to his dismay, all four of blighted bodies lurched towards the huge wooden doors and started to force their way inside. Ray could see the doors part and start to give, then saw them close slowly again with some effort. He realized Sola was fighting for her life to keep them closed with her body from the other side, and he struggled to increase his pace even more.
Rule Mechanics: Ray and Madge both possess a character trait called "Leader", which means the survivors get to add +2 to the Turn Initiative Phase at the beginning of each turn. On the law of averages, they are likely to beat the zombie's initiative roll every time (each side gets to roll 1 six sided die: highest throw gets to act first during the turn). Predictably, the survivors roll well this turn: Sola moves quickly through the gates and pulls them closed behind her.
She doesn't have time to secure them properly because the diseased enemy is close on her tail. An in game ruling (not found within the main rules) is made up on the spot, and it is decided that, although Sola is using her weight to keep the gates closed from her side... the zombies should really be given a small chance of being able to push the gates open during their action turns. Therefore, every time it is the zombies'turn to move, as long as at least two of them are pushing on the gates to get through, they will collectively throw one die, and if the result is a '6', Sola will be forced back and the dead creatures will be able to enter the courtyard and attack her.
Ray, Madge and little nine year old Katie enter onto the game board, and move as fast as they can towards the main building where all the action is taking place.
When Sola finally found time to take a quick peek over her shoulder into the inner courtyard, much to her relief, she found it was indeed clear of any immediate threat. But the danger thumping and crashing against the wooden gates was very close and extremely real; and it was all the small woman could do to keep the heavy wooden doors pressed shut against the four creatures on the other side that were howling and moaning for her blood.
One of the gates swung open a few inches, and a putrid mottled grey hand reached inside, clasping and clutching at the door frame. But summoning all her might, Sola managed to push the portal back into place, severing a couple of the dead creatures'fingers in the process.
Seeing the gates start to give way, Ray drew to a sudden halt, raised the shotgun to a firing position, and blasted a cartridge towards the middle of the writhing mass of zombies. There was a satisfying explosion of skull fragments and brains, and one of the rearmost monsters dropped motionless to the ground.
Katie meanwhile, was rushing towards the gate at an oblique angle to Ray, her school bat raised menacingly in front of her. Madge was just about to scream after her to slow down when a new zombie, attracted by the sound of the gunfire, lurched out of the shadows and leapt towards the older woman. The thing clutched and clawed at her, raking at her upper body and face in a frenzy of energy... and it was all Madge could do to hold the pitiful creature at bay.
The zombie's slack mouth dripped thick bilious slime and green saliva from its mouth, and its jaws snapped down upon the woman's exposed neck. Madge screamed, and barely had time to raise the barrel her own weapon in front of her face. The zombie bit down hard on bare metal where, a few moments before, her neck had been. She heard a few teeth grind and break as the enraged monster tried to chew its way towards her throat.
The sound of Ray's gunfire arouses the attention of another zombie - which lunges at Madge.
Ray heard Madge scream, and swung round immediately to face the sound. His blood ran cold when he saw his friend grappling for her life in a death lock embrace against the tattered and decayed remains of a long deceased blonde haired woman. The two combatants toppled to the ground with the zombie crawling about on top of her, The undead woman was ever reaching for Madge's neck and face, and splatters of blood and gore from multiple bites and scratches splattered the snow all around. Instantly, Ray could see his friend was losing the fight badly.
Rule Mechanics: Instead of moving this turn, Ray decides instead to take aim with his sawn off shotgun, and shoot at one of the zombies trying to break into the courtyard. The shot is a difficult one because Ray is attempting to aim over an intervening obstacle (a dry-stone wall) at a target away on the other side. But the shot is good, and although the zombie gets to make a saving roll (only head trauma really count against zombies.. otherwise the bullets tend just to go straight through the body and do no harm), Ray's aim is true, and one of the creatures topples to the ground - and is destroyed.
However, immediately Ray fired his gun, the noise of the weapon going off attracted the unwanted attention of a new zombie. Any time a weapon if fired, the zombies get to check to see whether the commotion attracts any fresh monsters. In this instance, a single creature... is randomly placed as bad luck would have it on the board edge closest to Madge. The creature can immediately move its full movement allowance. This, unfortunately, places the new zombie in base to base contact with Madge, but because the zombie moved this turn, it cannot make an attack as well.
The zombies attempting to break through the gates throw a die to see whether their combined strength can force the doors open, and although they throw a '5'(one digit short of the required number), Sola manages to hold them at bay this turn.
The fiend on top of Madge was inches from her face, and gouged another deep cut into her cheek. Its fetid breath was overpowering, and for a moment Madge nearly passed out with the stench. Her strength was failing fast and she knew her death lay only seconds away.
"Get it's bloody head up!" Ray screamed at her, desperation and fear making his voice crack with the strain. Madge summoned the last of her energy and made one last ditch attempt to raise the creature a few inches higher of her body. Their eyes locked and she saw the sheer hatred and utter hunger in its dreadful eyes.
There was a loud bang! Suddenly the air was full of red mist, and the monster pinning the woman slouched... then dropped to one side and lay still.
The fat crow which had been sitting on the post, and looking forward to a free meal, was blown to pieces by the random spray of the blast. Ray ran over and crashed to the ground at Madge's side, but the old woman was already pushing the remains of zombie away and clambering to her knees.
"Oh God, Madge, are you all right?"
Ray could see his friend's clothing was badly torn and deep gouges dripped crimson red where the soulless one had clawed into her flesh. Several cuts covered her face and neck, and blood pumped freely down her body and onto the snow.
"I... I'm okay, Ray.... I think. Quickly, go help the others. I'll follow behind... just give me a few minutes to get my breath."
Ray looked searchingly into Madge's eyes, squeezed her arm tenderly, then leapt to his feet and ran full pelt towards the others. He glanced around but could see no more of the dreadful undead creatures approaching out of the shadows.
Ahead of him, he saw the gates which Sola was desperately trying to keep shut, start to give way... and slowly but surely, the zombies pushed their way into the courtyard. All at once, two of them were inside, and them lurched towards their target and out of Ray's sight. He heard gun shots from behind the walls, and the sounds of battle seemed from within terrible and fierce.
Meanwhile, Katie ran up to the half zombie just as it was clawing its way through the gates, and bought her school bat down as hard as she could upon the monster's head. There was a sickening thud as bone crunched and snapped... but the mangled creature simply turned upon its hands and stared into the eyes of the little girl with evil intent etched coldly upon its lifeless face. It's foul breath was only inches from Katie's face, and for what seemed like an eternity, the two of them stared at one another... then with a fearful shudder, the thing raised itself high upon its knuckles, and tilted forward.
It's mouth was open and its blackened and broken teeth clamped down towards the girl's exposed and vulnerable flesh.
Rule Mechanics: As amazingly bad luck would have it, the zombies manage to win the initiative round this turn, which means they get to move and attack first before the heroes can act and respond. The zombie woman attacking Madge scores 2 hits on the old woman, bringing her desperately close to unconsciousness (one more wound and she would pass out... a second wound from now and she would be dead - and rise again as one of the undead horde).
Ray uses his character trait "Special Attack" which means he can move... make an attack (either a ranged weapon, or a melee attack) ... then continue moving again. He destroys the zombie attacking Madge, then moves away towards the gates of main building.
The zombies attempting to break into the courtyard throw a '6'and finally manage to push open the doors which the small woman inside is trying to hold shut. Two zombies (the most that can physically push through the gap this turn) lunge forward and attack Sola, inflicting 2 nasty wounds on the woman. In retaliation, she uses her "Ambidextrous" trait, and fires her twin pistols at the zombies, ...she does no damage with her own first shot, which goes clean through the body of one of the zombies... hits it in the head with her second shot... and dispatches the remaining zombie with a third bullet.
Katie runs up behind the last zombie as it tries to crawl through the gates, swings her Rounders bat... and fails to destroy the creature, which turns and faces her. Meanwhile, the noise of the shooting has attracted the attention of a stray zombie, which lurches on to the edge of game board behind Madge.
Katie artfully dodged the half zombie's jaws as they snapped shut on air... inches from where her arm had been a few seconds before. She swung her bat at the pitiful, though hateful creature once again, and this time, she battered the thing to death with a quick series of strokes.
Away in the shadows behind Madge, a series of low moans filled the air. Madge turned unsteadily on her feet and saw a lone figure... dressed in the tattered remains of a business suit, lumbering towards her out of the gloom. She raised her shotgun and fired a single cartridge.
The zombie dropped to the ground, and didn't move again. Madge peered around nervously, but her shot didn't seem to have attracted any more of the evil creatures.
Rule Mechanics: Katie defeats her opponent in close combat, and Madge's aim is true, and she shoots the newly arrived zombie before it can cause any trouble. She is lucky! The sounds of her weapon doesn't seem to attract any more of the things.
By the end of this move, the game board is clear of the walking dead. This means there is no more immediate danger, and the heroes can safely start to look inside the houses for loot!
The small group huddled together for warmth using one side of the main building for cover against the biting cold, though it offered little real protection from the chill wind. The only other option was to get inside out of the cold.
Blood dripped on the snow from Madge and Sola's many wounds. Most of them were superficial and would heal with time, but one or two scratches and minor bites needed thoroughly cleaning with soap and water before they could be properly treated.
Katie knelt down and rummaged in her bag. It didn't take her long to find the small bottle of aspirin she had carefully secreted away, because the bag was only half full. Supplies were running desperately low. She pressed a couple of pain killers into Madge's hand, then did the same for Sola... carefully replacing the bottle in the bottom of her pack when she was finished. Stepping next to the older woman, Katie silently and automatically held out her hand. Madge took hold of the small child's hand in her own without even thinking. The maternal bond between the two of them had become very firm over the last weeks.
Ray carefully dabbed liberal quantities of iodine on all the scratches... paying particular attention to the bites, upon which he also rubbed antiseptic cream, and bound tightly with bandages. When he had done tidying up both women as best he could, he looked at each of them tenderly.
"That was too close. I almost lost you there Madge... and as for you Sola, you almost caused me to have a seizure."
"Yes, and you." Madge pulled slightly on Katie's hand, to show she was displeased. "Next time I tell you to not to get too close, I mean not- too- close, okay?" The small girl merely hid her face in Madge's skirts and pressed her little body even closer into the woman's legs. Madge ruffled her fingers through the child's hair without even realising she was doing it.
"Okay, we'd better get this over with." Ray looked up bitterly at the big building they were standing over. "I don't like this, but it's got to be done I suppose." He knew someone had to enter the house and make sure there were none of those walking corpses inside.
Sola drew a revolver, and removed the safety.
"No, not you Sola, you... you've gotten yourself into enough trouble for one day I think." Ray gave the small woman a smile and half winked at her, teasingly. "No, I'll do this." He stepped forward in front of Sola. "If you hear me holler, be ready either to run.. or come get me."
"How will we know which to do, boss?" Sola chirped up.
Ray stopped for a second, then looking back over his shoulder he replied. "Well, if I start panicking you'll know I need help and you can come and get me. If I shout 'ruuuun', you'll probably be able to figure that one out for yourselves." He said in with a deadpan face.
Rule Mechanics: Ray enters the old church, and proceeds to stumble around in the pitch dark of the building's interior, feeling for a candle or oil lamp and wishing he'd thought to retrieve the battery torch from Sola's pack before beginning this dangerous job. It is only by sheer luck that he hears a sound and has just enough time to turn about face and flee before the zombies attack him. Three of the creatures who had been lurking in the dark were almost upon him when one of them scuffed a foot on a wooden floorboard and alerted Ray to their presence. Ray is fortunate - this time.
That was another problem with the extreme cold of perpetual winter: it made it almost impossible to smell the zombies coming.
The group of survivors pick up their heels, and leg it away from the house before any of the creatures decide to follow them outside. But Ray is not giving up that easily. Moving his people carefully round towards the tower like building, he prepares once again to scout inside and check for any danger.
But even as he walks up the steep stone steps towards the front door, the wooden portal creaks slowly open, revealing a yarning mouth of darkness beyond. A head peeps out from behind the door, followed by another... and another... and another. It looks like a Mother and her three children who must have been hiding inside the building.
"Wh... who are you, what do you want?" The mother calls down to Ray, who is still standing half way up the stairs.
"It's all right." Ray places his hands wide to show he means no harm. "We're survivors like you. We're terribly hungry and cold, and are looking for someplace safe to stay for the night."
Rule Mechanics: Basically this all means that when Ray entered both buildings, dice were immediately thrown and checked against a rules table to see what random things potentially lay inside. In the first house, Ray discovered four zombies but gained the initiative over them and decided four to one weren't particularly favorable odds, and chose to flee the building rather take them on alone. But in the second building Ray got lucked out, and threw a natural 12 on the dice, and when the rules table was consulted, this translated as a very rare find - potentially they could be friendly survivors.
Unfortunately, the new party members are not tough road warriors, stray mercenaries or a lost army group, so they will not add overly much to the strength and fighting ability of our growing hero group. But they are survivors none the less.... And that is one of the things this game is all about, after all; staying alive, finding new friends, and trying to survive together and help build a new world. This can be a challenge in itself. Besides, it could have been worse. They might just have easily discovered the other survivors were hostile. In which case they might have had a vicious firefight on their hands. No doubt these new comers will have some spare food, perhaps a few medical supplies.
Maybe they all ready have the generator working and Katie can finally have that hot bath she was promised? Between games all the details for adding new characters to an ongoing campaign can be worked out amicably by the players themselves, or rolled randomly using the tables I have provided in my rules at the back of this book. However you choose to do it, try and make the story line a combined player effort, and allow the story to unfold naturally, a bit like a good novel.
A simple plastic model, painted grey... trees and fence in brown, then sprayed lightly with matt white paint to create a cold, winter affect. Something any modeller can do for himself in minutes.
Just a quick note about Sola and Madge's wounds during that game. Unlike many of the zombie movies some of you may have seen in the cinemas or on DVD, my zombie bites do not automatically turn you into a slobbering zombie. Yes, zombie bites are unclean and literally riddled with germs... and potentially, this could indeed see you off, turning you into a dead 'un if you get unlucky. But this is represented in the rules so that only when figure is reduced to 0 or less wounds that character dies and is replaced with a reanimated zombie miniature. Until such time, wounds on figures represent an almost abstract quality, which can be simply cuts and scratches, bruises and physical fatigue from sustained fighting.
© 2008, Stephen A Gilbert