Zombie Cinema Actual Play

Only 3 of us in my normal gaming group could make the game this week. Normally I run FreeMarket, but with just 2 PCs, I didn’t think it would be all that compelling. Plus, I kind of wanted to play Zombie Cinema again.

I’ve already talked a bit about what Zombie Cinema does and how it works. I’ve since learned that a couple of minor things are wrong in that post, but I got the main points right and it’s not worth editing or writing a new post to clarify. Can’t get all the rules right the first time, right?

The first play through at GenCon was definitely a bit rocky. There were 4 of us. Two of the other players had played previously but both agreed they struggled with the rules a bit. So we read through the rules at the table (the booklet is pretty small) and pretty much just started playing. We struggled at a few points, but once we started seeing what was happening in game and comparing that with the rules things started clicking.

So, going into the game last night I was a lot more confident. Also, there’s some good resources on the Zombie Cinema website to help clarify the rules and offer some play-advice. Now armed with a single session under my belt and the help from the site I was ready to give it another shot!

The following is last night’s session condensed into story form. No mention of mechanics whatsoever.

The three characters were:

Eli (his full-name was longer, but we just ended up calling him Eli), an elderly blind-man, the leader of a small cult; sometimes he got visions of awful things as the zombie threat progressed.

Sam (short for Samantha), a teenage hacker, greedy & selfish.

Jed, the macho ex-Athlete. Has a family halfway across the country.

The story opens in a small town with Sam arriving at Eli’s compound. There’s talk of a job Eli and his people had paid Sam to perform. She’s obviously not happy because it was a lot more serious than she was expecting, “That was some serious shit! Those looked like government servers! Whatever, just give me my money.” Next we see Brock, Eli’s right-hand man, making a connection with a shadowy-figure over video chat, there are communist China trappings seen in the background. Brock transfers the data Sam had dropped and the connection drops with a curt thank you from the other end.

That evening sees Jed showing up at the compound. Jed has family in Chicago and Eli’s people are the only ones in the area with a car that could make the drive. He forces his way in pleading on his family’s safety. Eli is woken up and sympathizes with Jed (Eli gets flashes of people being attacked and dragged off the streets of Chicago). They pile into a station wagon. Eli brings Brock and two of his wives that will help take care of him. We see Brock filling up a large black duffel bag with various weapons and load it into the back of the station wagon.

The next day we see the group broken down on the side of the highway, miles from any help. As everyone’s arguing about what to do to get the car fixed Sam comes along on her scooter, following them for her own reasons. They flag her down. She stays back for the moment. Jed realizes he could probably use a few parts from the scooter’s little engine to get the car limping along. Sam starts backing away intending to ride off, but Jed & Brock rush her and manage to subdue her. Jed starts ripping parts out of the scooter and then realizes he doesn’t have any sort of tools to install any replacements in the car, but he spots a barn off in the distance. Thinking there must be something usable there he sets off.

Everyone else stays with the car when they hear footsteps approaching the car. Brock gets out to investigate & is immediately attacked by some deranged farmer. Sam scampers out of the car and pulls a multitool out of her bag. Her scooter is useless so all she can do is try and get the car started. While Brock is struggling with the lunatic Sam manages to get the car started. She looks off in the distance towards the barn and shakes her head. Just as she puts the car into drive, Eli reaches up and whacks her with his cane. It’s distraction enough to keep her from driving off and leaving Jed.

Back in the barn, Jed is scrounging around for any tools that might be useful for fixing the car. He hears something from the shadowy corners of the barn. He see’s someone standing back there. “Hello? Our car broke down out on the road and we need some help” … “hello? are you okay?” The figure shambles out and Jed gets a good look at his face. Something’s wrong. Is he sick? Is that dried blood on his chin? What’s wrong with his skin? He backs away and trips over something as the figure gets closer.

Meanwhile, back at the car Brock and his attacker go down hard as he yells out “That son of a bitch bit me! You all get out of here, I can take care of this guy, go get Jed!” Not wanting anything more to do with the crazed farmer, everyone rushes away from the scene. Eli’s wives help Sam along as she’s holding her head, woozy from the hit. They head across the field towards the farm house. The entire place seems deserted. As they’re looking around, Jed stumbles in with a bloody scythe. He’s got fear in his eyes and he’s stammering, trying to put words to what just happened.

Sam starts freaking out, “You killed someone? The farmer that lived here? What the hell is wrong with you?”

“There was something wrong with him. He wasn’t right in the head. He had blood all over his face. HE TRIED TO BITE ME!”

“He was probably just some escaped mental patient. You don’t go killing someone just because they freak you out. Oh, man, this is so fucked up. I don’t want any part of you crazy assholes.” Sam goes off to a corner and starts rolling a joint to help calm her nerves.

One of Eli’s wives spots more moving figures around the house and starts screaming. Gunfire is heard from the direction of the highway. He starts ordering his wives to start locking doors and blocking windows. “We’ve got to hole up here!”

Jed: “There’s no way we’re sticking around here old man, we’ve got to get the hell out of here!”

Sam: “I don’t trust this lunatic, but he’s right. We can’t stick around here.”

Eli pulls an old six-gun from somewhere and turns his blind eyes to Jed. “We’re staying here.” Jed heads for the door as Sam rushes over and knocks the gun out of Eli’s hands. She picks it up, “We’re getting the fuck out of here.”

They head back to the car and find Brock along the way. He’s now carrying a rifle. He’s bleeding from where he got bit. Everyone piles back into the car and takes off. Eli’s wives start patching Brock up and wrapping up his wound.

They drive straight through the night to get away from the insanity that was the deserted farmstead. They see a road-side diner and decide to stop. Everyone’s tired and hungry. They need to take a break. Eli & his wives head straight into the diner.

Sam pulls Jed aside, “Listen. I’ve been looking up news on my phone. What we saw yesterday? That sort of crazy shit is going on all over the place, especially in the biggest cities.”

“Chicago?”

“Absolutely. They’re saying it’s some sort of disease making people go crazy, and…” she looks around to make sure noone else is to close, “they say it can be spread through bites.” As she gives a meaningful look at Brock standing near the car. “I know what I said back on the farm, but we both know what’s going to happen. Brock got bit, you saw it. He can’t stay around, we have to take care of it.” Jed sort of struggles with it, but eventually nods. It has to be done.

Sam walks up to distract Brock as Jed goes to grab his trusty new scythe from the car. From the diner one of the wives turns to look out the window just as Jed is rearing back. She starts to scream. As Eli and his other wife turn, they see Jed’s head separate from his body as his corpse crumples to the ground. At the same time the cook comes out from the back and sees what happened. He screams for help and goes to run out the back door.

Jed walks towards the diner. Just as Eli is about to confront him about the murder, Sam comes in right behind him and drops a heavy black duffel bag on the floor. She unzips it, revealing the cache of weapons, “I found this in the car” as she gives a meaningful look at Eli and his two wives.

Suddenly a scream from behind the diner.

Jed goes out to investigate and reaches the back door just in time to see the cook getting dragged away by shambling figures. “We’ve got to get out of here!”

Everyone looks to the front of the diner and suddenly there are more between the front door in the car. Sam takes a rifle out of the bag, “Alright, I’ve played enough Modern Warfare. Bring it on, you mother fuckers.” Same busts out a window and starts opening fire.

Jed’s in the back using his scythe to bar the back door to keep the creatures from getting in.

Eli’s wives are screaming and crouching in the corner.

Eli starts blindly wandering around the diner and finds the bathroom, “We can get out this way!” But noone hears him as he climbs over the sink and through the tiny window and falls in a heap on the ground outside the diner. He starts groping around, “Jed? Sam?”

From the front of the diner Sam screams “I’ve got an opening!” and she rushes out to the car.

At the rear of the diner just as Jed is about to get overwhelmed, the station wagon suddenly appears where the zombies used to be, “GET IN THE CAR”. Sam swerves around and spots Eli by the side of the diner. She yells for Jed to grab him as they drive by.

“But what about my wives?!” Eli screams as they start to drive away.

“They’re gone, we can’t go back.”

Eli starts struggling “No, I won’t leave them!”

Jed is unable to keep a grip on Eli and he slips and falls away. Sam keeps driving. They watch in the rear-view mirror as Eli starts stumbling around, trying to find his way back to the diner.

They watch in the rear-view mirror as Eli is surrounded by zombies as they drive over the horizon.

Sam & Jed take turns driving. Stopping only to scavenge food and gas from abandoned gas stations and broken down cars. Jed is leading them towards Chicago. He has to make sure his family is okay.

“Oh, hell, no. There’s no way we’re going into Chicago. I told you how hard they got hit. We’ll never get in and out.”

“What if it was your family?”

“Fuck ’em, I’m not going to kill myself.”

“… listen, they live in the suburbs just outside of town. It’s only a few more miles from here.”

“Fine, but I’m driving.”

They arrive at the block where Jed’s family lives and there’s a big throng of zombies shambling around outside their house. “Fuck that, there’s too many of them, we’ll never get in there. There’s no way your family survived that.”

“We’re in a car. Just drive through them like you did at the diner. I’ll be in and out. I. Have. To. Know.”

“Goddammit. Fine. Whatever. But you’re going in alone.”

Sam revs up the engine and drives head-long into the throng of zombies. The car spins and stops in the yard right in front of the front door. Jed goes into the house. It feels empty, like it hasn’t been touched in days. As he’s about to turn and leave he hear’s plaintive wailing coming from the basement. He opens the door. A single lightbulb hangs from the ceiling, swaying back and forth. At the bottom of the stairs, Jed spots his daughter. As the light swings into view, he sees she missing part of one arm and most of a leg. Their eyes meet.

Jed spots movement deeper in the basement. His dead ex-wife stumbles into view. There’s more movement behind her. He has his scythe in hand and he spots the gas line running to the water heater. He heaves the scythe and miraculously severs the gas line. Now to get out before something sparks and sends the whole place up. As he turns to leave he hears a fast shuffling behind him.

Sam gets impatient “It’s been too long. Fuck him, he deserves to die.” She puts the car in drive and floors the accelerator, but the tires get no traction on the lawn as the tires grind human remains into the ground. All the activity has attracted more and they begin to surround the car.

Jed’s legs get pulled out from under him as his daughter’s corpse quickly crawled up the stairs and grabs his ankle. He goes down hard and the impact knocks the breath out of him. He struggles to get away, but he can’t shake her grasp. His head sinks down as he says “At least I’ll be with them now.”

The car is making no progress, there’s a sea of zombies surrounding the car. The press is too much and the tires can’t get traction. As the windows of the station wagon start to crack, Sam reaches into the other seat and grabs Eli’s old six shooter. “I’m not going to be one of you monsters,” as she puts the barrel under her chin.

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