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The Walking Dead RPG: The First Day

"You find yourself in the Mall. You don’t know what’s happening, you don’t know why it’s like you’re in a movie. Was someone meant to tell you that the Mall was being turned into a movie set today and you never received the memo?

You find yourself fighting for your life, everyone has lost their minds and you see several people ripping flesh from each other."

That was the terrifying scenario we encountered, as we played a one-shot of The Walking Dead Universe RPG

Ian, set the scene for us, a Mall located in Great Falls, Montana, USA, complete with scale model! We were encouraged to have a look at the city on Google Maps and quickly established that there is a strip club... Kev, was excited to see that there is a local games store, so that he could purchase an Imperial Knight, should he wish to do so. The cast of hapless heroes and wannabes, were: Pete Haeger, as Paul - A short, overweight, security guard, busy trying to make sense of the traffic on his walkie-talkie. The Walter Mitty, Mall Cop (think Paul Blart). Kev Hughes, as Chad, and Daf Bray, as Chantelle - Chad, is a handsome young man sporting chinos and a polo shirt with deck shoes. Chantelle, has often been told she looks like a young Jennifer Aniston. She is wearing jeans, a hoody with Dept. of Justice, emblazoned across the front, and trainers, with her hair tied up. They look like an odd couple. Gav Graham, as Francis - A well groomed, gay, Barista, working in the Mall coffee shop. Dave, as "Matrix" Hollander - Hollander, is a former Marine, who suffers from PTSD.

Alex Rea, as Doug Madsen, Dave Harkness, as Woody Stevens, and Rich Dodd, as Dudley Frank - Three Partners in a Law Firm. All are 49 years old, attended Harvard law school and opened their own firm. The Partners all purchased Harley Davidsons today and are looking for matching leather wear at the Mall. Joe Maguire, as Andy - Andy, is Dudley's son. Unbeknown to Dudley, the tearaway teen is bunking off school to mess around in the Mall.

The Game Mechanics - How it Plays The mechanics of the game will be familiar to anyone who has played a Year Zero Engine game from Free League in the past. Characters have ratings for Attributes and Skills, and adding an attribute number and a skill number together tells you how many dice you get to roll to resolve an action. Each six on the die is a success. Most tasks only require a single success, but some may require multiple successes. If you are familiar with the Alien RPG from Free League, you may also recognise the stress mechanic in the game. When you fail a check, you can push a roll, and when you do, you add a stress die. If a stress die comes up with a one, something bad has happened. So, while stress makes it more likely you can accomplish something, it also makes it more likely that something catastrophic may happen as well. There are also certain circumstances where events that transpire will add stress to the player characters due to fear or tension.

It should be noted that what kills you isn’t being dropped to "Broken" status but is determined by the charts used in the game. When you fail your check to dispatch a Walker, you roll on a chart to see what that failure means. You can get results that range from taking stress, sustaining an injury, losing a limb, or dying immediately. Even when you aren’t fighting walkers, critical injuries are mapped to a table, and that table tells you if an injury is lethal, whether you can do anything about it, how long you have to do something about it, and how long until you recover from it.

Who will die first? The opening scenes. Paul, the Mall Cop, receives a call on his walkie-talkie from the Control Room. There are reports of a disturbance in the Pharmacy. Arriving in the store, Paul is met with the sight of a "tweaker" twitching and harassing the Pharmacist. Upon closer inspection, he notices that the customer has chunks of flesh missing from his face. Pete, decides that his character will attempt to charge the individual and tackle him to the ground. Unfortunately, due to Pete's inability to roll a "success" on a D6, the charge goes horribly wrong and Paul ends up getting a finger bitten off. We are less than twenty minutes into proceedings. Worryingly, Ian, sets a timer on his phone. We later come to realise that Paul will need to make checks to see whether he "turns" into a Walker himself!

In a store on the other side of the Mall, Hollander is purchasing some expensive lingerie for his partner. The store clerk is in a rush to make the sale and shut up shop, as his employees have strangely gone missing. They notice two individuals staring vacantly into the store, who start banging their heads slowly against the window. Hollander, goes to confront them, at which point his PTSD overwhelms him and he ends up pummelling the Walkers to a pulp with his fists. Meanwhile, Doug, Woody, and Dudley, are ordering coffee from Francis, in the nearby café. They are comparing their new biking leathers and discussing their motorcycles. Chad and Chantelle, behind them in the queue, notice the disturbance outside the store. Chad, is surprisingly keen for his wife to leave the store and apprehend the assailant, who is apparently attacking innocent bystanders. "After all dear, you do work in law enforcement!" Chad, who succeeds in a Persuasion check, convinces his wife to challenge Hollander. As Chantelle leaves the store, Francis and the lawyers pull down the shutters, to keep themselves safe from the events outside. As the scene descends into chaos, it is becoming apparent that Francis, the Barista, knows Chad well, for reasons which shall become clear later. Searching the café for weapons, the lawyers make Scavenging checks and find (surprisingly) a smoke grenade, which has been confiscated from youths. Doug, also finds a pistol. The group decide to open the shutter doors and make a break for the gun shop. Woody and Dudley, roll successes among their Mobility checks, but Alex, playing as Doug, does not, and slips, falling to the ground. Three Walkers are nearly on top of him straight away. Deciding to shoot his pistol, Doug aims the gun and pulls the trigger. With no Ranged Weapon skill, he fails his check and the gun jams. As a result, a Walker bites off one of Doug's knee caps and he falls unconscious.

The other lawyers loot weapons from the gun shop and are joined by Hollander. Together, the group rescue Doug and drag him to safety. Francis, who has a comprehensive knowledge of the layout of the Mall, is working on finding an escape route, through the back of the Sports shop. Andy, has equipped himself with baseballs from the store and is attempting to pitch them at the Walkers using his strong arm. Suffice to say, Dudley, is extremely unimpressed that his son is not in school and chastises Andy for his truancy.

Paul, is going downhill fast and although he makes it to the others, the group are faced with a difficult decision. Woody, decides that begrudgingly, he has no alternative other than to blow Paul's brains out. Eventually, after ransacking the supermarket for a selection of delicious subs, the party manage to escape to the sanctuary of the rooftop, where they take a well earned rest and each remove one of their Stress dice.

They take turns to keep watch. While Dudley is taking his turn, Chad and Francis are together in their tent. Chad, has confided to Chantelle, that he has been having an affair with Francis, something which has been quite clear to the rest of the party! Suddenly, Chad, turns on Francis and attempts to bite him in the face and Francis, screams that "it's not the kind of bite that he wants". Dudley, looks inside the tent and sees Francis under attack. He takes aim with the crossbow he looted from the Mall and shoots Chad in the head. Despite successfully dispatching Chad, he also rolls a "Walker" on his Stress dice, and a deceased Chad collapses on top of him, pinning him down. Francis, has no alternative other than to attempt to pull his lover off. (Giggity Giggity). The group learns that Chad, was bitten by a Walker during a tussle in the Mall. He had been hiding his injury from the others, hoping that he wouldn't turn. Referring back to Google Maps, we collectively agree that the wisest place to escape to, is Malmstrom Airforce Base, to the East of the city. Finding the phone number for the base, I suggest that we call ahead, to let them know that we're on our way and that the Walking Dead are rampaging across the city. The group informs me that this is not wise and that Wrexhammer does not want that kind of media attention.

That reminds me. I must delete my search history. We all enjoyed our first foray into the Walking Dead Universe RPG and would like to thank Dave for supplying the materials and Ian, for running the one-shot and setting up a superb table for us.


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