Dead... and Back is a survival horror Role Playing Game. The Anarchy Zones is its official setting - aliens, reanimates, and the ruins of 2055 America.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Experience of Experience Points

Experience points are not a reward, and should not be given out at the end of a role-playing session. A movie soundtrack is not a reward for watching nor does it come only at the end. Instead, the music is a major factor in how you enjoy each stage of the film. Proper music highlights emotions and sets the pace for scenes indicate of when characters are tense or relaxed.

Experience points can be seen as a soundtrack for your RPG - what you reward and how many you give out goes a long way towards shaping the world of your game.

In Dead and Back, there is a certain level of antagonism when it comes to the use of Advancement Points. They are a vital resource for healing and recovery of used mental stats of your character, or a means to increase the abilities of someone else. This choice gets even more difficult with the possibility of group and place AP are introduced into the mix. (further splitting the choice; heal, help the community, or strengthen your allies.)

Giving out a large number of points per session makes it possible to heal and spend on others, allowing for safety and quick advancement. Allotting only two or three points each night means fully healing could often be near impossible, much less saving up to purchase new stats for your friends.

Give out AP in the last quarter of the game, and then roleplay the choices of how to use them. Spending these points represents something going on in the world - people don't just "level up" after all. For example, the choice between improving mental stats and building the settlement is akin to hiding somewhere to read for a while, or pulling your weight digging the new canal. Does the character just sit and watch movies until the nightmares go away and their hands stop shaking - or do they get some bruises and help with their friend's jujitsu lessons? Not only can the players speak amongst themselves about how to spend the points earned each session - but they can play out the character's demands for how they should be spent or of act out the new training regimen.

Advancement Point costs are still being balanced, what ever the numbers are in the end, D&B isn't going to be a game of super characters. There will probably be a cap placed on just how much characters can improve most likely preventing more than an extra die or three being gained and maybe a few new skills. It is the players who will learn about interacting with the world, thus protecting their avatars better, rather than simple escalation of figures.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Charlie Hendrix

Charlie has no relation to the famous guitarist - he doesn't even care for that style, a smooth jazz aficionado. Though he would never mention such at work, there he is all business. Indeed, Sargent Hendrix is the kind of overly serious, straight laced police officer featured in 1960s procedural dramas like "Dragnet" and mocked as "the man" in later years.

Rather a surprise to his parents, who really were second generation hippies trying to keep the dream alive. What would shock them even more would be his well hidden violent streak unbecoming of either a flower child or the city's finest. If it can shoot, he has a distressingly close relationship to it and if danger is involved, so too is an unsettling joy.

Charlie "Moonbeam" Hendrix

  • Strength  4
  • Wits  3
  • Technique  3
  • Quick  3
  • Close Combat  4
  • Ranged Combat  5

  • Animus  9
  • Deadening  7
  • Lucidity  6
  • Pack  6
  • Up-Rise  7

  • Negotiation: Charlie is a Response team member, and knows how to defuse hostage situations.
  • Animal Handling: He cared for many animals on his parent's organic farm
  • Martial Arts (+1 DR for hand to hand): Charlie is a Response team member, and knows how to take people down when negotiations fail.

Charlie is the caricature of every police-officer - light blond hair, piercing eyes, perfectly straight tall stature. If he was a marine, he would be one of those sentinels at monuments - unmoving for hours until a perfectly timed ceremony changes the guard.

It is not unusual for a US police officer to carry a gun off-duty. To carry more than one, and occasionally talk to them when no one else is around, is a bit unusual. Two hidden gun cabinets, one in the hall closet, and another in a log cabin in the woods, each with multiple rifles and handguns would probably attract federal attention if he wasn't such an upstanding citizen, with notes about hsi good conduct in the official police registrar. All the guns are legal but when the undead rise, he will acquire fully-automatic arms from the police stocks and be reluctant to give them up for anything.

Spending so much on guns doesn't leave much money for anything else, and Charlie lives quite modestly and simply, even keeping the vegetarian ways of his parents. 


It is rare for him to speak, but when Charlie speaks, you listen. He is forceful, confident and usually only opens his mouth when there is something important.   Just don't get into an argument about firearms, police procedure, or farming - those are areas of expertise and he does not like being wrong about those. Few people would call him friendly, or forgiving, but can respect that he leads by example.

It is rare for Charlie to laugh, but when he laughs - be afraid. So far he hasn't let himself have too much fun with living targets - but with the undead, every bullet is a celebration. He often seems wilder than the raiders that have popped up as society fell.

Use in a Game

Raised on a farm, serving in the police, and dangerous in combat (and somewhat creepy when doing so) Charlie is a good support NPC that can protect new players or go down in a blaze of glory to show the PCs that the world is dangerous even for well trained SWAT officers. His slowly draining sanity can also be an unsettling note, his tendency to talk to firearms and flip between perfect cop and movie villain is a way to psychologically play with characters.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Mr. Williams, School Bus Driver

Aside from his parent (long deceased) Mr. Williams has not a single person that uses his first name. Whether it is a matter of professionalism  in front of the children, or unfamiliarity with teachers, or low rank compared to principles - no one refers to him by something other than surname or "bus driver".

Overweight, quiet, not the sharpest knife in the drawer, he does not seem like one who would outlast the first few hours of an undead uprising. However he is a man of hidden depths and is capable of great bravery for the purpose of protecting children. Mr. Williams is an excellent chef, collecting dozens of cookbooks and even keeping a Dewar flask of liquid nitrogen on hand for fancy molecular gastronomy creations. His creativity extends to model building as well, from ships in a bottle to remote control jets at 1:20 scale. Quite often, he does better than the actual mechanics at diagnosing problems with the school bus' turbocharged diesel engines.


Mr. ---- Williams
  • Strength  3
  • Wits  3
  • Technique  7
  • Quick  3
  • Close Combat  4
  • Ranged Combat  2

  • Animus  8
  • Deadening  6
  • Lucidity  6
  • Pack  10
  • Up-Rise  10
    • Repair: From tiny model engines to a school bus
    • Wood Working: His tall ships are not plastic kits
    • Cooking: If Julia Child has cooked it, so has Mr. Williams.
    • Driving: Certified driver with an impeccable record over twenty years


    Ralph Kramden of "The Honeymooners" would be a good start, though Mr. Williams is older, fatter, balder, and wears rather dated wire rim glasses. Even in his own life, he seems to be just a walk on extra of a generic older man in the background. Most people are so used to seeing him from a short time twice a day - and in a dark uniform hunched over a steering wheel at that - they wouldn't recognize him off duty in khakis and a red sweater. Often he seems like a low budget and elderly version of the human characters from "Mr. Rodger's Neighborhood".

    Mr. Williams would never handle a gun, and would strongly oppose allowing a child to be near one. On the other hand, he is quite adept at handling all sorts of sharp objects from hobby knives to meat saws for parting out cow halves ("You see sir, the meat is better and cheaper if you get it from the farm, and you need freshness for carpachio...") and chainsaws for ice sculptures. His garage is full of tools, electrical equipment for scale railroads, jet fuel, a Dewar flask of liquid nitrogen, a wood burning stove, and old "popular mechanics magazines". His aging car sits under a canvas fly on the driveway. (Likely a Buick of some description.)

    Mr. Williams will preface almost every statement with an apology - as if each time he speaks he is interrupting or acting out of place. Everyone is a sir or madam, maybe a Mister or Misses if the situation is very informal. Much of the time he doesn't even bother speaking to adults. To children he is more of a stern but soft-spoken authority figure. For everyone else, he is at best wallflower.

    As unassuming as Mr. Williams is, he takes his responsibility to keep children safe extremely seriously.

    Use in a Game
    Mr. Williams can provide valuable transportation, and possibly maintenance if coaxed. His house could make for a rather interesting base for those of the "McGuyver" persuasion. Although unlikely to add much to a debate or plan, he is nearly guaranteed to follow it to the letter - with one exception. He will not harm children, and would rather wrestle an abomination the the ground with his bare hands than allow it to harm a child. Its likely that a player's first encounter with him is a valiant attempt to use the bus to evacuate children or otherwise move them to a new home.

    Tuesday, October 16, 2012

    Alice Ferral

    Alice has the generic good looks of a hopeful model waiting tables in LA. She would rather be a boyscout than an actress, however, and prefers X-rays to glamor shots. Although many of her professors lauded her perception and efficiency - the grind of emergency calls in bad neighborhoods at strange hours rapidly wore away her good demeanor and professionalism. The Undead rising was almost a change of pace, and at the very least - a new challenge.

    While drug overdoses and domestic violence calls have all but disappeared, they've been replaced with worse things. Too many incurable necrotic infections, and a shortage of almost all medicines mean once treatable conditions are far more worrisome. The hours are still bad, and the neighborhoods aren't getting better either.

    She is just about at the point of giving up the stethoscope to grab a shotgun and move on to new pastures and proficiencies.


    Alice Narbon Feral.
    • Strength  3
    • Wits  3
    • Technique  5
    • Quick  5
    • Close Combat  2
    • Ranged Combat  4

    • Animus  10
    • Deadening  7
    • Lucidity  9
    • Pack  8
    • Up-Rise  8
    • Awareness: Special Ability - Initiative Rolls are considered Skilled - Years as a first responder have taught Alice to keep an eye on everything.
    • Medicine: She is a trained and Licensed Paramedic and ambulance driver
    • Investigation: Far too much experience looking for clues of drug abuse, domestic crime, and otherwise working backwards to find the pathology of an injury



    Everything just seems slightly above average for her - from height to breast size. Even in a room full of brunettes with shoulder length hair, she'd be easy to pick out - even if she didn't dye her hair as she usually does. Alice bottle blonde, and rather proud of it, though when she doesn't need to worry about professionalism and the fact most people don't trust doctors with magenta hair - more unusual colors will show. .



    Alice knows how valuable her expertise can be, even if she hates dispensing it and dealing with patients. Thus she tends to lug around as much medical equipment as she can. A shotgun, if available is going to be with her almost constantly. A .38 chiefs special snub-nose revolver (a gift from dad) will probably accompany her, even in the shower and to bed. The lifestyle of the EMT and put upon has also taught her the value of high-caloric snacks and energy drinks, and a half dozen of each are quite likely to be in her backpack as well.



    On a good day Alice is a consummate professional, capable of almost any life saving feat short of open-heart surgery. Unfortunately, good days are somewhat rare.More often she is in a mood that reminds people of a violent alcoholic - though strangely - Alice is quite the "straight edge" and won't touch anything more intoxicating than coffee. If her free time not spent surly or practicing medicine, she likes techno, video-games, stunts, unconventional sports - sort of like the stereotypical sophomore party animal at college.

    Despite the foul moods, she is fairly loyal to friends, and open to new ideas, seeing the undead situation as something to explore. Alice is usually quite quick to point out she is not a pathologist, a surgeon, or a mortician - and is thus not going to cut up necrotics or otherwise try to find a cure - she is just going to enjoy the situation while it lasts.


    Use in a Game

    Alice can be a doctor for the group of course. More to the point - her observational skills means she can often find clues to link players into adventures, or point to problems in less than stellar ideas. The search for medical supplies can be a good plot hook or source of income - having a doctor to separate the wheat from the chaff is a helpful addition. Conversely, the stream of people seeking her aid, and her often confrontational attitude can get the group in trouble.

    For a game set in the Anarchy Zone, she might be a member of the "Ambulance Chaser" group - or at least be approached for membership. However, Alice would be one who prefers the raiding over the civic duty elements. In an Oberbours game, she would be the one comparing the outbreak to a videogame, and trying to play the hero or otherwise investigate further - arguing loudly with anyone who things discretion is the better part of valor.  She may even go so far as to lie that she needs their help to find the cure (see above). Furthermore, and emergency call to an isolated location is a "good" reason to end up at a creature testing site.

    Thursday, October 11, 2012

    Another Century's Reanimate

    Sometimes I wonder if this would have been better two centuries ago. Heck, maybe just one century ago wouldn't be as bad.

    Think about it - back in the Wild West. Most of us wouldn't be relying so heavily on guns, and those of us who do - you can make Minne balls running your own lead, and black powder is easier to replicate than superconducting magnetic coils. Mercury fulament caps might be a bottle neck, granted. Medicine back then would be pretty bad. Of course, all the medical miracles we have these days that we can't access, or have the facilities to use are doing us a world of good. I've lost more friends on runs to retrieve medicine  and nano-vac than any other cause.

    We're using horses right now - and back then most people would be able to do so without killing them. Its kind of a nightmare right now for the poor animals, worse than for us.

    The image that folk were hardier then is probably just a national mythology - but we'd be a lot less desperate to get our infrastructure back on line. Heck, homesteading is when they started that infrastructure. But we'd be fighting back and building new log cabins - not hiding in old apartment complexes and trying to get the water running. I mean damn - it takes a lot of people to clear, secure, and repair a water treatment plant - much harder than digging your own well - and what do we need an entire town's worth of water for anyway?

    Perhaps the 1950s would be a good middle ground. Not so much computer reliance, but nice guns and the nuclear bomb. A 90mm tank shell should be more than enough to stop an Succubus, it just wouldn't have all the high tech sighting equipment. A guass rifle isn't any more powerful than an M1 Garand - it just has a bigger ammo feed and full auto fire when you keep the battery charged. If you don't keep the battery charged, the M1 is better all around.

    And hey - those classic cars. Given the number of retro style Touring cars on the road, who would notice the difference? Before the national highway system, we wouldn't have have the boneroad kill zones outside every major city. Would that be a good thing - or would it just be worse in the city? Hmm...

    Tuesday, October 9, 2012

    Late Courier

    "Its been quiet, too..."
    "Don't jinx it!"
    "You do realize that only invites trouble in TV shows, not real life?"
    "And would you have believed in aliens and reanimates five years ago?"
    "Ahh - if you weren't my brother... All the same, a courier should have been through here by now. If nothing else, the government at least keeps its word about mail delivery. Can't spare arms, can't airlift us a generator, but at least we can send letters."
    "Well, the basic network they set up is still working. Why should they even bother with physical couriers when setting up a repeater tower here and there wouldn't require so much effort."
    "Well, first of all - you can't e-mail bullets and MREs. Secondly, it would take a lot of towers, or very big ones, that are hard to set up - remember, no satellites so its got to go the long way with no hubs, and no central power supply - a small group of runners is less than the manpower needed to set up even one of the resulting towers."
    "How'd you get so knowledgeable about all this?"
    "I read the packet they gave us. Given how unreliable transmissions can be - printed materials are important, and make it easier to recall vital information."
    "I know that. I was being rhetorical and sarcastic. Sarctorial? Rehtastic?"