Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Review: Blood and Brains

Zombies, the other dead meat. Not only are they one of the few supernatural creatures in folklore that start with the letter Z, but they also are really, really big in movies and games right now. Don’t believe me? Look at the recent movies: Land of the Dead, Resident Evil 2, 28 Days Later, Undead, etc. Look at games like the uber-popular video game series Resident Evil (and its many wannabe clones). And there are even entire RPGs that focus only on those smelly, shuffling brain eaters.

If you play RPGs of the D20 Modern flavor and you want to add the Zombie genre into your game, then you really need Blood and Brains: The Zombie Hunter’s Guide. This 56 page PDF book is written by Michael Tresca (Blood and Blades, etc) and published by RPG Objects. This book covers everything (and more) that you have ever seen in movies, television, and games that dealt with the Zombie persuasion.

The book starts out with background info on what exactly a Zombie is. Then, we are given new occupation choices: Boy Scout, Cheerleader, Jock, Mental Patient, NCRPC (National Center for Reanimation Prevention and Control) Employee, Nerd, Prep, Scream Queen, Stoner, and Y-Mart Employee. By the way, you can find classes of these occupations in Blood and Blades. Advanced classes: Bokor (a spellcaster that creates and controls zombies), Mad Scientist, Necromancer, Psychokinetic (bend that spoon), and Zombie Hunter.

There are also many excellent Zombie genre hack & slash feats like Backhand Slash (handy when those pesky Zombies sneak up behind you), Bring It On (you’re too crazy to worry about madness ratings), Chainsaw Impale (sweet, need I say more?), Cool (pressure, what pressure?), First Impression (shotgun go boom, scare weak creatures), Hardware (you knew that your hardware department experience would help you someday), Improvised Implements (tools, I don’t need no stinking tools), Improvised Weapons (anything around is a deadly weapon), Improvised Weapon Damage (now the pen is truly mightier than the sword), Over The Shoulder (who wouldn’t want to shoot a shotgun over their shoulder and hit that zombie behind them), Rifle Spin (remember that lever-action rifle spin reload trick in Terminator 2? Now you can do it too.), Slapstick (when you fight hand to hand you fight dirty), Stud (handy with the opposite sex), Suck On This (a classic zombie-killing shotgun technique), Virgin (very useful in horror movies-but that’s about it), and Whatever (you don’t frighten easily).

Chapter 2 deals with the fine art of Zombie Hunting, with new weapons, including chainsaws and gatling guns. Sometimes you survive, but not without losing a chunk to those nasty zombies. Hence, the section on prosthetics. And there are new options for fighting with guns and a small section on madness rules. You can find a more detailed version of these madness rules in Blood and Blades, by the way. Chapter 3 deals with new powers and spells. Two of my favorite spells are Possess Zombie and Zombie Belch.

Then, Chapter 4, the chapter with every kind of Zombie-like creature you can think of. There are even a few not so Zombie-like creatures that you wouldn’t expect, like the Hsing-Sing (a Bigfoot like race from the Himalayas), Creep (alien parasites that turn their victims, including the Hsing-Sing, into zombies), and the Trillian (weird 50’s looking aliens that kill people with gas and turn them into zombies). There are also 21 variations of zombies, including Atomic, Nazi, Radiation, Toxic, Ultrasonic, and Radiation Zombies. Ah, then let us not forget one of the best sections in the whole book…the Zombie template, which has a chart full of abilities that can be randomly assigned. One of my favorites is the TV travel under the movement section, which allows zombies to travel through TV sets.

I give this book a B+. It would have been an A, but I would have liked to have seen some of the earlier chapters fleshed out more (pun intended). More information on the National Center for Reanimation Prevention and Control would have been nice too. Also, more on the madness rules would have been good (which you can find more info on in Tresca’s Blood and Blades). But overall an excellent book with some great fiction sprinkled throughout. If you combine this with Tresca’s Blood and Blades and Blood and Spooks, you can cover just about anything found in horror films.

So, if you are serious about adding Zombies into your game, then this is the book for you. Your players will never know what kind of Zombie they will run into next. Trust me, after your players run into a Video Zombie, they will never feel safe watching TV again.

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