October 17, 2011



If you plan on playing the HackMaster adventure "Dusk of the Dead" by David S Kenzer, then don't read this blog post.  I'm not GMing the adventure but playing in it and while this post isn't so much about the adventure than about a specific aspect of gaming, there will undoubtedly be some spoilers.

Consider yourself warned.

Our group got together after a small hiatus due to my GM's travelling recently.  Although we had planned to start a new campaign using the Beta rules for HackMaster (It's just being called HackMaster, not Advanced HackMaster, although the earlier book was HackMaster Basic, or HMb), Carolyn got this new adventure to play for our older/higher level PCs.  I have a small stable of HackMaster PCs that I've been rotating through in order to level some up.  Two have died so far, one rather quickly, and one at third level.  I like having a mix of abilities so I can play whatever the group needs and not be "screwed" when I lose one and have to start from scratch.

Bolburd, my Dwarven Fighter, has just hit 6th level.  When he first started out, our whole campaign was pretty much a "Night of the Living Dead" scenario.  I don't recall if we ever discovered what caused the dead to walk again, but we were pretty sure we discovered the point of origin and put down what we hoped was the cause.  Most of the rest of the campaign was putting down the ones that got away.  There were a lot of ambushes, on both sides, and before it was over Bolburd had suffered quite a few zombie bites.

The climax for one section of the campaign was discovering a throng of survivors camped out at an old hunting lodge situated on the top of a huge hill.  These folks had retreated from the small town and taken refuge deep in the woods.  This was the place out group decided to make our stand.  We had a workforce and some time to prep the battlefield.  The lodge was a small two-story building pretty much packed with people.  We got the Caregiver Cleric to start tending to the wounded, and we organized everyone the best we could.  There was one old fighter and a couple of kids that were decent with a sling.  Everyone else was a non-combatant.  We had the kids keep watch and practice with their slings while we built a hasty palisade around the lodge.  The palisade consisted of sharpened poles laid out such that you had to be dexterous in order to work your way through them without getting skewered.  We simply didn't have the time to build a proper fence.  There was a clear path leading straight up to the lodge and we arranged to have the wagon we brought weighed down to serve as a plug for that path.  Stoppers were built and multiple ropes were affixed to the wagon.

The idea was to form a huge bonfire from the remnants of trees used in the palisade.  The bonfire would draw in the local zombies and since we were on a hilltop, the light would be seen for quite some distance.  The easiest way to the lodge was up the path and we could raise or lower the wagon to open or close the path.  The plan was to let the zombies straggle in for us to deal with and if the numbers got to be too much, we'd close off the path and re-open it to let some more in as needed.  We assumed we'd be fighting for quite some time and if we could keep a two-man front, we could switch out fighters.  At least this was the plan.  It worked very well for a while until enough zombies had skewered themselves on the poles that an extra path of sorts was formed up the side of the hill.  Luckily that was towards the end of the never-ending-night and the point where everyone had to fight was relatively short.  We prevailed with a few of us missing good chunks of flesh, but wounds heal.

I realize that is a lot of backstory.  The thing is that during our initial skirmishes we noticed that the zombies only attempted to bite areas of exposed flesh.  This meant the face, hands, and neck were their targets.  Out Of Character (OOC), this meant that zombies didn't have the damage done with their bites reduced by armor.  The way the HackMaster game mechanics work, zombies simply try to grab you first, and on the second successful grab (doesn't have to be the same zombie that grabbed you first) every zombie within reach gets a free bite, and they all get another free bite every ten seconds.  Now the way armor works in HackMaster, the heavier the armor you are wearing, the easier it is for an opponent to hit you and the more damage it absorbs.  With zombies armor makes it easier for you to be latched onto and it offers no protection from the ensuing damage when you are grabbed.  When we knew we were going into a prolonged zombie battle, Bolburd removed his armor altogether.  Heck, I recall having him oil up, and slap his chest calling, "Come get some fresh Dwarf you undead bastards!" (or something to that effect).   It was a sound tactic OOC that made sense based of of in-character (IC) observations.  This initial campaign has had some lasting IC effects that have spread to new PCs that were not part of the earlier campaign.  Several times Bolburd has told other characters, PCs that have never seen a zombie, that when going into battle with a zombie, remove your armor.  It has also become standard operating procedure (SOP) that the head is cut off of any foe we dispatch lest they come back from the dead and we have to fight them later.

Fast forward a year or two from that original campaign to yesterday's game.  Here is the spoiler if you didn't see it coming.  We are fighting zombies.  The party is travelling to Vew to escort a wagon of essential supplies for the Prancing Pony (ingredients to brew beer).  A couple days out from the Keep we get to one of the waystations and the place looks like it has been abandoned in a hurry.  We just have enough time to start an investigation of sorts when we find a mob of zombies shambling towards us.  Crappity-crap-crap-fuck!  As soon as we bolt the door Bolburd takes off his ringmail.  This act is questioned and OOC there is some discussion of me meta-gaming.

-4 Defense, +1 to Speed
Seriously?  Out of the current group of four PCs two of us, both Dwarven Fighters, fought in the zombie campaign.  For at least a year we've been cutting the heads off of foes and I've been preaching the benefits of removing your armor.  Ringmail is the heaviest armor we've had access to.  Not only does it weigh you down, making it easier to hit, but it's bulk actually slows down the rate at which you can makes attacks.  Figuring we've witnessed, IC, how useless armor is when facing zombies, and we're about to be overrun with a horde of them, why wouldn't an experienced fighter strip down?

We only actually fought one zombie directly in last night's game session.  The rest of the time was spent trying to avoid them while we found the most advantageous spot to make our stand again.  We have to find a spot where we can reduce their numerical advantage and, if possible, fight them two-on-one  (our favor) instead of four or five-two-one (their favor).  Thanks to the Rogue making two incredibly good open locks rolls we managed to get the tools needed to make our way to what we think is the most advantageous spot.

Next week's session is going to be a bit of a grind, but it couldn't be much worse than the last adventure, The Temple of Unrelenting Despair, from KoDT #175.


Miniature Geek said...

IC, and OOC knowledge can be a tricky thing to deal with. I think you're argument is a fine one. However all I can think about is the greasy guy from family guy fighting zombies.

Christopher Stogdill said...

Before the hunting lodge we were checking some outlying farms around the town. Being tired of zombie ambushes I didn't mind trying to draw them out first. Chest slapping soon gave way to clanging battleaxe to shield while calling, "Here zombie zombie zombie" as if we were calling cats.