Rob Donoghue’s post on a four-attribute tactical system coupled with the Zombicide kickstarter got me thinking about a similar system for a zombie apocalypse game. This is heavily inspired by the control dramas from the Celestine Prophecy and the zombie types in Left 4 Dead. The system below uses D&D terms for reference, but you should feel free to switch them out to appropriate analogues for other systems.
Each player takes on a stance that governs how they fight (often in both physical and social conflict). These stances are often standard to the character, almost archetypes, but sometimes characters might switch up at need. Stances tend to be hard to switch up in the heat of combat, however, as one of their major functions is to govern access to heavy armor and weapons.
In play, most feats are governed by a particular stance and become inaccessible when not in that stance. For example, heavy armor proficiency is a Tough stance feat: if a character switched to another stance while wearing heavy armor, he would immediately begin to suffer penalties for not being proficient, even if he had the feat normally. Stances also have an innate bonus. Finally, stances gain a circumstance bonus when attacking or defending against another stance. The stances are:
- Determined:The standard “hero” stance, this is often a default for new survivors. It’s largely a generalist, relying on moderate mobility and moderate firepower.
- Characters in this stance gain a +2 bonus to all attacks.
- Feats available in this stance include the lower tier weapon and armor feats available to Tough and Fast, as well as feats related to focused competence.
- Determined characters gain an additional +2 to attack, damage, and AC against Tough characters, as they tend to have slightly better maneuverability while retaining enough power to cause harm.
- Zombies in this stance are single-minded and of moderate mobility, often with a nasty trick for single targets (i.e., smoker).
- Tough:Common to big guys, often identifiable by their biker regalia, this stance focuses on heavy armor and weapons.
- Characters in this stance gain a +2 bonus to melee damage and increase their carrying capacity by 50%.
- Feats available in this stance focus on heavy armor, heavy weapons, and other effects relying on brute strength.
- Tough characters gain an additional +2 to attack, damage, and AC against Fast characters, as they laugh off high-speed but low-damage attacks, and are really dangerous to the lightly armored up close.
- Zombies in this stance are very slow but incredibly dangerous if they get into range (i.e., boomer).
- Fast:Common to skinny, athletic survivors, these are the people most likely to wave around a katana in the middle of an apocalypse. They rely on mobility to avoid harm.
- Characters in this stance gain +10 ft. movement rate and +1 dodge AC.
- Feats available in this stance focus on mobility, light weapons, and speed.
- Fast characters gain an additional +2 to attack, damage, and AC against Vulnerable characters, as they can quickly get away from traps and are used to being aloof in the first place.
- Zombies in this stance are “cheater zombies” that move at high speed and might even have more unfair movement abilities (i.e., hunter).
- Vulnerable:Common to attractive characters, children, and people who “can’t believe this is happening,” this stance relies on others to provide aid… or is a trap for the unwary, luring them into close range.
- Characters in this stance appear nonthreatening and all characters take a -6 penalty to attack them unless they have injured the attacker or they are the only target(s) left.
- Feats available in this stance focus on stealth, skills, and close-range weaponry.
- Vulnerable characters gain an additional +2 to attack, damage, and AC against Determined characters due to the skill at riding the emotional or literal blind spots of these characters.
- Zombies in this stance appear dead or otherwise helpless until survivors get close, at which point they attack with surprising speed (i.e., witch).