Nathanael Cole / Alliterated Games

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Using Unknown Armies for a Zombie Survival Game

In order to get ready for the Project Dismember game,
I’ve hammered out four new sets of house rules for use in running zombie survival campaigns with Unknown Armies. I was initially using the forums to work on them, but I’ll move them here for collection and further updating.

Included are the following five sets of House Rules:

  • Relationships add skill-modifying percentages to your character to use when relying on, helping, or working against other characters in your team.
  • Infection is a mechanic for tracking the spread of the zombie infection after you are exposed to it. It is implemented like a new Madness Meter, with some unique modifications.
  • Hordes are my attempt to transform the core Unknown Armies Riot mechanics into an effective representation of the infamous Zombie Horde.
  • Fortification rules allow the survivors to work together to locate, acquire, and enhance hideouts and safehouses.
  • Scarcities are a way to implement the danger of dwindling necessities, inspired by the core Madness Meter mechanics.

Read on for the details! Read More »

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Project Dismember: The Decemberlong Zombie Survival Game

“Merry Christmas to All, now you’re All gonna Die!”

This coming Thursday night will be the first session of a five-part December-only mini-campaign, which I have entitled “Project Dismember.” Currently the roster is full for the first session, but I want to post the details here to share the setup. I’m really looking forward to this one, and have been deeply immersing myself in zombie fiction since deciding to throw this thing together.

What: Project Dismember is a five-week tournament-style open-story role-playing experience. You and your friends must survive not only the overwhelming desolation of the zombie apocalypse, but your own dark sides as well. When the dead walk the earth and feed upon the flesh of the living, when a single bite is all it takes to turn your best friend into your worst enemy, who can you trust? What will you do to stay alive?

When: The first session will be hosted the night of Thursday, December 2nd, starting at 7 PM, at my place. We’ll play four-hour sessions each time, ending around 11 PM. Five full sessions will happen, with the last night taking place on December 30th.

Who: You! I have open room for up to 10 players each night, on a strict RSVP roster. See the Rules further below for details.

Other: There will be prizes given based on a combination of character experience and longevity. The short of it is that the longest-lived characters who went through the most shit will net their players rewards. These will be books, gift cards, games, and other items of nerdly or even monetary value.

I’m asking a $1 buy-in for each night of the game you play. Since I’ll be spending real actual money to acquire several possible prizes, I think this is pretty fair – and to be quite frank, I would gladly pay a GM a dollar a night ro run a bitchin’ game, if it kept the group together and assured a good time for all.

I’m currently also planning on audio-recording these sessions, and releasing them as MP3s on my blog.


  • For this tournament, we will be using the core dice mechanic from the game Unknown Armies, with all of the magick stuff stripped out and thrown away. It is a relatively simple and elegant core mechanic, and allows for some realistic and very, very deadly combat.
  • There will be special mechanics for earning character experience primarily through three avenues: Survival, Teamwork, and “Meta-Betrayal.” This third involves you taking an active interest in the flaws of other characters, and inserting in-game situations in which those flaws will come to light and be challenged. Should the specifically affected character(s) accept those challenges and overcome, then both of you receive the experience.
  • I have maximum room for ten players each night. Starting with the first session, any pre-existing players will be given first-pick placement for the following sessions. There’s one catch: when your character dies or gets turned, you are out of the game as a player. You can still hang around and provide an audience, and even give suggestions to the GM (me) on ways to screw with the others, but you are out of the prize lineup. Additionally, if ever you have to miss a session for any reason, your character is killed or turned, no exceptions. If there are open player slots, new players can drop in and take a place in the game, as new survivors encountered in the story. New players most certainly can have a go at the prizes, too.
  • I will function as a hands-off GM. My role will be that of antagonist and world-setter, and nothing more. There will be no plot or meta-story other than the ones you create with your own characters. My job will be to make their lives miserable, and make them suffer horrible, disgustin, ignoble fates. Players will have enhanced story control through the activation of other characters’ nagative traits, using them to create bad situations for experience.

So it’s all up to you. You can work together to survive. You can resolve your differences, ignore your fellows’ flaws, get past their twisted pasts in order to survive as a team. Or you can throw your fellows to the wolves and take the prize for yourself.

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End-of-Week 6/4/2010: Itchy Tasty

Been a damn busy week. Not enough time for blogging! So here’s my weekend update, a day late.

First, a link. Check out Universal Dead, a new low-budget web series about zombies. It’s… not bad. Not bad at all.

For the last few days I’ve been going back and forth between Dragon Age and Alpha Protocol. My current goal in Dragon Age is to play as a solo Archer Rogue + Dog combo for as long as I can manage, outside of the few spots in the game where other companions are forced upon you. I’ve always been a fan of odd “challenge runs” in video games, and I figure this one would be called the “Post-Apocalypse” DA run – survivor + dog, in other words.

Alpha Protocol has been fun. I see a game series in the making here, and this one’s a good start. It reminds me a lot of the original Mass Effect – awesome in many ways, but marred by some rather aggravating design choices. I’m only a few hours in, though, so I’ll save my full decision for a later time after more hands-on experience with it.

I met a few awesome folks and sold a few more copies of Cannibal Contagion this past Memorial Day. Guardian Games hosted their second annual “May of the Dead” celebration, and I was there pimpin’ my game and hanging out with my fellow nerd. Had some great talks with a fellow from the local chapter of the Zombie Squad, and ran a hilariously fun session of my game for a new crew of survivors. Thanks for playing, folks!

I’ll close this post with some thoughts on video game trailers. First, read this article. Go ahead, it’s a good read. Watch all the trailers.

Done? Understand that I get where the writer is coming from, and I whole-heartedly disagree. I want actual game-play footage in my video game trailers, goddammit. Without actual gameplay footage, I might have made the mistake of purchasing any number of generic “guns plus one cool trick no one else does” first-person shooters. I want to actually see how this game is different. You can take a shitty game, give it an awesome story, and fill the trailer with so many awesome cinematics and popular industrial tunes and the consumers won’t know the depth of your deception until they pay for it and hate it, because you never showed them the actual game.

I want to see the game. I don’t give a rat’s ass about marketing cinematics which most likely won’t even be in the final product, and probably look better than that product will, too. Yeah, that new Deus Ex trailer looks cool, and shows us a wonderful cyberpunk world with a compelling story. SO did the trailers for Neocron. Remember how much that game sucked?

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Saturday May 30th is “May of the Dead” at Guardian Games!

Read all the juicy details here!

I’ll be selling the last of the signed-and-numbered copies of Cannibal Contagion’s first print run there. Additionally, I’ll be giving out free copies of the PDF to all who take part in the demos, as special thank you gifts for coming in and playing my game. I’m also looking forward to kicking some ass in the Left 4 Dead Survival Mode tournaments.

See you there!

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