Saturday, July 8, 2023

I Didn't See That Coming - Watching the Walkers


Watching 'Fear the Walking Dead' has reminded me of one of the biggest rug-pulls in my roleplaying game playing.

Let's set the scene - in one of my recent blog-posts I mentioned that, after I stopped watching The Walking Dead when they killed off one of my favourite characters in the most brutal way, I finally went back to watching the series, and kinda binged the last five seasons in a couple of weeks. I must say, considering I couldn't see the appeal of Negan, especially after that scene, and wondered why they'd chosen him for a sequel series with Maggie - I finally see it. Negan's story arc was actually really good, and by the end I could honestly see a guy who felt remorse for the horrific things he'd done, and was trying to do better.

We finished season 11 last night, and my wife surprised me by saying she actually missed watching the series already - so I dug out the first season of Fear the Walking Dead that she'd bought for me on DVD back when we were really into the series and the comics... just before we stopped watching completely. About half-way through the incredibly tense first episode I had a weird flashback to an RPG we played as teenagers - and how Free League could do the same with their cool The Walking Dead Universe RPG.


Back in the 80's, one of our usual GMs (Pete) ran a game for us using his homebrew Odyssey game system. He said it was just to test things out and make sure it all worked, and we generated some pretty ordinary characters. As it was a homebrew, we had generic character sheets, and we all played ordinary people invited onto a cruise ship as a prize for a mysterious contest, and we figured it was going to be one of those murder-mystery type games. 

The sessions continued, and suddenly the ship started sinking, and disaster! We washed up on an island, and figured 'oh, it's going to be a survival game, where we're shipwrecked and there will be badguys and stuff like that'. (Bear in mind, this was decades before Lost

But that wasn't it. Something happened, and suddenly we gained superpowers. Yes, we'd started a superhero game, but had no idea that we were playing a superhero game until the powers mysteriously kicked in. I did not see that coming. None of us did. Pete looked pleased that his plan had come together, and his RPG based on the comic series The Elementals came into fruition.


Why did Fear the Walking Dead remind me of this? Watching that first episode I just thought how cool it would be to be a player in a The Walking Dead Universe RPG campaign, but not actually know that was the game you're playing. 

Have character sheets that don't have the logo, or any really obvious rule bits. Have the players generate generic characters, and make them think they're going to play a cool murder-mystery game or something else - anything that doesn't involve the walking dead. Play a couple of intriguing games with the players thinking the game is one thing, maybe some news reports in the background of rising tensions, and then... the murder-mystery changes genre suddenly when the body at the murder scene gets back up and starts attacking!

I know it's unlikely with licensed games like this, as you kinda have to have the logo and copyright on the character sheet, but it's certainly something that can be done easily by GMs with a bit of tweaking to the sheets. It's like taking a 'Session Zero' in a different direction.

Like the prelude bit in the old Vampire: The Masquerade games, but if you didn't know you were going to play Vampire

I could really see Free League doing a 'set up' book, just filled with GM advice and campaign ideas so that players could experience that same rug-pull moment. It'd be awesome. 

In the mid-80s, when we played that Odyssey game, it was amazing and revolutionary. I'm sure you're all doing something similar in your games now...

1 comment:

Smileymiler said...

Yes. Wakeys Odessey games were superb. And I recall the superheroes version, but I don't recall the set up. That was brilliant, but I have no memory... I wonder if I missed that meeting? I did have a superhero character though. Odd. No wonder it was cool though. Wakey is a fewking genius.