Sep 30, 2012, 1:13:18 AM9/30/12
Every Halloween, my gaming group comes together to play a game we've
dubbed "Zombiepocalypse", a home-brew RPG on surviving the zombie
apocalypse. Several years back, I posted a message detailing the rules
of said game. It was loosely based on 2nd Edition AD&D - complete with
the dreaded THAC0 - and was a formalization of rules that we had
mostly been making up as we went along.
I posted the rules to this newsgroup on October 31st. On the following
Saturday - when our group actually got together to actually play (we
don't always manage to play on Halloween itself) - my fellow player
(hi Chuck!) explained that he had written up a NEW system for the game
that he wanted us to try. He'd done so partly in response to the very
article I had written which, he explained, made it clear to him how
clunky our system had become. This new system was designed to
streamline the rules.
Over the past two years, we've used these rules for three sessions
(two Halloween adventures and one on April Fools). I've GM'd one of
these sessions and have been a player in the other two. On the whole,
our group is satisfied with the change, although I think it has had
some effect on the tone and pacing of the adventures. Of course, our
group has been playing together for over a decade and the rules and
dice are almost a formality, regardless of the system. We all know
each other well and are willing to work together to ensure we all have
a good time. Whether these rules will hold up for any other group is a
question I cannot myself answer. They work for us.
Anyway, I've decided to write down the rules and share them with the
world again (and now that I've written down THESE rules I expect there
will be an entirely new system for this year's game). I've written
these pretty much from memory and cleaned them up a bit so as to make
them more of an actual "system". A lot of our rules in Zombiepocalypse
are made up as we go along and the rules from one encounter may
contradict what we do in the next, so that's not as easily done as
said. Still, I think the end result is worth the effort.
So, here we go. Zombiepocalypse 3rd Edition. I hope you find it
/// Zombiepocalypse 3rd Edition \\\
(aka, the D6 Version)
Zombiepocalypse 3rd Ed. (henceforth Z3E) is a fast paced role-playing
game very loosely based upon RPG concepts from the D&D rules. The goal
is to replicate a quick moving action survival game not too encumbered
with rules. It is designed to keep the players moving, worrying less
about things like stats or inventory management and more about the
never ending zombie horde hungering after their savory and vulnerable
flesh. It is also designed to have an extremely high mortality rate.
Things like level and skill advancement are discarded; most characters
are fairly generic. Players don't get too attached to their PCs since
it is likely they will go through more than a few in a gaming session.
GMs are encouraged to run games "on the fly" as much as possible,
again keeping with the concept of rules light system. If you need to
make a ruling on a situation not covered, make it up as you go and
feel no obligation to justify your call beyond the need to keep things
fun and moving.
One of the core changes from the 2nd Edition of the game is that Z3E
does away with all the funky dice common to RPGs *except* the good old
D6. Z2E used a lot of concepts from AD&D, so the D20 and D10 were
often in play; in the new Z3E, all rolls utilize the common six-sided
die. Concepts such as armor class and hitpoints have dropped as well.
Character creation is much simpler in the previous Zombiepocalypse 2nd
Edition (Z2E). Every character starts with the standard D&D Attribute
stats (STR/CON/DEX/WIS/INT/CHR), with a base score of 3. Characters
also have a base "to-hit" score of 3. They also have basic skills but
no specializations (see below for skill use)
Players are given three "skill-points" which can be applied to any
stat or skill. No more than one point each can be applied to any
skill. These points can be applied to any of the stats
(STR/CON/DEX/etc), the "to-hit" score or to add a specialization in a
particular skill. Alternately, these points can be spent during
gameplay to either force a re-roll of a die or add +1 to the results.
Similar to Z2E, character creation can be performed on the fly; a
player does not have to declare how he is spending his points until he
actually needs the skill, at which point the point can be spent.
Equipment is assigned by the GM. The PC may start with nothing or with
Lastly, the player needs to assign a name and, optionally, think up a
quick background or description for his character (something along the
lines of, "Bob, an retired cop with a huge stomach"). Its not
necessary, but it adds some to the roleplaying part of the game (and
leads to some interesting discussions about what constitutes that
character's "basic" skillset;-)
Z3E has a high mortality rate for characters; if (when) a character
dies, he can just create a new one. The only rule is that he cannot
create a clone of the previous character; if the PC who just died had
a +1 "to-hit", +1 STR and +1 to automatic rifle use, the next
character cannot have those same skills.
There is no character class nor are there "levels" or experience
points. It is not expected the characters will survive long enough to
level up anyway ;-)
Characters are considered to be "average" humans with all the basic
skills for getting through modern life (so they can drive a car, have
basic knowledge on gun use, minor technical or medical skills) but no
particular expertise in any area. Use of these basic skills are
considered automatic in most situations; if a roll is needed (perhaps
because of a difficult situation), a 1-3 on a D6 indicates success.
Players can also give their characters specialization (at the cost of
one skill-point per skill) in certain abilities. These might include
things such as mechanical expertise, lockpicking, skill with a certain
weapon (such as automatic rifles), or medicine. If a character buys
one of these skills with their points, they can successfully use them
the same way they use their basic skills (e.g., automatic normally,
1-3 on d6 in difficult situations). If a player buys a proficiency
with a weapon, he gets a +1 bonus to all "to-hit" and "damange" rolls
(see Combat below) when using that weapon.
Skills do not have to be declared at character creation; so long as
the players have unspent skill-points, they can buy them at any time.
However, any previous rolls that may have been affected by those
skills prior to that skill being purchased stand as valid
(e.g, a player fights zombies with an M16 and misses for first three
rounds of combat. Before the start of round 4, he spends one of his
"skill-points" to become proficient with automatic rifles. All future
"to-hit" rolls made with the M16 will now have a +1 bonus; however,
the misses from previous rolls still remain true).
The GM sometimes may also have players roll against their character's
Attribute Stats (e.g., roll against their Strength score to determine
if they can open a stuck door). Since most characters have scores of
1-3, regardless the attribute, a roll of 3 or less on a D6 indicates
success. If the player has allotted any skill-points to improve a
particular Attribute, a roll of 4 or less will indicate success.
Combat has been simplified in Z3E. There is no surprise, initiative,
armor class, or hitpoints. The players just have to worry about three
stats; their "To-Hit" rolls, Damage rolls, and the number of attacks
they are allowed. The type of weapon and range of the target can also
affect these rolls.
Combat utilizes combat rounds. Each round is assumed to be about six
seconds. In combat, the players always go first, then their opponents.
The player to the right of the GM goes first, followed by each player
to the right of that one until all the players have had an action.
Each player declares his attack as the first step. They can chose to
attack, move or perform an action. By default, most players only get
one attack; however, some weapons (such as machine guns) allow the
character to attack more than once per round. If the player gets more
than one attack per round, he must declare them all at the same time
(that is, "I will attack zombie #1 in front of me, then zombie #2 on
the right, then zombie #3 walking toward me".
If the player choses to attack, he must first determine if he hits his
target. This is called rolling his "To Hit". The player rolls a D6. If
he rolls a 1-3, he hits his target. If he rolls 4-6, he misses.
Players who have specialization in a particular weapon (see skill use
above) and are using that weapon get to add +1 to that roll (e.g., if
a player is specialized in hand-guns and is firing a hand-gun will hit
on a roll of 1-4 on D6). The range to the target may also effect this
roll, with more distant targets resulting in a penalty (see "Movement
and Range" below. Some weapons may also affect to the "to-hit" roll
(see section on Weapons below).
Next, the player rolls a D6 to determine what damage he did to his
target and consults the table below:
1-3 - Target is Staggered and cannot take any actions this
4-5 - Target is Injured. He cannot take any actions this round
and will suffer a -1 penalty on all future rolls
6 - Target is dead
Certain weapons may affect this roll. For instance, high-explosives
may add a +2 bonus to any damage roll. Some weapons may affect more
than one target even though it only counts as one attack (see section
on Weapons below)
Alternately, can move or make an action. Players can only make one
action each round. This action can be any simple activity that might
be possible within the time (helping somebody back up, pulling
something out of a pack, reloading a gun or barring a door). More
complicated actions may take more than one round.
Players can also chose to move, either to retreat or get into a better
position. Players can move up to 3 hexes (see Movement and Range
below) per round and still fight the next round. Alternately, they can
run up to 6 hexes per round, but then have to spend the following
round readying themselves before they can return to combat.
Once all the players have made their actions, the GM rolls for the
monsters. The process is similar. For each monster, the GM first
performs a "To-Hit" roll on a d6 to determine if the monster hits his
target. For zombies, a roll of 1 on d6 results in a hit, while 2-6 is
a miss (the zombies may get certain conditional modifiers as bonuses).
IF the players are engaged with the living, their foes have the same
"to-hit" chance as the players (e.g., 1-3 on d6). Zombies can only
attack when in melee range; human foes can engage at range if they
have the appropriate weapons.
If 3 zombies are already attacking a single PC, the fourth and above
monsters get a +1 to their "to-hit" rolls (that is, instead of hitting
only on a roll of 1 on d6, they hit on a roll of 1-2 on d6) This is
called the "Pressing Horde" modifier.
If the foe hits, the GM rolls for damage utilizing the same table as
used by the PCs.
1-3 - Target is Staggered and cannot take any actions next
4-5 - Target is Injured. He cannot take any actions next round
and will suffer a -1 penalty on all future rolls until healed
6 - Target is dead
If a zombie rolls a 4-5, the GM secretly rolls another D6; a roll of 6
indicates the player is infected (see below for Infection). If the PCs
are engaged with the living, their foes may be using weapons that
provide bonuses to their damage rolls.
Any one who is "staggered" is assumed to have weathered the assault
without any significant damage but is either temporarily stunned or
just too busy forcing his attacker back to take any actions the
following round. However, thereafter they can engage in combat without
penalty. Injured creatures or characters have been physically harmed
and, in addition to not being able to engage the next round, will
suffer a -1 penalty to all future rolls. Note that this penalty
stacks, to a maximum of -3! Dead creatures or characters, of course,
are out of play.
Ammunition and Reloading
Any fully-loaded gun used by the PC is assumed to have enough ammo for
six rounds of combat, after which it needs to be reloaded. If a player
finds a weapon that allows multiple attacks per round (such as a
machine gun), then those are not counted as separate uses of ammo; it
is rounds of attack, not total number of attacks that is counted. Nor
is this a count of actual ammunition (or instance, a fully-loaded
Glock may be able to hold 17 bullets, but it still uses up all that
ammo in six combat rounds). If a weapon grants a player multiple
attacks per round but the player does not chose to use all those
attacks, the ammunition is still considered to have been spent
(although the GM may rule otherwise). Assuming the characters have the
necessary ammo, a weapon can usually be reloaded in one combat round.
Some weapons may take longer to reload.
Injuries and Healing
If a player is injured in combat, he will suffer a -1 penalty /per
injury/ to all rolls, including "to-hit", damage, any skill checks or
any rolls made against his attributes. However, the maximum penalty is
-3. Injured characters also suffer a -1 to movement speed per injury
(again, with a maximum penalty of -3). There is no limit to the total
number of injuries a player can sustain. Even though the maximum
penalty is -3, the total number of injuries should still be counted.
A character who spent a skill point to buy a medical skill can "heal"
a fellow character of one injury per day, assuming the appropriate
medical supplies are available. This does not require a skill-roll on
the part of the healer. If the character has more than one injury, the
healer must roll a 1-3 on d6 to heal the second injury, 1-2 on d6 on
the third, and 1 on d6 for the fourth. No more than four injuries can
be healed per character per day. Only one check can be made per injury
If a player has four or more injuries, he only has a -3 penalty to his
rolls. Healing one of those injuries will not remove any of the
penalties, however, until the character only has three injuries
remaining. Only when the third injury is healed will the penalty drop
to -2 (with two remaining injuries, and then -1 when he is down to 1
If medical supplies are not available, healing is still possible but
the first injury requires a skill-roll of 1-3 on d6, the second 1-2 on
d6, the third 1 on a d6.
Characters without medical skills cannot heal fellow players. It is
assumed that any injury serious enough to cause a penalty requires
trained medical care beyond the application of simple bandages or
aspirin. Nor, as a general rule, can players heal themselves for the
Once an injury is healed, all penalties from that injury (-1 to all
rolls, -1 to movement) are removed, so long as the total number of
injuries remaining is 3 or less.
If a player is attacked by a zombie and the zombie rolls 4-5 on its
damage roll, the GM secretly rolls a D6 to determine if the character
was Infected with the zombie virus. If the GM rolls a 1, the character
is infected. The character will die in 2d6 hours and come back as an
undead monster. There are no penalties to the character until he dies,
aside from any caused by the injuries that caused the Infection.
If a player examines his body to determine if he was bitten, the GM
will secretly inform him of the results, whether positive or negative.
He can then chose what to tell his fellow players.
If another player attempts to heal the injured player, the GM will
also secretly notify the healer as to whether or not the injured
player was bitten/infected.
Whether there is a cure to the Infection is up to the GM. Finding the
cure - or even some medication that slows down the disease - may be
part of the adventure.
Movement and Range
Range is counted in hexes. Each hex is ten feet.
Melee range is 1 hex. Any creature 1 hex away can engage a creature in
a neighboring hex in melee combat. For simplification, only one person
can occupy a hex at any time. Players or monsters cannot pass through
an occupied hex.
Short range is 1-6 hexes. Any ranged combat within this range suffers
no "to-hit" penalty
Medium range is 7-12 hexes. Any ranged combat within this range
suffers a -1 penalty to the "to-hit" roll.
Long range is 13-18 hexes. Any ranged combat within this range suffers
a -2 penalty to the "to-hit" roll
Any attempt to hit a target beyond 19 hexes suffers a -3 penalty to
the "to-hit" roll. The GM may rule that some targets are just too far
for there to be any chance to hit, regardless of the to-hit roll. Some
weapons may offer bonuses to offset the "to-hit" penalties from range.
Players can move 6 hexes per round normally, or 3 hexes when in
combat. Injuries may affect that speed (characters with a -3 penalty
to movement - the maximum allowed from injuries - are effectively
immobilized during combat, although they can still fight)
Zombies move 3 hexes per round normally, or 1 hex per round in combat.
Players or monsters can move at full speed during combat, but then
they have to spend the next round "getting ready" (e.g., turning
around, shouldering their weapon, aiming, etc) before engaging. If
they intend to keep running, they do not lose a round in between
rounds; they can just keep running.
The primary monsters in Zombiepocalypse 3E are, unsurprisingly,
zombies. These shuffling undead are individually not much of a threat
but they make up for it by their sheer persistence and vast numbers.
Zombies have a "to-hit" of 1, a base movement of 3 and - if necessary
- are assumed to have attributes (STR/DEX/CON) of 2. They have no
skills and can only engage at melee range. If 3 of the monsters are
already attacking a single PC, the fourth and above monsters get a +1
to their "to-hit" rolls (this is called "the pressing horde"
GMs should throw mobs of the undead at the players in order to
maintain the challenge; the PCs will mow down the undead at range so
large numbers will be required to ensure that the zombies survive to
get into melee range so they can actually attack. Zombies are not
smart enough to use any tactics, but noise will attract them; one
common strategy for GMs to use is have the players engage a small
(6-12) band of undead, only to have another band join in the attack
several rounds later. They are also all around, so it is equally
common for players to retreat around a corner only to find another
horde waiting for them (often at closer range)
The GM can create new types of undead if he chooses; one common
variant is the "fast zombie" (moves 8 per round, 4 in combat) or the
"tank" (+2 to damage rolls against PCs, ignore stagger effect).
However, this can adversely affect the survivability of the players
and such variants should be used sparingly.
The players may also encounter human foes, fellow survivors who are
trying to make their own way in the undead hell that the world has
become. These survivors may or may not be hostile. They are assumed to
have the same abilities as the players and can engage at range.
There are a variety of weapons in Zombiepocalypse 3rd Edition.
Different weapons can modify the number of attacks, chance to hit,
range, damage or number of monsters hit. The stats for a selection of
weapons follows below
Name of Weapon
To hit: bonus modifiers to the "to-hit" roll
Dmg: modifiers to the "damage" roll
#ATs: number of attacks per round
Range: special bonuses for range
Special: any unique abilities
Range: no range penalty
Special: reload takes 3 rounds
Range: -1 at ranges beyond 6 hex
Range: 1-3 hex
Special: affects all targets in neighboring hexes
Range: 1-2 hex
Special: no damage; target is immobilized until extinguished
Shield (shield bash)
Special: no damage; target is automatically staggered
Armor (or the lack thereof)
One significant change in Z3E was the dropping of the armor class from
the previous edition. Z2E was more clearly based on AD&D, which is a
melee-based game. However, modern guns largely make armor useless and
- as evidenced by movies - largely ineffective against zombies as
well. Therefore, the whole concept was left out of the game. If the GM
feels (or the players make a worthy argument) that armor might have
some effect in combat, feel free to add a penalty to the damage roll
of the attacker.
Playing Zombiepocalypse 3rd Edition
Zombiepocalypse is intended as a quick, pick-me-up game and is not
really suited to long campaigns. The PCs are generic and replaceable
and the setting doesn't really allow for long-term planning. It's
basically running from one combat to the next, ostensibly with some
sort of goal but mostly just trying to survive. However, this lack of
depth does mean that it is only good for short sessions, otherwise the
lack of variety starts to become obvious.
The setting is the modern day world. For some reason (but usually
attributed to some virus), the dead are rising from the graves and
attacking the living. Anyone bitten by a zombie eventually dies and
becomes zombie themselves. Civilization collapses and survivors roam
the cities and landscape trying to keep alive. The player characters
are one such band. On their own and without any backup, they try to
keep alive as the undead lumber after them. Maybe it will be a slow
chase across the wilderness; maybe the heroes will hole up in home in
the suburbs and try to survive. They will need to look for food and
supplies to keep alive; maybe they will encounter other survivors.
Perhaps the players will hear of some
rumored safehouse, or even a cure!
Starting a game is easy; the GM should have a basic idea of the
setting and where and what the players are going to do, but a lot of
the adventure can be made up on the fly (our last adventure for
instance consisted of the following notes: "in the mountains;
avalanche"). Combat should be frequent and the zombies should be
numerous (small groups of undead rarely have the chance to get into
melee range). Things can be spiced up with unusual encounters (in the
last adventure, a crashed Russian AN-225 cargo plane, filled with
living and undead Russian soldiers). If a particular skill is needed
and the players don't have it (or don't have an available skill-point
to buy the skill), the GM should throw the party a bone with a helpful
NPC - or, alternately, a new PC with the necessary skill to replace a
fallen adventure. Again, as an example from our own adventures, we
found a tank we couldn't drive and shortly thereafter met Dmitri, an
NPC who just happened to have a tank-handling skill. The PCs goals can
be as simple as "just survive" to an assigned goal ("get to Fort Haven
on the other side of the mountains"). Because the living are so
scarce, there's usually little need for detailed NPC profiles or even
rationalizations for why things are the way they are; just think up a
few interesting set-pieces and off you go.
An important thing to remember about Z3E is that it is intentionally
lethal towards the player characters, and GMs should not be afraid to
kill the heroes, singly or even the party as a whole. Character
creation is made intentionally simple and can be done "on the fly" in
order to facilitate replacement of lost characters. It is assumed that
shortly after any one PC dies, the rest of the party just happens to
stumble upon another survivor. Usually replacement characters just
pick up the loot of the fallen PC, but sometimes the GM may assign
them new gear. Even total-party-kills are survivable, since it is
assumed the new band just happens to stumble across the dead PCs and
they continue the adventure from there.
The ruleset is purposefully limited in order to keep things
streamlined and fast-moving. Most "rules-lawyering" happens in
argument about what constitutes the character's basic skill-set (for
instance, "Wouldn't a soldier be assumed to automatically be
proficient in the use of an automatic rifle and not have to spend a
skill-point?") but the general answer to this is, unless it's a skill
everyone has it is not considered a "basic skill", even if that's not
entirely realistic. The GM, of course, the final judge of all
arguments. Furthermore, any decisions made can not necessarily be
taken as precedent for any similar situations that may occur in the
My Experiences with Z3E
Our group has been plays a zombie-based adventure every year around
Halloween. It started as a standard D&D adventure and, over the years,
morphed into something entirely new. However, its roots in the old 2nd
Edition AD&D system were very obvious and sometimes were quite clunky.
Two years ago, a fellow GM unveiled his "new rules" to our group. The
rules were based on single D6 and intended to streamline the game. In
this, I think he succeeded; the game was much easier to pick-up and
combat calculations were greatly simplified.
It did, however, change the tone of the game somewhat. The previous
rules already made for a fast paced game with a high mortality rate
for the characters. This became even more so in the new edition. The
changes made in Z3E made for a game where the party was lethal at
range, but as soon as the zombies closed to melee the tables quickly
turned against them. Thus, in order to maintain the challenge, the GM
had to launch large and more frequent hordes at the PCs in order for
the undead to have any chance to get into melee range. Combat -
already a major focus in the previous edition - came to dominate in
This wasn't helped by the streamlined character creation. Skills were
almost useless; it was usual for people to take "+1 to-hit", "skill:
automatic rifle", "skill: medicine", with little variation. Almost
nobody spent points on attribute stats. This meant characters in Z3E
became generic and lacked individuality. Of course, we never invested
that much personality into a Zombiepocalypse character regardless of
which edition we used - after all, it's likely that character would be
dead in 30 minutes so it was hardly worth the effort - but at least
with the previous edition of the game you would sometimes experiment
with strange builds just to see what would happen. For instance, one
memorable example from our older system was a PC who used her awesome
charisma and intelligence to convince all the male PCs to throw away
their lives to save her, despite the fact she had no real combat
skills herself. I can't see that happening in Z3E. In fact, in one
instance a badly mauled party purposely force a total-party-kill in
order to get fresh characters rather than try to fix up their battered
group, so replacable were considered the characters.
Still, the joy of Zombiepocalypse - at least for our group - was
seeing how long we could keep any of our PCs alive (usually, "not
very") and what insane stunts we could get away with ("Run for a car
and plow it into a horde, killing enough of them - and sacrificing
that PC's life - so the others could escape"). Because the game was so
absolutely lethal and because there was no real penalty to dying
anyway, we would take all sorts of ridiculous risks that we never
would in our "real" RPG. After all, all our characters in
Zombiepocalypse were doomed anyway, so often the best reward was going
out in the brightest blaze of glory! This hasn't changed a bit in the
new edition. It's still a mad mix of "Oh crap, I'm going to die" mixed
with "What the hell, let's try this!". And besides, no matter what
rules or dice you use, killing zombies is *always* fun.