A look at Fantasy Flight Games' take on zombies
We recently chatted with Tim Flanders, a spokesperson for Fantasy Flight Games about their table top roleplaying game 'End of the World: the Zombie Apocalypse.' The game is one in a series of RPGs focusing on the potential end of humanity and one of the settings involves (you guessed it) the living dead.
When were the four End of the World books released?
End of the World: Zombie Apocalypse was release in the fourth quarter of 2014, Wrath of the Gods released in second quarter or 2015, Alien Invasion in first quarter 2016, and Revolt of the Machines third quarter, this same year.
Who worked on them?
Andrew Fischer designed the the elegant and simple rules system for End of the World, based on concepts from the original game, El Fin Del Mundo by EDGE studios. Tim Cox was our one-and-only author for the scenarios of all four books in the line and he knocked it out of the park writing twenty unique scenarios, five for each book. John Taillon was the art director of all four books, working with artists to make amazing, characterful art to seamlessly blend with the art from EDGE’s El Fin Del Mundo.
What is the premise to each book?
Each of the four books focuses on one particular apocalyptic theme. Within each book, we present five versions of that apocalypse, each complete with timelines, explanations of what players experience, behind-the-scenes details for GM’s about what is really going on, locations to give GM’s ideas of the sorts of
obstacles or encounters the PCs might face, and Non-player character and monster profiles to populate those locales and to give the PCs active, dynamic challenges.
Each apocalypse scenario is accompanied by a post-apocalypse in which players can explore how the world and society have changed in the face of disaster. These post-apocalypse scenarios include player and GM information, as well as locations and NPCs.
The first book, Zombie Apocalypse, as the name implies, deals with zombie outbreaks that more or less wipe out human civilization. Wrath of the Gods portrays five unique catastrophe’s with religious or mythological themes. Alien Invasion, presents five alien species seeking total human extinction. And finally, Revolt of the Machines explores five disasters of our own making, technology gone very, very wrong.
Could you tell us about the character generation system?
Character generation is a little different in End of the World than it is in most roleplaying games. Often, the player picks the sort of fictional character they would like to play, fitting into the themes and concepts of whichever fictional world the game takes place in. In End of the World the characters are fictionalized versions of the players themselves. Each character is defined primarily by two things in the game: their characteristics and their features. Characteristics measure the raw physical, mental, and social abilities of a person, each with a number between 1 and 5. Features, meanwhile, represent unique positive and negative aspects of a character that will help or hinder them in performing tasks. Unlike the broad characteristics, these are descriptive traits, unique to the individual that possesses them. One person might have the positive feature of “+Marathon Runner” that would help with many physical tasks, while another might have a negative feature of “–Shy” that hinders them during social tasks.
Making a character of yourself is no simple task, since by it’s very nature, you can’t really be objective in such things. To help add a more realistic view of each player’s in-game persona, End of the World uses a system of voting. The players are given a limited number of points to assign to their six characteristics to set the characteristics to values they feel are appropriate to the player’s real-world capabilities. Then, the other players in the group secretly vote on whether they think the given characters physical, mental, and social characteristics are too high or too low. If the votes come out even, then the characteristics remain as the player originally chose them. However, if the vote comes out as “too high” or “too low,” the player must choose one of the voted-on characteristics to reduce or increase depending on the result of the vote. Once this voting is finished, each player gets to come up with unique physical, mental, and social features for themselves. To balance out the effects of the voting process, players have to add extra positive features to areas that were reduced and negative features to areas that were increased.
Once each character’s characteristics and features are sorted out, the last step is to write down any objects that player currently has on their person as their “inventory,” then they’re ready to face the End of the World!
Does your zombie game feature variations on the usual type of creature featured in horror films?
In Zombie Apocalypse, the five scenarios are largely differentiated by the variation in the zombies themselves and the particular mythos of how they are created and what it takes to take them out. In one scenario we cleave closely to some of the foundational mythos of slow, shambling corpses risen from their graves in the wake of a stellar phenomenon. In another, the zombies are fleet, ferocious creatures driven by rage and bloodlust. We’ve got more “out there” variations as well, including colonies of parasites that take over the living and the dead to create horrifying monstrosities of conglomerated flesh, gristle, and bone.