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The Walking Dead Universe RPG $24.99 $19.99
Publisher: Free League Publishing
by Thomas [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/03/2023 16:45:10

This is an excellent Zombie horror survival RPG. Even if you aren't a fan of The Walking Dead as source material, this game mechanically an excellent way to enjoy the Zombie Apocalypse genre. You can easily change a few words and make it just about any Zombie setting you like or even one of your own. <br /> The way it handles combat against hordes of the undead is especially impressive to me. Streamlining it to single skill checks to manage or reduce the overall threat level the represent rather than making combat granular and forcing you to kill each zombie individually is an inspired choice. It helps gameplay stay narrative-focused while still letting the undead represent a significant threat. After all, one failure is all it takes to force you to roll on the Walker Attack table... And a bad roll on that could mean you're dead. Sometimes in a few days, sometimes in hours, or sometimes immediately.<br /> The 'Threat Level' itself is omnipresent, even in your group's Sanctuary. Make too much noise, fire your gun in a risky place, you might draw the attention of the horde. As the threat level rises, your options become more limited. At the lowest levels you can try to sneak away, or just outrun them. At the highest levels the only option left is to fight your way out.<br /> Contrasting that, combat against other humans is handled much more tactically, whether it's a duel between two characters or a brawl amongst several. Most checks are contested, and every move matters, but combat doesn't feel clunky. It feels quick and brutal, because player characters only have 3 HP before they are 'Broken' and are either critically injured or killed.<br /> All of this without even getting into character creation or any other mechanics.<br /> In The Walking Dead character creation begins with players picking an Archetype that determines which of their four attributes is their Key Attribute, which of their skills is their Key Skill, and what gear they start with.<br /> After this, the Archetype serves no mechanical purpose. It's the life you had BEFORE the outbreak, after all.<br /> You get 13 points to distribute among your four attributes, Strength, Agility, Wits and Empathy. None of these attributes can go lower than 2 or higher than 4. The exception is your Key Attribute, which can go as high as 5.<br /> You also have 12 skills, and get twelve points to distribute between them. They range from 0-5 but can't start higher than 2 at creation. Again, the exception is your Archetype's key skill, which can go as high as 3.<br /> Players also start with an Issue and a Drive. The issue is something, not necessarily negative, that influences or informs their behavior and decisions. It's something the GM can use to create narratively precarious or complex situations for them. Your Archetype has suggestions for your starting Issue, but the game also encourages you to come up with your own.<br /> Their Drive is something that keeps them going, whether it's a person, a Creed or some other purpose. They can invoke it once a session to add two dice to any roll. If they LOSE that drive, that might lead to a 'Breaking Point.' They'll either have to reignite the drive or find a new one.<br /> Additionally, players have one NPC and one PC that are their 'Anchors' who can reduce their stress level. Players accumulate stress through events in gameplay that would, reasonably, mentally or emotionally strain someone. An anchor acts to help balance that stress. However, they can also cause a 'Breaking Point' if something happens to them, such as if they're kidnapped, killed, or you fall out with them.<br /> Breaking Points are an end of session event. At the end of play, you go down the list of potential breaking points (Killing someone who couldn't fight back, losing your Anchor, having something you worked really hard to build or accomplish destroyed, etc). If you fail, you're 'Shattered' and your character completely loses their Drive. You have to work over a session, or several, roleplaying your character realizing you still have things worth fighting for, until the players and GM agree you've gotten past it and have a drive again.<br /> The final thing you get is one of three Talents specific to your Archetype. These can give you bonuses to certain rolls, swap out what skills apply to certain rolls, things like that.<br /> While each class only has three, you aren't limited by that after character creation. You can spend EXP to buy a new Talent from any archetype, or from the list of 'General' talents, but you need to have fulfilled the prerequisite in roleplay.<br /> Specifically these are NOT statistical prerequisites. For example, the Outcast Archetype has a Talent called Lone Wolf where they can have themselves as one of their Anchors. The prerequisite for this Talent is to have been betrayed by someone you trusted.<br /> Mechanically, it's very close to Free League's Alien. The dice engine is simple, you roll a number of D6s for your skill + attribute and add any Stress you have to it. If any come up as a 6, you succeed. If not, you fail. If you roll a One on any of the 'Stress' dice you 'mess up' and have to roll on a table to determine what goes wrong.<br /> Finally, there are three modes of play, Campaign, Survival and Solo. Campaign is exactly what it sounds like, where you create a custom storyline with original characters. You gain experience at the end of each session by answering a series of questions about events that happened that session. "Did you participate? Did you learn something new? Did you explore a new section of the map? etc." For every yes, you get one EXP.<br /> Players work together to build their starting Haven. They decide what precisely it is, what it's issues are, how available resources are, etc. They also create five NPCs that are part of their community, give them each expertise and issues, and the GM can add a Secret Issue the players don't know about yet.<br /> Survival is much sleeker. You use a pre-written scenario with pre-written characters and a cast of NPCs. The GM plots everything out and it essentially operates like a One-Shot where everything ends when you accomplish your goal or everyone is dead.<br /> Solo play is much more like a journaling game. You create the haven, your character, one NPC as your companion, and the other NPCs who already live in the community you've just joined. You keep track of projects, roll on a random table to create rumors to investigate, answers to Yes/No questions about the world, results of Mess Ups, or even themes for your area or events.<br /> Overall, I'm REALLY excited to dig in and get a campaign going. I think Free League has once again absolutely nailed it.<br />

[5 of 5 Stars!]
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The Walking Dead Universe RPG
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