Wednesday, 12 September 2012
Outbreak: Undead RPG rulebook
However, I was immediately on my guard when I opened the book. The main body of text is presented as hand-written notes on lined note-paper. Yes, it is different and it gives the book a unique feel but I was not impressed by this format.
The back of the book lists the following highlights of the game -
"A simple and unique percentile based game system.
Use of everyday items as weapons against the undead.
Endless scenario types that can form missions from any and all existing zombie lore.
Easy to use charts to customise outbreak scenarios for players of all levels of experience.
Dynamic and realistic rules including factors such as "Panic," "Pain" and "Empathy."
Character templates for all survivor archetypes: firemen, military personnel, civilians and more!
Even the ability to play yourself as a character!"
The core mechanics of the game is a percentile system. Rolling lower than or equal to the target number is a success. Each 10 you roll higher or lower equates to a degree of success or failure, so if you needed a 53 or less to succeed and you scored 13 or less, you'd have four degrees of success. However, bonuses and handicaps are listed as levels, with each level representing 5%. So, a level 2 handicap would give you a -10% penalty. Hmm, what did it say about "a simple and unique" system?
Characters are built on four primary attributes - Strength, Perception, Empathy and Will to give you the SPEW system. Well, that put me right off for a start! Again, these are percentile based with average scores being in the 16-30 range. Yes, your attributes do start out very low. You add character type, skills, traits and special abilities to round out your character. An example of character creation would have been a great help but none is provided. Indeed, this is a flaw throughout the book - a lack of examples of game play.
The chapter on basic gameplay follows. Then come the rules for zombies, which features various types of zombie, some of which computer gamers will recognise. In a book of this size, I was expecting to see a lot more zombie types. Rules for weapons, equipment, vehicles and combat follow. No real complaints here apart from the comabat rules which need more examples of gameplay than are presented.
With a book this size I would have expected the proofreading to be impeccable. It isn't! The book is littered with spelling mistakes and typos. The most serious error occurs in the chapter on scenarios and game missions. The page numbers go 386, 387, 388, 391, 392, 389, 390, 395. 396, 393, 394, 397, 398, 399 and then carries on normally. That is unforgivable!
There are lots of charts to refer to when (if) you do play the game but they are spread thoughout the book. Why couldn't they have had a section at the back of the book with all of the relevant charts in one place? Gameplay will be seriously interrupted as you search through the book to find the chart you want. Remember, this book is 452 pages long!
I really wanted to like this book. I was hoping for the ultimate zombie apocalypse RPG but this most definitely is not it. I came away from Outbreak: Undead desperately disappointed. The basic game mechanic is clunky and given the low starting attributes of your character(s) you'll find yourself failing more rolls than succeeding. The artwork is very poor, but that is a minor quibble compared to the book's many other faults. The three things that I least liked about these rules were the lack of examples of character creation and gameplay (there are some, but not nearly enough), the absence of all the charts collected in one easy to find place, and the appalling proofreading. If you are looking for an excellent zombie apocalypse RPG I would recommend All Flesh Must Be Eaten. My second choice would be GURPS, which covers just about any genre you can think of. Also, GURPS Horror for the 4th edition rules has finally been released and I'll be reviewing it as soon as I finish reading it. Sadly, I can only give Outbreak: Undead a 2 out of 10 rating. Even sadder, I paid £33.99 for it. Money wasted!