Wednesday, 2 July 2014
So bearing in mind my love of GURPS and my obsession with all things undead, this is not going to be an unbiased review.
This 160 page supplement is split into five sections and I'll give a brief description of each section before giving my overall review of the book.
Chapter 1 is entitled "Getting to Know Your Zombies" and is the chapter that should be read by everyone. It explores the five Ws and one H (How, What, When, Where, Who and Why) of folkloric and fictional zombies, establishing terms and tropes used throughout the book. For GMs, it is a treasury of ideas. For players, it's a source of worries - what parts will the GM use? For casual readers, it's the part without complex game stats.
Chapter 2 is entitled "Victims and Killers" and is the chapter that is the most beneficial to players, as it gives advice on creating and equipping PCs. Usually in GURPS it is recommended that starting PCs are built on 100 points but in GURPS Zombies, the default starting cost for a Hardened Survivor (think Vampifan on Day One) is 150 points. Depending upon your setting you could add lenses worth an extra 50 points to create a Born Zombie Killer, a Combat Monster, a Holy Warrior, a Magician or a Superhero. Alternatively, at the other end of the scale, you could play a Screaming Victim for just 25 points. For those wanting to play the villain there are templates for a Zombie Master (150 points) and his Creepy Assistant (75 points).
Chapter 3 is entitled "Zombies!" which will be of most use to the GM. From this chapter the GM can choose zombie types or create his own. There are plenty of choices here and amongst the pregenerated zombie types are B-Movie Ghouls (your typical Romero type zombie), Constructs, the Cursed, Fantasy Monsters, Infected, Infested, Necromantic Reanimates, Shattered Minds, Techno-Zombies and finally, Zombie Bosses. Under each category are a number of alternative types based upon the heading premise. By the way, the point cost for the basic B-Movie Ghoul is -351 points. It does have a LOT of disadvantages and as an individual is quite easy to kill. But beware hordes of them.
Chapter 4 is entitled "Zombies in Play" which may be of use to the players. Those who like to strategise might first review the mechanics governing how zombies find, attack and infect heroes, but much of this depends on GM's decisions, so it won't all be reliable information! GMs can use this chapter to learn how to use his chosen zombies.
Chapter 5 is entitled "Zombified Campaigns" and as you'd expect, teaches you what to expect in a Zombies Campaign. Casual readers will find this chapter a useful source for non-GURPS campaign ideas. They might also find chapters 2, 3 and 4 inspiring, but they pull no punches when it comes to rules and stats.
As always, with any GURPS supplement, the book ends with a list of inspirational films, books, comics, video games and tabletop games relevant to the subject of the book, in this case, zombies. Inevitably, these lists can only scratch the surface and no doubt you'll wonder why x was left in but y was not included.
What I most like about GURPS in general and this supplement in particular, is the amount of detail it goes into. If you so desire, you can create the most realistic kind of game setting imaginable with rules for everything... and I do mean everything! However, this level of detail is not for everyone. Some GMs and players prefer fast-moving games with an emphasis on Hollywood-style action and fight sequences. No problem there. Just choose the rules that best suit your play. The point is, you don't have to use every rule that is written. You can choose the level of complexity for your games. I played a hell of a lot of GURPS 3rd edition. As more and more supplements came out the basic rules began to crack. Flaws appeared. The rules sometimes contradicted one another and it was clear that a major overhaul was required and desperately needed. Steve Jackson listened and acted upon the criticisms. GURPS 4th edition is in my opinion, the pinnacle of role-playing. Every rule change that was made was a change for the better. I believe that GURPS 4th edition is as close to perfection as you can get. Yes, I am biased. I was a huge fan of GURPS 3rd edition, despite its flaws but I am an even bigger fan of GURPS 4th edition.
GURPS Zombies is the supplement I have been waiting for all my adult life. I said at the beginning that I had very high expectations of this supplement. Those expectations were not only met but surpassed. It is the little details that I love. To give you just one small example, tell me what other game system provides rules for the possibility of becoming infected by blood splatter from a zombie? Shoot a zombie in the head from point blank range and there is a good chance that you'll get hit in the face or hand by the zombie's blood. Cut off a zombie's head with a katana, for example, and the blood spray from the zombie's neck has to go somewhere, doesn't it? GURPS Zombies provides the rules for this possibility... but only if you want this level of detail. It is an optional rule and could just as easily be ignored. I often hear people criticise GURPS for being too complex. Well, yes, GURPS can be incredibly complex but only if you want it be that complex. It can also be as simple and as fast-moving as you want.
I was chatting with Joe/Zabadak just last week and I was raving on about how good GURPS Zombies was. He asked a question I'm sure many of you are also thinking and that is if I love GURPS so much, why aren't I still playing it? The simplest answer to that is that GURPS is designed for players, that's players plural. I am a solo gamer. I suppose I could adapt the rules for solo play and believe me, I am sorely tempted now that I have read GURPS Zombies. If any game system would make me switch my allegiance away from ATZ-FFO it would be GURPS 4th edition. Prep work would take some time as I'd need to create Team Vampifan as PCs, along with a cast of NPCs for cops, civilians, gangers and soldiers, etc. This would be time consuming but a lot of fun. I do have LOTS of experience in creating GURPS PCs and NPCs and I already have quite a number of contemporary NPCs that could easily slot into a GURPS Zombies campaign. The thing is that I like ATZ-FFO, despite its many flaws. I am both comfortable and familiar with it. Switching to GURPS 4th edition is not beyond the realms of possibility. This system puts right all of the faults that are inherent with the simple skirmish rules of ATZ. But what is holding me back right now is that switching systems will be a huge step for me to take. Do I have the time in my already busy hobby life to accept this challenge? Probably not but now that I have GURPS Zombies I can feel the stirrings of a seismic change in my gaming choices. All I can say at this moment is watch this space.
GURPS Zombies is a hard-backed book with black and white illustrations inside. It was written by Sean Punch, a GURPS veteran and stalwart of Steve Jackson Games. It costs $29.95 for the hard back book or $19.95 for the PDF version. Given my unbiased review of this book you probably think I'm going to award it a 10 out of 10 rating? Well, you'd be wrong! GURPS Zombies get my first 11 out of 10 rating! And, yes, it does deserve that score! Biased? You bet!