The Tale of Reginald "Ragin' Reggie" Dempsey
This is the story of Reginald "Ragin' Reggie" Dempsey.
Beginning as a "What I made, What the DM saw, What I played" thread, one image stood out and caused a retelling of the heroic acts of Reginald "Ragin' Reggie" Dempsey in a zombie apocalyptic world.
Reginald "Ragin' Reggie" Dempsey (as best as I can reconstruct him)
Age - 32
Height - 6'1
Weight - 235 lbs.
Attributes (sunk all my Drawback points here)
Strength - 6 Dexterity - 5 Constitution - 5 Intelligence - 1 Perception - 2 Willpower - 5 Life Points - 69 Endurance Points - 53 Essence - 23
Qualities and Drawbacks Hard to Kill (5), Nerves of Steel (3), Fast Reaction Time (2), Charisma (5, he's dumb, but the motherfucker is filled with the burning spirit of willpower) Addiction Alcohol (-4), Honorable (-3), Attractiveness (-1, taken a lot of punches to the face), Reckless (-2)
Skills (get ready for some shit) Brawling - 7 Dodge - 7 Intimidation - 3 Martial Arts - 5
My only equipment was a leather jacket.
So we're starting up the game with 4 players as Survivor-level characters (I really prefer playing Norms, but we wanted this campaign to last a while so we decided to go for durable characters), core book only. We were playing in a traditional, end-of-civilization style setting, and while our ZM never gave us the particulars he basically had us going against two types of zombies: smarts and brutes.
Smarts were fairly generic, slow, head weak-spot, spread zombification through bites, average strength and durability Romero-style zombies, but had good senses (particularly hearing) and were intelligent (just looking through the book and from memory, I'd say the ZM gave them Animal Cunning and Teamwork), and there were a fuck-ton of them.
Brutes were pretty much the opposite. They probably had Quick Dead, Leaping, Climbing, Strong Like a Bull, Claws, and a motherfucking heart weak spot, but were dumb as shit and could be avoided unless there were smarts around to point you out to them. There also weren't as many of them (basically a rare mutation of the disease caused it, fairly typical stuff). We were starting off in the ruins of a city bombed to hell by the military and gangs of other survivors, and from there he basically ran a sandbox for us and just let us have fun.
The other three players made characters with pretty good generalist spreads, lots of handgun, rifles, stealth, survival, that sort of stuff.
I, on the other hand, decided to play Reginald "Ragin' Reggie" Dempsey, an alcoholic ex-slum-fighter-then-junior-karate-class-instructor-now-zombie-apocalypse-survivor who wanted to, for once and now that it was the end of the world, feel like he was making a difference and help people the only way he knew how: by hitting stuff really hard.
I took Brawling AND Martial Arts because I wanted a way to represent Reginald hitting shit really hard (+5 damage on a punch and kick with every Martial Arts hit) but still be good at throwing zombies around, powerslamming bitches, things like that (what Brawling entails).
Now for those who don't play AFMBE, killing zombies typically requires you to hit them in their weak spot. In our case, the smart zombies required 15 points of damage to the head to put them down, and the brutes required 15 points of damage directly to the heart to be put down, and now that I'm thinking about it I'm pretty sure the brutes could regenerate damage so there was that. In addition to this, if you do 20 points in one blow to the head, the zombie is decapitated, 15 points in one hit to an arm or leg knocks it off, 20 points in one hit to the torso knocks it down.
With a punch, Reginald did d4x6 damage, and d4x7 with a kick. Using Martial Arts, he did d4x6 + 5 and d4x7 + 5.
In essence, Reginald had a 75% shot of killing any zombie in one hit. Also, nearly any blow he did would rip off a limb or knock the zombie down.
Also, because I pumped up his attributes and skills so high, Reginald could attack and dodge/parry 3 or 4 times a turn and still have a good chance of succeeding despite the cumulative penalties for taking multiple actions.
Basically, Reggie was a punching tank.
Forgot to mention: Reggie pretty much could not miss an attack. A zombie had to beat my d10+10(or 12 brawling) attack on a d10+2, while an average human gang member would've had to beat me with a d10+5/6. He also was rolling d10+12 to dodge anything from zombie bites to bullets.
So anywho, we started out in a run-down neighborhood convenience store that was, unfortunately, mostly already looted by people. Basic backstory was that we'd all grown up in or around the neighborhood, and were at least acquainted with each other. As far as we knew, we were the only living people within a few blocks. Some wrecked cars had done a decent job blocking off the street, so at most there were usually only twenty or thirty smart zombies trudging around outside at any given time. It was six months into the zombie apocalypse, five months since any word from the government, and four months since the power and water had died. Our first session was us making a run to an apartment building next to the convenience store to raid for supplies.
We waited for noontime, when it was brightest and we'd be able to see in the apartments, then decided to make a break for it. The other three had guns and something like 10 rounds of ammo, and two of them had melee weapons (a knife and a baseball bat, I think). So the most intelligent, strategic character (let's call him Mike, can't fuckin' remember his name) says what we need to do is clear the area around the door so we can lock the place up behind us, get to the apartment building, and keep him safe while he picks the lock. So we say "okay."
I open the door and we all rush out. There are only two zombies near the door, so Reggie punches one in the head and knocks the goddamn thing off, then grabs the other and throws it at another one down the street.
We rush to the apartments and Mike starts picking the lock while the three of us form a semi-circle around him. Now at this time we did NOT know that the smart zombies were smart, and before we even reached the door the zombies were grunting at each other and then there were twenty of them closing in on us from all sides.
Mike fails his first lock-pick attempt, so we hit a couple of the zombies (Reggie kills two more), but then he succeeds and we get in, lock the door behind us, and breath a sigh of relief.
The ZM describes the place to us. There are a few totally dessicated corpses in the corner (looked like they'd committed suicide), the whole place was dusty and reeked and flies were buzzing around in the dim light filtering through cracked windows. The first floor is basically empty, though we find some room keys and some batteries for our flashlights in the office.
We decide to take our time, work our way up slowly and take each room as we come to it. On the first four stories we find a little food, some bottles of water, and some more batteries (so many goddamn batteries...), but mostly no zombies, the whole place seems empty. We go back down to the ground floor, and decide to check the place a little bit more closely. When we do, we notice the fire-escape plans for the place and notice we missed something.
There's a basement.
It's marked as an old bomb-shelter (these apartments were old as fuck, apparently), and we find the cellar-doors leading down to it in a closet in the manager's office. We're really not sure we want to go downstairs (come on, how obvious is that?), but just then we hear the doors to the building open.
That's when we realized these fuckers are smart.
We shut the door to the office and I pushed a big ol' desk in front of it to slow them down, then said "fuck it" and we went downstairs. At the bottom of the stairs was another locked door, but luckily we'd found the key to it in the office. So we turned on our flashlights, opened the door, and went in to a blood bath. Apparently everyone in the building had run down to shelter when the military started bombing, and some of them had been infected. There were forty tightly-packed zombies in the shelter, and they immediately rushed towards us as one grabbed the door and pulled it all the way open.
The others started retreating up the stairs but Reggie, ever reckless, decided to stand his ground. Coming through the doorway two or three at a time, Reggie started punching and making motherfuckers drop. I swear he knocked off twenty limbs and heads in the first few rounds of combat. The others took up position behind Reggie and swung at anything that got close enough. Soon, though, and we couldn't tell why, the zombies stopped coming at us. That's when we heard the howls and two brutes leaped out at me. One got astonishingly lucky and managed to knock me down, the other started swinging at the guys behind me, and as soon as they saw me down the smart zombies started to crawl across their dead fellows to get at us.
The brute on top of me tried to slash me but I parried it, then slammed its head into the wall of the stairwell. It's head was basically pulped, but it still kept on attacking me. The party was having trouble with the other brute, and Mike (who was still at the top of the stairs, the bitch) saw that the zombies at the office door were breaking through.
Reggie finally got pissed and just tossed the brute off him and stood up just in time to be attacked on all sides by about five zombies. All of them attacked at once Reggie parried all their bites and dropped four of them in one round of GLORIOUS combat. By that time the party had lucked out and done enough damage to the other brute's chest that the ZM declared it dead, but the headless one got up and started swinging about wildly again. The two of them retreated up the stairs (they'd taken a decent chunk of damage killing the first one) and left Reggie at the bottom alone with the flailing brute and about ten more smarts. I parried the nearest smart's attack and threw it back through the door, knocking back the zombies trying to get through.
Reggie dodged a couple spastic slashes, then decided he'd had enough of the brute's douche-baggery and started punching like the motherfucking fist of the north star. He punched both of its arms and a leg off, leaving a torso with a leg impotently wiggling around on the ground trying to actually do something.
The others closed the door leading down the stairs (the other zombies had broken through, and Mike estimate there were about a hundred zombies pouring into the building) and joined me. We went into the bomb shelter and made quick work of the remaining smarts, then everyone breathed a sigh of relief.
Thinking fast, Mike had us pile all the dead zombies out in the stairwell (the brute was still wiggling around) and shut the door, locking it from the inside. We rested for a while, ate and drank some of the food and water we'd found, then started wondering what the hell we were going to do. At that point we couldn't really fight our way out, things would be too tightly packed out in the stairwell already and even with minimal odds Mike knew Reginald would eventually get hit enough and then everyone would be fucked.
We looked around the shelter and saw it was basically just a huge room with concrete walls. There were some boxes of blankets and a lot of empty water bottles, but nothing else.
We were stuck with about a day's worth of food and water.
Everyone looked around the room more closely, and on one wall a character (basically a handy-man type guy, let's call him Jim) noticed part of one wall was scratched up, from blood and fingernails in the scratches by someone trying desperately trying to escape. He saw that the walls weren't really concrete, just plaster on top of thick wood panels. The ZM explained that since it was a pretty poor neighborhood, everything was pretty poorly built.
At that point we began to hear scratches on the door.
"What the fuck, how are they already here?"
"They must've moved the bodies!"
"But they're fucking ZOMBIES, man!"
"They opened the door, they're probably smart enough to pull dead bodies out of the way."
Now the door was wooden and cheap (like everything else in the damn place), so we needed a plan fast. Mike started talking about how we could draw them into a corner, maybe with some flashlights, then fight our way out, or maybe try to let a few zombies in at a time so we could kill them off, but the others (let's say the last player's character was Luke. I really wish I could remember their character's names).
That was when dumb, dumb Reginald Dempsey had an idear, spelled correctly, and declared his intention to punch the wall.
Mike: You're gonna what?
Reggie: I'm gonna punch the wall! Maybe it'll break, and we can get through!
Mike: What the fuck, that's stupid man, you're just gonna hurt yourself.
Reggie: Yeah, but you guys are all already hurt. I don't want you guys to get killed, I don't want to risk you guys fighting again.
Mike: Fine, but-
Me (OOC): Can I roll Intimidate real quick?
ZM: Why do you want to do that?
Me: I want to make a powerful speech (intimidate is governed by Willpower, which I had 5 of) to convince them.
Reggie: Now listen, you guys don't worry about a thing! I'm gonna punch this wall, and either it's gonna break or my fist's gonna break, and if my fist does break I've got another and two feet! We're breaking out of here right now!
The Others: *in awe* Okay, Reggie, you punch that fucking wall!
Punched, rolled good, the entire wall collapses (cheap ass old rotten wood).
On the other side of the wall is the basement of the adjoining building and a dozen surprised smart zombies. With a cheer, Reggie charged and took them out. High on success, Reggie immediately went to the locked door leading out of the basement and punched that too, knocking the whole thing right off its hinges. By that time the others had gathered up all our stuff and were right behind me.
We quickly made our way up and out the front door of the building. The streets were clear (all the zombies had made their way into the first apartment), so we quickly closed the doors to both buildings, tied some wire from a wrecked car around the door handles so they couldn't just be opened, and piled as much junk in front of the doors as we could. Then we went back to our convenience store shelter, ate and drank (there were a few bottles of alcohol still in the store), and celebrated our great success.
Next is the tale of how Reginald "Ragin' Reggie" Dempsey did punch some dudes to save some other dudes.
For doing so good in the first session, Reginald was awarded enough experience to raise his Willpower to 6 (I decided his impassioned speech and devotion to his comrades warranted it).
A few sessions later (not much of great interest happened, though we did move to a new shelter a few blocks away in an inner-city school, and I think I upped my Intimidation a lot) we realized something was afoot. Mike noticed that there weren't many zombies shambling around as there usually were (it was a city of formerly 10 million people, so there should've been no shortage of things) and that whenever we saw a smart zombie it seemed to be shambling North-ward. By this point we had a pretty good grasp of how intelligent the smart zombies were, and we came to the conclusion that they were all trying to get at something, maybe a large group of survivors, so it might be a good idea to see what the deal was.
We'd done a lot of looting by that point and had a good stock of food, supplies, and ammo. We moved out (being sure to lock and barricade all the doors behind us so we'd have a safe strong hold to come back to) and made pretty good time to the north side of the city. We had taken a tourist map from a gas-station a while back, and when we were about ten blocks south from a river running through the southern part of the city we started hearing the moaning. By five blocks away it was deafening. At that point we decided to go up a fire escape and make our way across the roof-tops so we wouldn't get surrounded in an alley or something.
And then we saw three things. The river, a little island with eight survivors stranded on it, and twenty thousand zombies lining the river banks.
We waved and flashed our flashlights down at them (it was in the evening by then), and managed to get their attention. Jim had the best sight (he was basically our party sharpshooter) and saw that they didn't look hurt, but they didn't seem to have any food. We also saw that the zombies were anxious not to get in the water; the few we saw accidentally pushed in were quickly swept downstream. There was a deflated life raft they were using for shade and shelter, so they must have been trying to float out of the city.
We came away from the roof's edge and worked our way back a few buildings so we could hear each other without shouting, then the debates began.
Luke: Well, they're fucked.
Reggie: We should help them.
Jim: I'm with Luke, man, they're fucked.
Reggie: We should help them.
Mike: There's really nothing we can do, Reggie. We can't get to them, and they can't get out even if we could.
Reggie: We should help them.
So we talked about it and they eventually conceded that what we could at least do was try to get some food and water to them. The river was lined with zombies as far as we could see in either direction, and ranged from ten to thirty bodies deep. We tried throwing some bottles of water to them, with varying but generally poor success, and decided we couldn't waste what we had. Everyone else was ready to say fuck it, though Jim suggested we maybe shoot them to put them out of their misery. And that's when Reggie had a reckless, RECKLESS idea.
Reginald had a backpack of food and water, so he went back to the fire escape and climbed down. The others came with him.
Reggie: What if we pushed them into the river?
Mike: We wouldn't be able to push in all of them, man, and you'll just push yourself into them and get surrounded.
Reggie: Well, what if we pushed in a whole bunch of them at once?
Jim: Fucking how, man?
Reggie: I dunno.
Reggie looked around and saw there wasn't much on the streets; a few trash cans, some wrecked cars, newspaper vendors, and some street lights.
Now I know it might seems like I play Reggie intelligently for someone with Int 1, but really he didn't have idears often. Only when he really, really wanted to help people.
Me (OOC): I try to pull one of the street lights out of the sidewalk.
ZM:... 'kaaaay, roll strength for it.
Reggie had a maximum lift capacity of 450 pounds, so after punching the concrete around it a few times he managed to uproot the light pole. He then turned and looked at the others.
Reggie: I'll be right back.
He held the pole horizontally in front of him, ran down the streets, and then charged right into the backs of the pressed zombie horde, using the pole to push an area of them 20 feet across.
About a hundred zombies were pushed into the water, then Reggie ran across the fallen ones and jumped in the water, swimming towards the island.
So now Reggie's in the water and swimming to the island. He was untrained in swimming, but had good enough constitution that it was an easy enough roll to make anyways.
He reaches the island and starts passing out the food and water to the people. The zombies are too loud for us to really talk, but I shouted my name at them and they thanked me.
Now the banks of the river were concrete walls that rose about four feet above the water's edge, and the water was about ten feet deep. As they ate and drank, I looked around and saw that the area I'd cleared was starting to fill back up with zombies. The other players decided to try and help me, so they led a little sortie at the zombies and got their attention, drawing enough away from the river. The ZM told me they all looked too weak to swim, but that most of them were skinny enough that I could probably ferry them across. So I, without really thinking about it, grabbed one and shouted in his ear to get on my back. I managed to swim him across and pull us up, but we were immediately set upon by twenty straggler zombies. Reggie, knowing it'd be difficult to protect him with their backs to the water, did the only thing he could think of and threw the survivor over the zombies then started punching.
Long story short, that's how we spent the evening and part of the night (thank God for clear skies). I recovered the street light, pushed a few zombies in the water, jumped in, swam out, got a survivor, swam them to shore, punched some zombies while the rest of the party got him to safety, then did it all over again seven more times. We had to break a few times to fight off clever bastards that tried to flank around us through alleyways, but eventually we got all the survivors to shore and started making our way back to the school.
That's when the howling started.
Jim had enough time to get out a quick "Shit, RUN!" before they started pouring out of the alleys. Turns out while we'd been working smarts had been corralling and containing little groups of brutes, holding them in place until we were far up the street and then letting them go. More smarts started pouring out of buildings and around the corners of the other side of the street, and ten brutes were bearing down on us from all sides.
At this point we still hadn't figured out that the heart was a brutes weak-spot, so we were still using a tactic of whaling on their chests until they went down (usually after 35-40 damage).
Mike shouted "Try to get into a doorway, make a circle!" and Jim and Luke handed out what melee weapons they had to the island survivors.
Reggie decided to fuck that noise and charge the four nearest brutes.
They leaped to attack but Reggie was used to that tactic by now and was able to parry them. He punched the first one in the chest three times, killing it. Two of them recovered and started slashing, so Reggie targeted their heads and knocked them off. Then he grabbed the fourth and threw it into a nearby horde of smarts before running to help out the rest of the group.
Five brutes had reached the party and their survivors, and they'd managed to shoot down another at range. The survivors without knives we'd passed out had picked up improvised weapons. By the time we'd done enough damage to them to kill them the other brutes were fast approaching and the smarts were right behind them.
We were grouped up near the stoop of a four-floor building. Mike had picked the lock, but the ZM said that the other side of the door was barricaded. Reggie un-barricaded it the only way he knew how.
It took two punches to move the doors in enough for us to squeeze through. Reggie and Jim held the stoop while the survivors, Mike, and Luke squeezed through. Jim went in and Reggie knocked the heads of two more brutes before squeezing in and pushing the doors and barricades back in as best he could.
We didn't know the brutes' weak spot yet, but we DID know that when they lost their heads they spazzed out and swung at everything nearby, so taking their heads off was a decent way to make an impromptu barrier against the weaker smarts.
Now there were probably ten thousand zombies on our side of the river, and they were beating on the doors and windows (which also, thankfully, had been barricaded by former residents). We made our way to the top floor as quickly as possible, piled up as much furniture and junk as we could quickly find in the stairwell, then went onto the rooftops.
Right into the waiting arms of a crap-ton of brutes which could, unbeknownst to us, climb quite well.
Shouting over the cacophany from the streets below, Reggie told everyone to get back inside. When they did, he shut the door, and turned to deal with the brutes.
Reggie pressed his back to the door, both to keep the brutes in front of him and to keep everyone else safe. The first brute to reach him got a hard kick the chest which knocked it straight on its ass, but two more swiftly replaced it. Thanks to his Fast Reaction Time, Reginald always attacked first in combat, so he kept his cool and took off both of their heads. They freaked out and started swinging wildly, being parried by Reggie but accidentally smacking a few of their fellows. Reggie took his time, unleashing flurries of punches into the chests of brutes that reached him singly to kill them and knocking the heads off those that attacked in groups so they formed a temporary barrier against the others. He took a few hits that penetrated the armor value of his leather jacket, but Reggie's life points were so stupidly high their terrifying claws were like kitty scratches to him.
When their numbers were reduced to about ten headless spazz-brutes, he moved away from the door and charged them, killing them with punches to the chest and throwing a few off the roof. Everyone else joined him and there were general admonishments and many exclamations of "fucking hell!" but the party was safe, the staircase barricade had held, and we were safe to move across the roof-tops back south to our school.
At the time, in the dark, tired and scared, none of us really noticed how many smarts there were on the roof-tops of other buildings, watching us work our way south.
We got all the survivors back to our school strong-house safe and sound, and they were actually pretty decent folks. They were from a suburb further upriver, and had been trying to reach a shelter they'd heard about on the east side of town. They'd heard about it from some looters from the shelter, who were working their way around the city and telling everyone about the place so they could get more people to defend it and maybe even make an attempt to take back the city.
Now we all smelled shenanigans from our ZM, but to our characters that sounded like a pretty sweet deal, so we made plans on how we were going to make our way east.
We had stock-piled a ton of weapons and food in the place, which we were more than happy to share with our new bros, and we decided to wait a week to let them recover (they'd been on that island nearly three days) before setting out.
By Wednesday morning we were fucking surrounded. The smarts on the roofs, which had probably been fucking stationed there to watch for survivors, had watched us all the goddamned way back. The school was in a bad neighborhood so it had a decent fence around it and it was a sturdy old brick building. That didn't stop the occasional brute from climbing in to get at us, despite the smarts' best efforts to hold them back, and we were regularly attacked but kept together and managed to stay unharmed.
By Thursday morning, Mike and Jim (who were on the roof to try and get a view and see if we could somehow escape) noticed that the smarts were corralling a fuck-ton of brutes along one part of the fence, keeping them back enough that they couldn't see us and rush to attack. There were nearly a hundred of the brutes, and already well over a thousand smarts surrounding us on all sides. Just waiting. We knew we had to get the fuck out. So we made a quick visit to the teacher's parking lot.
Now, as I said, every other character had their badass moments. This was one of Luke's. Luke was an ex-army character, and had Demolitions, Electronics, and Traps. We didn't have any explosives, but we did have a parking lot with about thirty cars mostly full of gasoline and a school full of small electronic devices. With a little luck and a lot of care, we moved a bunch of the cars into position by one of the fences, Luke rigged their gas tanks with some wires leading to a hole we quickly dug, and we prepared to run for it. The zombies obviously couldn't understand exactly what we were doing, but had the brains to recognize incoming shenanigans. The smarts let loose the brutes, and they started climbing the fence as all of us in the hole stuck the wires in our flashlights to make a circuit and turned them on.
The electricity set off the gasoline and a row of thirty cars blew the fuck up right in the brutes' faces. The force of it knocked the smarts along the fence down and stunned those whose brains weren't liquified by the pressure of the blast, and we ran like fuck along them.
We had some close calls, we slipped a few times, had to kill a few who stood up, and a couple of the survivors got bit (in this game you had to die before you turned, so not TOO serious), and ran like hell east-ward.
The next few sessions were probably our tensest. The smarts were fucking LEARNING, man. They hadn't just come all at us willy-nilly, no, they had left mobs along every street, waiting in every building, and they had held back a lot more brutes. They really fucking wanted us dead. I don't think it was even about eating us any more, they just wanted our little party to be dead. We were legend.
We had to keep moving all day and all night. We couldn't hole up in any buildings, we couldn't go up to the rooftops (they were wise to that. The first time we tried we came out to the sight of a hundred of them as dozens more broke open doors behind us, trying to scissor us in), and we couldn't stop. Pretty soon our little group was run ragged. We were low on ammo, and everyone's Stamina was so low only Reggie could still reliably hit anything in close combat, and he was carrying one of the other survivors who had passed out ("No we are NOT leaving him behind" Intimidate).
By noon the next day, we were in a serious bind. We'd long left behind the big mobs, but we could hear howling and could only assume the smarts were somehow directing the brutes towards us. This was confirmed when we looked up and saw smarts watching us from the rooftops. That was when we lucked out.
We were running along the river, planning to jump in as a last resort if things got too hairy, and came to a small bridge crossing it.
A wooden, decorative bridge.
That was when the brutes found us. Everyone ran across the bridge, Reggie stopping long enough to knock the heads off a few, and we reached the relative safety of the far shore. Jim and Luke and the survivors took a few pot-shots at the brutes to slow them down, but there were about fifty of them and they were about to swarm across.
So Reggie did the only thing he knew, and punched the bridge.
Two punches, and the rickety bridge broke loose from the edge. As the brutes raced towards us, their weight collapsed the bridge and about thirty of them fell into the water and washed away. We barely started to celebrate when the brutes on part of the bridge that was still standing started leaping at us.
Right into Reggie's waiting fists.
Those who made it across were knocked right into the water, and then we were safe. We found the nearest safe-looking building (a fire station) and holed up for the night. We just slept and ate and drank water for two days, recuperating and healing, before we decided we had to move on. If the smarts could communicate well enough to guide each other to us, they could surely call across the river to tell other zombies about us.
We decided we needed to know more about our situation, so Mike got on the roof and looked around. As best as he could tell, the rooftops and streets around us were pretty empty. We were basically a block away from a big shopping district, so we ran a few quick looting operations to resupply and search for other survivors.
By the end of our third day in the fire station, we were ready to move on. We continued east, towards the big shelter that might not even be there anymore, a day later heard the explosions, and the morning after that saw the edge of the mob and the shelter they were laying siege to.
The shelter was basically a chance, lucky break for the people in it. When the city had been bombed, a lot of the skyscrapers in the business part of town had collapsed, forming high piles of rubble that the smarts couldn't crawl up and couldn't pull away. One small office building, built sturdy because it housed a large computer mainframe, had stayed standing in the middle of an impromptu barrier, and now nearly five hundred people were living in it and in little shelters built out of scrap, manning the walls and raiding for supplies. They had built little ramps they could raise and lower, criss-cross the stretches of rubble so they could quickly get around and past the horde at their gates.
Apparently someone had found some explosives, and we watched them bomb the smarts to clear enough room so a group of looters could get out and make a break for the city.
We signaled them as best we could, and eventually managed to get the attention of one of their patrols. They made a sign pointing us further along the wall, and eventually we reached a spot with a ramp, which they lowered after bombing the zombies and we ran up it.
That's when we got taken to meet the President.
The President was actually DHR Manilow (hell yes I remembered this guy's name), who formerly worked for a record label. He'd been out having lunch when things went to shit, and had hidden in the basement of one of the skyscrapers during the bombing and miraculously survived. Most of the people there were white-collar types, and had quickly fallen in line with Manilow's leadership.
Now Manilow wasn't a big man and was pretty much a snob, but he had found a very big gun at some point and had a frighteningly calm expression for a man facing the end of the world, so everyone there was pretty okay with him being the leader. And he had made the place into a pretty sweet set-up, and they'd learned a lot about the zombies (including the brutes' heart weak-spot, which made Reggie's day). His rules were simple; everyone do what I say, and if you don't like it get out. The survivor's we'd picked up were happy, and at first we were okay with it.
Then, after the first night, we noticed that we couldn't find the bitten survivors who'd been with us anywhere.
We asked around, gave out their descriptions, but no one had seen them. We shrugged it off and the four of us started patrolling the walls to help out. There really wasn't much to do, the walls were completely impenetrable to the smarts and with the knowledge of their weak spots Reggie could drop any brute that came along instantly.
That night, we saw the group we'd saved again and they were really starting to worry, so the four of us went to ask President Manilow about it.
Manilow then plainly stated that those bitten were shot and thrown out.
Now Reggie's eyes popped out of his head like pic related, and it was all Mike could do to shout out a quick farewell as Jim and Luke dragged Reggie outside. Just as the doors closed we all saw Manilow's calculating glare as he ran a finger along his very big gun.
Now unbeknownst to us, the five remaining people we'd saved had been spreading tales of our exploits, and by the end of our first day in the place we were something of local legends. This was good because we got lots to eat and Jim got to spend the evening with a trophy wife whose husband had died. This was also bad because the looters wanted us to get back out there and find supplies. Apparently one of their looting parties hadn't made it back, and they wanted us to go out and see if we could find what happened to them because they had been out to raid a pharmacy for medicine and water purification tablets.
We decided we quite liked the idea of getting out for a while, and agreed. They marked the pharmacy on our map. It was twenty blocks away, back towards the river. They bombed the zombies, lowered the ramps, and we were off, happy to be out again with just the four of us against the motherfucking end of the world.
The journey to the pharmacy was relatively easy, but when we got there we saw the problem. About fifty zombies were banging on the front glass. A terrifying thing to those inside, but a good way for Reggie to vent some anger. Just fifty smarts and one brute were in the siege.
When we got in and met the looters, who were very grateful, the ZM did a very strange thing and asked Reggie, and ONLY Reggie, to make a Perception roll. By that time I'd upped Reggie's Perception to its maximum of 3, and I barely made the success.
That was when Reggie looked down at the brute whose heart he'd just imploded with one punch and saw, through blood and muck and a bullet hole in the head, that it was one of the people he'd saved. The one he'd carried in our mad dash from the school.
We helped the looters gather up the supplies, and prepared for our journey back. We explained what had happened to the looters, and they started to look worried but kind of laughed it off. Apparently Manilow had been shooting those bitten for a while now, and everyone just accepted it.
We worked our way back to the rubble-wall, and signaled the patrols. They bombed the hordes, dropped a ramp, and the looters rushed ahead of the group to get up. Reggie, Luke, Jim, and Mike reached the bottom of the ramp, then stopped.
President Manilow and four men stood at the top of the ramp, guns trained on us. The five remaining people we'd saved were up there with them.
Manilow looked straight at Reggie and said, "You're not welcome here anymore. If we see any of you again, we'll shoot you. Then we'll shoot them. Get out. Leave, and don't come back. Don't even look back."
We glanced around and saw the zombies starting to shamble in, then turned and ran.
Once we were some distance away, we slowed down and Reggie looked back. When he did, Manilow shot one of the survivors in the head. "I WARNED YOU," he shouted, then pointed the gun at the next survivor's head. Reggie turned and ran.
We kept running. When we were blocks and blocks away, we stopped.
Reggie: I'm gonna kill him.
Jim: Fuckin' hell yes.
Luke: Dude, there's no way we'd even get close to the place.
Reggie: Don't care. I'm gonna kill him.
Mike's player looked thoughtful for a moment, then said, "Maybe we could. Fuck, man, that's just not right. You remember the looters we saved? They were freaked out when we told them what Manilow did, I'll bet lots of people in there have lost people the same way."
We made our way back to the fire station hide-out, barricaded the fuck out of the place, and started to plan. Really, Jim, Luke, and Mike started to plan while Reggie searched the place a bit.
Up until then, Reggie hadn't carried any weapons or any protective equipment apart from a leather jacket. But now I asked the ZM if I could rig something up. A couple disassembled fire axes and some belt-buckles later, Reggie had made an improvised punching dagger and strapped it to his left arm.
By then, Jim and Mike had talked Luke around and they'd come up with a plan. Simply put, we would wait until a looting party of at least four was sent out. We would follow them, wait until they'd found what they were after, then we would subdue or, if necessary, kill them and take their clothes. Then we would wait until dark to signal the wall patrols, get into the city, and make a break to Manilow's office to kill the fucker.
We didn't care if we died, so long as we took that fucker with us.
We set up shop on top of a Bed Bath and Beyond. We'd acquired a pair of binoculars and enough food and water to last the four of us a week.
Then we waited, and watched. Most of the parties sent out were in twos and threes, probably to minimize losses, but at the end of the second day a party of five made a break south towards the river.
We got off the roof and circled around after them. Reggie had shit for stealth, so he followed a block behind everyone else, and soon the group caught sight of the looters. Checking the map, Mike realized they were making a beeline for a police station several more blocks away. We regrouped.
Mike: They're probably going for guns. If they get them, it'll be too dangerous to take them out.
Jim: Then we kill them the second they reach the door, so we're sure that's what they're really after.
We ran full-speed down another street, trying to get ahead of them. We ran out into the street just as they did, and there was a horrible moment where they recognized us and shouted, drawing their weapons and running towards the station.
Jim shot one in the back of the head, and then Reggie was on them. They were dead in one round of combat, their skulls caved in by his fist or throats ripped out by the axe-head.
We dragged their corpses inside and stripped them, washing the blood off with some of our water. Then we put on the clothes (one of them was kind of fat so his clothes fit Reggie), gathered up as many guns as we could into bags they'd brought, and waited til nightfall.
We were worried they might send out another group to find this one, like we had been sent to the pharmacy, but apparently that had been a one-time-thing to get us out. When night came, we worked our way back to the walls. We crept around to the ramp that had the most zombies beneath it, Mike wanted them to use up as many explosives as possible so they couldn't use them on us.
We signaled with a flashlight, and they threw a lot of explosives down to clear a path. They lowered the ramp, and we got up quick.
Patrol Guy: Ya'll are from the police station? We were worried, man, but good job. Weren't there five of you?
Mike: Lost one.
Patrol Guy: Shit, another? Who was it?
Patrol Guy: I don't know a Ph-
That was when Reggie's fist crushed the man's skull. The other two patrol men were dead an instant later, but it was too late. People had seen us in the torch-light, and shouts were going up all over.
By this point the other three had upped their gun skills considerably, and we had good rifles from the police station. So we decided, quickly, that our best bet was for Mike, Jim, and Luke to take up position on the wall and snipe while Reggie made a dash for the building. The three could cover him, and once inside in close quarters we knew there wasn't a man alive who could beat Reggie.
Reggie jumped down off the rubble and made a dash for the building as gunfire sounded off all around the camp.
People were running around in a panic, so most of the guards weren't risking shooting at Reggie, and weren't skilled enough to hit the three on the wall.
Any of our three gunmen could pull off a headshot on a cockroach.
Reggie covered ground quickly, and got to the building without a hitch. He then had to go around the side of the building to get to the door, out of view of Jim, Mike, and Luke.
And right into the sights of President Manilow and six guards.
Manilow and three of the guards got shots off before Reggie could dodge back into cover, and Reggie was clipped in the shoulder.
"I TOLD YOU NOT TO COME BACK."
The three on the wall were doing their best, but simply didn't have the numbers and were taking cover to avoid the returning fire.
Reggie kept his back to the wall, and at the tops of his lungs shouted, "I AM RAGIN' REGGIE DEMPSEY. I grew up in the slums, made my living punching men's lights out, and in the past seven months I've killed more zombies than all you fuckers put together."
At 6 Willpower and now 7 Intimidate, Reggie's voice rang out and inflicted pants-shitting terror on everyone who heard him. Things grew quiet in the camp but for the moaning of the zombies at the walls, and Reggie continued -
"And in the past seven months, all I've tried to do is help people. I ain't a smart man, but I can hit stuff hard, and in a world like this I figure that's what people need. Someone to hit the fuckers trying to hurt them real, real hard. A couple weeks ago I saved some people. YOU, President Manilow, killed four of them for no reason. So now I'm gonna kill you. You hurt the people I helped. I figure I don't need no better reason than that."
"When I come around this corner again, I'm killing you and anyone who's still standing with you. You got to the count of ten."
Everyone inside the walls kept dead silent. Reggie counted to ten.
And then tossed his leather jacket into the waiting hail of gunfire.
Reggie ran around the side of the house and dodged, hitting the ground just in time to avoid a second volley of shots from Manilow and the four guards who hadn't run off. Manilow had an assault rifle, the guards had double-barreled shotguns.
And they'd just each fired off their second shells.
Reggie regained his feet and surged forward at full speed. He didn't even slow down when Manilow's automatic fire hit him square in the chest. He just roared and closed the final distance as Manilow rushed to replace his magazine.
The first two guards died, one to a kick that collapsed his ribs into his hearts and lungs and another to a backhand that snapped his neck. The other two threw down their weapons and turned to run, but Reginald Dempsey was a man of his word and the backs of their skulls were caved in before they could take two steps.
Manilow finished reloading his weapon just in time for Reginald to pull it out of his hands and bend it in half (strength fucking 7). Manilow opened his mouth to say something, but it turned into a scream as Reggie's axe-katar tore his left arm from his shoulder with a punch. He spun away against the wall, clutching at his arm, eyes wide.
Reggie punched. The bricks behind Manilow cracked. A dozen more punches, and Manilow's head and torso were paste stuck to the crumbling brick.
Reggie grunted, satisfied, then turned and limped back to the wall. He climbed back up, and together the four of them lowered the ramp and walked out of the camp back into the ruins of the city.
Following the attack on Manilow, the ZM realized things needed to change if we were going to keep playing. If our game of AFMBE were a movie or a videogame or a comic or a book, the raid on Manilow's stronghold could've been the last act of the story. I truncated the events pretty heavily, but the time from when we met Manilow to the moment he died lasted about six sessions, or a little over a month of real world time. It was a huge undertaking for an AFMBE campaign and simply FELT like an ending to a story: the heroes face off against the villain, get their vengeance, and walk off into the sunset and an unknown future.
We were just having way too goddamned much fun. The four of us wanted to keep playing, and our ZM wanted to keep running it, so the problem arose of how to keep things fresh and exciting.
The second problem was Reggie. Just, Reggie. See, Mike, Jim, and Luke's characters were well-rounded, generalist characters. Sure, Mike was the brains and rogue-type, Jim was the sniper, and Luke was our traps and explosives guy, but the three of them had spread out their points to be competent at taking on different challenges in different ways. Reggie just punched stuff.
The thing is, I hadn't tried to min-max him at creation. Reggie started with a background and I just built this big and dumb but caring and honorable boxer around him.
It's just that in the process of making the crunch fit the fluff I'd created a guy who could solve almost any problem the setting could throw at him in one punch. We all knew Reggie was a problem character, but again we all liked him too much. I offered to rebuild him and tone down his strengths a bit, but even the ZM said that was a shit idea because it'd remove what made Reggie Reggie.
As best as I can recreate him from memory, after killing Manilow Reggie looked like this:
Reginald "Ragin' Reggie" Dempsey
Age - 32
Height - 6'1
Weight - 235 lbs.
Strength - 7 Dexterity - 5 Constitution - 5 Intelligence - 1 Perception - 3 Willpower - 6
Life Points - 73 Endurance Points - 59 Speed - 20mph/10yps Essence - 27
Qualities and Drawbacks
Hard to Kill (5), Nerves of Steel (3), Fast Reaction Time (2), Charisma (5) Addiction(Alcohol) (-4), Honorable (-3), Attractiveness (-1), Reckless (-2)
Brawling - 8 Dodge - 8 Intimidation - 7 Martial Arts - 6 Running(Dash) - 5
Equipment - Leather Jacket (had to find a new one, ZM ruled the old one was destroyed), axe-fist (made my left hand count as a Slashing weapon, but could only be used once a round because it was so heavy)
Here's a general run down of what Reggie did with average rolls.
A punch from Reggie's right hand would do 37 damage.
A kick would do 45 damage.
A punch from Reggie's axe-fist would do 74 damage.
Please keep in mind those are AVERAGE rolls (Reggie's maximum feasible damage from an axe-fist punch was 98 damage against an unarmored target). An average zombie would die from 15 damage to its weak point, or 40 damage done anywhere. An average human would be knocked down/out at 26 damage, and die at 36. Reggie never missed, and was almost guarenteed to kill anything or anyone in one hit. Reggie could blast through regular and reinforced doors with one punch, punch through wooden walls over a foot thick, kick down brick walls half a foot thick, and with two punches or kicks could knock a yard-wide hole in an inch-thick solid concrete wall. And because his Dexterity, Martial Arts, and Dodge were so high, he could Parry anyone several times a round and dodge hails of gunfire with mediocre rolls.
Not only that, but Reggie was fast as a bat out of hell. His base run was faster than the brutes, who were the FASTEST ZOMBIES possible to make in the core book. When Dashing, on an average roll Reggie could move at 12 yards per second, running a 100-yard dash in 8.33 seconds. For reference, the current real-world record is about 9 seconds. So even against people with guns, Reggie could dart around from cover-to-cover so fast they could only get off a few shots before he was amongst them wrecking shit.
Reggie's Willpower and Nerves of Steel meant nothing phased him, and his Intimidation reduced any man who heard his booming voice to pants-shitting terror. There was nothing in the apocalypse that could make him take a Fear test. Zombies devouring babies' eyeballs just made him angry. He'd charge into a hail of gunfire without a moment's hesitation, and even if he got hit A LOT he'd still be good to go. The only times Reggie came close to death from gunfire was from Manilow's rifle fire and once when he took an astonishingly lucky max-damage hit of buckshot at point-blank range.
He still had 17 life points left.
Reggie was a man and a half.
So at the beginning of our first session after the death of Manilow, our ZM sat us down and basically said, "Look, guys, I'm worried this shit's gonna get old fast. Is it alright if I add and change a few things with the setting to spice it up a bit?"
We all said, "Sure."
A few things changed fast. Most obvious was increased groups of hostile Survivor-level NPCs. I used Fist of the North Star and God Hand in my original image for a reason; we were basically going up against muscle-bound hulks all day erry day from here on out. These guys were tough enough that Reggie could only have a guarenteed insta-kill against one per turn (since I was able to wreck five zombies a turn at this point, that seemed incredibly tough), and they could actually land hits on Reggie with some regularity. This might not seem like much, but it changed the dynamic enough that now Reggie needed help from the rest of the party if he wanted to survive. I couldn't just wade him into a line of goons and be guaranteed to win anymore.
This was a change we could all enjoy. It gave the other guys the opportunity to help out and snipe and it made Reggie a better fighter after he got bashed up a few times.
The second major change was heavier enforcement on Drawbacks, and was pretty much the ZM's "hose Reggie" initiative. I was the only one who had maxed out my Drawbacks, and while I'd really done of good job of playing up Reckless and Honorable the ZM declared that he'd be observing the effects of my Alcoholism much more carefully. If I didn't get a daily drink, I was at a -4 to all Intelligence, Perception, and Willpower related tests, and a -1 to all Strength, Endurance, and Agility related tests.
A quick explanation. The Alcoholism Drawback could not be "bought off" with experience like every other Drawback. To beat it, Reggie would have to make a series of once-a-day difficult Willpower tests (which were at a -4, remember) until he accrued 10 consecutive successes. This would drop his level of Alcoholism by one.
Of course, that was if there was even a need to do so. Alcohol was still surprisingly easy to find in the city, and after beating Manilow we returned South of the river and started working our way around the slums again so there were plenty of liquor stores for us to loot.
Thirdly, our ZM statted up a few new zombie types.
The zombies were attempting to close in on us, so Mike, Jim, and Luke hurried off. Reggie followed after taking a moment to pull the ramp off its hinges so the zombies couldn't make their way up it and into the stronghold.
That was a rough night. Everyone was moderately wounded, but Reggie was seriously hurt. His life point max was almost twice as high as anyone in the party, but at the moment he had the fewest.
So of course wretched fate would pick that time to throw a crap-ton of brutes at us on our way back to the fire station. We hadn't witnessed any smarts corralling the brutes like on the south side of the river, so we just assumed this was a chance thing or perhaps the smell of blood drew them.
We did get back to the station - by that time we were all in the low teens on our life points - and barricaded the hell out of the place. After that we just took a week to rest, recover, and decide what the hell to do next. It had been about two weeks since we'd first found those people stuck in the river, and protecting them had really driven our actions so we didn't exactly know what to do with ourselves now.
Reggie took the deaths of the four Manilow had shot really hard, and this was the first time his alcoholism reared its ugly head. We didn't have any booze on us, and we were all too tired and hurt to go looting to get him some. However, thanks to his sky-high Willpower and the fact the first few tests were made as Simple (double Willpower) tests, Reggie actually managed to resist his urges quite well and by the time we were ready to move on his alcoholism had dropped to a -3 penalty. Mike's high First Aid skill and the fact we'd stocked a lot of food in the station after the bridge fight meant we all recovered way faster than normal, though Reggie still wasn't quite at max life yet.
We set out on a Saturday (maybe) morning with two goals. First, we would spy on the people remaining in Manilow's stronghold to make sure some semblence of order had returned to the place. Mike was sure people would freak out if they saw us again so soon after we murdered a couple dozen of their people and smeared their leader all over the wall, so the idea of trying to rejoin them was out of the question. We felt bad about killing so many of their innocent able-bodied fighters in what was, really, in hind-sight, a pretty petty and rash act of revenge. We just wanted to know we hadn't condemned five hundred people to death.
Luckily, through our binoculers everything looked to be running smoothly. We saw they'd dug graves and buried their dead, they were still sending out looting parties (we noticed they were pretty heavily armed), and there weren't any signs of further violence since we'd left. To us, that was good enough. We started off South and never saw Manilow's stronghold, or the remaining four people we'd saved, ever again.
The second goal, and to Mike the most important thing we could possibly do for the forseeable future, was to find a place we could fortify and turn into a similar stronghold. Everyone was sick and tired of going to bed in a seemingly safe place and waking up in the middle of a fucking swarm. We made up a list of ideal traits for our stronghold and decided on three major things: someplace that could not be broken into by zombies, someplace comprised of many small rooms and narrow corridors so we could hold off a maximum number of zombies with minimal effort if they DID break in, and someplace near water so we could make a last-ditch escape and swim the fuck away if the worst case scenario happened.
The first leg of our quest would be to cross the river again and work our way back to the school to pick up all the supplies we'd stockpiled there. Things went well enough at first. Following our city map, we made our way to the nearest bridge. We didn't encounter any zombies on the way, and assumed that all of them in the area were being drawn to Manilow's stronghold.
Until we reached the bridge, that is.
The bridge, which luckily hadn't collapsed during the bombing, was about a hundred feet across and covered in broken and abandoned cars. And about a hundred zombies. And five humans.
The humans were holding ground on top of a mack truck's trailer and firing down into the horde. They weren't in any immediate danger, but we knew if any brutes showed up they'd be fucked so we decided to help out. We shouted out to get their attention and told them we'd start killing the ones on one side and they could keep working their way through the ones on the other side.
Mike, Jim, and Luke took up position on tops of cars and started sniping zombies while Reggie charged right in punching. It didn't take long, and Reggie alone ended up killing more zombies than all five of the survivors on the truck.
After the last zombie fell the survivors on the truck climbed down and Reggie moved in to shake hands and say hello.
That was when they all pointed their guns at Reggie and shouted for Mike, Jim, and Luke to throw down their weapons.
Following a quick round of "What the fuck, bro?" and much threatening, it came out that the guys who had been stuck on the truck were intent to make it out of the city together, didn't want anyone else tagging along, and needed all the guns and ammo they could get. They'd come too far and fought too hard, and they were willing to kill us to get what they wanted. To emphasize this, all but one of them aimed their guns at Mike, Jim, and Luke.
They had exactly three rounds of combat to realize what a bad idea it was not to keep all their weapons trained on a pissed-off, alcohol-deprived Reggie standing five feet away.
That was our first encounter with the ZM's new Tough Survivors™. The one still aiming at Reggie died from the power of the axe-hand. Surprised, the others fired their weapons at Jim, Mike, and Luke, who easily dodged out of the way behind cars. So far, so good, regular combat just like we all knew and loved.
Then the second one Reggie punched wasn't automatically reduced to a chunky blood-puddle on the ground. We assumed it was a random fluke, and Reggie finished him off with a neck-snapping kick. Then another guy PARRIED one of Reggie's attacks. Our jaws dropped. Granted, Reggie was suffering a -1 from alcohol withdrawel and an extra -4 for multiple attacks in one turn, but this was utterly unprecidented. When the three of them attacked Reggie with knives and the butts of their guns and landed three or four hits we realized our ZM wasn't fucking around.
Mike, Luke, and Jim got back into sniping positions and took out two of the survivors. On his next turn Reggie, still not fully recovered from Manilow's attack and sporting fresh wounds, decided the fight needed to end immediately. So he threw the remaining survivor across the bridge and into the river. Just four humans, using melee attacks, had dropped Reggie back down to roughly half his maximum life points.
Suddenly the city seemed a lot more dangerous.
We stripped the survivors of their ammo and beat a hasty retreat south-west, back towards the school. Along the way we looted a little mall (empty of zombies, surprisingly enough) for some flashlight batteries, some medical supplies to patch up Reggie, and a new leather jacket and a bottle of booze. While I would've liked to have Reggie keep fighting his alcoholism, I knew (and was pretty sure Reggie would feel) that having a clear mind and functioning body was more important right then than his long term well-being.
The sun was setting as we started to recognize a few buildings, and we knew the school wasn't far. That was when we slowed down and really started to worry. Three weeks ago there had been ten thousand zombies wandering this area, but now it seemed almost deserted. Jim, who had the highest Perception and the Situational Awareness Quality, kept a constant eye on the windows and rooftops, but he didn't see a single watch-smart.
The whole situation rankled our nerves, but when we reached the school and still hadn't seen a zombie we decided to take it as a blessing. We gathered all the supplies we'd stockpiled into one place, pushed a crap-ton of lockers in front of a couple doors for barricades, and searched every nook and cranny of every room we hadn't closed off with barricades down to the air vents, and with that went to sleep.
The next day, things were still clear outside. We decided that making a push to find a stronghold of our very own would require thorough planning, and that we all needed to be at full strength, so we held tight a few more days. Mike kept working to patch up and heal Reggie's wounds, Jim rigged up some simple traps to make noise and alert us if any zombies approached the school, Luke raided the janitor's closets to put together some acid bombs and bathtub explosives, and Reggie just kind of stewed.
Reggie was still upset over and blamed himself for the Manilow incident.
And now I must tell you a bit about Reggie's backstory, else nothing that follows will seem wondrous
Reggie hadn't had a horrible childhood growing up in the slums, like you might expect. His mother and father were both decent people, hard-working and kind to their children. Neither Reggie nor anyone in his family got involved with gangs (unlike Mike) or drugs (unlike Jim). Reggie hadn't suffered any abuse or tragic loss as a child. You would never say that Reggie came from a "broken" home.
What he did come from, however, was a poor home. A VERY poor home. Several poor homes, in fact, as his family had to keep moving from place to place when they couldn't pay the rent. The kind of poor home where a good boy might skip his meals so there's enough for his little sister to not go hungry. The kind of poor home where a boy never really knows if he's going to be out on the streets in a week, and grows up developing a sense of helplessness and hopelessness and self-loathing anger at himself for feeling the first two.
Reggie dropped out of school when he was twelve to start working jobs. He started fighting in back-alley boxing matches when he was fourteen, and wonder of wonders was good enough at it that he earned his family some steady money and they didn't have to be afraid of being kicked out on the streets any more.
Punching things was how Reggie made the fear go away.
Finally we were ready to set out. We'd asked our ZM for a short-list of locations to check out that fit our criteria, and he gave us three: a river-side hotel, a police station, and a block of old warehouses. All of them lay west of us, up-river.
Gathering up all our supplies, the gunmen had enough ammo to start a small war, and with a good leather jacket and his wounds all healed Reggie was ready to punch some dudes.
We set out shorty after dawn and came to an abrupt halt when we saw a zombie standing on the sidewalk across the street from us. Just staring. Our ZM had us roll Perception and Jim and Mike noticed right away that the things head was oddly bloated, the skin over its skull split and the skull itself cracked to reveal its pulsing, purpling brains. We decided to kill it, and rushed at it.
Then it started hooting at us like a goddamned baboon. Reggie reached it first and shut it up with one good punched, and the ZM made a point of mentioning it hadn't even tried to attack Reggie in turn.
Then we started to hear the hooting and howling coming from all around us and, to our horror, saw the undead start to pour out of the buildings all around us. Many were normal, but throughout their ranks we saw more of the ones with bloated heads.
And that's how we met our first super-smart zombies, though we really didn't realize anything was different about them until one threw a brick at Jim. They were similar to the smarts, but +1. They had a rudimentary knowledge of tools, and from the way they quickly penned us in were obviously quite good at commanding the regular smarts.
And as a dozen screaming, clawing terrors dropped from the rooftops to surround Jim, Mike, and Luke as Reggie was busy clearing a path, we realized they had actual control over the brutes as well.
Well, Reggie had taken a good swig of booze before setting out, so his head was clear and he was ready to punch ALL the dudes. The brutes fell to a few quick rounds of being punched and shotgun'd, and we made a break north towards the river.
They obviously weren't entirely prepared for us, because after about five blocks we'd left them all in the dust and couldn't see any more zombies anywhere.
Mike had an idea, though, and asked Jim to listen at the doors of one of the buildings. When he did, he heard a crap-ton of very faint moans coming from within. Listening around the block, we quickly realized that every building was full of zombies.
The zombies were lying in wait to ambush anyone trying to take refuge.
We booked it for the river, then took a hard left and followed it towards the hotel on our map. We all felt chills when we passed the mounds of dead zombies we'd created rescuing the people from the river. It was just weird being back there again after so much had happened. Before finding them the zombie apocalypse had been a merry jaunt for the party, then shit had to go and get real on us.
We got to the hotel around ten. Along the way we'd seen a few more of the super-smarts, but oddly they hadn't made any sound to alert their fellows. Mike figured they must be using the ones outdoors as bait, tricking people into attacking the lone zombie so the rest could surround them. Which only made us groan when we saw a single, bloated zombie standing out front of the hotel.
The hotel was a ten-storey luxury affair straddling the river. It really was the most ideal place for us; in the event of a full-scale zombie attack all it would take to escape is jump out a low window and we'd be half a mile downriver before the zombies knew what the fuck happened.
We had a quick huddle to figure out if it was worth checking the place out, and in the end we decided we'd try approaching the lone zombie and getting it to call out its fellows. Then we could judge their numbers and act accordingly.
That's when the zombie's freaking head exploded.
We stood there a bit dumbfounded for a moment then heard a voice calling out to us and we looked up.
The hotel was already occupied. Nearly a thousand people, in fact, were living in the place and they'd already made it into a sweet set-up. They had set up rain-catchers along every window, torn out the first-floor staircases (they used rope ladders to get up and down), and even had a decent garden set up on the roof. Like at Manilow's stronghold, they sent out regular looting parties and by this point had rooms packed full of weapons and canned food and medical supplies.
They didn't really have a "leader," as such, but we felt uneasy walking into their company without knowing their rules. So we cleared out a few zombies stumbling around the ground floor for them, told them our intentions to move further upriver, they bade us farewell, and we continued on our way.
Our next stop was the 6th Street Police Station. The station sat two blocks away from the river, which was an inconvenience if we needed to make a quick escape, but had the advantage of being built in what had been a particularly bad part of town and was therefore basically a small fortress.
Again we saw super-smarts standing around staring at us blankly, but this time there was no sign of human life so we decided to go with our other plan and get the super-smarts to draw out the hordes. We approached it, and it started hooting and hollering and the undead began pouring out of the station and buildings, surrounding us.
So there we were, up to our taints in about five hundred zombies. Reggie charged the nearest dense mob and punched off heads left and right. As the bodies started piling up, we employed a tried-and-true strategy of stacking corpses to give Jim, Luke, and Mike a safe firing position, while Reggie continued dashing around punching zombies to make space and keep their attention away from the others.
The combat lasted an entire session, but when more than half the zombies had fallen the super-smarts started hooting again. The zombies started leaving. Not all at once, though; about thirty of them kept shambling towards us while the rest fled back to the buildings. They were making a goddamned tactical retreat.
We finished off the sacrificial zombies, then piled up as many as we could in front of the police station doors so they made a barrier against us. Then we tried to go into the station.
The zombies had locked the goddamned doors behind them as they fled inside.
At this point we were all wearing WTF-faces, but Mike picked the lock and we worked our way through the station with grim efficiency. There were only about twenty zombies in the station so it didn't take long, and after we tossed their corpses outside we took a little time and explored the station.
Thankfully, it didn't seem like many looters had been through this place so we were pretty much swimming in guns and ammo. We also found some sweet, sweet riot gear and augmented our defenses with Class II armor. Now hostile survivors wouldn't be as deadly, though any bullets that didn't target our torsos would be just as deadly as ever.
We tidied up the place, stock-piled all our weapons and supplies in a main room, then prepared to go to bed. Every window on the building was barred and the doors were heavy-duty stuff and locked, so we felt safe sleeping.
Around midnight, we were woken up by what sounded like a hundred super-smarts hooting outside. We put on our armor and took up our weapons and took a look outside. The power had been out for months, but luckily it was clear outside so we could see what was going on.
Lined up across the street from us were dozens and dozens of zombies with bloated heads. They just stood there hooting at us.
Then, five feet away from where we were standing, the wall of the police station caved in and an eight-feet-tall hulking brute charged us.
The ZM made us all take a fear test, which only Reggie and Jim passed, and Mike and Luke fled to the next room. Reggie did the first thing that came to mind and charged the giant zombie. His axe-fist hit the zombie square in the chest and did enough damage to kill two men.
The zombie just roared and punched Reggie hard enough to send him flying through an inner wall.
And thus we met our first Super Brute. An eight feet tall, three hundred fifty pounds, a Strength 7, super-fast, damage resistant, regenerating brawler who could reliably hit Reggie even when the guy was parrying. Our ZM had created a Reggie-zombie.
All that, and it had NO WEAK SPOT. As Jim unloaded both barrels of a shotgun into the freak's head and blew it clean off, it just kept coming without any visible loss of function. Mike and Luke got their shit together and rushed back in to help Jim as Reggie regained his feet, brushed himself off, and moved in to wreck shit. After a few more rounds of combat the thing had rampaged through the station, knocked down half the walls, and the building was beginning to collapse on us, and we realized this thing couldn't be killed through regular means. So Reggie punched off both its arms, Jim and Luke shot off its legs, and we quickly gathered up as many supplies as we could and beat a hasty retreat out of the ruined building. By that time more zombies and regular brutes had shown up, so we had another tense midnight flight across the city.
Working our way block-by-block, stopping every now and then to kill brutes, we worked our way steadily west. More zombies kept pouring out of buildings as we went, and before long we had a thousands-strong horde chained behind and around us as the super-smarts called ahead so their fellows could pen us in.
It was probably around four in the morning when we saw the light of torch fire filtering through the streets. We beat our way through yet another line of zombies and turned a corner and found ourselves on a street blocked off on one end with cargo crates. A small mob of zombies stood pushing at the crates, but couldn't budge them. Atop the crates were a few men with guns and torches.
We ran at them, shouting, and they got to see the delightful sight of four dudes leading a freaking swarm towards them. They weren't exactly happy about it, but they took a few pot-shots at the zombies pushing at their barricades then threw a rope ladder down as we beat our way through.
We climbed up to a general greeting of "ARE YOU GUYS FUCKING RETARDED?!" but then we all saw that, wonder of wonders, the giant horde that had been chasing us was dispersing. They apparently realized they couldn't get at us any more.
So one of the sentries took us inside, and that's when we saw that we'd reached our third destination; the warehouse district.
Unlike Manilow's stronghold, the warehouse district had been secured by sweat and brawn rather than chance. When shit went down, the workers did what they could to block off all the streets with cargo crates and heavy machinery, then converted many of the warehouses to shelters for people to live in. Like the hotel survivors, they'd rigged up plenty of systems to gather water and farm.
We were a little shocked by how many there were. According to Big John, a union guy who helped run the place, they had more than ten thousand survivors jammed into the district, of course that was including a couple hundred out on raiding parties and other things. They didn't have a lot in the way of weapons and medical supplies, so we gave them a few spare guns we'd grabbed in our dash from the police station.
We were still pretty wary, but John and the other guys who ran things seemed like good ol' salt of the earth types, so we felt safe enough to stick around for a few days and help out.
It was in our third day that the zombies launched a major offensive from the north. A large bridge crossed the river right in the middle of the district, and it was a difficult area for them to block off so zombie attacks from that direction were almost constant. They couldn't raise the bridge because the electricity was off, and they didn't want to destroy it because a lot of raiding parties used it to get in and out whenever the zombies fled.
Apparently many attempts had been made to reach the dam upriver and get the power running again, but none who went returned.
By that point the group was feeling antsy. We were still more accustomed to being on our own rather than surrounded by people, and Reggie was out of booze again, so we volunteered to go check out the dam and see what was up. We found a liquor store along the way and Reggie took a bottle, figuring that'd be enough to last the journey there and back without weighing him down.
It took us two days to reach the outskirts of town (encountering a few tough survivor groups along the way that we had to kill), and then another day in the "country" (Jim laughed at that) to reach the dam.
From a distance Mike could tell that the dam was closed off; no water was getting through. Plenty was going OVER it, however, and we could see that the thing seemed to be starting to crack. Suddenly our mission seemed a good deal more urgent. If the dam broke, it could flood out everything along the river through the city.
We got into the dam through a side door. There was a good foot of standing water throughout the interior of the dam, and Mike and Jim took point so they could figure a safe way for us to get through. The inside of the dam was completely dark, but thankfully we still had plenty of batteries for our flashlights.
We managed to make it down to a lower level (waist-deep water, here) and eventually found the emergency valves for the place (I'm pretty sure our ZM was just making shit up, I doubt he had any real knowledge of how a hydroelectric dam works, but none of us really knew either).
Mike deduced that we could use the valves to open up the flow of water and maybe get the turbines spinning again. Reggie put his 7 strength to use and turned all those fuckers. Slowly, they opened up and water started pouring through the dam again rather than over it. The dam groaned, but held, and we all breathed a sigh of relief. The lights were still off, so we worked our way back up through the dam.
When we reached the top, we found the control room for the place (again, we were running on survival horror videogame logic for much of this). What we found inside was a blood-bath. It looked like twenty men had been killed, ground up into mush, then smeared around on the walls.
Mike and Luke had brief panic attacks, but eventually calmed down enough that they could take a look at the controls and figure out what needed to be done. It was all incomprehensible to Reggie, but eventually they Did Stuff and the lights came on.
And a blood-curdling roar sounded from within the dam.
Our ZM told us quite plainly that we recognized it as the roar of a Super Brute like what we'd encountered at the police station. After Jim made a perception check, we realized there was more than one.
We fucking ran for it.
We worked our way downstairs and towards the way we'd come in. All the while those terrible howls shook the walls, but we just kept running. When we reached the final corridor leading out of the place, we saw the fucker. FuckerS. Two of them, standing between us and the door, eight feet tall and rippling with muscle, howling and beating their fists and heads against the wall in unfocused rage.
Mike, Luke, and even Jim immediately fell victim to fear tests and started shaking like made. Reggie knew they wouldn't be much help in a fight, so he did the only thing he could.
Reggie pushed them into a side-room, shut the door, shouted at the Super Brutes to get their attention, then turned and ran back into the dam.
One frantic, terrified dash later, Reggie managed to get a closed door between himself and the Super Brutes. That gave him about a ten second lead before they broke through, but by that time Reggie was rushing up a staircase. Hoping that the halls doubled back, he turned as he came out upstairs and narrowly dodged a punch from a third Super Brute.
Even someone as reckless and fearless as Reggie knew this situation was FUBAR, so he just kept running without even trying to fight. Asking the ZM what the fuck my surroundings were, I found out there was a thick steel door open up ahead.
I leaped through, slamming the door shut behind me and securing it with the heavy steel latch on it.
That's when I looked around and saw, to my absolute dismay, that I'd just locked myself in a small closet with nothing but some electrical components. Split from the party, alone, with nothing but half a bottle of whiskey and a flashlight, Reginald Dempsey sat down and put his head in his hands as the sound of three Super Brutes banging on a thick steel door filled his world.
For the next five days, Reggie sat in darkness drinking stagnant water pooled in the closet. His small supply of food ran out on the third day. His booze ran out half-way through the second day.
Outside, the Super Brutes didn't let up, they just banged on the door and roared, day and night, unable to break through but too fucking angry not to keep trying. Eventually Reggie managed to fall asleep sitting in two feet of water, the cacophony splitting into his dreams and nightmares.
By the beginning of the fourth day Reggie was half mad with hunger, sickness, alcohol-deprivation, and from the banging. He hoped and hoped that soon the others would arrive and somehow save him. What Reggie didn't know was that Mike, Jim, and Luke had fled after recovering from their fear, and were combing the countryside. They thought Reggie had gotten out somehow.
No one knew where Reggie was.
By the fifth day Reggie was a wreck. And then he failed yet another Willpower test to resist the effects of his alcoholism, and like a hay-maker to the face it hit him that he was going to die. Either from starving in the closet or by the Super Brutes breaking through, Reggie was going to die.
For the first time, Reggie took a fear test. And he failed.
Reggie's body started shaking, he screamed impotently at the Super Brutes outside, he probably pissed himself, and finally he passed out, utterly exhausted and mentally broken from his ordeal.
And then he began to dream. He was a little boy again, crying in bed and clutching at his aching stomach. Then a young teenager lying crying in the middle of the street, knocked down and beat in his first boxing match. Then a young man crying at his parents' funeral. Then himself, now, locked in this dank closet and crying.
And as his nightmare took hold of him, Reggie saw someone else there with him. The person looked a lot like him, but with cruel intelligence in his eyes where Reggie's were always filled with good-natured dopiness. And Reggie knew it was him, his fear, the part of him that was always afraid deep down. The reason he fought, the reason he drank, the reason he always went out of his way to help people. To forget for just a while those old feelings of helplessness.
And then it started to taunt him, laughing at his weakness, and I started to get angry. So I looked the ZM square in the eyes and said, "I want to roll Willpower."
"Well, you're gonna be at a -3."
"I don't care. I want to roll willpower."
I wish I could tell you that I rolled a straight 10, and earned Reggie an epic success. But perfect luck was something lesser men needed to get by.
Ragin' Reggie Dempsey only needed a 6.
"You succeed at your Willpower test, and regain some sense of yourself within your dream."
"I punch him."
"The other me, whatever it is."
"It's basically a manifestation of Reggie's fear and alcoholism."
"Fine then. I punch alcoholism."
After a round of laughter from everyone else I look the ZM straight in the eyes and say, "I am dead serious."
"Dude, it's a psychological manifestation, you can't punch it, that's stupid."
I held up my character sheet for everyone to see and said, "Intelligence 1, Willpower 6. I'm dumb enough and confident enough to believe I can do it. I punch alcoholism."
After looking at me critically for a second, the ZM says he allows it and that Reggie's Alcoholism is now a stat'd character, a mirror of Reggie.
And then Reggie, in the grip of a fevered nightmare, fought all the fear and hopelessness in his mind and soul. And through sheer, monumental luck (and perhaps even a touch of ZM fiat), Reggie won.
Reggie awoke, head truly clear for the first time in years. Reggie always punched things to make his fear go away, and now for the first time it was gone. Reggie stood up, walked to the door, and roared right back at the Super Brutes as he twisted the door latch and kicked the door open.
Half a ton of zombie berserker awaited Reggie on the other side.
But only one could fit through the door at a time.
Reggie's first axe-fist punch tore the beast's head from its neck. Reggie then grabbed it and threw it back into the hallway. The second Super Brute charged headlong into the room, but Reggie was having none of that shit. Another axe-fist took its head off as well, and then Reggie picked the freak up and slammed it into the ground at his feet just in time to dodge back as the third threw a punch that would've taken the head off a lesser man.
Reggie waited for the third to charge him again, then rolled under the freak's arm and leapt over the one recovering from being bodyslammed. Reggie made it out into the hall just in time to kick the first Super so hard both its goddamned legs snapped off. The headless Super was hardly phased, though, and from the ground pushed itself up off the ground and punched Reggie so hard he went tumbling down the hall. By this time the other two Supers, one headless but the other functioning perfectly, had recovered and burst out into the hall just in time to trample over their fellow.
For a moment Reggie considered fleeing, leading the Supers on a chase through the place where he could wear them down, but at that moment he never wanted to run from anything again.
Reggie charged the Super Brutes, roaring and laughing joyfully as he traded blows with the beasts. Before long two of them were nothing but twitching and grasping limbs and torsos in the water, but the third one was still going strong and wholly uninjured.
The Super Brute got another good punch in on Reggie and sent the man flying back once more. And, of course, the ZM would choose that moment to declare that Reggie's axe-fist fell off his hand. At that point, though, Reggie was too high on life, fighting, and the burning spirit of his Willpower to care as he charged down the hall at the Super Brute once more. What followed can only be described as a beatdown. Reggie stopped even trying to dodge and parry, he just traded blows with the Brute, knocking a limb off each round then pounding the beast in the chest. The Super kept trying to knock Reggie back, but every time Reggie's opposed strength beat it.
When Reggie was done with the Super Brute, the dimly lit hall was painting in blood, both Reggie's and that of the Supers. Their twitching corpses, technically immortal but too badly ripped apart to regenerate, lay scattered about the room in a grim mirror of the bodies of those men killed in the control room, likely by these same Super Brutes.
With that, Reggie found his axe-fist, found his way back out into the sunlight, and made his way back to the city. Along the way he found Jim, Mike, and Luke. The apologized for leaving him behind, but Reggie was fine. The damn was working again, men from the warehouse stronghold could be sent out to repair it and ensure the city continued to receive power, and for once the future didn't look so bleak. Together, the four of them made their way back towards the ruined city.
Reginald, Mike, Jim, and Luke went on to have many more adventures, encountered great friends and terrible foes, and eventually fell in righteous combat
But that is a story for another day...