DEAD MEAT: Ultima Carneficina Dello Zombie!
DEAD MEAT: Ultima Carneficina Dello Zombie! Playtest Review by Peter C. Spahn on 07/10/02
Style: 5 (Excellent!)
Substance: 3 (Average)
The perfect party game for Halloween.
Product: DEAD MEAT: Ultima Carneficina Dello Zombie!
Author: Sean Wipfli
Company/Publisher: Sean Wipfli
Page count: 4
Year published: 2001
Comp copy?: no
Playtest Review by Peter C. Spahn on 07/10/02
Dead Meat: Ultima Carneficina Dello Zombie!
Have you ever watched a horror flick and thought to yourself "man, that was cool. I wish I could run my players through something like that." But you canít and you know why? Because itís no fun for anyone. Take a look at the end result of almost all those movies and you only have about 1-2 people left standing. What this means in traditional RPG terms is that your players spend on average 30-45 minutes creating a character only to have him torn apart by a horde of undead, 30 minutes into actual play.
Not so with Dead Meat. Oh, theyíll still get torn apart 30 minutes in, but since chargen takes about 5 minutes at the start of the session and since the gameplay is actually centered around horror movies with an emphasis on character mortality, nobody seems to mind. This is great for us "nice guy" GMís---those of us who game with their friends and rarely kill their characters unless they do something utterly and irreversibly stupid (and even then. . .).
Dead Meat is a free RPG created in 2001 by Sean Wipfli. He describes it as "a simple horror RPG that allows you to play out the plots of your favorite Zombie flicks, Italian, Spanish, American or otherwise!". The game system does a great job of living up to that and more.
There have been other reviews of this four page RPG so another one might seem a bit excessive but there are two main reasons I have chosen to review it. One is that the creator is currently working on an expanded, print version of the game that promises to be pretty cool and the other is because itís October and this game is absolutely perfect for short one shots with very little game terminology or setup time so even non gamers can play. In fact, it is especially good for non gamers in that the rules are simple and the action is easy to visualize---I mean, who (in their right mind) hasnít seen at least one zombie flick?
To date, I have run this game four times, tweaking a few things here and there and each time we had a blast. If youíre really bored, check out a summary of one of my more recent sessions here.
First, a typical session of Dead Meat is called a Film and is supposed to last no longer than 90 minutes of real time. The GM (Gore Master)tells you where the Film takes place and then you decide what kind of characters to create and how they came to be at the Film location.
Characters are called Personas and you make up three of them right from the start. "Chargen" consists of deciding what kind of Persona you want to run (based on the Filmís premise) and then dividing 7d6 up among three stats---Zip (speed), Whomp (strength), and Guts (health). And thatís it. There are no skills, no merits and flaws, no feats or special powers. Three stats, three numbers and maybe a few notes on the Personaís background and profession.
Task resolution consists of rolling however many d6ís you have in the appropriate stat (Zip for dodging or running away, Whomp for smashing open a door, etc.). 5ís and 6ís equal successes. Itís a very simple system that reflects the genre more than reality and also once again makes it perfect for newbies or people who have never gamed before.
Melee combat is resolved by the Persona and the zombie each rolling their Whomp dice at the same time. Successes cancel each other out. The one with the most successes has inflicted one Guts wound* per success on the other.
*Note, zombies are said to have Chunks instead of Guts, but it works the same way.
The combat rules allow for pooling group rolls, as in the total Whomp of all fighting Personas vs. the total Whomp of all attacking zombies. In this case all Guts wounds may be applied to one Persona as "---zombies seem to zero in on one choice victim as being the tastiest".
Different weapons can enhance your Whomp roll significantly, from 1d6 for something wimpy like a screwdriver to 3d6 for something wicked like a chainsaw.
After the "rules section" a few basic suggestions are given for creating a good Film (isolating the environment/Personas, creating a flow chart of possible actions, etc.)
Then come the stats for the monsters, from basic shambling zombies (Night of the Living Dead) to more active zombies (Return of the Living Dead), cyborg zombies and even demons and demonic hordes (Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight).
Then come a few acknowledgments to people that encouraged Sean to actually sit down and create the game, and I would like to thank them as well because this game is a lot of fun.
And thatís all of the written game material. Now that the basics are out of the way, I want to include a few observations and playtested house rules that I found work well without cluttering up the game.
The written rules state that you play all three Personas at once. While this might work for smaller groups, I think it could get tedious for larger ones. What I do is have each player run one Persona at a time. This soon led me to a "characters in the bowl" rule where each player makes three Personas, folds them up and puts them into a bowl. The players draw from this bowl each time a Persona dies until they either escape the situation or all Personas have been drawn and killed. This plays out extremely well and the results can be highly amusing.
I use Zip for intelligence based tasks as well as ranged combat.
I have also found that for a good Film, the characters must work towards some type of goal, even if that is only escaping the area. To further this, I generally place a Persona of my own into the bowl---one who has some knowledge of an escape route, what is really going on, a way to kill the zombies or is able to further the plot in some other way.
Another note---while the game is called Dead Meat and based on the premise of characters escaping zombie hordes, there is a lot more you can do along those lines with just the basic system. Basically any type of overwhelming horror movie/book can be mimicked with a little bit of extra thought---think Aliens, Ghosts of Mars, The Omega Man, C.H.U.D., or even non-supernatural things like packs of wild dogs or hordes of rats. You could even make everyone really paranoid by running a Film based around John Carpenterís version of The Thing---just have some of the characters you add to the bowl secretly be aliens bent on isolating and killing the rest of the party.
I myself recently tweaked the rules a bit to run my last session---an adventure I had kicked around for another game. This was modeled after a slasher flick in the vein of Halloween and Friday the Thirteenth. There were no zombies. Instead there was a vengeful spirit named Pick Axe Jack---in life a miner who (along with others) had been buried a hundred years ago in a cave in and left to die. The Film was centered around the Personas vacationing at the lake near the old mines. The players all made teen Personas and over the course of the session (as Personas started disappearing) they uncovered the legend of Pick Axe Jack as well as how to kill him (with some help from the Persona I added to the bowl).
I made Jack tougher than a normal zombie (using the stats for the cyborg zombie), gave him the ability to regenerate as well as disappear when no one was looking directly at him (as in, they knock him down, then turn in the direction of a noise, then they look back and he is gone). This also explained how he doggedly kept up with them when they were running and he was walking as well as how he sometimes appeared in front of them---two typically cheesy slasher tricks/abilities. :) And of course, I ended the Film with his reappearance after they thought they had killed him. Hey, if Jason and Michael always come back, why not Jack?
Iíve said before that Eden Studiosís excellent All Flesh Must be Eaten complements Dead Meat nicely and it really does. Just take one of the many plot hooks from AFMBE and create your own Dead Meat Film.
I also want to note here that while AFMBE and Dead Meat deal with essentially the same subject matter, they are _entirely_ different games. AFMBE is designed for long term campaigns and more traditional character development while Dead Meat is designed for one shots, normal people and mindless zombie hacking. Both games do what they set out to do and both games do it exceptionally well.
Well, I hope Iíve convinced some of you to give Dead Meat a whirl---try it out on a few friends before your usual gaming session or even try it out on a non-gamer. My first game consisted of my wife (then my girlfriend) humoring me by agreeing to play one night when we both had some free time. Even she was surprised at how much she enjoyed it and now she has become a regular in our Dead Meat sessions.
Let me close this review of Dead Meat by saying - THIS - GAME - IS - A - BLAST. I plan to run another session on Halloween and everyone is really looking forward to it.
Have fun everyone and I hope you all have a happy and safe Halloween.