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Author Topic: "Year of the Zombie" Core Book Has Bite  (Read 5285 times)


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"Year of the Zombie" Core Book Has Bite
« on: October 02, 2006, 07:30:54 PM »

1. Campaign Types: What kind of zombie game are you running?
2. Time of Death: beginning the zombie campaign
3. The Dead Walk: zombie templates
4. Those Left Alive: new player classes
5. Cause of Death: additional threats and hazards
6. Lands of the Dead: locations of interest
7. We're Jacked Up and Good to Go, Sarge! (military weapons, vehicles)
8. Alternate Rules (Fear rules, Insanity, etc.)

"Year of the Zombie" is a roleplaying game by Tim Willard, published by UKG Publishing. It is a handsome 154 page book, well laid-out and easy on the eyes. The art varies in quality, but is mostly satisfactory.

Made for use with d20 Modern from Wizards of the Coast, YOTZ is a lovingly detailed game that seeks to reproduce the dystopic horror seen in zombie movies like "Dawn of the Dead" and "Day of the Dead." In terms of play, the game is quite scalable, with scenarios ranging from the minor, where characters have to confront and control minor outbreaks of the living dead, to catastrophic, where the players are among the only living people in a world overrun with the hungry dead.
The game works best as an extremely dark, grim exercise in survival horror. In the game's default setting, death from a zombie's bite is invariably fatal, and sooner or later, everyone is going to die - one way or the other. This doesn't mean that a GM couldn't modify these rules, but most of the background detail provided in the book assumes a campaign world of unrepenting savagery and high morality.
Strong campaign detail is one of YOTZ's strongest points. Just about every page of the game offers a sidebar of flavor text, which is as illuminating about the world of YOTZ as it is entertaining to read all on its own. If anything, I would say that the author should have a bright career in horror fiction, should he choose to pursue it.
However, Most obviously a work of passion, YOTZ both benefits and suffers from the closeness that the author must have felt to the game's topic. The book offers a dizzying amount of detail about the post-apocalyptic landscape that it seeks to detail, yet sometimes this same level of detail goes beyond what may be likely necessary for most casual game groups. An example is the section on bartering goods and services, which not only details the relative value of highly valued consumer goods such as food and ammunition but also offers exchange rates for various sexual acts going so far as to detail the value of oral sex versus  intercourse (Wealth Equivalent 5 to Wealth Equivalent 10, respectively). It should be noted that YOTZ is most definitely a product for mature minds. Topics such as slavery, cannibalism and child abuse rear their heads with an alarming regularity in the world described by YOTZ.
Mostly, the staggering wealth of detail the author provides works strongly in the game's favor. Beyond the necessity of having access to a copy of D20 Modern, YOTZ is truly a self-contained product, with information on everything from the likelihood of various military and police units standing their ground or deserting in the post-Rise world, to game-play information on nuclear, chemical and biological warfare and its aftermath.
Further, when it comes to the zombies that stand at the product's core, YOTZ truly shines. The authors detail several kinds of zombies as they are depicted in popular movies, from "classic" zombies that shuffle slowly and moan, to "sprinter" zombies that aggressively stalk and run down their prey. Zombies aren't the only menace in YOTZ. "Wolf Packs," organized groups of cannibalistic feral youth, slavers and bandits also receive a loving amount of detail that really brings them to life for the reader.
YOTZ also offers several alternative player character classes that are distinct to the game setting: one, the lawman prestige class, embodies order in the post-Rise world, while a couple of others - such as the wolfpack den mother advanced class - embody its opposite. Speaking of player-oriented detail, YOTZ provides full stats for a plethora of combat vehicles and weaponry that are sure to be popular for most groups.

Further, the revised core book also comes with several bonus support products: "The Diaries of Becka," a further fleshing out of the flavor text contained in the core rulebook, an introductory adventure titled "Shoot Out at the O.K. Diner," and "Master Plan: Modern - Diner," comprehensive set of 25mm floorplans for the O.K. Diner adventure.

Really, YOTZ offers a lot of bang for the buck, especially when compared other similar products. Even if the buyer becomes tired of running YOTZ, almost all of the supplementary information contained in the rules could be cannibalized (pun entirely intended) for just about any other "modern" campaign.
In summary, YOTZ is a great product for emulating the kinds of scenarios seen in the movies of George R. Romero and his many imitators. The book is literally crammed with detail, and the author's enthusiasm for the world he has designed is truly contagious. Any GM of moderate talent should have no problem running any number of adventures with only a minimal amount of preparation. For those who love the "zombie apocalypse" genre, YOTZ may be the one d20 gaming product they will ever really need.