View Full Version : Zombie in the City: the Nuance of Going into a City During a Zombie Apocalypse

2012-07-24, 05:52 AM
Well, my players are finally out of our starting town and...headed to the city?!

Yep, one of the players is headed to look for his family and they were practically chased out of town. My problem is that I am unsure exactly how hard I should make it on them. I know that I can have them suddenly turn a corner and there be a horde of zombies, but that is a bit too easy.

In order for them to find something specific, I kinda want them to actually go in and be able to navigate the place, but the question is, how do I legitimately portray that?

2012-07-24, 08:45 AM
Depending on how long the ZA has been going on for and the type of zombies involved, the city may not be as densely populated any more and migrations of zombies can occur whenever someone or something passes through.

Several approaches for the PCs to consider.

Subways may be a viable option. Even in the worst case scenarios, the tunnels are unlikely to be wall to wall zombies and assuming there is still power the PCs could even commandeer a train to zip around in, emerging from stations to scout, look for supplies etc.

Depending on how many people successfully fled the city, the streets while populated may not be impassable. Careful maneuvering, use of back streets and connecting alleys and not using firearms and moving between connected buildings (even bashing through walls or cellars) allows them to travel sight unseen from the majority of the horde.

There's also the cardinal sin of splitting the party. One group, the most mobile, draws zombies away from key targets while the rest of the group acquire supplies, search for survivors etc.

For you as a GM, an approach that might work goes as follows
Work out the overall population of zeds in a city and divide the city up into a number of sectors, perhaps 20.

Disperse the zeds throughout it evenly (though perhaps tilt it so there are less of them in industrial zones etc) then roll 4d6 and discard the lowest (or highest) dice. The total here are your event markers, indicating things that happened when the PCs weren't there. You can be vague or detailed in these, depending on the scenario.

Roll a d20 to indicate a sector and subtract one from your event total. Migrate zombies from neighbouring sectors into that sector. Continue rolling (a maximum of 18 times) sectors and migrating zombies. If a sector is empty of zombies and an event occurs, roll another D6. On a 1 2 3, no zombies migrate, 4, 5 and 6, the event was major enough to attract zombies from neighbouring sectors.

PCs can attempt to discern how populated a neighbouring sector is by an hour of observation. Events involving the PCs in a given sector, depending on how attention grabbing they are (e.g Minor, Moderate and Major) determine if zombies from neighbouring sectors begin to migrate towards them. Minor would be something like breaking glass or similar, Moderate would be a fight or setting off a car alarm, major would be a firefight , some large form of destruction, multiple car alarms etc.

PCs can attempt to lure zombies to other sectors by setting off events willingly though they better have an escape route planned

Hope this helps.

2012-07-24, 08:55 AM
This might sound silly, but I think borrowing from Grand Theft Auto and using something akin to the Wanted Level to portray how much trouble the PCs are in.

At the baseline, there are plenty of zombies in the streets and a few in buildings. If the group is spotted by a zombie or forced into a noisy kill, the horde's awareness goes up as zombies look in the direction of the disturbance.

If the PCs manage to slip quietly away onto an adjacent rooftop or into the thrift store etc, horde awareness goes back down. Conversely, if they're forced to sprint away into the open street or gun down half a dozen zombies, awareness goes up again and the horde starts closing in.

At this point, the situation is already pretty bad, and causing any more commotion will likely get them swarmed in the street or completely surrounded in a building that won't protect them for long... time to think fast.

Of course, specific locations the PCs might investigate will still have specific encounters. The Kinko's the PC's son worked in is occupied by a co-worker who tells them where the boy was headed when he left, their church is on fire and the screams of a trapped couple can be heard from inside, etc.

2012-07-24, 09:11 AM
I assume you have seen that awkward comic adaption of the walking dead.

In Cities there are MASSES of Zed's. Imagine you have a city with 230k Persons living in there. Day Z comes and even if you substract casualities of really dead ones that's still 115k Zombies and Survivors. So you are left with about 110k zeds and a few survivors that didn't make it out/are about to turn/die.

I'm just playing with rough numbers, there won't be really 5 thousand survivors left in the city.
SO we count on, how many of them are inside? how many will be underground? how many will be outside. The good thing is: you can always at all times find a reason to have a mass of 150 zombies just around that corner.

And I have to say even a single car alarm is probably loud enough to lure zombies from 200 or more meters distance towards that noise. Cause they just are that noisy...

2012-07-24, 08:04 PM
How do your zombies act when there are no nearby humans? Do they clump together, or do they spread out randomly? Do they prefer open spaces or confined areas? Do they tend to roam, or do they prefer to stay near where they died until something disturbs them? Will they seek shelter in adverse conditions, or simply ignore the weather? Can they navigate obstacles such as ladders? Will they avoid drops, or willingly step into them?

All of these things will control whether your zombie hordes will be freely roaming the streets and buildings, or mostly piled up in sewers because they wandered into manholes and couldn't manage to escape.

2012-07-24, 11:26 PM
Oddly enough, High School of the Dead handled the strange randomness of city encounters pretty well. If you can withstand absurd amounts of fan service, there's some pretty good source material in there.