The Dead and the Doomed
by Brendan Conway
This place is a sanctuary. A goddamn fortress. It’s my home, where I would come to hide from… well… the hungry public. It was safe. And it’s still safe.
You want in? You’re going to follow my rules. That starts with leaving those weapons at the door…
— Olivia Allerby, former movie star, 27 days after First Rising
It’s too much to hope for that anybody would be able to explain where the dead came from. What it is that let them stand up and shamble into homes. But that doesn’t matter. The Rising has spread across the world, reaching into every corner with undead hands, and now the walkers, the shamblers, the risen, the biters—the zombies—are everywhere. They fill the city, and they roam the wild. Folks might find safety for a few moments…but never for long. Not without strong walls and plenty of ammo, and even then, it’s a fragile thing.
That’s where a place like the Manor comes in. It’s a big house—huge, really. It has fences. Security measures. A back-up generator. It’s well-stocked with supplies. It’s defensible. Any survivors who knew of the Manor eventually found their way to it. They arrived at its gates in ones or twos or threes, and they requested entrance. They requested safety. And those in the Manor gave it to them…albeit reluctantly.
And that’s where this small community has found itself, just as winter gets started. A bunch of people, stuck in this Manor together as it gets colder outside. It’s only a matter of time before somebody can’t take the pressure—of zombies, lack of supplies, other people, the cold, everything—any longer and snaps. And everyday folks are finding out that the Manor maybe isn’t really as safe as they thought. And that its supplies aren’t quite infinite. And that maybe all they’re really doing here is delaying the end.
As a Quick Start Adventure, The Dead and the Doomed has everything you need to jump right into a zombie-ridden Fate one-shot game. Unlike other one-shots published in the The Fate Codex, The Dead and the Doomed is designed to create a single session of zombie movie-like play instead of a new campaign.
Before you start, discuss the broader setting with your group. Talk about what the characters know about the Rising. The Dead and the Doomed assumes that you’re playing a few months after the dead started to rise, but there are holes in the story that your group should fill in. How did the infection spread? Why did the government fail to respond? What rumors have spread about the disease?
After getting the most basic elements down, create your Manor. Then go through the current and impending issues, selecting an impending issue that sounds interesting.
Defining Your Manor
When you play The Dead and the Doomed, you define the particulars of your Manor. The following is always true about your Manor:
- It is isolated. The Manor is outside dense urban areas.
- It is palatial. The Manor is huge and has plenty of space in it for lots of people.
- It is protected. It has defenses that make it reasonably safe.
The Manor also has four defining aspects:
- The location aspect refers to the Manor’s geographic location and important nearby assets and dangers.
- The supplies aspect refers to the Manor’s most valuable or abundant supplies.
- The security aspect refers to the Manor’s primary defenses, whatever makes the Manor a good place in which to take shelter.
- The weakness aspect refers to the Manor’s inherent problems that threaten the struggling community or expose it to harm.
Quick Start Manor
Location: Edge of a Major City
Supplies: Gun Closer
Security: High Fences and Cameras
Weakness: Too Big to Monitor Safely
One at a time, each player gets to choose one of the four types of aspect for the Manor: location, supplies, security, or weakness. Each of these aspects is always present while within the Manor. PCs can invoke them for an appropriate advantage, and the GM can compel them when they cause trouble.
Populating the Manor
NPC residents of the Manor are simple Fate Core NPCs with three aspects: a high concept, motivation, and methods. The high concept is the same as it is for PCs, a general statement about who the NPC is, summarizing the most obvious and relevant elements of who they have become since the apocalypse. The motivation aspect is a statement about what drives the NPC in this particular situation. The methods aspect is a statement of the means by which the NPC pursues their motivation.
A simple way to think of how these three aspects connect is to think of the high concept, motivation, and methods as answers to the following questions, in order:
- Who are they?
- What do they want?
- How do they get it?
Go around to each player one at a time, and have them name an NPC who lives in the Manor, choosing the NPC’s high concept, motivation, and methods. After the players choose these three aspects, fill out the NPC by choosing a single skill column for the NPC, and a single stunt. A skill column is a set of four skills, one each at Great +4, Good +3, Fair +2, and Average +1. Then give the NPC stress and consequences as normal for Fate Core characters.
There are certainly other folks who live in the Manor; the GM can add them to the setting as needed with the same kinds of aspects and skills.
To get started quickly, here are a couple NPCs set up in advance for you to use.
High Concept: Traumatized Magazine Mogul
Motivation: To Survive at All Costs
Methods: Vicious Manipulation
Great (+4) Deceive
Good (+3) Provoke
Fair (+2) Empathy
Average (+1) Will
Veiled Kindness. Add +2 to attacks with Deceive when your words are couched in kindness and helpfulness.
Physical □□□ Mental □ □
High Concept: Rent-A-Cop Turned Brawler
Motivation: To Put Himself in Charge
Methods: Fists and Bullets
Great (+4) Physique
Good (+3) Provoke
Fair (+2) Shoot
Average (+1) Investigate
Big Man with Big Fists. You can use Physique to attack instead of Fight when you are larger than your opponents.
Physical □ □ Mental □□□
Current and Impending Issue
Explain and talk about the current issue, which is The Cold, Empty Winter. Have the players name at least two faces for the current issue, or use the two provided faces. These faces must be other residents of the Manor.
Then ask your players as a group to choose from one of the two available impending issues: Oncoming Horde or Dwindling Supplies. Have the players fill in two additional faces for their chosen impending issue as well, or use the provided faces.
Current Issue: The Cold, Empty Winter
The cold is here, and the snow is on its way. With the arrival of winter, it’s harder and harder to leave the Manor. Refugees keep showing up, looking for warmth and safety and shelter, and that’s only going to stress the Manor, its resources, and its people further and further. The decision has to be made soon—is this the place where you’re going to survive for the length of the winter? Or are you going to leave now and take your chances in the cold, trying to find somewhere better?
- Vernon Elleswood, a local retiree who heavily advocates hunkering down for winter.
- Shaundra Teek, a mother of two children who believes that running to the government (somewhere) is the only route available.
In addition to being caught in The Cold, Empty Winter, there are a number of other impending issues that might occupy the PCs, including:
Since society collapsed, zombies have clumped together into greater and greater groups, hordes gripped by a strange feral intelligence that makes them more dangerous than usual. The biggest horde anyone has ever seen is on a path directly to the Manor’s front door. Whether or not the Manor can survive this onslaught depends on the newly formed community within its walls.
- Leah Pruitt, the young woman fleeing from the horde, bringing news of its approach.
- Captain Richard Aimes, former military leader who wants to make a stand against the horde.
The Manor is going through supplies more quickly than normal. Maybe the survivors just didn’t have as much as they thought, or maybe the colony is using up too much. The worst-case scenario is that someone is secreting away a personal stockpile in the event that anything goes wrong. One way or another, the Manor isn’t going to last for long without more supplies.
- Branson Crawford, former groundskeeper of the Manor.
- Nita Santiago, a doctor from the area who knows where to find more supplies.
The zombies in The Dead and the Doomed follow the same rules as in Rob Wieland’s piece, All Fate Must Be Eaten. Although zombies are a constant, looming threat, the focus in the game is on the interpersonal conflicts against the backdrop of the zombie crisis instead of zombie killing. See that essay, earlier in this issue, for more information about using zombies as environmental threats.
The zombies have five aspects representing their traits. Some aspects are known to PCs at the start of play, and some have yet to be discovered. Choose your own or use the sample provided.
Quick Start Zombies
Known: Infectious Bite • Shoot Them in the Head! • They Never Stop Coming!
Unknown: Feral Horde Hive Mind • Sees in the Dark
Don’t hesitate to add more zombie aspects to the undying hordes, especially if PCs are investigating how the zombies work. It’s rewarding for the PCs to discover new weaknesses in the walking dead!
The Dead and the Doomed is written for Fate Core with changes described below. When players are creating their survivors, they start with a character seed from the list below. Players should tailor the character seeds to create high concepts specific to their characters. For example, if a player picked the character seed Celebrity, then they might choose the high concept Famous Movie Star.
Each player chooses a character seed from this list:
- Kid refugee
- Paper pusher
- Grieving parent
The character seed is directly tied to each character’s motivations. Each character seed comes with three possible motivations that will determine the character’s secret goals and intent in The Dead and the Doomed. For more on motivations, see New Extra: Motivations.
After each player has chosen their character seed and their high concept, they each roll a single fate die in secret and cross-reference the result with their character seed’s motivation, listed below. Each player writes down their motivation on an index card and keeps the card face down in front of them.
If your players wish to play pregenerated survivors, you can use the four sample characters provided in this section. Skills are provided for Fate Core versions of each character, as well as some of their aspects and stunts. Players will have one stunt and two aspects to fill in over the course of play, and they will still have to roll for their motivation.
The Dead and the Doomed uses the aspects offered in Rob Wieland’s essay earlier this issue. Characters each have a high concept, a trouble, a survivor aspect, a friction aspect, and a link aspect. For more details on these aspects, see Rob Wieland's essay. If you are using the pregenerated characters from this quickstart, you will only have friction aspects and link aspects to fill in.
During character creation, create a high concept, a trouble, and a survivor aspect for each character. Leave friction and link aspects to fill in during play.
Characters in The Dead and the Doomed have a standard skill pyramid peaking at Great +4. The Dead and the Doomed uses a modified skill list from Fate Core (page 97, Fate Core). The full skill list is as follows:
- Local Knowledge
The only skills removed from the original list are Contacts, Notice, and Resources. The new skills are Science, Survival, and Leadership. Lore has been replaced with Local Knowledge, specifically referring to your familiarity with the area surrounding the Manor.
Science is a non-specific hodgepodge of scientific and medical knowledge. Somebody with high science is somebody at home in a white coat, and probably the colony’s best chance at figuring out how these zombies work, or how best to take care of a wound.
Overcome: You’re applying your scientific or medical knowledge to solve a problem. You’re working first aid or administering antibiotics, or you’re prescribing remedies based on real medical knowledge.
Create an Advantage: Study the zombies and use your scientific know-how to figure out how the heck these monsters work, even at a high-level. Or use your scientific knowledge to put together concoctions or tools that can help you, like when you realize that if you mix this chemical and that chemical, you get something that goes boom.
Mortician. You are used to studying corpses and death. Take +2 to Create Advantage with Science when you have a dead body in front of you to study.
Doctor. You’re as experienced and trained as an emergency room doctor—something rare and incredibly valuable nowadays. Once per session, if you have the supplies for medical treatment and the time to apply it, you can reduce a Moderate Consequence to Mild.
Survival is about your ability to forage for food in the wild, to find shelter and safety, and to keep yourself alive even when things are hunting you, trying to kill you. Survival replaces Notice for all intents and purposes; the only things you need to notice are the ones that are going to kill you.
Overcome: Survival is all about having what it takes to keep yourself alive, and that means being alert and ready for anything. When there’s a zombie shambling its way across creaky floorboards to chomp on you from behind? Survival is what you use to hear it coming.
Create an Advantage: Get supplies by foraging or hunting in the wild. Or use some natural element to your advantage, maybe setting up a snare or a trap that’ll catch some unwary thug who’d love to ambush you and take your hard-won deer meat.
Defend: Keeping yourself alive, that’s what it’s all about. When you are clinging to life, a heartbeat away from getting a zombie’s chompers sunk into your leg, you’re going to fight like a wild animal to keep alive, and that’s when Survive can save your life.
Forager. You are an expert at finding food in the wilderness. Take +2 to create an advantage with Survival when hunting for food in the wild.
Home in the Wild. Once per session, you can simply disappear from any scene while you are in the wild, taking cover in camouflage and the natural environment. You can reappear in any scene later in the wild, or coming out of the wild.
Leadership is about being someone that the others can look up to. It’s about that strength of character, that presence that gets others to look your way when they need direction. It covers giving speeches, coming up with plans, and dealing with large groups of people instead of individuals.
Overcome: When somebody is giving you that angry look, refusing to listen, and you speak to them not as an equal but as a leader, someone who can take them to safety? That’s overcoming their own tendency towards chaos or self-interest with Leadership.
Create an Advantage: Give a speech, make a war cry, create a plan, and get the others to follow it.
Listen to Me. Once per session, you can interrupt a fight between people by shouting at them to listen to you. This counts as compel on the combatants, and they get a fate point if they listen to you.
Here’s the Plan…. When you create an advantage with Leadership by coming up with a complex tactical plan in advance, the plan starts with two free invokes on it, usable by anyone who was part of the plan.
New Extra: Motivations
In The Dead and the Doomed, each PC has a motivation, an underlying motive for their actions during the game that drives their efforts and plans. Sometimes, motivations will be positive, but some characters have motivations that are outright destructive or nihilistic. No one can know for sure what motivates their fellow PCs, until those PCs reveal their true intentions.
Players determine their characters’ motivations during character creation. Each player rolls a single fate die—SECRETLY—and checks their result with the character seed motivations below. Each player writes down their motivation and goal secretly on an index card, and then keeps that index card face down in front of them.
At any time, a PC can choose to reveal their true motivation by taking an overt action directly in line with their motivation and flipping over their index card. When a PC reveals their true motivation, it becomes another aspect on their character, with two free tags on it. When a PC tags their motivation for those first free tags, they get +3, not +2.
In The Dead and the Doomed, all PCs have goals. Explain to the players that these goals are their motivations, the things that they are trying to accomplish over the course of play. Just as it is your job as GM to play NPCs to their motivations and desires, it is the players’ jobs to drive towards their PCs’ goals. In the end, as long as each PC is driving towards their goal, you’ll have a game of interesting interpersonal conflict, regardless of whether or not anyone actually achieves their goal.
Character Seed Motivations
Here are the motivations for the different character seeds offered in The Dead and the Doomed.
Filling in the details
For all the motivations that might seem to require more detail, don’t worry about answering every question at the start of play. Fill in the name of another PC, and then look for opportunities or explanations as you play. When it comes time for you to flip your motivation over, then you can take a quick moment to make sure you’re all on the same page about the details.
+ Gather a Cult of Personality. Goal: Get a majority of the Manor (over half) to agree to follow and protect you.
0 Be Alone and Fortify the Manor. Goal: Have no more than 3 other people left in the Manor with you, and have the Manor be ready for winter.
- Cut a Murder Manor Video. Goal: Record the people in the Manor dying one by one, until you have footage of at least 5 deaths. You sicko.
+ Make the Manor as Safe as Can Be. Goal: Reinforce the Manor by keeping zombies away and creating at least two new aspects referring to the Manor’s safety. Expel any dangerous human elements.
0 Seize Control of the Manor. Goal: Have everyone left in the Manor agree to follow your lead, and get rid of anyone who would dissent.
- Take Vengeance Upon [INSERT OTHER PC’S NAME HERE]. Goal: Make another PC pay for what they did to you or yours before the apocalypse.
+ Ensure the Manor Obeys You. Goal: Have everyone left in the Manor agree to follow your lead, and get rid of anyone who won’t.
0 Be Forgiven for a Crime from [INSERT OTHER PC’S NAME HERE]. Goal: Get somebody to forgive you for a crime that you committed against them from before the apocalypse.
- Turn the Manor into a New Stronghold. Goal: Collect supplies and ammunition from the environs, enough that the Manor can withstand nearly any hardship, and fortify it with at least one more aspect referring to security.
+ Adopt a New Surrogate Child. Goal: Pick out someone to be your new surrogate child and take care of them, making sure they are safe and protected and have no physical consequences by game’s end.
0 Sacrifice Yourself for the Others. Goal: Die, epically, heroically, saving the others in the Manor, even if it means you have to manufacture the catastrophe.
- Adopt a Zombie Child. Goal: Find a zombie child and then take care of it, bringing it to the Manor and keeping it safe. And feeding it. You monster.
+ Find a Strong Guardian. Goal: Have somebody else strong and capable declare they will take care of you, and put an aspect on them related to them feeling responsible for you.
0 Save Your Loved Ones. Goal: Find your family or friends in the areas surrounding the Manor, and get them entry to the Manor.
- Obtain a Zombie as a Pet. Goal: Figure out how to make a zombie harmless enough that you can keep it safely, and then do that to at least one zombie, keeping it somewhere in the Manor. You weirdo.
+ Prove Your Value by Saving Them. Goal: Heroically save the lives of the other denizens of the Manor through some dramatic act.
0 Form a Strong Bond. Goal: Form a strong connection with another person in the Manor, and put an aspect on them relating to how they will never leave you.
- Feed Someone to the Zombies. Goal: Be the direct cause of someone else being caught by and eaten by the zombies. You wacknut.
+ Figure Out the Zombie Plague. Goal: Determine all aspects of the zombies that are available to discover, and discover a useful weakness.
0 Organize a New Society. Goal: Have new, concrete rules about how the Manor organizes and runs itself. Add a new aspect to the Manor relating to its organization.
- Experiment with the Zombie Plague. Goal: Get someone infected with the zombie plague, and then test them in myriad ways (electrocution, lighting them on fire…).
+ Form a Hunting Gang. Goal: Get at least 3 other people to join up with you in a gang that takes what it needs and isn’t afraid of committing violence.
0 Create a Secret Cache of Supplies. Goal: Take supplies from the Manor and secrete them away for yourself in a place where no one will find them.
- Thin the Herd of the Manor. Goal: Make sure the Manor has no more than yourself and 3 other people in it by any means necessary.
The Dead and the Doomed will be driven primarily by PC motivations butting up against each other, by the constant pressure of zombie attacks, and by NPCs and their own motivations. This is a one-shot about a community in conflict, not a zombie hunting adventure.
Use compels to ramp up the tension and keep the PCs’ lives stressful. Compel the weakness of the Manor. Compel the PCs’ own aspects. Compel the zombies’ aspects to have them appear at inopportune times. Your story in this game doesn’t come from following a pre-charted plot so much as it comes from keeping all characters involved constantly under pressure.
Here is a simple structure for approaching the game, cutting it up into three acts. This structure is here just to give you a starting point for how to get into The Dead and the Doomed. Use it as fits your game.
Act One: The First Attack
Everything begins with the Manor under attack by zombies who pose a threat to the Manor’s supply cache or defenses. Use the weakness aspect of the Manor to determine how the zombies could be threatening. Pressure the PCs into dealing with the zombies and protecting the Manor, but avoid a huge conflict. Instead, use the pressure of this opening attack and its consequences to draw attention to the NPCs and their goals. Give the PCs time to pursue their own agendas as well.
Act Two: The Impending Issue Approaches
If there seems to be a lull in the action, compel the impending issue to generate more pressure. Make the oncoming horde appear on the horizon, or make an NPC come running through the Manor screaming about how the food supplies are ruined by leaking water. Make the impending issue a major threat, but don’t forget to have the NPCs push and pull in different directions with their own goals and motivations. Zombie attacks in this section of the game can be useful, but they exist here to keep up the tension.
Act Three: It All Falls Down
From Act Two on, ramp up the tension. Keep the pressure on. Eventually, NPCs or PCs will start taking rash, dangerous actions, and that’s when everything should start exploding. The impending issue should come to a head, with the oncoming horde arriving, or with NPCs stealing what few supplies remain to ensure their own survival. Violence breaks out. Compel aspects like crazy. Watch everything burst into flame. See who survives the fire. +
All of the sample characters have an open stunt slot. You can fill that in as you play and flesh out your character. They also each have an open Friction Aspect and an open Link Aspect, as defined in Rob Wieland’s All Fate Must Be Eaten. Fill these in during play. Define one of these aspects at the end of each scene that your PC interacts with another PC.
These sample characters do not have their motivations pre-selected. When you choose your character, you will still roll for your motivation and write it secretly on an index card. Each of these characters corresponds to one of the basic high concepts above. Sonya Rasmail is a Cop, Arthur Gingrich is a Celebrity, Heather Fiers is a Refugee Kid, and Alexander Cho is a Criminal.
Sonya is a cop, and a good one. She’s capable, confident, and aware, and she always thought it was critically important to do the best she could for the people she served. Since the coming of the walking dead, that drive has been pushed harder than ever. She’s seen and done things she never would’ve expected to do. And now, it’s an open question as to whether or not Sonya is still the cop trying to do her best for the people she serves…or if she’s become something different.
Character Seed: Cop
High Concept: Steely Police Officer
Trouble: Drive to Do Good, No Matter the Cost
Survivor: Shot Her Way Out of an Infected Police Station
Great (+4) Shoot
Good (+3) Leadership, Physique
Fair (+2) Fight, Provoke, Will
Average (+1) Athletics, Burglary, Rapport, Survival
Hail of Fire. You can use Shoot to defend yourself instead of Athletics if you let loose a hail of bullets.
Badge. You can use Leadership to attack someone’s mental stress track when you are exerting your authority and demanding they follow your leadership.
Free slot for another stunt.
Physical □□□□ Mental □□□
Mild (2) | Moderate (4) | Major (6)
Arthur is an Author. The capital A is important. Arthur writes bestsellers. Everyone and their mother has read a Gingrich. He’s had a lasting impact upon the cultural scene, no matter what those critics say when they call him a hack, or say his writing is infantile. Unfortunately, zombies don’t really need to read much, so he doesn’t have much sway with them. But he can rest assured that every one of his fellow survivors will help keep him alive, realizing that he is probably the most valuable person among them all. Right?
Character Seed: Celebrity
High Concept: Famous Arrogant Author
Trouble: Thinks He's Better and More Important
Survivor: Beat Literary Agent to Re-Death with Copy of His Own Book
Great (+4) Rapport
Good (+3) Deceive, Local Knowledge
Fair (+2) Empathy, Provoke, Will
Average (+1) Fight, Investigate, Science, Shoot
"I Made It Heavy for a Reason!" Take +2 when attacking with Fight when you are using your own book as a weapon.
Name Carries Weight. Take +2 to create an advantage when you are using Rapport to get someone on your side by relying on your fame and status.
Free slot for another stunt.
Physical □ □ Mental □□□
Mild (2) | Moderate (4) | Major (6)
Heather is the kid who smoked behind the school. She’s the kid that lots of other kids would’ve thought cool, except she glared at anyone who tried to get close. She was the loner, but she was always okay with that…kinda. She’s the kid who bought herself a motorcycle soon as she could, with money she got from God knows where. When the zombie apocalypse started, she got on her bike, picked up a tire iron in one hand, and started bashing skulls until she got to safety.
Character Seed: Refugee Kid
High Concept: Tough as Nails Teenager
Trouble: Never Ever Openly Accepts Help
Survivor: Ran Over Head Cheerleader with Motorcycle
Great (+4) Athletics
Good (+3) Burglary, Fight
Fair (+2) Drive, Provoke, Stealth
Average (+1) Crafts, Deceive, Science, Survival
My Bike Is a Weapon. When you are riding on your motorcycle, you can avoid taking the shifts of stress that you deal when you attack by colliding with your enemy.
Looks Promising. You can use Burglary instead of Investigate to find valuable supplies inside of a building.
Free slot for another stunt.
Physical □ □ Mental □ □
Mild (2) | Moderate (4) | Major (6)
Alexander always had a hard time charting the exact series of events that led to him working for bad people, doing bad things, breaking into people’s houses on the side. He always felt that it was somebody else’s fault. That’s probably where the need to drink came from—to make himself feel better for having been taken advantage of by others. Yeah. That’s it. Now, though, with the dead rising, he feels it. A chance to reinvent himself. To be something else. He can start anew! All he needs is a safe place, and a bottle of Jack.
Character Seed: Criminal
High Concept: A Thug and a Thief
Trouble: Alcoholic and Thirsty
Survivor: Bashed the Undead Head of the Homeowner He Was Robbing
Great (+4) Fight
Good (+3) Deceive, Physique
Fair (+2) Burglary, Provoke, Shoot, Stealth
Average (+1) Athletics, Crafts, Drive, Investigate, Survival
Killing Stroke. Once per scene, when you force an opponent to take a consequence, you can spend a Fate Point to force them to take a consequence of one higher step up. (see Fate Core page 111 for more details)
Push Harder! When you use Physique to hold off zombies physically, take +2 to overcome obstacles.
Free slot for another stunt.
Physical □□□□ Mental □□
Mild (2) | Moderate (4) | Major (6)