You're alive, and wanting to stay that way. You believe your brain belongs between your ears, not in a zombie's mouth. This book, the Player's Handbook for All Flesh Must Be Eaten goes some way to aiding your survival. The opening fiction, though, takes a slightly different angle, with the protagonists reminising about their life before the zombie apocalypse, times when exam results and promotions at work (not to mention your love life) felt like life and death. Then Chapter 1: Introduction continues this theme by commenting that plenty of people's initial reaction to this game was 'Cool, we get to fight zombies!' but that they didn't see the potential for a long-running game, just a session of mayhem before they got back to more serious role-playing. To be fair, this game works well in that mode - but if you want, there's scope for more. As well as brains-craving undead, zombies can be a metaphor, a zombie story represents how any society stands or falls based on the decisions of its members... and that chaos is never very far away.
First, though, the rules bits, with Chapter 2: Prey No More providing plenty of new game mechanics - new skills, Qualities (and Drawbacks), and new Gifts for the Inspired and otherwise supernaturally-active folk. Maybe you'd like to document the zombie apocalypse: then the Camerawork skill is for you. If your eye is on long-term survival, Scavenging and Repair might be of more use. There are some Archetypes here as well, as inspiration or ready-made characters.
Next Chapter 3: Making It Up As You Go is a delight for the inner McGyver, providing both ideas and rules for improvising with whatever's to hand with detailed rules for jury-rigging, well, anything. It's followed by Chapter 4: More Implements of Destruction which contains a whole bunch of new weapons as well as ideas for ways in which to terminate those pesky zombies. Pass the nail gun, please. It's not just weapons, though, there is an abundance of useful items of all sorts here.
All material up to here is player-safe, but the following is really for Zombie Masters only (assuming only one person in your gaming group runs the game). Chapter 5: Envy the Dead takes an interesting turn into the psychological and other effects of living through a zombie apocalypse. It's of particular use for Zombie Masters who are looking for a longer campaign and provides loads of ideas for setting up themes, balancing a real world where everyone knows how stuff works with the startling appearance of zombies. What will fail about you as time passes, things you take for granted just won't be there any more. Not just technology but society itself will crumble...
Then, Chapter 6: Blowin' Up Dead Guys provides more than you want to know (especially if you write reviews in your lunch break!) about how rotting and decay affects zombies. There's also plenty about new zombie capabilities for Zombie Masters to build new versions of their favourite weapon: the zombie.
Next Chapter 7: Sunset Falls provides a ready-made enclave of survivors that the Zombie Master can use. Perhaps this is the party's base, or a refuge they come across in their travels. Maybe it is a rumour and the focus of their journey... surely once they get there they will be safe! It is an organised small-town community that has built up its own ways of coping with the zombie apocalypse, complete with well-detailed inhabitants all ready to interact with the party when they show up. It's followed by Chapter 8: The Future is So Dark, which is a collection of six more settings in which you can run your campaign - replete with ideas on what to do in those settings, of course.
Finally, a couple of Appendices. The first discusses the important topic of surviving a zombie outbreak, covering things like picking a good stronghold and getting organised. Players may read this, indeed you might think that they really ought to, as there's lots of sound practical advice! The shopping list of survival items also provides a good resource for the Zombie Master: if they are running out of X you can built a whole adventure about finding more. The second covers government information. If there was to be a zombie outbreak, what would a government say to its citizens, what advice and support would they provide?
There's a lot here for both players and Zombie Masters to consider: it's well worth the getting particularly if you're looking towards a full-blown campaign rather than a night or two of swatting zombies.
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Reviewed: 15 June 2017