Opening with fiction detailing a typical fantasy dungeon delve encounter with zombies (and its aftermath), Chapter 1: Delving Down talks about how everybody - not just players of role-playing games - indulges in fantasy from time to time, but of course gamers do so more intensely than most. Here however, 'fantasy' is defined more precisely, it's the swords and sorcery sort, the kind where you go dungeon delving... only in this book there are, of course, plenty of zombies added to the mix.
These opening remarks are followed by Chapter 2: Swords, Sorcery and Shambling which explores character creation for heroic fantasy All Flesh Must Be Eaten games, as well as new rules and game mechanics necessary to make the game work in this genre. This is followed by no less than four settings taking you on a wild trip through 'classic' role-playing fantasy, literary fantasy J.R.R. Tolkien-style, the world of King Arthur, and an Asian-influenced one, as well as a complete dungeon delve ready to run. As you can imagine, apart from Chapter 2, this material is intended for the Zombie Master rather than the players.
In Chapter 2, we meet two new character types: the Adept and the Talented Hero. The Survivor and Inspired character types are also appropriate for this style of play. The Adept is the wizard or mage, leaving Inspired for clerics. As it's fantasy, you can also play a non-human, and there's a system of Profession Qualities to enable you to set up the classic 'character classes' if you want - or just build a character normally with the skills you want him to have. There are some new Skills appropriate to the genre, and the timely reminder that zombies can, like player-characters, be of any race available in your setting, not just humans. Some new combat rules are here too, dealing with the use of the mediaeval-style weapons and fighting styles common to fantasy. There is a basic magic system here as well, but those after more detail are referred to two other Unisystem games - Armageddon and WitchCraft - although there is quite a lot to be found here, including some excellent Necromancy spells that will let the practitioner raise and control zombies...
The chapter rounds out with some thoughts on creating fantasy settings and a few archetypes, then we move on to the provided settings, beginning with Chapter 3: Dead Gods and Demon Lands. This is a grim pulp fantasy setting where heroes go adventuring primarily because that's their way of having a good time. Think Conan the Barbarian here. Plenty of background to aid you in bringing it all to life... and three different kinds of zombies to harass honest adventurers as they go about their business. Several story ideas finish this chapter, along with a few more Archetypes.
Next is Chapter 4: Dawn of a Dead Age. This is an epic fantasy setting, where the deeds of a small band has great effect within the vast sweep of the struggle between good and evil, determining the very fate of the land. This setting is all about an ancient and terrible power reawakened, how it threatens the land and how it is stopped... by the party, of course. A vast sweep of background underpins the rise of a Dread Lord and provides the means to defeat him once more, assuming the party can find said means, that is. His rise is what has caused the zombies, hopefully his defeat will eliminate them. Rather than story ideas, there's a campaign outline that lays out the epic tale you'll tell in this setting.
In Chapter 5: Death of the Round Table, zombies are introduced into the world of King Arthur. There's a discussion of what that world really is, from the historical possibility to the romantic fantasy it became - you pick what kind of setting you want. There's a code of chivalry to which every knight ought to subscribe, and a fair bit of background to help you set the scene. As for the way this setting's zombies are created... shall we say that the chalice from the palace has the pellet with the poison? The Round Table has been perverted under the leadership of Mordred, and the party must embark on a quest to put things right.
Then Chapter 6: The Eastern Dead puts an Asian spin on things. This could be with profit read alongside Enter the Zombie, and it brings the flavour of the far east to a mediaeval style fantasy world - with samurai and ninjas and warrior monks mixing it with each other and any zombie unwise enough to raise its head... even if the poor mindless thing is just hungry! A rich and exotic setting is laid out, with background and story ideas aplenty to enable you to make the most of it.
Finally, Chapter 7: The Tomb of Doom provides a ready-made dungeon to explore. There's a bit of background which explains, amongst other things, why zombies have started to appear and provides for the party to get involved very quickly in the action as the zombies raid the town the party is in (for whatever reason they or you come up with). It's not long before they are traced back to an ancient tomb, then it's time to grab your ten foot pole and delve...
If you like fantasy games but want to bring zombies into them, or you like zombies and fancy a fantasy setting for them, this could be the supplement for you. With well-developed ideas that bring the zombies into the very fabric of the settings and scope for epic adventures, it takes zombies firmly out of the classic movie settings they are normally encountered in and empowers a fantasy twist to your game.
Return to Dungeons and Zombies page.
Reviewed: 29 June 2017