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Old 07-30-2018, 11:52 AM   #1
MWnRNC
 
Join Date: May 2014
Default Roman Empire Zombie Survival

I'd like to run a campaign where the Roman PCs encounter and fight to survive against a supernatural zombie enemy. I think we'd have a session or two of "historical" play, setting up the NPCs and establishing some mundane conflicts (perhaps with some dire omens or foreshadowing) before introducing the zombies and raising hell.

The Zombies: The zombies would be animated by a blood magic ritual enacted by the Picts(?) as a desperate ploy to stop the Romans. Perhaps they would be animated by spirits of the Wild Hunt and used like hunting dogs by their otherworldly fey masters? I'm not sure what their particular weakness (if any) would be, or how they would turn people.

The Players: Ordinary people in Roman Britain. I'd like to make some broad templates for ethnic & cultural groups (Roman, Celtic British, Pict, etc.) and a few professions (soldier, thief, noble, scholar, etc.). I think I'd like to keep them under 60 points (except for the noble).

Setting: Definitely Roman Britain, maybe after the Antonine Wall is abandoned in 162 AD? I have a broad familiarity with the history of Britain and the Roman Empire, but I'm not an expert by any means.

Resources: I have the Low-Tech, Horror, & Zombies books, as well as the Imperial Rome book from 3ed.

I'd appreciate any suggestions or ideas that anyone would like to share!
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Old 07-30-2018, 12:27 PM   #2
Kelly Pedersen
 
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Default Re: Roman Empire Zombie Survival

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Originally Posted by MWnRNC View Post
The Zombies: The zombies would be animated by a blood magic ritual enacted by the Picts(?) as a desperate ploy to stop the Romans. Perhaps they would be animated by spirits of the Wild Hunt and used like hunting dogs by their otherworldly fey masters? I'm not sure what their particular weakness (if any) would be, or how they would turn people.
Well, iron is the classic faerie weakness. That might give Roman fighters a chance, if the zombies have the usual level of hard-to-kill that most do.

As for "turning", one of the legends about the Wyld Hunt is that if you're being chased by them, you can choose to join the Hunt to "escape". That might be a way of doing it - every time the Hunt rides, some of its victims will choose to join, turning into new Hunters/zombies and increasing its number. Could help turn up the horror for the characters, when they see some friend or associate among the Hunt, and know that they deliberately chose that, betraying their people.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MWnRNC
The Players: Ordinary people in Roman Britain. I'd like to make some broad templates for ethnic & cultural groups (Roman, Celtic British, Pict, etc.) and a few professions (soldier, thief, noble, scholar, etc.). I think I'd like to keep them under 60 points (except for the noble).
If you're aiming for under 60 points, I'd suggest not putting many points into the ethnic/cultural templates. You'll probably find that making survivable competent professionals on 60 points is tricky enough. In fact, I'd suggest that rather than making the ethnic stereotypes templates, you do them as lenses - that is, each is a package of advantages and disadvantages, and maybe a couple of skills, that can be optionally added to the professional templates. So, for example, your soldier template might have a line in the advantages section for "15 points chosen from the options here, or from your ethnic lens", and similarly the disadvantages could present an option to "choose -15 points from the options above, or the disadvantages provided by your ethnic lens".
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Old 07-30-2018, 07:20 PM   #3
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Default Re: Roman Empire Zombie Survival

It sounds awesome! A low-tech campaign that is low point and zombie survival is going to be hard unless the zombies are easy to beat. You may really consider how to reconcile the two.

I'd recommend bumping your PCs to 100-150 and keeping the zombies at Stat 10s, at best. Fast Zombies with higher stats will overwhelm your guys really quickly. Run some test combats to get the feel. Your campaign will end really quickly if the PCs can't beat the hordes of zombies you throw at them.
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Old 07-30-2018, 07:47 PM   #4
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Default Re: Roman Empire Zombie Survival

Four things pop out:

1) Population density. Because even urban areas of Roman Britain weren't that heavily populated you'll rarely have "hordes of zombies." That potentially gives the PCs the chance to skulk about the countryside gathering resources with minimal zombie interference.


2) Most Roman settlements had very well-built walls which were designed to withstand sieges. (Bits of Roman walls from Londinium survive today in London.) Unless zombies can climb, dig, or operate siege engines, the logical strategy is to retreat behind the city walls and treat the situation like a "normal" siege.

You might need to give the PCs a reason to go outside the walls of the castrum.

3) PCs will be limited by lack of ranged or area effect weapons which inflict the sort of damage that really takes out zombies.

For fairness to the players, you might want to make the zombies vulnerable to fire, so that flaming arrows or burning pitch pots hurled from slings will affect them.

Alternately, you might want to allow some variety of supernatural mojo which can effectively destroy zombies.

4) The medical technology of the era stinks, even beyond the usual "post-collapse" and "get bit by a zombie and awful things happen" genre tropes. Unless you really want to rub the players' noses in the Grimdark suckitudiness of it all, consider having some form of supernatural healing and/or plot armor for PCs.

If you wanted to hook the campaign into Roman mythology, it could be that someone opened a gate to Hades or the Celtic Otherworld and let some dead souls escape, which might set up a situation where characters might have to confront their ancestors and/or deceased loved ones, either in the (rotting) flesh or as spiritual "penantes."
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Old 07-31-2018, 04:15 AM   #5
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Default Re: Roman Empire Zombie Survival

Roman theurgy would also be a thing - I think it's touched on in the Roman setting in the back of Fantasy. The city boundaries of any given settlement will probably be a big deal symbolically.

Also - from experience - you can kit bash up some quite effective zombie Romans from a Mantic zombie horde and Warlord's Late Roman Veterans.
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Old 07-31-2018, 09:19 AM   #6
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Default Re: Roman Empire Zombie Survival

I feel as if you'd be remiss in not making the zombies Cauldron-Born or something like that. There won't be as many as in classic zombie movies, but they'll be a lot tougher.

How about this?

When people dream, they sometimes touch the land of the Fae. This is not a good thing. Desperate magics performed in the north have weakened the wall of sleep, and now the Wild Hunt rides out into the dreams of the invaders. Those it takes in their dream - perhaps to pay the Teind, or the tithe they owe to Hell - rise again as hollow-eyed raveners of the living. These revenants are all but unstoppable, and Roman Britain is now under siege.

The walls of Roman cities offer some protection, as do the rites of priests and prayers to Christ or Mithras or Jupiter. But every one fears that when they sleep, they too will rise to kill their loved ones and devour their flesh.
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Old 07-31-2018, 10:10 AM   #7
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Default Re: Roman Empire Zombie Survival

Roman legions should actually be pretty good against zed, at least if the zeds are traditionally sloppy and vulnerable to head shots. This isn't actually a problem since the PCs aren't legionaries.

For funzies, it seems like leeches should be an effective(ish) treatment for zombie bites, both because leeching is cool, and because leech zombies are cool.

Two words: Zombie Boudicea.
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Old 07-31-2018, 10:15 AM   #8
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Default Re: Roman Empire Zombie Survival

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Originally Posted by MWnRNC View Post
Resources: I have the Low-Tech, Horror, & Zombies books, as well as the Imperial Rome book from 3ed.
Another book you might want to pick up is Fantasy (the 4th Edition version). It includes a setting as a "worked example", Roma Arcana, a magical Roman Empire. Most notably, it has a bunch of character templates for various sorts of Roman-appropriate characters. They're built on more points than you're talking about here (most are built on 125 points), but I think it wouldn't be too terribly difficult to pare them down to the sort of point level you're thinking about.
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Old 07-31-2018, 12:28 PM   #9
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Default Re: Roman Empire Zombie Survival

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Originally Posted by martinl View Post
Two words: Zombie Boudicea.
you could do with Boudicea being possessed/ridden by Crom Dubh or The Morigan - one of the darker Celtic deities - and opening the gates of the dead world to raise an army. The Cauldron of Awn might well fit right into that...
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Old 07-31-2018, 01:03 PM   #10
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Default Re: Roman Empire Zombie Survival

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Originally Posted by MWnRNC View Post
The Zombies: The zombies would be animated by a blood magic ritual enacted by the Picts(?) as a desperate ploy to stop the Romans.
There would have to be an enormous sacrifice on the part of the Picts. That's how that sort of magic works. The sacrifice must be equal or sometimes greater than the desired effect, and things like curses may affect your enemy as desired but usually will be equal or worse to you. The old ways are about balance... if you desire something as unbalanced and unnatural as a zombie horde you have to make an equally hefty payment to balance the scales.

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Setting: Definitely Roman Britain, maybe after the Antonine Wall is abandoned in 162 AD?
Antonine's Wall being abandoned is one of the first backwards steps the Empire takes. It was intended to eventually be a stone fortification like Hadrian's Wall but those plans were abandoned even before the turf wall was completed. No need for such drastic and damning magic if your enemy is already in decline.

Set it as the Wall is first being built, in response to the apparent advancement of the Empire.

ETA: I just saw a reference on Wikipedia that says in the book "World War Z" the Antonine Wall was the UK's final defense against the zombie horde. Haven't read the book so I don't know how they used it, but it was built at the narrowest land gap between the oceans in northern Britain... so it makes sense as a place to build new fortifications to hold off the modern horde.

Last edited by tanksoldier; 07-31-2018 at 01:19 PM.
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