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Old 07-15-2021, 09:53 PM   #1
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Saskatoon, SK
Default Post apocalypse options

Tuk the Weekah, please stay out.

So I'm running a game on a ship where a zombie apocalypse breaks out. After the first encounter with zombies they didn't go to any authorities but instead retreated to their rooms. Now they know that the infestation is spreading and just want to get off the ship and escape, bypassing most of the planned first act.

Now, I don't want to railroad them if they don't want to stay, but I'm waffling because I'd like to fill them in on the reasons for a mercenary on the attack of the ship if I can. They have discovered that there is a submersible following the ship - how the mercs get on board the ship. I had a mini-plot with some advance scout mercs attempting to scuttle the ship which they mostly solved - they identified the culprits but never apprehended them.

Once they get away with their ship's boat - while the crew is distracted by zombie outbreaks - they half expect they will be captured by the submersible's mercs left on board.

Any ideas as how to proceed? I'm okay with them escaping now, I guess. I can always just tell them ooc about the plot to destroy the ship but it would be nice for them to find out organically. I just want to make it interesting.

The PCs are an inventor (with a drone and Gadgeteer), a mobster with two bodyguards, the Mrs and 2 boys, a reporter, a vehicle expert (Ace), and a tarzan-like stowaway, raised by panthers. They have 3 pistols smuggled on board.
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Playing: D&D 5e
Running GURPS Nordlond Forest's End

Last edited by corwyn; 07-15-2021 at 09:59 PM.
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Old 07-15-2021, 10:50 PM   #2
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Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: Sydney, Australia
Default Re: Post apocalypse options

Could they overhear something on someone's radio, which alerts them to the plot? Or a series of things, so they have to piece it together rather than a simple message?
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Old 07-16-2021, 01:52 AM   #3
Join Date: Jul 2014
Location: New Zealand.
Default Re: Post apocalypse options

How about the Merc's send someone to check up on the PC's/send a warning/eliminate witnesses. This person(s) will have some info or a clue to point them in the right direction.
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Old 07-16-2021, 03:47 AM   #4
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Saskatoon, SK
Default Re: Post apocalypse options

Well, the PCs haven't done too much to gain the mercs' ire. They never confronted the saboteurs. The reporter is local so he might be recognized. The others are from quite far away so unlikely to be known. There's been no direct contact but they have been spying on the mercs a bit with a drone and some shadowing has been done. Currently, they aren't being proactive at all where the mercs are concerned.

I like the idea of them overhearing some mercs blocking their way. I wasn't planning on them even knowing who had hired them but it's not much of a stretch.
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Old 07-16-2021, 09:35 AM   #5
Join Date: Jun 2006
Default Re: Post apocalypse options

Another option, since you have already established saboteurs aboard who might very well know something, is to have some other NPC who interacted with the saboteurs have found out, scramble for that lifeboat too before the plot to destroy the ship comes off. This gives the PCs another shot at finding out, provided they bother to ask why this NPC is so desperate to get off and don't just assume it's the same reason. Though honestly zombies aboard is a really *convincing* reason to want to be elsewhere, and a pretty good reason for somebody to want to scuttle the ship too. If it actually is something else, you may have overloaded the plot and might want to think about simplifying it.
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Old 07-16-2021, 10:40 AM   #6
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Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: The deep dark haunted woods
Default Re: Post apocalypse options

Are there sufficiently-large air ducts? A zombie or three bursting out the walls might get them moving.

Or the sounds of people being killed right outside their door? Any saboteurs might want to get any remaining people out of their rooms to take hostages and/or eliminate witnesses, so might pull a trick like that.
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Old 07-16-2021, 10:53 AM   #7
Join Date: May 2021
Location: Eastern Kentucky
Default Re: Post apocalypse options

Could the captain come on the loudspeaker and announce that the ship has been boarded and passengers should stay in their cabins?

Maybe have the sound of gunfire as the mercenaries board?
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Old 07-16-2021, 01:28 PM   #8
Join Date: Jun 2013
Default Re: Post apocalypse options

If I'm following, it sounds like there's a zombie outbreak onboard the ship, and there's a completely unrelated mercenary attack on the ship during this time. Provided the PC's aren't on the mercs' bad side, then if the mercs are unprepared for a ship full of zombies it's entirely possible they'll opt to (temporarily) join forces with the PC's. They may attempt to convince the PC's to help them with their plan, in exchange for giving them safe passage off the ship (it may be cramped, but the submersible is probably a better option than a lifeboat) - and as a bonus, as others have noted, scuttling a ship full of zombies is probably a good idea (unless there's reason to believe this would result in zombie sharks or something else that would risk spreading the zombie effect all over the world; in that case, you want to preserve - but quarantine - the ship, at least until you've eradicated the zombification factor). That's a good opportunity to get the players informed about what's going on. If they don't bite, well, it just means they don't care - if you particularly liked your merc plot, I'd suggest abandoning it here and keeping it for another story, perhaps one with fewer moving parts.
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Old 07-16-2021, 03:57 PM   #9
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Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: One Mile Up
Default Re: Post apocalypse options

I'd just have the mercs try to steal or disable the ship's boat, if I wanted merc-PC conflict. That'll get their attention.
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Old 07-17-2021, 03:02 AM   #10
Join Date: Apr 2005
Default Re: Post apocalypse options

Can the zombies float or walk along the sea bottom?

If so, you've gone from railroading the PCs to giving them the choice between the devil and the deep blue sea.

Let the merc's plan to scuttle the ship succeed (they hole the ship with gunfire or set a time delay explosive charge on the hull) but also prove to be a very bad idea. Zombies go down with the ship, only to reappear clinging to the merc's submersible and/or PC's boat. Plenty of opportunities for jump scares and close quarters combat, especially if the zombies have the ability to cling to the underside of the hull undetected or have the ability to punch or gnaw through boat hulls.

The players will bitterly regret having not just dealt with the zombies aboard the ship when they had the mercs as potential allies, better equipment, more ammo, and a more favorable battlefield.

If the zombies can walk along the bottom, they will inevitably be drawn towards land. The PCs either have to scramble to get ahead of the zombies to meet them on shore and prevent a full-fledged zombie apocalypse on the mainland or have to fight for their lives when the zombies conveniently show up on the island where they landed their boat.

GM's fiat as to whether you want to provide a handy NPC informant (e.g., someone who just barely escaped zombies who crawled the entire length of the ship's bilge to attack) or illustrative scene (e.g., zombies swimming and clinging to the hull of the mercenary's submersible or otherwise demonstrating their aquatic mobility skills) before you let the PCs escape.

There are also methods of subtly engaging the interest of even the most selfish PCs played by the most apathetic players. What motivates the group? Survival? Greed? Power? Give the players a nice, big, tempting reason to hop aboard the G&M Express like the (illusory) promise of safety, or wealth or power beyond imagination.

Put a few zombies on the PC's boat; letting them get away clean doesn't fit the genre. Better yet, make the zombies follow the characters. Create some McGuffin which makes the PCs catnip for the living dead, attracting zombies for miles around. Discovering and dealing with this jinx will be an adventure in itself.

In the course of the inevitable combat one of the PCs might be injured - and the only qualified medical care is back on the ship. If some of the PC's shots miss they might hit vital equipment or start a leak which will eventually sink the boat. Since it doesn't appear that any of the PC's is an expert at boat repair, they'll have to turn back to the ship. Meanwhile, make it obvious to the players that the zombies are selectively following and attacking them.

If you add complications in the right way, not only do you give non-combatants something to do during fight scenes (fight fires, plug holes in fuel tanks, bar doors and windows), but you keep the action moving in such a way that the players either don't realize or don't mind the fact that they've just been railroaded.

If none of that appeals, just rework the material you had planned for the ship scene and introduce it later in the campaign in a way which engages the players' interest and forces their characters to behave proactively.
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ate, plotting

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