I conjured up a game for some friends, using the first system I ever GMed with: CJ Carella’s Unisystem, most famously used in All Flesh Must Be Eaten. Now, AFMBE is, when I GM, an action game more than a horror game, so I throw out some of the rules that I don’t like or that don’t fit what I am aiming for in that particular game. I went so far down that rabbit trail that I ended up eventually making a game (SaSS) that looks almost nothing like Unisystem in rules or actual play. Some day I hope to publish SaSS, but for now I thought I’d make a couple posts about the Unisystem as I use it; it isn’t a game that reinvented tabletop games, but I like it.
Before anyone (especially at Eden Studios) complains, I will point out all these mechanics are available, for free from the publisher, in CJ Carella’s Witchcraft, or in the Free RPG Day guide, and the game is not playable from these notes alone. I also recommend you buy it! I just wanted to talk about how I use a game I like in a manner I am comfortable with: game mechanics.
Without further ado, my notes:
d10 + Attribute + Skill +/-Modifiers (target 9+)
No relevant Skill: Doubled Attribute (Simple) / Flat Attribute (Difficult)
Unskilled: d10 + Attribute – (2 to 6)
Resisted: each roll d10 + Attribute + Skill, higher wins, defender wins ties
On a roll of 10: Roll again, divide by 2 and add the result;
On a second roll of 10, add 5 to the original roll and roll again, as above.
On a roll of 1: Roll again, divide by 2 and subtract the result;
On a second roll of 1 nothing additional happens.
Routine: No roll
Moderate: +3 / +4 to the roll
Average: +1 / +2 to the roll
Challenging: No modifier
Difficult: -1 / -2 to the roll
Very Difficult: -3 / -5 to the roll
Heroic: -6 / -9 to the roll
Near-Impossible: -10 / more
Initiative: Roll d10 + Dexterity
Actions/Turn: 1 Main Action, -2 to each successive (max 3 Actions/Turn)
Close-combat: 1 Attack Action & 1 Defense Actions, -2 to each successive (max 4 Actions/Turn)
Close-combat: Strike / Parry / Riposte / Dodge
Ranged combat: Shoot / Dodge→If used, must be the only action in the Turn/next Turn
Disease: d10 + (Constitution x 2) vs. d10 + (Disease Strength)
Encumbrance: STR 1-5, 50-250lbs
9-10: First Level (Adequate): The job got done.
Combat: Attack does normal damage.
11-12: Second Level (Decent): The job done was just ‘okay’.
Combat: Attack does normal damage.
13-14: Third Level (Good): The job was done well.
Combat: Attack does normal damage; minimum to hit HEAD/HAND/WRIST/ANKLE/FOOT
15-16: Fourth Level (Very Good): The job was done very well.
Combat: Increase the damage rolled by 1 before multiplying; minimum to hit NECK
17-20: Fifth Level (Excellent): The job was done amazingly well.
Combat: Increase the damage rolled by 2 before applying the Multiplier.
21-23: Sixth Level (Extraordinary): The job was done in a way that was mind-boggling in its impossibility.
Combat: Increase the damage rolled by 3 before applying the Multiplier.
24+: Further Levels (Miraculous): For this job to have been done this way demands a supernatural answer.
Combat: Increase the damage rolled by 6 before applying the Multiplier.
The game starts in Monroeville, a fictional town in the Pacific Northwest, where one of the players has gotten word via email from his sisters that their car has broken down, and they think they are being followed around the town as they wait for the repairs to be completed. When the players arrive (I made a set of pre-made characters based on the Archetypes in the AFMBE book; 5 Survivor-rank and 1 Norm-rank characters) they find a normal small town of 3,000.
If they manage to get in to see the sisters’ room, they find the sisters’ shoes and luggage still there. If they manage to get in to see the sisters’ broken-down car at the mechanic’s, they find a car full of snacks and wrappers, as well as a bunch of pamphlets for various quasi-religious or self-improvement sects. If the players ask to search through them, they find that one of them, a pamphlet for a group called Aum Shinrikyo, has the handwriting of one of the sisters on it, with a name (“Adam Smythe”) and a date and time. If they check the car and make a Mechanics roll–or ask the mechanic about the car, they find/he says that the car should work–he can find nothing wrong with it, except that it won’t start (yes, he tried a new battery, and the gas tank is still full.)
Anyway, if the players make a successful attempt to hack any of the websites for the various groups, they find that they are all linked to each other. If they try the phone number they can get from talking to any of the few odd looking adherents wandering around town trying to hand out fliers (or from hacking, but not from the fliers themselves), they get on the line with a creepily nice receptionist, who will readily give them an address (which is not on Google Maps, but to which they can find a road if they search.)
When they arrive they find a building next to a small graveyard, in among the trees.
Level 1: note, I had to add a gate between level 1 and 2, that could only be lifted by entering the room with the hidden coffins while in play.
Level 2: note, I had to add a gate between level 2 and 3, that could only be lifted by entering the room with the hidden coffins while in play.
After they enter, they find no one there. If they head back outside, they find zombies shambling toward them from all directions. If they try their vehicle(s), they find them inoperative (with no visible cause, and even if they had someone watching them.)
If they manage to defeat the first several to enter through the southern secret entrances, the gate to the basement opens. If they use a lever they find in the room of vampires (the hidden-coffins room), they unlock the way to the third level, where they find a crowd of zombies and, ultimately, the demi-boss with his guns and bombs. If they defeat him, they find a bunch of women waking from a long slumber with no memory of how they got there. If the players ever ask, they will note that all the zombies were formerly men; there are no female zombies.
Finally, if they happen to find the secret book hiding and chained between shelves in the master bedroom, they find a book written in a language none of them recognize, bound in leather. If they manage to get it out (it isn’t hard if they have an axe or something similar) and set it on fire, they will find that the fire is hot, but burns neither the book nor them. If they go to the kitchen and try to cook the book on the stove or in the oven, the find the book unharmed and cool while the cooking appliance is ruined. If they baste it in butter, it will be buttery, even after all the butter should have run off. And if they swing the book at a zombie after defeating the demi-boss, all of the zombies disappear. into dust. (This is exactly what my players did… each step I described above.)
Then there will be more as they try and find out who made the demi-boss undead leader, who built the place, who was in the small cemetery (as none of the zombies came from there), who talked to them on the phone, who the acolytes on the street were, and many other questions! There is no zombie apocalypse… yet.