A New Survivor Has Been Rescued: James, the Field General

As I mentioned previously, with help from my friends, I’ve made custom survivors for Zombicide. Over the next few months as I finalize the flavor and backgrounds of character, I’ll be discussing their design in this space. You can also find all the previous survivors in my Zombicide notebook.1 One thing to keep in mind as I present them individually, they were often designed as a set or to fit in with a previously designed set of survivors. Also, I’ve improved with design and balance in mind.2


Today, I’m showing off my own survivor. James the Field General is inspired by myself. I consider myself a pretty strategic person and generally helpful. I also tend to be a leader in games. I’ve also fired off a shotgun and a rifle a few times. I’m no expert but I can hit a target. Luckily there’s plenty of ranged combat skills available. I’m also on the smallish side and pretty quick. Unfortunately until the skills from the Toxic City Mall expansion and Season 2: Prison Outbreak were revealed there wasn’t a lot in the way of those strategic, tactical or leadership skills.

Version 1

Blue / Sniper Red A / Gunslinger
Yellow / +1 Action Red B / +1 free Combat action
Orange A / Slippery Red C / +1 max range
Orange B / +1 die: Ranged

James’s skills clearly lead him to ranged combat. His Sniper skill at blue level allows him to move with the larger group and not worry about killing his friends. At orange, he can continue to improve his ranged combat abilities by getting an extra die per ranged weapon per ranged attack. Incredibly useful if he’s got dual sawed-offs or SMGs. Otherwise, he can pick up the Slippery skill which allows him to move in and out of trouble with ease. All three of his red level skills focus on ranged combat. He can pick up an extra attack action or increase his range. Finally, Gunslinger lets him dual wield any ranged weapon, perhaps rifles or shotguns. Overall, it was a rough start. When I showed this character to my friends, they felt it was slightly out of character for me to be so focused on shooting things.

Version 2

Blue / Slippery Red 1 / Born Leader
Yellow / +1 action Red 2 / Is that all you’ve got?
Orange 1 / Destiny Red 3 / +1 to dice roll: Combat
Orange 2 / +1 to dice roll: Combat

So the second version of this character is unrecognizable when compared to the earlier one. Slppery is about the only thing that stayed the same. The ranged skills were given to another survivor. Destiny and Born Leader are strategic skills. The +1 to dice roll shows that this character can diagnose weak points and target his blows better than most. Finally, Is that all you’ve got? is another strategic-ish skill. I envisioned it as throwing items he holds at zombies to slow them down so he can avoid getting hit.

Version 3

Blue / Destiny Red 1 / Born Leader
Yellow / +1 action Red 2 / +1 free Combat action
Orange 1 / Slippery Red 3 / Hold your nose
Orange 2 / Is that all you’ve got?

This is the version of the character that’s seen the most play. With the idea that resources (equipment) are of strategic importance, James has morphed into a more tactical role. He gets to decide what equipment to keep for the team or discard in an attempt to find something better. With Hold your nose, he can search a zone he’s cleared of zombies for useful stuff even if he’s not in a building. So the precise-related skills from the second version of this character were again moved to a different survivor.3

Version 4

Tactical Ranged
Blue / Lifesaver Red 1 / Distributor
Yellow / +1 action Red 2 / Born Leader
Orange 1 / Tactician Red 3 / +1 die: Ranged
Orange 2 / Sniper

With the release of Toxic City Mall and Prison Outbreak, there were a whole slew of new skills added. This allowed me to redesign most of the characters and well-define their roles. Also, there was a big philosophy shift on my part during design, now each character would get either melee or ranged combat roles unless they were just combat specialists.

So, James finally turns into the field general of the survivors. Using his strategy honed brain to control the apocalyptic battlefield. Lifesaver, Tactician and Distributor are all new skills which really let James shine in his role as a strategic leader. He can pull people out of trouble, go at any time in the player turn order that best benefits himself and the team. And at Red danger level he can somewhat control the spawns on the board. Born Leader stays in at Red level to make Distributor not an automatic choice. Finally, the ranged skills make a return with Sniper and +1 die: Ranged.

Tactical Zombie
Blue / Lifesaver Red 1 / Distributor
Yellow / +1 free Move action Red 2 / Born Leader
Orange 1 / Tactician Red 3 / Regeneration
Orange 2 / Rotten

With enough skills, this is the first attempt at designing Zombivors for the custom survivors.4 My general rule was subtract the secondary role from the character and add in a few zombivor only skills. There’s not much rhyme or reason yet behind the zombivor skill selection. It’ll probably need some re-balancing and adjustment in the future but I think this was a good start. Rotten let’s James move with the extra activation draws and regeneration keeps the strategic leader functioning even in dire situations.

So James has morphed from a ranged sniper into a precision killer into a resource manager and finally into a field marshal. This last version is very well-suited to how I envisioned an early character. The only thing that would make me reconsider his role is if there was a larger focus on vehicular combat. Steady-hand is so far the only skill and I’m not sure that’s enough to warrant any changes to the character.

  1. Granted this is the first one, so by that I mean, future survivors. 
  2. Though certainly not perfect by any stretch. 
  3. It’s in theme to give that character precision bonuses, but it also didn’t hurt that the person he’s inspired by has terrible luck with dice. 
  4. Technically, it’s the second stab. We had one scenario go really badly and we made up zombivor versions on the fly. Not the best idea as they were mostly ill-informed choices. 

In the end, I feel like this movie met my expectations. The story and characters were interesting. The best character by far was the little China Girl. Can’t say it wasn’t weird to see Rachel Weisz play an evil character. The visuals were beautiful except that awful witches duel between Evanora and Glinda. That was awful. Anyways, it was solid all around. But definitely won’t content for a top 10 spot.

I haven’t yet discussed my love of Science Fiction but trust me it’s there. For me, Star Trek is my first love but Star Wars has it’s place too. I generally just find the exploration and technology of the Star Trek universe far more appealing. But the Star Wars trilogies are a wonderful epic.1 The Jedi and the Sith are great and the video games have generally been superior than their Star Trek counterparts in every measure.

One of the things Disney has done to push attendance numbers in certain parts of the year is to have themed days or nights, weekends or weeks. Disney gets the benefit of increased attendance, while attendees get to meet people with similar interests. One example that most people are familiar with is Grad Nites, where high school seniors invade the park in the late afternoon/evening and stay in until early morning. Another is Night of Joy, an event much like Grad Nite but focused on Christian youth and music.

One of their best events, in my not-so-humble opinion, is Star Wars Weekends. They put on a great show at their Hollywood Studios park in Orlando with parades, special guests, themed shows and performers and a giant pavilion of Star Wars and Star Wars-themed Disney merchandise.2 The first time I went was in 2011 with my fraternity little brother and little sister and my mom.3 They managed to get me on the Rockin’ Rollercoaster and I picked up a sketch of Stitch as a jedi. I didn’t make it last year but I was determined to go again.4

This year, the timing was perfect in a lot of ways. My girlfriend’s birthday is May 17th and we had planned on seeing Star Trek Into Darkness in IMAX 3D and that was the opening weekend for Star Wars Weekends. Also, I was flying out of Orlando on May 19th to travel to Portland, Oregon for DrupalCon. So we spent Saturday at Hollywood Studios. We arrived a little later than we had planned but we managed to see the 501st Legion part of the parade. Then we quickly darted towards Star Tours to pick up our fast passes and run on the ride quickly.

Star Tours continues to be a great ride no matter how many times you’ve been on it. The droids are funny, the multiple choice paths offer a lot of diversity, and the movie itself is good and uses recent 3D tech. All important considering I tend to get migraines from 3D and movies. As we got out, we ran into one of our friends and her siblings getting ready to go to one of the major shows of the afternoon. The show was about the voice actors from the Clone Wars and was well done and funny.5 In the end it was one long, but very good, advertisement for the final season of Clone Wars.

We ate lunch at the 50’s Sci-Fi Drive-In Theater and it was easily the best dining experience I’ve had at a Disney park as an adult. The atmosphere was perfect, dimly lit by the tables and with the big movie screen projector. I’m not sure what it was but Disney seems to have improved on their food selection without raising prices too much. The only complaint I have is that the tables are a bit small in the two person booths.

We wrapped up the day by watch the Beauty and the Beast show and visiting Darth’s Mall. I picked up one of the Disney/Star Wars action figures, Stitch as General Greivous. All in all a great day. I followed this up by visiting a few weeks later with my mom. We had a great time and hit up several of my favorite rides and shows.[^6] We went to the Voices Behind the Force show again and this time got to meet the current voice of Yoda and the narrator of the Clone Wars series.

If you’re a Star Wars fan and you have the ability to go, you should definitely visit Disney’s Hollywood Studios on a weekend in late May/early June. It’s a great event. So much so that even when I leave Florida, I’ve been planning on making a trip to Hollywood Studios every year for Star Wars weekends as a way to meet up with some of my closest friends.

  1. Excluding Episode 1 of course. Speaking of which, a good friend of mine introduced me to the <IV, V, II, III, VI> watching order. While I haven’t had the chance to watch them in that order, after reading the post and thinking it over, I agree with the premise and wouldn’t be surprised if that is truly the best way to watch the movies. 
  2. It took a round of editing to change this to Hollywood Studios. It’ll always being MGM to me. 
  3. I know, I was 26 and still hanging out with my mom. But that’s the thing about Disney, to me it’s always about fun times with family and friends regardless of age. 
  4. Especially now that my fraternity little brother had relocated back to Gainesville. Of course, we didn’t end up being able to time it for both of us to go at the same time. 
  5. Though I was very confused by Ashley Eckstein’s wardrobe selections. 

This film left me in a rather meh state, very underwhelmed. They added a love story to my zombie movie. It was cute but I’m not sure I really need cute in my zombie flicks. It certainly was a novel idea on how to cure zombies. It was neat to see zombies team up and help out the living against the more monstrous undead. But after playing probably a few too many games of Zombicide, I’m not really interested in a living/undead relationship. Even if the zombie has the memories of my now dead girlfriend who’s brain she just ate.

Old Endings, New Beginnings

Welcome to my first session report! I have to say that I was incredibly excited to start up a new campaign. Rolling up characters, plotting out adventures, crafting NPCs. It really gets the creative juices going. The players arrived around 3pm and we started rolling up characters about twenty minutes later. None of the players have had many opportunities to hone their character generation skills. All told, it took about an hour for the most experienced player to create his character and about two hours for everyone else.1

With card stock character sheets in hand, dice on the table, Krillin Pwnd List on the board and the play mat unrolled, we kicked off our adventures on the continent of Torgrim by introducing the characters to the small town of Everton. Everton is home to the only university in the known world. Bright magical minds, decorated veterans of war, experienced advocates, wealthy merchants and daring adventurers teach and train students from across the continent is their selected program.

One professor of particular note is Curiosity Bounceback, a halfing, she is the leading expert in archaeology and history. She has held her position for the past decade after a famous adventuring career. Her surname is well-deserved as her inexplicable ability to recover from any disaster and return unscathed has never once stopped her from adventuring into peril.2 About a week ago, one of the local lumberers uncovered an overgrown entrance to a set of stairs that led underground. In her first attempt to unseal the ruin, one of her grad students was killed by a magical trap.

Since learning about the somewhat unexpected dangers and deciphering some of the scripts, Curiosity has spent the last day or two recruiting bold adventurers to travel into the depths of this suspected First Civilization tomb. The party assembles the next morning and sets out towards the with the professor.

Joining the professor are:

  • Valanthe, a Wood Elf ranger
  • Hans, a Dwarf fighter
  • Helja, a Dwarf fighter
  • Diva, a High Elf wizard
  • Asandril, a Wood Elf ranger
  • Donnal, a Wood Elf druid
  • Sir, a Human monk

The expedition to the tomb and back was fairly uneventful as it was a standard dungeon crawl. One of the players (Sir) arrived on the scene late but he still managed to get in a few encounters including the big bad (a mummy) at the end. They got to fight some D&D monster standards including a mimic, a gelatinous cube, some rust monsters plus a variety of undead. They all made it out alive and found a magically sealed entrance to a second level which would be left for another day.

Overall, I felt I ran the session pretty well. I ended up having to scale some of the later encounters down a bit as the party was exhausted. It was a new system and it can be difficult to manage resources without much system knowledge. That being said, I have no plans to continue to scale encounters down unless we’re missing a significant percentage of the party.

Next time, the party delves into the second level of the tomb and the first character death.

  1. I’ve been meaning to go about and create some of the D&D Next characters just to see how long it would take me to make a familiar archetype and an unfamiliar one. I personally feel two hours is too long but I gave that number to my other DM and he was astonished that it was so short. 
  2. The first name she chose for herself upon learning it’s meaning while harassing some older halflings. 

There’s two of these movies coming out in 2013 and I can already tell you, this was the bad one. Gerrard Butler did a serviceable job but everything else about this movie was just okay. This film probably would’ve been better with a cast of nobodies. Why have Aaron Eckhart and Morgan Freeman if you’re barely going to use them? Pass on this one and wait for Roland Emmerich’s take later this summer when it’s called White House Down and has Jamie Foxx and Channing Tatum.

Just over a year ago, Penny Arcade ran a comic and article about a recent Kickstarter scam project that was snuffed out by the community. This piece by the PA guys hit home a bit or at least served as a warning. By this time, I had backed over a dozen projects and hadn’t had any issues but it made me aware that there were some out there.

Anyways, after that brief discussion of the comic, Tycho explains that Penny Arcade has lent out their Cardboard Tube Samurai character as a stretch goal to a boardgame called created by a small French studio, Guillotine Games. I took the time to check out the Zombicide Kickstarter and fell in love almost immediately but the price tag was high. I sent the info along to one of my good friends. We had a discussion on Facebook and decided to both back it after some initial reluctance.

Let’s be frank here, $100 for a board game is a lot when you’re used to Monopoly and Risk which top out around $30. Previously, the most expensive board game I had purchased was Red Dragon Inn and its expansions which totaled about the same. My general thought process when buying any type of game is based on how much play time I’ll get out of it multiplied by about $5 which will get me an hour of a good movie. And Zombicide looked ridiculously re-playable and customizable. And so I quickly backed it just two days before the end of the Kickstarter. I ended up pledging for everything, the Abomination pack, all the extra survivors and an extra set of tiles.

The game itself is a lot of fun and challenging. The co-op aspect has quickly made it a game night favorite.1 Hordes of zombies pour out across the board and each player must contribute in a balanced manner or else it’s easy to get overrun. The mechanics are sound and with the addition of zombivors we never have to worry about a player having a quick exit from the game and having to sit back and watch the rest of us play.2 The scenario setup takes a bit of time to get everyone prepared and ready to play but the basic rules are fairly intuitive and easy to learn. Some rules can be hard to interpret and there are a lot of rules which makes the game pretty complex.

Since it’s delivery in early Fall last year, my friends and I have basically played it non-stop. Generally at least once every two weeks. We’ve played almost every scenario in the book and online, including the Switch City Campaign. And we’ve played dozens and dozens of hours. We’ve also built custom heroes for each of my friends somewhat suited to how they like to play but mostly influenced by how they are in real life. The scenarios themselves have a good range of easy to insta-death but there never seems to be a short scenario. The miniatures are well-sculpted and I hope to get around to painting them one day.

All the fun times spurred me to back the Season 2 Kickstarter without any hesitation. I also ended up ordering every available survivor. Which when they arrive, I should have nearly 100 survivor and zombivors. I know Zombicide is pretty pricey but if you love killing zombies there’s no way to not love this game and get hours upon hours of entertainment.

  1. Possibly because my fraternity little brother and I are crazy competitive in other games. 
  2. Much debate in my group whether it’s pronounced Zom-by-vers or Zom-be-vores. 

A solid action movie that is done the disservice of constantly trying to out action it’s predecessors. Bruce Willis as John Maclane will always be something worth watching. But there’s no need to always up the ante. They need to decide if John is a cop or a superhero before they release another sequel1. Bruce Willis will always be a favorite actor of mine and I’ll see as many of his movies as I can. I can only hope this is the low point for his movies this year with RED 2 and Sin City 2 coming out this fall.2

  1. According to Willis’s IMDB credits, Die Hardest will be coming out in 2015. It’s also supposedly the last installment. 
  2. In the time that I wrote this and published it, there was an announcement that Sin City 2 got pushed to 2014. 

Outside of work and gaming, I’m one half of the Culture Conquistadors. With Charles we release a weekly podcast that primarily discusses movies but also includes television, music, books and games. Basically any form of entertainment that we can consume these days. We’re looking to add more content to the project and so I’ve decided to do some paragraph movie reviews for every movie I see. They’ll be short and sweet (or bitter) and I’ll be cross-posting them here on my personal blog. I think the format will work well because we have the podcast for more in-depth discussions and I know there are some people who can’t listen to every episode of the podcast. Anyways, the first one will be up later today.

D&D Next Playtest

At the beginning of last year, Wizards of the Coast announced the next iteration of Dungeons & Dragons. At the time, I was in the midst of two Fourth Edition D&D campaigns, one as a player and one as a DM. And while Fourth Edition has proven an incredible vehicle for epic length storytelling, I never really fell in love with it. Maybe that’s because my first taste of D&D was on the last day of summer camp in the 90s waiting for my parents to pick me up. Or maybe it’s due to growing up as a Third Edition player and DM. For whatever reasons, both myself and the DM of the group I played in, longed for a return to 3.5.

Being in the midst of two campaigns, it can be difficult to find time to run the playtest. In addition, we had begun planning for an all day one shot we’d end up hosting in June 2012. But national holidays are wonderful things and we gathered our available friends and ventured forth into the Caves of Chaos on Memorial Day 2012.1 The new rules were still d20-based, the classes were limited to only a few levels but felt like good starting points. I played as the elf wizard and used that shocking grasp to great effect.

By far the most memorable sequence from that playtest was lead by my mom. Our party was standing in a hallway, we had peeked into the next room and saw it filled with goblins, bolts and arrows knocked and hidden behind overturned tables. This was not a good look for us. My mom, playing a fighter, had the fake coins we took from the troll and tossed them into the goblins’ room. One curious goblin opened up the bag but quickly realized they were the fake ones used to by the troll off in the first place. But it was a fatal mistake anyways.

Mom: “I toss in the bag of coins.”
DM: One of the goblins comes out of hiding and picks up the bag looking at the coins. It looks at you as it realizes that the coins are really just coppers.
Mom: “Can I shoot the goblin?”

Stunned silence around the table.

DM: “Yes, yes you can.

And so the battle started. I may have misremembered the exact words but stunned silence plus agape mouths was amusing as everyone realized that my mom had just come up with the Best Idea Ever(tm).

Late last fall we got another in another playtest session. We again ventured into the Caves but took a different path. We ended up TPK’ed a couple of times but this packet had my favorite class by far, the Sorcerer. This was not your 3E or 4E sorcerer. This was really more of an expansion of the idea behind the Dragon Disciple prestige class from Third Edition’s Tome and Blood. And I think it was executed marvelously. I was really disappointed by it’s disappearance from the next packet. Personally, I feel it gave a real distinction between Sorcerers and Wizards instead of Sorcerers are just Wizards with less utility but more firepower. It honestly felt like an arcane paladin, something that I’ve never felt has been successfully accomplished by any of the other attempts.


Anyways, enough about the playtest experience thus far, this post is really meant to introduce my latest campaign which is set on the continent of Torgrim. I will freely admit a major inspiration for me has been George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones. I read the book a while back in preparation for the TV series but I haven’t kept up with either.2 Other inspirations are Bioware’s Dragon Age and WotC’s Eberron.

Torgrim is dominated by the Sunsteel Empire, a large majority human empire that covers most of the southeast. There are two smaller human kingdoms in the same area but both pay some modicum of tribute to the Empire in exchange for retaining their territory. The dwarves have taken root in Silverpeak, a large mountain that divides the humans from most of the other races and the Citadel, a larger hill in the southwest. Elves inhabit the south and west forest covered coasts. Evil humanoids and a human tribal civilization reside in the north. Finally, there is another human empire on a continent to the east of Torgrim.

Torgrim will be my D&D Next Playtest world for the forseeable future as I’m unsure how long this campaign will last. Our group goes through cycles where we can generally get everyone together through Spring and Summer but Fall rolls around and only one or two people can play. But if that happens, I may finally consider running a play-by-post game because I’d really like to explore the world of Torgrim.

  1. We even got my mom to play! She’s never played D&D and isn’t even a big game fan in general. But it worked out well and she enjoyed the session. 
  2. I’ll get around to them one day but I’ve just got too much going on at the moment.