At the start of a campaign, the players have some typical set-up; stats and so on. The GM has had some set-up as well. The basic setting that I am proposing is that the players play characters that exist in the most well-known city to most of them. This is the starting point, somewhere familiar.
Then you take that familiar place and take it to zombie hell.
If the game was to be based on Dogs then it would be good to still include a version of the initiation stage that each character goes through (more on that some other time). I have an idea for a quick card game that could help steer the tone or the setting. The GM will have done some scenario generation just like any sandbox game, and things will change as the players interact with that world and define their own goals. But right as things get going five minutes are spent to see what the characters have heard.
Deal three cards to each player, two face up, one face down. There will be three rounds. Start with the player who has the highest value card (ace is low) and in the event of a tie start with the player who has the biggest difference between their two face up cards. Play proceeds from the starting player, and they toss a card into the centre to contribute a Rumour: something that they have heard somewhere in the last few weeks or months, while the world has been falling apart. Maybe it's a moment of hope, maybe something about the city they live in, maybe the world at large. Once you play a card to play a Rumour you can't play another until the next round.
Play proceeds to the left from the starting person, and each player uses a card to contribute a Rumour unless the card they are playing is equal or higher to the card for a Rumour already played. Then they can either contribute a new Rumour in this round as normal OR add to a Rumour that has already been mentioned. John plays a Nine and says "A guy told me that there's a big gang of teenagers who have barricaded the big supermarket half a mile away." Ben has a Ten and decides to build it up: "Someone painted a sign up at the start of the road that said KIDZ HAV GUNZ!"
Do this for three rounds; players can use their face down card in any of the three turns, but "who goes first" is based off the face up cards dealt. Rumours are basically just that: they're things that may or may not be true, or may be half true. Who knows? You'll find out in play. It's simply a way of steering things at the start of the game. As GM see what the players are thinking.
Then make up your own damn mind.
GM is playing with Alan, Ben and Carly. Alan is dealt a Three, Six and (Four); Ben a Queen, Two and (Nine); Carly a Seven, Six and (Four). Round 1, Ben goes first as he has a Queen.
Ben, Two: I hear a church nearby has stockpiled the food they gathered at the harvest festival.
Carly, (Four): And I heard that they were raided by some guys driving a police car.
Alan, Three: The off licence at the start of Edge Lane still has power.
Ben, Queen: The big squat near that off licence was overrun by a horde of zombies two days ago.
Carly, Six: Someone told me that the people in the church were able to hold off the raiders.
Alan, (Four): That's a no-go place; didn't you hear that the priest has a shotgun?
Ben, (Nine): That guy who died yesterday told me that there's a river cruise boat going up and down the river looking for survivors.
Carly, Seven: Some drug dealers are walking rooftop-to-rooftop in the suburbs seeing if they have any customers left.
Alan, Six: There's a gang of teenage cannibals living on the island in the lake in the park.
- Needs tightening up in terms of rules, but also expressed more simply.
- Objective is to provide flavour to the game, not necessarily direction.
- As it stands the "needing a higher card to mod a Rumour" only applies to the value of the original card played for a Rumour. So if you play a Two, then someone plays a Six to modify it, someone else could just play a Four to modify the original Rumour. Is that OK?
- Not play-tested yet. Just thinking. So what do you think?