"All zombies carry the Z-Virus, an infection created by Brulyx's dark magic."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Wikipedia.com posted:

Dead Reign is a zombie apocalypse role-playing game published by Palladium Books. Originally created as an alternate setting for Beyond the Supernatural, it was put on track to be turned into a stand-alone title after first appearing in Palladium Books' Rifter series. The game's creators, Josh Hilden and Joshua Sanford, wrote a manuscript and turned it in, but during the five weeks between manuscript submission and the book going to the printers, Palladium president and lead game designer Kevin Siembieda rewrote roughly eighty percent of the game and changed its basic premise.

Wikipedia has since had that summary removed.

The Rifter #40 posted:



The Rifter #40 posted:

Violence and the Supernatural

Oh my.

The Rifter #40 posted:

The fictional worlds of Palladium Books are violent, deadly and filled with supernatural monsters. Other-dimensional beings, often referred to as "demons", torment, stalk, and prey on humans. Other alien life forms, monsters, gods and demigods, as well as magic, insanity, and war are all elements in these books.

How dreadful, I can't imagine what would possess you to write about such things. Where is the RPG that warns you about kitten content? Some kittens? Can we have a bit of that?

The Rifter #40 posted:

Some parents may find the violence, magic and supernatural elements of the games inappropriate for young readers/players. We suggest parental discretion.

Well, I'd never let any child of mine play one of these terrible games!

The Rifter #40 posted:

Please note that none of us at Palladium Books condone or encourage the occult, the practice of magic, the use of drugs, of violence.

My children are going to only play wholesome games like Little Wizards, No Thank You, Evil! or Witch Girls Adventures.

Dead Reign Part 0: "All zombies carry the Z-Virus, an infection created by Brulyx's dark magic."

Happy Halloween, everybody! And time for a scary tale, a tale, where you write a game... and it's taken by a ghost!... who publishes it as the primary author! OoooOooOOooo...

Well, okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration. Kevin Siembieda is no ghost. But Dead Reign, Palladium's newest RPG, hit a bit of a controversy right from the start. Created originally by Josh Hilden and Joshua Sanford, Dead Reign was intended as a zombie apocalypse setting and supplement to be used with Palladium's existing horror RPG, Beyond the Supernatural. There's a full F&F writeup for Beyond the Supernatural , but TL;DR the primary pitch is "Psychics vs. Monsters", with rules for "Ordinary Folk vs. Monsters" as well. Siembieda liked what Hilden and Sanford had written enough to offer to let them write a full game- the first since Palladium had nearly gone bankrupt a year before, and the last new game Palladium has published.

When the game released, though, there was a bit of a fuss. It turned out Siembieda's name was on the cover as the primary author, with Hilden and Sanford reduced to "additional ideas" and Hilden getting a "concieved by". The game had been heavily rewritten by Siembieda, and Hilden and Sandford felt that they had been robbed of the credit they deserved for it, saying so publicly. Siembieda retorted that he didn't feel their manuscript was up to snuff, and though he didn't want to rewrite it all, he had to, in order to create a better product. Of course, Siembieda has had a habit of rewriting contributor's work or adding his own material, to the point it's rare for a Palladium book not to have him as a credit. Case in point: do you know how I search for cheap used Palladium books? I don't search for "Palladium" or "Rifts". I search for "Siembieda" first.

Normally, when these rewrites happen, we don't get to see the original draft. However, Dead Reign is a bit of an exception. Hilden and Sanford had a preview published in Palladium's house rag, The Rifter, that gives us a glimpse of their original intentions. This will be a lot more summarized than my Rifts reviews, since the details aren't as big a deal, and we want to get to the weird and wacky bits a little faster.

Your Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse

So, how did Dead Reign originally look? Well, though based on Beyond the Supernatural, it downplayed the psychic and supernatural elements of the setting. Due to "low ambient levels of P.P.E." (Potential Psychic Energy, the source of magic in Beyond the Supernatural and Rifts), it didn't have much in the way of the paranormal- at least until the zombies start showing up. After which, much like Rifts, it's implied that the mass deaths start cranking up the world's magic potential due to the soul fallout. However, that's treated as a growing element rather than a sudden explosion, and supernatural powers are still extremely rare. As such, it says characters should be created using the "Ordinary Person" rules from BTS, but they get a small chance of psychic powers (about 15%) and may roll randomly for level (1d4+1) or insanity at the the GM's discretion. Normally I'd poo-poo random levels, but given the mortality rate of a game like this (and the fact that Palladium already has you rolling random for attributes), it's probably not a huge deal.

"Oh, my god, it's a walker- er- rage vir- er- wait, can I just call them zombies?"

The Wave

On June 20th, 2012, Midnight EST (evil arises on US East Coast, apparently), a little early for the Mayan "apocalypse", every person on the planet is struck by nearly ten minutes of overwhelming pain and nausea, and millions die on the spot. A fair amount of damage is done when people lose control of vehicles or otherwise are endangered by sudden unconsciousness. Then, a few minutes later... every dead body that is not exterminated becomes one of them, it gets up and kills, the people it kills get up and kill! Most people get et, civilization collapses, people turn on each other in short order, etc. You know the drill.

"Nudge, nudge."

The Truth behind the Zombie Apocalypse

So, there's the Umbrella Benford Group, who develops Unisane, which develops a cancer vaccine that prevents all cancer-

- okay, so there are cancer vaccines, but they're used to inoculate against viruses that cause cancer, not cancer itself-

Facts aside, the Benford Group offers the vaccine for free in Third World areas and at cost in developed countries, which nobody finds suspicious for some reason. However, thanks to the FDA being pressured by Big Pharma, the US adopts it more slowly than other countries (the authors clearly don't know how hard it is to get a drug approved in the EU, it generally takes a good deal longer). However, whether or not Unisane actually works turns out to be irrelevant (it does, if you're curious), as it's actually just a carrier for a magic enchantment to turn people into zombies. The Benford Group turns out to be a death cult that worships Brulyx, which sounds like a mouthwash to me but actually turns out to be a big evil "demonic entity". Ah yes. It's scarier when you add "entity" to the the description. I know I'm always scared of entities.

Didn't tie his shoelaces before dying.

Zombie 101

So, These Zombies Are Different! Everybody's got to have a clever rationalization for zombies, and Dead Reign is no exception. Though zombies attack and bite, they don't gain sustenance from flesh. Instead, they feed off the P.P.E. of their dying victims, abandoning them as soon as death occurs to seek out new prey. Though they degenerate, they don't rot - though they can starve. Unfortunately, they can absorb P.P.E. from magical places of power (ley line nexus points from BTS) to keep themselves running. If they starve, they collapse and become normal corpses. If they eat more P.P.E. than they can store, the excess is absorbed byt Brulyx, who's gaining power in order to invade Earth. Like you do. They can attack and eat animals, but animals can't get infected. They require a person a day, which strikes me as having them run out of food quick unless magic spots are pretty common.

Speaking of which, zombies have the T-Virus Z-Virus, which is an infection created by Brulyx's magic. Any character bitten has to make a saving throw vs. magic (around a 70% chance of failure by default) or lose a single hit point per minute until dead. Those killed by zombies rise after 1d4 minutes and those killed by the virus rise after 1d6 minutes. Zombies get an Armor Rating, meaning pre-bonuses you only have a 25% chance of hitting or hurting them much of the time, and zombies can sense life energy at a short distance, so don't think you can hide. "The spell Turn Dead has no effect because zombies are undead." There's random charts for the number of zombies in an area and how an individual zombie might be pre-damaged upon an encounter. Then, we get several types of zombies: We also get bits about how man is the real enemy. In addition, the Cult of Brulyx (i.e. the Benford Group) is around, has knowledge of magic, and can command thinkers, and works to try and wreck any organized resistance to zombie primacy.

"Zombies? No, this is just retail."

The Benford Group - the Past

So, there was this priest of Hades in Rome named Gregius Bonophat. Can we call him Phat Greg? I think we can. Greg had his temple destroyed by generic "barbarians" and went mad because Hades didn't have his back, and shouted out for power to gain vengeance. Naturally, due to being properly overdramatic, a voice was like "Hey, I'm Brulux - demon, not a mouthwash - I'll help you kill those barbarians, and then you can be my immortal puppet, deal?" Greg says this is the best deal he's ever heard, murders those barbarians, becomes an immortal puppet and puppetmaster, ends the Roman Empire somehow, etc. He gets into disease and creates epidemics like the Black Death, the Spanish Flu Pandemic, and other real disasters being trivalized here, but none of those were quite enough death to build a bridge to Brulyx. Eventually he became Louis David Benford I, formed the Benford Group, made a cure for cancer, and used that to create his big zombie-making ritual that feeds power back to its master. While Brulyx still isn't free, he can send demonic agents to be detailed possibly never. Now he just wants to round up the people who are left with the help of his army that's somehow both mercenaries and cultists (pick one, geez), and sacrifice them to his dark master. He's starting with Asia but also is interested in securing various places of power (as detailed at painful length in BTS).

"We'll be safe as long as they don't learn to walk around things."

The Setting

Cities have become "Death Zones", naturally, and people are holding out in enclaves and stuff! Also PCs don't get to know this unless they have access to the "wireless web", which is presented as if we're supposed to know what it is. Do I have cyber the jack to get onto the wireless web? The world will never know. Finally, we get a description of the Wireless Web, which turns out to be a radio network and has nothing to do with computers! Well, that makes more sense, but I'm not going back and fixing my earlier misinterpretations. They keep it real. It also talks about a Daniel Gregory stuck in a New York skycraper who talks about the Benford Group being behind it all through Unisane but everything thinks he's a nut.

Most people have to go on foot because apparently gas ran out at the end of the first winter after The Wave. What the hell? There'd be a lot of gas left around with nearly everybody being dead, with it left in gas tanks friggin' everywhere. Well, Winnipeg is making ethanol. Good for them.

A lot of people are starving because food animals are scarce! Education is tough but people are trying to teach the children, because the children are the future! 15% of people are psionic now! People might learn to become wizards...

The Rifter #40 posted:

Future material will deal with this topic, so stay tuned.

Actually, it will not!

Josh Hilden posted:

Yeah I know those of you familiar with my past were wondering when I would get to talking about Dead Reign in this series of essays. I’m not going to delve very far, if at all, into the history of the title. The [above] Wiki pull is a more or less accurate if truncated version of what went down.

But I want to put a couple of things out there.

The first, and most important thing, I want everyone to know is the contribution of my writing partner Joshua Sanford. Sanford is one of my oldest and best friends and without him Dead Reign never would have been anything more than a collection of pages of notes in a three ring binder. He created the Reapers, the real hard assed version the kid friendly ones eventually published. He pushed me and is one of the best creative people I have ever worked with.

The second thing I need people to know is that I am still proud of the original manuscript. Even with six years and a mullion more published words behind me I would still prefer my version saw print, flaws and all it was the superior product.

But in the end I wouldn’t have my career if things had gone different.

Next: Siembieda takes over.

"I think of zombies as dinosaurs and us living and breathing humans as, well, human beings."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Kevin Siembieda posted:

I take no pleasure in writing this post, but I feel I must address the lies leveled against me. I suspect other Palladium detractors may have similar things to say elsewhere and I want to set the record straight.

This is a classic example of someone who has absolutely NO IDEA about what they are talking about stating assumptions and outright lies as if they were fact.

"Why aren't you going after him?! Look at that stupid goatee!"

Dead Reign Part 1: "I think of zombies as dinosaurs and us living and breathing humans as, well, human beings."

Because dinosaurs are dumb and cold-blooded, see? In any case, the differences from the original pitch come immediately.

The Wave


The apocalypse starts with The Wave - an illness that sweeps out from Hong Kong with flu-like syptoms that spreads everywhere in the world. There are several possible explanations offered: The exact cause will not be pinned down in this book, but it'll become clear that something supernatural is going on, at least.

"What is it, boy? Is it the Apocalypse?"

The Zombie Apocalypse

The Wave, it says here, killed millions within 48 hours, and then a few hours later, every dead body that is not exterminated becomes one of them, it gets up and kills, the people it kills get up and kill! Mind, a 48 hour worldwide infection seems like a bit much for a virus, so maybe it's Altucure, maybe not? I'm pretty sure the truth is never revealed here. Apparently, the zombies ignore the sick, going straight for the healthy, and naturally everything falls apart. There's a lot of where Siembieda tries to present the "on the ground perspective" but all of you know the drill by now. The main unusual point is it gives a zombie's eye view at one point. They mainly see people as "light" or "life energy" they're driven to devour and kill for. The "light" doesn't just fuel one zombie, but actually refuels all the zombies in the vicinity when one dies.

This is looking like a magical explanation for zombies, but I'm reading this cold so I don't know. It's probably the "Potential Psychic Energy" as seen in other Palladium games, but we'll see.

"Not one of these mixed living / dead neighborhoods!"

Who I Am and Where We Are Today

It's revealed that the text so far was written by "Brad Ashley" who's apparently a member of "the Reapers", and this is an excerpt of the "Reaper's Survival Guide". The Reapers print out copies of this whenever they have enough electricity, paper, and a working printer. Brad's the voice for most of the book. It's been five months since the apocalypse, and the US government has predictably collapsed. People are broken up into small groups of survivors, with a few trying to communicate via radios. Any city or town is essentially dominated by the dead, with perhaps twenty to thirty percent of the world's population left, with about forty percent having been converted to zombies, most of them in population centers. There's a lot less zombies in the wild, and most zombies don't seem to travel out from the cities, instead going "dormant" until woken by prey. However, it seems that they're spreading out over time.

The Wave seems to be over. Brad notes that unlike in the movies, zombie bites don't turn you into their body - zombies have to "drain you of your life energy" to turn you into one of them. Nice science, Brad. Still, their bites can cause lethal infections. Death by other means doesn't make you into a zombie. Being "nearly" killed by a zombie can make you into a "half-living", who gains some of the aspects of being a zombie but remain sentience. However, half-living who die rise as zombies.

Also, there's "Zombie Death Cults" that claim to be responsible, and some of them seem to be able to command zombies. The Reapers kill members of cults that seem to be responsible for their actions, then destroy the bodies just in case. They sometimes bring in victims and seeming innocents from the cults in, but put them on a short leash and keep an eye on them, just in case.

We get a fiction chunk about a reporter living through the initial Wave taken from the original pitch, but we can skip that, as it provides no new information.

"Put that down! You don't know where it's been!"

The Dead Reign
More excerpts from the Reaper's Survival Guide

Brad points out that cities, though filled with resources and supplies, are death traps due do the number of zombies - and to be aware of that before you try to sneak in. We then get some basic zombie facts. We also get some other threats: Secrets of the Dead

More words by Brad Ashley, our zombie apocalypse Erin Tarn, spouting more redundant nonsense, but then we get numbers: Most zombies turn green or ashen, and their flesh slowly decomposes. Sometimes their eyes glow! They don't need to breathe. Also, they always want to attack and eat you, but they survive off of-

Potential Psychic Energy, or P.P.E. Yeah, that tortured acronym is dragged up, like a metaphor for the undead. When somebody is killed by a zombie, their "P.P.E" (i.e. life force) is distributed to all zombies in a 300' radius, each according to his need but only if they work! Non-attacking or dormant zombies don't get the kill reward.

Sure, okay. We get the P.P.E. values of people (adults get 1d4+1, kids get 4d6+12, etc). As such, they go after kids first. Killing people heals zombies, energizes them, or "reverses decomposition", but they can live "1d4 years" without being fed, or far more (26 times longer) if dormant. They can see life about 1,200 feet away or 9,000 feet in the dark- well, that's over a football field even in the day. Total concealment will block their sight. Zombies rise in 6-12 minutes after death (apparently, it's quicker now than it was at the time of The Wave).

"No, seriously, I got this."

I should note we're starting to get discussions of rolls and S.D.C. and hit points and d4s and none of that has been explained yet. We get a long-ass reiteration that zombies go straight for you (save for Flesh-Eating, Thinker, and Mock Zombies), moan to attract others, which can lead to a big "Convergence" of zombies swarming at you.

Dead Reign posted:

Note: Double the number of zombies converging every two melee rounds/30 seconds!

What the fuck is a melee round? I mean, I know, but then it says only a paragraph later-

Dead Reign posted:

Convergence Multiplier: Double the number of zombies every two melee rounds (30 seconds).

Dead Redundancy is more like it. I'm having to skip shit-tons of things being stated more than once and I'm only on page 27. Convergences only really split after about 15 minutes of a lack of prey or food. There's an example of an attack where-

Dead Reign posted:

The Fast Attack Zombies knock both of the teens to the ground. They don't move in for the kill, but make sure Emily and Robert are kept off their feet, off balance, and unable to run away until the rest of the living corpses close in for the kill.

Wait, what the hell? They're using tactics now? How? Why? Well, no consistency in convergences, I suppose. We get a lot bit on how dangerous dormant zombies are because they can hide anywhere and pop up and give you a good jump scare. They won't see you if dormant, but can sense you in that 15-20 feet psychic zombie life force sensing radius.

Welcome to Nick Bradshaw, my least favorite Palladium artist. I think he'll be your least favorite, too.

Several times it's gone on about having to kill zombies silently before they moan and attract others. This is pretty obvious at this point but I'm bringing it up because the book has emphasized it multiple times by now, but fuck, zombies can sense you from a football field away and automatically sense you a room away, so good luck with that! We go over zombie bites again, with the main new nugget being that some people think a zombie's bite will turn you into one and kill people who get bit. We get detailed percentages on how often a wound gets infected (10% if treated right away, 80% if ignored). We then get infection rules before any of the basic rules have come up, because this is Siembieda and Palladium. This ranges from minor inconvenience to a weakened and dying limb to a "zombie rot" which causes a deep tissue infection, coma, and death. Lots of numbers here, but that's the gist. You can make a saving throw versus infection, which halves the usual period - does that mean the lethal ones kill you twice as fast then? Also if you get zombie rot and survive you have a 10% chance of becoming a "half-living"-

Dead Reign posted:

Provided the G.M. allows it. If not, re-roll.

Oh, fuck off.

Next: Everything you needed to know about zombies, restated over and over.

"Only Death Cult Priests and their human supporters, Thinker Zombies, Mock Zombies, and madmen would ever consider reattaching a severed head or limb to the zombie it belonged to."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Kevin Siembieda posted:

I don’t like to air business in public or say harsh things about people I like or who work for Palladium Books in any capacity. Josh Hilden falls into both of those categories. I like him immensely and I believe he is a diamond in the rough when it comes to writing, and I hope he keeps writing.

Despite what some people claim to be fact, I never want to have to rewrite or heavily rework a freelancer writer’s manuscript. I hate having to reject people’s work even more. I know how much work goes into writing and how much a chance to get published means to people. And I sure as heck do not need to see my name on more books.

Dead Reign Part 2: "Only Death Cult Priests and their human supporters, Thinker Zombies, Mock Zombies, and madmen would ever consider reattaching a severed head or limb to the zombie it belonged to."

"Oh, yeah! The eyes are last to rot! That's science!"

Zombie Attributes

Zombies are dumb but can still open doors, turn the lights off, climb a ladder, or open a window... otherwise they'll just attack any impediments for hours at a time (or days, the book can't make up its mind), maybe only about 20 minutes if they can't sense their food. They don't work as a group (except those Fast Attack Zombies earlier, I guess) unless under the influence of Mock Zombies, Thinker Zombies, or "Death Cult Priests". Even so, they're not sharp, but can be directed to capture people by priests. They may use clubs and the like but only out of instinct. We get rules for warding them off with fire, which has a "Horror Factor" of 16 to them (no, we don't know what "Horror Factor" is yet).

"Off of my lawn!"

They have doubled strength value, aren't bothered by heat or cold or breathing, and can't get sick or be poisoned. However, they can freeze up. They also get a "natural Armor Factor" of 14, i.e. you need a 15 or better on a d20 to hurt them, so you may as well always make Called Shots (14 or better). Not that we know what Armor Factor or what we roll to hit is yet, mind! We get a long list of how to damage the undead: We're referred to read up on the rules for Armor Rating, S.D.C., and Hit Points without a page reference.

Also, zombies are ugly and have guts hanging out unless they've fed regularly, but even if they pass for mostly living they still have the zombie shuffle and zombie moan and all that. They also have sharp hearing and smell, if the fact that they have a world-hacking cheat wasn't enough.

We get details of how their armor rating of 14 works. It's not actual armor, but reflects the fact that a lot of attacks won't hurt zombies, though when their S.D.C. of their main body is zero, their armor rating goes down to 7 and all of their attack values (attack, bonuses, strength, speed) by half. However, even if a zombie is downed by regular attacks, they'll get up after an hour again, and you have to destroy their brains or remove their head or burn their bodies to keep them down. The game also at least acknowledges that you always want to make called shots against zombies, since there's no drawback to doing so under these rules. We get S.D.C. values for each part (about 33-48 for the torso, 8-18 for the leg, 11-16 for the neck, 16-26 for the head, etc.). However, attacking the head or neck ignores all bonuses to hit and only hits on a 17-20, so it doesn't matter if you're a child who just picked up their first gun or a trained military elite fuck berets wolf squadron laser-sight bearing sniper, your both have the same accuracy! It also similarly doesn't matter if you're aiming or snap-firing, either. This is nonsensical bullshit, but let's go on. Removing arms reduces a zombie's number of attacks, legs reduces speed, but a helpful cultist or Thinker Zombie can help reattach a limb under certain circumstances. Or they can reattach the head and the zombie comes back after an hour. Zombies regenerate S.D.C. and hit points once an hour, but faster if they're feeding. The zombies' hit points are equal their Physical Endurance that, once again, we haven't had explained yet.

If you finally deplete their body or head S.D.C., congrats, you can attack their hit points, but only by attacking the same area. If you do triple the head's damage in a single shot, it's instantly dead, but given you need to do 48-78 damage in a single attack, that's not going to happen often enough for most folks to care.

Zombie Descriptions

We get the percentage numbers for zombies again, then actual stats.

"Everybody say 'brains'!"


Your usual slow-moving swarm zombie. It says 74% of people who died in The Wave became these, forgetting that they said only half rose as zombies at all. Ooops. Most of their traits have already been described, but they get a Horror Factor of 13 here. Their life energy sense is written as 50 feet instead of 20 feet like in an earlier section, and even though it earlier said they can't track people by scent, we get an 18% or higher chance for them to track humans by scent (and given there are hundreds, some are going to make even an 18% chance). They don't need eyes to see, so don't try and Stooge them. As with most Palladium monsters, their stats are randomized and you're expected to roll each and every zombie up, I suppose. They can swing their arms for around 1d6+10 damage or bite for 2d6+10 (on average). They have a penalty to initiative, a big penalty on Perception rolls (despite the fact they can auto-sense humans, I dunno), and a small bonus to hit. They also get combat bonuses and an extra attack if you fail their Horror Factor because they "smell fear".

"Well, I still have my shades."


... are slouchers minus legs, but can walk on their hands or drag themselves around, and hide in small places or crawl through places other zombies can't fit. Their stats are pretty much like Slouchers except they're slower but climb and sneak better. It notes they can't do jump kicks. In case you were wondering if a legless zombie could. They can't.

In 3D.

Fast Attack Zombies

Your modern running Dawn of the Dead remake rage virus zombie. There's no way of telling them from slouchers until they run, though. It notes that they often work to corral other humans into the slouchers, velociraptor-style, even though we've been told they aren't smart over and over again. Stats are like slouchers (despite getting full statblocks, once again) except they're twice as fast as the average human or as fast as the average trained runner (around 15 MPH). Their big difference is that they get a special pounce attack that has a 50% chance of knocking you over or a 40% chance of pinning you no matter what your Physical Endurance or Physical Strength is, because fuck PCs. You can try and get free by sacrificing two attacks for a 15% chance of doing so (once again, irregardless of the human's Strength, Prowess, or Endurance). They can also just knock you over at 70% chance that once again ignores any strengths a human might have. They can also do flying kicks, if the GM wants kung-fu zombies.

-foot +arm

Flesh-Eating Zombies

... are supposed to be slightly smart and cunning, and can plan ambushes and things like that, but usually work alone or in packs with other flesh-eaters because most other zombies aren't tactically minded. They can also retreat if they're overwhelmed, and prefer not being outnumbered. Often they'll tear off a limb to eat and run away, presuming their prey will die anyway at that point. They're faster than slouchers but not as fast as fast attack zombies (I hate typing that name, but there you have it) but have a slightly lower Armor Rating (12). But since you're probably trying to do called shots anyway...

"How'd I die? Well, I was caught with my pants down."


Listed as a "Racial Character Class" even though it says they're "Not available nor appropriate as a Player Character." I guess that's so they can level up. They're smart enough to notice things like signs of human passage and other evidence, as well as recognize patterns, remember things, make plans, retreat, etc. They can also direct other zombies to the limit of their intelligence, and are often used as would-be officers by Death Cult Priests. They can also use guns and other simple machines at a penalty, but can't reload or refuel them and might keep firing away when they're out of ammo a few times before realizing there's nothing going on.

"When you're a zombie they let you do it. You can do anything."

Mock Zombies

These are zombies that retain their human memories and refuse to believe that they're zombies. They'll even help humans on account of this, and often wear regular clothing or whatever. However, eventually they succumb to their hunger, particularly if alone with somebody. It's supposed to be a serial killer zombie analogue, and might use makeup or masks to hide their appearance. However, they're driven to feed more often to maintain a human-ish appearance. They don't work with other zombies or Death Cult Priests, and might even attack then to maintain their cover.

"Please don't bother trying to find her | She's not therrre"

Pattern Zombies

These are the Romero sort that are aping whatever job or activity they did in life. If left alone, they probably won't attack, but they'll join in moan-driven calls to action all the same. Their stats are the same as a sloucher, but they get a full page writeup anyway, because this is Palladium.

Commercial Game Art.

Using these Zombies in Other Game Settings

Because why assume this is your first Palladium game? Before we even have rules, it's noted you can use them in most-games as-is and gives some setting suggestions, but nothing too surprising, since most Palladium settings can accommodate the undead. Rifts gets detailed rules where they're amped up ridiculously. They don't have much M.D.C., but they do get some, and: Yeah, these rules don't make any sense, but even the normal rules don't make much sense! It notes the demons and deevils of the Minion War ( Rifts metaplot nonsense) might unleash zombies, or there might be a zombie plague in Rifts Chaos Earth like he originally planned and didn't have time for but you can use these rules until he does that story (he has not done that story as of this writing, so don't get your hopes up... or down).

Next: Time to reap.

"Captive women may be forced to have sex with him, impregnated, and their babies taken and fed to zombies or offered up in a weird sacrifice to an imaginary Death God or Lord of Chaos, or eaten by the mad cult leader himself."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Kevin Siembieda posted:

The situation behind Dead Reign was a disappointment for everyone. Despite Josh and Joshua's extensive knowledge and fondness for the zombie genre, when I reviewed the manuscript in September, I was deeply disappointed with it.

It was my decision as Publisher and Game Designer to rewrite this book substantially (80-90%) - something General_Sarkoff [an rpg.net poster - ARB] and others like him making snide and outrageous accusations could NOT possibly know.

Dead Reign Part 3: "Captive women may be forced to have sex with him, impregnated, and their babies taken and fed to zombies or offered up in a weird sacrifice to an imaginary Death God or Lord of Chaos, or eaten by the mad cult leader himself."

We've got a ways to go before we get to the recreational eating of your own child, so let's get through it.

"You've impaled me with a... log? Can the artist explain my situation?"

Fighting Zombies

We're back to Brad Ashley and some quick tips a mother came up with that zombies hate. Actually, I've skipped a lot of Brad's jibber-jabber because it goes on and on, and fuck, we're not even a third of the way through the book! He goes on about a lot of nonsense like trusting your gut and "think fast" and "react even faster". Practical advice! He says to let people die if it's too much of a risk to save them, shoot zombies in the head, run away if you're facing a bunch, stay alive, keep on the move, shoot in the legs if you have to run, find ways to block their path or entrances, lay traps, pin zombies down, remove their arms if they grab a person, set fires to keep them away, etc. We get some rules tucked in the middle of an IC talk (like that it takes 50% more strength than a gripping zombie to pull somebody loose, so usually 2-4 people), using a shotgun to blow a zombie loose from its target, pinning zombies with crossbow bolts, trying to run through crowds, etc. Hope you're not skipping the fluff for the random rules tidbits shoved into it!

With that out of the way, we can move on to the other threats in this book. (Yes, we're still discussing all the bad guys before we've even seen a PC class.)

"Our God forbids a decent haircut!"


These are presented as Christian extremists who think that the zombies are God's curse for technology and cities, and have reverted to a 19th Century agarian lifestyle. They're akin to the Amish, only they're averse to technology to the point where they'll feed you to zombies since that's what God put them there for, to murder people with digital watches. In fact, they prefer to capture survivors, tie them down, then sing psalms to attract zombies. Seems like a flawed plan, but they're flawed in general. At best, they'll drive off outsiders at gunpoint or gunshot. It's a bit odd to have this - whackjob baddies - being one of the few acknowledgements of Christianity in a Palladium game. And they're everywhere, somehow. I mean, what are they gonna do, spread the word by radio?

We get stats for them and a lot of handwaving as to what skills they get. Because this is a Palladium game, you're expected to build each one individually as a character, in a system that's really, really bad for that.

"Don't look trustworthy? Why would you say that?"

Death Cults

First, we have "terror cults", which are usually organized around a central leader who uses a combination of fear and monopoly on some resource to gather a following. They're generically "half-crazy" and might think they're gods (because just about every other villain Siembieda writes is a megalomaniac) or worship some generic evil god from the evil god bin. Also, half of them are cannibals that eat outsiders.

We get a percentile chart, where they can be:

"Let your unbathed stench empower Brulyx!"

Next, we get the "Zombie Death Cult of Brulyx", which is familiar to those who read Part 0 here. They claim to be a 12 millennia old secret cult (not so secret anymore, I guess) that worship Brulyx, Lord of the Dance Dead. They claim to have been hanging around since Atlantis waiting for the day "death would reign". And there's the fact that their priests can boss zombies around, so there's that, which is making them a growing influence on... wherever your PCs are, I suppose. They don't seem so bad at first glance, given that they don't expect members to do more than work for their meals and supplicate themselves before Brulyx.

The key is that Brulyx services are designed to drain the P.P.E. of their followers and feed all the local zombies, which is what gives them power over them, since the zombies (somehow) recognize them as feeders. They have to be careful, though, since they can only control so many zombies and if too many congregate, they might turn into a hungry swarm instead. Most Death Priests manage to avoid this because... they're professionals or something... I guess? Also they're all over even though it's only five months after the apocalypse because

However, the Brulyx cult has a secret plan once they get enough OT levels, which is: Ultimately, they want to use zombies as a tool to rule the world, and grow huge mustaches to twirl while they're at it. Doesn't seem necessary, honestly, they have a pretty sweet deal going, and it if wasn't for the final part of their plan, there wouldn't be any reason to really consider them evil at all (aside from just being beneficially manipulative). They're also a bit odd in that they seem to have the only form of magic acknowledged in the game.

We get a Death Priest O.C.C., and it reminds us again they may seem nice now, but in a few years they'll be putting people in the munching line for zombies. As such, they're plotting to remove "reapers" (i.e. militant survivors that hunt zombies) and organized communities so the dead can rule the earth. They can command zombies or protect a small group from undead aggression. Also they can have "1d4 pencils or a mechanical pencil". Choose wisely, death priest! You can't have both!

Next: Classes! Character creation? No, that comes later.

"Doesn't matter what the character was before the Zombie Apocalypse, he's a Shepherd of the Damned now."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Kevin Siembieda posted:

I have no intention of going into all the details of the situation or my decision, because that would be unfair, unkind, and inappropriate, especially in a public forum. Josh Hilden and Joshua Sanford put their hearts into their manuscript. They did their best. Unfortunately for them, "I" deemed it was not acceptable. They are already aware of my thoughts on the matter. Sadly, I fear the final published book may be a further disappointment to them.

I had no intention of writing Dead Reign, but felt I had no recourse but to do so. I sure didn't want to delay it several months, so I dived into writing it myself.

Dead Reign Part 4: "Doesn't matter what the character was before the Zombie Apocalypse, he's a Shepherd of the Damned now."

Put the italics down, Siembieda. Put them down for your own good!


Time for character classes before we know any of the rules. Palladium editing: it may involve a dart board. Usually, when I do these sections for Rifts, I like to detail the odds of playing each class, but as we'll see later, Dead Reign is slightly softer on players in terms of meeting attribute requirements, and there's an alternate character generation method I'm not going to be accounting for here that makes qualifying much easier if it's used.

"It turns out your forehead keeps growing after death! It's true!

The Half-Living
An optional post-Zombie Apocalypse O.C.C.

Chance of Playing: 100%, if your GM permits it.

Yes, we start with an optional class that might not be allowed by GMs. That's so very Palladium. As mentioned before, sometimes somebody nearly gets killed a zombie and survives.

Dead Reign posted:

In game terms, we are talking about the thin line where a character sees his Hit Points reduced to zero, or between zero and his P.E. attribute number below zero. A character lapses into a coma when Hit Points reach zero. Zombies sense this and see the character as dead. However, a character can linger on death's door as long as his Hit Points were not reduced below his P.E. attribute number. If the character has a P.E. of 9 he can survive -9 below Hit Points. If he has a P.E. of 24, he can survive -24 points below zero. Hmm, probably shouldn't use the word "survive" because this character is dead unless he gets immediate medical treatment and rolls a successful save vs coma and death, two out of three times. This is one of those paramedic resuscitation moments. ("Hand me the paddles, stat!")

Clear and concise rules language.

So, you come back looking like one of those original zombies, with an overuse of eyeshadow, pale complexion (even if you're melanin-intensive?), and a 69.8 temperature that makes you literally cooler than everybody else. You get bonuses against heat, cold, poison, and disease, and only need to feed half as often. In addition, you can eat raw meat if you're into that. It gives you 50% more strength, and get ignored by all but the smart-ish zombies, but humans might mistake you for a zombie. You can sense zombie moans like a zombie but with a slight delay, and regenerate slightly when somebody near you dies. On the downside, you lose Speed and Physical Beauty, think fire bad, get penalties all over when you're not around humans to ground you, and become a zombie when you die. Oh, and you lose 30%-80% of your elective and secondary skills. Round up? Round down? Choose randomly or select skills? Work it out for your damn selves, customers, this is Palladium. At least it says directly that if you don't want to become one in the course of play, the GM should just let you survive normally. Player choice? In a Palladium game? Heavens to Betsy.

Of course, if you create a Half-Living from scratch, you use a completely different set of rules, because this is Palladium, and I'm not going to cover them because fuck it, who cares? Short version: you're trading out most of your skills to become a zombie-themed superhero, take it or leave it. That is, if your GM allows it! They can tell you no.

Give the dog a (still animate) bone.

Hound Master
A post-Zombie Apocalypse O.C.C.

Chance of Playing: 13%, or 31% if your GM is nice.

So dogs are awesome because they're man's best friend and can "sense the supernatural."

Dead Reign posted:

They can detect zombies (and people with magic or psionic powers)...

The latter of which would be useful if those people existed in the game! In any case, these are people that try and rescue and train canine survivors (since zombies feed on them all the same if they can). Their main goal is to rescue wild and or feral dogs, with the twofold notion of using them to assist fellow survivors and to get dangerous dogs off the the streets. This can be via rescue, or if they can't be tamed, just putting wild dogs down. This goes with a lot of talk about how dogs are awesome that should seem familiar if you're read any of the dog boy material in Rifts.

Hound Masters get the special ability to try and ward away feral dogs, "dog first aid", and train dogs in a variety of areas from guard animals to zombie-sensing dogs, but only one area because you can't teach an old dog new tricks! They also get a free dog sidekick with an extra dog every 3 levels except for 15th, because why reward years of Hound Master play in a really lethal game?

We also get dog rules. Did you now "well trained and behaved dogs" have good alignment, misbehaving dogs have selfish alignments, and wild dogs have evil alignments? Well, there is no way in which this will ever matter. They actually have shit for durability and a single zombie punch can send them into needing a doggie doctor, but they do have access to special pounce and grab attacks that work irregardless of the defender's strength, but at least that works in PC's favor this time... unless they're wild dogs attacking, which use the same rules.

Ultimately, it's a pretty neat class for a zombie game... but hobbled by predictably dodgy Palladium rules.

Playing little league, apparently.

A post-Zombie Apocalypse O.C.C.

Chance of Playing: 38%, or 63% if your GM is nice.

Dead Reign posted:

"Memento Mori"
"Remember that you are mortal," the Reapers' motto.

These are the bikers from Dawn of the Dead if they were good guys and not just total shitheels. (I suspect the Joshes' original version were just total shitheels.) The name came from a biker gang from Chicago who survived the "Battle of Chicago", whatever the the fuck that was (they helped a bunch of people escape Chicago from zombies, apparently). But they had Brad Ashley, who writes and widely distributes the self-aggrandizing but kinda helpful Reaper's Survival Guide and so other bikers have taken up the name. Kev has always been a bit stuck on the idea of people that do good and "roam the land like knights of old", even though that's not something knights fuckin' did, so these are your Cyber-Knight equivalent, only with less cyber and more motorcycle. They're focused on zombie murder and just trying to clear out zombies wherever they reasonably can.

They get to negate any penalty for attacking from a bike with a one-handed weapon, can fix motorcycles, have special lore skills for death cults and reapers. We get a long-winded description of their tactics, which boil down to hit 'n run or doing tactical stealth missions against zombies. They're more focused on killing zombies and death cults than rescuing people. So maybe they're a little shitheel.

"Wait, did we forget to commission art for this class? Well, we can just stuff something vaguely related in, good enough."

A post-Zombie Apocalypse O.C.C.

Chance of Playing: 39%, or 52% if your GM is nice.

There isn't a lot more to this class than the title implies - they're traders and do repairs, as well. As such, they're just the thief archetype, good at sneaky stuff, social stuff, and fixing things. There isn't much else to day. They get a free bike! Oh, no, not the motor type. The pedal type. They're literal BMX bandits.

To be fair, I think Michael Mumah is probably the best artist in this.

Shepherd of the Damned
A post-Zombie Apocalypse O.C.C.

Chance of Playing: 100%

These are survivors that go into cities and try and find and rescue anybody still trapped there - either for free or for a fee. Many specialize in a single city or region and learn it extremely well. Though they're competent fighters, usually they're just looking to bug out. Like Scroungers, they don't get any particular "special" abilities, just getting a bunch of survival skills as the vague rangers of this game, only without the cool double weapons or ranged combat options.

Mumah's art has a comic book style that fits the idea of a Palladium zombie game really well...

An post-Zombie Apocalypse O.C.C.

Chance of Playing: Varies based on M.O.S., from 100% to 14% (23% if your GM is nice)

We've got thieves, cavaliers, rangers... what else? Oh, yes. Fighters. These are ex-law enforcement and ex-military professional sorts, and they get special bonuses versus zombies. Their special deal is that they get to pick an M.O.S. (Military Occupational Specialty, but the book doesn't explain that, nor does it use term correctly, G.I. Joe file cards were more accurate than this...) like "Demolitions Expert", "Law Enforcement: Undercover", or "Special Ops: Commando". Each has a different attribute requirement but basically just serves as a skill package. Mind, your M.O.S. doesn't affect your equipment, so you can be a "Communications Expert" with nothing more than a walkie-talkie or a beat cop who has a bunch of grenades.

... except for whatever this mess is, yikes.

A post-Zombie Apocalypse O.C.C.

Chance of Playing: 100%

This is your everyday person catch-all sort of class. So if you want to play a heroic line cook, this is where you start. You can also play a child. Technically, you can play a baby! You still roll 3d6 for attributes, baby, get an occupation ("he's a real doctor!"), and then get et by a death cultist. Survivors get an optional rule where they might have skills at a higher level (1d4), but those skills don't advance until you level up to that level as a Survivor, because a 4th level Factory Worker or a 4th level Landscaper (these are listed occupations you can pick) could somehow break the game or something? "Look out, he's got an extra 15% chance at gardening, the sky is falling!" I guess a Paramedic or a Professional Driver might be better off, but still. It's not the big deal the game makes of it.

Oddly, there's overlap with the soldier, where you can be a cop or even a SWAT trooper under either; you'll get better skills as a Survivor but better combat bonuses as a Soldier. There's 42 different occupations and I won't list them all, but they range from useful (Extreme Sports, Hit Man) to less so (Housekeeper, Store Clerk). Unlike the soldier, it notes that you might have the tools of your trade, but if your GM's a dick, you don't get them. That's Palladium, forcing the GM to make two judgement calls over what's supposed to be the most basic goddamn class. Well, I'll play my Extreme Sports Baby, nothing in the rules is stopping that (though the GM decides if I get a helmet).

Next: Shit, a Brick.

"Sexy faring, comfortable riding position, and a chassis that tells you, 'You can do anything stud, just keep on leaning.'"

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Kevin Siembieda posted:

The end product is NOT Josh Hilden and Josh Sanford's manuscript "changed just enough to be able to take credit for it." That would be crazy, mean, and pointless. I dream of getting manuscripts that need little or no rewriting. That was not the case, here.

I took what I thought were the best ideas from Josh and Joshua's manuscript and built on them. The rest of it was written from the ground up. I did a ton of my own research, spoke to numerous individuals about zombies and spent six weeks writing 12-18 hours a day, seven days a week to get this book finished.
I'm not sure speaking to friends and co-workers about zombies counts as part of "research".

Dead Reign Part 5: "Sexy faring, comfortable riding position, and a chassis that tells you, 'You can do anything stud, just keep on leaning.'"

Remember, you can only hit the head on an unmodified 17-20!

Notable Resources

We're back to the Reaper Survival Guide and more Brad with some tips on getting crap. He points out you can try and use your skills as a trade for resources, for one. Next, he brings up the utility of phone books, forgetting that phone books were seriously getting scarce even by 2008. Atlases and guidebooks are also useful, though you generally have to wander into urban areas to find them.

He emphasizes that normal street cars are of little practical use, but might have resources (tools, fuel, parts) or could be used as a weapon or distraction. However, he warns against "car graveyards" and points out zombies will just punch right though windows if you try and hole up i a vehicle. However, trucks have greater utility, especially when reinforced with things like a winch, armor, and weapon ports. He also suggests a fuel pump to siphon fuel from abandoned vehicles, despite "car graveyards" apparently being breeding grounds for GM fuck-you surprise hordes.

Gasoline stations, hardware stores, industrial parks, factories, and museums are all covered for their resources. In cities, wide open areas with long lines of sight (wait, wouldn't that make it easier for zombies to see you, since they see humans better than vice versa?), like sports facilities, auditoriums and theaters, and parks are recommended. Pawnshops, pharmacies, shipping facilities, and airports are also cited as some of the few reasons to venture into cities. Skyscrapers are noted as a potential place to hide or escape since most ground-level zombies won't venture beyond the first few floors, but also have a variety of risks from attracting human predators to trying to maintain heating.

Rural communities have at times managed to fend off zombies and become "Safe Haven Communities", but many are hostile to outsiders (or may be outright baddies like retro-savages or cultists). Still, some are genuinely good people, or at least willing to trade, and he encourages you to help them out.

Remember, you can only hit the head or neck on an unmodified 17-20!

Weapons & Equipment

And now we switch to Nick "The Brick" Vicovsky, possibly named for what he shits, it doesn't say. He used to be a jerk biker asshole, but became a decent biker asshole by joining The Reapers and learning an important lesson about what family means, or something. He offers commentary during the upcoming section most of which I'm probably going to skip because I've still got over a hundred pages left and you can't pretend you care about his opinion on the Dodge RAM 350. I'll leave you in suspense.

Oh, and first thing we get around to is bizarrely referring us to the Heroes Unlimited GM's Guide of all things for more guns, or the slightly more relevant Compendium of Contemporary Weapons (the compendium was written 15 years before this was written, so I promise it was and is anything but contemporary). Everything gets a $$$ value but it's pointed out this is just for barter reference and that money doesn't matter so much anymore.

Unlike other Palladium games, firearms are divided into caliber (which determines the damage, from 2d4 at .22 caliber to 1d6 x 10 at .50 caliber) and their general type (which determines the range / magazine / fire rate) rather than getting a big long list of guns. There's also a variety of special ammo types, most of which add damage in different ways. There's "The Brick's" frankly irritating commentary, like:

Dead Reign posted:

Yeah, I know, big guns look cool in the movies. Well, this isn't The Predator. This is the real world, and you are engaged in urban combat inside buildings, houses, on city streets and tight places. A machine-gun will rip right through the zombies, punch through a plaster wall, wood planks, aluminum and even thin metal (cars) like a sheet of paper and destroy property and kill everyone in the next room or two or three. You do not want that on your conscience.

We get rules for explosives (half damage to zombies and knocks them over), which are good for slowing down crowds of zombies but isn't likely to take them out without major booms. Fire weapons get their own section - flamethrowers, molotov cocktails (with a warning that having flaming zombies running around has consequences), incendiary grenades, flares, etc. There's crossbows which somehow do full damage even though spears and bows don't, because this game hates physics or loves crossbows, one of the two.

Remember, you can only hit the neck on an unmodified 17-20!

Then there's melee weapons, which boil down to "use the biggest weapon you're allowed to use for your strength", as some heavy weapons have strength requirements. Some weapons have a % chance to get stuck in a zombie, so you can avoid those, and some weapons require 2 attacks to use, which is almost never worth it since you're not likely to one-shot a zombie. As such, the best weapon is the battle axe - it does as much damage as the chainsaw without the noise, won't get stuck in zombies, and has no strength requirement (despite weapons with a strength requirement that do less being plentiful). The game makes a big deal about katanas being awesome zombie-killing weapons so you can be Michonne from The Walking Dead, but the stats don't back it up - a lead pipe or crowbar does as much damage as a katana. Oh, and a Bo Staff does "2D46" in a bit of a typo, and quarterstaves do more than long staves. Is that right? Staves? Staffs? Well, in any case by the actual rules unless you gang up on a zombie going melee will probably just get you killed unless you're heavily armored, since zombies have that Armor Rating and do as much damage with a punch as tougher survivors do with the biggest melee weapons.

Armor gets its numbers, most of which is trading sneakiness for protection, with leather armor being adverted as the prime means of protection (the game even gets it bonus armor against zombies for no stated reason). There's also stats for skateboard pads and bike helmets, if you want to fight the undead to the max extreme. We go on with the laundry list of optic devices Palladium loves to death, generators, electronic devices, radios, and survival gear.

"How'd I light this cocktail? I have no idea!"

There are stats for vehicles though this game doesn't have detailed rules for using them. We have horses, bikes, and skateboards (don't seem practical but the game still thinks skating is rad). The game waxes more mastibatorily over motorcycles, and I don't feel like I'm picking on the book when I say that:

Dead Reign posted:

Yeah, they are sex on wheels, but sure as your denim jeans they will get you killed faster than any other bike.

Dead Reign posted:

Bobbers are the cat's meow when it comes to converting your heavy iron horse.

Not Dead Reign posted:

I call myself Brick unironically and I like to fuck bikes.

It poo-poos street bikes as being risky and dangerous, cruisers as being too heavy to pick up after a spill, choppers as being style over substance, and suggests making heavy bikes into bobbers if you can. Enduros and dual sport bikes are held up as the ideal, with dirt bikes being good for offroad but otherwise full of drawbacks. We get information on protective wear and fuel, including suggestions on fuel life and using fuel stabilizers. Comparatively, other vehicles barely get any attention at all. We get four pages on motorcycles and two pages on: cars, trucks, planes, balloons, helicopters, personnel carriers, and tanks. Hell, skateboards get more attention than all cars. Campers aren't covered at all, oddly. I don't know why cars and trucks are picked on for being vulnerable when motorcycles offer no protection at all, but there you have it.

Next: A horde of slavering tables.

"Game Masters, noodle around what exactly the problem is here."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Kevin Siembieda posted:

Fate was kind to me: I had a blast writing this book. The ideas and words poured out of me like water. The work load and schedule was brutal, but it kept me focused, and I am very pleased with the end result. Heck, I think it may be one of the best things I have ever written. I would have never have guessed that zombies are in my blood.

Dead Reign Part 6: "Game Masters, noodle around what exactly the problem is here."

"Welcome to White Castle, what can I get you?"

Adventure Ideas

Nope, still not to the rules yet! Instead, we get "101 Random Scenarios, Encounters, and Settings" to roll a d100 on to get a random event from. This is actually credited partially to Hilden and Sanford. Of course, if you realize that means there's a scenario you can't ever roll, well tough, the book cares not. Some entries are just variations on a theme - there are 9 entries that boil down to "there's a crashed truck, what's inside?", 3 entries on "you hear a baby crying!", 5 entries that are "you run into a dazed individual on the road" (always lone, always dazed), etc. Shit-ton of bait-and-switch stuff, as to expected after all the Rifts adventure books I've- oh, those aren't published yet. Well, suffice it to say most are "possible source of resources, but surprise zombies!" No way I'm covering them all, let's roll ten times instead and see what I get.

Well, no living dead, anyway.

Entry "101%" is a description of various jobs the PCs could be doing for a "safe haven community", from rescue to recon. Then we get "Random Zombie Encounters", which is mostly rolling randomly to get a random allotment of zombies. 5% of the time, it's a sexy lady that turns out to be a mock zombie! Damn you, sexy zombie! Actual sexy zombies as a thing - mostly women, as if you needed to ask with this author - will be in a supplement. 5% of the time it'll be "1d6 x 100 Slouchers"! We also get "100 random corpse searches", so let's try rolling for five of those: Man, treasure tables, amirite?

Next: I complained about not having the rules yet. I stop complaining.

"It's not Superman or the X-Men fighting zombies, it's you."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Dead Reign posted:

The decisions I made were as the Publisher and Chief Game Designer for Palladium Books. I'm sorry the expectations of Josh and Joshua may have been dashed by my decisions, but I had to do what I believed was best for the product, the company and the fans. That's what I did. It is my job and responsibility. I have no regrets.

Dead Reign Part 7: "It's not Superman or the X-Men fighting zombies, it's you."

Game Rules

144 pages into the game, we get a "what roleplaying is!" primer.

Dead Reign posted:

Role-playing games are really just an advanced form of regular board games. In fact, they are so advanced they no longer use a board and the playing pieces are the characters in each player's imagination. Pretty cool already, and you haven't even started playing.

If you're seen most Palladium games before, it goes into the usual "Imagine the scene! Imagine your character! What do you do?" bit, but instead of a thug / mutant animal / Zentraedi robbing somebody, there's a spooky laughter in the basement you're in. Actually, I realize the text of investigating a monster in the basement is mostly just copy-pasted from Beyond the Supernatural. We get descriptions of the various hobbyist dice (it uses all of the usual except d12s), and it refers us to get books from Barnes & Noble, Waldenbooks (whups, out of business), or Borders (whups, out of business), or a comic book shop. You'll need paper, pencils, and a place to play! It's a clunky section but at least it bothers, I guess? That may not seem like an accomplishment, but I've seen enough modern games that presume this isn't your first RPG rodeo and offer no introduction or advice. At least it tries.

"I'm a gas mask astronaut! Nobody's getting at my brains."

Character Creation

Most people familiar with Palladium will be familiar with this - even though Rifts Ultimate Edition had introduced new mechanics like bonus attribute points for low rolls and low attribute penalties three years before this, we're back to usual 1990s-era Palladium character creation for whatever reason. So let's do this, and do it quick:

Step 1: The Eight Attributes: Roll 3d6 eight times down the line for each attribute, add an extra 1d6 if you roll 16+, get a bonus to something if you get 16+. No rearranging or adjusting or anything like that. Intelligence Quotient gives a bonus to skills. Mental Endurance gives a bonus on saves against psionics (not in this game), insanity, or horror. Mental Affinity gives a % chance to make people trust or fear you. Physical Strength grants a bonus to melee damage. Physical Prowess gives bonuses to attack or defend. Physical Endurance gives a bonus to survive coma or death, on saves against poison, and against magic (not in this game). Physical Beauty gives a % chance to charm or impress. Speed determines your maximum movement rate (we get a speed chart that tells us that 22 Speed = 15 MPH). We get encumbrance rules and rules on throwing things and then move on to step two.

Step Two: Understanding Damage Ratings: First we talk about armor ratings, which are a rating you have to beat (not tie, how intuitive!) on your d20 attack roll to hit an armored target. We haven't covered strike (attack) rolls yet, but once again, the organization here probably involves a dart board. We get a recap of how this works in regards to zombies, in case you missed it the first two times. And here I bet you thought because it said 'character creation' we'd be dealing with that! Nope! It's time to discuss S.D.C., or "Structural Damage Capacity", which we all have, being structures and all. I'm pretty structural myself. Damage to S.D.C. is just supposed to be flesh wounds, or-

Dead Reign posted:

This is actually realistic when you think about professional athletics, especially boxers, hockey, and football players. Football players, for example, are "gridiron warriors" who get hit, knocked down, tackled, crunched and battered without (for the most part) life threatening injury. They hurt and ache, but they are far from seriously injured and can, with some pain, continue to "play" with negligible impairment or apparent discomfort. That's S.D.C in a nutshell.

Uh, Siembieda, you do know all of those sports use protective padding, right...?

Anyway, remembering this is a character creation section for a moment, PCs get a very modest amount of S.D.C. compared to other Palladium games - less than 20, which means one or two 1d6+10 zombie punches will put you into emergency territory if you haven't been buffing up. Hit points are your bloody injury zone, and are equal to your Physical Endurance + 1d6 per level. Below 0 hit points, you're getting into the coma zone. We then go on to describe the S.D.C. of objects. Can I play a wooden door? No, but this section meanders between rules for the game and character creation like a zombie who's eaten the contents of a Friday night drunk tank, continuing to editorialize:

Dead Reign posted:

From time to time we hear a complaint that goes something like "How can somebody be bashing or shooting into a door and the door is in perfect condition until its S.D.C. is depleted?"

The answer is, it is not in perfect condition...


We get the full injury recovery rules: 2-4 HP and 4-6 S.D.C. per day, it doesn't say if both recover at the same time or separately. There's rules for recovering from comas (using a liberal definition of the word "coma" to mean "any unconsciousness", blood loss at low HP, etc.

Step Three: Choosing an Occupation and Skills: Now you can choose an Occupational Character Class (O.C.C.)., i.e. just class with some words bolted on. Each has minimum attribute requirements, but Siembieda throws a bone to players this time by saying if you miss the requirements by a class "by a point or two" the GM "should" let players bump up the necessary attribute to match. O.C.C.s often provide: Even though multiple O.C.C. characters exist in other Palladium games, they're explicitly banned here, though the Survivor O.C.C. effectively uses the dual-class mechanics (where one "class" is your former occupation and the other is the Survivor class).

Step Four: Alignment: Though it says "All character must select an alignment.", but I'm not sure why. They have literally no mechanical impact and only serve as a vague roleplaying guideline at best - and aren't that useful as a guideline to begin with, because they're ancient, arbitrary guidelines originally designed for a D&D knockoff. There's two "good" alignments (Principled and Scrupulous), two "selfish" alignments (Unprincipled and Anarchist), and three evil alignments (Aberrant, Miscreant, and Diabolic), but I can't emphasize how little they matter. Other Palladium games at least have some corner cases in which alignments matter (though they rarely do, even there), but Dead Reign has nothing. But it does have...

Dead Reign posted:

No Neutral Alignments

Yes, the two paragraph screed railing against that terrible neutrality that Siembieda has been plastering in his core books for two or three decades still in here, as if anybody ever cared nearly as much.

"I know, I know. I should quit."

Step Five: Character Advancement: We get two full pages going on and on about why a experience system is important, which is odd, given it's hardly a controversial notion. It's extremely rare to find a game without some sort of experience system, after all. And it's a doozy of a ramble.

Dead Reign posted:

I also like it because I believe an Experience Level System simulates real life I don't care how much schooling and education a person gets, or how much time a person logs on a computer or playing through controlled simulations, none of it is a substitute for real life experience. (Or in this case, real fictional advertising and game play.) Furthermore, a person just gets better in many things with age and experience. Look at sports and almost any skilled profession. Those dedicated to learning and improving do get better. I know art and writing best. so I'll use my personal experiences as an example. As of the year 2008, I'm 52 years old and I've been writing and designing games professionally for 27 years. I started Palladium at the age of 24 armed with dream, determination, a gazillion ideas, unbridled enthusiasm and raw talent. If you had asked me then, I would have told you I was a good writer and concept man, and a Jack of Many Trades who was writing at his best. All true. However, looking back at much of my early work makes me cringe. It was the best I could do - at the time. I was proud of it then, and created one good selling role-playing game world after another, even a few mega-hits. However, looking back at my work with a critical eye, I can tell you that a lot of it was weak, rough, unpolished, and sometimes limited by my experience. My writing ability and business acumen are superior today to what they were 20 years ago, or even five years.

In a game context, you might ask, how can that be? After all, I was dedicated, driven and gave my work everything I had to give. I strove to be the best and hungered to create the best. So why wasn't that work the best I would ever create? The simple answer is experience. I was a first level writer and game designer back then. Today, because I never stopped dreaming up new ideas, new approaches and ways to improve, I'm a much higher level character. My years of experience and practice at my craft have made me a superior writer, designer and businessman to what I was 27 years ago, or even five years ago. All the desire and raw talent in the world means squat without determined persistence and growth through experience. More than anything, just doing it - the practice and experience - helps a creator grow and improve at his craft. Today, I believe my writing and design work is better than ever, heck, the best it has ever been, but with a little more work I'll continue to grow and improve.

I can also report there have been quantum leaps in my development. Sudden and noticeable breakthroughs and improvements as if I had reached a new plateau of Level of Experience. That may sound corny, but it's true. Every artist, writer, and creative person out there is nodding their head in agreement as they read this, because they have experienced it themselves. For whatever reason, one day something just clicks. Yesterday, you struggled drawing hands and feet, or couldn't get shadowing and shading the way you wanted it. Heck, you've been working on them for freakin' years, and then, one day, you wake up, sit down at the drawing table, and it flows out of you like magic. It's a wonderful (and mildly strange) experience. Likewise, as much as we a loath to admit when we are young, age plays a factor. I've seen it a hundred times in artists, where something happens around age 30-34 and the artist goes from good to great as if he has achieved a new level of expertise and his stats just went up. I don't know why. I've just seen it enough times to be true.

That's a lot to quote, but I wanted to get you the full, galling, ironic effect of having a man describe at excruciating length about how much he's improved while serving up the same decades-old experience system he adapted from AD&D. This is just a part of it - his meandering about the importance and realism of XP does not begin or end there. In any case, in the system itself, gaining levels improves all skills and hit points by default, and usually gives some class-dependent benefit like new skills or extra bonuses. XP is granted arbitrarily by the GM based on vague guidelines the game provides based on accomplishments, with rewards between 25 and 700 XP. Levels take a few thousand XP at the low levels and tens of thousands of XP at the high levels. More powerful classes gain levels more slowly at early levels but actually speed up towards higher levels, bizarrely, and what counts as a powerful class is extremely arbitrary. The Shepherd of the Damned, for example, is the 2nd slowest leveling class in the game for no reason I can discern. (The 1st is the Half-Living.)

Optional: Quick Character Creation: So next we get an optional system where you either roll or pick off a following table of attribute spreads (like 9+1d6 or 20+1d4) that are supposed to speed things up by directing you to relevant classes for those attributes. However, this table displays a hilarious lack of awareness of the 3d6 curve, easily offering over 30+ points of attributes on average over somebody who rolls 3d6 "down the line" Palladium-style. Once again, the "low" attributes are 9+1d6 instead of 3d6. In addition, they do nothing to fix the primary cause of slowness in the Palladium system - recording your skills and their level, which remains as awful as it's ever been.

Ways to Round Out Your Character: And now we get the usual random list of tables to roll on, like:

Nick Bradshaw!

Lastly, we have Insanity... but this is long enough. Insanity gets its own update.

Next: "Go crazy?" "Don't mind if I do!"

"Get down. Get down! They're bombing us! Bin Ladin's here...the terrorists are..."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Dead Reign posted:

I have given credit where credit is due. Josh and Joshua's names are on the cover, spine, and credits page. I rewrote almost every word of the book. I took the RPG in a different direction, changed the emphasis, gave the book a different voice, expanded on zombies and the setting ten-fold and I'm proud of the work "we" did to create an excellent new role-playing game. The Dead Reign RPG is a fun, intense, fast-paced game about zombies and survival. Enjoy.

Dead Reign Part 8: "Get down. Get down! They're bombing us! Bin Ladin's here...the terrorists are..."

It's pictures of zombies all the way down.


Dead Reign posted:

Please Note: The inclusion of mental illness is not meant to belittle or make light of mental problems. I, personally, know a number of people who struggle with depression, anxiety, addiction, and bipolar disorders, among orders. Mental illness is no laughing matter and I'm proud of each and every one of my friends who haven't given up and fight to find balance and contentment in their lives. I have the greatest respect for the healthcare professionals who struggle equally hard to help these tortured souls. However, none of that changes the fact that having insanities in a role-playing game is interesting, and appropriate and fun to play. They are especially appropriate in a game that deals with horor, fear, survival, and monsters.

These are the words of somebody who knows that... "I didn't get it right, but what does it matter! It's just a game!" Well. We're also told "97%" of players use and enjoy the insanity tables and that they're "appropriate, realistic, and fun". How does it work? Well, when exposed to a trauma (there are guideliness, but it's ultimately a GM call, the player rolls and if they don't get a 12 or higher, they roll on random tables to see what insanity they get. The nature of the trauma doesn't influence this. So let's see what we get! Therapy and counseling over a period of at least three months can cure madness, but the actual chance of a cure isn't doesn't depend on the medical skill of the psychologist - it varies between 30-39% for a total cure, but in the case of phobia there's a small chance of them getting worse and psychoses becoming phobias.

There's also addiction, which gives a random personality modifier regardless of the addictive substance (so you can be a coke addict that becomes withdrawn or get hallucinations from a cigarette). There's penalties for being "wasted" that are regardless of being drug that puts all your rolls into the shitter, and rules for going through withdrawal (takes 6 months for all drugs) and gives decreasing penalities that make you essentially useless but get more manageable by the third week.

Combat Rules

Dead Reign posted:

The Palladium system is relatively simple, quick and realistic. It has been thoroughly playtested, tweaked, and improved for years with great success. It is designed to be fast-playing and easy to understand.

STEP 1: Determine Initiative

So, you roll 1d20 and add your bonus from Physical Prowess. In case of a tie, both people re-roll their dice. However, a "Sneak Attack" or "Long-Range Attack" automatically wins initiative. What if there are two Long-Range or Sneak Attacks? Well, work it out yourself! You re-roll initiative every round. It doesn't mention it here, but you get a certain number of attacks per round you can "spend" on attacks or defense.

STEP 1: Attacker Rolls to Strike

Attacks roll 1d20 plus bonuses (from Physical Prowess, weapon proficiencies, hand-to-hand, class bonuses, etc.). A roll of 4 or higher is needed to hit, but unless it exceeds the Armor Class of anything they're wearing, you subtract the damage from the S.D.C. of the armor (or do no damage, in the case of zombies). Unmodified 20s always hit and do double damage, unless the defense does a Parry or Dodge that rolls a 20.

STEP 3: Defender May Parry, Dodge, or Entangle

Parrying doesn't use an attack, but Dodging does use up an attack (clear terminology, there). Roll 1d20 plus bonuses (from Physical Prowess, hand-to-hand skills, etc.) and try and tie or beat the attack roll. Parrying, however, can only be used against melee attacks, and you waive all bonuses if you try and parry a weapon bare-handed. Dodges can be used against anything. Entangling lets you snare the attacker's weapon or arm with the same roll, only this element is pretty well forgotten and almost nothing provides a bonus to it. It doesn't mention it here, but the person grabbed has to make a dodge against the entangle roll to break free, but when they do it in the combat order isn't mentioned.

STEP 4: Attacker Rolls Damage

You inflict damage equal to your weapon damage + Physical Strength damage bonus for melee weapons, and just plain damage for ranged attacks. Damage is dealt to S.D.C. unless the target has that depleted, at which case it goes to hit points. You can attempt to "Pull Punch" and do less damage (as little as you wish), but you have to roll an 11 or better to do so.

STEP 5: Defender May Attempt to roll wth Impact

If the attack was a blunt weapon or explosion, you can roll 1d20 plus bonuses (usually from skills or classes) to try and tie or beat the attack roll. If so, they do half damage. No rule against zombies rolling with impact, for the record.

"If you're gonna die, die with your boots off?"

Combat Sequence

... is confusing. As written, basically the highest initiative person attacks, and then whoever they were attacking gets to go, back and forth until their attacks are used up, then the next person goes. The game presumes that fights essentially break out into duels, which doesn't seem likely in a horde of zombies vs. survivors scenario. However, he suggests pausing after 1-2 attacks each round and switching to the next player to build "cliffhangers" and "excitement", but it also seems to imply that the GM might want to just blow off the initiative order entirely. It's worth noting that the actual combat sequence is pointedly unclear and this is my most generous interpretation of it.

Hand to Hand Combat

Hand to Hand skills give bonus attacks (even for firearms, apparently) and a variety of combat bonuses that are level-dependent. If you don't have a Hand to Hand skill, you get bonus "non-combat" actions that can only be used for actions unrelated to attack or defense like picking up an item or driving or whatever. It's not well defined. We get "Basic" which is some undefined basic skill in fighting, "Expert" which is supposedly what cops, soldiers, and "thieves" learn. "I rob houses, it's really helped my right swing." We have "Martial Arts" which is even better and gives you a bunch of special moves. There's "Assassin" which I guess is what you get at the Hitman Academy, and it has slightly fewer attacks and more damage. Lastly, there's Commando, which is the most badass because it lets you do a dodge without using an action... wait, no, it gives a bonus to "Automatic Dodge" but doesn't grant that ability. Oooops. Palladium.

You can get get special moves from these like a "Body Block" (50% chance to knock people down, more if you're extremely strong), Body Flip (does damage and makes your opponent "lose" the initiative, whatever that means, and eats an attack of theirs), a "Critical Strike" (a widened crit range), a "Death Blow" (does damage directly to hit points, but costs two attacks and requires a specific range to get the damage, like 18-20, doesn't work on zombies), "Karate Kick" (more damage), "Leap Kick" (does even more damage, costs two attacks), "Paired Weapons" (lets you do two attacks for the price of one, but you then have to spend actions to parry for the rest of the round), "Power Punch" (doubles rolled damage for the cost of two attacks, doesn't count your damage bonuses, a fat sack of crap), "Simultaneous Attack" (lets you give up your defense to hit your foe at the same time), and others.

Horror Factor

When a foe has a "Horror Factor", it means they're scary. You have to roll a d20 + bonuses (usually from Mental Endurance or your class) and equal or beat it. If you fail, you "lose initiative" (doesn't really detail what this means, again), lose an attack, and can't defend against the creature's first attack that melee round. It notes that GMs can assign a Horror Factor to a situation (like the scene of a sacrifice) as well arbitrarily.

Perception Rolls

One of the few really new mechanics since my Rifts review, this lets you make Perception rolls to notice things. It's rolled with a d20 plus bonuses (usually only from classes written up after the mechanic was devised, no attribute improves it). The difficulty is 4 for something "easy", 8 for something "moderate", 14 for something "challenging", or 18 for something "difficult". Noticing a zombie takes a hilariously high 15, and it's 17 to notice somebody sneaking up on you. If you have a skill like Detect Ambush or Prowl, this can modify the roll into a roll-off between the two characters involved, with a +1 for every 10% of skill you have. This seems to mean a zombie trying to sneak up on you will actually have much worse odds than if they don't? It's not clear, since there seem to be two mechanics for the same thing.

Ranged Combat

Dead Reign posted:

These rules are fun, fast and easy to use while reasonably simulating gunplay.

You need a weapon proficiency to do aimed or called shots with a gun. Specifically, Physical Prowess and Hand-to-Hand bonuses (save for the extra attacks) don't apply to modern weapons, but presumably apply to bows and the like? It's not clear. In any case, weapon proficiencies grant you a growing bonus (around +1 to +7 depending on the weapon) as you level up. You can do an "aimed" shot that adds +2 to hit but takes two attacks. Any called shot has to be an aimed shot, but waives the bonus unless you use three attacks. Firing bursts halves your attack bonus, and firing "wild" (like from a moving vehicle, losing a Horror Factor roll, while running, etc.). There's penalties for hitting somebody moving, called shots are required to hit anybody partially behind cover, etc.

You can only dodge gunfire, but only count bonuses for Physical Prowess or from your class, not from skills. You're -10 to dodge a gunshot within 10' and -5 to dodge if it's within 50'.

We get a tirade about how you might accidentally shoot a friend or bystander if you're not careful, but there are no rules for this and can move on.

About the only Bradshaw art I like is the jokey stuff.

Game Rules for Zombie Combat

A lot of this is just reiterating stuff from previous sections (Palladium doesn't use chapters to organize its books), also noting it that's deliberate, at least, that survivors have more attacks than most zombies and to make sure the players use up all their attacks. It reiterates you should switch players between actions but there's no guidelines for this.

We also get told that you automatically hit if your gun is pressed right up against a zombie's body, but there's no actual guidelines about how survivors get to do that. It suggests that you force a d20 roll on the player (auto-miss on a 1, crit on a 20) as if this game didn't have enough dice rolls in combat. If the gun is only about 2' away or less it gets +7 to hit the main body or +3 to strike at the head or neck (by RAW this is meaningless because those rolls ignore all bonuses... but the intentions are clear, at least?). At 15' or less you get +2 to shoot the body and +1 to strike the head, neck, or limb.

Finally we get a suggestion that if a player has a question there isn't a specific rule for, you just roll d20, a 1-10 means no and an 11-20 means yes. "... it is fast, fun, and fair." Is it?

We get a long section on various game terms, and sandwiched in there are rules for vehicle crashes, a diatribe on how death is handled (players should work up backup characters and should "take it calmly", but that a good GM should offer PCs options to avoid dangerous situations), being knocked down, skill rolls (roll under their percentile value), Sneak Attacks (sneak up using Prowl or an ambush, avoids any active defense and the attacker "has initiative").

Dead Reign posted:

I've killed plenty of characters as a G.M. Some of the deaths were spectacular and worth of a heroic poem, and other times the character just played dumb or take a dangerous risk and paid the ultimate price. It happens, and often adds to the drama of the story.

This beautiful piece is printed in B/W almost too small to see, probably because I think it has a Glitter Boy in it.

It finishes a section pointing out it's largely compatible with other Palladium games and that if you want magic or psionics, you can incorporate them from Beyond the Supernatural. In general, the rules are done more tightly than previous Palladium games from the last century, but it's still a mess that requires the GM to fill in a lot of gaps in the system.

Next: 30 pages about skills.

"This is the ability to make the opposite sex melt with desire."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Kevin Siembieda posted:

I apologize to Palladium fans for the rancor of some people looking to create controversy where there is none, and cause pain where it is not warranted.

Kevin Siembieda
Publisher, Writer & Game Designer

© Copyright November 13, 2008 Palladium Books Inc. All rights reserved.

Rifts®, The Rifter®, RECON®, Splicers®, Palladium Books®, Phase World®, The Palladium Fantasy Role-Playing Game®, Megaverse®, Nightbane®, The Mechanoids®, The Mechanoid Invasion®, Coalition Wars® and After the Bomb® are Registered Trademarks of Palladium Books Inc. Dead Reign, Heroes Unlimited, Beyond the Supernatural, ‘Burbs, and other published book titles, names, slogans and likenesses are trademarks of Palladium Books Inc., and Kevin Siembieda.

Dead Reign Part 9: "This is the ability to make the opposite sex melt with desire."

Skills are % based, usually from 15% to 98% (so a margin of error always exists), and based on your class. As aforementioned, each class has its Occupational skills (fixed skills, often with a bonus), Elective Skills (skills selected by the player, but with some categories gaining a bonus based on your O.C.C.), and Secondary Skills (skills selected by the player with no bonuses). Some others, like Physical Skills, grant bonuses to physical attributes, secondary stats (usually S.D.C.), or combat rolls. Similarly, Weapon Proficiencies usually grant a bonus ot attack with the weapon in question. Each character is assumed to have basic math, proficiency in their native language, and the ability to drive a car. (Even Extreme Sports Baby.) A few skills are more restricted unless the class notes it - a lot of advanced Electrical, Mechanical, and Medical skills, any Military skills, a couple physical skills (being an Assassin or a Commando, mainly), and some heavy modern weapon proficiencies. Secondary skills are even more restricted, though the listing starts to get really arbitrary there - why is W.P. Slingshot not available as a secondary skill, but W.P. Axe or Chain are?

Skills level with the character, and their starting % (usually between 20% to 60%, or more like 30% to 80% for a class skill) is specific to each skill in question, and the amount they improve by is also to specific to the skill. This is part of what makes character creation in Palladium so onerous, because these aren't included in the skill listings under the class, requiring you to write down all your skills and any applicable bonuses, then cross reference it with the skill list, then take any physical skills and total the bonuses you get from those, and do the same for weapon proficiencies, and some skills grant bonuses to other skills as well... it's the kind of thing that would be fixed just by putting the reference table in a more accessible area, standardizing skill percentages, nixing cross-skills, or including the base skill rating under a class' skill list, but no. It does none of that.

Skills can be penalized by around -5% to -75% (!) based ond exhaustion, bad tools, distractions, a "pressure situation" like "working in front of a superior, critic, or pretty girl". A lot of the more severe "pressure situation" penalties (like "important to get the job... done right" or "failure means there will be serious consequences") seems like they'd come up a lot in a game like this, and starting skill odds are pretty bad to begin with. Doing thing while "scared" or "seriously wounded" can pretty much kill most chances of using a skill at all. There's also a penalty for trying to use unknown or alien technology, but that doesn't exist in this game. Ooops. It's also not clear that if you would have skill bonuses that push you over 100% if that would negate penalties, or if something would be above 98% with bonuses it's capped there.

Most of the art in this section is reprinted from the Rifter article, so this is the "new" stuff.

Skills are divided up by category, so I'll tackle them one at a time:

Where's the 3-page writeup for this with four concealed mini-missile launchers, Palladium? My heart is broken.

Yes, that's right, the game has well over 200 skills, with a more than a fair deal of redundancy and niche garbage. I mean, I'm sure somebody can come up with a use for Whittling & Sculpting, but I wouldn't count on it to save me from slavering hordes or angry cultists, but maybe your little carved pony will touch the heart of a "retro-savage". Just maybe.

Next: The creators return, and we finish this.

"They're just animated dead, right? Wrong."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Josh Hilden posted:

What Kind of Writer am !?

I am THAT WRITER, the one who spews his work into the world entirely too fast and rough. The one who has zero desire to do this the "Right Way" and couldn't give a poop if you approve or not. All of that being said I have feelings and they can be hurt when people decide to be jackasses. But in my world instead of punching them in the face they are more likely to end up as thinly veiled libelous characters in my tales. They will always be the characters who are attacked by the machete wielding gorillas who instead of killing them will instead initiate them into the brutal world of "Monkey Love".

Yeah I'm that guy.

Dead Reign Part 10: "They're just animated dead, right? Wrong."

And now the giant-sized conclusion.



The book ends on a one-page epilogue from Josh Hilden, Joshua Sanford, and Kevin Siembieda in that order. Hilden talks about his father showing him Night of the Living Dead at age 10, and how he hopes he can share the feelings of dread and terror he felt that night with the readers. Sanford talks about how frightening zombies can be, due to their unrelenting nature but potentially familiar faces. And finally, Siembieda takes up the lion's share of the page, discussing the origins of the book. He brings up that Hilden and Sanford saw it as a small sourcebook for Beyond the Supernatural, but he had them develop it into a full game and then "took that premise and those ideas and recast them". He discusses that they've done post-apocalypse settings before (for the record, After the Bomb, Rifts, System Failure, Chaos Earth, Splicers, and arguably Robotech: the Invid Invasion are at least six post-apocalypse games they've published). He snorts at people who say it's all been done before, and his retort to that is no, zombies are scary and represent our primal fears and symbolism and-

Kevin Siembieda posted:

... I loved it.

Kevin Siembieda posted:

I loved the premise....

Kevin Siembieda posted:

I loved the idea....

Kevin Siembieda posted:

Like I said, I love it.

He did not, however, love the manuscript, though there's only a hint of the fact that there was an extensive rewrite in the book itself. The book ends here with an advert for The Rifter, a character sheet, and then a Palladium house ad for all of their major games at the time. But there's one last part of the story.

Another World of Zombies

The Rifter #45 posted:

This entire storyline was removed from the published Dead Reign RPG for a number of reasons. Here are some of the most notable just to provide some perspective and a better glimpse behind the scenes.

One, as Publisher and Game Designer, I felt the including a conquering Alien Intelligence, demons, magic, psionics and a global conspiracy to invade and conquer the Earth took away from what Dead Reign was at its very core – a game about the Zombie Apocalypse, fighting zombies and human survival. The conspiracy, invasion and supernatural elements seemed to take the emphasis away from the zombies themselves and the horror they represented. To me, Dead Reign was always a horror game about zombies.

Two, our independent research showed gamers and fans of the zombie genre wanted a zombie game with broad appeal and classic elements. Based on our own research, demons, magic, psionics, highly intelligent zombies, and an Alien Intelligence invader were NOT what the majority of zombie fans wanted.

Three, we’ve been down this road before. For me, the conspiracy of magic and demons led by an Alien Intelligence and his human henchmen, made the game feel too much like other Palladium RPGs and sourcebooks: Systems Failure™, Nightbane®, Beyond the Supernatural™, and many of the storylines in Rifts®, various Rifts® sourcebooks (Vampire Kingdoms, for one), and storylines planned for Rifts® Chaos Earth™ (including a couple about zombie hordes), where such stories seem much more appropriate. Dead Reign™ needed to be a horror game that would make fans of zombies salivate with delight, and this didn’t feel like it.

Four, I felt many of the cool ideas the two Joshes presented were not taken far enough and there was not enough environmental data about the setting or about zombies. The long introduction by Brad Ashley, Resources, Fighting Zombies, and 90% of the Zombie section that appears in the RPG weren’t part of the original manuscript. What you see in The Rifter® #40 sneak peak of the game in development, is pretty much it when it came to zombies. I just felt zombies got short-changed and lost in the invasion conspiracy, magic, and world conquest storyline. Player characters with magic powers and psionics also took away the “every man” aspect of the zombie genre. The Brulyx invasion storyline had its cool and interesting ideas, but it didn’t feel like zombies or the zombie apocalypse to me, nor did it to the zombie fanatics I spoke with.

Ultimately, I felt the spirit of the games I saw Josh G.M. and heard so many players ranting about afterward was missing. I couldn’t help noticing the games Josh ran at the Palladium Open House, Gen Con and elsewhere focused on ordinary people, fighting zombies, the horror of it all and people trying to survive in a world dominated by zombies! There was horror, suspense, and fast action. The focus was on zombies and humanity. I saw the same thing in my own play tests. This was the heart and soul of Dead Reign. This is what made the game GREAT! And it was what Josh, himself, exhibited in his tournament games. Yet somehow, I felt the alien intelligence and extraordinary elements of magic and psionics took away from the humanity and horror of the game. It took away the idea of ordinary people just like you and me having to struggle against monsters that only yesterday, were also people like you and me! I love that. You love that! I think most fans of the zombie genre love that! This was the core element needed in Dead Reign. All the other fantastic aspects, as cool as they were, took away from that. Ironically, the Dead Reign RPG, as rewritten by me, was an attempt to capture the very magic I saw in the games Josh ran so beautifully. And I think I achieved that.

Whether you agree with my assessment and the direction taken for the published Dead Reign RPG, is unimportant. You now get the unique opportunity to see some of the original authors’ concepts, ideas, and text presented in the pages that follow as an optional storyline and source material. The alternative material may be adapted to Rifts®, Nightbane®, Dead Reign and just about any of Palladium’s RPGs.

In The Rifter #45, due to fan interest, Siembieda published some more of the original manuscript that Josh Hilden and Joshua Sanford wrote with their permission. I actually didn't discover this article until partway through my review, but on reflection, it makes a good bookend to it. So let's see what we've got.

Who ordered the zombie melt?

Almost Tomorrow

We get a fiction chunk that's actually reprinted from both The Rifter #40 and Dead Reign and I'm skipping for a third time. The details of The Wave remain here as they were in the original pitch - people get inoculated with Unisane, are killed by The Wave, and rise again as zombies. Everything falls apart. The big change here is that there's a group of people called the Survivor Information Network that reveal the plot by the Benford Group, the use of Unisane to create the zombie plague, their worship of Brulyx, and corralling survivors for sacrifice. The ironic effect is that many survivors who hear only become more paranoid and it keeps organized resistance against Brulyx cult from uniting.

A full timeline is presented, starting with the suspiciously round 10,000 B.C., where Brulyx first tries to conquer the Earth, but is defeated by the "Lost Civilization" and "an alliance of elder gods and spirits of light". Unfortunately, the ensuing cataclysm creates a polar shift that wipes out almost all signs of the Lost Civilization. Phat Greg joins up with Brulyx (now correctly in Greece, given he's a priest of Hades, and not Rome as originally stated). Most of the rest is a laundry list of Greg's crimes: Most of the timeline details post-apocalypse events around the world, and there are a few new onces. A Russian general leads part of the Russian army north to liberate and protect "Arkangel" (Arkhangelsk, technically). The Australian government retreats to Tasmania where they form "Free OZ". North Korea launches nukes across Asia for undisclosed reasons, which allows the Brulyx cult to take over. Ireland (who, as you may remember, kicked all their zombies out) and Free OZ form a base in South Africa because... reasons, I guess. The Brulyx Cult teams up with the "Hell Razors", whatever they are. There's a clash between the forces of Brulyx and "the Mountain Warriors of the Indian Redoubt". That's actual India, FYI. Then Free OZ fights off an attempt by the Brulyx forces to land in Australia. There's not much explanation

We get a recap of the Unisane plot, but it's already covered in The Rifter #40, so skip.

The Cult of Brulyx & The Benford Group

We get a fiction chunk where Greg sacrifices a follower who becomes an Thinker zombie as a result. Most of the following information was already included in The Rifter #40, again, as it goes over Greg's origins and the whole Unisane plot to raise people as a zombie P.P.E. network to bring Brulyx over to our world. I wonder why he wants to come over so bad. "Fucking region protection means I can't watch my favorite anime in this dimension! If I have to murder your whole world to just come over and watch Love Live!, I will!"

Seriously I don't see what the big deal about Earth is.

So the Brulyx Cult's big goal is to conquer the world, round up everybody into death camps, put them to knife, and welcome Brulyx to anime heaven. Or something. They're looking to separate people into two camps: tools and sacrifices. As mentioned before, they're looking to seize mystic sites like the Nazca Plains or Stonehedge (where the demons dwell, where the banshees live and they do ne'er well). Look, I have to make jokes and references because the text is like:

The Rifter #45 posted:

The levels of ambient P.P.E. unleashed by the Wave are too weak to provide the necessary energy, so the cult must take the P.P.E. from living people. The most efficient
method is through human sacrifice. Therefore, the cult tries to capture as many living victims as possible. They are herded to ley line nexus points, and held prisoner until moments when the magic energy is at its highest (full moons, equinox, etc.). The victims are mass-sacrificed, and their P.P.E. is channeled to the central Temple of Brulyx.

The Rifter #45 posted:

Imagine the worst of the Nazi death camps in World War Two and multiply it by ten, and then you come close to an accurate description of life within the Pens. The strong dominate the weak and the young and elderly perish by the bushel.

The Rifter #45 posted:

Breeding Centers: ... As soon as large tracts of land have been pacified, one of the first priorities will be the establishment of compounds for the perpetuation of the human species in subservient and cattle-like capacity.

Eyyyy how about about that human extermination and rape camps, I guess most of the human race being murdered in a dark ritual and then rising to consume their loved ones wasn't quite grim enough. Not quite. There are also Brulyx cultists and commandos sent out to either claim resources or just assassinate whoever they assassinate.

The Supernatural

We're reminded that, as in the original pitch, 15% of the surviving human population is psychic now. There's a throwaway reference to apparently hints of the supernatural leading to a "Salem Mystic Festival" in 2010 and 2011 which doesn't matter at all, but it's brought up here. It points out that magic and psionics can be used to give survivors an edge over zombie hordes. However, the downside is that the increased magical power also let Brulyx draw his demonic servants to his world, but it still takes a lot of power to draw them here. As such, the Brulyx cult keeps a tight leash on any demons they can bring over.

Speaking of which, time for some demons!

"A lot of people make that mistake, Shuma-Gorath is my cousin."

Crawling Maw - Lesser Demon

Also known as "Satan's Starfish", this is a 10'-15' collection of tentacles that prefers water but also moves at like 14 MPH on land, which makes me wonder if they run on their little tentacles or roll around like wheels or what. Their bite contains "the dreaded Z-Virus" but unless you've read The Rifter #40 like I have, that won't mean much. There's also a typo for their damage (I presume it's supposed to be 1d6x10, not 1d610) and are basically supposed to be the "demonic version of a rabid dog" only this thing can probably tear though all but the most heavily-equipped or prepped. group of survivors readily with its eight attacks a round and a bite that can easily instakill an unarmored PC (with a save or die to boot).

The incredibly strange creature who stopped living and became a mixed-up zombie.

Jigsaw Zombie - Lesser Demon

This is a mashup zombie where Brulyx cultists frankenstein a body together and then summon a demon to animate it. They can thusly take spare body parts and replace them, but honestly for all the trouble they aren't that different from normal sloucher zombies. The main difference is that blowing off their head won't kill them, you have to destroy the body. Mostly just feels like a gotcha surprise for PCs, but it's not any nastier than a normal zombie otherwise, and is even understatted compared to most with a mere Physical Strength of 8.

Skulls in skulls.


This is like the above jigsaw zombie, but can just pack on zombie flesh to become a big flesh-putty monster, which mainly just lets it double its S.D.C. and recover by slapping corpses on itself. It's mostly just a really tough zombie with a gimmick, it's actually understatted compared to the main blocks from Dead Reign with a Physical Strength that doesn't give it a damage bonus, making it something of a paper tiger. Or a... ham tiger? Some kind of not actually scary tiger.

"Did I just shit a zombie? I need to see a doctor! This is alarming!"

Organ Grinder - Greater Demon

This is "the most powerful of Brulyx's minions", being a 25'-55' worm, and is pretty damn tough, but also has a genius I.Q. and is "always thinking 4 moves ahead", but it probably doesn't need to given it has 10 attacks a round with 1d6x10 bites and can command sloucher zombies. It also can eat people and shit out zombies, which we're given rules for, but there are no rules for how they swallow people in the middle of a fight. They have a ridiculous Horror Factor of 18, more than many gods in other Palladium games, and get "all wilderness" skills. That means that they are masters of that old-time skill Whittling and Carving. Unfortunately, they have no arms to whittle with, no doubt leading to their demonic rage.

"The naked conquest of your world begins!"

Brulyx - The Fallen One

Originally a demon in service to a "elder god" or a "great demon", Brulyx was originally a beautiful, angelic-looking being until he tried to take over Earth for INSERT_REASON_HERE. Only a bunch of gods and the Lost Civilization were able to team up and lock him in his home dimension at great cost. However, Brulyx contacted some greater eeevil power to help him free himself, and that eeevil power then made him into a god, albeit one that looked less like a beautiful flower and more like a melty corpse. "Wait, if I'm a god, why do I look like a melty corpse now? Don't get I get some say with my godlike-" "EVIL MEANS UGLY, READ THE SCRIPT." As we know, he empowered Gregius, and Gregius had apparently gotten the portal to let him out, but "someone or something" stopped him, and so Brulyx is seeking the last magical oomph to enter our world.

The Rifter #45 posted:

Real Name: To pronounce it correctly he would have to rip out your tongue.

He gets an actual statblock of this time, with most stats well into the superhuman or maximum range of 20-30, except for Physical Beauty which is the pits and Speed which is average. He's a "12th level Dark God" who can see the invisible, turn invisible, teleport, walk around in the cold in his barest of skivvies, is immune to poison and disease, and has as much S.D.C. and Hit Points as a literal battleship, so you better bring your 16" inch guns if you want to throw down with him. Oh, and he can dimensionally teleport if he ever gets free, so like most Palladium evil gods, can just fuck off if he ever thinks he's losing a fight, and unlike Rifts characters, most Dead Reign characters are still going to think fireballs are pretty special when it turns out he pretty much laughs off your lightning bolt and fires back with any spell in Beyond the Supernatural, plus any Necromancy spell (not included in that book, look to other Palladium games for that) or most psychic powers with thousands of P.P.E. and I.S.P. to fuel it. Basically, if he comes over, mere Dead Reign or Beyond the Supernatural characters are proper fucked and should probably check and see if the cult of Brulyx still has openings in its pawn or minion departments.

The idea that he's the pawn of a greater evil is mildly interesting but isn't likely to come up in the game. Ultimately, he's a painfully generic evil god guy of which Palladium already has a litany of, and there's not much that makes him stand out.

Oh, hey, it's Bill O'Reil- er. Gregius.


Gregius Bonophat, known by his street name "Phat Greg" (my name, not the book's), gets a slightly more detailed background here. He was a priest of Hades with a happy family at a temple just outside of Athens when generic Northern barbarians attacked! They held out for over two weeks but the temple fell, and his acolytes dragged him out to save him. When he came back to the temple, his family was dead, he went crazy and killed his acolytes. Then the camera zoomed out and he cried out for a power to grant him vengeance. Brulyx, despite being in another dimension, hit Gregius up on interdimensional Skype and Phat Greg traded up free will for immortality and a bunch of dead barbarians. He's had some regrets and doubts since but figures at this point he no longer has a choice in what he does.

Greg gets his own statblock, with ridiculous high-end stats you'll never roll, complete with superhuman Mental Affinity and Physical Endurance, and S.D.C. equal to that of a truck. A 20th level "Priest of Brulyx" (no such class), he's no physical powerhouse, but he can turn invisible, regenerate, and gets all spells and over a thousand P.P.E. He also has all Necromancy that, once again, isn't detailed in Dead Reign or Beyond the Supernatural. I know it's in Rifts World Book: Africa, so if you take that and convert it back to S.D.C., I guess you'd be alright? I mean, if you have stacks of Palladium books on your shelves.

That's it for Dead Reign! No curtain call, we can move on to my last word.

Pretty sure they're all dead, buddy.

Dead Reign vs. Dead Reign

Should you care what I think after all this, congrats, this is where you get to hear about it! After having read and reviewed both The Rifter articles and Dead Reign itself, here's the blunt point I'm going to make: I don't think Siembieda was wrong in rejecting the manuscript. The original pitch is, frankly, heavily derivative of the Palladium playbook in Beyond the Supernatural, Nightbane, or Rifts, with an relatively dull supernatural conspiracy that makes the Umbrella Corporation look nuanced by comparison, backed by a pair of cookie cutter baddies... and Siembieda is absolutely right that the whole plot distracts from the notion of zombie survival horror. Worse, it reads like a Rifts Lite with a lot of the same elements but without rifts, dragons, or mecha - basically, anything that makes Rifts fun.

That being said, Siembieda handled it unprofessionally, which seems to be a habit for him. There's no excuse for the manuscript to be that far along without him being unaware of the contents, especially when a chunk of it was printed publicly in The Rifter as promotional material. Scrapping an entire manuscript six weeks before a publication date is a disastrous move to make for the quality of a book, and the sloppy book that came out (even for Siembieda) is no doubt in part due to that. He's right when it came to the direction of the book, but ultimately the disaster is the result of his review process - or the lack thereof. Comments from other Palladium other authors, as well as comments by Siembieda itself, show this as a pattern that's been going on for quite some time. And the idea that he should act with surprise and shock at the Joshes' reaction is practically farcical. In addition, just because it's probably a better game doesn't make it a good game.

Ultimately, it lacks a lot of the "Palladium flair" save for some of its odder zombies we'll see later on. It's just not that different from any other conventional zombie RPG, and that's a real problem when the Palladium system is its main differentiating factor. Though there are some kernels of neat ideas, like mock zombies, hound masters, or the Brulyx cult of the main book, ultimately it lacks a most of the oddball ideas that can make a Palladium game stand out - and without that, well.

I guess it's got Brad Ashley.


Or is it?...!