Our story begins in Little Leith, a small area in a town in the southern United States themed around the UK for the benefit of its dense population of British expatriates.
Our stars have been holed up in an apartment building (bottom right) along with some of the other tenants, surviving using their easily fortified position, relatively well hidden from the dangerous streets below and making use of the large amount of food and water still available in the other apartments.
Comfortable as things have been, the hordes of undead grow larger and ammo is now very low with Coach's .22 pistol now being the only viable firearm.
It is on an uncharacteristically quiet evening that our stars decide to brave the streets in search of ammo...
Some theme music to set the mood
The gun store looks promising
We begin with Smudge investigating the VW Golf outside the apartment, searching around and underneath the vehicle for several turns looking for the keys.
Coach and Cornetto cross the street to search the Army Surplus store, dropping some nuisance zeds en route.
"What's under here?"
Cornetto enters the surplus store where he is jumped by two gangers. The retired "copper" hasn't lost it yet and knocks both attackers Out of the Fight as they shoot wildly at him. He leaves them unconscious and takes their weapons and ammo.
Caught by the fuzz
Leaving the VW empty handed, Smudge enters the office building by the surplus store and meets three more looting gangers. The serious-looking ex-squaddie gives the trio of looters pause and the situation doesn't escalate beyond arbitrary nods and implied warning glances.
Smudge finds a set of car keys at the reception desk so backs out to try his luck at the VW once more.
"Not today, lads."
Smudge is delighted to find that the keys fits the VW but they break in the lock in his haste to open the vehicle. And after all that effort he finds the car empty.
The gangers aren't far behind Smudge in leaving. Intent on carrying on plundering elsewhere they leave the store blasting wildly at a group of zeds that had gathered at the intersection.
Gangers come out, guns blazing
Meanwhile, Coach collects Cornetto and both sneak into the network of alleys behind the main street shops intent on accessing the gun store through the storage garages and moving away from the noise of the trigger-happy gangers.
Cornetto wastes no time in quietly dropping the sole zed in their way.
"I've got it"
Coach uses his fire axe to break into one of the garages and finds three zeds inside. It doesn't take him long to finish them off.
"What have we here?"
"Must be my imagination."
Cornetto breaks into the adjacent garage after several failed attempts but is startled by four more zombies inside. He quickly pulls himself together and carefully reduces their number to zero.
S**t just got real!
In the main street, the gangers' shooting is attracting more zeds.
Keen to remove the chaos from the streets while preserving the uneasy detente, Smudge whistles the gangers over to the VW.
He lets them take the vehicle and takes off toward the intersection using his Golok to carve the gathering horde down to size.
"We're outa here!"
"Let's get to work"
However, he is unprepared for the five zeds that had been barricaded inside and beats a hasty retreat back to the apartments.
"To hell with this!"
Cornetto leaves the garages and investigates the beater in the street. Inside he finds the keys under the visor and some firecrackers in the glove box so he stashes them for later.
Game 1 aftermath
So at the end of game 1 our players are back in the swing of ATZ and our characters have come away with some much needed ammo. Well done, travellers.
Once more into the breach
Smudge wastes no time and charges the group of zeds outside the office building next door, expertly hacking all but one of them apart with his Golok.
Coach charges the last zed in the road and buries his axe in its brain.
No guts, no glory
Coach clears the way
Smudge finishes off the melee then tries the door of the offices but it's locked down tight.
Giving up, he moves across the street to Andy's Gun Works in search of ammo for his AK.
It won't budge
Maybe he'll have better luck in here
He gets in without too much bother but is greeted by three hungry zombies. Our star won't let them deter him, however, and he cuts them down in short order.
Smudge gets to work
Cornetto exploits the clear streets to investigate Drake's TV and Radio in the hope of finding something that might help them contact other survivors.
Drake's, eerily tucked away
Four zeds meet Cornetto's fully loaded shotgun and hit the floor for the last time.
Cornetto finds a lonely packet of Twinkies behind the counter and isn't too proud to pop one in his mouth before stashing the rest and searching the empty upper floor of the store.
This is where things get eerie...
This year I was using the excellent ATZ Random Event Cards from Colgar6 and at this point we had to draw one.
The door to Drake's mysteriously slams shut and is locked from the other side, leaving Cornetto trapped inside.
Then wouldn't you know it, another two random events!
The streets are eerily quiet.
Cornetto opens a second storey window and smells gas coming from the opposite building spelling a busted main.
Someone is definitely messing with us...
"What's that smell?"
Across the map, Coach picks his way back to the truck behind the gun store unhindered. The truck is full of crates, some containing usable food. He also finds some useful parts that he fashions into a basic silencer for his .22.
Making use of the empty streets, Smudge searches the cars on the road finding various snacks and a first aid kit.
"What have we here?"
Having forced his way out of Drake's, Cornetto passes Smudge and walks into the open Late Shop.
A single zed forages across the aisles, oblivious to our star's entry. Cornetto doesn't waste any time.
"Want anything from the shop?"
"Have a bite of peach!"
Cornetto searches the apartment above the shop but, like the streets below, it is suspiciously bereft of life.
Smudge finishes loading his AK and decides to test it out on the zed approaching from the other side of the street...
CRACK! Works just fine.
Coach and Cornetto link up to give the bar a once over. Coach takes the lead and pops the zed standing at the bar with his silenced pistol. The bar is sadly dry.
Cornetto takes a shortcut
Another successful encounter for our team and some strange occurrences thrown in to boot. Things are getting interesting.
Meet the Neighbours
With the end of the act drawing near (and our bellies rumbling) it was time to move the story along.
Here's the music
A huge horde in pursuit...
...of two panicked Humvees.
A single soldier fights on...
...but it's too late for the others.
Our survivors decide that the commotion outside warrants further investigation and head out en mass.
As always, Smudge takes the lead an clears the stray zeds from the survivors' path.
Leave it to Smudge
The gathering horde are drawn to the gunfire in the street so Cornetto has a brainwave. Taking a cigar from Smudge (in a practise game I had with Phil, his character found a cigar on a toilet floor), he leaves the apartments via the back door and creeps along to the building with the gas leak.
Feeding his firecrackers through a cracked window he extends a fuse out of flash range and attaches the lit cigar to act as a delayed ignition. A delay that would last for 4 turns of activation.
Meanwhile, the neighbours emerge form the apartment block led by Coach.
Lets meet them, shall we:
First we have Brandi, a local high school senior and cheerleader. This girl has stacks of energy and knows Coach from school.
Jasper is a second generation rich kid and college drop-out living off Daddy's trust fund. He's moody, pampered and Brandi's boyfriend. The age difference between the couple rubs the protective Coach the wrong way but when this idiot crashed his Viper down the street he couldn't very well leave the pair to the horde.
Finally, Lupe is a forty-something short-haul flight attendant that lives in the building. She's smart and ballsy but still uncomfortable with the new world they have been thrust into.
So, Coach leads the crew through the alley opposite the apartment. Lupe hangs back to fire impulsively at the nearest zed, missing every shot.
Lupe tries her luck
Around the corner the panicked soldier fires into the zombie throng. He is attacked by a crawler zed but manages to beat it down.
Smudge finishes the zeds in the street and turns around to find Jasper asking where Lupe had got to. It would seem she'd got herself turned around in the confusion (random event).
After Lupe's disappearance the group were forced to press on into the alley. But as luck would have it our missing stewardess reappeared near a burnt out wreck.
More than familiar with the layout of the alleys by now, Coach has a plan. He picks up a discarded ladder (Jim loves ladders) and uses is to climb onto the roof of the gun store where he can call out to the pinned soldier.
The soldier rejects any offers of help, electing to hop down and check his injured buddies.
"Hello, old friend."
"You okay down there, breh?"
Checking his buddies
Another random event card sees Cornetto fumble his shotgun in the alleyway, startled by the gigantic gas explosion from far behind.
As the rest of the group catch up to Coach a mysterious figure (PEF) reveals themselves to Brandi.
Enter Cpl Blake of the National Guard...
"I'm no going to hurt you..."
Cpl Blake stops Brandi and urges her to listen to him. He claims that the soldiers cannot be trusted and her group needs to keep well away. Sadly, that ship has sailed...
Smudge joins Coach on the roof believing that a soldier to soldier chat might be more productive.
The soldier ducks back behind the Humvee, ready to fight just as another PEF emerges from behind the burning Humvee in the alley, revealing itself to be a local homeless man... Shovely Joe and his best mate, Smitty the traffic cone.
Joe sneaks up on the skittish soldier
Joe attempts to 'subdue' the soldier with his shovel but succeeds only in drawing his ire.
Thankfully the enraged serviceman's distraction gives Cornetto the opportunity to dart from the alleyway and take him down to the floor, disarm and cuff him.
With all the zeds distracted by the now burning office block (sorry I didn't get a photo) and all unknown human quantities accounted for the game was over.
However, the group have unresolved issues and need answers...
By this point Cpl Blake and Brandi have rejoined the group and relayed the information about not trusting the soldier. Blake adds weight to his claims by tuning the radio in the Humvee to an emergency frequency playing a looped pre-recorded message.
The message is a PSA read by a woman with a Canadian accent giving details of a place called Camp Nova, an infection-free Government refugee camp in Nova Scotia (readers from last year may notice some links here). The recording also warned of rogue military elements robbing and murdering survivors throughout the continental US and to avoid military patrols at all costs.
So the survivors checked the fallen soldiers on the road and found them all to be dead. They gathered any useful kit from the bodies and set about questioning the live soldier.
Unfortunately he remained tight lipped and the players had to decide what to do with him...
The overall goal was now to head to Camp Nova but that still left the issue of the captive soldier on the table.
Now this was a great stage in the campaign as players were having to view the situation from their characters' point of view but also ended up projecting their own values onto the decision making process, fleshing out their characters immensely. This caused some drama and tension that made for a great debate.
Coach (Jim), the group's adoptive father and pragmatic decision maker, felt that the soldier should be left behind but with some food.
Cornetto (Ross), the group's conscience had forged an immediate bond with Shovely Joe - handy since he had the keys for Joe's beater, it emerged - and the pair both thought it would be tantamount to murder to leave the soldier behind and wanted to take him with them.
Smudge (Phil) was well established by now as the iron fist of the team and wasn't going to settle for anything less than feeding the poor guy to the zeds.
In the end a compromise was reached with Coach declaring that Cornetto and Joe could bring the soldier along but had to keep him tied up and away from the others and would be responsible for feeding him themselves. He was not to be a burden to the group.
Smudge was still unhappy with this and sullenly hopped in the Humvee with Cpl Blake.
Cornetto and Joe stow their prisoner
Smudge and Blake mount up
Coach rounds up the strays
Well that's Act 1 over and I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. There's been some great character development behind the scenes too.
I decided that instead of rolling up Attributes that I would be allocating them based on the roles the characters would have to play in the campaign. And as ATZ is wont to do, the random increases and encounters always seem to compliment any GM decisions. Here's how it all went:
Smudge's experience as a Royal Engineer is starting to shine through with a couple of increases to his Savvy skill and my giving him the Logical Attribute, cementing his position as the group mechanic.
I decided that Cornetto would reveal a certain 'set of skills' when faced with the prospect of driving to Nova Scotia and it just so happens that he has clocked over 1000 hours on Flight Simulator and is pretty confident he can fly the group there instead. Just need to find a plane now. His personable demeanour was beginning to shine through too with a couple People Skill advances.
Finally, Coach's jobs as a fire fighter easily saw him make his way to being the team Medic and Jim's play style further complimented his character's presumed personality.
See you all in Act 2...
Safe House 2015 Links