Roleplaying Zombie Dice

by Howard Tayler

My crew of gamers and Zombie Survivalists was howling with laughter just five minutes into our very first game of Zombie Dice. You know the rules already, right? And you know that depending on the color of the die, the ratio of brains to blasts differs. This immediately leads imaginative players like my friends to start speculating on the exact nature of our intended victim.

Red die

We figured out that "Uh-oh, I got a red die," is a boring way to announce the odds that everyone already knows. So we started role-playing it. "Special Forces, eh? Let's see if you TASTE special." Sure, that red die only has a 1:6 chance of letting us taste anything other than footprints or buckshot, but we're zombies. We can afford to take chances. It's not like they can actually KILL us.

You need to try this. Don't show off your statistical acumen. We can all count. Show off your B-Movie screenwriting chops.

"Green dude! Easy snacking!" is a nice effort, but you can do better. "Soccer Mom! Get her before she gets in the minivan!" And then when that green die rolls a tender, juicy, middle-American brain for you, mutter something like "I'm eating AROUND the lipstick, thank you very much."

You might object to the notion of role-playing zombies who can speak in complete sentences, and who wise-crack more often than they crack skulls. If you want to dial your Z-speak back to "gnnuuurgh" and "brrraaaarrrgh" that's fine. We all hope you get shot quickly. It's more fun to wise-crack.

Fleeing cop

One aspect of the game mechanic that initially resisted role-play was the bit about not immediately feasting upon the brains lying before us. My friends and I finally determined that these rolled-but-not-scored brains represented victims we had "knocked to the curb." This is delightful (no, wait . . . I meant disturbing) on a visceral level when you start seeing that row of four, five, six or more brains (my record is ten in one turn) as helplessly unconscious heaps of human flesh awaiting your gentle kiss goodnight. Right on the forehead. With lots of teeth, and deep, deep tongue.

"GNNNUUURRGGH." And then a slurping noise. It's hard to wise-crack when your mouth is full.

The story elements of this game may look simple as I've described them thus far, but don't forget that at any given time you have three dice to roll, a history of dice already rolled this turn, and a score on the card. Are you up to the challenge of working all that into the description of what just went down?

Three green dice. "Oh yeah! I found a day-care center, and it's NAP TIME!" Two brains and one runner. "That's right, pound those Keds, junior. I'm comin' for you!"

Pistol-packin' Girl Scout

One green die (junior, pounding his Keds) and two yellows. "Uh-oh! Mom's got a gun, and Dad's a State Trooper." Both yellows roll brains, green rolls a blast. "Whoa! Dad's in for the sacrifice play, throwing his gun to the kid!"

You see where this is headed. Tell stories about your intended victims. A red and two greens all roll feet? Obviously they're running and setting up an ambush. But if you haven't been shot yet, what are the odds that the SWAT sergeant, the old lady, and the Girl Scout can actually take you down when you round the corner? (Answer: 1.9%, or just under two out of a hundred . . . but I've seen it happen three times now. Sometimes the Girl Scout has a Glock .45 concealed in that box of Thin Mints.)

Zombie Dice is so much more than just a game of odds. It's a framework for telling really horrible stories about how you and your undead friends are participating in the end of civilization, and it rewards not just the guy who crunches stats on the fly, but also the gal who can bat her lashes and convince her boyfriend to roll just one more time. It takes up about as much space in your gamer bag as a can of Mountain Dew, and you don't have to worry about it getting warm or shaken up. For a cup of brains, guns, and feet it's surprisingly tidy. You have but two excuses for not bringing this game to a party: "I don't own it" and "I forgot my bag." Both excuses are lame, and we all know that the lame ones get knocked to the curb first.

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