26 Mar 2013, late-afternoon
The PCs are on the set of the reality-show, After the End—four “contestants,” an actor, and an intern—around the end of the first month of filming. The set is a long-disused Atlas-E missile site in the middle-of-nowhere, Kansas. The contestants had chosen the Launch Observation Building (LOB), an underground bunker, as their HQ for the duration. The PCs were off-camera for the moment, and went into the LOB for undiscussed reasons (to fetch something, perhaps?), when someone leaned against the wrong wall, and the bunker door snapped shut; they were told by the production crew to never allow that to happen, as it would be nigh-impossible to get it open again, due to wear and damage to the door. The PCs could hear the production crew trying to rescue them for hours, but it eventually stopped for the night, and exhausted from trying to escape, they went to sleep.
26 Mar 2013, 18:38
They awoke, not on the next morning, but more like evening (16:38, according to Korbin’s wind-up, analogue watch), with no explanation as to why. They never heard anyone outside the bunker door again. For the following 28 days, they continuously tried to find a way out, but failed to do so. They rationed food and water (as this was the HQ, they had stored much of their supplies here), and generator fuel (one of the first trials on the show was getting one of the LOB’s generators working).
23 Apr 2013, ~03:00
The PCs awoke to a rather-strong earthquake—Ann, being from Kansas originally, knew that this was unusual for this area. Along with some obvious structural damage to the bunker itself, they immediately discovered that the quake had caused the bunker’s escape hatch—welded shut years ago—to buckle and pop loose. An escape route, at last! However, Kesler was still asleep, and would not wake, no matter what they tried. John went up first to take a peek outside—nothing there but the moon, and the dreary Kansas landscape. They scrounged up what they could, and managed a carry-harness for Kesler, made of sheets and power-cords, and the lot of them climbed out.
Above ground, surveying their surroundings, Ann noticed a shadowy figure of a long-coat–clad man walking down the road toward Bushong, the tiny, half-abandoned town where the crew built their production base-camp that housed the nearly 500 crew and actors for the show. Korbin was about to run out to the man, but they lost sight of him in the darkness. Rather than stumble about in the darkness, the PCs opted to wait out the sunrise before moving out. They took that time to gather some water and sundries from the bunker; with a pair of broomsticks, and some coats and sheets, they fashioned a stretcher to carry Kesler, still completely unconscious.
They set out as the light of the new day began to fill the sky. It was about five miles to town; they had been driven the route plenty of times over the last month or so, but never walked it. It would end up taking a bit over two hours to reach the base camp. Along the way, they saw no sign of life at all, save for a few cows that were running loose on the side road—presumed to have been released as a result of the quake. It was early, though; maybe nobody was up yet.
As they rounded the trees within sight of the production camp, the PCs spotted some folk wandering listlessly here and there—looked like half the crew (that is, hundreds). As they approached within fifty yards or so, it became apparent that the crew were filming some kind of zombie thing—at least, that was the only explanation for the walking-corpse makeup. John volunteered to go find the director, while the others waited at the road. They watched John as he approached the first gaggle of “actors.” Then they heard John scream, and run back up the road at full-gallop; he would have kept going, had Korbin not blocked him. Knowing John to be an actor, himself, the others weren’t immediately convinced of his account, and left him and Wes behind, with Kesler still on the stretcher, and went ahead to see for themselves. John and Wes watched as the three of them approached the same gaggle of “actors,” heard Ann scream, watched Korbin faint and collapse in a heap, then watched Ann and Nick scoop him up in a fireman’s-carry and run as fast as they could back to the road.
As the reality began to settle in, they could see the “actors” were still in low-speed pursuit, and they knew they needed to get clear of this place. There were vehicles at base-camp, but they were disinclined to brave the crowd there to get at them, so they opted to leave the other direction, off-road, across the field along a treeline that bounded Bushong; John and Nick carried Kesler’s stretcher, while Ann and Wes carried Korbin, who finally snapped-to along the way.
At a break in the treeline, a short distance down, they found the town’s abandoned schoolhouse, and turned in, hoping to find a car in town. A short distance down Oak Street, they spotted more listless-walkers in the distance, and backtracked a bit, turning East. They spotted the Bushong Church there, with a gaggle of zombies trying to get in the front door, and suspected there might be living folk inside. They hid in the nearby trees, and Korbin and Wes sneaked around to the back of the church; they attracted no attention from the zombies, but were apparently spotted by someone inside, who quietly directed them to come. There was one zombie at the back of the church, in their way, so the two sneaked up behind it to smash it in the head with some tree-branch clubs they picked out of the woodline; the creature was tough, and grabbed Korbin, but the two managed to beat it until it could no longer pursue—but not really “dead”—well, more dead. The person inside the church popped the door open—it had been boarded shut—and waved the two inside; they signaled to the others at the woodline to follow. After a bit of stone-throwing to divert the zombies’ attention elsewhere, they entered the back of the church as well, still carrying Kesler.
Once inside, they immediately recognized the man as the “Nurse” from the show—a man they knew fairly well over the last month or so, as a knowledgeable professional—and they collectively asked him the question-of-the-day: “What the hell is going on?”
- This session was a bit short on content, but that wasn’t unexpected—my first “real” campaign in almost two years
- Kesler’s player was unavailable for this session, so I rendered him unrecoverably-unconscious for the time-being, and forced the rest of them to carry him along; this will likely not be the last time this occurs (and there is a reason for it). This is also not the first time I’ve dealt with Player absence in this manner
- This is the first time I’ve been able to use Google Earth as part of the game; it appears to be working well enough, and with judicious use of “Street View,” gets the scene across without any misunderstanding
- After Korbin fainted, as a result of his Fright Check failure, we discovered that there is little in the rules to tell us how to snap someone out of a fainting spell; we had to rely on some anecdotal accounts that lead us to conclude that there was little to be done with it, short of smelling salts (which is in Biotech/HT)
- As they beat on the zombie at the back of the church, I realized the creature I was using—from Monster Hunters 3—was still, by the rule, susceptible to Knockdown/Stun, and Death checks from non-brain hits, which didn’t sound right at the time; I’m in the process of modifying their stats, based on group consensus
- In retrospect, I should have had a zombie or two come after the PCs in the woodline while the two were beating down the one behind the church; there was some thumb-twiddling going on there, which I usually try to avoid, as GM—still getting re-acclimated