The problem with searching…

In between all the playtesting and writing rules over the last few weeks I have also been working on my zombie game.

Things have been going really well with the rules, well things were going well until I hit a problem that I am having trouble solving.

Oh and I saw that a zombie rule set that was released only recently uses a similar system for activating zombies!!! That really was annoying, it is not exactly the same but it is close 😒

Anyway getting back to the problem, it is probably my own fault and mainly due to my insistence on producing really really simple rules systems, I hate the idea of long and complicated rules and I especially don’t like to add lots of tables.

I have one rule set that I am working on at the moment that has a good number of tables, but to be honest I can’t see a way to avoid them, they are for troops, weapons and vehicles etc, this is similar to all the weapons and upgrade tables in The Last Drifters, not an excessive amount but still a good few.

Well the zombie rule set seems to be one set that I can’t do without producing lots and lots of tables!!

These would be for weapons of course, although I don’t have many in the game, the real issue is all the tables I am going to need to cover searching in all the different locations in the game.

Let me try and explain, I do not want just one table for searching, I would need a different table for each type of location that was being searched, for instance if the players searched a house in the game the items that they might find would be different than the ones that they may find in say a police station or a shop or a builders yard etc.

So to cover even a few locations the tables needed for searching soon mount up and I don’t see any way around this.

I have looked at few other zombie games (actually lots of zombie games) and most only seem to use one or two options which I don’t like, some of the games just use a set of item cards that are shuffled and picked randomly when searching, these seems far too basic as it doesn’t matter where or what you search you will still only have those cards to pick from.

Some games have a very simple “loot” table or something similar, where a simple dice roll gives you the item found in the search, this again is really basic and doesn’t give much variety in the searching at all and again it doesn’t normally distinguish between different locations.

I don’t like either of these options as they are very restrictive and basic, so this is the position I find myself in with my zombie rules.

I have done the basic rules for the players characters and the zombies, but I just can’t think of any way to do the searching without doing loads of tables.

I still also need to sort out some sort of scenario system that the players can use to work out each game so that they are different each time, this again will probably need a selection of tables!

It has been suggested that I put all the searching tables into an app that could be used on a mobile phone or a tablet along side the rules, this would basically hide any number of tables and could be as large as I wanted, it literally could have hundreds of tables with hundreds of items on each (if I could think of that many items) and could even do the dice rolling to see which item was found.

I like this idea as it would be fairly easy to do and would solve the problem of loads of tables in the rules.

But I am worried that this would also have a down-side, would having to use an app alongside the rules put off some people from using the rules?

I think that it might, so I am struggling to know which way to proceed.

On first count I am looking at having around fourteen or fifteen different types of location that could be searched, that is a lot of tables and of course because I love making things awkward I am not thinking about just one or two items at each location.

So now you can see my problem, and it has stopped me finishing the zombie rules, at the moment I can’t see a way to fix this issue.

I have tried looking at all the zombie rule sets that I have and have done loads of searches on the internet to try and get help / ideas, I have even asked an Ai but still I can’t find a solution that I think will work.

I may have to sit down and just do all the tables that I think the game will need and see how bad it is.

Wish me luck…

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  1. Vic

    Hi Mac!

    Ouch, my head hurts! The need for tables in some games is unavoidable, it seems. Perhaps you could define the tables by basic location – rural (country side, villages farms), urban (towns, cities) & military (army bases etc). The tables could be a ‘roll 2d10/1d10’ giving results of 1-10/2-20, allowing you to keep it to 57 possible results split across 3 broad categories. The 1d10/2d10 allows you to keep the higher ‘value’ results on the table at the upper end (11+), meaning a 1d10 search (hurried search) is less likely to find fancier gizmos n guns, leaving basics like medicals, pistols, kitchen knives (forvexample) for the 1-10 result.

    Effectively, you’ve got 6 tables for gear, but only requiring a single 1 or 2d10 roll.


    • Mac

      Hi Vic,
      Sorry about your head, was my rambling too much for you? 😉

      My head hurts as well, I have the rules almost done and I am basically stuck trying to work out what to do with searching for items in the game.
      Some things will be simple, like items linked in with scenarios etc. those I can do.
      But it gets confusing (for me) when I start to think about all the rest of the possible items that players could search for.

      The way I am leaning at the moment is that other than weapons etc. most of the items players can find will be mainly used between games in a simple campaign section of the game (which I still need to write) the characters will be able to use the items to give them some sort of stat bonus in the next game they play.
      For example if they use a first aid kit that they found they would be able to heal up quicker, or it could add +1 to their toughness or stamina etc. but only for the next game.
      Just simple stat increases that characters gain for the next game only.

      I just can’t get any of it straight in my head, so I am having difficulty sorting it and writing it 🙁

      I am getting closer though, so hopefully I can get it done soon.

      Thanks for the suggestion, I like the idea of the hurried search, and the better items higher up the table.
      This could be done something like, a quick search takes one action, but a thorough search (which has the chance of finding better stuff) would take more actions so longer to do.
      This would be good as it would add a little extra pressure on the players especially if their characters are being chased by zombies or they only have a limited time for the scenario… Yeah I like that idea, thanks.


      • Vic

        My pleasure!
        I suppose it depends on how detailed you want the ‘search’ to be. If you specify in a scenario that this is an urban search area, with a hospital or doctors surgery as a feature you can add medical supplies as a scenario feature rather than having to specifically add them to a search table – that would allow you to simplify the tables a little.

        As a side thought, you could include a generic scenario in the rules that would allow you to specify what’s being searched for, which in turn defines the scenarios area (rural, urban, military) – the sought after items, be they food, weapons or bandages, could then be scenario objectives, avoiding them having to be on the search tables.

        A campaign game could consist of a series of scenarios, such as …

        1. Escape the Zombies
        2. Search for weapons
        3. Search for food/supplies
        4. Rescue other survivors
        5. Escape again

        And so on … this way each generic scenario gets its specific ‘search’ for item and the search tables can be simpler.

        Just a thought …

  2. Zac

    Hi Mac
    Every zombie game is a post apocalypse setting how about a pre apocalypse setting!
    Life goes on for most people as normal but their are a select group of individuals who now the truth.
    For some reason the dead are coming back to life and are hungry!
    And if our select group don’t control the outbreak “it’s the end of the world as we know it”
    But hears the kicker the powers at b have no idea.
    This group Is made up of members of the public who have had some experience of the zombies, they use their skills to fight the threat. Some search the net for strange stories of cannibalism some give what little money they can spare for the cause some are field operatortives some are medics all have one thing in common they know the truth and have been saved by the operatortives.

    In game terms the goal of the game is three fold stops the outbreak save as many people as possible who become members of the cell as patrions,medics, information mungers,field operatortives ect, the third objective is to escape the police who would see the operatives as murders seeing as most zombies would be relatively fresh.

    I can’t think of any war/board game that takes this approach and would make the original in a thematic sense.

  3. Zac

    Ps this would mean one table it could be something like this
    Roll a d6 for each person saved.
    1&2: useless
    3: patrions
    4: information monger
    6:field operatortive

    This is just an example and I’m sure you could think of more roles for the cell

    • Mac

      Hi Zac,

      Sounds like a fun idea and as you say not an approach done before (not that I know of)
      I will have to put this on my to-do list 😉


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