This week is much better than last; although I’m pretty busy trying to hone the rules for the zombie game into near-perfection, at least I have time to sleep. And blog about the game. Here I have a couple of Cinema Cards, the character oracle used for character creation in Zombie Cinema.
The images to the left are couple of the 27 cards we sent to the printer at the beginning of the week. I’m told that they’ll be printed and ready to ship next week. The printer is Guild of Blades, certain to be familiar for folks who’ve followed The Forge lately; their head honcho Ryan has taken to writing regular essays on publishing technique on the forums. I’m quite happy that the guy whose publishing and marketing stuff I’ve been reading for a couple of years soon is also very competitive when it comes to small print runs of collated, packaged custom playing cards. I won’t see the results myself until a couple of days before Gencon, but hopefully the quality is as acceptable as the price is; if that should be the case, GoB has some hot stuff in their hands insofar as POD card printing goes.
I call those cards Cinema Cards because of the movie theme of the game (and because their backsides read “Cinema Cards”, too). Their function in the game couldn’t be simpler and less rules-free: players use the cards at the beginning of the game as an inspiration for creating their characters. Although the card set is geared towards Romero-style zombie movies, this is a pretty nice toy for other purposes as well. I wrote the cards themselves intentionally pretty vague-like, more akin to badly-translated tarot than specific guidelines. In a word, even I couldn’t tell you where this differs with Everway 😉
There are three suits of the cards, with nine cards in each suit. The suits are “nature”, “society” and “disaster”, of which the last one is the only zombie-specific one. The intention is that players can create characters by combining one card from each suit, resulting in 729 unique character concepts without going into nuances like several cards from one suit or whatnot. Enough for my purposes, anyway.
As an example, if I drew these two cards, “Naïvete” and “It’s Your Fault”, the obvious conclusion would be that my character had, in his naïvete, somehow caused the zombie epidemic the game is about. I’m reminded of the animal rights activists in “28 Days Later” who started the epidemic by being totally oblivious to the dangers they meddled in. Perhaps my character wouldn’t even realize that his actions were the cause for the strange events, at least at first. The third card would fill in my concept – could be “Adolescent” or “Middle-class Professional”, for example, making for different implications for the first two cards.
I first designed the game without the Cinema Cards, so they’re not really essential to Zombie Cinema. I opted to add the cards at an early stage because ease of play was a central design goal, and creating characters was consistently the place where first-time roleplayers, teenagers and middle-aged housewives got stuck. (Yes, I’ve playtested this with a very exacting audience – I’m sure that your average roleplayer will get by just fine without the cards.) The game as it stands is supposed to be totally playable for all audiences, making it one of the easiest rpgs ever. Publication will give us a humongous data set in this regard. If you want to cause me a heart attack, be sure to post somewhere immediately after Gencon with complaints about the vague rules or something like that.