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The Walking Dead Universe RPG Starter Set €9,36
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The Walking Dead Universe RPG Starter Set
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The Walking Dead Universe RPG Starter Set
Publisher: Free League Publishing
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/25/2024 12:07:37

The Starting Dead - a Mephisto review

The Walking Dead Universe RPG Starter Set

After being frowned upon as a horror scenario for a long time, the zombie apocalypse has become again a popular theme in the horror genre for many years. One TV series that has both benefited from and fueled this trend is The Walking Dead, which revolves around the survivors of a zombie apocalypse in the USA. After computer games set against the backdrop of The Walking Dead, a role-playing game for this setting has now been released.

As with the zombie genre in general, although the walking dead appear to be the primary threat, it is the interactions with the other survivors that can be much more dangerous, as the fall of civilization does not always bring out the best in people.

With The Walking Dead Universe role-playing game, Fria Ligan has bought another license for a film or series universe and published a corresponding starter set in addition to the core rule book for getting started. The starter set consists of two booklets, a rule book and a scenario booklet, as well as ready-made characters and cards. In terms of rules, The Walking Dead uses the Year Zero game system, in which players roll six-sided dice, and every six rolled is a success. Attributes and skills define the dice pool and suitable tools can increase this dice pool even further. Players also have the option of pushing a roll, which allows them to repeat the roll to increase their chances. This involves re-rolling all dice that were previously unsuccessful. However, the character takes a stress point for this, which also directly adds a stress die to the roll. Stress points can also be accumulated in other ways (e.g. lack of food, attacks by walkers, terrible experiences), and each stress point adds one stress die to the pool. On the one hand, stress dice increase the chance of success, but on the other hand, they carry a risk, as every one rolled on a stress die causes complications and problems.

There are also other special dice that are used by the game master in particular, such as rolls with d66 or d666 for random tables, or the so-called double high or double low dice, where two d6s are rolled and then the higher or lower value is taken.

The Walking Dead role-playing game uses four attributes and twelve skills, with three skills being assigned to each attribute. The skills are adapted to the scenario and include things like combat, but also scouting and survival in the wilderness as well as social interactions. As you would expect for a role-playing game about the zombie apocalypse, combat is an important aspect of the rules. The rules differentiate between three combat situations. The so-called duels are fights between two opponents in which comparative tests are rolled between the two opponents. The winner of the comparative roll causes damage to the opponent. In game terms, this is not to be considered an exchange of individual blows, but as a longer combat sequence per roll. As humans only have three health points in The Walking Dead, they are already eliminated after three normal hits or even fewer heavy hits. In addition to the duels, there are the so-called brawls, which depict the classic combat scenario with several participants. What changes here is that the fight takes place in phases and a character must decide in which phase to act. The phases include searching for cover, ranged combat, close combat, movement, first aid, and other actions. The phasing means that characters with firearms, for example, act before melee fighters. As the characters only have three health points, there is a relatively high risk that they will be broken at the end of a fight, i.e., have no more health points. This means that, on the one hand, they are knocked out for a certain period of time, and, on the other, they have to roll d66 on a table for critical injuries. In addition to injuries such as shortness of breath, which means that they have a penalty for a few hours, the spectrum at the other end includes a heart attack with immediate fatal consequences.

As already mentioned, there are rules for stress, and of course, there is also the possibility of reducing stress. The idea here is that this is done through social interactions, in particular through the so-called Anchor, who is one of the other characters. By spending a little quiet time, the characters can reduce stress. The rule book also includes some rules for other threats, equipment, and, of course the third combat scenario: the fight against the undead. This is not a classic battle at all, as individual walkers play no role here. Instead, the walkers are grouped together in swarms and represented in game terms by the size of the swarm and the threat level. The threat level indicates the extent to which the undead have already noticed the player characters and are hunting them. Accordingly, rules are introduced on how players can avoid walkers or reduce the threat level, and how individual walker attacks that can be triggered by a high threat level are to be handled in terms of rules. Of course, the player characters also have the option of fighting a swarm. However, there is always the risk that the noise will attract more walkers. There is another d66 table for the walker attacks, which also includes harmless but nevertheless drastically described attacks, as well as attacks that mean a fatal and terrible end for the characters. One concept in The Walking Dead is that the game can be played in two modes: the so-called Survival Mode and the Campaign Mode. Survival mode is designed for the player characters to play a single adventure — with pre-made characters if necessary. The level of threat is correspondingly high, as the characters are not part of a campaign, so it is quite possible that they will not survive the scenario in order to keep the horror level high.

With The Wolf's Den, the second booklet also contains a short survival scenario in which the player characters are part of a group of survivors, two of whom have deserted. The group sets out to find the missing and recover the stolen resources. The scenario takes place in three locations. First, the player characters have to find some clues and then search two locations. The locations are each provided with a map and short descriptions of the houses, and they offer some starting points to keep the player characters busy. At the second location, the player characters also have to face a threat that fits in well with the Walking Dead setting. Nevertheless, there are no elaborate scenes here, just starting points with which players and gamemasters have to tackle the story, which is described in a compact 20-page booklet.

The Wolf's Den is perfectly suitable for a first foray into the world of The Walking Dead and for trying out the rule mechanisms. In other systems by Fria Ligan, however, the introductory settings were much more exciting, and the really original scenes are missing here.

The set also includes three maps for the scenarios from the adventure, as well as corresponding overview maps of the Atlanta area for the campaign game. Two sets of ready-made characters round off the starter set. On the one hand, there are the ready-made characters for the survival scenario, which are integrated into the plot accordingly and are characterized by interaction between the characters (including the fact that each character brings their own personal secret with them). On the other hand, four characters from the series are included to be used as non-player characters, for example.

The role-playing game The Walking Dead has an exciting setting due to the series and the general zombie apocalypse, and the series can probably be used as a comprehensive treasure trove of ideas. The approach of focusing on the threat posed by the survivors and the interpersonal conflicts and tensions in addition to the fight against the undead is convincing. The rule mechanisms are coherent, and the approach to stress and the extremely deadly combat system also fit the setting perfectly. The introductory scenario is suitable for taking your first steps in the world of The Walking Dead, but it lacks some exciting or surprising elements that the starter sets of Alien or Blade Runner offered. Nevertheless, The Walking Dead Universe RPG Starter Set is a coherent introduction to the game world. Fans of the series or players who are still looking for a zombie apocalypse role-playing game will find a well-made horror role-playing game here.

(Björn Lippold)

[4 of 5 Stars!]
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