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Dead reign

 

The book

 

I love the cover of Dead Reign! A couple reach desperately for each other as the dead descend upon them. It really captures the imagination; you can almost feel the horror and despair of being surrounded by the hordes of endless dead!

 

Dead Reign

Dead Reign gets straight to the point with a description of “The Wave”, some kind of plague or flu like epidemic that claims the lives of millions within days. The hospitals are full and the dying and the dead line the streets.

 

The next part of Dead Reign is, Who Done It? Here we are presented with some Games Master gold as there are 5 distinct theories for the GM to work with. Is the plague related to the release of a new drug that cures all ills? Is it a pandemic the like of which scientists have been warning us about for years where a disease jumps from animals to the human population a la Bird Flu? The conspiracy theorists say it is germ warfare and point the finger at everyone from Uncle Sam to North Korea. Maybe it is the wrath of god! The world has become a more decadent place and maybe its time for a clean sweep. Others claim it to be the work of death cults and dark magic.

 

Which of the above is true (if any) is up to the GM and I have to say I love this freedom. It is great to have multiple ideas to present to the players and even more fun to see which ideas their characters believe in most!

 

The next part of the Dead Reign describes the Zombie Apocalypse itself and I have to say this is one of my favourite parts of the book. It really does paint a convincing of just how fast civilisation could fall apart. Imagine if you will EVERY city, state and country in the world crippled at the same time by millions of people becoming desperately ill, those millions of people include all of the politicians, military and health care professionals, the entire infrastructure. Nobody know what it is or why. One week later all of the infected die within 48 hours.

 

Panic spreads fast as the few people unaffected by the wave attempt to flee to safety. The dead litter the streets, car parks and tower blocks. The hospitals, too swollen with the sick have had to set up emergency tents in the parking lots.

 

Then it happened, millions of dead rose at once! The Zombie Apocalypse had begun!

 

The people we turn to in times of crisis, the heroes, soldiers and cops either died in the wave or died shortly after the dead rose. Those that managed to fight were woefully ill equipped to deal with the violence; they too would be taken and become the undead.

 

 

The Setting

 

After the initial introduction we are introduced to Brad Ashley who is the leader of The Reapers, a gang of survivors that are taking the fight back to the undead but in a clever and organised way. Brad and his gang leave books called “The Reaper Survival Guide” for people to find. The book gives potential survivors the information they will need including a very cool Zombie 101. This tells the survivors how to deal with the undead menace with the big tip being shoot them in the head! However the other information is just as useful, for instance the Zombies have vision different from our own and can actually “see” our life force even if they have no eyes left in their sockets!

 

This part of the book also introduces us to one of the games coolest and most innovative mechanics The Zombie Convergence. This is as awesome mechanic that really adds the element of fear to your games, you see if you don’t kill that Zombie fast enough he will begin to moan, his moan will attract more of his undead allies, every 30seconds more will arrive until you are outnumbered and dead!

 

I love how convergence works as it put the players in a position where they must think about every action they take. Is it wise to fire a gun now or would it be better to try and dispatch the fiend with your hand axe? Did you make sure there was more than one way out of the building you have just entered to scavenge for food and ammo? If not you might live (very briefly) to regret it!

 

There are also more things to fear in this world than just Zombies. There are feral dog packs untamed and hungry they see you as dinner. Wild animals that used to fear the bright lights of the city have come out of the woods in search of food. Of course there is something out there much worse that all of the above…. MAN! That’s right your fellow human with all of his cunning and resourcefulness could well be your greatest ally or worst enemy.

 

The book then goes to great lengths to describe every aspect of the Zombies, this section deals with all of the Zombies senses and their fear of fire. Covered in this section is how much damage each body part can take and there is even a section that describes your chances of surviving a Zombie bite and what infections may occur should the bite not be treated properly.

 

 

Zombie, Zombies, Zombies!

 

There are 7 types of Zombie presented in this book.

 

Most Zombies are Slouchers, these are the stereotypical Zombies from early films such as the old Dawn of the Dead and Zombie Flesh Eaters.

 

Crawlers are a variation of the above; they are Slouchers who have lost their legs but continue to pull themselves along in search of their prey.

 

The Fast Attack Zombie is the sort of fellow you are likely to encounter in films such as 28 days later or the newer version of Dawn of the Dead. These guys can run as fast as you!

 

There are Thinker Zombies, these guys are like the Zombie from Day of the Dead, they still retain some semblance of intellect and can point other Zombies in your direction and even use crude tools!

 

Other types include the Pattern Zombie who carries on his old life and so will be found trying to work his old till at the checkout or he will arrive at the office everyday at 9am do a full days “work” and then shuffle off home at 5pm!

 

One of the coolest and weirdest is the Mock Zombie, don’t be fooled by this wretched creature! He will try to befriend you and is outwardly convinced that he is just a bit ill and isn’t a monster. WRONG, this guy will eat your brains!

 

 

Other Enemies

 

Retro-Savages – Imagine the Amish but completely crazy and you are half way to understanding the mindset of the Retor-Savage! They believe that The Wave was the wrath of god who is punishing us for our decadence and reliance on technology. You will recognise the signs of a Retro-Savage community by the fact that they have returned to the 19th century technology wise. They are extremely aggressive and intolerant to outsiders, should you find yourself amongst them switch off your radio!

 

Terror Cults – Terror Cults are often led by a powerful figure such as an Apocalypse Soldier with access to a tank or an evil Half-Living or maybe a Mock Zombie. What the cult offers is safety as long as you obey the leaders every command, if not then you might find yourself on the menu! These maniacs see other humans who don’t conform to their twisted end of world beliefs as nothing more than food, in this case whats worse a Zombie or a Cannibal?

 

Death Cult of Brulyx – Death Cultist worship Brulyx the Lord of the Dead! Through him their priest can channel certain powers that grant them control over the Zombies. Again they offer safety but only if you conform and say your prayers (the minions Prayers donate P.P.E. or Potential Psychic Energy which is what the Zombies feed upon). If you don’t conform and say your prayers then don’t be surprised when you end up on the menu yourself!

 

I like these human foes as they fit in well with al of the Zombie films I have seen in the past. Whilst Zombies are bad you can usually guarantee that evil humans are just as bad or worse! The greatest enemy may well be your fellow man.

 

 

Character Creation

 

So now the world has ended in a wave of fetid flesh and evil who are you going to be?

There are 7 main OCC’s (character classes) to choose from, some of these OCC’s offer so much choice that they could be split into numerous sub-classes.

 

The Hound Master – This a great and imaginative OCC that centres on your character training dogs to be his guardians and protectors. You can treat your dogs wounds and give them special training to help you destroy the undead menace. As you level up you can add more dogs to your “pack”.

 

The Reapers – These are the games Hells angel like bad-asses! Rev your engines and start chopping down those undead scum! These guys can repair and  maintain their bikes with ease, they also plan special Zombie killing runs and large groups of them can clear out a Zombie “nest” in no time!

 

Scroungers – These guys live in the edge but are damn good at it. A Scrounger will find his way into town and collect all manner of valuables. He knows he can’t carry it all and so will stash some of his good for later. If you need equipment or need to get in and out of the city fast and safe then you need a Scrounger in your party.

 

Shepherd of the Damned – These are the selfless heroes that have returned to the cities and the infested areas and will do everything they can to help the poor souls trapped within. Good in a fighter but better with their heads they know every twist and turn, every alley way and every escape route in and out of the cities. If you are trapped in a tower block and all hope is lost get down on your knees and pray one of these guys turns up!

 

Soldiers – These guys had previous military or police training like S.W.A.T. and whilst there are no longer official orders to follow these guys are going to carry on fighting the good fight. With exceptional fire power and a will of steel they are here to save people first and bust Zombie skulls second! This class is one of the most varied because you can choose from several sub categories ranging from Combat Engineers and Combat Mechanics to Demolitions Experts, Law Enforcement to Medics, Commando to Transport specialist. This is a great and varied OCC.

 

Survivors – This OCC is really awesome because it focuses on ordinary people. This category has no less than 42 sub-categories!!! Who was your character in his/her past life? A fireman? Con-man? Factory worker? Store Clerk? Chef? Student? The list goes on. I can actually see most people running games where all of the characters are ordinary people/survivors who have just met on the blood soaked streets!

 

The last OCC is an OPTIONAL OCC which means it is the GM’s call as the whether you can play this class or not. The Half-Living is a person who was bitten and fell into a coma but did not quite die. He/she has returned to life as something else, not quite alive not quite dead. The half living can pass amongst the undead crowds unnoticed and has many of the Zombies special abilities such as enhanced strength but retains his/her humanity and skills.

 

 

Resources

 

The book goes on to present us with some great tips for both players and Games Masters. For instance the phone book is still of use… to a degree, whilst you won’t be ringing anyone up anytime soon the phone book can tell you where the mechanics used to be so you can scavenge for parts or where the old food warehouses were. Pharmacies, hospitals, military surplus shops and hardware stores can be found within.

 

Other tips involve thinking about the value your character has to others. With money, gold and jewellery being useless your most valuable asset may be the fact that you can treat wounds or repair vehicles, maybe you know about botany or farming? All of these things are worth much more than paper money come the end days!

 

There are also some neat ideas for what vehicles are useful for what, a van is great for running down the horde but not so great when you need to go off road for example. A motorbike is an excellent choice for getting though those dangerous vehicle grave yards with a good turn of speed but not so good when a Zombie leaps out of said vehicle and rips off your face!

 

Places to go for resources and safety are also covered. Hardware stores are obvious goldmines; a light industrial park could offer a safe haven once it has been cleared out. Museums can be full of ancient weapons (katana or claymore anyone?) but the gift shop may have some How To books and city maps.

 

Most places you could need for a game are present and have been thought out for GM’s and players to take advantage of.

 

 

Combat

 

This game uses similar rules to all of the other Palladium Books games such as RIFTS and Heroes Unlimited. However there are some awesome additions to this book. Extra rules are present for close combat and the all important Zombie head shot. The rules are simple and fun and keep the combat flowing.

 

The parry mechanic is present as always but for those of you not used to the Palladium system I find this to be one of its greatest selling points, unlike other games where you succeed by beating a set number with your attack roll such as AC (armor class) or DR (defence rating) in this game you can actively parry attacks levelled at you. This makes combat more visceral and realistic in my opinion. 

 

The weapons section is awesome too as we receive advice from a Reaper known as Brick. Let me tell you that Brick knows plenty about Zombie killing for instance some weapons we think would be great for a Zombie attack would actually probably get us killed! A chainsaw is gonna be fun and kill fast but it is also going to weight a ton and the sound of it is likely to attract every single brain eater for the next 20 blocks! A crowbar however is silent, smashes skulls with ease and will also get you through that locked door and to safety.  A crossbow (or any bow) isn’t as powerful as a gun but it is silent and won’t attract attention. All good tips for your budding Zombie survivalist!

 

 

Conclusion

 

Dead Reign is THE Zombie game in my opinion. It has everything from just about every Zombie movie (or show) you may have ever seen. It captures the atmosphere perfectly and even throws us some curve balls.

 

Dead Reign is so well written that after reading it I decided my chances for surviving the Zombie Apocalypse in real life had been improved too! The sheer amount of detail that has gone into this book makes it the perfect stand alone book for any Zombie game you could wish to play.

 

If you are already a fan of Palladium Books then buying this title is a no brainer (get it?) and if you have never played a Palladium Books game then this might be the right time to give it a go!

 

5 Star Rating: Highly Recommended 

 

You may also like to read:

 

Dead Reign Civilization Gone RIFTS Essentials Palladium Fantasy Heroes Unlimited 2nd Edition

 

Want to try another system?

 

World of Darkness Core Book Dark Heresy Savage Worlds Deluxe Radiance