Monday, 1 November 2021

[Free RPG Day 2021] Zombicide: Chronicles Free RPG Day Mission Booklet

Now in its fourteenth year, Free RPG Day in 2021, after a little delay due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, took place on Saturday, 16th October. As per usual, it came with an array of new and interesting little releases, which traditionally would have been tasters for forthcoming games to be released at GenCon the following August, but others are support for existing RPGs or pieces of gaming ephemera or a quick-start. Of course, in 2021, Free RPG Day took place after GenCon despite it also taking place later than its traditional start of August dates, but Reviews from R’lyeh was able to gain access to the titles released on the day due to a friendly local gaming shop and both Keith Mageau and David Salisbury of Fan Boy 3 in together sourcing and providing copies of the Free RPG Day 2020 titles. Reviews from R’lyeh would like to thank all three for their help.

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It is more common for roleplaying games to get turned into board games, for example,
Exalted: Legacy of the Unconquered Sun for the Exalted roleplaying game from White Wolf Entertainment and Grand Tribunal, the board game set in the world of Atlas Games’ Ars Magica, but that trend is on the turn. Root: The Tabletop Roleplaying Game from Magpie Games is based on Leder Games’ Root: A Game of Woodland Might and Right, whilst the popular Zombicide board game from CMON Global Limited now has its own stand-alone roleplaying game in the form of Zombicide: Chronicles – The Roleplaying Game. For Free RPG Day 2021, CMON Global Limited released the 
Zombicide: Chronicles Free RPG Day Mission Booklet. This contains a trio of short scenarios which can either set up or continue a post-apocalyptic campaign in which the dead rise, walk, shamble, or even run, and want to munch on your brains. However, it does not contain any rules from Zombicide: Chronicles—for that the Zombie Master will need to download the Zombicide: Chronicles Quick-Start, which has everything necessary to play through the three scenarios in the Zombicide: Chronicles Free RPG Day Mission Booklet.

The first of the three new missions in the 
Zombicide: Chronicles Free RPG Day Mission Booklet is ‘Cruise of the Dead’. This is a solid campaign starter with the Player Characters thrown together as Survivors aboard a classic cruise ship complete with its own promenade deck, swimming pool, night club, grand ballroom, and more. Whether as former members of the crew or passengers, the Survivors must battle across the decks of the Childlike Empress and up to the bridge where perhaps they might be able to get a message out and someone can come and rescue them! There are some entertaining scenes here, whether on the promenade deck and in and around the swimming pool, the nightmare blaring lights of the ship’s night club, or the remnants of a magician’s stage show in the grand ballroom, and the author lays on the cheesiness you would expect aboard a cruise ship. This is very much a combat-focused scenario combined with some elements of stealth, so it feels very much like the board game that Zombicide: Chronicles is derived from. Nevertheless, its big action and big battles combined with a narrow focus—well, it is set aboard a cruise ship—does mean that it works as a good campaign opener. Plus, the ship can reach land wherever the Zombie Master wants and so continue the campaign from there.

The second mission, ‘Death is Just a State of Mind’ takes place at a celebrity health spa and clinic run by actress Willow Rhiannon Meagre, who is best known for her restorative goo known as Slop. In the wake of the zombie rising, there is a rumour that Slop can be applied to zombies to cure them! So the mission opens with the Survivors outside the city’s Willow Rhiannon Meagre Wellness Centre, which caters to often famous clientele, all ready to break in, grab some pots of Slop and perhaps run into a celebrity or two—whether they are still alive or have been turned into zombies! The centre is nicely detailed, complete with a surprisingly deep Zen Garden, a hot sauna, brochures with a complete guide to the best and most effective places to apply your Slop, and probably the best use of adult toys in a zombie roleplaying game—ever! Being for Zombicide: Chronicles, the scenario involves a lot of combat with the members of the corpse cortege, but it involves some investigation too, and there is a bit more story involved too. ‘Death is Just a State of Mind’ does not so much as ladle irony and splatter bloody satire around the Willow Rhiannon Meagre Wellness Centre as generally slop it everywhere it can. It contains some very obvious knowing digs at a certain celebrity, social media conspiracies, and more recent events, and is fairly tongue in cheek. Or is that tongue in cheek and out the other side? ‘Death is Just a State of Mind’ is great fun and very silly.

The last of the three missions in in the 
Zombicide: Chronicles Free RPG Day Mission Booklet is ‘Third Level Underground’. This is definitely a city-based mission which begins with the Player Characters, having learned that there is a delivery van full of medicine on the third level of a multi-storey car park nearby. Are they prepared to descend into the darkness below, not knowing what might be down there, break into the van, and get out again? This is primarily a stealth mission, with the Survivors creeping down into the car park’s lower levels, trying to take advantage of the many unlooted vehicles still parked, whilst avoiding any encounters with the cadaver cavalcade which bound to be down there. If that sounds all too simple, then you would be right, but not that much more simple. There are the broken facilities of the car park to work around, a reluctant survivor to encounter, and something quite fun for the Zombie Master to throw at the Player Characters. ‘Third Level Underground’ is a fairly straight forward encounter, one which is relatively easy to drop into a campaign or city set scenario.

Physically, the 
Zombicide: Chronicles Free RPG Day Mission Booklet is breezily presented with plenty of the cartoon artwork taken from the Zombicide board game. Although it needs a slight edit in places, it is very easy to read and understand, such that the preparation time for any one of its three missions is actually fairly low.

The Zombicide: Chronicles Free RPG Day Mission Booklet is mixture of fun, clich├ęs, satire, and classic zombie action. The mechanical elements to the three scenarios are incredibly light, such that the Zombie Master need not have a copy of Zombicide: Chronicles to run any of three. A little adaptation and the 
Zombicide: Chronicles Free RPG Day Mission Booklet would work with any zombie roleplaying game or any modern roleplaying game to which zombies can be added. Above all though, the Zombicide: Chronicles Free RPG Day Mission Booklet is solid support for Zombicide: Chronicles – The Roleplaying Game, especially if you want a campaign starter and something to run later in the campaign

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