Thursday, 15 March 2018

Blood & Bile: My first PWYW product

I'm a fan of both vampire movies and zombie movies, and have occasionally pondered how well a vampire would fare during a zombie apocalypse. So when the guys on the Wild Die Podcast held a One Sheet Setting contest, I decided to submit an entry called "Blood & Brains"!

Of course One Sheet Settings involve quite a bit of work, so to encourage participation, the contest entries were only supposed to give a short overview. But I'd already started writing up my notes by that point, and I had some fairly concrete ideas about how I wanted the setting to look and work, so I ended up submitting a different setting outline (Circus Cult) instead.

But then I got back to working on my vampire/zombie setting, which I'd renamed to "Blood & Bile" after discovering there were already several RPG products called "Blood and Brains" (my second choice, "Flesh & Blood", was taken as well).

As Blood & Bile took shape, I started to feel it would be good enough to turn into a small commercial product, a bit like Just Insert Imagination's awesome plug-and-play settings (such as Fuhgeddaboudit, Punted in the Bonce, etc). But of course that would require changing to a different roleplaying system.

Fortunately I'd recently been pondering alternative applications for the color-coded dice system I'd used in The Goblin Warrens, and this seemed a perfect fit. The mechanics were lightweight and straightforward, intuitive but also tactical, and they would allow me to offer Blood & Brains as a fully self-contained product.

Of course I needed to expand the system slightly, to incorporate unique abilities, character advancement, and so on. I also wanted to playtest the rules before releasing them, but I've finally finished, and here it is!

Download it here: Blood & Bile

It's pretty different to Saga of the Goblin Horde, as I wanted to try out a few new ideas (in particular, while Saga of the Goblin Horde has fairly linear adventures, I wanted Blood & Bile to be a sandbox with no fixed adventure at all). However I'm pleased with the way it's turned out, and I hope others will enjoy it too.

Playing with Savage Worlds

Running Blood & Bile with Savage Worlds is actually pretty straightforward. You could use the vampire race from the Horror Companion, or use Savage Undead to design your own (it doesn't need to be balanced, either, as the PCs are all vampires). There are zombie stats in Savage Worlds Deluxe, but I'd recommend using the Horror Companion if you want to make them more interesting.

The oracle tables would work the same as usual, meaning you could play Savage Worlds without a GM if you wanted to. Assets would be replaced with regular advancement.

Dark Gift

Instead of a "Dark Gift", every PC begins with Arcane Background (Vampirism), which works as follows:

Arcane Background (Vampirism)
Power Points: 10
Arcane Skill: Spirit
Starting Powers: 1
Backlash: None

Available powers: armor*, beast friend, boost/lower trait*, burrow, deflection*, disguise*, fear, fly*, greater healing*, healing*, intangibility*, invisibility, mind reading, puppet, quickness*, shape change (bat or wolf), speed*, wall walker*, warrior's gift*. Those marked with a * have their range reduced to "Self".

The "Power Points" also represent blood; the vampire only regains Power Points by feeding on a human (the same as in Savage Undead), but must also expend a Power Point to wake up each evening.

Curse

The "Curse" would simply be handled through Hindrances. Here are two new Hindrances I'd originally planned to include in the One Sheet Setting:

Carrier (Minor)
Although vampires are immune to the zombie virus, a few of them can become carriers. Any human this character feeds upon directly will become infected, as if they'd been bitten by a zombie.

Marked (Minor or Major)
A zombie took a bite out of this character, and for some unknown reason the wound refuses to heal properly. Any humans who see the bite mark will probably assume the vampire is an infected human, and react with fear or violence. As a Minor Hindrance the mark can be covered with clothing, although paranoid humans may insist on a careful examination. As a Major Hindrance the mark is on an obvious location, such as the hand or neck.

Movie Crossovers

Blood & Bile provides guidelines for defining your own mythology, and one of the suggestions it makes is to combine your favorite vampire movie with your favorite zombie flick. I created a poll on the Savage Worlds Facebook group to ask which movie combos people found appealing, so here are some suggestions based on the top three results.

80s Horror Comedy

Imagine "The Lost Boys" meets "The Return of the Living Dead". The game takes place shortly after The Return of the Living Dead ends, when acid rain from a nuclear exposion spreads the zombie infection far and wide. The PCs are a gang of young vampires, who sleep all day and party all night - until one night the zombies decide to crash the party!

Month of Horror

Imagine "30 Days of Night" meets "28 Days Later". The PCs are vicious vampires, being transported in the hold of a ship. Then one evening they wake up to discover the ship has run aground and been abandoned by the crew. As they leave the ship in search of blood, they find the tables have turned, and they come under attack by hordes of rage-fuelled humans carrying an infection of their own!

Tongue-in-Cheek

Imagine "What We Do in the Shadows" meets "Shaun of the Dead". A group of vampires live together in the basement of the Winchester pub, where they try their best to adapt to modern life. Then one day a zombie outbreak occurs, and when the vampires wake up in the evening, they discover a ragrag crew of survivors have gathered in the pub, while zombies bang on the doors and windows outside!

Other Fiction

When I was googling around to make sure nobody else used the same name, I came across a rather cool story about a vampire experiencing the zombie apocalypse; it's worth a read if you're thinking of running Blood & Bile.

Then when I posted for feedback on the setting, I also received several more suggestions. Darren Miller recommended Double Dead by Chuck Wendig (which I've since read, and enjoyed very much), while Bill Ogden pointed me to the Last Blood web comic (also a good read).

Someone also pointed me to the Vampires vs Zombies Deadliest Warrior episode, which I found quite entertaining (although the Blood & Bile vampires cannot be infected, so you should ignore the ending):


Blood & Bile doesn't define the mythology or physiology of the undead, instead it leaves it up to the reader to decide for themselves, and this makes it very easy to draw on many different sources of inspiration for your games!