Posted on September 10, 2004 by Flames
Written by Al Bruno III, CJ Carella, Richard Dakan, Jack Emmert, M. Alexander Jurkat and George Vasilakos, Eden Studios (EDN8020), March 2003, 253 pgs, 30.00US
All Flesh Must Be Eaten (AFMBE) is a game of (Zombie) survival horror. In it, you play humans trying to survive a zombie attack. Alternately, if you have a nice zombie master, you could also play zombies.
Packaging The book is 9″ x 7″ in size, allowing for great mobility – in your hand or in your backpack. The cover is printed in color with a hard cover case. The insides are black and white. The binding used is much better than most other hardbound books I’ve found on role-playing game books. The front cover consists of the title, a subtitle, a border, and a picture. The back cover gives a quick fictional piece, a synopsis of the game, and the normal listings of price, ISBN, and bar code. It also tells us that Eden Studios is a member of GAMA (The Game Manufacturers Association).
There are 232 pages. There are six chapters, a section of Archetypes, a Forward, an Appendix, and an Index. The first chapter explains to you what you’ll find in the book. The second chapter describes character generation. A list of well-thought out Archetypes are given – with good artwork to go with them. The third chapter goes over game mechanics. Equipment is discussed in chapter four. The fifth chapter explains zombies, how to create them, and how to use them. Chapter six discusses different Deadworlds that you can use for your settings.
The longest chapter is two. Sometimes having character creation being the longest chapter is a bad thing. Not this time! Eden Studios does a good job of making sure you know what you’re doing in their game. The second longest chapter is six, “Worlds in Hell.” This is a good thing. I always like being given examples of what I should be doing with a game. It lets me know if I’m traveling down the right road or not. So, the two longest chapters deal with the players and the Zombie Master. Well, Eden Studios has
covered the basics.
Great job so far!
In the back of the book, you’ll find:
-The Appendix takes up three pages.
-The Glossary takes up two and one-third pages.
-The Character Creation Table takes up one-third of a page.
-The Character Type Reference Table takes up that last third.
-The Quality/Drawback Chart (more on those later), Skill List, and Zombie Power List take up a full page each.
-The Index is four pages long.
-There are two different fronts for character sheets. One is for games that optimize powers and another sheet for non-power games. A back page is supplied that works for either setting.
-They even supply you with an Ammo Record Form. Which is great if you have players who try to cap-off one hundred rounds per session!
-And, an ad. The last page has an ad on it. That’s right, just one ad, not five pages worth. All of the games currently available from Eden Studios are shown in the ad. So, it’s a useful ad, at that.
Artwork Overall, the artwork in AFMBE is better than 90% of all other role-playing games on the market today. There are simple pictures and complex pictures.
Many of the pictures appear to have been done in black and white originally.
This lends to a good transfer to a black and white book, as opposed to doing the artwork in full color and then transferring it to black and white. In this latter process, detail is often lost.
My only complaint with the artwork in AFMBE deals with style. I am not a big fan of hand drawn artwork being metamorphed on the computer. In other Eden Studios game products, this style has driven me insane. They do a much better job with it here, though. Perhaps they have simply gotten better at it, or I’ve grown use to it.
The Archetype artwork is by far my favorite in the book. The pictures are all by the same artist. This lends an air of completeness to the character creation process. Nice job!
The artwork at the beginning of each chapter takes up a two-page spread – which seems to be industry standard these days. That’s okay, I don’t mind.
Each spread consists of Zombie pictures and a quote. The quotes range from Army of Darkness to the many Day/Dawn/Living Dead to the Deadworld comic. The spreads are done well. They are purposely dark and tend to be more moody than the artwork inside the chapters.
Playability First off, let me say, that until AFMBE I hated Zombies. I found them boring and utterly useless in role-playing game settings. After AFMBE, I have been converted. I’ve even rented a couple of Zombie movies.
In AFMBE, the main point of the game is to survive. Your character resides in a world which, for whatever reason, has been invaded by Zombies. It doesn’t get any easier than this. There are 11 Deadworlds detailed in this sourcebook! There are zombie templates, adventure hooks, histories, and a short (very) story for each Deadworld. There are Deadworlds detailed for the Middle Ages, World War II, and modern settings. In fact, a point was made to try and convert George Romero’s movies into the game. You could even run a Resident Evil adventure with this book. You couldn’t ask for much more support as a zombie master.
This game was designed with a high level of playability in mind. The rules are easy enough for almost everyone. It is easy to get a pick-up game of AFMBE going. The Archetypes provided make sure that you’ll never have to worry about having a character to play. The gross amount of information on the web supporting this game makes it even easier to play.
However, the Deadworlds also go to show that long-term campaigns will be hard with this particular genre. This is a major downfall of the game for me. I like to run long-term campaigns that span years. I find it hard to run this game in that style. I’m not saying that it can’t be done. I’m saying it may take more work than you’re use to doing for a game.
The game crosses over well with Witchcraft and Armageddon. It could also be used as a supplement for Conspiracy X. However, Con. X uses a different rules system. A web page exists to help you convert the game systems.
Rules System The game uses C.J. Carella’s Unisystem, which is in use with most other role-playing games from Eden Studios. The basics of this system are:
Primary Attributes – These are your strength, dexterity, and so forth.
Secondary Attributes – These are your hit points, speed, magical ability,
etc. They are derived from your Primary Attributes.
Skills – Just that. I think these have the same meaning, no matter which
role-playing game you play. A “2” in any Skill is considered low average. A “3” is a high average. And “4”s are rare.
Qualities/Drawbacks – Advantages/Disadvantage, Merits/Flaws. Call them
what you will.
Powers – Not available for all settings of this wonderfully ghoulish game.
These include psionics, magic, faith, and anything else metaphysical.
For task solution, take the appropriate Skill, add it to the proper Primary Attribute, and a roll of a D10. You are rolling this versus an average of a “9.” So, if you are low average in your Primary Attribute and your Skill, you would need to roll a “5” (2+2+5=9) to succeed. That gives you just over a 50% chance on a die roll to succeed.
Not too bad, especially if you play with devilish ZMs (Zombie Masters) who love to give you outlandish and difficult scenarios to complete. A roll of “one” is a critical failure/botch. A roll of “ten” is a critical success.
There are only six Primary Attributes listed for this game. This is a good thing. I’ve found that game systems that delve into too much detail in the Primary Attributes go too far into everything that they do. I like my systems streamlined and easy to play. The Unisystem does this, and does it well!
The Secondary Attributes pretty much stand by themselves and do not get rolled, even if they are necessary to the game. It is nice that CJ Carella/Eden Studios thought to put these statistics in the rules system.
Other gaming systems have failed to give us places on our character sheets for these Attributes, let alone remembered to put them in the game.
The Skill list for AFMBE covers 64 different Skills available for your players. Eleven pages are devoted to describing the Skills, as well as, a quick list in the back of the book with their page location listed. There is at least one paragraph on each Skill, if not more. The list is comprehensive enough for my tastes. There are “regular” Skills and “special” Skills. Regular Skills cost one point during character creation, and special Skills cost two points per level, until level five, where they begin costing five points per level. But why would your character have a Skill level that high, if a three represents high average? The only reasons I can think of, are for branching the games off into directions that you’ve come up with, or in case your players are the Zombies. Yes, there are even rules for creating Zombies. The Skill lists for Zombies reminds me of the Skills lists in HOL (Human Occupied Landfill) with such Skills as:
“Life-Like,” “Monstrous Strength,” “The Hug of Death,” and “Like the Living.” Players can pick up Zombie Skills after being zombiefied, or they can create Zombies as their beginning characters.
The Qualities and Drawbacks fill up 12 pages of this tome, and there is even a page in the back of the book with them listed for quick reference.
The Q-Ds cover all of your basic Advantages/Disadvantages, and doesn’t really go beyond the basics. Creative players and ZMs will find this list wanting. However, with five seconds worth of thought, you can figure out what you want and how much it will cost. The system is that easy.
I highly recommend finding a copy of Witchcraft if you wish to incorporate Powers. While AFMBE does give enough information to use these abilities, Witchcraft goes into the details to a greater extent.
Supplemental Material AFMBE has a lot of support on the net. There are more than ten directly related web sites. The list serve and discussion boards are very active, supplying Deadworld scenarios/ideas, new Archetypes, and fiction, amongst other topics.
All in all, this is a great game that I hope sells and sells and sells. The folks at Eden Studios are great. I had questions after purchasing the core book (don’t we all?). The folks at Eden Studios have taken the time to answer various questions that I’ve come up with. They also pay attention to the list serve and discussion board, answering questions that crop up there.
Taking the time to answer questions is a good thing. It’s also something
that other role-playing companies do not bother to do.
Reviewer: Derek Stoelting