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A Review of and Torg Mechanics for Dawn of the Dead (2004)

Posted: Nov. 26, 2005

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This movie is a remake of George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, but has little in common with its predecessor except for the barest basics—people are trapped in a mall after zombies take over a city (and, perhaps, the world). Zombification is a pseudo-disease, spread through bites and other blood contact. Destroying a zombie’s brain “kills” the creature. Other than that, everything is different.

These zombies are not your typical slowly shambling monsters. Taking a page from 28 Days Later… (another great zombie flick), these zombies are strong, fast, and feral. They are physically the equal of the humans in the movie. A crowd of zombies attacking a human resembles a riot. And, given the virulence of the infection, even a small bite must be considered lethal. A zombie crowd chasing after a few running humans is horrifying.

This is a zombie movie, solidly in the more modern version of the genre. People get eaten, turned into zombies, and our heroes must defend themselves with a great many head shots. This is post-apocalyptic survival horror at its best.

It is, despite being a genre pic, a good zombie movie. Those expecting long treatises on the meaning of life or Foucalt are likely to be disappointed. Those expecting chases, blood, gunshots, and mass zombie mayhem will be pleased.

The movie maps well as a location-based adventure. The characters have as great many combat scenes, one or two Dramatic Skill Resolutions, and even Personal Stake and other obvious subplots. The writer uses the location well, managing to force the characters to do the one thing they do not want to do—leave their safety zone. This movie should inspire many ideas for scenes in modules.

Torg Relevance:

Send them a plague of zombies. Even in the midst of an unexpected place, a horror can be hiding. The Comaghaz could infect anyone, who infects someone else, and so forth. And technodemons can mass produce biological agents.

This is a zombie flick, a straight genre picture, and therefore appropriate to mine for inspiration in Tharkold, Orrorsh, or the Space Gods. Although, of the three, a Core Earth invasion from Tharkold is most appropriate.

The Comaghaz could use a little more horror and gore. The masses of “third stage” Comaghaz victims who roam the countryside of South America can take a few lessons in how to capture their prey from the zombies of this movie. Scare your players by stealing a few of the gory and horrifying scenes.

Orrorshan monsters prefer stealth, though a more intelligent, less outré zombie might make a good villain in the “secret gathering of cannibals” mold, heading up a Victorian secret society zombie cult. Such zombies would be akin to Gothic vampires, only preferring a well done human thigh (with a white wine and blue cheese) instead of drinking blood. Such a society could keep zombies like those in the movie in a basement somewhere, the poor victims of the aristocrat’s inhuman desires. An accident could release the mindless zombie vermin, terrorizing a town.

Tharkold zombies usually prefer cybertech and plasma cannon, being from the realm of munchkin horror. A Tharkold-derived plague which can exist under CE’s axioms could spread terror, pain, and death. This movie would be a good model for a Tharkoldu amusement park—surround a city, let drop the plague, and watch the monkeys eat each other.

Dawn of the Dead (2004) Zombies

Dexterity: 8 (varies as a normal human’s does)
unarmed combat: 9-14 (varies by individual)
dodge: 10
long jumping: 9
maneuver: (15)
running: 9
swimming: 9
Strength: 10
climbing: 11
lifting: 11
Toughness: 13
Perception: 6 (The zombies don’t tend to notice things right away.)
find: 11
trick: (7)
Mind: 2 (Zombies have no knowledge of language nor memory of how to work complex machinery. They only run, attack, and eat.)
Charisma: 3
Spirit: 2

Zombies are the reanimated corpses of humans who have been killed by other zombies. They are mindless, but fast and deadly. They exist only to consume human flesh, but seem to gain no nourishment from it.

Zombies chase relentlessly after living humans. They only stop if dismembered and burnt or if their brain is destroyed.

Zombies resemble dead human corpses, without the rotting. They often exhibit signs of the attack which killed them, including bite marks and ripped or torn flesh.

Special Rules:

Natural Tool: Teeth, Str +1 (11). Zombies use unarmed combat attacks to seize and hold a human, then bite them. Any single zombie can make a good start on eating a human corpse. A crowd of zombies can strip a man in several minutes, like piranha.

Immunity to Pain: Zombies do not take Shock or K/O damage, they simply ignore those combat results. They cannot be fatigued. They can, however, be Stunned (knocked down).

Limited Immunity to Non-Combat Interaction: Zombies are effectively immune to test of wills, intimidation, or taunt. They are as susceptible to trick or maneuver as any creatures with the same attributes. Zombies are also immune to charm and persuasion.

Heightened Wound Capacity (+3 wounds): Zombies can take more Wounds than normal. A zombie can take up to 7 Wounds (which represents destroying the body). Zombies with 4 or more Wounds are usually hampered in some way, missing an arm or leg or suffering some other deformity (game effects as gamemaster wishes).

Vulnerability, Head Wounds: Characters can make a special Vital Blow attack on a zombie, aiming for its brain (-8 to hit). Such a Vital Blow doesn’t do any more damage than usual, but a single attack that does 4 or more Wounds kills the zombie, bypassing its heightened Wound capacity.

Disease: Zombies are carriers of a mystical ailment that mimics natural diseases. Zombies who score one or more Wounds on an unarmed combat attack infect the victim. This infection attacks a character’s Toughness and can be resisted with a Toughness (25) check. If this check fails, the disease slowly kills the victim, over the course of (victim’s Toughness) # of hours. Shortly after dying, the victim rises as a new zombie.

Updated: Jan. 1, 2007
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