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Jeff's Gameblog
Tuesday, 30 March 2004
All Genres Must Be Eaten
Eden Studios is one of the rising stars in the world of RPG publishing. Although it doesn't particularly interest me, their Buffy the Vampire Slayer roleplaying games has recieved kudos for its topnotch execution of genre emulation. Two Eden games that do get under my skin are Terra Primate and the All Flesh Must Be Eaten (AFMBE) line. The AFMBE corebook has sat on my shop.rpg.net wishlist for several months now. These days I am finding it harder and harder to drop thirty bucks on a corebook, especially considering how much vintage gaming that $30 can purchase on the eBay. (Getting my copy of Savage Worlds was considerably easier than most such purchases, since I was already in a Savage Worlds campaign.) Still, AFMBE has a lot going for it. First there's the zombies, of course. The idea of running my own Zombie Apocalypse campaign appeals greatly to me, especially something that takes the Book of Revelations and runs it straight.

Also, the Unisystem game mechanics are highly thought of. In fact, you could argue that AFMBE is really a generic rules system hidden under a zombie facade in much the same way that Big Eyes, Small Mouth is a generic system hidden under anime window dressing. By publishing the TriStat dX rulebook, the folks at Guardians of Order have basically admitted that BESM is really a generic system that previously had a non-generic marketing plan.

Then there's the oft-praised AFMBE genre supplements: Enter the Zombie, Fistful O' Zombies, Pulp Zombies, Dungeons & Zombies, Zombie Smackdown, and the forthcoming zombie/pirate book. These books take your favorite genres (Hong Kong action, Westerns, Pulps, D&D fantasy, wrestling & pirates, respectively) and zombify them. Now I'm feeling zombified!

Still, I haven't bought AFMBE yet. I'm trying to figure out why. Part of it is undoubtedly my apprehension about learning a new system, especially a target number system. I hate assigning target numbers. In my experience systems that rely on target numbers invariably push the GM into a corner where I find myself hosing my game because I pulled the wrong target number out of my ass at a crucial moment.

Another problem is similar to issues I have with running Call of Cthulhu: everyone expects the unexpected. If you're running AFMBE you can't really shout out "Surprise! Zombies!" and expect your players to react. This is why fewer and fewer CoC games I run actually use Mythos monsters. Last CoC game I ran used mummies, a randomly generated Lesser Other God, and a Hellplant or two.

Then there's what I call the "X plus Zombies" factor. Just because I like Zombies and something else doesn't mean the two go well together. Admittedly, lotsa people rave about Enter the Zombie. Just today some bloke on rpg.net acknowledged that he wasn't expecting Zombies and Kung Fu to mix, but, by God, the folks at Eden had made it work. Zombie Smackdown still looks dubious to me though. I mean, I like big time professional rasslin' as much as the next guy, but zombies and wrestling? I just don't get it. What next? You got your zombie in my peanut butter?!?

Finally, I guess I'm feeling some sheepishness about diving into the subject matter. I like zombies and ninjas and pirates and all that other stuff. But let's face facts: these genres are the geek ghetto of popular culture. I kinda wonder if I'm not selling myself short by going for this stuff, when I could be tackling heavier stuff, like an intense Sorcerer storyline or a meaty tale of political intrigue in the 3rd Imperium. Zombies and ninjas seem like cheap trickery compared to some of the stuff out there waiting to be played.

And yet as I write this blog entry I'm also scanning eBay for cheap copies of AFMBE and Terra Primate. My instinctual urge to buy more games can override a whole slew of other concerns.

Posted by jrients at 4:42 PM CST
Updated: Tuesday, 30 March 2004 9:16 PM CST

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