10 Zombie Survival Intro Scenarios

Can you smell Halloween on the air? Smells like non-toxic face paint and burnt pumpkins.

In case you weren't aware, I've been playing around with a zombie/horror game based on the Dungeon Crawl Classics Funnel system - basically you send in a gang of 0-level schlubs, hoping that at least one survies to become a level 1 character in an on-going post-apocalyptic survival game. It uses basic d20 rules that everyone is pretty familiar with.

To keep the game as chaotic as possible, in our first playthrough I just rolled the scenario out randomly as we went along - determining encounters, locales, etc purely by a toss of the dice - and I plan to continue doing the same thing. Partly this is to keep my prep work down, partly it's to keep the tension and suspense high as the party never knows what to expect. Sometimes the group meets 1d4 stray dogs, sometimes they meet 1d4+1x100 roaming zombies. I've been using the many tables in Palladium's DEAD REIGN™®© books (about the only thing those books are good for) for most of my inspiration, tweaking them as necessary.

However, the one thing that I was missing was the opening hook - where the players start in their initial onslaught against the rising tide of the undead. It needs to be a scenario where a decent-sized group of random, ordinary people (remember, each player gets 4 characters each) are trapped together. The characters should preferably be strangers and a little disoriented, out of their element. The zombie outbreak should also have been going on long enough that there is a considerable force of undead for the players to have to deal with.

I brainstormed 10 quick examples so that now I'm prepared for my next or any game. I can pick an option or roll one on the spot to keep everyone (including myself) on their toes. Remember, as soon as they move away from the opening scene you can continue generating further encounters randomly as well, or build from what you've established if you're one of those crazy people who like consistent story. Keep going until the group finds a safe spot to rest and/or the majority of the survivors are dead.

10 Random Zombie Survival Intro Scenarios
Feel free to steal these for other games/purposes. Most of them are already stolen from other sources, anyway.

Art by Joakim Olofsson

01. The Wheels on the Bus
A bus fleeing an overrun city strikes a group of zombies on a dark stretch of road. The bus crashes, pinning some of the survivors. The zombies of course survive, and the noise of the crash will soon attract others. The bus is totalled but there may (or may not) be other working vehicles nearby. Does the group flee back towards the city, keep going on foot, or head into the wilderess? This is the setup we used for our first game, and we lost 2 or 3 characters before the group even left the vicinity of the bus.

02. Manotick 
A group of survivors are holed up in a high school gym or a community centre in a small town in a rural area. Their safe haven is breached unexpectedly - do they flee? Try to stay and save it? If they run, where do they go? For added options, say the town is on a small island with limited routes in and out. Does the group fight to establish a safe zone on the island?

03. Movin' On Up
The group is holed up in a couple of units on the top floor of an apartment building deep in the city. They've been hiding for a few days and they're out of food. They know there are zombies in the building and of course the streets are crawling with them, but they have to try and get food somewhere. Do they try to secure the building? Go out into the streets? Maybe there's a supermarket or pharmacy close by. For an added kick in the teeth, have some zombies make it to their floor and start pounding on their doors.

04. Steel Serpent of the Underworld
A subway train crashes deep underground. Maybe it just happened, or maybe the survivors have been trapped inside for a couple of days. Either way they have to get out, but the tunnels are crawling with undead, as are the streets above. Might the underground tunnels prove a haven, or a deathtrap?

05. Zombies on a Plane!
A plane crashes on the airport runway, either just taking off (trying to escape the outbreak) or trying to make a landing (ran out of fuel trying to get away from outbreak elsewhere). There are, of course, zombies on the plane. The group has to get off and find safety, either in the airport or somewhere else nearby.

Art by Joakim Olofsson
06. Dawn of the Dead 
The survivors are hiding in the storage room of the Gap at the local mall. Maybe the outbreak just started or maybe it's been going on for a few days. Either way, the mall has lots of supplies, but also lots of zombies and would be hard to secure. Groups of bandits and looters in the mall could also complicate things.

07. Night of the Living Dead 
The group starts in the dark in the forest, chased by zombies and separated. There should be chaos and the characters should have trouble telling the difference who is alive and dead (and hopefully attacking each other!). Eventually they reach a cabin, which will provide some relief and a moment to catch their breath, but their Alamo-style last stand is inevitable...

08. I'm on a Boat!
The survivors are trapped on a cruise ship at sea when the outbreak starts. Most of the life boats were launched during the initial confusion, but there are still hundreds of zombies left on board and the survivors need to fight their way out, though just getting off the ship is not necessarily the answer because they're at sea in the middle of nowhere.

09. LOST... with Zombies! 
The group survive a boat or plane crash on a tropical island, only to find it crawling with zombies. Is it the home of mad scientist? Lost military experiment? Maybe there was a resort full of people who turned? Either way, the group has to combat both the dangers of the island as well as the undead.

10. Trans-Siberian Zombie Train of Death
The group of survivors were on a train travelling through a remote part of Russia or elsewhere in Europe. The train broke down and is overrun with zombies, but there is nowhere else for the group to go. Do they try to make it in the harsh wilderness? Try to clear the train and get it running again? Of course, any town they reach will be crawling with the dead too, though they don't know that yet...

What do you think? Any others to add?


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