After my last stint writing and publishing a tabletop adventure, I was inspired to take a shot at writing a rule system. With a few playtests and a PDF from an online Word template, I now also call myself a game designer by sharing “College Contagion.”
Here’s the pitch:
You are half-asleep in your 9AM calculus lecture when everyone’s cell phones start buzzing. You check and see a notification from the National Guard: “Please stay calm. Make your way to a secure location and wait for help.” At that moment, you hear the sounds of pounding from behind and turn to see a zombie burst into the lecture hall. What do you do?
College Contagion is a one-page RPG system designed to introduce your college roommates to roleplaying games. Whether you’re a geek, a jock, an English major, or a Mechanical Engineer, you and your friends will need to use your skills to navigate a real college campus map to safety from the zombie apocalypse.
This system came together from a few different inspirations.
First, I played Honey Heist, another one-page RPG, earlier this year after watching Marisha Ray run it on Critical Role. We had a ton of fun, and I was so pleased with the experience of running a game and worrying about the rules. The hardest part of getting setup was that we were playing in a car and didn’t have a good place to write stuff down or roll dice.
Second, Dungeons & Dragons and other tabletop games are becoming very popular right now, and I consider it my responsibility to share the ultimate game of imagination and storytelling as much as I can. However, I also think that D&D is intimidating and often doesn’t get at what I consider the best part about these games. People get hung up on these thick rulebooks and don’t actually roleplay.
Third, I played Cyberpunk 2020 at a convention, and the game was set in a futuristic version of the Bay Area. We planned and executed a convoy heist, and to do it, the GM pulled out Google Maps, and we talked about real highways and used real restaurants as landmarks to get situated. Having largely played in fantasy settings, I had never considered using the real world. However, it was incredibly effective for at tapping into existing player knowledge to create a world without extensive world building.
Fourth, in college, my friends and I would regularly debate where we would go on campus if there was a zombie apocalypse. Is Hoover Tower good for inaccessibility or just a dead end? Where would everyone else go and cause a riot? It was fun to discuss because we lived on that campus for so many years and were intimately familiar with the layout and details.
These ideas came together in this game to imagine how we as players would actually handle a college zombie apocalypse. It strips away intimidating parts of roleplaying by allowing you to play yourself in a real, familiar environment. The interactions can flow naturally because your player and character can be the same, and you know how to interact with the other player/characters as well. And it’s freeform so you can just dive into the fiction of the game.
Well, at least that’s the concept. I marked the release version as 0.3 since I reserve the right to tweak the rules to actually work as a fun game. Thanks to everyone who play tested to get it this far!
If you have college friends who might be interested in playing, please give it a shot and let me know how it goes. If you’re Stanford alumni, feel free to reach out to me, and I would be happy to run (or participate in) a game as well!