[19:26] <+CASuleiman> Hi, gang. I’m C.A. Suleiman, the 400 lb. gorilla at Make Believe Games, and our new thang is I Am Zombie: Toxicity (now on KS!).
[19:27] <+Doctor> (Link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/make-believegames/toxicity-i-am-zombie-rpg?ref=nav_search)https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/make-believegames/toxicity-i-am-zombie-rpg?ref=nav_search
[19:27] <+Doctor> [for your backing pleasure]
[19:28] <+CASuleiman> Yes, that!
[19:28] <+CASuleiman> We’ve already busted 200% of our goal, but we’re anxious to hit the stretch goals on this one. Some cool stuff coming up, including a musical project that I’m eager to sink my teeth into (since I’m the Music Guy(TM) here at MBG).
[19:30] <~Dan> (Just a reminder to give us a (done) when you’re ready for questions. 🙂 )
[19:30] <+CASuleiman> Oh, sorry. Hit me.
[19:30] <~Dan> Thanks, CASuleiman!
[19:31] <~Dan> The floor is open to questions!
[19:31] <~Dan> So what is the premise of the game?
[19:33] <+CASuleiman> Toxicity is both a stand-alone game and a supplement for the modern/core I Am Zombie game. Both run on the Axiom System, including the ID cards, dice, and chits.
[19:33] <+CASuleiman> Toxicity is set in and under the urban decay of the mid 1970’s.
[19:34] <+CASuleiman> As in core IAZ, in Toxicity you play one of the Toxic, a lucid/self-aware zombie, keeping your nature hidden from the authorities while battling fiends in the Undercity below the mean streets.
[19:35] <+CASuleiman> (dern)
[19:36] <+Doctor> As I said before, the marketing and imaging is straight out of the ads in the back of Dragon Magazine, circa 1982. Other than the look, how is this game “old school?”
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[19:37] <+CASuleiman> Although it’s conceivably just as broad in playability as modern IAZ, the focus in Toxicity is on straight-up dungeon crawling, where you do all the same old-school things you’d do in old-school games, from exploring tunnels to navigating traps and hazards to beating up monstrous things and taking their stuff.
[19:38] <+CASuleiman> The Axiom engine was tweaked to suit the oeuvre, too, so the Toxicity implementation of the rules is very old-school.
[19:38] <~Dan> What sorts of monstrous things are there to fight, and what sort of stuff do they have?
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[19:40] <+CASuleiman> There are basically four categories of antagonist in Toxicity: Breathers, Skags, Fiends, and other Toxic. Breathers are mundane people, uninfected by the virus and unaware of the existence of zombies. Skags are prototypical mindless zombies, not lucid like the Toxic, and they both outnumber the Toxic and serve various villainous interests.
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[19:41] <+CASuleiman> Fiends is an umbrella category of bad news for the Toxic — everything from insect men in the sewers to Carrionfiends to denizens of the other games in our meta-setting. (For example, the next game in the series is Xenofactor, and if your table chose to drop in one of them, it would be a “fiend” in Toxicity terms.)
[19:42] <~Dan> How do Breathers remain unaware of all of these creatures?
[19:42] <+CASuleiman> (dunn)
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[19:44] <+CASuleiman> International authorities are aware, and they do excellent work in covering up outbreaks, using everything from other actual diseases (of course that was ebola!) to classic Men in Black shenanigans. Their agency that monitors the issue is called BLEACH (think black helicopters) and they’re Bad News(TM) for Toxic who aren’t with the program.
[19:44] <~Dan> (Howdy, Frankto!)
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[19:44] <+CASuleiman> And then, of course, there’s the fact that a breather who gets infected doesn’t remain a breather for very long.
[19:45] <+CASuleiman> (dun)
[19:45] <~Dan> What is the nature of the Undercity? Just the sewers and subways?
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[19:47] <+CASuleiman> Not just, no. In the world of Toxicity, massive underground caverns and networks exist, most assumed to have been dug by or on the order of these ancient uber-beings called the Utukku. Other creatures, like Carrionfiends and other Toxic, use them for residence and transportation.
[19:48] <+CASuleiman> In Toxicity, the characters brave these networks and caverns, sometimes under alliance with various local entities, other times under simple greed or malice of forethought.
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[19:50] <+CASuleiman> Note, too, that surface stories (“Up Top”) are perfectly viable in games of Toxicity, just as they are in games of core IAZ. But the old-school feel of Toxicity is most singularly personified in the adventures taking place in the Undercity.
[19:50] <+CASuleiman> (done)
[19:50] <~Dan> What sorts of rewards can they find from dungeon delving?
[19:50] <~Dan> (Howdy, willows!)
[19:50] <+willows> (hi hi)
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[19:52] <+CASuleiman> Toxicity has a version of the classic “magic item,” though some of them are pretty strange. We recently did a post on our site previewing Tainted Items and Fiends:
[19:52] <+CASuleiman> (Link: http://www.makebelievegames.com/iaz-toxicity-book-2-of-3-skags-shamblers/)http://www.makebelievegames.com/iaz-toxicity-book-2-of-3-skags-shamblers/
[19:53] <+CASuleiman> (done, and crud, but something just came up, so I’ll be AFK a few; feel free to leave questions for me)
[19:53] <~Dan> (No problem.)
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[19:59] <~Dan> Anyone have some other questions you want to queue up?
[19:59] <+Doctor> (typin)
[20:00] <+Doctor> Odd but pressing question: About how often should a character expect to actually eat brains?
[20:01] <+Doctor> What are the major Factions of the Undercity and how “political” can the game get?
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[20:06] <+Doctor> In Re: BLEACH – Are there Toxic who are “with the program?”
[20:07] <+Doctor> I think that about covers it
[20:07] <~Dan> Thanks, Doc!
[20:10] <+Doctor> Oh yeah: Undercity Geography. Is there like a Menzobranzan (or however that Drow city was spelled) or any other major population centers? I know it’s under NYC, but I cannot help but wonder if there is a massive complex under the Queensbridge Housing Development or something.
[20:10] <+CASuleiman> Back, sorry
[20:10] <~Dan> wb, CASuleiman!
[20:10] <+Doctor> wb
[20:10] <~Dan> I’ll give you a bit to catch up. 🙂
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[20:15] <+CASuleiman> In IAZ, brains are a Toxic drug; some Toxic don’t partake at all. When a Toxic eats brains, he/she gets an incredible high coupled with first-hand experiences of the brain owner’s life and feelings. It’s intense, and it’s part of why Headers (brain addicts) will even dig up beloved family pets and such; their brains are rich with life and love.
[20:16] <+Doctor> So murdering and eating sentients is a hobby, not a requirement.
[20:17] <+CASuleiman> Right, not even for non-addicts. Being Toxic means having a ravenous hunger at certain times, but you’re not obligated to killing and eating people.
[20:17] <~Dan> Really? They can eat “normal” food?
[20:19] <+CASuleiman> The virus that makes them Toxic (which is unique in our setting) isn’t a static thing that changes someone from alive into dead. It’s like a living thing, and it drives the subject into cycles. At certain times, such as right after the cleansing rite of Purgis, a Toxic is like an idealized version of their former selves.
[20:19] <+CASuleiman> During those precious hours, a Toxic could even engage in otherwise risky behavior (like unprotected intimacy with a breather) without risk of infection. At other times, the Toxic is really starting to look the zombie part, complete with pieces falling off and having to be recovered to control possible outbreaks.
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[20:20] <~Dan> (Howdy, Heckboy!)
[20:20] <+Heckboy> Hi, Dan. Is the Q&A in progress?
[20:20] <~Dan> It is!
[20:20] <+Heckboy> Excellent!
[20:20] <~Dan> Fire away with any questions.
[20:22] <+CASuleiman> Re: BLEACH and the transnational authority, yes, there are Toxic who are completely in league with them. In fact, the overall leadership of global Toxic society — a caste, if you will, called the Profane — are largely characterized by the power they’ve been able to amass by pleasing breather authorities, at the expense of other Toxic
[20:22] <+CASuleiman> If you’ll forgive the Mark-ism, the Profane are the Camarilla upper crust of zombie society.
[20:22] <+Heckboy> I guess the big question I have is “How does I Am Zombie address the issue of psychological stressors and interpersonal relationships?” I feel that the said stressors and relationships between surviviors are what good zombie fiction/films is about.
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[20:23] <+CASuleiman> Good question. The main difference here is context: This *isn’t* a zombie apocalypse setting, and so the usually post-apocalyptic themes either aren’t in play, or are in play in more subtle ways.
[20:24] <+CASuleiman> *usual, not usually
[20:24] <+CASuleiman> That said, we agree with your contention completely, and that’s why the Field Manual is full of three-dimensional, cerebral, and often unsettling material that shows the effect that losing one’s life to the virus can have.
[20:25] <+CASuleiman> Yes, you’re shown a door to a whole new world, but there’s a reason why one of the first rules of the Toetag (newly-made Toxic) is, “DO NOT GO HOME.”
[20:25] <+Heckboy> Okay. That has my attention. If this isn’t a zombie apocalypse game, what is it exactly?
[20:27] <+CASuleiman> If you’re familiar with Mark’s other work (especially the World of Darkness games), that should give you a sense of what you’re in for: You go from being a person who has no idea zombies exist to not only being one of them, but being one of a rare breed of them that retains self-awareness.
[20:28] <+CASuleiman> It’s said that most Toetags don’t survive their first year of half-life, and that’s why Purgatory Press (our fictional counterparts within the setting) released the book I AM ZOMBIE — it’s a field manual and survival guide for the newly infected, who the Profane don’t care about or will actively misuse.
[20:28] <+CASuleiman> Like other zombie narratives, the main theme is survival, but that’s where most of the thematic similarities end.
[20:29] <+Heckboy> Hmm. That sounds interesting, but World of Darkness was never really my scene.
[20:30] <+CASuleiman> Well, that’s part of why we’re making Toxicity. If you want to tell a more straightforward or old-school story, you can run the setting with Toxicity, which is a lot more dungeon crawling and a lot less World of Darkness.
[20:30] <~Dan> Are there various sorts of zombies that fulfill different aspects of an adventuring party?
[20:31] <~Dan> Akin to classes, I mean?
[20:31] <+Heckboy> Dungeon crawling is my scene, but I think my hangup will be the setting, which sound much more like WoD than traditional zombie fiction (which, really, is what I’m interested in).
[20:32] <+Heckboy> Will the game be available via regular retail channels after the Kickstarter?
[20:32] <+Doctor> Heckboy, I think when you read some of the logs from earlier, those concerns might be mitigated
[20:32] <+Doctor> I am over here worrying it will be -too- dungeon-crawly for my group
[20:33] <+CASuleiman> Traditional zombie fiction doesn’t protagonize the zombie, so yeah, this is fundamentally different from most of that. If you want traditional zombie RPGs, there are several good ones out there already.
[20:34] <+CASuleiman> This *will* be available broadly after the KS project ends, yes, definitely. All our stuff is now. In fact, this week we announced that our stuff is available in certain European markets that weren’t open, yet.
[20:34] <+Doctor> Also, as I understand it, 1 in 10,000 zombies is actually lucid enough to be called a Toxic?
[20:34] <+Heckboy> Cool. I’ll probably take a look at it when I can pick it up at the FLGS.
[20:35] <+CASuleiman> Ultimately, it’s a question of focus. The modern/core IAZ game allows for all kinds of stories, from political arcs within zombie society to run-for-your-life chases with BLEACH agents to backdrop tales featuring mass outbreaks.
[20:35] <+Heckboy> Also, point: I actually don’t think there are very many games out there that do traditional zombie fiction justice. 😉
[20:35] <+CASuleiman> Our goal was to build something rich enough to encompass all kinds of zombie stories but still hinged around something people hadn’t already seen a hundred times.
[20:36] <~Dan> Can you describe the system?
[20:36] <+CASuleiman> And one thing our metaplot chronicle — called TOXIC HIGHWAY — is doing is showcasing that. It begins “zoomed in,” and as the chronicle progresses, the characters get a tour of the setting, including its more deep-end elements and features.
[20:37] <+CASuleiman> The second installment of that scenario path is supposed to be out any day, actually. (Planned for release during our current KS, but I don’t think it’s quite out of layout, yet.)
[20:37] <+Heckboy> I think that’s good goal. I just don’t have much interest in the WoD model of monster as protagonist. It’s purely a personal preference. I’m know that there are a ton of people who do like it.
[20:37] <+Doctor> I have always seen traditional zombie fiction as a subset of disaster films in that the disaster just happened to be zombies and all the real drama occurred in the struggle between people as they attempt to deal with the disaster. I am interested in this because this seems to be -about- zombies
[20:38] <+CASuleiman> That’s a good point, doc. The very thing that makes zombie stories so great, so universal, is also the thing that effectively keeps them from being the stars of their own show.
[20:38] <+CASuleiman> They’re always backdrop and metaphor.
[20:39] <+Doctor> On the flip side, that is kind of what makes them terrifying in that they do not have an individual existence…
[20:39] <+CASuleiman> Yup. Hence the Toxic. “We Are the One in Ten Thousand.”
[20:40] <+Doctor> So… zombie city under NYC or dens tenuously connected by dangerous routes?
[20:40] <+CASuleiman> The Axiom System is fun, and we’re only just beginning to scratch the surface of its potential, design-wise. It’s an RPG system, but one that eschews the older trappings of play: character sheets, pausing play to look stuff up, etc.
[20:40] <+Heckboy> Err. So many typos in my last post. 😛
[20:40] <+Heckboy> Anyhow, I’ll definitely look at this when it hits my FLGS.
[20:41] <+CASuleiman> If you don’t want to roleplay a zombie, then yeah, no iteration of I Am Zombie is for you.
[20:41] <+CASuleiman> Except…
[20:41] <+CASuleiman> If a given Narrator wants to run a game where you play people amid an outbreak, and then ends the game with you turning Toxic. Or the like.
[20:41] <+Heckboy> Well, I’m open-minded enough to try it at least once. I didn’t think I’d like Orpheus or Wraith, either, but they ended up being two of my favorite games. Not becaus eof the monster as protagonist angle, though.
[20:41] <+Doctor> Isn’t there a forthcoming BLEACH based game as well?
[20:42] <+CASuleiman> Just like in WoD games, mortal/human-focused games are just as doable. But again, the bulk of our focus is on what happens once someone gets infected.
[20:42] <+CASuleiman> Heh, cool. I was the primary writer on Orpheus, and Wraith is my favorite WoD game of all time.
[20:43] <+CASuleiman> Yes, there is, doc. After IAZ, we’ve got Xenofactor and BLEACH, which effectively lets you put on the helmet of one of the main antagonist groups for the Toxic.
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[20:43] <+Heckboy> Huh. I didn’t know that. Well, Orpheus was 100% distilled Awesome.
[20:43] <~Dan> What will Xenofactor be about? Aliens?
[20:43] <+CASuleiman> BLEACH will be fun for folks who like to run around shooting zombies. Toxic get to do it, too, but if you’re a BLEACH agent, you have the entire planet’s thumbs-up to do it.
[20:44] <+CASuleiman> Yes, sort of. Xenofactor is most easily (and superficially) summed up as our “alien abduction game.” It features into the meta-setting’s overall plot and structure, and those characters have connections to the Toxic, but aesthetically it’s almost 180 degrees from IAZ.
[20:45] <+CASuleiman> I call XF: “If Philip K. Dick had written The X-Files while on a massive bender.”
[20:45] <+Heckboy> And, with that, I think I need to hit the hay. Been up since 5 and the energy drinks aren’t doing a thing. Have a good night, folks.
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[20:45] <+CASuleiman> Thanks for dropping in!
[20:45] <~Dan> Is the setting as a whole akin to weird science fiction?
[20:45] <~Dan> Or is there a supernatural element?
[20:46] <+CASuleiman> Well, Mark already created the World of Darkness once, so with the new umbrella setting we wanted to avoid the tropes of Gothic horror, etc. Yes, I’d say it’s fair to call it a “weird sci-fi universe.”
[20:46] <+CASuleiman> Which, by extension, should tell you that the origin of the zombie virus in IAZ isn’t your usual one.
[20:47] <~Dan> There’s a usual one? 🙂
[20:48] <~Dan> Oh, if you mentioned this, I missed it: What is the dice rolling mechanic?
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[20:51] <+CASuleiman> The Axiom System uses six-diced dice — we make our own proprietary ones, but you can use any old dice and just remember what’s different — where the 5 and 6 are replaced by Chaw and Brains, respectively. You’re creating a dice pool, but several factors affect the outcome, and strategy is key.
[20:52] <~Dan> And what are Chaw and Brains?
[20:53] <+CASuleiman> Note: The specific expression will vary from game to game, but the principle is the same; IAZ uses Chaw and Brains. Chaw is a Not Good result, like a botch; it removes a degree of success from the roll. Brains is the opposite.
[20:54] <+CASuleiman> (Because zombies like brains, see.)
[20:54] <+Doctor> Brainz… with a z 😛
[20:54] <+CASuleiman> Yes. *twitch*
[20:54] * ~Dan chuckles
[20:54] <+Doctor> *chuckles*
[20:55] <~Dan> So in the time remaining, is there anything we haven’t covered that you’d like to mention?
[20:55] <+CASuleiman> Sure, but I have a question: Is there a particular link you’d like me to use when referencing this Q&A later?
[20:56] <~Dan> Yup! I’ll be posting the log and giving you the link right after we’re done.
[20:56] <~Dan> And please note that you’re more than welcome to hang out with us as long as you like. 🙂
[20:57] <+CASuleiman> Glorious. (Y)
[20:58] <+CASuleiman> I’d just add that Toxicity is both a fun stand-alone game, with a lot of 70’s nostalgia potential, and a full-on supplement for modern I Am Zombie, since the stuff being produced for it is largely cross-compatible wtih the latter.
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[20:59] <~Dan> Thanks, CASuleiman!
[20:59] <+CASuleiman> Here’s our latest KS update, which dishes on what’s being funded: (Link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/make-believegames/toxicity-i-am-zombie-rpg/posts/1560868)https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/make-believegames/toxicity-i-am-zombie-rpg/posts/1560868
[20:59] <+CASuleiman> Thanks for having me, guys!
[21:00] <~Dan> Glad to have you! Thanks for joining us.