Please note that the following description of a play session does not always follow the rules. The game is designed so that the rules are only a guideline, and the actual play experience is based on how the GM believes it is best to resolve each situation. The game should be presented cinematically, so everything that happens should be as exciting as possible and not require an hour of searchign through rules manuals to figure out which rules to use. The rules presented in the rules listing are just a guideline, and the GM has the final say as to how to perform any action, as long as his main focus is making a great story and keeping the players enjoying themselves.
- 1 Character Creation
- 2 Advantages and Disadvantages
- 3 Skills
- 4 Starting Spells
- 5 Fleshing Him Out and Gearing Him Up
- 6 Character Introduction
- 7 Introduction
- 8 Basic Game Mechanics
- 9 Magick Use
- 10 Entering Combat
- 11 Fear
- 12 Ranged Combat
- 13 Melee Combat
We'll go over the creation of one of the characters that will be in this group: John Talbot.
First, we must decide what type of a character we want to make. For this one, because we want to be able to go over every aspect of character creation, we'll make him a magician (so we can learn about making a character with magickal qualities). We decide that his father was a stage magician who kept his failing act alive by learning real magick, which he then passed on to his son. John's specialty will be manipulation and interaction, so we're going to want to give him a high Persona, Intellect, and Willpower. Everything else can be average or below average.
We start off with Attributes. Every character is completely average all the way across the board, with 45 in all 12 attributes. Let's go over the attributes and what they would mean for John.
- Strength: John is an average Joe, and he's spent more time practicing magick than working out. Thus, we're going to make his Strength a little below average. We take away 10 points from it, making it 35. He has ten points now that he can use elsewhere.
- Agility: John may be very nimble with his fingers for the sleight-of-hand tricks that he does, but he doesn't play any sports or go jogging or mountain climbing, so we can take away ten points from his Agility, too, leaving it at 35. Now he is up to twenty points that he can spend elsewhere.
- Dexterity: Here's one of the things John is pretty good with. Being a stage magician, he has practiced long and hard to get his hands to move faster than the eye. Because of this, we'll give him +20 to his Dex, making it 65. As of right now, all his scores balance out.
- Reflexes: John's reflexes might be a little better than the average person, but not too much better. We'll give him +5, for a total of 50, which means now he has 5 points that he needs to make up from somewhere else.
- Fortitude: John is an average guy, but he doesn't spend too much time exercising or eating healthy, and his body is kind of small and frail, but not too much less than an average person. Thus, we'll give him -5 Fortitude, for a total of 40. This balances out the five points he gave himself in Reflexes, so we're back to being balanced.
- Intellect: This is one of John's highest points. He's much smarter than most average people, although maybe not quite in the super-genius level. We'll put him up to 75, which will take 30 points that we now need to make up.
- Willpower: This is another one of John's high points, but here, he actually has near-superhuman ability. We'll give him a 90 in Willpower, which will cost 45 points. Now we have 75 points we need to make up.
- Faith: John obviously believes in the supernatural, and a little more than most people, but this shouldn't require a crazy amount of points, neither do we really have that many points to spend. John gets 50, costing 5 points and putting the amount that we need to make up to 80.
- Focus: John really needs to have good Focus, as he is a magician and needs to be able to gauge the crowd. However, we're almost out of attributes and we have way too many points to make up. We'll give him 55, costing 10 points and putting his total up to 90.
- Psyche: John doesn't have Psionic powers, and this is one of his weaknesses, because as powerful as his mind is, someone with Psionics could blast right through him. He's also never seen a monster before, so his ability to resist fear isn't going to be that great. We can't go any lower than 10 for a starting character, so that's where we'll put him. This gives us 35 points, knocking our total down to 55.
- Luck: Once again, we have found an attribute that John does NOT excel at. He has terrible luck, and wherever he goes, he gets the short end of the stick. We can do the same here that we did with his Psyche, and knock his Luck down to 10. This gives us 35 more points, putting our total at 20 points that we need to make up.
- Persona: We already discussed that John would have a high Persona, but here we are at the end of the attributes, and we have 20 points that we need to make up. Let's take this away from John's Persona, giving him a 25. We definitely don't want that, so...
Making Up Attribute Points
We want John to have a high Persona, but right now, we're at 25, which actually would make him really quite antisocial and lousy at personal interactions with others. This is not at all what we want. We envision John as having about 60 Persona, which means that we need to give him about 35 more points. He already has a ridiculously high Willpower, but we want it kind of high, so let's take 5 away from that. We can take 5 away from his Fortitude and Faith, too, which puts us at needing to make up 20 more points. His Dexterity is really high, but it might be a bit too high. Let's take ten away from that, giving us only ten more points we need to make up. Let's just leave that for now (we'll make it up with some Advantages later on).
That leaves John looking like this:
|STR: 35||INT: 75|
|AGL: 35||WLP: 85|
|DEX: 55||FTH: 45|
|REF: 50||FOC: 55|
|FOR: 35||PSY: 10|
|LCK: 10||PER: 60|
Here is John's attribute table. We are currently short ten points, which we will make up for using Advantages.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Starting now, we have 100 points to spend on skills, but first we need to take Advantages and Disadvantages. We need to start right away with two ranks of Exceptional to make up for the extra attribute points we were left over with. They cost ten points each, which rings us down to 80 points. Let's get all our Advantages first, so we know how many points we need to make up.
First, being proficient at Sleight-of-Hand and magic tricks, we need to give John Ambidexterity, which costs 15 points, so now we're at 65. Next, we think John should be fairly well-known for his magic acts, and so we decide on Celebrity. Looking in the description, we see a Local Celebrity only requires one rank of this advantage to be taken, which costs 15 points. John is now at 50 points. We think he'd be fairly Charismatic, which would cost 5 points, and due to his acts he probably gets a lot of information from is crowd beforehand by Eavesdropping, which costs 5, so now we're at 40 points. We think John would probably also be prettyQuick Witted, which costs 15 and knocks us down to 25 points. Lastly, and most importantly, we're going to give him the ESPER-specific Advantage Magician, which gives him the ability to use magick.
Unfortunately, Magician costs 40 points, which puts us at -15 points. We at the very least need to be at zero by the time we finish making this character, and we still need to have points so we can buy skills for him. Because of this, we start looking at the Disadvantages so we can get some of the points we bought Advantages with back.
We want John to be the classic good guy, so Chivalrous looks good. It is worth 5 points, so we're at -10. We see him also as a kind of Sam Spade-ish character, too, constantly smoking and drinking, so we'll have a bit of fun and give him Hangovers From Hell. Only worth 5 points, this gets us to -5. We still have a way to go if we want to buy any skills. Having practiced true Magick, he's sure to have seen his fair share of terrible, demonic entities, so lets give him a bout of Insomnia, worth 10 points, which at least gets us over the hump and brings us to +5 points to spend on skills. Part of his magickal experience could be Lucid Dreaming, which makes having nightmares dangerous for him, and which gives him 10 more points for a total of 15. While we're at it, lets make life difficult for poor John when he does get some sleep and give him some Night Terrors, worth 20 points for a total of 35. Finally, it would probably be pretty cool for John to be an Unwilling Medium. That would not only definitely add a whole layer to his character, but it's also worth 20 points, giving him a total of 55 points to spend on skills.
And here's the final table of John's Advantages and Disadvantages:
|Exceptional (2 ranks)||Chivalrous|
|Ambidexterity||Hangovers from Hell|
|Quick Witted||Unwilling Medium|
We'll start by picking out some skills we think John would have: Ancient Manuscripts, Area Knowledge, Captivate, Deception, Etiquette, Fast Talk, Handgun, Language, Lie Detection, Listen, Mythology, Socializing, and Tact for regular skills, and Demonology, Divination, Occultism, andSympathetic Magick for ESPER-specific skills. First off, we need to figure out which skills to focus on for John. We'll go with Captivate, Deception, Fast Talk, Language, Demonology, Divination, Occultism, and Sympathetic Magick. All the skills can be set to Rank 1 (there are 17 of them, for a total of 17 points), and then we put all the others at Rank 2 so we remember which ones we want to develop. This costs 2 points each, and there are 8 of these skills, so it costs 16 more points, for a total of 33. Now we decide which ones to raise up to Rank 3... so we choose Captivate, Fast Talk, Demonology, and Sympathetic Magick. This costs 3 points each, and there's four of them, so it costs a total of 12 points, adding up to 45. John's Sympathetic Magick skill will be his most important skill, so we're going to raise it up to Rank 4 for four points and then to Rank 5 for five points. This equals nine points, which when added to our total gives us 54. We have one more point to spend! We might as well get an extra skill with it at Rank 1. Let's work with his Unwilling Medium disadvantage and give him Parapsychology... the ghosts are attracted to him because he is one of the few mortals who understands them. That puts us at 55 points, and we're done!
There is one other thing we need to look at regarding John's skills. He has Area Knowledge and Language, both of which require a specialization. We'll give John Area Knowledge of his hometown, Chicago, and we'll give him Latin as his language, since he's a magician and all. So here's John's skill lineup:
Area Knowledge (Chicago)
We already know that John's primary method of spellcasting is Sympathetic magick. Now we just need to know what type of spells he can cast. Looking at the Starting Spells page, we see that he should be able to use a number of spell effects equal to ten percent of his Intellect score, rounded down. With an Intellect of 75, that means John can start with 7 spell effects known. Also, it says there that every time you raise one of your spellcasting skills 5 ranks, you get one additional. John has his Sympathetic Magick skill at 5, which means he gets one more spell effect for a total of eight. He looks over the Spell Effects list and chooses:
- Alter Mental State
- Alter Perception
- Bind Intent
- Depose Will
- Protection (from harmful intentions)
Fleshing Him Out and Gearing Him Up
Now it's time to finalize John's character. We've already talked about making him an average guy, so we'll give him an average height and weight: 5'10" and 158 pounds. He has blue eyes and brown hair, and he's a Talbot, which makes him of English origin.
As far as what he normally has on him, we talk to the GM for a bit, who tells us that he'll allow John to start with a pocketwatch that was his father's. As long as he holds it in his hand, all magick or Luck rolls get a +1 bonus. This is the only thing it makes sense for John to have that would be special or give him a bonus in any way. All of our discussion with the GM about giving him an enchanted handgun fail miserably! He takes the clothes on his back (which he writes down in detail on his character sheet), his dad's watch, a (sadly regular) handgun in a shoulder holster under his trenchcoat, and his wallet. We add in a pack of cigarettes, a Zippo lighter, a flask of whiskey, and a special coin he uses for magic tricks. The GM is okay with all of this, and so John is ready to go.
The party has just finished making a group of ESPER characters. One by one they run them by the GM, who approves each of them while taking notes to remind him later of the aspects of these characters that could best be used to make the story more exciting and immersive for each of them. First we have Preston Blake, an ex-surgeon who accidentally killed a patient because of the voices in his head. This drove him to madness, near-suicide, and eventually caused him to pack one small bag and go to live on the streets in Chicago.
Next, we have Kurt Kates, "Jammer" to anyone who knows him. He's originally from the Australian outback, where he used to run safaris for anyone rich enough to pay him to hunt monsters. On one of these outings, he was bit by a werewolf, and now on the full moon he becomes the very creature that he used to hunt. He lives on a seaplane wherever he can find to moor it, along with his 12-foot pet Python, Wally. He met Dr. Frank Haversham-Johnson, head of ESPER's Orlando, FL branch, while Dr. J's team was investigating suspicious werewolf activity. Dr. J. helped him to recover and, while unable to heal his Lycanthropy, he helped Jammer recover his humanity.
Rocket is a huntress, a girl who grew up alone on the vampire-infested streets of Chicago. She learned early how to protect herself, and soon began protecting others as well. She's also a self-taught computer hacker.
Jammer and Rocket met Preston on a mission to Rocket's home turf and brought him to Dr. J, who helped him as well. Today, Jammer and Preston are best friends and partners on every mission.
Finally, we have John Talbot, whom you've met already. He was just discovered by ESPER and this is his first mission for them and his first time meeting the other characters.
The GM tells the players that they have been called together by Dr. Johnson for a briefing. They play through their discussion, which we'll summarize here for you: it seems as though there have been reports of some of Chicago's homeless going missing. While this is not something a mundane police force would be too interested to look into, ESPER is always on the lookout for things which seem as though there could be a more sinister reason behind. So, the team is to investigate but not get directly involved without approval. Jammer is a bit Brash, though, so this may not wind up going according to plan.
The team boards Jammer's seaplane at 7 PM, hoping to arrive by about 10 PM. John is a bit bothered by the giant snake in the plane with them, but Jammer assures him it will be okay.
Jammer lands in Lake Michigan at around 10:10 PM, and the crew disembarks ready to begin the investigation.
Basic Game Mechanics
The GM has planned a little bit of havoc right at the beginning to set the team on edge, and possibly against each other. While the guys don't have much of a problem with water, Rocket has a slight phobia. Thus, while everyone else has no problem getting out of the plane, he decides Rocket's shaky nerves are going to force her to have to roll to do anything on the lake.
GM: Let's start out like this: just to see if you can even bring yourself to get out of the plane in the first place, I need you to roll Willpower.
Rocket: My Willpower is 65, so this shouldn't be too much of a problem. (rolls) I got a 51!
GM: OK, because you rolled equal to or less than your Willpower score, I'm going to let you get out of the plane, but there's a long pier ahead of you, and just getting down from the plane onto that pier is going to give you a hassle.
Rocket: (sigh) I'm ready.
GM: As you're getting down from the plane, slowly and carefully, you feel the plane start to shift a little bit in the water. You become very unsteady. First, I want you guys to roll Focus and see if you notice she's having a problem.
John: (rolls) 53 out of 55.
GM: That's a Poor result, since it is within ten percent less than your Target number. You may see her reach out and steady herself from the corner of your eye, but you really don't think anything of it.
Preston: (rolls) 93 out of 60. Damn.
GM: Yeah, because you rolled higher than your Target number, that's a failure. You don't notice anything.
Jammer: (rolls) I got a 3 out 65.
GM: That's within ten percent of your Target number, so it's an Excellent result! You definitely notice her starting to falter.
Did we mention Jammer is an asshole?
Jammer: Okay. I keep walking.
GM: Sorry, Rocket, it's up to you. Roll Agility.
Rocket: (rolls) 37 out of 60.
GM: Since that's higher than half your target number, but not within ten percent less than it, it's a Fair result. However, I'm going to reduce it one rank due to your Phobia negatively effecting you. That makes your success rate Poor.
Jammer: What the hell. Do I have time to reach out and grab her?
GM: You guys are all still pretty close, you haven't spread out too far yet. I'll say yes. Make a Reflexes roll first, though, to make sure you can do it in time.
Jammer: (rolls) 20 out of 50.
GM: That's higher than ten percent of your number, but less than half, so it's a Good result. I'm going to say that because you got an Excellent to your Focus roll and willingly walked away that you were ready to try to catch her if you needed to, so I'll give you a bonus of one rank to that. It's an Excellent.
Assisting and Detracting Rolls
GM: Because that roll was an Excellent, I'm going to use it for you as an Assisting Roll for the attempt to catch Rocket. Go ahead and roll on your Agility to see if you can catch her.
Jammer: Can I add my Catch skill?
GM: Not really, that's more of a Combat skill, for catching attacks.
Jammer: Okay. (rolls). I got a Good result.
GM: All right. Since your Assisting Roll was an Excellent, that will give you a bonus of +2. That pushes you up into Exceptional success. You pretty much can do anything you want.
Jammer: I sweep her up and pull her into a Fred Astaire dance-move that ends with a dip for a kiss.
GM: Jammer, she refuses to return your kiss.
Jammer: I drop her into the water.
The whole party is mad at Jammer now, which is pretty much what the GM was hoping for.
Preston: I try to help, and I'm gonna yell at Jammer to do the same. "Dammit, Jammer, get yo ass over here and help!"
Jammer: I push Preston out of the way and put my hand out to help Rocket.
Rocket: I grab it and try to pull him in.
GM: Okay, make a Strength roll. Since you're in the water, it's going to be a little harder for you, so I'm imposing a Poor Difficulty Rating.
Rocket: (rolls) I rolled an Excellent, but I guess with the Difficulty Rating that makes it a Good.
GM: Okay, Jammer, make a Strength roll. You'll lose one rank because of her Opposing Roll.
Jammer: I got a Poor. (frowns, then perks up) Oh, I've got Balance as an Advantage. Does that help any?
GM: How many ranks?
GM: So that raises your result by two ranks. It's a Good, and you stand your ground while she unsuccessfully tugs on your hand.
Jammer: I let her go again.
Preston: I can swim. I dive in to get her. Jammer is going to pay for this.
GM: Okay, go ahead and roll your Agility with your Swimming skill ranks added in.
Preston: I have an Agility of 45, and three ranks in Swimming.
GM: Those three ranks are worth five points each, for a total of fifteen. Adding that to your Agility, you have a Target number of 65. Roll on it.
Preston: (rolls) I got a Good.
GM: Okay then, without much of a problem you are able to pul her up to safety.
Rocket: I give Jammer a piece of my mind! "Jammer, how dare..."
GM: Sorry, but you just were thrown into something that you are Phobic of. I could see you trying to pull Jammer in, since you would probably be clawing helplessly at anyone who extended a hand to you... But right now you're too out of things to yell at Jammer.
Rocket: He's lucky. (she shoots Jammer a dirty glance)
GM: You guys all are recovering from what just happened. I want to see exactly how bad Rocket got messed up from her encounter with her phobia. How many ranks do you have in Phobia?
Rocket: Just one.
GM: Okay. I'm going to give that a Fear rating of 70 for you. (rolls). The Fear Factor is a Good rank. Make a Psyche roll.
Rocket: (rolls) Fair.
GM: Okay, so, we're taking away one rank of that because of your Phobia, making it a Poor. That only reduces your Fear Factor by one, to Fair. Looking at the Fear Factor table, that means you are paralyzed with fear for 3d10 turns. Roll.
Rocket: (rolls) I got 8.
GM: So you're paralyzed with fear for eighty seconds, which is one round and part of another. That's going to be a total of 6 Psyche you lose.
Rocket: Grrrr. (marks down her temporary Psyche loss on her character sheet)
Preston: The rest of us are going to wait around with Rocket and make sure she's okay.
Jammer: Speak for yourself. We've got a mission.
John: You're the one who caused this!
Jammer: So that's why I'm the one who's gonna go scout ahead so the rest of you can catch a breather.
GM: You're going to go on ahead?
Meanwhile, back at the camp, as Jammer goes off ahead to scout and atone for what he's done, Preston and John watch over Rocket.
John: If I were to cast Alter Mental State on Rocket, it might take the whole eight turns to cast, but will that heal her Psyche loss?
GM: I'll say yes, since you can take away the cause of that Psyche damage. Go ahead and give it a try if you want.
Figuring Out Spell Point Cost for Different Methods
John: (Looking over the Energy Charts to find out how much energy this is going to cost him) I'm going to cast the spell by touching her on the shoulder. Since my range is Touch, that will only cost one point. She's a normal human, so her size is 1. That means it will cost five energy points for that. The effect will be instant, so no points for duration.
GM: Actually, I'm going to make you have it carry on for eight turns, otherwise, she'll lapse right back into it.
John: Okay, then. Eight turns is eight points, that's a total of fourteen spell points I need to raise.
GM: Wait a second...
John: Oh, wait. I'm using Sympathetic Magick. That's not how it works.
GM: Rocket, how much Willpower do you have?
John: Dammit. Makin' it tough on me.
GM: You heard 'er, John. 55 energy points required.
Raising Spell Points
John's chosen type of magick use is Sympathetic Magick. Looking over the energy requirements, he sees that the method of raising spell points for Sympathetic Magick is simply to perform the action of attuning his instrument to his intended target. John has decided that his chosen method of casting Sympathetic Magick will be through cigarette smoke (although he is not limited to only this: it simply means that this is what he will use most of the time). He lights up a cigarette and starts fanning the smoke into Rocket's face. He rolls Willpower, and gets a Good, which means every ten seconds he will raise three points of energy. It will thus take 180 seconds (or eight turns in combat, or three minutes) to raise the amount. Since this is a negligible time, the GM will make it pass by switching to Jammer for a minute.
GM: Jammer, you're walking along the pier, and you're nearly to the end. I'm going to need you to make a Focus roll.
Jammer: (rolls) Good.
GM: Okay then, you definitely see it. There seems to be a large crowd of people at the end of the pier moving along the waterside. It's a pretty foggy night, so you can't necessarily make it out, but they aren't moving in a regular way. They seem a little slower, and they aren't all walking like a group, just sort of falling over each other in the same direction.
Jammer: I should probably go back and tell the others.
GM: Yes, but you're Brash, so that's probably not what you would do.
Jammer: No, that's probably true. I take a closer look.
GM: And you seem to notice that it's even more disorganized and unnatural than you had expected. Some of them are just accidentally falling in the water, and no one seems to notice or try to help them. They just keep moving along.
Jammer: And the ones that fell in?
GM: When you try to look for them, you definitely don't notice them come back up.
Jammer: I get closer.
Jammer: Shut up! You aren't here. You aren't even conscious right now!
GM: You get closer. I'm going to switch back to John now, his spell energies are just about done being raised.
John: Okay, I'm going to take one big, really deep drag on my cigarette, then breathe it straight into her face, slowly so the cloud builds up. Then, I'm going to use my forefinger and draw a smiley face in it right over her face.
GM: Sounds about right. Make a Willpower roll, plus your bonus from Sympathetic Magick.
John: I got a Good result.
GM: Decent. So, Rocket, you snap out of it. You maintain the Psyche loss, but you feel doped up, like what just happened was only a dream you had right before waking up and stepping out of the plane.
Rocket: Okay, cool. I dust myself off and stand up.
GM: The spell was pretty strong. You feel just a tiny bit loopy.
Rocket: I thank John and give him a wet, dirty kiss.
John: "Well, thank you, ma'am."
Some things happen with Jammer, which the GM deals with by passing his player notes under the table. This is not necessary, but in a horror game like ESPER, it makes the tension a little higher, and definitely adds to the suspense when the other players hear Jammer say that he's got to run back to the party and tell them as soon as possible.
GM: Jammer comes running back to the party.
Jammer: "Guys, we got a big problem!"
John: "What is it?"
Rocket: (still a little loopy from the effects of the spell) "Hey, baby. Wanna kiss?"
Jammer: "Ab-so-lutely." I move in to kiss her.
Preston: "Dammit, Jammer, what the hell's happening?"
Jammer: "Oh, yeah. There's a whole mess o' zombies walking this way."
Preston, John, and Rocket: "What!!!???"
Jammer: "Yeah, they're walkin' along the street and one of 'em happened to see me. He started comin', and then a ton of 'em just kept followin'."
Preston: "Shit, man, what we gonna do?"
Jammer: "Well, I say it's clobberin' time." I pull out both my handguns.
Preston: "Well, how many of them are there?"
Jammer: (looks to GM, who answers the question. Jammer turns back to Preston). "There's only ten or so comin' this way, but there's gotta be hundreds of 'em walkin' along the street."
John: "From here we don't have anywhere to go but back to the plane."
Jammer: "All we've got to do is fight our way out."
Preston: "Easy for you to say. You're insane."
Jammer: I turn around and head back toward the street.
GM: You can see them start to break the fog. Several of them have fallen of the pier, it seems. There's only about five of them left.
Jammer: "Easy, peasy. Let's do this, guys!" I aim my gun.
GM: Okay, you guys are initiating this combat, so this round belongs to you, and Jammer is obviously up first.
Jammer: I take a shot at the one in the lead.
GM: You haven't really seen them quite yet, they're still shrouded in fog. Are you sure?
Jammer: I take a shot at the one in the lead.
GM: Okay. There's a couple of them in front. More specific.
Jammer: I take a shot at one that has someone behind him, so if he goes down, there's a chance the one behind him goes with.
GM: Good strategy. I assume you're shooting for the head.
Jammer: When do I ever NOT shoot for the head anyway.
GM: Well, that's going to be a -2 penalty, and I'm going to give you another rank's worth of penalty because of the fog. That's a -3 you're looking at.
Jammer: I'm going to take three extra turns to aim, then, to mitigate that penalty.
GM: There's three other members of your team, so when they're done, you're up. Rocket, you're going last because you're still a little bit in Loopy-Land right now, but that will wear off at the end of this round. I think John is a little spent after his spell, and Preston was just being his usual uppity self, so I'll say it's Preston's turn. Preston, John, Rocket, Jammer, that's the order for the rest of combat.
Preston: Hell, no. I'm screaming and heading back to the plane.
Jammer: "Shut the hell up, Preston! They're more likely to give us a pass and come straight after you if you're gonna be making so much damn noise!"
Preston: I stop screaming.
GM: You already worked yourself up into a mess. I'm not going to let you get off so easily. Make a Psyche roll.
Preston: Oh, no! My Psyche is only, like, 15.
GM: So you're pretty mentally frail. You've dealt with some creatures since you've been with ESPER, but for the most part, you've never had to deal with them before in your life up until the voices, and you could never overcome them. It makes perfect sense that you can't handle stuff like this. It's well within your character, otherwise you wouldn't have just started combat by running and screaming like a little girl.
Preston: (rolls) Failed.
GM: You can't stop screaming.
Preston: I'm clearly going to climb up into the plane and take cover then. Maybe scream into one of Jammer's stinky blankets.
GM: You do that. John?
John: I'm shooting.
GM: You haven't seen them yet. You aren't one hundred percent sure they really are zombies.
John: Good point. How close can I get and still be able to shoot if they are zombies?
GM: You'll probably need to get within fifty feet to be sure. That should be enough to still have time to fire, and that close the fog won't be a problem any more.
John: I move in.
John is about to encounter a creature for the first time, as is the rest of the party (except Jammer, who has already encountered them once and has four ranks in Fearless, which means he essentially doesn't need to make Fear rolls unless he encounters a true Horror.) Because of this, he'll need to make a Fear roll to see what his initial reaction is. After this, he won't need to make another one during this play session (for the zombies... if he encounters something else he will have to do another Fear roll).
GM: You get up to fifty feet from the crowd. It most certainly is zombies.
John: Great. I shoot.
GM: Not so fast. We need to make a Fear roll.
John: Dammit. My Psyche is less than Preston's.
GM: (rolls on the creature's Fear score. For a Zombu, this is 45. The result of this roll will be used for every other character.) Only a Poor. You might be good.
John: (rolls on Psyche) Failed.
GM: Okay, Poor minus nothing is Poor, so you are paralyzed with Fear for 1d10 turns. Roll 'em.
GM: So, paralyzed for two turns.
Jammer: Crap. Do I see this? If so, I'm switching my aim to the one closest to John.
GM: Two turns have passed already, so you'll lose that +2.
Jammer: It's okay. I'll take it so I don't lose any more time.
GM: Okay, so on your turn you'll be shooting with a -2 penalty. Rocket?
Rocket: I'll draw my gun and aim at one of them through the fog, until I see for sure that they're really zombies. Then I'll fire.
GM: Okay, Jammer. Fire.
Jammer is aiming at the zombie closest to John. His turn has come up after aiming for three turns, but his aim changed, so he has only been aiming for one turn, for a +1 bonus. However, the zombie is shrouded in fog, and he's aiming for the head, so that's a total of -3 in penalties. His +1 only mitigates a part of that, so now he has a -2 penalty.
Jammer: I shoot it in the head.
Jammer rolls against his Dexterity, which is 60, with bonuses due to his Handgun skill at Rank 5 gives him a target number of 85. He rolls a 20. This is higher than ten percent of his target number, but less than half, so it's a Good result. Unfortunately, subtracting his two ranks of penalty makes it a Poor result. The bullet does hit the zombie, and it does hit it in the head, but it's just a glancing blow that pings off the creature's exposed skull. This is the result of the attack itself, however, and not the damage done. The gun does Excellent base damage, and the success of the attack acts as an Assisting roll to that base damage. Thus, a Poor result (which when used as an assisting roll gives a penalty of -1) attached to a base damage of Excellent makes it Good damage.
GM: You do Good Puncture damage to the Zombie's head. It's skull cracks and it falls over at John's feet, and the one behind it stumbles over it. The others are bypassing John while these two struggle to stand and get at him. The three walking ones are taking their whole turn to get back to the rest of you. Jammer went, then one of the zombies goes and spends his whole turn walking toward Jammer. John, you wake up from your freakout.
Jammer: Hold on. I'm just going to keep firing at them.
GM: So, laying covering fire?
GM: Okay, Jammer is covering you guys. How many bullets are left in your gun?
GM: Okay, every turn for nine more turns, since the enemy are all in the middle of the battlefield, we'll resolve that. John?
John: I push the one on top, that was behind the one that got shot, into the water.
GM: I'll call it a coup de grace. He's not able to defend, or do anything. Let me check for zombies in the line of fire real quick. (rolls Luck for every zombie in the field, takes the worst failure). Roll attack on one of the zombies, Jammer.
Jammer: (rolls). Good result.
GM: I'm not even going to take mechanics into account on that one, he's down. We have two left, and they both spend their turns walking toward Jammer. Instead of rolling Luck, I'm just going to say that you get a chance to shoot each of them on their turns. Roll two attacks.
Jammer: I got a Fair and a Good.
GM: One of them goes down, the other has a hole in his neck, but it isn't stopping him.
(Note at this point how the GM is hazing over some of the damage rules to make this encounter run faster. It isn't meant to be a massive battle, for one, and secondly, it's just a scene in the middle of a story, so rather than stopping to maximize rules usage, the GM is just making sure that the story is running according to the result of the rolls without bothering with all the ins and outs of the damage mechanics. He's also moving through the covering fire fast because it lets Jammer take a lot of turns, and he doesn't want the other players sitting there getting bored).
GM: Rocket, at this point, the last zombie is close enough to be sure that it is, in fact, a zombie.
Rocket: I shoot it.
Rocket: (doing so) I got a Fair success.
GM: The bullet hits the zombie in the side of the face. It tears of quite a bit of its jaw, but it is still moving straight toward Jammer as though nothing happened. Jammer, take your fourth shot.
Jammer: (rolls) I missed.
GM: John, back to you.
John: I'm still a little freaked out, I think. I'm going to run around and make sure each of the zombies is really dead.
GM: Okay. I'm going to say you can check one each round, including this one. The zombie that Jammer shot first, the one that tripped up the other one that you pushed into the water, is dead for real. Jammer, shot five.
Jammer: (rolls) Dammit, I missed again!
GM: The zombie moves closer to Jammer. He's about ten feet away, and he'll be there on the next turn. If you miss him again.
Jammer: (rolls) My dice hate me today. Poor.
GM: The shot hits him in the shoulder. He doesn't seem to care. Obiously, all this missing is psyching you out. John, the next zombie you check is really dead. Rocket?
Rocket: I'm going to shoot it. (rolls) I got a Good.
GM: Okay, we're counting that as a kill. His head jerks forward and he falls at Jammer's feet.
Jammer: You beat 'em, and they still fall at MY feet. Y'all can't win with Jammer on the team.
Rocket: You're the one who missed every shot!
GM: John, while Jammer and Rocket are arguing, you check another zombie. How exactly are you doing this?
John: I guess I'm just nervously kicking them in the ribs, trying to roll them over.
GM: Roll Reflexes.
John: (rolls) Fair.
GM: This one is alive. It jumps for you and grabs your leg, which it gets. Split second decisions here, guys. If it bites him, everything is lost. Roll Reflexes, both of you.
Rocket: Also Good.
GM: Okay, you both get a chance to shoot. Go ahead and roll.
GM: Okay, Jammer, your shot hits it in the head and destroys it for good. Rocket, you stand a chance to hit John, so I'm gonna need John to fire Luck.
John: Argh, anything but Luck! I've only got 10! (rolls) Look, I failed that one.
GM: The bullet hits you in the thigh, doing Good Puncture damage, and you take 3 Fatigue damage to your Fortitude. Any rolls that require that leg from now on receive -3 ranks penalty, and you're going to walk with a pronounced limp at 3/4 your regular speed.
John: Argh! Rocket!
Rocket: I was trying to save you!
GM: Everybody roll Focus, including Preston.
Everyone rolls. Jammer and Preston get Good results. John gets a Poor, which the GM reduces to a failure since he's both arguing and recently injured. Rocket rolls a Fair, but it's reduced to Poor because she's arguing.
GM: Preston, from the plane, now that you've started to relax a bit, you notice two fast moving, slightly larger forms move out of the crowd and break through the fog towards your friends. Jammer, you see this as well, only from closer, so you can see that they are clearly zombies. They're just... different. Rocket, you notice Jammer noticing something. Preston, you're up.
Preston: Did I notice John get shot?
GM: I'm gonna say yes.
Preston: Okay, I'm gonna start running toward them, yelling warnings.
GM: Okay, you do that, and John and Rocket's attention is drawn toward you.
Preston: Crap. "Turn around!"
GM: What's your Agility?
GM: That means you can run 45 feet per turn, and they're about 300 feet away from you, so it will take 7 turns to get to them.
Jammer: I'm going to aim and shoot. This gun can fire up to three bullets per turn. I have three bullets left. I'm gonna unload my clip into them, two into one and one into the other.
GM: Okay. Three rolls, the third one with a -1 penalty.
Jammer: (rolls three times) Good, Fair, and Good.
GM: Okay, so that last one is at -1, so it's a Fair. Also, they're still in the fog, so -1 to each of those shots. The first creature gets hit in the shoulder and a grazing shot in the side. The one behind it, you can barely see where you hit, but you don't think it was a good shot. They're getting closer, and your gun is empty.
Jammer: I'm going to throw my gun down, pull out my knife, and get ready.
GM: Preston is still running. Rocket and John, you guys are just now making out Preston telling you to turn around as he runs.
Rocket and John turn around, make Focus rolls to see if they can figure out what they're looking at, and then make Fear rolls modified because the creature is rushing at them and is almost there. John is terrified for 6 turns and Rocket for 8. Preston, at top speed, will take 6 turns to get to them, but the creatures will be there on their next turn. Jammer is alone, but he has his trusty knife.
So, Jammer is alone against the two creatures, but he draws his knife and moves in to protect his friends. The GM decides that since the creatures are running, but Jammer is ready for them, that they will be able to move up to him but Jammer will get the first attack. The first zombie gets to Jammer, and it's his turn.
Jammer: I flip the knife around in my hand and swing across the creature's face. (rolls). Good result.
GM: The creature is going to dodge. Since it was just running it gets a -1 penalty to the dodge, and... (rolls), he got a Fair, so that's a Poor. He gets a -1 penalty to the dodge, so that means you get +1 to your Good, giving you an Excellent. The knife has Poor base damage, which means it does 1 rank of damage, and your Excellent result gives it +2, so that's three ranks of damage. You slash him right in the face and tear a section of his cheek out, leaving his mouth open and gaping. Of course, being a zombie, this doesn't really affect him at all.
Jammer: Of course.
GM: He swings for you with both hands.
Jammer: As my defensive action, can I grapple the hands.
GM: Sure. Roll Dexterity, and he'll roll Agility for his attack.
Jammer: I have the Catch skill. Does that count?
GM: Yes. Go ahead and apply it.
Jammer: Good result.
GM: And the zombie rolls. (rolls) Fair result. So, you succeed over him, but not by much. He bears down on you and the two of you begin to struggle. The other zombie arrives, but stands his ground while you wrestle with his buddy. That's three turns. One more round and John will wake up and Preston will be here.
Jammer: "Hurry up, guys! John, snap out of it!"
Preston: "I'm comin' Jammer!"
Jammer: I'm going to throw myslef backward on to the ground and try to flip the zombie over me into the water.
GM: Okay. Let's see, I think we'll call that Agility for the action, and then a Strength roll.
Jammer: (rolls) I got a Fair on the Agility. (rolls) And a Good on the Strength.
GM: Okay, so you go down to the ground, still grappling the zombie. (rolls) The zombie failed his Agility roll, so you do manage the flip. I'm not going to bother rolling on Strength, since he has a low Strength already and you got a Good result on that. You easily flip him backwards and he splashes into the water. It will take him, I'm gonna say about ten turns to figure out how to get out of the water, so you've got some time there. The other zombie, however, leaps on to you and swipes a hand across your face. Since he's on top of you completely, you don't really get a chance to defend. (rolls) Fair, and his claws are Poor sharp weapons, you you take one rank of Sharp damage to your face. It's just some scratches.
Jammer: I try to push him off.
GM: Strength roll.
Jammer: (rolls) Good result.
GM: No problem, then. You push him right off.
Jammer: Okay, I'm going to jump up to my feet. Do I still have time to make an attack?
GM: No, but I'll call this a new round with you at the top, so go ahead. As soon as you're done, John will wake up and then Preston will arrive.
Jammer: I'm going to try to kick it into the water.
Jammer: (rolls) Poor.
GM: You kick him, but you wind up getting him in a mushy area and his body just kind of gives way under your foot, rather than pushing him anywhere. There's no result.
GM: John, you shake your head and bring yourself together.
John: Can I do anything this round, or am I too shaken up?
GM: You can move around, get up and back away, but for just this round I'm going to say that you aren't "together" enough yet to attack.
John: Okay, I'm just going to stand up then, and face the zombie and back up a couple steps.
GM: You do that. Preston?
Preston: I'm going to stop about ten feet away from the zombie, and I'm going to take a pencil out of my pocket and throw it at him and scream "Hey, asshole, over here!"
GM: (rolls Willpower for the zombie and fails) The zombie looks at you and snarls, then starts moving toward you. Jammer, you're up, then Rocket is going to wake up.
Jammer: I throw my knife at the back of his head.
GM: Okay. Do you have the Throwing skill?
Jammer: I do. (rolls) Ah! Poor result!
GM: Okay, don't worry about that, you get a +1 because the zombie's combat focus is on Preston, so it's a Fair at least. The knife lodges in its head, but slightly to the side, so the brain isn't quite completely destroyed yet. The zombie keeps moving toward Preston.
Preston: "Uh, Jammer, help me out, bro!"
Jammer: "Keep walkin' backwards, he'll follow you and I'll just ruin his life from behind."
Preston: That's what I do.
GM: Okay, Rocket's turn. You come to your senses, and see all this going on about ten feet away from you.
Rocket: I scoot back up to the side of the pier, and ready myself to make a move as soon as I have some clarity.
GM: Okay, that should be by your next turn. Jammer?
Jammer: I run up, grab the handle of my knife, and jerk it around inside the thing's head... Scramble its brains a bit.
GM: I'm not going to require a roll on that. You do it and the zombie falls down, twitching. Right about this time, Rocket, you feel something grab your leg from the water.
Rocket: I scream and start kicking.
GM: You do that. It's the other zombie Jammer already threw in the water. He can't get back up, so he's gonna pull you in with him.
Jammer: I'm gonna run over and try to free her.
Preston: Me too.
John: And me.
GM: Jammer, you first.
Jammer: I hack at the arm. (rolls) Fair.
GM: Okay, you do two ranks of sharp damage to the arm. It has 40 Fortitude, so it can take 4 ranks. It also takes 2 Fortitude damage from the knife and 6 from your 60 Strength. John?
John: I stomp on the arm. What do I need to roll for that?
GM: I'll call it a coup de grace. How much Strength do you have?
GM: Okay, so, three more Fortitude damage and one rank of Crushing damage.
Preston: I'll stomp, too. I have 40 Strength.
GM: Okay, so, four more Fortitude damage and another rank of Crushing damage.
Jammer: I stab again. (rolls) Argh! How could I have possibly failed!
GM: It isn't really a fail. You get +1 rank because it's focused on Rocket. That's still only a Poor, which gives your damage a -1 penalty. So your knife hits, but it hits bone at an angle and slides off, not doing any real damage.
John stomps one more time, adding another rank of crushing damage. When Preston does it, the arm takes the final rank of crushing damage it can support.
GM: You hear the arm break, and from the two places where Jammer cut it the arm rips and falls apart. The zombie falls back into the water, and its arm is left helplessly scrabbling along the pier.