The Zombie Rights Campaign Blog

‘Legend’ Makers Respond to the ZRC’s Concerns

As discussed in our previous post on the subject, the ZRC had serious concerns about the new, otherwise highly enjoyable looking tabletop gaming project ‘Legend’ from Rule of Cool.

So we sent them a link to our blog post on the subject and asked for a response. We didn’t have to wait long. Here it is, in its entirety, with a ZRC response to their answers afterward:

Hello John,

I was pleased to see the Zombie Rights Campaign taking an interest in Legend. As you know, the plight of the noble zombie has been foisted upon them unfairly by decades, if not centuries, of abuse at the hands of Romeros and player characters and MMORPGs. We at Rule of Cool Games understand the mistreatment and abuse that zombies have suffered and work to rectify matters. As your review noted, we have extended our core rules to include characters of undead backgrounds, though I would not characterize their relegation to a latter section of the book as ostracism or segregation, as you have. Rather, we consider it a form of affirmative action: we recognize the strong, thriving and unique culture of the undead, dragons and other such entities, and have duly crafted for them whole tracks that better portray their rich heritage in a way that “assimilated” peoples such as elves and orcs no longer express.

Regarding the supposed “parasitic” characterization of the undead, I would note that we as human beings are equally parasitic on the energy of the sun, in all of its myriad forms. The specific ability of the undead to draw on energy is called out because of their capacity to apply it in an extraordinary fashion, above and beyond the simple dietary functions of basal sustenance.

On the point regarding ghouls in Legend, I am told that they represent the Dungeons & Dragons ghoul, which was explicitly an altogether different breed of undead, a gluttonous entity bent on devouring human flesh. I regret that this does leave zombies unrepresented officially, but the campaign for their inclusion is not over yet. As can be seen on all copies of Legend at present, our core rulebook is still in its beta stage and content is constantly being created, revised and reorganized for the full release. I have forwarded the concerns of the Zombie Rights Campaign to the design team and am confident that they will see represententation of zombies in a capacity beyond that of shambling mook as a brave step forward.

If you have any specific suggestions for the promotion of zombie rights as pertains to Legend, I would be more than happy to hear out your ideas.

Most Zombie Friendly Regards,

Laird Smith
Publicity Director
Rule of Cool Games

First of all this is a remarkably thoughtful and constructive reply, and one that the ZRC is hopeful we can build upon.

Second, as regards the Ghoul/Zombie issue: I’m not sure we can let ‘Legend’ off completely. As Mr. Smith notes, there are no Zombies, at least labelled as such, in ‘Legend’; these Ghouls, however, conform to many of the most negative and harmful stereotypes of the Differently Animated.

On the other hand, it could be a lot worse, and often is, in the world of tabletop gaming. Indeed, judging from the D&D/D20 Ghoul, the Legend version of a Ghoul is a huge step forward; in D20 at least, a Ghoul is a being animated solely by hunger, possessing no unique personality, individual skills, or special abilities.

They are definitely not player character material.

Finally, the larger discussion over racial assimilation and parasitism is interesting, and in that regard a lot of it comes down to emphasis and wording. Yes, Dragons are in the same racial track category, and it’s hard to argue that Dragons are an oppressed minority here. But then again, look at the framing around the two groups. The Undead get lots of dark imagery and pejorative language that is hard to equate to the near-idolization of Dragons in fantasy themed recreational activities.

Indeed, Dragons come off pretty well in Legend. The Undead? Well..

Page 82:

3rd Circle – Lord of the DamnedSU: As a master of the forces of undeath, you can grant the mixed blessing of undeath to a fallen creature.

4th Circle – The Blight SpreadsSLA: You gain a powerful attack that cripples your foes:

(note for our readers: SU and SLA are suffixes denoting the type of ability; I left the original formatting in the interest of pedantic levels of accuracy for direct quotes)

Now, why are the Undead ‘damned’, anyway? That’s a pretty harsh theological judgment to apply so broadly. And why would anyone want to characterize Undeath as a ‘Blight’, anyway? Especially since in Legend, Undeath can only be ‘spread’ willingly to a Living subject, or otherwise to a corpse.

In other words, it doesn’t spread like a disease at all. People either opt-in, or they get a free extra life after they died, and they can do with that what they please. Hardly a bad proposition if you ask me.

Now, how do Dragons fare in their presentation? Well…

Page 79:

3rd Circle – True DragonEX: This marks your transition from your previous form to the dragon you were meant to be.

4th Circle – DignityEX: All conditions and [Binding] effects have their durations reduced by one [Round] when affecting you. If a condition would normally persist for an [Encounter], it instead lasts eight [Rounds]. Permanent conditions are unaltered.

Yes, the ‘dragon you were meant to be’, and they get ‘Dignity’ as an actual ability no less.

It’s worth noting that one other common trait of Dragons and the Undead in ‘Legend’ is that they’re very hard to permanently kill; their final racial ability, the ultimate expression of their power, comes down to free revival under certain conditions from death and defeat.

However the way this benefit is presented to the reader gets to the heart of the matter quite nicely, so, one last compare and contrast:

7th Circle – Great WyrmEX: You have grown in power, transcending the mortality of lesser beings. Whenever you die, if your body is destroyed or your heart is interred in the deep places of the earth, you are resurrected at the beginning of the next [Quest]. Many dragons opt to remove their hearts in order to better take advantage of this ability, a process that is inexplicably quite survivable for a Great Wyrm.

7th Circle – No RequiemSU: Heroes that manage to strike you down are doomed to frustration. Once per [Scene], if you are killed, you return to undeath after 1 [Round] with full hit points. You can delay your resurrection or choose not to return at all.

See? A Dragon who has ascended to the height of its power is a ‘Great Wyrm’, above ‘lesser beings’ but the Undead in a similar position receive ‘No Requiem’.

And don’t get me started on the obvious assumption that whoever struck your Undead character down was a ‘Hero’.

All matters of emphasis and language, I suppose, but words hurt! ‘Legend’ came so far toward a truly Zombie Friendly roleplaying experience, but these little jibes and put-downs, however unintentional they might have been, also have a cumulative effect. Players reading ‘Legend’ can hardly be faulted for assuming their Ghoul player character has to be a villain under these circumstances, and while it’s sad that Villain status is a step up from the usual ‘cannon fodder’, it’s also not something the Zombie Rights Campaign is going to accept lying down.

Food for thought, and we do appreciate the dialogue. I’m thinking of getting a game together myself and making an Undead character with the Vigilante track. Think Undead Power Ranger; a Zombie of Justice if you will. It’d help to counter the awful Zombie Antihero thing Marvel has been pushing on the public if nothing else.

Though I just realized that, with the summonable motorcycle and the costume that appears out of nowhere, an Undead Power Ranger might look a lot like Ghost Rider.

Hmm.

Undead Sailor Moon then?

………………

Reminder: You too can get, and perhaps condemn to the appropriate degree, ‘Legend’ now on a Pay-What-You-Want basis from Rule of Cool with all proceeds going to Child’s Play.

And if you’re in the Madison area, I might have an opening for a few Undead Sailor Scouts in the near future.


About The Author

The role of 'Administrator' will be played tonight by John Sears, currently serving as President of The Zombie Rights Campaign.

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