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Game: C+
From 407 reviews

All Flesh Must Be Eaten

Revised Edition

Contents

Publisher Description

All Flesh Must Be Eaten is a roleplaying game
set in a world of survival horror.
A world where the dead have come back from their graves.
You have no clue as to why they have returned...
but one thing is certain...



They crave living flesh!

 

In many respects, All Flesh Must Be Eaten is the 800 lbs. gorilla of the zombie space.  If you read online discussions of zombie RPGs you'll always find it mentioned (and heavily "upvoted"), and back in 2001 when it came out the game was nominated for Best RPG in the Origin Awards.  It also has an average score of 4.5  stars on Drive Thru RPG (with 73 customer reviews), and an even higher 4.8(!) stars on Amazon.com (from 48 reviews).

But of course, even the most popular RPG options aren't perfect for everyone, and in the case of AFMBE the game's biggest divider is its core rules.  The game's "Unisystem" of rules was first created in 2003 for CJ Carella's WitchCraft game, and then was later adapted (with a new "cinematic" version) to the the "Buffyverse" and Army of Darkness role-playing games.

Choosing Between Unisystem and D20 Modern [ edit ]

On the plus side, as a generic/universal system Unisystem can support a wide variety of settings, and this allows AFMBE to offer not just the standard "Night of the Living Dead" zombie setting, but also various other "dead worlds", such as ones with radioactive zombies, plant zombies, Nazi zombies, or alien zombies.

At the same time however, on RPG Geek AFMBE has a much lower score (6.74/10 from 84 ratings), and a quick review of the comments reveals why: "Yay for zombies, boo for system", "System got too simple at times", and "Got old quick, kind of like watching The Walking Dead did."  Or, as one Drive Thru RPG reviewer put it, "It is a very traditional task resolution system that runs smoothly, but lacks pizzaz."

Perhaps in recognition of this fact, the revised edition of the game includes an appendix which lets you play AFMBE using "D20 rules" (unofficially D20 Modern ... although the game is careful not to say that explicitly, since they didn't pay WotC a license fee).  While this appendix does provide assistance with conversion, it's not the same thing as having a fully converted game.

Because of this, while fans of D20 Modern will likely appreciate the conversion option, most other GMs will likely want to stick with the Unisystem rules that the game was originally based on.

All Flesh Must Be Eaten, Revised Edition - Rules SummaryCollapse

Character Creation [ edit ]

Characters in All Flesh Must Be Eaten use a point-buy system, but different characters get a different (unequal) amount of points. "Norms" (regular people) get the least, while "Survivors" (people with combat abilities) get the most.  "Inspired"  characters (ones with supernatural abilities) are in-between, but actually get a few less skill points than Norms.

Point-spending begins with attributes: Norms get fourteen points, while the other types each get twenty.  AFMBE attributes are essentially the same as in Dungeons and Dragons (AFMBE has Strength, Dexterity, Constitution and Intelligence), but Charisma and Wisdom have been replaced with Perception and Willpower.  Attributes range from 1 to 6 (with a 2 being average), and each point spent buys one level ... except level 6 (which costs three points).

Next come "Qualities", which are similar to D&D feats, providing various in-game benefits such as Fast Reaction Time or Photographic Memory.  Norms get only 5 points of qualities, Inspired get 10, and Survivors 15.

After picking qualities a character can optionally gain up to ten points, which can be spend on anything except attributes, by taking drawbacks.  Drawbacks include various options (eg. Cowardly or Paranoid) which limit the character's behavior in some way.

Finally all non-Inspired characters finish by buying skills, which cost 1 point per level until level 5 (and 3 points per level after that).  The game includes a lot of skills, and players can further buy specializations in a skill by spending a point (giving them a +2 bonus to that skill when the specialization applies).  Survivors get 35 skill points, Norms get 30, and Inspired characters get 25.

The final stage of creation is only for Inspired characters, as those characters have to select "metaphysic" powers, ie. miracles.  Such miracles cost 5 points each, with each character getting 15 points to spend.  There's a relatively small list of powers (in the core book at least), ranging from healing, to divine vision, to supernatural strength.

Core Mechanics [ edit ]

All Flesh Must Be Eaten offers several variant mechanics (such as a deck-based or completely dice-less options), but if you stick to the core rules every check is either a "Task" (which uses a skill and an attribute), or a "Test" (which only uses an attribute).  An example of a Task would be driving a car (Driving + Dexterity), while an example of a Test would be a fear check (which uses no skill, only the Willpower attribute).

To complete a Test/Task you roll a d10 and add the appropriate attribute and skill (or, in the case of a Test, the attribute times two).  If the result is nine or higher (after any other modifiers) the Test/Task succeeds.

If the d10 rolls a 10 it "explodes" with another d6 (ie. you add a d6's result to the 10 already rolled).  If that d6 rolls a 6 it too explodes, and if that d6 rolls a 6 it ... well you get the idea.  However, if the d10 rolls a 1 you instead subtract a d6, and if that d6 rolls a 1 it also explodes.

The game provides a table modifiers to assign based on the action's difficulty, and also provides a table to determine the degree of success (based on how far over 9 the character rolled), if warranted.

Combat [ edit ]

Initiative in All Flesh Must Be Eaten is determined by the Zombie Master (ie. GM), not by a die roll.  Basic instructions are provided (eg. ranged attacks before melee, thought-based supernatural attacks before ranged, surprise before anything else), but this ultimately it's a "ZM" decision.

Combat is arranged into 5 second turns.  A character can take a single action on their turn, or they can take a second at -2, a third at -4, and so on.  The only exception is that characters in melee combat can make both one melee attack and one defense action without penalty.

Melee attacks use the appropriate skill (Brawling, Martial Arts, or a weapon skill) plus Dexterity, and ranged attacks instead use a ranged weapon skill (plus Dexterity).  Melee attacks can be parried (using the appropriate melee skill plus Dexterity) or dodged (Dodge + Dexterity); ranged can't.

Ranged weapons get penalties or bonuses based on range (and do more damage at close range), and both types of attacks can suffer penalties from lighting.  Ranged weapons can fire multiple shots at increasing cumulative penalties: not only does this add damage, but the target of multiple shots has to make a Willpower roll to do anything except cower.

When a character is hit, if they are wearing armor they can make an armor check and reduce the amount of damage by the result.  After that, if there is any further damage and the character was shot, that damage is doubled.

Characters have a number of Life Points, and when damage reduces these down to 5 or less they start taking penalties to actions.  At 0 life points they are reduced to semi-consciousness.

A Great Zombie Game, Whatever Rules You Use [ edit ]

Although the last new product for All Flesh Must Be Eaten was released in 2013, Eden Studios released more than twenty products before that point.  Some offer supporting material (eg. there are two books of character archetypes), but most instead offer new worlds to explore, such as a dark fantasy zombie setting, a pirate setting, or a wild west setting.

That last option (from the Fistful o' Zombies supplement) actually offers a third way to play AFMBE, by using the rules from the Deadlands game ... although not even Deadlands uses those rules anymore (having switched to Savage Worlds).  And of course, for fans of generic systems such as GURPS or Tiny Living Dead, a fourth option is to adapt one of the "dark worlds" of AFMBE using that system.

Still, most gamers will want to stick to the core Unisystem rules, as they offer everything a Game Master ... sorry, a Zombie Master, could want, without any conversion work required.  And with so many different dark worlds to play in, those same core rules can remain relevant and interesting even through many zombie campaigns.

So if you're looking for a popular and well-rated game that let's you explore tons of different zombie settings (including the classic post-apocalyptic one), you must take a bite of look at All Flesh Must Be Eaten.