[In the Lab] Notes on Dead Weight


A long time ago, I came up with an rpg premise that seemed to resonate with a lot of people. There's one tower sanctuary left after a zombie apocalypse. Parkour runners loot the surrounding ruins while trying trying not to get weighed down. If you're too slow, the zombies get ya.

John Harper came up with a cool Apocalypse World hack for the setting and it's been dormant since. People still ask about it occasionally, though. I'm just not a role-playing game designer, so if I were to revisit this world, it'd have to be as a more tactical board or card game. So here are some thoughts on Dead Weight as such!

At it's core, it's basically a hack of Bomb's Away! Everyone begins with one runner card. There are three decks of cards on the table, containing either DISTANCE cards or ITEM cards.

On your turn, you roll one die and strike that result from your runner's card. Then, you can draw a new card from the first deck. You can keep rolling as many times as you like, each time drawing a new card. On your second roll, you can draw from the first or second deck. On your third roll, you can draw from the first, second or third deck. If a deck ever runs out, you cannot draw from it. (In other words, that part of city has been looted.)

DISTANCE cards get you more time in the city. Instead of striking a result on your runner's card, you can strike the result on the distance card.

ITEM cards are what you can use to buy new resources, hire new runners, and equip better tools. Eventually, you can buy admittance passage to higher levels of the tower. While carrying an ITEM, you must roll an additional die and strike that result as well.

BUSTING: If you roll a result that is completely struck out, you BUST. You lose all the loot and get one result on your runner's card permanently struck. (This is why you eventually want to hire more runners, too.)

TURNING BACK: You can always turn back and cash in your items. When you do so, place them face down in a discard pile.

NEW AREAS: When a deck runs out, place the discard pile face down as a fourth deck. This is a new, previously unexplored distant part of the city, ready to be looted. Discard piles continuously become new parts of the city in this way, so you might have a fifth deck, a sixth deck, and so on.

The first player to buy admittance to the top level wins.

That's the loose idea, anyhow. For a minute there, I thought this would be more of a dexterity game, but I couldn't settle on a way to actually make that work in play without that aspect totally overshadowing all the other tactical elements.
Daniel Solis
Art Director by Day. Game Designer by Night.