All Flesh Must Be Bundled

Although the C.J. Carella-designed Unisystem debuted in Witchcraft, and the Cinematic Unisystem version powered the likes of the Buffy and Angel RPGs, the former never caught the world on fire whilst the latter two, as licensed RPGs, could only last on the market as long as Eden Studios held onto the licence.

The perennial hit for Eden Studios as far as Unisystem goes, by all appearances, would seem to be All Flesh Must Be Eaten, the iconic zombie apocalypse RPG. Perhaps in part it was the beneficiary of good timing; originally released in 1999, it managed to hit the market just as the Resident Evil games were reminding people of how fun zombies are, and sufficiently soon before the likes of 28 Days Later and the remake of Dawn of the Dead put the zombie revival into high gear that when that cultural wave hit, there was already a healthy support line out there for the game.

Still, you can’t ascribe all its success to good timing – if it were a poor game there’s plenty of horror competition out there that could have happily knocked it off its perch. Luckily, the Bundle of Holding a while back offered an All Flesh bundle, so let’s take a look at the offerings there and see how well-preserved the meat here is…

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Magic and Mystery In a World Gone Mild!

I’ve not previously had much cause to look into C.J. Carella’s Witchcraft, despite the fact that it’s sat in my DriveThruRPG library for some reason. (I think they give you a free copy when you join DriveThru, or at least they did when I signed up.) Admittedly, it isn’t a game which has exactly set the gaming world on fire, but at the same time it isn’t entirely without significance – in particular, it was the first game to use the Unisystem, which would subsequently be used in games which attained substantially more commercial and critical success (All Flesh Must Be EatenBuffy and Angel, among others).

I think part of what has previously put me off exploring Witchcraft is the whole C.J. Carella’s thing. If you’re trying to sell a game as being Game Designer’s Gametitle, it’s presumably because you consider the name in question to be a big selling point, but here I’ve got to say that Carella and his business partners may be drastically overestimating Carella’s name recognition factor. Prior to the release of Witchcraft and its sister game Armageddon, Carella’s gaming CV seems to have consisted mostly of a couple of GURPS supplements and an extensive amount of writing for RIFTS. Worthy stuff, maybe, but playing second banana to Steve Jackson or Kevin Siembieda doesn’t really set you apart from the crowd. Shortly before he struck out on his own to produce Witchcraft he did take lead on the Nightbane RPG for Palladium Books, mind, but that game wasn’t a success to project his name across the gaming scene either. I can believe that there may be some people who were so won over by Carella’s RIFTS contributions or whatever to an extent that they’d be interested in following up his other work, but at the same time I can’t see them being so numerous that it’d be really worth making his name a cornerstone of the marketing for Witchcraft, unless expectations for the game’s sales were low to begin with.

Continue reading “Magic and Mystery In a World Gone Mild!”