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LARP / Humans vs. Zombies

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"It's free, you know. And it's freeing, too. Phenomenally freeing. You don't have to be a kid to play. You don't have to be in elementary school or high school or college even. Call it team building. Call it community building. Play in the park, in the playground, in a corporate plaza, a senior center, in an office building, in hospital corridors, in the neighborhood. It transforms the world. It's awesome fun."'

Humans vs. Zombies, also called HvZ, or "Zomb" in some circles, is a modified game of tag that is played primarily on college campuses. It was developed in 2005 at Goucher College in Maryland, and has since spread to hundreds of schools across the United States and the world. While various schools have added their own twists and modifications to the game, the original rules are simple: one player starts out as the "zombie," and he or she must infect others and turn them into zombies by tagging them. Humans are allowed to defend themselves with Nerf guns, socks, and marshmallows, which stun zombies for fifteen minutes. The game is over when all the humans have been infected, or after all of the zombies have starved to death (if a zombie goes 48 hours without infecting someone or being fed by an ally, it dies). Three guesses as to who wins most games, and the first two don't count.


Stephen Colbert has declared the game to be the number one threat to America. The originators of the game have also made a documentary about it.

Humans vs. Zombies provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Abnormal Ammo: While socks and foam darts are standard across most campuses, places in which toy blasters are banned sometimes add other types of ammunition, such as marshmallows, puppy chow, bacon, etc.
  • Axes at School: Naturally, considering where HvZ is mostly played, though it's downplayed by most games banning realistic-looking blasters. Melee-friendly versions take this literally, with Nerf swords and Axes being used, but this is banned at Goucher and several other schools for being too advantageous for the humans.
  • Band of Brothers: Human groups that make it to the final days.
  • BFS: Standard-issue for melee-focused humans. Most melee-oriented humans will use the Nerf Marauder (which is just shy of four and a half feet long), but some truly exceptional humans will build custom swords up to seven or eight feet long. Of course, bigger swords, despite being made of foam, can weigh quite a bit; your average human at a melee-permitted school will either run with a rifle and three-foot-long one-hander, or a five-foot-long two-hander like the Marauder and a pistol. Or, in extreme cases, just one really freaking massive sword that's taller than they are. It happens. As mentioned above, though, swords are banned at many schools for overpowered-ness, and others ban swords in conjunction with guns; everyone seems to have their own opinion. It's inadvisable to mention this on the HvZ forums.
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  • Boring, but Practical: If you don't want to sink $20 into a blaster (and seeing as how you'll want extra darts, that may very well be the cost of a cheaper blaster), you're stuck using balled up socks. What's that? Socks don't jam like some blasters are prone to? And they aren't awkward to run with or maneuver with like many larger blasters are? And if you ball them up small and toss a bunch, it's essentially shrapnel that can't be dodged?
  • Camping a Crapper: There's a rule against attacking inside restrooms, but waiting outside to attack an enemy going in or out is allowed.
  • Clothing Combat: Socks are a common throwing weapon.
  • Cool Versus Awesome: The point of the game.
  • The Dreaded: At least a few players on both sides will earn a reputation for absolute killing machines that you want to avoid direct combat with. In games that have them, some special-type zombies will also have this reputation, electing an Oh, Crap! the moment they're nearby.
  • Dwindling Party: The inevitable fate of the humans.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Some humans go down with a blaze of glory, using all the ammo they have, shooting zombie after zombie after zombie till one lucky one finally gets through. Expect to hear such quotes as You Shall Not Pass!, or "You guys go, I'll hold em off."
  • Elite Zombie: Some games have introduced "Special Infected", which are zombies with special rules. Examples from various schools include the "Tank" (who can only walk, but is impervious to any stuns), the "Spitter" (who can lob projectiles), the "Juggernaut" (who cannot tag humans, but can protect other zombies by punching away projectiles), and the Brood Mother (a mobile respawn point; if one of these camps a human objective, the zombies win unless some very brave human can manage to get close enough past the constantly respawning zombies to land a shot).
  • Escort Mission: With hilarious results if the protectee feels like there isn't enough fighting going on and deliberately runs into an ambush.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: A common feeling for survivors to have towards the end of the game. Or just after a really deadly mission.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: What, did you think it was an exploration of the meaning of life?
  • Excuse Plot: You can start the game with a token storyline if you want to, but either way the result is going to be people chasing each other around with socks and Nerf guns.
  • Fishing for Mooks: This is actually possible against inexperienced zombies; with human scouts baiting them off defensive positions during missions. Inexperienced humans who try this though could very well just end up getting tagged.
  • Fragile Speedster: Basically any human, seeing how getting tagged once makes a human a zombie. To be more specific, anyone equipped with light weaponry and socks.
  • Guns in Church: Officially forbidden by the rules; dart guns must be concealed inside academic buildings and other public campus facilities (like health centers), or at jobs — not that players haven't found loopholes...
    • For one, some schools don't extend the ban to melee weapons. Other rule-sets simplify this down to not firing them inside restricted buildings and generally keeping them out of the way.
    • While some games allow for at least some forms of indoor combat, many completely ban it altogether to avoid problems with their campus's administrative and safety departments (with the exception of select missions when the mods manage to reserve a building or a room ahead of time).
  • Heroic Sacrifice: So many humans have been killed, holding off the zombie horde with no chance of survival so the rest of the humans can survive.
  • Hollywood Tactics: Human tactics have evolved over time.
    • At one point, static battle lines were regarded as the go-to tactic, but are now regarded as foolish by some human leaders because it breaks easily in the face of large charges, deprives humans of a valuable weapon (their legs), hits only one side of a zombie charge, and the humans are packed together so turning one means you are within arms reach of six more while you're at it. Open order skirmishing is becoming popular, as it is more dangerous to the individual, but safer for the group, to hit the zombie charge at several angles.
    • Similarly, using choke points is also coming under fire by some human strategists, unless the chokepoint is particularly narrow. The reason being that the zombies at the front tend to be the larger individuals who will continue to absorb fire for several feet after being stunned, a problem which is amplified when choke points prevent them from breaking off. Considering the range of Nerf blasters, using choke points means that close fighting will occur, which is to the zombie's benefit.
    • Some schools of thought include Napoleonic tactics, with the idea of putting people in a square formation to maximize defense. Some people on each side to cover all flanks, usually putting the heavies in the corners, sock throwers in the middle, and those with smaller weapons as the breaker. Unfortunately, the moment morale breaks and a side collapses it all goes to hell.
  • The Horde: Several games even have this as the zombies' official faction name.
  • Improbable Weapon User: Balled up socks are a very popular throwing weapon.
  • Insistent Terminology: In games that include Nerf weaponry, moderators will often insist that players refer to said weapons as "blasters" rather than "guns", mostly so that police and administration don't consider players a security risk. Players that slip up and use "the G-word" will usually be swiftly corrected by any moderators within earshot.
  • Jack-of-All-Trades: Grenadiers can be seen as this, as they take aspects of the other three main "classes" (Scout, Heavy, and Ranger) and meld them together.
  • Job System: Well kinda. A human's class is based on their loadout. The four main ones are the Scout, the Heavy, the Ranger, and the Grenadier. That said, the above classes are all unofficial designations used by some players, not actual game mechanics, though some schools have tried doing so officially. Sometimes, the roles are not based on weapon loadout but a randomly selected "job" as part of the plot, which can give perks in certain missions if you have the appropriate team member on-hand.
  • Kiss of Distraction: A tactic used by some humans. Is there a zombie coming towards you? Kiss them and run away while they're stunned/confused! This move is very risky (you have to be in close quarters with the zombie, close enough that they can tag you) and somewhat controversial, if not completely against certain rules and codes of conduct. Employ at your own risk.
  • Last Stand:
    • If no evac can be called, this is generally how games end. Even then, sometimes the zombies will overwhelm the humans at the evac point.
    • This also happens to humans who get cut off from safety by the horde of zombies barreling down on them.
  • Large Ham: All the time. Especially when you get large stand offs at safe zones between the humans and the zombies.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: Tend to appear on both sides. Human ones usually die fast, while zombie ones, if they're not just getting stunned again and again with no kills or assists to show for it, often throw off the timing of a carefully-planned assault. Sometimes though, you do get fun stories out of their efforts.
  • More Dakka: By far the most viable strategy for anti-horde combat, though zombies tend to target those who bring the dakka early if possible.
  • Nigh-Invulnerability: The only way for a zombie to truly die is to starve. Other than that, getting hit will only stun them for 15 minutes. Humans on the other hand...
  • Ninja: Sock ninjas. They carry the aforementioned socks to throw at zombies. Good ones make excellent scouts and skirmishers, and are an especially vital part of a team when the game includes special zombies who can only be stunned with socks.
  • No Bikes in the Apocalypse: Often a rule to prevent injuries and collisions, since bike accidents are no joke.
  • One-Hit-Point Wonder: Humans can only get hit once, If they do get hit, they become zombies!
  • Our Zombies Are Different: They can run, think, speak and collaborate, they have to feed to stay "alive" (except in games which have abolished the starve timer), and they can only be temporarily stunned.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Often, due to bad planning by humans or by zombies.
  • Pretty Little Headshots: Averted — if your gun has been modified, you have to get it approved so that it isn't too powerful and you are not supposed to aim at the head (the general principle can be summed up as "Are you willing to be shot in the head by this thing yourself?").
  • Protection Mission: Pretty much every game has at least a few of these.
  • Quieter Than Silence: At some point late in the game, between the last big clash between the zombies and the humans, and the inevitable Last Stand by the final survivors, there is normally a very quiet period during which the zombies hunt down the last humans.
  • The Quisling: Occasionally, a human will troll his/her buddies by feeding them to the zombies. In many games, some humans will allow themselves to be tagged because they believe that it's more fun to play as a zombie (or because the constant paranoia of waiting for zombie ambushes gets too stressful). Some rule sets forbid this, though. That said, if you get tagged there's nothing stopping you from telling the zombies the human objective....
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: What some human teams start out as, particularly survivors of teams who got torn apart early in the game.
  • Rules Lawyer: Why the admins exist, basically... especially when zombies and humans argue about who was stunned/tagged first.
  • The Siege: While most games give humans a (very) brief window of invincibility whenever they leave a building in order to discourage zombies from just camping next to doors, it's still a perfectly valid tactic for a large group of zombies to surround a building if there's at least one human player inside who needs to get somewhere else quickly...
  • Transhuman Treachery: Once tagged, you need to feed... and you still have all your (human) intelligence and speed, so...
  • Unlockable Content:
    • Several schools have it so that heavy weapons aren't available until partway through the game, often after the humans have completed a special "heavy unlock" mission.
    • A number of games have also introduced other unlockable perks, such as special "NPCs" or temporary safezones, that one can win by accomplishing certain objectives. Some also give this to the zombies, which can do things like disable safe zones or lower their stun timers.
  • Versus Title
  • We Have Reserves: Zombies can easily get away with this mindset once they begin to outnumber the humans. Hell, due to their infinite respawns, zombies can sort of get away with this even in the early game.
  • We Need a Distraction: One of the most common tactics on both sides, whether it be a few human vets drawing the attention of the zombies from an objective, or the zombie horde distracting the humans from a few undead crawling towards them.
  • A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing: Most games allow their starting zombies, referred to as "Original Zombies" (OZs), to disguise themselves as humans on Day 1. In such cases, the OZs will usually be allowed to use human weapons, but cannot use them to infect humans. Since most rule-sets consider humans Friendly Fire Proof, it's common and perfectly acceptable on Day 1 to shoot/sock any person with an arm-bandanna if they come within a meter of you, since OZs can still be stunned even if the shooter/thrower doesn't actually know their true affiliation.
    • Some rulesets instead declare that, on Day 1, players are not Friendly Fireproof: if a human is shot by a suspicious teammate, they die and become a zombie. This ratchets up the tension as the human team must remain vigilant while keeping paranoia in check.
  • Zerg Rush: With bonus points for the Zerglings being able to come back after getting shot. And using tactics to amplify the rush.
  • You Shall Not Pass!: Get a tight path between buildings and you have a great zombie filter.
  • Zombie Apocalypse
  • Zombie Gait: Subverted, zombies can run and dodge quite well with only certain specials being forbidden from running. Games wouldn't be very hard if zombies couldn't run, after all.
  • Zombie Needs Food Badly: The starve timer mechanic; some schools, particularly campuses where the distances between no-play zones are short, have abolished it because it (arguably) punishes the zombies for having an efficient early game while rewarding humans for barely playing. Some people also objected to permanently forcing players completely out of the game just because they're less skilled or unlucky.