Metatopia: Lana McEwen from Zombie World

Character: Alana McEwen, "Lana"
Game: Zombie World
Episodes: 2
Theme Song: Castle by Halsey
Keywords: Ruthless, decisive, survivor

In every zombie apocalypse story, there's the strong, independent, fierce woman who's also capable of speaking to people like they're people and isn't afraid of men, right? Well, no. I mean, I have yet to really see that character who isn't in a position of care taker. Sarah Polly's character in Day of the Dead came close, but she was a nurse, and the caretaker.

Zombie World is an upcoming game from Mark Diaz Truman that is essentially Walking Dead PbtA. It's. So. Good. And I mean, I don't like the Walking Dead, but I love me zombie fictions and this game perfectly grasps the feel of drama and trauma and suspense in the Walking Dead television show. It does it almost flawlessly. So when it Kickstarts, I recommend backing the fuck out of it.

Now. Lana. In this game, you get three cards that tell you your past, your current role at the community, and your trauma. I was an Executive who was a Controller (the person making plans) and had a trauma of Afraid. This made Lana. A woman whose father was in prison for embezzlement and she had inherited the company from him. She had been visiting the prison with her half-brother, a boy of 16, when Z-day hit and here she was, making decisions and plans for the community. Her fear manifested by not leaving the compound. She'd send other people out but never go herself. It looked like she was manipulative and self serving, but honestly, she was just scared.

Alanna, or Lana, ran the business like any well educated man and had minimal patience for the way the world had been. She was used to taking shit from men who thought they knew better than her, and every time, in the business world, she would tear them down. Now in a zombie apocalypse, where men can rally around you and literally kill you, she had to be a bit more careful. The world had reverted to some weird, gross place where men were men and she didn't have the time of day for those kinds of politics.

When I was making Lana, I wanted to make sure she didn't fall in the same trap most of the Walking Dead and zombie apocalypse female characters did. I didn't want her to be tender, loving, or sweet. I wanted her to be as badass as any dude and still having the emotional intelligence necessary to get her way. She understood people, and knew that people have emotional needs she could meet but not in the traditional way of love or tenderness. She met emotional needs with validation and appreciation.

The other characters at the table were a psych MD whom she understood was the kind of person who would sell them all out because he would twist his training to interrogate others. It was a trait she appreciated but she didn't trust him. There was Dale, the delivery boy who was highly useful and quite smart but didn't seem to have ever been told he was useful or smart. She saved those moments for when they would impact him the most, because why constantly feed the ego monster if only once in awhile will do. And then there was Derrick, the Merle-like hick who was ready to hand out shit kicking and be an ass at every turn. Lana met Derrick's uncouth nature with her own dirty comments and implications that she hoped would keep his interest and thus, keep him from pushing against her command.

Then, naturally, there was the rest of the community, including security guards and a few people she called friend. The security guards she mollified with alcohol, and went as far to reciprocate one's affection in order to get his help to turn the power back on to get water. Now, I know that the woman willing to be sexual/flirtatious is a pretty common trope, but I had no problem going there. I was aware that Lana was aware it was gross. But she was also aware she didn't have a lot of recourses outside of that, and because she wasn't highly emotional, in the sense that she struggled with showing vulnerability, entering into any sort of relationship where she maintained the power was something she was willing to do.

However, every time Lana showed interest in someone, partly because she liked sex and wanted to do that, and partly because every person is an opportunity to maintain some level of control, they ended up bitten and dead. First it was Derrick. They had a good flirtation starting, partly because he was a hick character making comments she fired back at him, and partly because Jason Cordova, who played Derrick, and I were on the same page almost instantly for what we wanted out of this game. We wanted personal connections and we both put ourselves out there for that. But he got bit after she sent them out to get water.

Then there was Eric, whom she brought with her into the compound to turn on the power for water. I failed a few rolls and then Eric was zombie Eric and Lana had to kill him. Which she did without hesitation, even going as far as to try to dangle his body while he was still somewhat alive to distract the zombies below. And then finally I made a joke about attaching myself to the meanest fucker around after Derrick returned bitten, and that was Tim, the gross badass that anyone in their right mind would be afraid of. He, of course, got munched by zombie Derrick. We joked that Lana became the character people said "Don't like anyone Lana likes because they'll die" about on the show.

With Lana, I tried to portray a woman who had been in a lot of power, where she could ignore or challenge sexist culture, who was forced into a situation where those survival instincts had become more honed to a world of ruthless pain. Business was ruthless. But zombies? They weren't the bad part. The people left behind were. I have no doubt Lana was one of the long-term characters and survivors, even though anyone she wanted to fuck ended up zombie bait.

Overall, my challenge in long term play with her would be finding ways to connect that were beyond treating people like business inferiors. She did this with Dale, when he returned to the compound. They didn't like each other, but she acknowledged his plan to turn on the power was a good one and let him know he was right. She didn't have to do this. But it was a gesture in showing him that she saw him and heard him and he was right. It was a way to make him not want to turn on her. It also lead the way for him listening to her about Tim and Derrick, as in, letting Tim kill Derrick because it would let Tim feel in control.

Lana needed a chance to be knocked down a peg or two and come at someone sideways, which is what she would do. I really wanted to see her kick some ass as a political type instead of try to hit someone with a wrench, and I think in long-term play, that would've come out. Of course, I don't usually play the character that measures everything. Usually they make emotional decisions because those are more dramatic. It was interesting playing a character who made choices with "someone who cared more would do x, so I should do x because people need to me being caring." Like rushing in to a fire to save someone. She didn't do it because someone was in there. She did it to make the community come together around her.

It was interesting to play a character so focused on the big picture while also focused on how her own picture of survival would look. It's been awhile since I've had to play the over responsible and capable one who wasn't so damaged she couldn't function. I would have loved to see Lana in long term play, and may bring her back when I play Zombie World again.

Mark said she reminded him of Hogarth from Jessica Jones in terms of a face. I saw her a bit younger initially, and then settled on she was very much about presenting as feminine rather than authoritative because people underestimated her, and thus, she took advantage of people easier if she looked femme. Thus, I went with a face that could be warmer than how I perceive Hogarth, but also has a hard edge.


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