After only two seconds at the launch party for locally produced postapocalyptic zombie graphic novel Night Zero, I'm already confused. A gas-masked ticket taker wielding an uncomfortably realistic assault rifle greets me and hands me a bag of goodies: a knife, bandages, alcohol swabs, twine, and the new issue of Night Zero. I also receive a card listing my attributes: location, leader, team, etc. The card turns out to be the main element of a role-playing game disguised as a Night Zero promotion scheme disguised as a pretty ingenious way of forcing people at the party to be social. I'm one of a four-person team, and I must track down my three teammates. I only find two.

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As the evening progresses, partyers' interest in the game wanes, but my team completes the challenge. By cheating. We aren't ashamed; we've been emboldened by our alcohol intake. The team decides to celebrate with a drink—a sickly sugary blend of lemonade, Sprite, and vodka. Success never tasted so sweet.

I wander out to the deck, where smokers discuss all things nerd. An overly happy drunk describes his love/hate relationship with his favorite hobby: live-action role-playing. "I'm kind of ashamed to admit it, you know. I go out there and hit people with a foam-covered stick." "Hey, man," someone else offers, "at least you're not sitting at home rolling a 20-sided die." The group nods knowingly. At the end of the night, the host kicks the lingerers out. The hangover I can feel coming on will probably make me wish zombies had actually eaten my brain. recommended