Only a slightly Halloween themed post this year. I'm not even talking about real zombies. I'm talking about a situation some Narrators may find themselves in and the solution that I found.
The game was a pulp/fantasy/sci-fi mishmosh using the Cartoon Action Hour rules. The heroes had just escaped from an ancient genetics lab that had been taken over by the genetic constructs it produced. Not far off was a village made up of the ancestors of the scientists who worked in the lab. Naturally, there was a bit of conflict between the two settlements, with the genetics lab producing giant dinosaurs to stomp the village flat. The villagers were tough enough to fight the dinosaurs, but didn't have the resources for a frontal assault on the lab, so it had been a stalemate for decades.
Finally, with the intervention of the heroes, the stalemate was broken and the genetics lab released a new species to assault the villagers. One nastier and more dangerous than any dinosaur: The double-decker wolves! (One day, I might share the story of where that idea came from. It's pretty funny.)
I had expected the players to get their characters back to the village before returning to civilization at large. Only one of them decided to do so.
This left me in something of a bind. I had an epic battle planned with only one player participating. I could leave it out, but that would weaken the consistency of the world I was building. Thankfully, this was the end-of-the-session cliffhanger, so I had a week to think about it.
I have mentioned the Dream Park RPG as the inspiration for a couple aspects of AiO. Well, it came to my rescue once more. In Dream Park, a character may get "killed out" of a particular story, but can come back in the next story. Until the next story, that player has nothing to do, right? No, they get to play a "zombie." In the original Dream Park novel (it was a series of novels before it was an RPG), it describes players coming back to play actual zombies, but the RPG makes it clear that you don't necessarily have to play undead.
So I decided that while the one player who stayed in the village would play his character while the rest of the group would take on temporary characters, villagers who are defending their home. The idea caught on and the players would often create a "zombie" character while the party was split. When I started another game in that world recently (this time under the Savage Worlds rules), one of the players decided to bring in one of his former zombies in as his main character.