Friday, August 31, 2012

D&D Zombies vs. The Walking/Running Dead

"Zombies are the new Vampires" - True Blood

Zombies are a great threat for lower level characters in any version of D&D.  They can be deadly in groups, but are slow.  They are affected by all the same magics other undead are, so Clerical turning or Radiant Powers really get to

The trouble is that D&D-style zombies are stuck in in a old modality of just being undead shamblers. Think Shaggy from Scooby-Doo only more dead.

Zombies in the game All Flesh Must Be Eaten by Eden Studios are much more deadly and their bite is lethal, just not right away.  Plus there are all sorts of Zombies in AFMBE including what we now call "quick"  or ""fast" zombies.

Of course the question has been and will be asked again, "why not just use Ghouls?".  Well simply put Ghouls are eaters of the dead.  If thought about I'd add subtle demonic influences to them as well to reflect the Ghoul/Ghul  relationship.

Improved Zombies
Let's take a page from modern interpretations via AFMBE and define a few new zombies.  Instead of full blown stat blocks, I'll just talk about how to make changes to your current game's Zombie.  Let's assume a couple of basics.  First, Zombies have no intelligence, they are slow, attack last in any round and had HD roughly equal to twice a normal human (so 2 HD in older games). XP awarded for these needs to recalulated up.

The Hungry Dead
This zombies appear to be most like Ghouls.  Their stats are the same as a regular zombie but once they kill a victim they begin to eat it.  They turn as if they were one slot higher ("Ghoul" for older games).

Plague Zombies
These might be the scariest of all. They do not appear to be any different than a regular Zombie until they bite a victim.  Then the differences are more apparent.  They look and act like The Hungry Dead, but their bite spreads the zombie infection. Anyone that is bitten (a roll of a Natural 20) becomes infected and will become a mindless zombie in 1d6 rounds.  They can be healed by a cure disease, but once dead they are dead forever. These zombies typically have twice the HD as their counterparts.

The Fast Dead
These zombies also appear as normal, until the move.  These are no shamblers, these zombies know the value of running.  They have an effective Dexterity of 16 and can attack normally (not last).

Alchemical Zombie
Stats-wise this is the same as any other zombie. The difference lie in how the zombie was made.  The alchemical zombie comes for a vat of foul smelling liquids produced by an alchemist and not a necromancer.  These zombies can not be turned.

These types can also be combined, so a Fast Plauge Zombie or a Hungry Alchemical zombie is possible.


thesethingsthatiwrite said...

I think a big problem is putting zombies into a fantasy game at all. Even at a low level, the basic shambling corpse won't be much of a challenge. What makes them more terrifying for me is the unrelenting horde of them.

Think of zombie movies; only a few of them, dealt with quickly would make a pretty boring flick. It has to be hordes, coming quickly because no one knows how to stop them at first, or even believes in them regardless of countless reports. A cleric who knows what they are, and can turn undead would have no problems at all, unless there were so many that they simply couldn't deal with them all.

In other terms, having a gun and knowing to shoot in the head is all well and good against half a dozen animate dead, but three hundred coming after you is just down right scary, no matter how big your gun is...

Tim Knight said...

I wrote up an idea for a different spin on zombies the other day:

I think the trick is escalation. Start with one or two, but then the noise of the adventurers hacking them up attracts a dozen more then that fight attracts 20 or 30 and so on...

ScrivenerB said...

Contagious bite makes them immensely more like the movie version. PCs will take these guys seriously, lemme tell you.

1-6 ROUNDS, though, might be overkill. Unless you want them to go up against higher level PCs, maybe go more with 1-6 days, maybe enough time to get somewhere a Cure Disease might be obtained. Maybe.

thesethingsthatiwrite said...

If you want to go all terrifying, then let it take a while for the infection to spread, and don't make it seem obvious that the PC is going to go all walking corpsey on the rest of the group. Let it be a surprise a couple of nights later...

An extreme of that is brought to you Unhallowed Metropolis, in which the world is so messed up that anyone dying, even if they never had a bite taken out of them at all, has a chance to come back anyway. This chance is increased by how much of a bugger the character was, and if they died in an area that was riven by poverty and disease etc...

In other words; no one is safe...

Mike Bridges said...

I like this article. Plague zombies will scare even epic characters.

Timothy S. Brannan said...


I get your point, but since healing magic can cure it I wanted to be an "oh shit! we got bit moment."

1-6 hours though is ideal.