Saturday, October 29, 2011

Meandering Monsters: Zombies

Everywhere you look it seems, we are now seeing zombies - television shows, movies, video games, and books. In movies, we have the classic Romero flicks (slow zombie) and the newer Romero flicks (faster zombies), the '28 Days Later' not dead but diseased zombies, and many other movies like 'Shaun of the Dead' and 'Zombieland'. In video games, non are better than 'Left 4 Dead' which introduced 'special' zombies like hunters, spitters, smokers, tanks, jockeys, and chargers. More like 28 Days, these zombies are more so the diseased and mutated type - quick moving and agile since they are technically not 'dead'.

Max Brooks' World War Z and Kirkman's classic comic book/tv series Walking Dead take a bit more 'realistic' stance on the genre. With the dead coming back to life, the shear numbers overwelm and destroy society as we know it. The zombies carry a disease with their bite and if bitten, you are doomed to eventually die and turn into a zombie as well...unless you cut off the diseased arm or leg in time before it spreads (Walking Dead).

The AD&D zombie was pretty simple - they did not carry or transmit a disease, they always attacked last in a round, and they did decent enough damage. They were just animated bodies that were programmed to guard something. The 'Juju Zombie' from the MM2 gave a version a bit more agile since the creation was a result of a 'energy drain' and the body is very recently dead. The JuJu also enjoyed a bit more spell resistances than the normal zombie. The 'Yellow Musk Zombie' from Fiend Folio introduced a non-undead zombie - a poor soul that has been injected with a seed by the Yellow Musk Creeper. He would be controlled by the plant as a guardian for a few months, then wonder off and drop dead-dead - thus transporting the new plant to a new location. It was a curable condition though.

The zombie listed in the T&T Monstrum Codex is very basic - the typical monster with an MR and nothing the separate itself from any other monster with the same MR. The Aquazombie listed in the same book delivers a bit more as a diseased zombie, not undead, but able to transfer its disease if having rolled enough SPITE damage. The afflicted can be cured by a combination of spells. While the basic zombie in the T&T MC offers a range of 25-150 for MR, I don't think that should be the case. A dead corpse is a dead corpse - regardless of how big it was when it was alive. There should be no single zombie that is more powerful than another zombie.

I have not done any research other than reviewing some of the classic AD&D monster listings mentioned above. If someone else has already done something similar to what I have below, it is totally without my knowledge. 

Please - respond with your thoughts or opinions...

Zombie - Animated Corpse by Jerry Teleha

MR: 50
Combat Dice: 6d6 + 15*
Special Abilities: Zombification, Zombimemory, Zombisenses, Zombiherd
Special Damage: 1/Zombification
Special Hindrance: Zombiweakness
Appearing: 1-100+
CON: 50 (or less depending on any missing body parts)
(artwork from the T&T 7.5 Boxed Set - Creature Tokens - Claudio Pozas)

An 'undead' zombie is pretty much what it animated corpse that has no care about pain or fear and only has a singular desire to eat/destroy the living. They don't care about breaking limbs or pulling muscles, so they will have an unnatural strength since they no longer have a brain that will try to prevent injury.

Movement of the zombies should vary based on how decomposed the body is. A zombie that has recently been zombified could have a bit more spring in its step because its muscles are in a bit better state than a zombie that could be a few weeks old. Also, a zombie without its legs could only crawl and thus would be moving a bit slower.

*A zombie by itself should be fairly easy to take down. Since combat adds are normally determined by adding Strength, Dexterity, Speed, and Luck, I think a zombie combat adds should be a bit reduced based on the loss of speed and dexterity due to its undead state - so I reduced the combat adds for a zombie to 15. However, a zombie's combat adds will always stay at 15 no matter how much damage it has taken

Zombies attack by both clawing and biting. A bite will result in the victim to be potentially infected with 'Zombification'. The number of 'SPITE' damage inflicted by either a single or multiple zombies will need a SR (saving roll) vs CON or LUCK with a level equal to the number of SPITE damage taken  +1 (Level Two for 1, Level Three for 2, and so forth). If infected with zombification, some form of realistic spell combination should be allowed by the GM to cure the disease, at the GM's discretion. Or, you can go with the 'cut off the limb' option. Regardless, any individual being bitten should or could be considered 'infected' by other party members. Insert likely melodrama in the roleplaying.

Some zombies will retain some memories from their former lives - this is 'Zombimemory'. For example - when confronted with a closed door, 'Zombimemory' may kick in and the zombie may try to open the door instead of trying to pound it down or try to walk into it.

Even a low level character should have little trouble taking out a single zombie. But, if other zombies are around, loud noises or bright lights could alert other zombies to gather and move towards this location. This is called 'Zombisenses'. Saving Rolls reflecting the situation should be utilized to sneak around or through groups of zombies - a base Level 1, that could be affected by 'Zombiherd' below.

If a large number of zombies gather together, then you have to deal with the 'Zombiherd'. It really is quite simple - take the number of zombies that have gathered and now you have that many fighting the party instead of just 1 or 2, with that many more chances for SPITE 'Zombification'. Also, with a 'Zombiherd', any Saving Rolls against 'Zombisenses' should be doubled or even quadrupled because of the herd mentality - the zombies are more following the leader than doing anything else.

When fighting a zombie, any SPITE damage rolled by the character/party should considered a re-roll for bonus damage - reflecting additional damage caused by hitting the zombie in the head. Example: a character rolls 4d6 and gets a 1-3-6-6 = 16; re-roll 2 dice and add to the total. If you roll another 6, keep re-rolling until you do not get a 6. Again - this is reflecting a successful attack to the zombie weak spot - its head.


  1. I really like your take on zombies. Nice thoughts on decomposition versus mobility and the special abilities are quite keen.

  2. I need to add that for Zombification, it is a SR vs CON...or I guess it could be LUCK...what do you think?

    And thanks for the 'keen' endorsement and mention on your blog - it means alot!

  3. "it is a SR vs CON...or I guess it could be LUCK..."

    When it comes to a PC turning into a zombie, I'd obfuscate the whole thing. I, myself, would make it a Level per 2 "bites" on Cn before I started the zombification process. Even when failed, I'd make a LK vs (d3)Lvl SR for the character to remain in character or want to start eating warm meat instead. Of course someone can charm the new zombie out of the rage with CH, and then the Zombie is back to Lk rolls.

  4. I was never much of a zombie fan, Jerry, but here's my thinking on T & T zombies. They are animated corpses. They can think, they can move, they hunger. Their attributes are like living attributes and can be increased or decreased. Their CON ratings should probably be either zero or negative. They aren't alive, so you can't kill them. They are undead, so you can make them dead again. What keeps them going? Logically, it would be their WIZ attribute. The magical energy (kremm) in their bodies allows them to behave just like a living person would. Figuring a normal citizen probably has a monster rating of 20 to 30, then a normal zombie would fall in that range too. Logically there are many kinds of zombies--the infectious kind would indeed make more zombies of their victims. Those created by magical re-animation wouldn't. Zombies are generally portrayed as dumb--that would be because of brain damage--brain cells deteriorate really quickly when deprived of oxygen and blood. However, zombies probably should have some kind of regeneration factor, so if a zombie could last for a while, its brain would also regenerate and it would get smarter. Those who pass into zombiehood without ever actually dying wouldn't lose any smarts at all.