• Justin Handlin

Dungeons & Dragons Monster Tactics: Zombies


Dungeons and Dragons Zombies
Artwork: Wizards of the Coast

With Halloween quickly approaching. Many Dungeon Masters are looking to spice up their Dungeons & Dragons game with a bit of horror. Well, armed with Monster Tactics: Zombies, you need not look any farther.


Looking to get the most out of your zombies? Want to run zombies so they are interesting and are more than meat bags? Then this article is for you!


In Dungeons and Dragons, zombies are soulless, fearless, and stupid. While zombies are tossed into nearly every campaign, we feel that they have just become minions to be mowed down by adventurers. Often just tossed into a crypt and that's about it. Let's break down just how versatile the zombie can be, and how you can get the most out of your zombie encounters.


From somewhere in the darkness comes a thump and a scuffle. As the noise comes again, drawing closer, a gurgling moan can be heard-the rattling wheeze of rotten lungs pressing the air out. A form lurches into view, dragging one foot as it raises bloated arms and broken hands like a child seeking an embrace. This creature is a zombie, and it blindly seeks to crush life.


First, we look at what we know about zombies.


Versatile

  • No need to eat, drink, or even breathe.

  • Any corpse with flesh suffices to make a zombie. It might be a dead warrior from a battlefield, bloated and blistered from days in the sun, guts trailing from a mortal wound.

  • A zombie could wash ashore or rise from a marsh, swollen and reeking from weeks in the water.

  • It might be a muddy cadaver of a woman recently buried and risen again, leaving maggots and worms in her wake.

  • A zombie could instead appear alive, crafted from a recently deceased corpse.

  • The corpse could belong to the smallest beast or the largest giant.

Disposable

  • Easily replaceable, zombies are a dime a dozen.

  • Place them in rooms with deadly traps - flooding, crushing walls/ceiling, an entire floor that collapses. Since they lack everything required to care for one's survival, they make perfect cannon fodder.

  • Contagion - place poison/disease upon them(cackling zombie monster variant)

  • Place harmful spells upon them - Rune of fireball, cloudkill and they won't have a problem with being kamikaze enemies.

Put the Knowledge into Practice

Now that we know what to expect from zombies, how can we get the most out of them? Let's combine these features into a short adventure concept.


The Gifted Zombie Horde

Place zombies in an inverted pit trap i.e, stuffed into the ceiling behind trap doors that opens, dumping them ahead and behind or even directly on top of the party. Since they have no real thoughts of their own and require no sustenance, they will chill there until the trap is triggered. Sure they take a little damage from the fall, but the ability to say “it’s raining men...undead men” is priceless.


Additionally, throw a few zombies that have arcane glyphs carved onto their skulls. Now we give them the deathburst feature that deals damage, poisons, or worse when they die. Talk about scaring the undead fortitude out of a group. Every room they enter moving forward may be suspect to falling exploding zombies.


Armed