Zombies are classic monsters. They appear in practically every role-playing game in every genre. However, zombies often end up as nothing more than generic, bland enemies. That’s a shame as their appearance and accoutrements could provide clues as to their fate and inject more flavour and detail into an otherwise standard combat encounter.
Use the tables below, to add some depth, flavour and—dare I say—life into the zombies encountered by the PCs.
A standard zombie appears thusly:
This rotting, walking corpse wears only a few soiled rags. It stumbles forward, arms outstretched.
To this basic description, apply one of the descriptions below:
- One side of the creature’s face is nothing more than a suppurating, bloody mess; one of its eyes is missing.
- The zombie’s left arm is unnaturally bent at the elbow. As the zombie shuffles forward, shards of white bone break through its rotten flesh.
- Clad in blood-soaked peasant’s clothes, this person clearly suffered horrendous wounds before death.
- A huge chunk of this zombie’s stomach is missing; a few strands of entrails droop from the gaping wound, creating a skirt of sorts hanging down toward the zombie’s knees.
- This zombie’s head lolls from side to side in a disturbing, unnatural fashion; its neck is clearly broken.
- This zombie has no legs below the knee. Consequently, it crawls forward reaching its prey much slower than its companions.
- This zombie’s neck is partially severed; muscles and bone are clearly visible through the gore.
- This corpulent zombie is completely naked, and filled with a build up of noxious gases. If struck with a sharp melee weapon, it explodes coating adjacent creatures with blood, bone and viscera.
- This zombie has had its jaw ripped off. Blood and gore cover its chest.
- A gaping wound pierces this creature’s rib cage, exposing the badly damaged and desiccated organs within.
In battle, some zombies fighting differently to their brethren:
- This zombie is much slower than its companions due to a broken leg. It moves at half speed.
- As it advances, this zombie stumbles and falls. The next round, it struggles back to its feet before continuing its advance.
- This zombie carries a one-handed melee weapon—perhaps a longsword or axe—but has forgotten how to use it. Every round, there is a 50% chance it accidentally uses the weapon.
- This zombie has a shield strapped to its arm. Thus, its armour class is slightly better than its brethren.
- This zombie fixes its dead, baleful gaze on one target and focuses on that individual above all others.
- This zombie moans and groans as it approaches its prey.
- Freshly dead, this zombie leaves a wide trail of slippery blood and viscera behind it; incautious combatants could slip and fall in the gore.
- This zombie tries to grapple opponents instead of simply beating them to death. If successful, it begins biting.
- This zombie is faster than its brethren and outpaces them in its bloodlust.
- This zombie has a smashed voice box. It yips and cackles in a similar way to a hunting jackal, as it approaches.
Sometimes, zombies have some small trinket or treasure about their person. Roll on the table below, if you determine the creature has a small item of personal treasure:
- This zombie yet wears a wide leather belt. Stained with blood and other unwholesome liquids, at first glance it seems worthless. If cleaned, however, a complex pattern of stitches emerges depicting what seems to be a section of sewer complete with a secret room!
- One golden hoop earring hangs from one of the zombie’s decomposing ears. The plain band is worth 2 gp.
- This zombie wears fine, knee-high leather boots that create an audible clacking sound on stone flooring. If cleaned, the boots are worth 3 gp.
- A woven leather necklace hangs around the zombie’s neck. Perceptive PCs spot, hidden within its strands, four thin golden threads. Each is worth 5 gp.
- This zombie’s previous victim was rich. It has a slender finger wedged in its mouth which wears a thin golden band decorated with beautifully etched leaves and vines. The ring is worth 25 gp, but covered in foul-smelling saliva.
- A slender silver chain encircles one of the zombie’s ankles. Four small charms—each representing one of the four elements—hangs from the anklet. It is worth 10 gp.
- A gore-coated dagger juts from the zombie’s chest. The wickedly sharp silver dagger is wedged between two rib bones. It is worth 90 gp.
- This zombie wears the slashed and stained remnants of a silk doublet. Unless magically repaired, it is essentially worthless as an item of clothing, but a skilled seamstress could harvest enough silk for several hankies and the like.
- Slipped within its knee-high leather boots, this zombie carries a small, sharp dagger. Its pommel has a clenched fist design.
- This zombie wears a voluminous cloak sporting a deep cowl. The previous owner hid two platinum coins sown into the cloak’s hem. Only perceptive characters discover the coins.
This articles appears in 20 Things #16: Necromancer’s Lair.
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