Zombies are undead creatures that are animated through dark magic or necromantic rituals in DnD 5e. They are often depicted as mindless, decaying corpses that have been reanimated to serve a master or driven by a hunger for flesh.
Zombies in DnD typically lack higher cognitive functions and exhibit only basic motor skills. They are usually controlled by a necromancer, a powerful undead creature, or other dark forces.
Zombies are commonly encountered as adversaries in dungeons, graveyards, or areas influenced by necromantic energies. Zombies are iconic undead creatures and their presence adds an element of horror and danger to adventures, especially when encountered in large numbers.
Origins and Lore of Zombies
Zombies in DnD draw inspiration from mythology and folklore, particularly the concept of reanimated corpses found in Haitian folklore. In D&D, zombies are undead creatures brought to life through dark magic or necromantic rituals.
They are often mindless and controlled by a necromancer or other dark forces. These creatures serve as minions or guardians, appearing in dungeons, graveyards, or areas influenced by necromantic energies.
Official D&D sources, such as the “Monster Manual,” provide details on different types of zombies, including variants like ghoul zombies and zombie lords.
The lore surrounding zombies in DnD adds a sense of horror and danger to adventures, with adventurers needing to combat their relentless pursuit and the potential spread of curses or infections associated with these creatures.
Creating Zombie Encounters
When designing engaging zombie encounters for DnD, Dungeon Masters (DMs) can consider the following tips and guidelines:
Set the Atmosphere: Describe the environment to create a sense of dread and tension. Dark, decrepit locations like abandoned crypts, haunted houses, or foggy graveyards enhance the horror aspect of zombie encounters.
Numbers and Variety: Zombies are often encountered in groups, so consider the number of zombies based on the party’s strength. Mix different types of zombies, such as regular zombies, fast zombies, or more powerful variants, to add variety and challenge.
Environmental Hazards: Introduce environmental elements that affect both players and zombies. Narrow corridors, crumbling floors, or traps can create strategic opportunities for players while increasing the tension of the encounter.
Objectives and Time Pressure: Incorporate specific objectives that the players need to achieve within a limited timeframe, such as finding a key or reaching a safe zone. This adds urgency and decision-making to the encounter.
Unique Abilities or Tactics: Experiment with unique abilities or tactics for zombies to make encounters more interesting. This could include zombies that spit acid, explode upon death, or have a leader directing their actions.
Zombie Variations in Different Settings: Customize zombies to fit various campaign settings. In a medieval fantasy setting, zombies could be the result of dark magic or necromancy. In a post-apocalyptic world, they might be victims of widespread disease or radiation.
Narrative Hooks: Develop compelling narratives around zombie encounters. Uncover the source of the zombie outbreak, rescue survivors, or find a way to stop the necromancer from controlling them. Providing story-driven motivations enhances player engagement.
Difficulty Balance: Adjust the difficulty of zombie encounters to match the party’s level. Too many zombies can overwhelm lower-level parties, while higher-level parties might require stronger zombies or additional challenges to provide a suitable threat.
There are various zombie variations and subtypes that add depth and variety to encounters with these undead creatures in DnD 5e.
Here are some examples:
The most common type of zombies encountered in DnD. Regular zombies are mindless, decaying corpses animated through necromantic magic. They possess low intelligence and rely on their physical strength and durability to overwhelm their opponents.
These zombies possess enhanced speed and agility compared to regular zombies. They may exhibit greater coordination and the ability to close distances rapidly, making them more challenging to evade or escape from.
Plague zombies are zombies afflicted with diseases or infections. When they attack, they have a chance to transmit their affliction to their victims, potentially leading to further complications or turning them into zombies themselves.
Ghoul zombies combine the traits of zombies and ghouls. They possess the paralyzing touch of a ghoul, which can immobilize their victims, making them easy prey for the zombie horde.
A more powerful type of zombie, often created from a once-mighty necromancer or powerful creature. Zombie lords retain their intellect, allowing them to control other zombies and utilize more sophisticated tactics.
They may have additional powers or abilities, making them formidable adversaries.
These are severed zombie hands that scuttle around on their own. While they lack the strength and durability of full-size zombies, they can be encountered in groups, overwhelming their opponents through sheer numbers.
These zombies are wreathed in flames, adding a fiery aspect to their attacks. They may have resistance or immunity to fire damage and can potentially set their surroundings ablaze, creating additional hazards for the adventurers.
Frost zombies are encased in a layer of ice, chilling the air around them. They can inflict cold damage with their attacks and may have resistance or immunity to cold damage. Additionally, they can create slippery icy surfaces, making movement difficult for their adversaries.
Zombie Creation and Necromancy
Zombies creation and necromancy go hand in hand in the world of DnD. Necromancers, practitioners of dark magic, are often responsible for the animation and control of zombies. Here’s an overview of zombie creation and the role of necromancy:
Rituals and Spells
Necromancers use rituals or spells to reanimate dead bodies as zombies. These rituals typically involve the manipulation of necromantic energy and the binding of the spirit to the corpse, preventing it from moving on to the afterlife.
Necromancers draw upon necromantic magic, a sinister and forbidden branch of arcane or divine magic, to manipulate life force and control the undead. Through their dark powers, they tap into the negative energy plane, where death and decay thrive.
Source of Bodies
Necromancers require suitable corpses to create zombies. These bodies can be obtained from graveyards, battlefields, or through other means such as kidnapping or murder. The condition of the body can affect the quality and capabilities of the resulting zombie.
Control and Command
Necromancers exert control over their zombies, typically through their willpower or magical domination. They may use spells, enchanted items, or symbols of power to maintain their influence.
Zombies are often completely subservient to their necromancer masters, lacking independent thought or will.
Curse and Infection
In some instances, the creation of zombies can involve curses or infections. Victims may be exposed to a necromantic curse or a contagious disease that transforms them into zombies upon death.
This can lead to the spread of the zombie menace, requiring the adventurers to find the source and stop the curse or infection.
The permanent destruction of zombies usually requires specific methods, such as burning the body to ashes, severing the head, or employing holy magic. Destroying the necromancer controlling them may also break the control over the zombies.
Moral and Ethical Considerations
Necromancy and the creation of zombies raise moral and ethical dilemmas within the game world. Many societies consider necromancy to be a dark and forbidden practice, often associated with evil.
The use of necromantic magic and the creation of zombies can lead to societal unrest, conflict, and potential repercussions for the adventurers involved.
Strategies for Surviving
Surviving zombies hordes in a DnD game can be a challenging and thrilling experience. Here are some strategies to help your characters stay alive:
Preparation and Awareness
Be proactive and gather information about the zombies. Learn their weaknesses, vulnerabilities, and any special abilities they possess. Stay alert and aware of your surroundings to avoid being caught off guard.
Teamwork and Coordination
Stick together and communicate effectively with your party members. Coordinate your actions, share resources, and cover each other’s backs. Unity and cooperation are crucial when facing a horde of zombies.
Mobility and Speed
Utilize your agility and speed to your advantage. Avoid being cornered or surrounded by the horde. Make use of hit-and-run tactics, kiting the zombies to buy time and create opportunities for attacks or escapes.
If overwhelmed, know when to strategically retreat and regroup. Falling back to a defensible position or a safer location can provide a temporary respite and a chance to reassess the situation.
Take advantage of your surroundings. Use obstacles, traps, or narrow passages to impede the zombies’ movement and funnel them into more manageable numbers. Utilize objects or environmental hazards to your benefit.
Focus on eliminating specific threats within the horde. Identify any leaders, more powerful zombies, or necromancers controlling the horde. Eliminating these high-value targets can disrupt the horde’s coordination or reduce their numbers significantly.
Utilize spells, abilities, or items that allow for crowd control or area of effect damage. Spells like Fireball, Wall of Fire, or Turn Undead can be effective in thinning out the horde or creating barriers to buying time.
Be mindful of your resources, such as ammunition, spells, and healing potions. Pace your usage and ensure you have enough supplies to endure prolonged encounters. Use healing and support abilities strategically to keep your party members alive and functioning.
Always have an escape plan in mind. Be familiar with potential exits, hidden routes, or safe zones nearby. Knowing where to retreat to and regroup can be a lifesaver when the situation becomes dire.
Adaptability and Flexibility
Be ready to adapt your strategies on the fly. Zombies can be unpredictable, and plans may need to change quickly. Stay flexible and adjust your tactics as the situation demands.
Roleplaying with Zombies
As the party cautiously ventures into the desolate graveyard, a chilling silence hangs heavy in the air. Suddenly, a low groan breaks the stillness, sending shivers down your spine.
The lifeless eyes of the zombies fixate on you, their decaying forms stumbling forward with a relentless hunger. You feel a mix of dread and desperation as you grapple with the weight of mortality and the fragility of life.
Every swing of your weapon carries the weight of survival, as you try to maintain your composure amidst the chaos. The moans and guttural growls of the undead remind you of the sheer horror that has befallen this land.
In the face of their unrelenting advance, you must find the strength to fight, the courage to endure, and the resilience to push forward in the face of such abominations.
Zombie Apocalypse Scenarios
Zombies apocalypse scenarios in DnD are thrilling and challenging campaigns where the world is overrun by hordes of the undead. Here are three different zombie apocalypse scenarios for your D&D game:
The City in Ruins
In this scenario, the party finds themselves in a once-thriving city now devastated by the zombie outbreak. They must navigate through the crumbling streets, encountering pockets of survivors and formidable zombie hordes.
The city becomes a treacherous maze as they search for supplies, safe havens, and potential allies. The party faces constant threats, scarcity of resources, and moral dilemmas as they balance their own survival with the needs of the remaining survivors.
Their ultimate goal could be to find a way out of the city or uncover the cause of the outbreak to prevent it from spreading further.
The Wilderness Survival
In this scenario, the party is stranded in a remote wilderness area as the zombie outbreak spreads. They must fend off attacks from the undead while simultaneously overcoming the challenges of survival in a hostile environment.
The party might face limited access to food, water, and shelter, forcing them to rely on their survival skills, and craft tools, and forge alliances with other survivors they encounter.
They can explore abandoned cabins, hunt for food, and navigate dangerous terrain while evading zombie hordes. Their objective could be to find a safe place to establish a long-term shelter or seek out a rumored sanctuary rumored to be immune to the outbreak.
The Military Outpost
In this scenario, the party discovers a military outpost that has managed to hold its ground against the zombie horde. They are recruited to join the outpost’s defense efforts, fortifying the base, conducting supply runs, and repelling waves of zombies.
The party must work closely with other survivors and military personnel, facing the constant pressure of defending the outpost from overwhelming odds.
They might encounter moral dilemmas such as making difficult decisions about resource allocation or determining who can enter the safety of the outpost. Their objective could be to find a way to turn the tide of the zombie outbreak or locate a potential cure.
Allies and Enemies Against Zombies
In a zombie apocalypse scenario in DnD, the party will encounter various allies and enemies in their fight against the undead. Here are some examples:
Survivors: The party can encounter other survivors who are also fighting to stay alive. These individuals can offer assistance, share resources, or provide valuable information about the local area.
Some survivors may have unique skills or knowledge that can be helpful in the party’s struggle against the zombies.
Military or Guard Forces: In certain scenarios, the party may come across military or guard forces that are still operational. These trained fighters can provide crucial support in defending against zombie hordes, fortifying locations, and organizing rescue missions.
They may offer the party protection, weapons, or even a temporary safe haven.
Clerics or Healers: Religious or magical practitioners who specialize in healing and restoration can be powerful allies. Clerics can use their divine magic to heal injuries, cure diseases, and provide protection against the undead.
Their abilities can greatly aid the party in their fight against zombies and help keep them in good health.
Zombies: The primary enemy in a zombie apocalypse scenario is, of course, the zombies themselves. These mindless, relentless undead creatures will stop at nothing to feast on the living.
They come in various forms, from slow-moving walkers to fast and agile runners, and pose a constant threat to the party’s survival.
Necromancers: These dark magic practitioners are responsible for raising and controlling the zombies. Necromancers possess powerful spells and abilities that allow them to manipulate the undead, creating more challenges for the party.
They can be formidable enemies, capable of commanding hordes of zombies or casting spells that hinder or harm the party.
Zombie Lords or Unique Undead: In some instances, more powerful undead creatures emerge, such as zombie lords or unique zombie variants.
These beings have retained some semblance of their former selves, granting them increased intelligence, enhanced abilities, or specialized powers. They often serve as leaders to the zombie hordes and can be key antagonists in the party’s quest to survive.
Zombie-related Magic Items
In a Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) campaign featuring zombies, there are various magic items and artifacts that can be incorporated to enhance the party’s abilities or aid them in their fight against the undead. Here are some examples of zombie-related magic items and artifacts:
This magical sword is imbued with the power to smite the undead. It glows with a faint radiant light when zombies are nearby in DnD, and its strikes deal additional damage against undead creatures.
The Blightbane Sword can be a valuable weapon in the party’s fight against the undead hordes.
Amulet of Undeath Warding
This amulet provides protection against the influence of necromantic magic. It grants resistance to necrotic damage, grants an advantage on saving throws against spells or effects that control or manipulate undead creatures, and emits a protective aura that repels weaker undead.
Censer of Restoration
This enchanted censer emits purifying incense that can restore life to those affected by zombie infections or curses. When the incense is burned, it can remove the zombification process from a recently infected individual, restoring them to their original form.
Cloak of Shadows
This cloak bestows the wearer with the ability to move stealthily and remain undetected by zombies.
While wearing the cloak, the user gains an advantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks against undead creatures, allowing for silent movement and avoiding unwanted attention from the undead.
Scroll of Undead Control
This scroll contains ancient and powerful incantations that grant temporary control over lesser undead. When read aloud, it can compel a small group of zombies to follow the party’s commands for a limited duration, turning them into temporary allies or distractions.
This ancient spellbook holds forbidden knowledge of necromancy. It provides access to unique spells and rituals specifically designed to combat and manipulate the undead.
The grimoire can empower the party’s spellcasters with potent magic to counter zombies and even control them to some extent.
Staff of Reanimation
This staff allows its wielder to reanimate fallen zombies as temporary allies. With a command, the staff can raise dead zombies in the vicinity, turning them into obedient minions under the party’s control.
However, the control is only temporary, and the zombies will return to their lifeless state after a certain duration.
Zombies add a thrilling and immersive element to DnD campaigns. Their origins in mythology and folklore have been adapted into the D&D universe, offering a variety of encounters and lore.
Dungeon Masters (DMs) can create engaging zombie scenarios by balancing difficulty, incorporating diverse variations, and exploring the moral dilemmas of a zombie apocalypse.
Strategies for surviving zombie hordes, roleplaying with zombies, and utilizing zombie-related magic items enhance the gameplay experience. The presence of zombies in DnD campaigns brings excitement, challenges, and opportunities for memorable adventures.