May of the Dead: Horde Zombies

Zombie Horde by The Meat Grinder at DeviantArt

This post is part of the May of the Dead blogfest being run by the guys at Going Last. There are a lot of other bloggers contributing all sorts of undead content for all sorts of RPG games. For more of this May of the Dead goodness (badness?) you can click through to the blogfest homepage here.

Haven’t zombies been done to death? (Pun intended) In the compendium, we have 61 zombies. 61! of just one type of creature. What more can I add to the mix? I don’t suppose too much, but let’s take a crack at it anyways. It is, after all, May of the Dead…

Zombies lend themselves to the minion role very well. I think of them coming in hordes, and the PCs mowing through them without too much effort. So that’s where we’ll start. I also think of them as being able to take blows that might incapacitate a living being. In fact, that is one of the most terrifying aspects of zombies, and undead in general; their ability to keep going even after you think you’ve dealt them a killing blow.

Imagine the nervous looks from your players when the wizard destroys a whole swath of zombie minions, but you don’t take the markers from the mat. And then on the zombies’ turn, you start rolling a d6.

Of course, there are several ways to overcome this trait, but my favorite is to “put another one in him to make sure he’s really dead.” You might want to hint at this because once players figure this out, it creates an interesting combat choice for them – risk the zombie minion getting back up on its turn, and focus attacks on bigger threats, or spend that standard action to make sure that they’re really not getting back up?

This trait could really be applied to any undead creature. In fact, I’ve written the power that way. After all, isn’t that what an undead creature is? It’s already dead. It should be kind of hard to kill it.

Another aspect of zombie hardiness is their ability to shrug off attacks that would kill a mortal creature, so let’s turn these zombies into two hit minions.

I’ve heard a lot of talk about two hit minions, but I’ve never seen a stat block that put mechanics to it. Here’s a little mechanic that does it, and can be applied to any minion. Just replace Zombie Resistance with Kobold Resistance or Orc Resistance or whatever.

By adding two non-attack features, we have a zombie minion that’s new and different, and hopefully reminds your players of all the zombie movies they’ve ever seen. Plus, they’re hardy! Between their ability to get back up once they’re down and their ability to shrug off the first attack, your players should have a lot of fun hacking through a whole horde of these.

We haven’t added any attacks, so we haven’t made them more complicated on their turn. The first hit bloodies them, so that’s easy to track. And rolling to find out when the zombies get back up and start fighting again should add quite a bit of suspense to the combat.

Here are the two powers applied to a level 3 minion.

You can download the .monster file here. Use it as is, or just strip the two new powers off it and apply them to the baddies of your choice!

And that’s it! Let me know what you think!

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7 Responses to May of the Dead: Horde Zombies

  1. I’m a huge proponent of 2 hit minions and I think the way you presented it in your stat block with “X Resistance” is truly inspired.

    Great post! I look forward to seeing more of your evil and devious May of the Dead goodness.

  2. Ian says:

    These both make zombies feel like they’re supposed to. All zombie minions from now on have at least Undead Persistence.

  3. C. Steven Ross says:

    This particular 2-hit mechanic I really dig because it provides an incentive to teamwork. Huzzah!

  4. benensky says:

    What keeps the zombie from using Zombie Resistance multiple times and never taking damage? Is there a rule about triggered actions not being allowed when the creature is bloodied?

    • Benoit says:

      Excellent point. I neglected to make it an Encounter power, as I had intended to. I’ve changed the .monster file to reflect this, and have updated the article images as well.

      • Ian says:

        I actually think it was fine before. As an immediate interrupt it requires team work (or double attacks) to actually deal damage to the zombie because of the 1/round rule, which is a neat minion mechanic. Plus, as an at-will you don’t have to track power usage for a horde of minions.
        Which isn’t to say that the encounter power is worse. I like them both, but they give different feels to the monster.

      • Benoit says:

        The original intention was a once per encounter mechanic that simply turned them into two hit minions. Marking them as bloodied on the map makes who’s used it and who hasn’t easy to track. But I agree, that would be a really cool mechanic. Also, very easy to mod from the stat block by removing the “Encounter” tag. Funny how that one word completely changes the tactics.

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