It’s an interesting golden age of zombie-themed video games. While I haven’t gotten into DayZ, I’ve been playing a lot of The Walking Dead adventure game. I was able to get a long look at both Dead State (coming out next year) and State of Decay (already out on XBox arcade and coming to Steam soon), and both of them look extremely cool. Thus, I think back to how much I’d like to find time to run a game of the Dirge zombie apocalypse hack I put together last year. So here are some zombies as threats for that hack (and would probably work fine with any D20 modern game).

General Notes on Zombies

  • For the purposes of this hack, there are no effects that particularly care about mental stats, and zombies are mindless anyway. Therefore, we only care about Strength and Dexterity for zombies: assume all other stats are functionally — or 10, whichever is necessary.
  • Standard zombies don’t have skills or feats, though mutants might, and the Dirge hack uses skills instead of saves. Use a non-mutant zombie’s Dex modifier for Initiative and to defend against area attacks (i.e., Acrobatics/Reflex), the zombie automatically succeeds against anything like toxins (e.g., Stamina/Fortitude), and is immune to anything mental.
  • The DR of the zombies is tuned to use the (Buffy-style) headshot mechanic in Dirge (-4 penalty to deal double damage, but if double damage isn’t enough to reduce the target to 0, it does regular damage instead). That is, zombies will soak up a lot of non-headshot hits for many weapons, but if you go for the headshot the doubled damage will often one-shot the target with an average or higher roll. Tougher zombies may require you to soften them up a little before going for the headshot.
  • Zombies are defeated at 0 HP, even if you manage to destroy one without taking a headshot. It’s probably worth describing that the final hit managed to functionally decapitate the zombie through major structural damage.
  • Zombies use the stances described in the Dirge document and in this post. The default bonus is built into the stats, and they’re intended to get the +2 to attack, damage, and AC against the relevant stances (and the PCs are meant to get the relevant bonuses against them).
  • Unless otherwise noted, the zombie’s default attack is flailing at the target. That is, living characters shouldn’t fear infection from the zombie’s default attack. Instead, the only damage that should represent a bite should be damage dealt during a grapple; this should give the PCs a chance to avoid getting bitten, since the zombie has to grapple one round and then deal damage the next. All zombies’ grapple bonus/CMB is functionally equal to their attack bonus (plus Improved Grapple, if they have it), and their defense to grappling/CMD is AC + Str mod.

Zombie Types

  • Runners are cheater zombies. They are not in any way slow, but fortunately their pristine, springy muscles don’t resist damage as much as slower versions. If all of your zombies act like these, your PCs probably won’t make it. “Realistically,” they represent fresh zombies who died with minor injuries, and after a few days (a few weeks at the most), they atrophy into Rotters. So you’ll see a lot of these early in a campaign, but they should become very rare (coming from infected former survivors) once you’ve settled into the long survival game.
  • Rotters are still relatively fresh, but were either eaten to death or were former Runners that have started to lose coherency. They’re a little tougher and slower than Runners. Depending on how zombies work in your world, they might be common long term or all might become Shamblers after a few weeks or months.
  • Shamblers are the really leathery zombies who have reached a state where anything that was going to rot off, has, and they’re now pretty stable unless unusually exposed to the elements (in which case they become Carcasses). They have high DR but move extremely slowly (they always count as Staggered, getting only a Standard Action each round).
  • Carcasses are the zombies that require really inventive makeup techniques in the movies and shows: they’re missing major appendages, and have probably been left to erode in the weather. Extremely slow (probably dragging themselves along without functional legs) and not particularly tough, they’re really only a threat if they got stuck somewhere the PCs happen to stumble without noticing them.
  • Specials are mutants of a Left 4 Dead or Resident Evil style. Depending on how your zombies work, they may not be a possibility, or there may be a lot of variation. Unlike the other types, they may have some level of animal intelligence, allowing them to have feats and skills in addition to their weird powers.

Basic Zombie Stats

All basic zombies have Threat ratings from 0-3 for purposes of the Morale system. This is generally a Threat of 1 for non-Carcass zombies, +1 if the zombie is particularly threatening (e.g., Fast Runners and Tough for most categories), and +1 if the zombie is wearing armor (Armored Runner and SWAT Rotter) or has some other situational advantage.

Name Speed Str Dex AC HP DR Att. Dmg.
Runner (Determined) 30 ft. 10 12 (+1) 11 11 3/- +2 1d4
Extra-Cheatery Runner (Fast) 40 ft. 8 (-1) 14 (+2) 13 11 3/- -1 1d4-1
Big Runner (Tough) 25 ft. 12 (+1) 10 10 16 4/- +1 1d4+3
“Feral” Child (Vulnerable*) 30 ft. 10 12 (+1) 11 11 3/- +0 1d4
Armored Runner (Determined) 30 ft. 10 12 (+1) 13 11 3/- +2 1d4
Rotter (Determined) 20 ft. 10 10 10 10 4/- +2 1d4
Quick Rotter (Fast) 30 ft. 8 (-1) 12 (+1) 12 10 4/- -1 1d4-1
Big Rotter (Tough) 15 ft. 12 (+1) 8 (-1) 9 15 5/- +1 1d4+3
SWAT Rotter (Tough) 5 ft. 12 (+1) 8 (-1) 15 15 5/- +1 1d4+3
Shambler (Determined) 20 ft.** 10 8 (-1) 9 9 5/- +2 1d4
Big Shambler (Tough) 15 ft.** 12 (+1) 6 (-2) 8 14 6/- +1 1d4+3
Carcass (Determined) 10 ft.** 8 (-1) 6 (-2) 8 8 4/- +1 1d4-1
“Dead Body” (Vulnerable*) 10 ft.** 8 (-1) 6 (-2) 8 8 4/- -1 1d4-1

* Attackers take -6 to hit a Vulnerable zombie unless that zombie has injured the attacker or is the only available target.
** Always Staggered (can only take a Standard OR Move action each round).

Special Zombies

Sneaky Climber (Determined); Threat 5

  • Speed 30 ft., Climb 20 ft.
  • Str 14 (+2), Dex 16 (+3) (Initiative +8)
  • AC 14, DR 3/-, HP 17
  • Attack +5 (1d4+2)
  • Skills Athletics +6, Stealth +7
  • Feats Improved Grapple, Improved Initiative, Sneak Attack (+1d6), Weapon Focus (Unarmed)

Clawed Parkour Hooligan (Fast); Threat 6

  • Speed 40 ft.
  • Str 12 (+1), Dex 18 (+4)
  • AC 16, DR 3/-, HP 15
  • Attack +5 (1d6+1)
  • Skills Acrobatics +8, Athletics +5
  • Feats Dodge, Mobility, Spring Attack, Weapon Finesse, Weapon Focus (Claw)

Bloated Stinking Rotter (Tough); Threat 5

  • Speed 15 ft.
  • Str 16 (+3), Dex 10
  • AC 14, DR 5/-, HP 20
  • Attack +3 (1d4+3); Noxious Spit +0 (10 ft. Range)
  • Skills Athletics +7
  • Feats Power Attack (-2 attack, +4 damage), Improved Bull Rush
  • Powers:
    • Noxious Spit: Target takes -6 Stealth until cleaned off and must make Stamina/Fortitude roll (DC 14) to avoid being Nauseated for one Round.
    • Distracting Miasma: All living characters within 10 ft. (or a large room indoors if given time for the stench to build up) must make Stamina/Fortitude rolls (DC 14) to avoid being Sickened. If failed, the character is Sickened whenever within range of this zombie for the next 24 hours. If successful, the character is not affected again by this zombie’s stench for the next 24 hours.
    • Death Explosion: When reduced to 0 HP, the zombie explodes in a fountain of filth. All living targets within 10 ft. must make an Acrobatics/Reflex roll (DC 14) to avoid suffering Noxious Spit.

Seemingly Sentient Innocent (Vulnerable); Threat 6

  • Speed 30 ft.
  • Str 12 (+1), Dex 14 (+2)
  • AC 12, DR 3/-, HP 15
  • Attack +3 (1d6+3)
  • Skills Acrobatics +6, Perception +4
  • Feats Blind-Fight, Run, Sneak Attack (+1d6), Uncanny Dodge, Weapon Finesse, Weapon Focus (Claw), Weapon Specialization (Claw)
  • Powers:
    • Crocodile Tears: This zombie is intelligent enough to mimic crying, screams, or other non-language verbalizations to try to lure survivors in, and will hide its hands and face from view to make it hard to see the claws, blood, and mad eyes. It generally only attacks when targets are in range of a surprise round partial charge.
    • Exquisitely Vulnerable: All attackers take the Vulnerable penalty (-6 to attack the zombie) even if it is the last viable target; only dealing damage to a survivor breaks this effect.