Zombies ate my party – the undead invade high fantasy

Last weekend I had a chance to sit down with two other folks who helped me do a bit of play testing.  Scott, our technical Vizier and Jenn, my wife.  Scott has extensive role playing experience while my wife has been a casual player on and off for the last decade.  They played a party of 3 first level characters and before modification of the zombies, got spread on toast like a fried egg and eaten for brunch by zombies.

Note: If you want to follow the development of the Aruneus world, just click this. Bookmarking that will bring you back to the latest news.

Time for some modifications then!  I’ll include the new Decrepit, Old and Standard Contagion Infected Zombie stats after a description of the play test session.  Also updated Head Shot info and a new feat: Decapitate.

We started off with a Human Ranger, a Human Cleric and an Elf Wizard.  All characters were first level and were pit against various zombies.  I started the zombies off 40′ from the player characters, who were standing 5′ apart.

First, we learned that the CI Zombies as I’d originally designed them were a bit over powered.  I started with one Decrepit CIZ at 40′  By the time he’d reached 30′ the Ranger got him with a long bow/Head Strike combo.  But he’d called in two Standard CIZs, one of which was wearing a helm and had an AC of 15.

The unarmored zombie got taken down again with a Head Strike at about 25′.  The armored zombie however made it to the party and proceeded to grapple successfully with them and consume them.  Messily.

After a bit of tweaking, we came to the zombies I present below.   They have a wider range of movement, with the younger zombies moving at a half standard 15’/round.  I’ve also reduced their HP and HD a bit.  Damage reduction has been tweaked as well.   Clerical Channeled Energy, if it brings the CI Zombie to 0 HPs or lower will also destroy them now.  This resulted in what I consider decent combat scenarios for a group of 1st level characters.

8 Decrepit CI zombies (CR1 total) gave the party little trouble but there were a few tense moments towards the end of the encounter.

4 Old CI zombies (CR1)were about the same, but harder to avoid so combat closed sooner.

2 Standard CI Zombies (CR1), one wearing armor and a helm again made for a few tense moments but were well handled by a 1st level party.

Tactics wise, this is what I can tell you.  At 1st level, protect your archers!  In fact, in this campaign setting, everyone should have a ranged weapon of some sort, be it a sling, crossbow or bow.  When a zombie moves 5′ it’s entirely possible to shoot as your combat action and then take a 5′ step back.  As long as they’re Decrepit CIZs and coming from only one direction you’ll do well, with a main archer type (Ranger in our case) accounting for about 2/3 of the kills with head shots.

As you level up, your spell chuckers will become more important as well.  Large swaths of area damage make for a pretty effective zombie eliminator, provided you’re doing 2x HP damage to the effected undead.

Clerics are groovy.  You’ve probably already guessed that.  Even a first level cleric, channeling 1d6 points of energy can hurt and after the 2nd or 3rd attempt eliminate a group of zombies.

As an aside, I’m now more seriously considering putting together an Aruneus Wiki of some sort.  I may need some help in maintaining it though, so if anyone’s got some spare time please let me know.

Here are the modified stats.

Head Strike

A Head Strike is an attack that targets a specific portion of the body – the head.  Head shots may be taken if the following conditions are met:

  • The target is in range of the weapon being used.
  • The head the character is attempting to hit is not obstructed by armor or other obstructions.
  • The target must be moving at 15′ per round or less.

A Head Strike may be used during any normal attack action (either an attack action or a full round attack action).  If the character has more than one attack per round during a full round attack action they may substitute a head strike for any or all of these attacks.

Each head strike causes the character to take a -4 on their attack roll.  On successfully hitting with a head strike, the target takes an additional 6 points of damage and is exhausted.  If that target is a human infected with the Undead Contagion, they are considered to have received sufficient damage to the brain to kill them.

Head Strikes on infected humans wearing a helm do normal damage and will not be considered enough of a blow to kill them.  These individuals must either have their head gear removed or be killed by a coup de grace.

Contagion Infected (CI) Human Zombie

These creatures are humans who have been infected by the Contagion.  Once a human has been bitten by a Contagion Infected Human Zombie, they themselves will turn in a matter of hours or at best, days.

These creatures retain no knowledge of their former existence.  They are motivated by one purpose only, which is to feed on living flesh of warm blooded creatures.  Unlike their magically created counterparts, CI Zombies do not follow orders from any source.  They are incapable of understanding any commands.  A significant portion of their brain must be destroyed before the zombie succumbs to a final death.

Much like their counterparts however they feel no pain and will in no way attempt to defend themselves against attack or the ravages of nature.  CI Zombies can be controlled by those who can control the undead if they are so mastered.  Should their new masters lose control, CI Zombies immediately revert to mindless eating machines.

When not actively feeding, a CI Zombie will ceaselessly search for warm blooded, living flesh to feed on.  They do not hunt in groups but are often seen together (ranging from two zombies to hordes in the thousands) because they are attracted by the same stimulus.   They do not distinguish or prefer one type of target over another.  They will head to the nearest source of food whether it’s a field mouse or a sleeping dragon and immediately attack.

CI Zombies always attack by first attempting a grapple and then attempting a bite.  Once they have successfully bitten their target, they will continue to feed by biting once per round (per zombie) until that target’s heart stops beating.  As soon as the target dies, the CI zombies will lose interest and immediately seek a new target.

There are three types of Contagion Infected Zombies.  Decrepit (50 – 100 years), Old (20 – 50 years) and Standard (0 – 20 years).  All CI Zombies share the same Special Attributes.

Decrepit Contagion Infected Zombie

XP 50  CR 1/8
Medium Undead
Perception (warm blooded creatures only) +5
AC 11, touch 10, flat-footed 11 (+1 natural)
HP: 6 (1 HD: 1d6)
Defensive Abilities: Undead Traits
Speed: 5 Feet (1 square – cannot run)
Melee: Bite -1 (1d2), Grapple -1.  Will always attempt a Grapple first.
Space/Reach:    5 ft./5 ft
Special Attacks: none
Special Qualities: Prolonged Undeath, Single actions only, damage reduction 1/–,undead traits, brain must be destroyed, moan.
Str 8, Dex 8, Con 10, Int 0, Wis 0, Cha 0
Base Attack -1; CMB -2 ; CMD 9

Old Contagion Infected Zombie

XP 100  CR 1/4
Medium Undead
Perception (warm blooded creatures only) +5
AC 11, touch 10, flat-footed 11 (+1 natural)
HP: 12 (2 HD: 2d6)
Defensive Abilities: Undead Traits
Speed: 10 Feet (2 square – cannot run)
Melee: Bite +0 (1d4), Grapple +0.  Will always attempt a Grapple first.
Space/Reach:    5 ft./5 ft
Special Attacks: none
Special Qualities: Prolonged Undeath, Single actions only, damage reduction 2/–,undead traits, brain must be destroyed, moan.
Str 10, Dex 10, Con 10, Int 0, Wis 0, Cha 0

Base Attack +0; CMB 0; CMD 10

Standard Contagion Infected Zombie

XP 150 CR 1/2
Medium Undead
Perception (warm blooded creatures only) +5
AC 12, touch 10, flat-footed 12 (+1 natural, +1 DEX)
HP: 18 (3 HD: 3d6)
Defensive Abilities: Undead Traits
Speed: 15 Feet (3 squares – cannot run)
Melee: Bite +1 (1d4+1), Grapple +1.  Will always attempt a Grapple first.
Space/Reach:    5 ft./5 ft
Special Attacks: none
Special Qualities: Prolonged Undeath, Single actions only, damage reduction 3/–,undead traits, brain must be destroyed, moan.
Str 12, Dex 12, Con 10, Int 0, Wis 0, Cha 0
Base Attack +1; CMB 2; CMD 15

Special Attributes

Prolonged Undeath

CI Zombies, once turned, decay at a fixed rate equivalent to 1 day of normal decay every 5 years.  For every 10 year interval, the CI Zombie suffers a -1 to hit.  After the equivalent of 20 days of decay (100 years) has been reached, the CI Zombie is no longer able to move under their own power.  They will still attempt to attack/bite any warm blooded creature that passes within their reach.

When a CI Zombie reaches zero hit points, they will become immobile for 1d4 rounds during which time they will recover their full hit points.  At the end of that round they become fully mobile again.  If a CI Zombie suffers a Head Strike, Coup de Grace  or if they are completely consumed by fire or acid,  they will die a true death and will not become mobile again.

Damage Reduction

A Decrepit CI  zombie has damage reduction 1/–.  Zombies are essentially masses of flesh for which wounds are not an issue.

An Old CI  zombie has damage reduction 2/–.  Zombies are essentially masses of flesh for which wounds are not an issue.

A Standard CI zombie has damage reduction 3/–.  Zombies are essentially masses of flesh for which wounds are not an issue.

Single Actions Only

Zombies may either move or attack as a single action each round.

The Contagion

All CI Zombies are infected with the contagion.  A single bite from a CI Zombie will infect any human bitten.


CI Zombies, on determining that potential pray is nearby, emit a long, low moan which carries quite a distance.  Any other CI Zombies within a half mile radius have a 60% chance of being attracted by this moan per round and will also begin moaning themselves.  Often, this results in a CI Zombie Horde.  Zombies will moan if they see prey or hear loud noises which may indicate prey.

Destruction and Dismemberment

If a CI Zombie takes 2x their hit points in damage in a single round from weapon damage there is a 75% chance they will become Dismembered.  If this happens any limbs separated from the body will cease to function.  The CI Zombie becomes immobile but will continue to attempt to attack and feed any warm blooded creature that comes within its reach.   This will continue until the CI Zombie is either destroyed through other means (fire, acid, crushing damage or magical means) or is killed with a head shot.

If a CI Zombie takes 2x its hit points in damage in a single round from fire, acid, crushing damage, cold damage or other magical energy that causes damage, it is considered destroyed (dead).  The exception is a good Cleric who uses the Channel Energy ability.  If Channeled Energy is used to reduce a CI Zombie to 0 hit points, that zombie is destroyed.

Channeled Energy (Clerics) will destroy a zombie if the damage done by channeled energy reduces the zombie to 0 or less hit points.

A note on CI Zombies and equipment/loot.  Decrepit and Old zombies almost never have any loot on them worth speaking of.  They may be wearing armor if they died from the contagion while wearing armor.  Over the course of the years though, they tend to lose most of what they’ve had on.  There is a 5% chance (d100) that a Decripit CI zombie will have a +1 to AC and a 10% chance that an Old CI Zombie will have a +1 to AC.

Standard CI Zombies may well be dressed in still functioning armor.  On a d100 a roll of 1-10 should add +3 to AC and the CI Zombie is wearing a helm (no head shot allowed), 11-20 a +2 and 21 -30 a +1 .

Decapitate (Feat)

This feat implies special training and ability in the use of melee weapons which allows a player to attempt a crushing or cutting blow to remove the head from a target’s body.

Prerequisites:   BAB +1

Benefit: Halves the negative of an attempted Head Shot (from -4 to -2).  Only usable on a melee (non-ranged) attack when a Head Shot is attempted.

[tags]aruneus, rpg, role playing games, zombies[/tags]

4 thoughts on “Zombies ate my party – the undead invade high fantasy

Add yours

  1. I have plenty of chairs, thanks. But if you’d like to come over and sit in one. . . well let me know what suits you best as far as free time!


  2. I’m not sure if it’s good or bad that the first image that leapt into my mind when reading this was a dwarven defender with a spiked chain, improved trip, and combat reflexes. Somehow a spiked chain just seems like a very undwarven weapon, though, so I’m not sure I’d go with it. The incongruity might be part of the attraction, though. Oh well. I’m more likely to run a campaign like this than a character in one.

    Anyway, this setting looks very interesting; I just finished reading through all the background posts. I won’t be up on the rotation to DM for my group for a while yet, but I hope you don’t mind if I steal ideas when the time comes. Not the whole campaign setting (I don’t even stick that close to the script with the big famous settings like Forgotten Realms or, say, Star Wars), but there’s a lot of good work in there. Might even buy a copy if you do get it published (haven’t read that post yet, so not sure if it’s for certain or not).


  3. Hey DungeonHamster,

    (I don’t know why but it gives me great joy to write DungeonHamster).

    Feel free! You won’t be stealing. I wouldn’t be putting this out in the public realm if I didn’t want people to use it. Make it your own and have fun. If you’d like, you can come back and let us all know how it’s going once you do start your campaign.

    I’m not sure if I’ll get this published or not. A lot depends on raising the money – or if that doesn’t work out coming up with an alternative. One thing I can tell you is I’m having a hell of a time doing this though!



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