Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Redeeming the zombie minion

As you approach the hall, you are overwhelmed by a nauseating stench. Something moves in the darkness, aware of your presence. The corpses on the floor start to rise, moved by an unnatural hunger. You are surrounded by dozens of zombies! You ready your weapons and quickly consider your options as the enemy approaches, ready to devour your - PLEASE STOP LAUGHING, THEY ARE VERY THREATENING!

Zombie minions are not, to say it politely, very threatening. The minion rules about dying on one hit do not synergyze well with a type of monster with lousy defenses that are usually compensated with tons of hit points. The result is a monster that is almost automatically killed with any attack you point at it, while also having terrible mobility and no special abilities whatsoever. Admittedly, they get a tiny offensive advantage, even if they rarely live long enough to use it.

This is not right. If there is a monster that deserves a good minion version, it's the zombie! Everyone likes plowing through hordes of rotten undead. Or running away from them, when their numbers get out of proportion. Today, I'll show a few variations on the zombie rotter that should add a bit of variety, and some challenge, to your undead encounters.

The following monster stats are based on the Zombie Rotter from the Monster Manual. For anything not listed here, you should use the values in that entry.

The basic minion, with its level corrected.

A tougher version

Great for parties

An odd controller/leader zombie

He will die often

An interesting note: The first thing I wanted to change was to turn Zombie Rotters from terrible Level 3 minions into poor Level 1 minions. Oddly, when I looked at the D&D Compendium for reference on other minions, Rotters where listed as Level 1. Curious, I searched the most recent errata (dated 1/20/2009) for a zombie update I had missed, but found nothing. It's nice that they fix these things in the Compendium, but they really should update official errata, too!


  1. I really like these.

    The grabber is nice, as is the Riser.

  2. Very interesting. I like the Riser a lot. The "resurrection" mechanic could be developed further to make a very interesting feature for zombies and other type of "unstoppable" creatures.

  3. Actually, there are already several monsters featuring the "resurrection" mechanic in official books. I was inspired by the Zombie Hulk from Monster Manual, but you can find other examples in Open Grave and some Dungeon adventures. There are even some minions, though I don't really like how they are implemented (they always rise again, unless killed by damage of a specific type).

    The base ability from Zombie Hulk is the following:

    "Rise Again (the first time the zombie hulk drops to 0 hit points or fewer)
    Make a new initiative check for the zombie hulk. On its next turn, the zombie hulk rises (as a move action) with [bloodied] hit points"

    Searching the compendium for "rise again" currently returns 10 monsters, and that number will probably grow over time.

  4. I like zombies that are easy to keep at bay by spamming damage, but if you let up even for a round, BAM! If you attach zombies to a static object or enemy, you can treat the zombies almost like a trap or terrain feature. They take up some party attention ,but you don't really have to "kill them" per say, so much as just prevent them from attacking.