Your party will encounter zombies whether they are exploring a cemetery at night, attacking the tower of the necromancer, or protecting against an undead invasion. These familiar monsters will move towards your DnD party, making it quite the fight to defeat.
However, it can get tiresome to hear monsters screaming and shuffle toward your party. So how do you keep zombies fresh in your characters’ minds and those of the players playing them? There are many ways that zombies can make encounters with their undead fun. Continue reading to learn more about our Zombie 5e Guide.
What is Zombies?
Zombies are the walking, never-stopping, foot soldiers of every necromantic army, fantasy and 5e. They are undead that have risen after their deaths. Zombies are mostly humans. They are dressed in the clothes they wore when dying. The wounds they suffered are still visible on their yellowed and bloated bodies.
They can be emitted and animated by dark magic. This could be either inadvertently or after dark magic is absorbed into the area they are buried. They either follow orders from a master or wait for something to kill them once they have risen.
They don’t require food, water, or sleep so it is difficult to defeat them with attrition. You can defeat a zombie by speed, trickery or combat.
Zombies don’t have a lot of intelligence and will follow the quickest route to their enemy unless they are told otherwise. They will leap out of windows and move through dangerous terrain to reach their target.
How does 5e Zombies work?
Zombies in 5e can be described as medium undead monsters. They shuffle towards the party without regard for tactics or their safety. Because they have 8 armor class and a 22 average hp pool, they are not a danger to anyone lower than them.
Their highest stat is constitution. It’s represented by the trait Undead fortitude. This trait, according to their stat block, does the following: If the zombie is hit with damage, it must make an Constitution saving throw with a DC equal to 5 + the damage taken. The zombie will drop to 1 hit points if it succeeds.
A wizard might “kill” a zombie by casting a spell that does 10, but the zombie would still need to make a DC 15 saving throw. They do not die, but they will lose their HP. They can fight another round if they do this.
Zombies do not use weapons, but instead slam on you with their hands to try and force you into submission. In enclosed spaces, zombies might try to wrestle you or batter you under the weight of all their bodies.
Zombies have many advantages
Every undead army has zombies, which is why every necromancer keeps a few around. The forces of darkness can easily control zombies and they will obey your simple commands. Two things are key to zombies’ advantage: their sheer numbers and high HP pool.
22 hitpoints are a fair amount for a mindless walking corpse. A party of 4 adventuring heroes will have to fight many of them in order to win the battle. Zombies don’t have any inherent advantages to working together, but their hitpoint pools as well as the Undead Fortitude trait make them quite powerful.
They won’t defeat the party unless they make bad dice rolls or the party is injured from an earlier encounter. However, they will force them to spend spell slots, healing tools, and other resources they could have used against more difficult enemies.
Your BBEG will benefit more if your party has more resources to fight the zombies.
You would be wrong if you saw zombies as flesh-eating tanks that can inflict damage. Their intelligence and speed are the two greatest weaknesses of zombies.
Their speed is 20 feet, which is slower than most adventure games. Your players won’t be able to move around if the zombies hold them in tight spaces.
Their intelligence and wisdom saves are negatives so they will be severely affected by spellcasters. A good wizard will be able use any spell that he chooses without worrying about saving throw success on the enemy’s side.
How to Make Zombies More Fun
The zombies slow down, shuffling and slam you to the ground. While this is fun for a while, it won’t make your party lose their resources if they are your main enemy.
You could throw more zombies at them but it’s much more fun to give them new rules and abilities.
Combine them with other undead
First, a necromancer who is worth his salt will not just have zombies. They will also have undead companions. The zombie and skeleton combination is one of the most popular combinations.
Skeletons are fragile, have low HP, and can take more damage from bludgeoning. Although they won’t survive as long as zombies in straight combat, they have some advantages.
They are faster, can use ranged attacks and have shorter bows than zombies. Combining the two can make for a very entertaining experience. The zombies can wiggle in and hold the party down with their tanky bodies while the skeletons can ply the party with arrows.
Although it might not seem like a difficult encounter, these undead forces can make a great dungeon run.
You can also pair undead with zombies, which gives the party something to fight against while the ghasts, ghouls, or ghosts work behind-the scenes. Try your imagination, throw a few combinations at your party and see what happens.
With a few variations, you can make your zombie even more interesting. You can easily mix and match zombies with some abilities. This will make your player shiver. These variants may even be dependent on how the zombies died.
Zombie Bloaters are people who have been poisoned to death and now have poison in their bodies. These zombies can explode with poison clouds instead of using undead fortitude. If you fail to pass a dex save, you will be poisoned.
The dark magic that gave life to zombie wizards may be more infused, allowing them to inflict necrotic damage with each hit. They might have a unique use of a magic ability or spell.
Zombies could be soldiers who are able to use the weapons that they used in combat against their foes. Although they might be at a disadvantage in the attack rolls due to their broken bodies, they still pose a threat.
Perhaps a graveyard full of heroes was disturbed. Fallen heroes equipped with magical weapons or armor will have to be destroyed. These zombies will have a higher AC and may be more difficult to defeat.
Zombies runners could be created, which have 40-foot speeds and less health than normal 20-foot runners. This will be a scary option for your heroes and will make it difficult for them to attempt to kite the zombies using ranged attacks.
Zombiefy Other Creatures
You don’t have to be a zombie. You can add some humor to the mix with zombie elves and dwarfs or halflings. Although they can look the same as normal zombies, a cosmetic modification is always cool. It is possible to fight zombie animals, as sometimes the body isn’t just buried in an underground grave.
There are also zombie monsters like bugbears and minotaurs, as well as a zombie dragon. They would be statistically the same as their living counterparts but would have lower intelligence and wisdom and be immune to poison.
The fight would continue as usual. You can make zombie versions of classic attacks and have a lot of fun.
It’s hard to beat a zombie bugbear. Then, you can slash off its arm with one critical hit and watch it continue to mindlessly come at you. The other arm will continue to fight you, which is extremely frightening for the adventurer at the other end.
Question: Are Zombies weak?
Answer: The official 5e statblock does not show any weaknesses or vulnerabilities for zombies. However, you could still create weaknesses for your zombies. Your zombies could be made vulnerable to holy magic, fire, silver, and special zombie-slaying gear.
You might be killed in one or more of the above ways to negate the Undead Fortitude ability. However, any other death causes Undead Fortitude not to kick in without the need of a zombie saving throw. Have fun and experiment with making your zombies unique.
This could be done with other Undead, using the same rules as above to have them save to prevent death. They can pass with just one HP, and then continue fighting.
This could give holy characters like the Clerg or the Paladin an opportunity to show their undead-slaying skills. Your party could also optimize their loadouts in order to take out the undead quickly and stop them from rising again.
Question: Can Zombies Have Disease?
Answer: In 5e, zombies don’t have a bite attack. They also won’t make you a zombie if they touch or pierce any part of your skin. However, your zombies may still be able to get necrotic damage from bite attacks or other skills.
This route requires that you have strong magic to be able heal the damage immediately.
Even so, the potion or healing spell might be able to heal physical wounds, but it can also leave behind the rotting and toxic energy. This type of healing must be performed by a specialist at a church. You can make the narcotics damage cosmetic but it can still be deadly and offensive for the infected.
Necrotic damage is the opposite of radiant magical. Necrotic damage spells can tear apart your skin, apply to the affected area or cover it with scars and boils. It’s possible to have fun with the situation, but you should state that only higher-level spells will cure the infection. This will make it less likely that your party fights zombies unprepared.
Question: Are Zombies Mindless?
Answer Although necromancers, dark magic, and lich can give corpses life and raise dead characters, they do not control them. A necromancer who has raised ten zombies will not automatically end the spell. They will be still alive because it is a self-contained spell.
The one who raised them can control zombies, but they are limited to attacking an enemy and charging forward.