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    SwashbucklerGuy

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    Default Zombies vs. Zombies

    A friend and I were talking the other day, and we came across the topic of zombies, and the various types. After some discussion, we decided there were two main types, with a few sub-types: Reanimated Dead (a la necromancy or voodoo) and Mindless Living (a la virus or… well, voodoo). This then lead to the following idea: Why not have a game (whether RPG campaign or video game) whereby you have both types?

    The setup would be something like this: An outbreak occurs, causing an zombie plague. This could probably be from natural variation of the flu/rabies (Left 4 Dead) or from scientific meddling (Resident Evil). This plague starts threatening a small town, which happens to house a necromancer. In response to this threat, he brings forth an army of the Undead to try to halt the spread.

    Alternatively, it may be a necromancer that is threatening a town and the local protectorate gives a number of the militia a "super serum" that will make them fearless so they can fight off the invaders… but it turns out that the serum has a few side effects.

    In either case, the heroes arrive. They will probably start slaughtering the zombies willy-nilly, but they might notice that the zombies appear… different. Some have a shambling walk, stiff limbs, and are decaying, while the others are more agile but don't seem to have as much purpose. If they look into this, they will hear one group's side of the story, and they must decide whether or not to side with one side or the other… or simply kill them all.

    A few more thoughts (more pertinent to video-game rendition, but still helpful):
    • Virus zombies still need sustinance and will die if they run out of food
    • Reanimated zombies can keep going as long as necromancer/artifact animating them survives
    • Virus zombies are more agile, but seem listless until they have a goal (i.e., get food)
    • Reanimated zombies have very jerky movements due to rigor mortis, but have more purpose due to being controlled by a central mind
    • Virus zombies are fairly easy to stop: take out nervous system or let them bleed out, as they are still alive
    • Reanimated zombies will keep attacking even if they are decapitated: You must take out all limbs and destroy the parts
    • Virus zombieism spreads quickly and simply: A single bite or scratch has a chance of infection and becoming a zombie after a few hours or days. Keep an eye on members that are injured
    • Renamated zombieism doesn't spread except by raising more dead: A scratch or bite won't do much except hurt and possibly bleed out/get infected with standard infections. Antibiotics and bandages should keep an injured team mate on his feet
    • Virus zombies want to eat your brains
    • Reanimated zombies just want to complete the task at hand


    Any other thoughts? Any useful tips I missed out on? How would you incorporate this into a campaign? Which side are you rooting for?
    Last edited by Ksheep; 2012-10-03 at 01:24 AM.
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    Default Re: Zombies vs. Zombies

    Quote Originally Posted by Ksheep View Post
    • Virus zombieism spreads quickly and simply: A single bite or scratch has a chance of infection and becoming a zombie after a few hours or days. Keep an eye on members that are injured
    • Renamated zombieism doesn't spread except by raising more dead: A scratch or bite won't do much except hurt and possibly bleed out/get infected with standard infections. Antibiotics and bandages should keep an injured team mate on his feet
    One of the party gets scratched by a virus zombie.
    Player 1: "We have to kill him now, before he turns into a zombie."
    Player 2:"But, if he dies, the necromancer will raise him as a zombie."


    This has potential.

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    Default Re: Zombies vs. Zombies

    Mostly, this depends on how intelligent the Reanimator is, and whether or not they have the support of the local people. If it's townsfolk vs. Virus Zombies vs. Reanimator, the result is fairly obvious: The Reanimator, if they're intelligent, will help the townspeople tide over the main attacks by the Virus Zombies, and after the Virus Zombies are broken, pick up all of the dead and take out the living. Reanimated Zombies have a huge benefit in their favor in that they're not a food source for the Virus Zombies; they're not living, they can't be contaminated and raised as a Virus Zombie, and they can be directed by the main Necromancer. If the townspeople have walls with stakes on them, and some undead to guard them, they should tide out the Virus Zombies in short order as they run out of food. Alternatively, the necromancer could create a Reanimated Zombie perimeter around the invested zone, to act as a quarantine, and starve them out. Since the Reanimated Zombies aren't food sources, don't need to break from vigil, and probably have/will soon have structures backing up their moves and a keen intelligence behind them, they will probably win out the long game against the Virus Zombies.

    If the Reanimated Zombies are against the Virus Zombies and the townspeople, though, they have a huge advantage in the form of a strategist behind them. He can direct hordes to keep at the walls as normal, while also supervising underhanded tactics the humans/Virals aren't aware of, such as tunneling under the town to raid their catacombs/ossuary, and then striking in the center of the town. They win out the long game there for sure.

    However, when you assume a mobile, advanced adventuring party, things get more dicey. The adventuring party is at a huge disadvantage towards the Viral Zombies, as they don't have the numbers to really crack down on Viral Population, and each hit they incur has a chance at defeating them. However, they have a decided advantage against the Reanimated Zombies, as the Reanimated Zombies have a central nervous node to strike down: The Necromancer. They can track him down through recent movements/sources of fresh troops, and no matter how many countermeasures he has, they will all eventually fail against a properly powerful party that can take him out. Traps only work once, he'll eventually recourse to reusing tactics, the party can know his strategic objectives, and so on. Of course, the problem with doing so is that he's the one keeping the Virals in check, and if the party captures him before his objectives are complete and hold him captive until he wipes out the virals, it's either a Xanatos Gambit, or he's going to get himself free before his use has run out (probably while also furthering his plans for taking over the city). And of course, by the time the Viral Zombies are dead and his use would otherwise have ran out, he'll have finished his primary objective (probably in the same masterstroke).

    As a summation: The Necromancer is the key player in this infestation. He has the numbers to support the townsfolk and contain the Virals, and run well, he can basically play the war out perfectly to his advantage. The heroes are unable to touch him due to the fact that he has more or less unlimited resources and is the only one that can really contain the Viral Zombies, the Viral Zombies can't touch him because of the horde he has that they can't feed on, and the townsfolk are too pinned down by the Viral Zombies to do anything about the Necromancer that seems to be working with them against the Virals. Run well, he can present huge moral dilemmas for the players if they're opposed to him, or be the lynchpin that the players have to defend from opposing factions if they want to tide out the horde. If the Necromancer is an artifact, that artifact is the MacGuffin that will win the war; if it's a person, if they're working with the players they're a Living MacGuffin, if they're opposing the players, they're a Chessmaster who has contingencies for their defeat/capture.

    Needless to say, I'm planning on a Necromancer Victory, save for the actions of an extremely competent adventuring party. And even then...
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    Default Re: Zombies vs. Zombies

    I think it would make for a perfect campaign idea, with the Necromancer zombies doing better barring an incopetent necromancer/poor comunication with necro/zombie.

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    Default Re: Zombies vs. Zombies

    Quote Originally Posted by DMofDarkness View Post
    Needless to say, I'm planning on a Necromancer Victory, save for the actions of an extremely competent adventuring party. And even then...
    Nice analysis. I have to say, I agree on most parts. The only thing I can see that's off is the edibleness of the reanimated: While it's true that most of them will be unappealing, those that are freshly dead will still be perfectly edible, and even the more decayed ones will look rather tasty after a week of starvation. As a general rule of thumb, the longer something goes without food, the more willing they will be to eat unappetizing food sources.

    We'd also run into an interesting situation if the village that this takes place in doesn't normally bury the dead. What if they instead burn the bodies on a pyre (maybe they had a necromancer attack in the past)? This will result in a much smaller starting stock for the necromancer, meaning that his forces may be outnumbered 10-to-1 or more. Of course, as the siege continues, he'll get more stock materials, but then he runs into the problem of using walking buffets that feel no pain as his frontline troops.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Welknair View Post
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    Default Re: Zombies vs. Zombies

    This is a discussion I've had more than once myself: essentially it's science zombies vs magic zombies.

    I like to make some of the same distinctions, especially that the virus-created "zombies" are easier to kill, since magic can animate something even when it's down to just a skeleton and a virus is still subject to the laws of biology and physics. (that line in the Resident Evil movies about how zombies can go forever with no food just killed me, but now apparently they've moved on to the virus granting magic-psycic powers, so why are we even trying to justify the realism? but whatever)

    The balance that I usually put on the magic zombies (since they are tougher, and usually benefit from either intelligent directions or a hive-mind mentality) is that magical animations are not "fire and forget" spells; they require continuous magical upkeep.
    This means that either the necromancer has a cap on the number of zombies he can raise (unlike a virus which can spread unchecked) or an uncapped magic spell might eventually make so many zombies that it drains the life right out of the necromancer, killing him, at which point the magic-zombies fall apart relatively quickly. If the necromancer is already undead, then it drains his negative energy, redeadening him.


    Now excuse my while I go check the thesaurus for different words for "dead", so we can get past all this dead/undead/dead-dead/redead junk.
    Last edited by Deepbluediver; 2012-10-06 at 09:45 AM.
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    Default Re: Zombies vs. Zombies

    An interesting idea (not my cup of tea, but it's your group), since it plays with some variation.

    My confusion is with the virus zombies. If any open wound caused by a virus zombie can cause zombism, any hit on your PCs would likely end with the others killing him/her and burning the corpse, because otherwise your screwed.
    End result: The highest PC mortality rate since Hunger Games.

    Unless it is a very small chance or there is some treatment?
    Last edited by Nyes the Dark; 2012-10-06 at 10:35 AM.

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    Default Re: Zombies vs. Zombies

    Quote Originally Posted by Nyes the Dark View Post
    An interesting idea (not my cup of tea, but it's your group), since it plays with some variation.

    My confusion is with the virus zombies. If any open wound caused by a virus zombie can cause zombism, any hit on your PCs would likely end with the others killing him/her and burning the corpse, because otherwise your screwed.
    End result: The highest PC mortality rate since Hunger Games.

    Unless it is a very small chance or there is some treatment?
    I'd say easiest thing to do is A) Fort save, with a low enough DC that level 1 commoners will be fairly susceptible, while higher level PCs have a much lower chance of getting infected, or B) Incubation period of several days, during which time you can attempt to cure it via spells or medicine (although medicines will probably be highly experimental and my have some side effects).
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    Quote Originally Posted by Welknair View Post
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    Default Re: Zombies vs. Zombies

    Quote Originally Posted by Ksheep View Post
    Nice analysis. I have to say, I agree on most parts. The only thing I can see that's off is the edibleness of the reanimated: While it's true that most of them will be unappealing, those that are freshly dead will still be perfectly edible, and even the more decayed ones will look rather tasty after a week of starvation. As a general rule of thumb, the longer something goes without food, the more willing they will be to eat unappetizing food sources.

    We'd also run into an interesting situation if the village that this takes place in doesn't normally bury the dead. What if they instead burn the bodies on a pyre (maybe they had a necromancer attack in the past)? This will result in a much smaller starting stock for the necromancer, meaning that his forces may be outnumbered 10-to-1 or more. Of course, as the siege continues, he'll get more stock materials, but then he runs into the problem of using walking buffets that feel no pain as his frontline troops.
    Clarification on that, then. When I said "food sources," I meant that the zombies couldn't reliably feed on them. If they're guarding the perimeter, and the Viral Zombies are trying to attack them for food... given how indestructible the Reanimated zombies are, the Viral Zombie will not survive the feeding.

    If there were no reserves in the village, then that poses an interesting question. Much of it depends on the surrounding resources; for the purposes of discussion we will assume that they live isolated from other communities. We will also assume that the Necromancer and the Virals can't raise non-human zombies (Protip: If that's on the table, the Necromancer wins. They get more zombies, and since most of the life in the surrounding wilderness is herbivorous, they won't be able to feed themselves and starve), and that the Necromancer can raise dead Virals as Reanimated zombies. This changes the situation: First off, the Necromancer won't have the materials at the start to impose a Quarantine singlehandedly. However, as this is in a vacuum (otherwise, the Necromancer would have other stores of dead bodies to use for supplies), Quarantine isn't as much of a problem at the start. What would have to happen is that the Necromancer would have to side with the Villagers, regardless of how the war started; otherwise, the Virals will kill both of them. The Necromancer would raise the dead ranks of Villagers and Virals to supplement the town's defenses, preventing the ranks of the dead from growing. We'll assume that the Virals can eat wild animals to survive, so they won't starve the Virals out this way. However, the town will grow stable, and any hunting parties, be they manned by Reanimated Zombies or Villagers, will decrease the number of Virals out there overall. Given enough time, the Reanimated Zombies will grow large enough in number to begin combing the forest thoroughly, and will be able to root out the last of the Virals. This is when it would become Villagers vs. Necromancer, but the Necromancer pretty much already runs the town, as he and his Reanimated zombies are what allow the people of the town the power to rest well at home. With the large standing army, and the fact that each of his troops are more durable than the Village army, he can impose mandates on the city, such as forcing them to stop cremating their dead. This winds up with his standing army growing and in general being larger than the population, and the Necromancer winds up in uncontested control of a town. Needless to say, though, the Necromancer is much more exposed in this kind of environment, being a part of the town and all. Adventurers could take him out after the worst of the damage was contained without undue repercussions, though extirpating the rest of the Virals would be much more difficult. Necromancer victory is still likely, but if Adventuring parties get involved, things change. If the Necromancer survives the first assassination attempt, he removes his troops from the town defense, and this moves to the old Virals vs. Necromancer vs. Villagers situation, that the Necromancer thrives on. Just corral a few Virals over to the Village, and then an outbreak occurs again, and he can thrive on the chaos. If he's assassinated before he can orchestrate this, then the Adventuring party most likely will be able to keep the town safe from Virals, but for decades thereafter, the surrounding area will still have the threat of Virals clinging around, and a possibility of the plague spreading to other Villages.
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    Default Re: Zombies vs. Zombies

    Quote Originally Posted by Ksheep View Post
    I'd say easiest thing to do is A) Fort save, with a low enough DC that level 1 commoners will be fairly susceptible, while higher level PCs have a much lower chance of getting infected, or B) Incubation period of several days, during which time you can attempt to cure it via spells or medicine (although medicines will probably be highly experimental and my have some side effects).
    Hitting that sweet spot can be tricky, especially for classes with low base fortitude saves or that normally like to pump stats other than Constitution. What I might do is have a character make several fortitude checks over the course of several in-game days, with each failure advancing the disease a little more.
    Essentially, it's leaning on the law of averages: on any one roll the commoner might get a 20 and the PC a 1, but on several rolls together the PC is more likely to shrug off the effects more often, and therefor delay succumbing to the disease longer.


    I've never tried to parse out all the implications of magic vs viral zombies in the same setting; I'd be very interested in hearing how all this plays out once you are done with the campaign.
    Last edited by Deepbluediver; 2012-10-07 at 10:42 AM.
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    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Zombies vs. Zombies

    Quote Originally Posted by Nyes the Dark View Post
    An interesting idea (not my cup of tea, but it's your group), since it plays with some variation.

    My confusion is with the virus zombies. If any open wound caused by a virus zombie can cause zombism, any hit on your PCs would likely end with the others killing him/her and burning the corpse, because otherwise your screwed.
    End result: The highest PC mortality rate since Hunger Games.

    Unless it is a very small chance or there is some treatment?
    If you were doing it in dnd 3.5, you could say a Remove Disease/Break Enchantment (or something expensive like Raise Dead) can cure it before incubation completes... but those are really rare/expensive, and just not feasible to heal everyone this way. It gives the PCs a resource (spells/day, Diamond Dust, Wands/Scrolls) which will quickly deplete if they're reckless, will last them if they don't get hit, and is very valuable among survivors.

    The relative value and rarity of the cure could lead to some very good survivor-encounters, as some people try to kill the PCs for it (complete with some sad story about their wives/daughters being infected), and others try to bargain or appeal to their humanity, raising a number of moral questions in the proces. The PCs still have to make that choice, and face the consequences later.
    Last edited by Slipperychicken; 2012-10-08 at 11:00 AM.
    Quote Originally Posted by Emperor Tippy View Post
    By level 20 though, you aren't capturing a wizard. A character lives to level 20 by being the most ruthless, lucky, capable, and paranoid bastard around. A wizard is throwing around a 30+ Int score and has, entirely in character, planned contingencies for his contingencies. He may well be running around with flat out total immunity to harm, he does not walk outside without an entire bevy of defensive magics around him and enough magic items to buy himself a nation.

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