Interesting Undead

By Necrozius, in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay

This thread probably won't live very long (see my Beastman thread from before), but I thought that I'd give it a go, since the Beastmen thread brought out some pretty AMAZING ideas.

My upcoming campaign for 3rd edition will be very Undead focused. The trick is that most undead creatures have been pretty trivialized by modern media (sparkling vampires, zombie comedies, "Scary movie" I to XI etc...). So I'm just worried that the players' tension of coming face to face with a ghoul or wight might be lackluster.

So! I'm looking for interesting ideas on new "flavours" of Undead beasties (eewww... serio.gif ). Essentially, I want the players to not immediately shout out: "Oh that's a zombie. Easy! Hit it in the head! Don't worry- they're too slow to chase us".

One example of something I'm toying with is the idea of a Penanggalan ( ), which is a kind of asian vampire who's head detaches from its body and flies around, it's intestines and organs trailing behind (sometimes used as tentacles).

I know that WFRP is very European in theme, and that this creature comes from Malaysian mythology, but WHATEV . I thought that it would be more interesting to encounter than a standard zombie/vampire/ghoul.

Any of you every come up with your own interesting undead beasties?

The best way to make undeads scary is to gameplay your session in a slightly horror way.

In fact if you think about it, basic undead stats in WFRP are quite lowly low. But undeads must not be scary due to their basic stats, they must be scary becayuse they are undead, spooky and, well... not alive.

I like to use zombies in 2 ways:

1) Few seemingly undestructible zombies that crawl mercylessly towards trapped 1st career characters. If you describe and play Zombies like creatures that simply ignore non deadly criticals (as they are in most movie) and put your players in a position where they can't simply run away you can still get your effect done.

2) Ravaging horde of thenths zombies surrounding the village/camp/field where 2nd/3rd career characters are. Again they can't easily flee and their combat/firepower is literally eaten away by the undead mass.

Unite these techniques with heavy and gory descriptions and you have it.

Besides that, you can always surprise your players wit description tricks:

At nighttime a Ghoul's phisical description can be VERY VERY similar to the one of a wandering bonepicker, thus attiring players with their guard off.

Same thing can be told for Wights or Tomb Guards: how can a PC without Arcane Knowledge (Necromancy) distinguish them from armored Skelethons? Too many times my player faced a Killing Blow from something they tought was just a Skellie...

But if your intent is to surprise your players with NEW kind of undeads, I'd suggest you to do not go too far from european legends and videogames like The Witcher and Ice Wind Dale are full of cool undead ideas. Drowned ones, Flesh and Bone golems, Fire Skelethons, undead constructs and the like can be possibly existing in the WFRP world, you just need a crazy/powerful enough necromancer that created them.

I've improvised creatures like the Abominations from Warcraft III. Really just take weird amalgams of flesh and your imagination, put some appropriate stats on it and you're good to go.

Erik Bauer said:

Besides that, you can always surprise your players wit description tricks:

At nighttime a Ghoul's physical description can be VERY VERY similar to the one of a wandering bonepicker, thus attiring players with their guard off.

Same thing can be told for Wights or Tomb Guards: how can a PC without Arcane Knowledge (Necromancy) distinguish them from armored Skelethons? Too many times my player faced a Killing Blow from something they tought was just a Skellie...

Niiiice idea! aplauso.gif

I'd suggest heightening the tension, like most horror movies. Use undead like ghosts/ethereals, or those with power of illusion, telekinesis, teleportation. Disturb the PCs with objects moving while they aren't looking. Chairs changing places, closed windows suddenly being open. Strange noises when nothing is there. Describe a sense of being watched, the hair on the backs of their necks prickling, but nothing is there.

Have the enemy Stalk the PCs, waiting for a moment to strike when they are most vulnerable. Hit and run tactics, especially if it can be done so the PCs don't actually see it.

Enforce the rules for darkness, and make sure the undead boss has a means to eliminate the PCs' light source (and make sure, subtley, you know who has the lit torch/lantern). Nothing creepier than trying to fight undead when everything is pitch black.

Don't have the undead target the PCs. Have various NPCs die horribly to the enemy, all out of sight of the PCs. Preferably just before they arrive or just after they leave, so that the PCs find gruesome scenes of slaughter, but feel helpless with nothing to fight since the enemy is so elusive. Make the enemy toy with the party, perhaps turning NPC villagers against them, since everywhere the PCs show up someone dies horribly and they blame the PCs. This will make the time when the PCs finally corner the main bad guy extra sweet for them, with all the built up frustration and hatred they will have for this bad guy.

If you can read the graphic novel Children of the Grave. Undead kids are quite freaky.

Night's Dark Masters has interesting undead twists in it, such as undead elves, Random Undead Attributes, Greater Necromancy and ideas for creating unique vampires with varying traits, abilities and drawbacks. It is for 2E but I imagine some of the ideas could be used in any RPG or edition.

Unfortunately neither "Lure of the Liche Lord", nor "Night's Dark Masters" were translated to my language, so my only option is to stick with normal undead described in Old World Bestiary.
But I don't mind. Even simple skelly, or zombie can be a pain if used right demonio.gif .

Players are used to meet skellys that are weak and stupid, or zombies that are slow and stupid.
They are also used to all undeads be of the same race (usually humans), and to be able to kill the undeads in dozens.

Well, they are WRONG.

First thing is what Peacekeeper_b mentioned. Other races (don't forget monster races, yes trolls and giants are a race lengua.gif , spiders and beastmen too), children (ever played Doom 3?? Those little buggers were not zombies but messed my mind upside down first time I met them) and such.

Second is about weakness and mortality of something that is long long DEAD, but still able to move. Usually players who see a skelly go to it and bash it in the head with a hammer, happy with another kill. Well its not so easy.
Undeads have no vital organs, nothing that players could actually hit for a mortal blow. Yes in the mechanic they have some HP (often not much), but to say the truth I never cared.
The only way to kill a skelly or zombie in my games is hack it to pieces, and then burn it. I do not even count the damage, there is no need. Instead every hit to such a creature is a critical hit (Toughness and armor still apply). If a critical hit says that a limb was chopped off, then that limb falls to the ground and starts its own life trying to get the players feet (You know its hard to fight if You are to the knees in moving hands, or slippery stikning entrails, and rotting flesh) while the rest of the undead body continues to fight.
This makes fighting even a small group of undead an uneasy, and dangerous task, and allows to keep their numbers low.

Third thing is undead stupidity. Well yes and no. Depends. If a skelly, or zombie is a reminder of some long forgotten dark magic, and uncontrolled, then yes, they are stupid. But don't forget that skellys and zombies are often controlled by some greater mind, that is hidden behing a solid wall, and believe me, that mind is not stupid at all. That mind knows exactly area it resides in. It will use it. It will use its undeads to scare, mislead, or lead the PC's into a trap.
This mind does not have to be strong enough to controll dozens of lesser undeads at a time. One undead at a time will be more than enough. In a crypt or a necromancer castle there are more than sufficient amount of bodies in every single room. And no, not all of this bodies have to be undead, and not all undeads have to move (how can the players tell the difference anyway? They are not breathing they are not moving, and only some can rise if the timing is right). Animating one skelly in a narrow corridor with lots of normal skellys in niches at all its length, in a dark place, full of dust can make impression of fighting a small army (especially if some of the normal skellys to the floor, or on the players back - you feel a cold grip of bony hands on your neck - during the fight).

Also, don't forget, that zombies can be slow, but they never stop. They will follow, making sounds, stinking, dripping their rotten flesh and fluids (who wants to touch a zombie??). Zombies can spread many diseases, they are more scary than skellys, because they resemble who they were before. Slashing such a thing with a sword is also not that good idea. Apart from even bigger stink when zombie insides will be cut, weapon can easily block in zombies entrails, and definitely requires a serious cleanup after a fight.

Add to above playing in a dark room lightened with candles only. Keep Your voice down, so your players need to be absolutely quiet to be able to hear You. Make some strange moning noises when acting as a zombie, or be silent as a grave, when acting as a skelly. Play it right and they will run at a first glimpse of a bone that some dog dig up from the ground demonio.gif .

Don't forget that as a GM you can alter things as you wish. Take a simple skeleton, for example. You can vary the race (dwarf, elf) and change how it works. How/why it was animated can affect it too (as Sunatet alluded to... intelligence, for example). It could even been exposed to warpstone, daemonic magic, or some alchemical process (bronze gilded, etc) to give it strange and unusual properties. So, what appears at first glance to be a simple skeleton is in actuality a plague-carrying, flesh-burning, highly-resistant monstrosity. That zombie could in fact be a tiny parasite that animates dead corpses (or perhaps not so dead ones too), and the players upon discovering this, they need to be wary whenever they sleep (and, as a GM, always fuel this by asking about their sleeping arrangements, even when nothing will happen, etc). Take the usual, and make it unusual. Especially, do so in a more subtle way, so that only on close inspection (or in special circumstances) the difference can be discerned.

You could use the 'Zombies never dies until their head is smashed in sort of ' rule to really scare your players. I made this description used for WFRP 1st ed. back in 1994:

zombie is known as a strong and stubborn creature of the night. This magical creature formed from the reanimated remains of human corpses never gives up. Although a zombie seem to be killed, it will suddenly live up again and attack again and again to big surprise on any adventurer or hero’s behalf. The rules in WFRP do not live up to this description, they appear to be wimpy and fragile, and so I made a new set of rules for zombies in general. These rules can be used on any persistent pest as the gamesmaster finds appropriate.

Physique : Zombies are walking corpses and carry the marks of how they where killed. They appear in various forms of decomposition and will smell from bad to disgusting.

Alignment : Zombies are to be considered as evil

Psychological Traits : Zombies cause fear in all living creatures they attack, but are themselves immune to psychological effects.

Special Rules : Zombies rely very much on magic to control them, if the controller which must be a magic user dies or is knocked down the zombie he controls is subject to stupidity if it is hit. As mentioned zombies are very persistent in their attack if they get a critical hit they will only die when it is impossible to fight back. A zombie will continue to attack until it has no arms or legs or it gets a critical hit in the body. This means that a zombie has got to be totally immobilized to be destroyed because even without a head and only one arm it will still try to claw its way to any opponent and attack. It becomes more difficult to hit a zombie as it looses its body parts in combat. If an adventurer hits an arm or a leg that has been removed in earlier combat, he/she misses. Zombies have a 10 \% chance of causing Tomb Rot and 35 % chance of causing infected wounds.

Location of Wounds:

Head Arms Body Legs
7 10 15 11

Note the location of wounds here, you can scale this as appropriate...

This of course needs to be converted to 3rd Ed somehow but I hope you get the idea...

And after all I think Jay owes us a session demo video gran_risa.gif

Ghouls that behave like pack animals, herding live prey, snarling and growling just out of sight whilst flanking them. Panicking groups to split up then hauling down the weakest or the isolated. You never see them until they attack.

Zombies that just keep on coming. Decide on what the PC's have to do to stop them (e.g. skewer the brain a la Dawn of the Dead, although varying this would be better). Until they actually do that, deliberately or by accident, it doesn't matter what they do, the bits will keep coming (have stats for severed arms crawling towards them ready).

A skeleton that peels itself out of it's own flesh when it is raised - lots of vivid descriptions and squelchy noises.

A variation on the Frankenstein theme - a corpse child! Replacing one which has been lost, sewn together from the cutest bits of missing children.

Zombies that move slowly are good, if you have them then move quite fast when they get into combat. I have done this once and players were put on the back foot quite fast.

If the zombie has no purpose (wandering about, or that kind of thing) It moved quite slowly and laboured its movements, however when the party engaged them (thinking they would be slow), giveing the Zombies a purpose they moved quite rapidly.

Twists to existing Undead are often the most fun because the players have a preconcieved idea how they will work and will often use tactics that usualy work on them. By having a twist to them it keeps the player on their toes forcing them to change tactics quickly.

If the players meet undeads give them insanity points, especially if they meet them the first time. A PC roleplayer worth his salt will like this.

If you are looking for opponents from a mythalogical point of view I would reccommend Legendary quests (a free rpg) as a fantastic resource.

The spells and religious systems are thought provoking and there are literally hundreds of creatures based in legend detailed in the bestiaries.

A lot of these can be converted into the Europ-centric atmospere of the Warhammer environment.

I don't know if any of you have used this system before, but when you need a unusual or realistic monster it is a great tool to start you off with ideas.

Hope you can find inspiration here.


I added a few new types of Undead to Lure of the Liche Lord (along with some other critters you might find in a tomb). I wanted to give the GM some new options to surprise the PCs with. Includes undead guardian cats, the souls of people sacrificed to protect a tomb, elven undead and a few others.

Instead of using stunt zombie 3, try using people that the characters have met.

  • The tavern girl Alisha that was so very friendly (for a price) is found stumbling around with a savage gash in her formerly perfect bosom, when the players try to help the injured girl she bites a finger off one of them and will not die until her head is cut off. The Watch of course think it was some sort of lovers tiff and lock the players up. Until more strange things happen tomorrow?
  • A village full of Charcoal Burners welcome you and your money for the night. They are all friendly until sunset when their alternate persona comes to the fore. They are ghouls you want you for dinner. A nice twist on this idea is that by day the charcoal burners are normal humans and have no recollection of their nightly savagery. Can the Players cure them? Will they even try?
  • Dead friends and relatives are even better. It makes the situation very personal. Once I had one of the characters parents rise from the grave and he had to put them down. That was good. The Necromancer who raised them and was also responsible for their death in the first place really died hard.

Earlier this year I ran a scenario where the Player themselves were tricked by a false sister of Shallya into drinking a concoction that started to turn them into ghoulish flesh eaters. A nice scene was when some of the players along with several similarly afflicted NPC's tore a wounded dwarf apart and feasted, much to the delight of the cackling witch.

Great ideas comrades. Glaaki be praised. Thanks!

The very best books on how to make undead/zombies/ghosts vamps etc, interesting and scary again were the Ravenloft van richten's guides I loved those books.

Necronomicus said:

The very best books on how to make undead/zombies/ghosts vamps etc, interesting and scary again were the Ravenloft van richten's guides I loved those books.

I'll second that. The Van Richten series is still one of the best supplements for any horror/undead game. I can remember reading the one about golems and being so freaked out I had to finish it later. They give some really great options for unique undead and most of the ideas aren't framed in D&D rules/mechanics. It is much more of a tool set than anything. I actually go back to them all the time for scary ideas. Another good resource is GURPS Horror. It gives all kinds of ideas for creating suspense and even goes into a lot of history which can really help develop creative, plausible ideas. In my experience atmosphere can play a bigger part in an encounter than the actual opponent. The only other advice I would give is about pacing. I have seen how players can get sort of fatigued with too much weird stuff. If every encounter is something totally unique players tend to simply stop asking questions and just get on with the killing.

One idea that I have been thinking about using is mummy-type creatures that have had various body parts replaced with animal/monster parts. It could be a viper head with huge fangs, paws in the place of hands, or even a vulture beak attached to a cow. This would allow you to modify stats slightly but keep the general characteristics of the monster.

Another Idea I am going to use shortly is to make the undead, not actually undead. I am creating a villain who corrupts natural plants. Instead of being a necromancer he/she is going to use plants to animate dead corpses. I don't have all of the details worked out but in order to really stop the monsters the players are going to have to figure it out and then destroy the plants behind it all. I can't wait to see the players' faces when the zombie they just hacked to pieces starts to be put back together by the vine cluster growing out of its back.

PS - that undead with animal parts came from Diablo II Horadric mummies in the Lut Gohlen area.

Erik Bauer said:

I like to use zombies in 2 ways:

1) Few seemingly undestructible zombies that crawl mercylessly towards trapped 1st career characters. If you describe and play Zombies like creatures that simply ignore non deadly criticals (as they are in most movie) and put your players in a position where they can't simply run away you can still get your effect done.

Try this for zombies:

1- Zombies continue attacking until they are dismembered multiple times (when dismemberment penalties, adding up, cause the zombie to become ineffective and out of combat). That means any crit that chops off an arm, leg, or even head, will not kill it. It will suffer normal penalities for the missing limb, but will continue attacking, and attacking, and attacking... PCs will rapidly be outnumbered, harassed, grappled etc... Scary. When they realise that a killing "crit" doesn't stop a zombie, they will really s*** in their pants. "How can we take them down ???" Terror. To kill these zombies, axes, halberds and two handed swords... arrows, bullets ? useless. Fire and bombs is also quite effective. Makes for gory and highly dangerous battles. Scary. If the PCs underestimate zombies, all the better ! They won't after this encounter... hehehe.

2- Zombies come from every direction, people they call for help are zombies, the whole town seems to be zombies !

For skeletons:

1- Contrary to zombies, skeletons tend to fall like a house of cards as soon as they receive a good crit. But they tend to be a bit quicker, sometimes armoured, have strange wicked weapons, cavalry, and stronger "heroes" among them. There is a more military aspect to them, probably because battlefields of old are a perfect place to raise skeletons.

2- As opposed to zombies, skeletons will be scarier if the are numerous and well armed and lead (missile weapons, traps, ambushes, complex tactics).

Lastly, if, after all of this, you still find the zombies and skeletons laughable, boost their stats a little.