Everything is Better With Zombies. Including Roleplaying Games

So you want to put some zombies into your roleplaying game (RPG) for Halloween.  I’m going to do you the courtesy of assuming that you’ve made this decision freely, and of your own will; and that you know that you’re risking being trite, trendy, and maybe even a little tendentious to people who are currently ‘over’ the entire zombie thing.  I will not judge: after all, it is Halloween season.  But what you’d like to also do is maybe incorporate zombies in a way that’s not entirely stale and overused.  Let’s see if we can get you there.

One note: for the purposes of this article, I’m going to assume that zombies are dead, infectious, and implacable (I’ll call this ‘Romero mode’).  I do this, fully understanding that doing so implies that zombie movies like Twenty-Eight Days Later or Shaun of the Dead are not zombie movies, which would of course be self-evident nonsense.  But what I’m doing here is focusing on one, fairly well-known, subset of the genre in order to give RPG advice, not declaring that that specific subset has the Only True Zombies.  I’m further going to break it down by particular genres of games…

...starting with classical Fantasy.  You get Undead all the time in the classic dungeon crawl, of course; but they’re rarely Romero-mode zombies. It might seem interesting to use Romero-mode zombies: of course, you may not want to simply throw a zombie apocalypse into your campaign, either. One way to get around that would be to limit the zombies’ favored prey to something manageable.  What if the zombies only hunger for Elven brains?  Or Orcish ones?  The second scenario might be even more interesting than the first: even a party that typically casually kills Orcs or other ‘monster’ species might be a little reluctant to let the zombies rip through the entire Orcish population. Especially if infection is still a risk.