D&D - Zombies and Shotguns

April 22, 2012

Our new DM just bought a house - some multi-bedroom monstrosity in which you actually have to mow the lawns surrounding it and do repairs yourself. While its basement will provide a nice large space for getting some gaming done (and the low ceilings make at least half of the "Dungeons & Dragons" moniker true), he does, however, have a long list of things to be done before he can move in. You know, small things like repaint almost every room and turn almost every carpeted floor into hardwood. Just basics things that become very difficult once actual furniture is added to the equation.

The point of this story is that he seemed a little distressed about all of this, so I offered to help him. By DMing our next session if he didn't have time to put together an adventure.

...Okay, I also helped him paint.

Anyway, so last week I sort of came up with a little side-adventure and hastily scribbled some notes on the back of an envelope in preparation. It was actually something I had wanted to do years ago back when I briefly DMed a 3.5 campaign. I had formulated a ridiculously awesome story full of plot twists and craziness and then my motivation quickly got derailed by the combativeness of my players (not the good kind where they like fighting monsters).

The basic idea was that in their first adventure, they storm this large drug den to rescue a kidnapped girl. They find lots "zombies" inside that seemed to be transformed into that state by the overuse of this drug, which was being brewed in the basement. They rescue the girl, but sort of end up burning down the house in the process, sending up all this drug-laced smoke up over the rest of the town. They go do a couple of other adventures to advance a crazy time-traveling plotline, and when they come back to town, they find it infested by zombies. So they get some shotguns from an NPC inventor and get to work participating in their very own zombie survival adventure.

So, yeah, the idea of zombies combined with shotguns in a D&D setting has always intrigued me.

So this time, true to my new philosophy of "as little story as possible" (which was largely inspired by the disappointment I suffered after coming up with my elaborate time-traveling plotline and never getting to execute it), it was a very basic story of some dude showing up at the bar where the players were staying, saying he needed some help with a strange visitor causing a weird sickness in his village and, oh, here are some "boom barrels" our blacksmith made in case things get bad for some reason. They show up at the town and start blowing the crap out of a horde of zombies, much to the poor NPC's horror, because, you know, that is clearly the solution to the problem.

The first encounter was an introduction to the mechanics more or less. Where the players were surrounded by a horde of zombies (I think 18 in total, whose appearance was scattered out over many rounds) and found that shotguns were super effective against them.

The zombies weren't typical Monster Manual zombies. They were essentially lvl 9 half-monsters. Having, like, +12 v AC attacks but only 36hp. They had a claw attack, where a successful hit caused a secondary fort attack to grapple. And they had a bite attack, which did more damage and cause exposure to the corpse plague disease, and they got a +2 to their bite attack if their target was being grappled. And they had bad initiative and a speed of only 4.

So the corpse plague disease's initial effects were that all healing effects on the player were reduced by half. And a second effect that went unstated was that if a player was reduced to zero hit points and failed a death save, they would themselves become a zombie, rising 2 rounds after the failed save. I stressed at the beginning that this adventure was non-canon (we were using the same characters as for the other DM's campaign for the sake of convenience, but I didn't want to mess with his campaign by doing things like, say, introducing over-powered shotgun weaponry), so I didn't really care too much if I killed some players off in a horrible fashion. In the second encounter, I did manage to drop the infected wizard, but then he rolled a 20 on his death save and I was disappointingly unable to turn anyone into a zombie.

Anyway, shotguns (range 5 2-handed weapon) were over-powered and super effective against zombies, because, in addition to doing 4d8 damage (on average, 2 shots should do a zombie in), on a hit players also got to roll a d6 to see where the zombie was hit. 1 or 2 blew off a leg, halving the zombie's movement (a zombie with no legs could still crawl at a speed of 1), 3 or 4 blew off an arm, reducing the attack bonus and damage of a claw attack. 5 hit the torso, causing an extra 3d6 damage. And a 6 blew off the head for an instant-kill. A critical hit was also an automatic head-shot. The shotgun could carry 6 ammo at a time. 1 shell could be reloaded as a minor, or a full reload could be done as standard action. And the clincher was that firing the gun was a move action, so they could take two shots a round.

After fighting off the horde, they found some basic clues that led them to an ominously glowing farmhouse on the outskirts of town. There they fought more zombies and a giant, pulsating flesh sack. It was suspended from the roof of the barn by 4 nodes, which had to be destroyed by shotgun blasts. But they were protected by chitinous worms wrapped around the node, which upwrapped and assualted the players after any attempted damage of the nodes. The worms were similar to the zombies in that the did not like shotguns. They had 120hp divided equally among 3 separate eyestalks. 1-3 on a d6 roll for them hit their body and did nothing special, but 4-6 hit a corresponding eyestalk, blowing it off and doing an immediate 40hp damage, plus half of their normal damage roll. The worms had a recharging stare attack targeting will that did damage and stunned until the end of its next turn. This stare attack became much more powerful the more eyestalks the worm had intact. They also had a standard tail lash attack against AC for high damage. They also had a utility action where they implanted an egg into a corpse, which spawned a 1-eyestalk (40hp) worm 1 round later. And the sack itself had some defenses: a recharging range 10 area attack that created a cloud of immobilizing gas, and some tentacles that could throw players in range (or other random farm objects lying around) at other players. Unfortunately, no one ever got close enough to the tentacles to find that last one out. The battle ended when the 4 nodes were destroyed and the flesh sack was sent tumbling to the ground, bursting open to reveal...

...Nothing, apparently. We ran out of time. There was going to be a third encounter against the mysterious stranger, who was getting his crystalis on up in the flesh sack, but oh well, it was still a good time.

And what's that? You won't be able to host next week either? Oh, very well, we can continue this story and turn up the ridiculousness another 100%. Tune in next week where I introduce they players' poor non-canon characters to the horror of Gamma World-inspired mutations. Scorpion tails? Super-size? Precognition? Yes, yes, I think we can do that.

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