Boom! Head Shot!

A few months ago I posted about a different model for hit points and healing, then followed up a few weeks ago with a post considering some of the implications of making those changes.

One of the lingering thoughts I’ve had is that it comes close to modeling desired behavior for undead, but doesn’t quite get there.

What I am looking for:

  • Undead are tougher than they should be.
  • Head shots for the win!  General damage probably shouldn’t really do much, you have to do them some severe trauma.
  • Given the right circumstances, they pop pretty easily

The rules presented come close.  Removing the ability for undead to take normal damage (criticals only) means that you’ll be targeting critical areas (head shot!) because nothing else really works.  Giving them lower hit points than usual handles the ‘pop pretty easily’ element — once you can do them real harm.

Yes, this is exactly backward to D&D 3.x RAW, where undead take only normal damage and are immune to critical hits.  However, under the described hit point model critical damage is multiplied but the additional damage is normal damage — only the base damage is ‘real damage’.

The weirdness here is that it becomes profitable to use high-threat weapons.  It just doesn’t seem right to me that your best weapon against a zombie is a rapier.  I want a shotgun.  If I can’t have that, I want an axe of some sort.

I realized on the bus this morning that Damage Reduction could work here.  DR 5/- means you would want large-damage weapons (two-handed weapons are the better option) in order to get past the DR.  A rapier does 1d6 and is probably used by someone with relatively low Strength, so a stand-up fight is what they really don’t want.  The barbarian with the greataxe, on the other hand, could have himself a time, especially if the undead have few enough hit points he can cleave.  He’ll still spend a lot of time on ‘wasted blows’, though… which models that these things are really tough unless you hit them right.

Hmm.  Although… if you can take normal damage you can eventually be beaten down and then killed while helpless.  What if instead undead can still take normal damage, but DR applies?  This limits the applicability of low-damage weapons, even on a critical, while letting big weapons do something useful.  The rapier might not beat the DR, the greataxe will.  On a critical the greataxe can do some real damage, the rapier might not do much at all.  Holy water bypasses the DR entirely, as would holy weapons (and in fact, I might define aligned weapon qualities as ‘always does real damage to opposed alignment’ as well, even if it doesn’t do more damage).

Shotguns might be changed to be really low accuracy (short range increment) but big, big damage.  They would thus be relatively useless at range (as they should be at this tech level) but vicious close-by — almost an ideal weapon for fighting undead.

Except that, as Joerg points out, “firearms are weapons of last resort in a Zombie outbreak. Gunshots are just too loud, veritable dinner bells for the Undead”.

More pondering is required, I think.


  1. tussock

    You can give Zombies a high AC. Remember, AC doesn’t stop you getting hit, it stops you getting *hurt*. High defences all around, except for Ref.

    Then you give them just enough HP that a rapier can’t kill them in one, but a greatsword or big axe can, and any critical hit can too. Pistols don’t do much because they have a to_hit penalty, meaning normal folk can’t “hurt” zombies with them, but experts can.

    AC and hit points, the classic model can use both.

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