Zombies. Who doesn’t love ‘em? And while we’re at it, what about vampires?
Both of these classic monsters have seen a renaissance in recent years in Hollywood and literature (although calling some of these books “literature” is a stretch). And why not? They’re both badass. But before Twilight and World War Z, before the Vampire Diaries and 28 Days Later, Dungeons & Dragons did vampires and zombies, and it did them well.
Many times, the game has borrowed from the most classic versions of these tropes. Count Strahd von Zarovich is the best example, of course, easily reminiscent of the Lugosi-era Dracula. Zombies have shown up so frequently that they’ve become classic staples of D&D’s early levels. You could almost run an entire heroic-tier campaign featuring nothing but zombies!
We can take a page from Hollywood’s book with both of these, and other, classic monsters, and revisit them from time to time. There’s something just . . . awesome about a good vampire adventure. There’s something primally frightening about a monster that wants to kill you by draining your blood. Hollywood would also have us believe there’s something erotic about blood draining, but I ain’t buyin’ it. Being dead kind of puts a damper on sexy in my book.
Vampires are snaky, charming, and deadly, but worst of all, they look like normal humans (unless you’re making a movie where they glitter—ugh). Anyone you run into on a dark street corner could theoretically be a vampire, and it’s that feeling of unknown danger that makes the monsters so awesome.
Zombies come at us from a similar place in the fear spectrum, but with one important distinction. Once more, these are creatures that were once human. They’re more grotesque, rather than more sparkly, but utterly lacking in the emotional responses that make a human, well, human. Unlike vampires, who are often hundreds of years old and unknown to their enemies until they start sucking people dry, zombies are people you knew. That adds just the right twist to a good zombie story. Best of all, zombies just keep coming, and if they get you, they recruit you.
I think zombies have been given short shrift in our game in recent years. As I stated before, you can’t shake a stick without hitting a heroic-tier adventure that features zombies in some capacity or another, but I think they deserve a chance to really shine on their own. That’s why this month, you’ll find a real horror-movie-style zombie adventure, set in the Chaos Scar.
“Dead by Dawn” starts with the same premise as the classic George Romero movies Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead. We’ve tried to capture some of what makes these classic zombie experiences terrifying. The characters have to hole up in an old, abandoned structure and survive the night against an endless assault of zombies. Of course, we add our own unique D&D spin on things, complete with appearances by the game’s own twist on zombies.
I’m hoping that “Dead by Dawn” strikes as much of a chord with you as it did with me. Because I’m hoping that if the demand is there, I get to commission more adventures playing on other classic horror tropes. The Mummy, the Wolfman, heck, maybe even a good-old-fashioned Dracula romp—they’re primed and waiting for their chance on center stage.
Which classic horror trope do you think would make the best Dungeons & Dragons adventure? Which do you think would be the most fun to play or run? Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org!