Living Dead (3.5e Creature)

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Living Dead

Size/Type: Medium-Size Undead
Hit Dice: 3d12+3 (24 hp)
Initiative: -1
Speed: 30 ft.
Armor Class: 11 (-1 Dex, + 2 Natural), touch 10, flat-footed 11
Base Attack/Grapple: +2/+3
Attack: 2 Claws + 2 melee (1d4+1), Bite + 3 melee (1d6+1)
Full Attack:
Space/Reach: 5 ft. by 5 ft./5ft.
Special Attacks: Living Death, Swarm Attack
Special Qualities: Unliving, Scent, partial actions only, damage reduction 5/slashing, Darkvision 60'
Saves: Fort +1, Ref +0, Will +4
Abilities: Str 13, Dex 8, Con —, Int 2, Wis 10, Cha 1
Feats: Toughness, Multiattack
Environment: Any Land and Underground
Organization: Horde (10 - 100)
Challenge Rating: 2
Treasure: None
Alignment: Always neutral evil
Advancement: 4-5 HD
Level Adjustment:

The air fills with a slow pitiful moan as the stink of death washes over you. A rotting corpse shambles from the dark it's face twisted in death, and it's arms reaching out to grab you.

The Living Dead are the reanimated remains of Humanoid corpses. They so strongly resemble Standard Humanoid Zombies that even the most seasoned Adventurer is unable to tell them apart by mere looks, but there are several very important differences between the two that become apparent once they attack.

While Living Dead are reanimated corpses, they are not Undead in the strictest sense. Instead they are corpses that have been given unlife through some form of unnatural disease. Where or how this disease came to be is unknown, many have speculated as to it’s origin; some say a Lich or mad Wizard created it, some say it is a mutated form of Mummy Rot, others say it comes from exposure to rocks that fell from the sky, and the list of opinions goes on and on. In the end the origin of the malady matters little, for the result is horrifying and wholly destructive.

Living Dead are driven by an insatiable need to spread their infection, using what little remains of their Intelligence to reach the living prey they need to carry on their nightmarish plague. Some Living Dead are able to use minor tools or implements (open doors, smash windows with rocks, etc.), but they are unable to communicate or use weapons in anyway. The most terrifying use of their vestigial intelligence is the fact they are drawn to former friends and loved ones as their initial victims, often using the sympathy these people feel for their former acquaintances as a lure.

DMs wishing to make a distinction between different forms of Living Dead may apply the Zombie Template from the Monster Manual to them, although all that is used is the Hit Dice (add +1 to the standard Template HD), Initiative, Speed, Armor Class, Saves, and Ability scores (with a 2 Int). Damage caused by these Living Dead is also adjusted by their Strength Modifier. All other statistics are as presented above for all Living Dead.


Living Dead attack by rending, tearing, and biting their victims. Their initial attack is with their bony claw-like hands, attacking twice (without penalty) with them, if either (or both) of these attacks hit they can then attempt to bite their victim (again without any penalty). While their claw attacks will pass on their infection, it is their bite that carries the immediate threat. Often Living Dead will use their fist Claw attack to perform a Grapple, if successful they will attempt to Pin their victim and gain the +4 bonus on their following attack. Once a Living Dead begins to attack someone they continue to do so until the person dies, at that point they cease their attacks and continue on looking for living prey.

Swarm Attack: The more Living Dead that surround and attack a victim the deadlier they become. For every two Living Dead that are attacking a singular target each one gains an additional + 1 on their to hit rolls (example: if 6 Living Dead are attacking one person each Living Dead gains an additional + 3 on their to hit rolls). For this reason alone one should never allow themselves to become surrounded by the Living Dead for in large numbers even the strongest of Heroes will quickly be overran by them.

Unliving: Immune to mind-influencing effects, poison, sleep, paralysis, stunning, and disease. Not subject to critical hits, nonlethal damage, ability damage, energy drain, or death from massive damage. Like their Zombie cousins, Living Dead have poor reflexes and can perform only partial actions. Thus they can move or attack, but can only do both if they charge (a partial charge). Living Dead are not Undead in the standard sense, they cannot be turned, effected by holy water, nor are they susceptible to any spells, or magical effects that have a specific effect on Undead. All Living Dead have Darkvision 60'.

Scent: Living Dead are able to locate and track their Humanoid prey by using their Scent ability. They draw air into themselves through what might remain of their nose or mouth in order to “smell” their intended victims. As they release the air from their bodies Living Dead emit groans and wails that chill the blood and have been known to drive some people to the verge of insanity. Because their Scent ability is exclusively used to hunt Humanoids, Living Dead gain a +2 bonus on all checks made with this ability.

FromSoil.jpg Image by BryanBaugh

Living Death: The true horror of the Living Dead is the infection they carry within themselves. As it grants them a semblance of life, it is a virulent toxin to the already living. While the infection itself is transmitted by even a scratch from one of these monsters, their bite is what can cause the worse effects to manifest almost immediately. When their victims are bitten they must make a Fortitude Save (DC 22), failure results in the victim suffering Ability Damage of -2 to their Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution scores 1d10 rounds after being bitten. The victim then continues to lose 2 points from those Stats every hour after becoming infected, until the victim’s Constitution reaches 0 and he/she dies. If a victim dies from the infection (or is killed by damage caused by the Living Dead) they will reanimate 1d6 rounds after death as a newly formed member of the Living Dead. The infection can be cured at anytime prior to death with the use of a Remove Disease spell. Until the infection is cured in this way the victim cannot heal either lost Hit Points or Ability Damage (neither naturally, or through magical means). Once cured victims can regain Hit Points and Ability Points as per normal.

Living Dead can be Raised or Resurrected, and doing so will return them to normal (while still leaving them infected with a dormant form of Living Death as explained below), leaving behind faint memories of what happened (and what they did) while they existed as one of these beings. The infection itself has an effect on the decay of the corpse it reanimates. It slows down the rate of decay to almost a standstill, allowing the Living Dead to function without any decline in ability for 2 - 4 years after death and reanimation. Drier (or colder) climates can allow them to exist even longer.

As stated above, even the slightest scratch from one of these monsters will transmit their malady. Anyone who takes damage from a member of the Living Dead (either from a Claw or Bite attack) becomes infected with Living Death. The infection will remain dormant within the victim for the rest of their lives, and while dormant the victim will be able to heal normally and suffer no obvious outward effect of the infection. The infection becomes active as soon as the person dies (no matter the cause) causing them to reanimate 1d6 rounds after death, becoming a member of the Living Dead. The dormant infection itself can be destroyed by casting Remove Disease on the victim anytime prior to death.

Note: Some Players, particularly Zombie Movie Fans, may decide "Head-Shot Kills" are needed to destroy these monsters. While this is unnecessary, a simple game mechanic can be used to simulate this. Characters suffer a -4 penalty to hit the head, if successful the weapon causes "Critical Hit" damage. This supercedes their normal immunity to Critical Hits.

Adventure Ideas

  • Old Wounds: The Players arrive at a small fog enshrouded village near sundown. One of the villagers is an ex-adventurer who survived an encounter with the Living Dead many years ago. As the Players bed down for the night at the local tavern, the ex-adventurer passes away (either by natural means or the victim of foul play) and rises as a Living Dead Zombie. By the time the Players know what is happening the village has become overrun, and they are trapped at the tavern with a group of 0 level Commoners. Now they must save the day, and possibly discover the source of the rising.
  • Ghost Town: Similar to the Idea above, except when the Players arrive the village has already been wiped out by the Living Dead. Aside from groups of Living Dead the Players discover some spectral undead (Ghosts, Spectres, Shadows, etc.) haunting the village as well. There may even still be small groups of survivors trapped around town as well, and a few might know more about what happened in town and who some of the spectral undead are.
  • Keep Of The Dead: The Players arrive at a small city (or well developed town), that has a small Keep on it's outskirts. The Keep is owned by a well known, and much loved, local Mage. The Mage hasn't been heard from in days, and shortly after the Players arrive a lone Living Dead Zombie wanders into the city from the Keep. The Player's should set off on a good old dungeon crawl through the Keep, encountering various traps, monsters, constructs, and other whatnots that any Mage's fortress might have. They will also discover that all the people in the Keep have become Living Dead. As the Players dig deeper they can find out what experiments the Mage was doing that caused the infection, and prevent it from spreading to the city. Maybe it was an accident or maybe he wasn't such a nice guy after all. This Idea works even better if it can be placed in a city/town that the Character's visit frequently, or perhaps live in.
  • Ambush: Word reaches the Players about a group of Humanoids (Orcs, Gnolls, Goblins, etc.) that are attacking passing caravans, but then just eating the victims and taking no treasure. The string of attacks are getting closer to the Player's current location so they set off to check it out. The Characters discover a large (100+) group of Living Dead about to pour into a small town. The group of Living Dead is made up of a reanimated tribe of Humanoids and their victims from the caravans they attacked. The cause of the infection could be anything from a disgruntled Lich, to an ancient curse placed on a long forgotten holy site that the Humanoids desecrated. The corpse of the Humanoids leader should carry the evidence of what happened to his tribe, and perhaps lead the Players toward another adventure.
  • I Zombie: This adventure takes place in a large city. A pair of young lovers were attacked by a Living Dead Zombie. Both survived, but the girl was bitten. Once home she languished for hours before passing away and rising herself. She managed to kill most of her family before her lover stopped her. But unable to bear life without her the young man spent a fortune to have her Raised. She returned but was driven mad by what she had done as a Living Dead. Now she has become a serial killer, and believing she is still some form of ghoulish undead. She will eat parts of her victims, and in doing so causes them to become infected so they rise as Living Dead. The Characters become involved as her victims begin causing trouble in the city. While this adventure should have some combat, and the real threat of the Living Dead infection spreading throughout the city, it should focus on investigation Skills. As the Players investigate they find themselves dealing with a local government that is trying to keep the whole thing quiet, and the young male lover who is trying to cover up his beloved one's actions.
  • The End: This could be used as the launch of an entire Campaign (ie. Moertus). A cult of Death worshippers have managed to simultaneously infect the water supplies of every major city in the Land with the Living Death virus. Once they feel the populous has been fully infected they launch attacks in every city (mass poisonings, spell attacks, etc.). Soon the cities are overrun and huge groups of Living Dead are making their way across the countryside. The Players are trapped in a world of Living Dead (and other horrors), and must survive until civilization can be rebuilt.
  • Cursed: A Player Necromancer, or other Character with a penchant for creating undead, gets cursed. Now when he/she creates a Zombie there is a good chance it will become a Living Dead. The DM should allow 2d12 hours to pass with the Zombie behaving as normal, and then check to see if it transforms into the Living Dead. The chance of a Zombie transforming is 100% minus 4% per level of the Character. For example: a 6th level Character's Zombie has a 76% chance of becoming a Living Dead (6 X 4 = 24, 100 - 24 = 76). This becomes an immediate problem as Living Dead cannot be controlled, and they immediatly seek to attack the living. The Players will need to go on a quest to lift the curse, or learn to live with the curse. It's up to them.

Apocalyse Zombie

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