A comment I made here: http://professorpope.blogspot.com/2011/10/why-zombie-apocalypse.html got me thinking about how to make a zombie apocalypse truly apocalyptic in a D&Desque fantasy setting. I of course had to share these seasonal ideas.
First off what are the zombies? Are they regular D&D zombies…well that's boring. Use the stats for ghouls but replace paralysis with infection and things get nasty. Anyone infected by a plague zombie must save vs death or sicken becoming incapacitated in 2-7 hours and passing away in another 14-24 hours. Anyone slain by a plague zombie will reanimate in 2-5 turns.
Want to step up the apocalyptic factor: Anyone that dies on unconsecrated property will reanimate as a plague zombie in 2-12 hours.
Now we must get to the nature of disease in a D&Desque universe, it isn't always caused by germs it's caused by polluted humors which allow malignant spirits to enter the world, typically disease weakens or kills the victim but the zombie plague allows the evil spirit possession of the remains by animation of the corpse of the victim.
The spiritual component of zombie plague makes it dangerous to spell casters as it is contagious through magical contact. Detection spells may expose the caster to zombie plague if there is a zombie in the area of effect of a detection spell, the caster must save vs death 2-5 rounds after exposure or become infected. Casting healing magics upon the infected is dangerous as any healing spell cast on one who is infected exposes the caster to infection requiring a save to avoid infection.
Cure/remove disease spells also expose the caster to infection.
Turn undead works on plague zombies as per normal undead of the appropriate HD. The infected are not turned and the infection can't be turned away as it hasn't manifested itself enough for this to matter.
Plague zombies will avoid consecrated ground and temples until an infected person enters the grounds of such a place and then they will be as prone to enter such a place as they are any other place (they are drawn to sight of the living,noises, blood, motion and scent of the living).
PCs are likely to blast away at zombies with powerful spells and this on first blush seems safe enough. But any plague zombie destroyed completely by magic has a 10% chance per spell level used to defeat it of bringing a plague wraith into existence. A plague wraith will act as a normal wraith except when an victim is drained or slain they immediately animate as a plague zombie. Plague wraiths can themselves be destroyed by magic as a normal wraith.
There you go a recipe for making a zombie apocalypse a bit more apocalyptic in a D&Desque setting.