Zombies often straddle the line between SciFi and Fantasy where the two genres intersect with horror. Sometimes as the result of a disease or hyper-science, sometimes via a ‘SciFi’ source so esoteric and mysterious it might as well be magic, and sometimes in a Sci-Fantasy Horror collision of the three genres.
The most basic of undead, zombies might show up in your Starfinder game early on, but unless they’ve got some extra mojo, they are largely a non-threat by the time the party is 4th level or higher. A main reason for that is the default zombie in Starfinder lacks what makes them terrifying foes in Horror. A Starfinder zombie is a singular creature, unable to transfer the condition, and once it is down it stays down. But what if that were to change?
Ahsoka Spoilers below!
Star Wars: The Clone Wars fans may remember the Season 4 Episode Massacre (Episode 19). In the episode the Nightsisters (non-Jedi force users who are tied to the dark side of the force) use a ritual to raise an army of the dead. Unlike your usual necromantic army, these corpses keep getting back up, and anyone killed soon gets up as well, guided by the will of the Nightsister engaged in the ritual. We see this again in Episode 8 of Ahsoka (The Jedi, the Witch, and the Warlord) where the three Nightmothers raise an army of undead stormtroopers that have to be repeatedly slowed as they will not stop coming so long as the ritual continues. Both are reminiscent of scenes from the 1981 movie Heavy Metal where the antagonist/plot-device Loc-Nar animates a horde of undead, as well as any number of Night of the Living Dead scenes, or the Caulborn scene from the oft forgotten Disney film The Black Cauldron (1985). The key, in all these instances, is that individual zombies, or even groups of the simple undead, are not all that terrifying, but when their numbers continue to grow, with each victim claimed, it doesn’t take long to do the math and figure out how dire the situation can become.
Starfinder has all the pieces to add this to your game. Zombies are already available in AA1 (see here, plus grafts to add the condition, or cyber-zombies if you prefer a tech flavor to your undead). Galactic Magic introduced Rituals to the game, long form spells that have much greater effect than your typical spell. Put them together and your players are about to have a real bad day.
CALL ARMY OF THE DEAD LEVEL 5
Script Prepare the Space (Mysticism: failure), Sacrifice (3 Resolve Points), Gather Power (Mysticism: damage, failure), Shape Power (Mysticism: negative level, retry), Open the Way (Will; damage, failure)
Round Length 1 round
You open a continuous channel to the Negative Energy Plane that animates all corpses (of creatures Huge sized and smaller) within a range equal to 400 feet x your character level (or the character level / CR of the ritual leader.) These newly created undead are typically zombies, but variations of the ritual can create other forms of mindless undead. These undead follow simple commands (kill the intruders, protect this place, etc) from you, delivered through the ritual upon their creation and each round after. Each round you must continue to Open the Way to keep the effect going. So long as the ritual continues the undead horde continues to act, with any newly slain creatures rising to join the horde the round after they fall. Any undead created by the ritual that falls will rise as a new zombie on the next round unless it received damage equal to double its maximum hit points in the round it was destroyed. The horde returns to inert corpses the round after the ritual is ended and cannot move beyond the range of the ritual. The ritual ends when all participants are dead, the check to Open the Way is failed, or you voluntarily end the ritual.
Leading or taking part in a ritual to Call Army of the Dead is an Evil act, so much so that it immediately shifts anyone willingly taking part 2 steps toward Evil. Good outsiders will not willing associate with anyone so stained until some form of redemption is performed, most animals will shy away, and many who are psychically or mystically gifted can smell the corruption of the participant.
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