Third Edition zombies are based on a template, which can be applied to almost any creature. This was a pretty cool thing back in the day (what, ten years ago?) because it meant we could make our own monsters. I used this template in both the first and final Third Edition campaigns I hosted. I have two words for you: zombie paladin.

There are more than a few problems with applying templates to creatures. Some of the time, you get a fantastic monster concept, but you have to rebuild it from scratch because the template and the monster don’t really jive with each other. Sometimes your template takes an otherwise mediocre monster and turns it into a juggernaut.

My table aims to kill a couple birds with one stone. It’s like that Halfling Skiprock racial weapon that you can careen off several enemies at once. You know, that thing. This morning I thought, “why not apply the table to some recognizable monsters?”

Animated Corpse (level 1, 100 exp)
Medium humanoid
hp 14
init +2
AC 13; defenses 11
attack Slam +4 (1d6+2)
saves +2

Rise Again (Ex) Once per encounter, when the animated corpse is reduced to zero hit points, it falls to the ground as normal for an unconscious creature, but then stands up as a Free action at the start of its next turn with half its maximum hit points (7 hp).

Vulnerability to Turning (Ex) The animated corpse can be turned or destroyed by a cleric channeling positive energy, as an undead creature with Hit Dice equal to its level. This doesn’t extend to negative energy, thus it cannot be rebuked or commanded.

Zombies normally have no Skills ’cause they’re mindless and have no Skill points, but they receive Toughness as a bonus feat so they can still pose a trifling threat, but there are several things different about this zombie, and I know it’s going to ruffle some people’s feathers. It has all its actions, for one.

I was a huge fan of the zombies-are-slow trope that Third Edition zombies used, but it’s poorly represented by taking away their ability to act. Taking action in combat is arguably the point of Dungeons & Dragons, so taking away any creature or player’s ability to act in combat is a terrible, terrible idea. Period.

This zombie is vulnerable to critical hits and to sneak attacks. It’s better that way, believe me. It’s worth more experience points than your typical CR one-half zombie, and reasonably so. It has a cool power that reflects its nature as a spooky undead creature, and it can be predictably and reliably turned by low-level clerics.

It isn’t vulnerable to any Ability Score shenanigans, but it’s vulnerable to mind-affecting effects. It could even be charmed if you so wish it, a la Charm Person. But it doesn’t have Hit Dice, and thus is freed somewhat from some of the responsibilities that are attached to creatures with Hit Dice. Cheerio!