The Generic Villain on Employing Zombies

You know, I hear a lot of debate on whether to include the undead in one’s ranks. And since zombies are a Thing these days, and since they’re so cheap, they’re a very popular focus in these sorts of discussions. So heck, why not? Let it never be said that the Generic Villain lacks opinions!

The advantages? Pretty simple. They’re cheap, which is probably the most important part, and if you don’t have Qualms they’re an excellent way of recycling lost minions. If you can set them on a goal, they’re pretty good at doing the single-minded thing. If you’ve got the means to control ‘em, you know they’ll obey. If they’re contagious, they’re as likely as not to replace themselves at least several times over before their inevitable final-deaths at the hands of the protagonists, and a large enough number of them can overrun almost anything unless Dramatic Necessity is specifically invoked against them. Oh, and did I mention that aura of “this could—or (in desperate situations) this will—be me” that anyone with an ounce of foresight falls prey to to some degree?

Of course, they’ve got their disadvantages as well. For the most part, they’re not particularly intelligent, and even the ones who have enough brain left to do their jobs tend not to be particularly inventive. If they’re not really well-made, next thing you know they’re shedding skin and organs everywhere. Personal initiative? Only if there are brains in the offing, or whatever sort of organic material they seem most interested in. Dark powers forbid you try to give them complex orders. It’s safest not to put them in any position beyond entry level or cannon fodder (not that I would anyway—the minion union has rules about that, and I’ve seen what happens to those who defy them). They’re no good for dialogue, and hero-types, no matter how compassionate they are, almost never have any qualms whatsoever about doing them in.

For me, those last points are something of a deal-breaker. I’m not going to say that zombies aren’t effective; I’ve seen what Gethin’s can do when he gets them to all shamble in the same direction. Since my tactics rely more on use of the Laws of Narrative Dramatics and on utilizing the morals of the protagonists, though, they just aren’t my thing. A zombie will almost never be promoted to the kind of limited immunity having a name or personality gets a minion, and it certainly won’t amuse me all that much in the process.

For those who do use zombies, though, there are some things to take into account. The first, of course, is what kind of zombie you’re dealing with. Plague? Voodoo? Radiation? Magical cataclysm? Bound spirit animating someone else’s body? They all work under different rules, and if you use tactics meant for one with another, or try to utilize advantages a different kind of zombie has—well, it’s bad for the plans. You’ll want to house them separately from the minions, unless you’re willing to deal with a little attrition (I suppose you could use that as a way to toughen up your minions, but that’s risky, and if you’re dealing with contagious zombies… well, yeah.) And if you get one of those rare ones that manages to show heroic intelligence, treat it as you would a shining star minion. Otherwise, it’ll probably end up overcoming its nature by heroically sacrificing itself for the protagonists. Dramatic Necessity loves things like that.

This is your Generic Villain, signing out—good luck wherever on this matter you fall, and enjoy your Halloween!

2 comments

  1. UZ says:

    Being on a first name basis with a zombie minion is probably a sign that your sanity is on the outs. This can actually work for you, but only if you’re willing to accept comic villain status which is a major career change for most villains. It’s much like this:

    ***

    Loathly: What a day. I tried to take over the Spiritwood and it just… that thing just won’t subjugate, you know?

    Elizabeth: Uuuhhh.

    Loathly: I mean, anger powder everywhere. How did they work together? And Minotauros, he just choked. He’s been having family problems lately, I should give him some time off.

    Elizabeth: Uuuhhh.

    Loathly: Ahhh! Should have just been a zombie, it sounds a lot easier.

    Elizabeth (angry eyes): Uuuhhh!

    Loathly: No, you’re right. I’m sorry.

    ***

    Comic villain is tough, you basically give away any possibility of ever accomplishing anything. On the other hand, as long as you keep some element of tragic irony in your humor, you can survive almost anything. It’s a bit like the villain stasis you talked about before, except that it’s much harder to recover from than just being sealed in a can.


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