Ever since first reading Dune (long, long ago), one of my favorite fantasy settings has been the desert. It’s a hostile landscape that can physically shift beneath your feet, while also hiding life-saving oases or lost cities or giant burrowing worms.
When I first created the Dungeon Age world of Harth, I started in a desert region and began filling it with fantastical versions of vipers, scorpions, and lions. But my favorite fantasy monsters tend to be either aberrations or undead, and my deserts absolutely needed some undead. Certainly some mummy lords and warriors, but what about the common folk? What do they become in the undead desert? Solar Zombies.
As the sun has aged, darkened, and bloated in the skies above Harth, the land has withered…and changed. Infused with the horrific energies of the dying sun, human corpses have emerged from the Great Sand Sea and begun to roam the shifting dunes. Powered by the heat of the sun, these solar zombies shuffle about the deserts in small mindless groups from dawn to dusk, and then collapse on the cold sand, too weak to move by the feeble light of the ancient stars.
Travelers know of these solar zombies and simply give them a wide berth during the day, knowing they are slow and stupid, and harmless at night. The greatest danger would be to make camp in the darkness and then discover in the morning that you are surrounded by flaming corpses!
Desiccated human bodies crusted over with fragile chunks of coal-like material. During the day, they resemble people armored in lumpy black rock, burning with bright red and yellow flames as thin channels of red magma pulse under their charred flesh. During the night, they resemble black and gray charcoal lying in human-like shapes, smoking faintly and smelling of scorched wood and bone.
Solar zombies are utterly mindless. They wander the pathless desert without purpose. Their only instinct is to approach cold objects or creatures and attempt to heat them up with their flaming embrace. Unfortunately, tents and camels and people all seem cold to the burning solar zombies.
Stat Block (5E)
SOLAR ZOMBIE – 50 XP
- A corpse covered in charcoal and flame. Animated by sunlight. Lies helpless in the dark. Mindless.
- Medium undead, neutral
- AC 10, HP 10, MOVE 20 ft.
|12 (+1)||6 (-2)||14 (+2)||2 (-4)||2 (-4)||4 (-3)|
- IMMUNITY. Fire.
- COLLIDE. Melee Weapon Attack: +3 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (2d6) fire damage.
- OVERLOAD. When the zombie is struck by multiple light sources, it overheats and explodes. All creatures within 5 ft. take 3 (1d6) fire damage.
- FREEZE. When the zombie is in darkness, it falls prone and cannot move or act.
Stat Block (Old School)
Solar Zombie. HD 1. HP 3. AC unarmored. Move 20. Immune to fire. Attack 1. Collide +3, 3 (1d6) fire. Explode in bright light, 5 ft, 3 (1d6) fire. Freeze and fall prone in darkness.