I went on and on about how zombies aren’t tough. But they’re essential, right? So how do you make them tougher? Here are a couple of ideas on how to make skeletons and zombies different enough to seem like they are more dangerous. Not sure that every one of these actually makes them tougher!
1. Cover your skeletons in a glowing powder. This actually makes them easier to hit in the dark, but it gives them an additional eerie/horror quality that might be enough to make the civilians flee. They aren’t normal skeletons; no, they’re magical glowing skeletons.
2. Bolt steel and iron onto your zombies. Necros know about anatomy; after all, they play with skeletons all the time. They know where the bones are and would be able to bolt iron and steel pieces onto the zombies without “hurting” them. This can be as simple as armor pieces (assuming your game does not demand skill to use armor), or can be as easy as bolting a couple of horse shoes onto each hand, making the fist attack seriously dangerous.
3. Spiky zombies. Like the previous idea, place some manner of sharp object stick out of the zombie and tell it to wrestle people. While the zombie is on the enemy, damage will occur from the spikes. If they are barbed spikes, then the zombies could effectively weigh down the enemy, even if it has been re-killed.
4, Poisons. Undead are resistant to poisons, so why not outfit them with poison. Put a poison packet in the zombie’s mouth - every time it bites it will be coating its teeth with poison. Sharpen the skele’s finger bones and fill them with poison - kind of like a quill pen. The living have to be careful with poisons or they can get hurt, but the undead don’t have that issue.
5. Skeleton animals. Humans are not the best creatures for combat. Imagine how more effective a skeleton or zombie bear might be. Bigger (assumed more powerful) with naturally big teeth and claws. The zombie bear’s fur might even act as a natural armor. I’m against skeleton flyers, because their wings won’t work, but there is the possibility of skeleton bugs, even giant ones. After all, their carapace is part of their skeleton, so it would stay with them.
6. Thinking zombies. For one mission, I had a necromancer who used a “titan chemistry set” to create a drug that allowed zombies minimal thought. They became about as “smart” as skeles - still not independent thought, but not the total idiots they normally are. As such they could use weapons, were slightly faster and generally surprised the “good guys”. They weren’t that much more effective, but sometimes the unexpected is enough of an advantage.
7. Shadow mummies. I’ve been trying to flesh this one out (no pun intended), but I like the idea of mummies have some manner of shadow powers - maybe the ability to hide in shadows (magically, not like a thief). That one solid hit from surprise can turn a battle.