I like zombie movies; I really do. Don’t know why. Might be that the first horror movie I ever saw without getting nightmares (age=8) was Night of the Living Dead.
Anyway - zombies. You know the monsters in all the zombies movies? Yeah, they aren’t zombies. They’re ghouls. Zombies don’t make more zombies when they bite you. Ghouls do. So what do we know about zombies? They’re mindless. Well, if they’re mindless, then they can react. They can react to instructions given and react to stimuli (like getting hit in the head with a shovel). But they cannot plan.
Further, they should probably never get to attack from surprise, because they are too stupid. They would roar/moan before attacking. Now, you’re game might have them silent, and that would be cool. Adds to the eerie factor. If they are mindless - Then they should be affected by whatever non-skilled modifiers are in your game. They cannot have a skill with a weapon because they lack the ability to learn. Now you might be tempted to let them use whatever weapons they used in life (woodsman’s axe, pitchfork, etc.), but I don’t think that should be allowed either. Just because they didn’t throw it down when they became a zombie doesn’t mean they know what to do with it. In fact, some of them would probably try to claw or bite their enemy, even if they had a sword in their hand. I let people arm the zombies, but everything the zombies use is considered an “irregular weapon”. In other words, if a zombie swings a sword, it is most likely that it will use it like a club and not like a sword.
So they’re slow, easily avoided. They cannot effectively use weapons, reducing their attack even if they are considered to be strong. They are stupid, and in most games (Legend Quest included) smart adds to your ability to detect stuff around you. This means they are easily ambushed or tricked in other ways.
Do they have any strengths? Most zombies can take a beating, especially when compared to a civilian. They don’t bleed to death, they don’t get scared, and they don’t even care if lop off one of their legs. They’ll bite your kneecaps! Then again, role-playing wise: No one should have any problem killing one. If a zombie shows up at the house, no one is going to think twice about planting an axe in its head. “Right between the eyes.” This makes it more reasonable for civilians to “kill” them in cold blood. This works unless the zombie is someone you know/knew. Then it becomes incredibly difficult to attack it, even if you know it is no longer Grandma, but instead of a monster; it looks like Grandma! There is something to the intimidation factor. Here is a corpse, walking around. For people who don’t intentionally wander into tombs and dungeons seeking to risk their lives for money, monsters are scary. When confronted with a monster, you run away. As long as the encounter occurs in a far off dangerous place, the fear factor should be minimal. After all, the adventurers came here expecting monsters and bad guys; a simple zombie shouldn’t make them pee their pants. But if a mass of zombies starts wandering through town, the initial reaction should be to run away. Sounder minds may prevail and they may gather together to fight the zombies off, but flight before fight. Zombies make an excellent monster for civilians to face - for all the reasons given here. A little planning and you can ambush them. Their slow movement makes them easy to hit by those not experts in weapons. But do they stand up to seasoned veterans? Not really. Sure they take a lot of damage to put down, but not so much that they are a real threat - more of a distraction. What do you think?