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Zombie Survival Rules for Savage Worlds

Also of note:

What follows are some hard and fast Savage Worlds rules for running a campaign set in an undead post-apocalypse, or even one that is still in the making. This could be in any popular zombie apocalypse setting, or in one of your own imagining. It could even be set in any era, future or past, if you want to imagine an alternate history from our own. The rules that follow are written with a modern setting in mind, but game masters should feel free to expand on them or reinterpret them as they see fit.

Character Creation

See pages 6-41 of Savage Worlds: Explorer’s Edition.

Game masters should decide before they begin creating characters with their players whether or not the zombie apocalypse has already happened in their setting, or whether it will be part of the ongoing story. This will dramatically affect the way in which players create their characters. If the apocalypse has not already begun at the start of play, it might be fun for the game master to keep the fact that this is a zombie survival game from the players until it happens. This will keep the suspense up for the players, and surprise them when the dead begin rising!

Characters should begin at the Novice experience level, unless the game master has a special reason for allowing otherwise. This reflects that you begin the game as an ordinary person surviving in the horrors of the post-apocalypse, not some Seal Team 6 special forces killing machine.

All characters are, of course, Human. As such, they will get to pick a free Edge at the end of character creation.

As always, characters get 5 points to spend on attributes and 15 points to spend on skills (skills still cost 2 points per level when they rise above the level of the attribute that governs them). Derived Statistics are handled as normal.

Edges and Hindrances also work as normal: one free Edge, with Major Hindrances granting two points and Minor Hindrances granting one point each. Up to one Major and two Minor Hindrances can be taken. Two Hindrance points can raise an attribute one level or grant a new Edge. One Hindrance point can grant another skill point or double starting funds (if the story begins before the apocalypse, in which case starting funds are $500).

Forbidden Edges: Arcane Background, Arcane Resistance, Improved Arcane Resistance, Noble, all Power Edges (page 27 of Savage Worlds: Explorer’s Edition), Champion, Gadgeteer, Holy/Unholy Warrior, Mentalist, Mr. Fix-It, and Wizard.

Forbidden Edges if setting is post-apocalyptic: Rich, Filthy Rich, and Connections.

New Edge: Resistance

Requirements: Novice

This is a very special and useful Edge. Players purchasing this Edge, at the game master's discretion, may not even know what it is (similar to “New Edge: Immunity” below).

In game terms, this Edge allows the character to make Vigor checks when resisting infection with the zombie virus (see “Infection” below) at no penalty. Also, if the character is unfortunately infected anyway, the time it takes them to transform into a zombie is prolonged to 41d0+10 minutes.

At the game master's discretion (and purely for storytelling and horror purposes), this edge might also allow the character to show faint glimmers of their former personality after they have turned. For instance, a zombie cop might return and linger around their former police headquarters for some inexplicable reason.

New Edge: Immunity

Requirements: Novice, Edge: Resistance

This Edge is very special and unique. It must be purchased at character creation, and only with the game master’s permission. This Edge can also only be purchased after the new Edge “Resistance” has been acquired. Game masters might want to keep the true nature of the Edge secret and tell the player only that they are purchasing something very useful and special, revealing to them later through storytelling just what this has gained them.

This Edge should only be granted to one player character per campaign. It may make them a focal point of the story and very valuable to certain parties seeking a cure if the immunity is discovered.

In game terms, this Edge means that the character cannot become infected by the undead and turned into a zombie. They are immune to infection from zombie bites, scratches, transmission of blood, consumption of zombie flesh, or anything of the sort that might contaminate a person in your own zombie apocalypse setting. Note that characters can still suffer normal damage from zombie attacks and be killed this way. Immunity simply means that a character cannot be turned after being attacked (see “Infection” below for the normal rules on this).

Note that this Edge may not be appropriate for all zombie apocalypse settings. For instance, in some zombie settings, all humans are apparently already infected with some latent version of the virus which causes undead animation. Death is simply a trigger for the transformation into a zombie in that setting. Even natural death through old age or the like would cause a person to rise after death. In this case, Immunity would really be meaningless.

New Edge: Shelter

Requirements: Novice, Smarts d6+

This means that the character has a safe place to sleep which is zombie-proof. Examples might include a house with barred windows, a locked warehouse, an old bomb shelter or similar structure which you can lock from the inside. Note that this Edge should not grant the character ownership of a huge military fortress, or even something that contains a stocked armory (like a police station); just a moderately sized building which they could lock from within and defend alone. It need only be impenetrable to zombies (barring sabotage or bad luck). Even a sturdy tree house would qualify since this would be out of reach of a dull-witted and clumsy zombie.

Note that this shelter is only noteworthy to a character who begins a storyline after the zombie apocalypse has commenced. And this shelter must be protected; if it’s overrun, too bad for the character who once called it home.

New Edge: Vehicle

Requirements: Novice, Smarts d6+

See pages 107-119 of Savage Worlds: Explorer’s Edition for complete rules on vehicles, vehicle combat, and chases. See pages 54-55 for details on available vehicles.

This Edge allows the character to own outright a working vehicle with a (mostly) full tank of gas at the beginning of the campaign. Note that this is only noteworthy if the campaign begins after the zombie apocalypse has commenced. It is up to the character to keep the vehicle running and find gas for it after they have run out after the campaign begins. Also, this is simply a working car, boat or small plane. This is not an armored Mad Max style tank with a gun turret mounted on top. Simply having a working car that can get the character from one place to another at speed is invaluable in the zombie apocalypse. Moving cross-country on foot can be very unsafe. The Horse and Carriage, Learjet, Civilian Space Shuttle, Hydrofoil, Galleon and Galley are off limits.

New Edge: Animal Companion

Requirements: Novice, Spirit d6+

The character possesses a loyal and steadfast animal companion. This pet will follow them wherever they go and protect them if they can. Such animal companions can sometimes act as a mount for the player. Sometimes this animal companion can sniff out the undead before the character can see them and serve as an early warning system. Allowed animals found in the “Bestiary” section of the Savage Worlds: Explorer’s Edition rulebook include: Dog/Wolf (page 146), Riding Horse (page 149), Mule (page 151) and Venomous Snake (page 153).

Other animals, such as pet birds, might be allowed at the game master's discretion. In this case, the game master should create statistics for the animal and give them to the player. In the event of combat, the player controls the animal companion.


See pages 42-55 of Savage Worlds: Explorer’s Edition.

Medieval, Black Powder, and Futuristic weapons, armor and items are forbidden in this setting.

Characters begin with starting funds of $500 and whatever that can buy, but this money becomes meaningless once the zombie apocalypse commences. At that point, characters exist within a primitive and desperate barter system. And if they are not careful, they may find themselves in kill-or-be-killed situations where the prize is a coveted item. Game masters become arbiters of what trades are of worthy value at this point. For rough estimates of comparable value, you can consult the costs listed in the Gear chapter.

Game Rules

See pages 56-79 and 96-123 in Savage Worlds: Explorer’s Edition for game rules. What follows are new rules for the zombie apocalypse.


The virus which causes a person to become a zombie after death is treated in game terms as a disease (see pages 103-104 of Savage Worlds: Explorer’s Edition for details on disease).

Whenever a character is bitten or scratched by a zombie, or whenever zombie blood or innards come into contact with character’s eyes, nose, mouth, open wounds, or any other bodily orifices, they must make a Vigor roll (-4). If the roll is failed, the character will become a zombie. After contraction, death and transformation into a zombie will occur within 2d10+10 minutes. Symptoms during that short time include fever, exhaustion and delirium.

When a character dies and returns as a zombie, they retain their Agility, Strength and Vigor. Smarts and Spirit ratings revert to d4. Fighting, Intimidation and Notice skills increase to d6, d6 and d4, respectively (unless they were already higher). In this rules set, zombies do not possess the Shooting skill. Turned characters also gain the Fearless, Undead and Weakness (Head) special abilities (see pages 140-144 of Savage Worlds: Explorer’s Edition for details on special abilities). They can also attack with Claws or Bite, doing damage equal to Strength.


The stats for zombies can be found on page 157 of Savage Worlds: Explorer’s Edition (accept that they do not have the Shooting skill). Other creatures from the bestiary section of the rulebook, or those of your own imagining, can become zombies as well (with certain exceptions -- such as birds or dogs or whatever -- at the game master's discretion). Simply use their normal statistics, changing Smarts and Spirit to d4, Intimidation to d6 and Notice to d4. Pace becomes 4. They gain the special abilities Fearless, Undead, and Weakness (Head). (See pages 140-144 of Savage Worlds: Explorer’s Edition for details on special abilities.) They can attack with Claws or Bite for damage equal to their Strength.