Supplement Review: Studies of Decay: Zombies by Kristofer Konkel from Rocks Fall Games

Zombies. Love ’em or hate ’em, they’re here to stay. Personally I’m a big fan if they’re done well, whether they appear on the big screen, the small screen, in a book, or at the game table. So when I saw that the folks at Rocks Fall Games had a new zombie-themed-supplement out for Pathfinder, I had to check it out.

Studies of Decay: Zombies - Rocks Fall GamesBut first let me ask you a question. When you think about zombies, what do you think about first? The image of a slowly shambling monster? A horde of brain-craving creatures? Or the individual(s) or reason(s) behind such a monstrous invasion? I think as an audience we usually get hung up on one of the first two options and tend to forget about the last one. Where do those darn zombies keep coming from?

Well, designer Kristofer Konkel from Rocks Fall Games has a great answer with Studies of Decay: Zombies with an evil, creative genius of a necromancer. This wizard is a real treat and his works are spectacularly wrong yet quite effective. As a player or a GM, I would be inspired and horrified to see any of these critters appear in a game… but I want to know more about the mysterious necromancer and his lich wife. They kind of hit me a bit like a necromantic Bonnie & Clyde.

The 28-page PDF (24 pages of content) offers more than 20 different zombies to give your players grief. Each zombie type discussed, from the “Rat Plague Zombie” to the “Horror of Weavestorm” offers Pathfinder stats, a bit of journal entry for flavor, and an artistic rendering from Micah Mapp. Though I can’t comment on the stats specifically, I can say that I would dread coming across any one of these things on a battlefield – and I think that’s the point. Not only are they nasty, but they’re strategically viable and enhanced with layered spells and effects.

But more than the stats, I was fascinated by the story that was presented through the journal entries. Much like a collection of newspaper clippings might be used to help illustrate a story from World War I in a Lovecraft-era adventure, each entry provided a bit of context or a snippet of some reason behind why these things were created. And as the book progresses, the stories get more grandiose and destructive. At first the necromancer is merely learning how to expand his magical talents, but by the end he has specific destructive goals in mind. Coming across an occasional rat or goblin zombie is one thing, but trolls? Wyverns? Ettins? Run people, run!

I would really like to hear more about any of the incidents described in the journal entries, but the whole story surrounding the siege of Weavestorm really left me wanting. Who were these people? Were there any survivors? And what’s left? Did the dynamic duo take their place ruling the ruins? Curious minds want to know! Where are these necromancers now? Are they still wreaking havoc?

The book itself uses a mix of full-page, one-column, and two-column layouts combining tables, text, and images. The writing was quite well done and I only found one typo in the recently updated version from Rocks Fall. I have to say that the black & white monster drawings were a bit hit and miss in spots, but they certainly offered a consistent way to show or describe each of these monstrosities in a bit more concrete fashion.

Overall, Studies of Decay: Zombies left me wanting to know more about the world and the characters whose evil deeds were described in detail. Don’t leave us hanging guys!

For more about Rocks Fall Games and Studies of Decay: Zombies

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