Help with Sandbox Zombie Survival Type Adventure

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Im DM'ing a D&D Next Home Brew.  My players are getting ready to enter a dwarven kingdom deep in the mountains.  Its a pretty typical layout.  Main "floor" is the common area: shops, trade, barracks, etc...  One floor below starts the mines.  One floor up are the wealthy residential \ noble.

I have a very detailed story laid out, but I'll give the short version here: The dwarven kingdom was sealed off nearly 500 years ago and no one knows why. The PCs are going to gain access into the lost dwarven kingdom and figure out what happened.

Here is what really happened.  The dwarves uncovered an ancient evil tomb during a mining expedition.  The evil leaked out and corrupted every one.  The corruption quickly spread through the kingdom.  The king was immune due to the fact he wielded an artifact level weapon that provided protection.  He ordered the entire mountain sealed from within to contain the corruption.  Chaos ensued.  Eventually he sealed himself in his throne room and awaited his death.

When the PCs arrive, I want them to be confronted with an underground town that experienced a rapid spread of corruption where the populace started turning on each other.  Picture the movie "28 Days Later".  Its been 500 + years so the population has died but the corruption keeps them going, i.e. ghouls, zombies, etc...

Im trying to picture what a town, sealed off from the outside, and confronted with a "rabid zombie infection" would look like.  It all would have started in the mines.  Logically I think the healthly citizens would have built the first baracades at the mine entrance.  Maybe even put wards and traps in to fortify defense.  What happens when they are over run?  I think people would logically fall back to maybe various sections of the town they can easily fortify.  A block of buildings or something.  If that falls?  Obviously the rich are going to seal themselves up in their homes on the next floor up.  Maybe the lift shaft is warded \ traped for protection.

I can see raging ghouls roaming the streets and attacking on site.

Maybe the jail is full of them because thats where the first infected were put before anyone really knew what was going on.  Now the PCs investigate the jail and are over run by surprise.

For my monsters I took the typical ghoul out of the D&D Next Beastiary, melded it with a typical dwarf, and added the following trait to give it that 28 Day Later raging zombie feel:

Rage: Enter at will.  Provides +2 to ATK & DMG, +15 to SPD.  Reduces AC to 10.

So a dwarf with say an 18 STR would get a +6 to hit and DMG when raging and their speed goes to 40FT.  However, their AC drops to 10 to give some sort of balance.

I've set the encounter at a Level 5 worth 375 experience each.  Without real guidlines in the playtest packet, I kinda have to "eye ball" it.

Here is my reason for posting:

I'm having writers block.  I have a really good idea of what I want to do, I just need some inspiration with the details.  This is set up as a sandbox adventure with random encounters, etc...  I want cool traps that would logically exist in a situation like this.

What are some things I can do to make this a non-typical sandbox series of encounters?  Temporary rules for making noise, sneaking, etc... may alert zombies to the PCs location?  Every round there is a 20% chance D4 more zombines show up?

Any help is much appreciated.


PC's have broken into a sealed area only to find out it was sealed for a reason and now have no choice but to purge the evil or else it will spread into the world. If this is a dwarven town or city then the  number of undead could be nearly unlimited or at least far more than the PC's should be able to take out in a day. So they need to find a safe way to take out the undead over a long period of time all the while gathering supplies and provisions, treating wounds etc. I know of several video games you could look to for inspiration; Dead Rising, Dead Space, Walking Dead, Fallout (in a way) and pretty much anything else with dead in the title.

With 500+ years of neglect things will be falling apart, rust, decay and rot, some places may even be flooded requiring the PC's to hold their breath and swim in order to get to the next area, Cave-in's, etc. I assume the PC's will have to find the source evil and eventually stop it before finding some way out of the city. Maybe they have to navigate a maze of old tunnels, water-ways, vents, etc. to reach it. Or they may even have to clear away rubble and debri with ancient mining equipment. All the while dealing with the endless undeath, darkness, lack of food & water and a limited air supply.

You want a contrast in the city. Some areas strewn with blood and decay others boarded up and untuched by the evil. Maybe they find a child killed by it's parent's in an act of mercy before they took their own lives. Maybe the child came back to 'life'  and now they have to destroy it. 

The part I'm having trouble with is keeping both the PC's and the undead in the City until the taint is destroyed. The only thing I can think of is if you have the evil curse them so they have a limited number of days before they become undead themselves. A curse that may or may not be broken by destroyoing the evil source, or by obtainint the artifact that protected the king. Maybe have the kings spirit appear before them and explain the events of the city's fall and ask them to help, if they refuse he uses his power to seal them inside anyway.

Any Question's?       
No wonder the locals hate me.
A good way to keep the adventure contained in the city and cut the PCs off from retreating for supplies and reinforcments, or allowing the contamination out, might be to develop a special kind of monster.

Two ideas spring to my mind. first is a type of ghoul/zombie dwarf carrying an explosive barrel on its back. Kill it and the barrel ruptures, blasting apart rocks nearby. Have a fight right inside the entrace with these, and the resulting blasts seal the exit behind the PCs. Now they are trapped and must find a new way out.

The other idea that comes to mind is some sort of guardian the dwarves cooked up to help fight the corruption and keep it contained. Perhaps once the PCs enter they are 'infected'. They show no outward signs of it, but if they die they come back as ghouls/zombies. the dwarves built a construct creature that can 'sense' the corruption in them and will not allow them to leave, going to far as to try and kill them if they make an attempt. This guardian could be a singel powerful construct, or a small army of golem-like things that patrol the city trying to exterminate the undead, even though there are far too many for them to ever succeed.

These are just a couple raw ideas off the top of my head.


There is a world just around the corner of your mind, where reality is an intruder and dreams come true.

You may escape into it at will. You need no secret password, no magic wand or Aladdin's lamp;

only your own imagination and curiosity about things that never were.

I’ve had this idea for a story about a group of soldiers going to investigate rumors of necromancy in a far off, remote county or duchy then ending up besieged in a castle by the undead. They whenever one would die they would come back a bit later as class-zombies and fight on the opposite side.

I really need to flesh that out someday.

how about a giant revolving door? The pcs stand on the platform to work the door and the door only works to let people out if they fetch a rod from the dwarf kings throne room?

I will immediately report any Phishers or Lonely Hearts Scam Artists.