zombie 1The way the ecology (or biological economy) is set up in the published Ravenloft module appears to be flawed. This is specifically the case for the zombies, whose origins and therefore total numbers do not seem to make sense.

The whole zombie genre is, of course, an adolescent fantasy. “I and my immediate circle of friends are cool, but everyone else are untermenschen.” That kind of juvenile alienation no longer grabs or even entertains me.  In fact I have little sympathy for that particular brand of conceit. But I can understand it.

However, zombies are in the module. Ravenloft is a ‘gothic’ fantasy, not a modern urban alienation fantasy, and that’s the way I choose to explore it. I recently reviewed a novel on the topic. So I might as well go with it.

My reasoning for the coming changes are as follows:

Strahd runs this pocket dimension as a farm, of sorts, where he breeds humans for food. The fog prevents people from exiting the realm, apparently (though does it, or is it merely a dimensional transition zone?). That there are zombies of any kind proves that necromancy is real. If necromancy is real and the dead walk then why are all the dead of the villagers over the centuries quiet? Why should they be? No reason, and if they are not quiet then what function do they fulfil?

The basic model is this:

* The dead do rise, either from death through natural courses, or through zombie or vampire bite. This is the source of the army of zombies.
* The role of the zombies is to police the area. They roam, aimlessly, attacking humans. They are mindless, shambling, classic zombies. Ref. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. In the cold they freeze solid but reanimate when the weather warms. They rise from their graves. – Important question: how come the villagers do not cremate? Is it because of the religious commandment to keep the body intact for the day of resurrection? If this is the case how do they feel about destroying the zombies whom they recognise as reanimated loved ones?
* Zombies can be destroyed by the villagers. Strahd does not care. He treats them like a kind of mobile fence. There are always more where they came from. After all, the raw material is the villagers themselves. His intelligent police are the wolves. His spies are the crows and bats.
* We may also expect creatures parasitic to this arrangement such as ghouls.
* Given all of this we might predict that it is not automatically death to be out at night. The closer you get to the borders of the realm, however, the more danger you would be in. Zombies might wander into town, but probably not in great numbers. After all, Strahd hardly wants his population to be devastated. He just wants them controlled, cowed, and localised. Wolves are probably only sent to hunt identified trouble makers.

The conclusion is that the characters can probably throw their weight around the town by day or night and probably write off the cowed behaviour of the villagers as fear of them. Hordes of zombies and wolves will not necessarily be beating on the doors every night. However, camping and bushwalking would be a suicidal thing to do. Eventually, even the venal and self centred characters will notice that there is something far worse than them loose in the country.