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10 D&D Undead Encounters for Low-Level Parties

Updated: Feb 6

Introduction: 10 D&D Undead Encounters for Low-Level Parties


As a Dungeon Master, the undead provide a rich source of horror and terror to spice up your campaign. But it's not just about creating a spooky atmosphere - there are many different ways to use the undead in your game, and each type of undead lends itself to a different kind of encounter.


In this blog, we'll be exploring 10 chilling undead encounters for low-level parties. From the shambling zombies to the vengeful spectres, we'll look at how to create a tense and terrifying atmosphere that will keep your players on the edge of their seats. We'll also explore how different types of undead can be used to create different kinds of horror - from jump scares to psychological terror.


One of the great things about using the undead in your game is that they can be used in a variety of settings. Whether your players are exploring a haunted castle, a dark and gloomy forest, or a desolate graveyard, there are plenty of opportunities to use the undead to create a sense of dread and unease. And with the right combination of atmosphere, storytelling, and gameplay mechanics, you can create encounters that will stick with your players long after the game is over.


So whether you're a seasoned DM looking for some new ideas or a new player looking to experience the thrill of the undead, join us as we explore 10 chilling D&D undead encounters for low-level parties.


Different types of undead encounter


When it comes to using vampires, ghouls, and ghosts in your Dungeons and Dragons game, each type of undead creature offers a unique thematic experience and lends itself to different kinds of roleplaying opportunities.


Vampires, for example, are often portrayed as suave and sophisticated predators, capable of seducing their prey and manipulating them for their own ends. They are typically associated with aristocratic or high society settings, such as grand castles and elegant ballrooms. When using vampires in your game, you can create an atmosphere of dark glamour and seduction, and challenge your players to outwit the cunning and manipulative creatures. Roleplaying opportunities might include political intrigue, espionage, and high-stakes negotiations with powerful figures.


This can often be quite a boring old trope though can't it? Nothing wrong with a bit of Transylvanian style blood and intrigue in and of itself, but the brutal hungry vampires in Thirty Days of Night are, for my money, way more interesting. Perhaps a vampire's insatiable hunger is its more interesting feature and whether it is an ancient revenant buried in a vast temple complex or a staggering, starving wraith hidden in the depths of a fetid swamp, its desire to feed can make it a terrifying predator.


Ghouls are typically depicted as savage, feral creatures that feed on the flesh of the living. They are often associated with subterranean or urban environments, such as sewers or catacombs. When using ghouls in your game, you can create an atmosphere of grime and desperation, as your players must navigate through filthy tunnels and fight for survival against hordes of ravenous monsters. Roleplaying opportunities might include scavenging for food and supplies, forming alliances with other survivors, and even negotiating with unsavoury characters in the criminal underworld if the PCs are desperate to escape the ghouls through a city's sewers.


Ghosts, meanwhile, offer a different kind of horror experience altogether. Ghosts are typically depicted as tortured spirits that haunt specific locations, often seeking revenge or closure for past wrongs. They are associated with haunted houses, abandoned asylums, and other spooky locales. When using ghosts in your game, you can create an atmosphere of suspense and dread, as your players investigate the mysteries behind the haunting and try to put the restless spirit to rest. Roleplaying opportunities might include uncovering hidden clues and secrets, interacting with NPCs who have a connection to the ghost, and navigating through dangerous supernatural phenomena.


Ghosts are also interesting plot devices (see Hamlet, the Lion King or Star Wars for evidence of this), the ghost might be the spirit of an innocent person murdered by a fiendish relative or a soul that lingers to point the finger of blame at the guilty party.


Each type of undead creature offers a unique thematic experience and lends itself to different kinds of roleplaying opportunities. As a DM, it's important to consider the setting and atmosphere you want to create, and choose the type of undead that best fits your vision. With the right approach, you can create memorable encounters that will keep your players on the edge of their seats.


Here is our previous blog on monster tactics and moves

Undead Encounters


Encounter 1

Plot Hook: The players are traveling through a forest when they come across a group of zombies, drawn to the area by the scent of living flesh.


The Zombie Horde: The forest is quiet and still as the players make their way through, the only sounds the crunch of leaves and twigs beneath their feet. Suddenly, they hear a low moaning in the distance, growing louder and closer with each passing moment. Soon, they find themselves surrounded by a group of shambling zombies, their rotting flesh hanging from their bones as they lurch towards the living. The players must fight for their lives as the undead close in, using their wits and weapons to survive.


Environment: The mist hangs thick in the air, and the forest is dimly lit. Fallen trees and tangled underbrush make it difficult to move quickly, and the players must watch their footing to avoid tripping. The zombies emerge from the shadows, their eyes glowing with a malevolent light.


Undead: The players face off against five zombies (CR 1/4 each). But these zombies are different. They're faster and stronger than any undead the players have faced before, and they work together as if they have a common purpose.


Plot Twist: As the players battle their way through the zombies, they begin to notice something strange about their attackers. These zombies are different than any they've seen before. They're faster, stronger, and more coordinated than the usual mindless undead. After defeating the last zombie, the players find a note on one of the bodies. It reads, "Congratulations on passing the first test. Your skills have impressed us. We look forward to working with you." The players realize that they've stumbled upon a group of necromancers who are testing potential recruits for their undead army.


Encounter 2

Plot Hook: The players are hired by a wealthy merchant to investigate his newly acquired mansion, which he suspects is haunted by vengeful spirits. He promises a handsome reward if they are successful in exorcising the spirits.

The Haunted Mansion: As the players approach the mansion, they can't help but feel a sense of unease. The building looms over them, its windows boarded up and its doors creaking ominously in the wind. Inside, the mansion is dark and foreboding, with twisted corridors and hidden rooms. The players begin to explore, their footsteps echoing through the empty halls. As they move deeper into the mansion, they start to notice strange and unsettling things happening around them. Objects move on their own, doors open and close, and strange whispers fill the air. As the players investigate further, they begin to uncover the dark secrets of the mansion's past. The ghosts that haunt its halls are not just vengeful spirits, but the tormented souls of those who were wronged by the mansion's previous owner. The players realize that the only way to put the spirits to rest is to right the wrongs of the past and bring peace to the mansion.

Environment: The mansion is old and run-down, with creaky floorboards and creepy decorations. The walls are covered in peeling wallpaper, and the furniture is covered in a thick layer of dust. The air is thick with the scent of decay, and the only sounds are the players' footsteps and the creaking of the old mansion.

Undead: The players face off against three ghosts (CR 1 each). But as they explore the mansion, they stumble upon a hidden room filled with treasure. Inside, they find a powerful magic item that could turn the tide in their favor. However, as they take the treasure, the ghosts become more aggressive, sensing that the players are here for more than just a simple exorcism. The players must fight for their lives against the vengeful spirits, using their wits and weapons to survive.

Plot Twist: The players soon discover that the wealthy merchant who hired them to investigate the mansion has his own dark past tied to the mansion's previous owner. He had intentionally stirred up the spirits in order to get his hands on the treasure. Now the players must decide whether to turn on their employer or complete the job for the promised reward, all while trying to survive the wrath of the mansion's ghosts.

Encounter 3

Plot Hook: The players are hired by a group of villagers to investigate a nearby crypt that is rumored to be the lair of a powerful necromancer. The villagers are concerned that the necromancer is gathering an army of the undead to attack their village.


The Crypt of the Necromancer: The players approach the crypt, feeling a chill run down their spines as they step inside. The crypt is dank and musty, the air thick with the scent of decay. The tombs and corridors are lined with cobwebs and dust, and the only light comes from flickering torches that cast eerie shadows on the walls. As they move deeper into the crypt, they hear the sound of shuffling feet and the clatter of bones. The undead guardians of the crypt have been awakened by their presence, and they're not going to let the players leave alive.

As they move further into the crypt, the players realize that the necromancer is not just any ordinary undead summoner. He's a powerful sorcerer who has been gathering dark magic for years, and he won't hesitate to use it against the players. They must fight their way through the crypt, battling skeletons and other undead guardians along the way.


Environment: The crypt is a dark, dank place, with cobweb-covered tombs and musty corridors. The air is thick with the scent of decay, and the only sounds are the players' footsteps and the clattering of bones.


Undead: The players face off against a powerful necromancer (CR 3) and his undead minions - four skeletons (CR 1/4 each). The necromancer is a formidable opponent, able to control the undead with ease and call forth powerful spells to attack the players.


Plot Twist: As the players confront the necromancer in his lair, they notice something strange about him. He seems hesitant to attack, almost as if he's afraid of them. It turns out that the necromancer is not actually evil, but was forced into his dark magic by a group of demon marauders who kidnapped his family. He had no choice but to turn to necromancy to protect them, but now he's realized that the demons have no intention of releasing them. The players must decide whether to help the necromancer free his family and put an end to the demon's' reign of terror, or to turn him over to the law of the land for his use of dark magic. As a reward, the necromancer offers the players a powerful magic item that he has been saving for just such an occasion.


Encounter 4

Plot Hook: The players are hired by a wealthy family to investigate a series of grave robberies that have been plaguing the local cemetery. They are tasked with discovering the identity of the culprit and putting an end to the grave robberies.


The Gravedigger's Revenge: The players enter the cemetery, their footsteps crunching on the gravel paths. The air is thick with mist, and eerie statues loom in the darkness. As they move deeper into the cemetery, they notice that some of the graves have been disturbed, their contents scattered about. Suddenly, they hear the sound of shuffling feet and low growls. The gravedigger and his undead wife have been awakened by their presence, and they're not happy about it.


The players must fight their way through the ghouls that the gravedigger and his wife have summoned to protect their dark secret. These ghouls are powerful, able to paralyze their victims with their bites and rend flesh with their claws. The players must use their weapons and wits to defeat them and navigate the treacherous graveyard to uncover the truth.


Environment: The cemetery is gloomy and foreboding, with eerie statues and misty graves. The mist hangs low over the ground, obscuring the players' vision and making it difficult to see what lies ahead.


Undead: The players face off against six ghouls (CR 1 each), each one more powerful and deadly than the last. They are controlled by the gravedigger and his undead wife, who are determined to protect their dark secret at any cost.


Plot Twist: As the players investigate the cemetery, they discover that the wealthy family who hired them has their own dark secret. They have been using the gravedigger to steal valuable artifacts from the graves of their rivals in order to gain an advantage in the local political scene. The gravedigger has grown tired of being used and has turned on his employers, seeking revenge for his mistreatment. The players must decide whether to turn on their employer or to complete the job for the promised reward, all while trying to survive the wrath of the gravedigger and his undead minions.


As a reward, the players discover a hidden crypt filled with valuable treasures and powerful magic items. They must use their wits to decipher the crypt's secrets and claim the treasure before the gravedigger or his former employers can get their hands on it.


Encounter Five

Plot Hook: The players receive an invitation to a mysterious masquerade ball, held by a wealthy and powerful vampire. The vampire is known for his extravagant parties, but rumors have begun to circulate that this year's ball will be different - darker and more dangerous than ever before. The players must attend the ball and uncover the vampire's dark plans before it's too late.


The Vampire's Masquerade Ball: The players arrive at the ball, the grand ballroom alive with the sound of music and laughter. The decorations are opulent, with chandeliers hanging from the ceiling and elegant ornaments lining the walls. The vampire and his minions move through the crowd with ease, their supernatural powers allowing them to blend in with the living. However, the players quickly realize that there is something off about the other guests - their eyes are dark and empty, and their movements are stiff and unnatural.


As the players navigate the dangerous ballroom, they discover that the vampire's plans are far darker than anyone had anticipated. He has been luring guests to the ball under the guise of a masquerade, only to turn them into his vampire spawn and add them to his undead army. The players must use their skills and wits to avoid the vampire's deadly gaze and uncover his plan before it's too late.


Environment: The ballroom is grand and opulent, with chandeliers hanging from the ceiling and ornate decorations lining the walls. The sound of music and laughter fills the air, but there's a darkness lurking just beneath the surface.


Undead: The players face off against one powerful vampire (CR 5) and three vampire spawn (CR 5 each). The vampire is a formidable opponent, able to control the minds of those around him and move with incredible speed and agility. His vampire spawn are equally dangerous, with razor-sharp claws and the ability to drain the life force from their victims.


Plot Twist: As the players uncover the vampire's plan, they discover that he is not acting alone. A rival vampire clan has been working with him to build an army of the undead and take control of the city. The players must decide whether to side with the vampire and his clan or to put an end to their plans before it's too late. As a reward, the vampire offers the players a powerful magic item that he has been saving for just such an occasion. However, the item is cursed, and the players soon discover that it's more trouble than it's worth. The players must use their wits and skills to remove the curse and put an end to the vampire's reign of terror.


Encounter Six

Plot Hook: The players are hired by a local lord to investigate a banshee that has been haunting his castle. The lord is concerned that the banshee's curse will spread to his family and his people, and he needs the players to put an end to it before it's too late.


The Banshee's Curse: The players enter the castle, their footsteps echoing through the halls. The castle is imposing and dark, with twisting corridors and ghostly apparitions. The banshee's wail echoes through the corridors, sending shivers down the players' spines. As they move deeper into the castle, they notice strange and unsettling things happening around them. Objects move on their own, doors open and close, and strange whispers fill the air.


As the players investigate the castle, they begin to uncover the dark secrets of its past. The ghosts that haunt its halls are not just vengeful spirits, but the tormented souls of those who were wronged by the castle's previous occupants. The players realize that the only way to put the spirits to rest is to right the wrongs of the past and bring peace to the castle.


Environment: The castle is a dark and foreboding place, with twisting corridors and ghostly apparitions. The air is thick with the scent of decay, and the only sounds are the players' footsteps and the banshee's wail.


Undead: The players face off against one powerful banshee (CR 4) and four ghosts (CR 1 each). The banshee is a formidable opponent, able to unleash a powerful scream that can cause instant death to those who hear it. The ghosts are equally dangerous, able to pass through walls and objects and drain the life force from their victims.


Plot Twist: As the players investigate the castle, they discover that the local lord who hired them has his own dark secret tied to the castle's past. He had intentionally stirred up the spirits in order to cover up his family's crimes against the people. Now the players must decide whether to turn on their employer or complete the job for the promised reward, all while trying to survive the wrath of the banshee and the ghosts. As a reward, the players discover a hidden treasure trove filled with valuable artifacts and magical items. They must use their wits to decipher its secrets and claim the treasure before the banshee or their former employer can get their hands on it.



Encounter Seven

Plot Hook: The players are hired by a group of clerics to investigate a cult that is worshipping a powerful lich and seeking to raise him from the dead. The clerics fear that the lich will bring about an era of darkness and destruction if he is resurrected, and they need the players to stop the cult before it's too late.

The Cult of the Lich: The players enter the temple, their footsteps echoing through the dark and foreboding halls. Dark altars and twisted symbols line the walls, and the air is thick with the scent of death and decay. The lich and his cultists move through the shadows, their undead minions guarding the way.

As the players navigate the treacherous temple, they discover that the cult has been gathering powerful artifacts and sacrifices in order to raise the lich from the dead. The undead guardians that stand in the players' way are relentless, animated by the will of the powerful lich who lurks in the shadows. The players must use their weapons and wits to fight off the undead and avoid deadly traps in order to confront the lich and put an end to his dark plans before he can raise an army of undead to conquer the world.

Environment: The temple is a creepy and ominous place, with dark altars and twisted symbols lining the walls. The air is thick with the scent of death and decay, and the only sounds are the players' footsteps and the creaking of the temple's old stone walls.

Undead: The players face off against one powerful lich (CR 21) and six cultists (CR 1/8 each). The lich is a formidable opponent, able to control the minds of his enemies and unleash devastating spells. His cultists are well-trained and well-equipped, able to fight with deadly accuracy and precision.

Plot Twist: As the players confront the lich, they discover that he is not acting alone. A powerful wizard has been working with him, using the lich's powers to gain control of the local government and establish a dictatorship. The players must decide whether to turn on their employer, the group of clerics who hired them, or to complete the job for the promised reward, all while trying to survive the wrath of the lich and his minions. As a reward, the players discover a hidden library filled with powerful magic spells and ancient tomes. They must use their wits to decipher the library's secrets and claim the knowledge before the lich or the wizard can get their hands on it.

Encounter Eight

Plot Hook: The players are sailing through treacherous waters when they come across a ghost ship, crewed by the restless spirits of dead sailors. The ship appears to be stuck in a loop, repeating the same tragic events over and over again. The players must uncover the truth behind the ship's fate and put the spirits to rest.


The Ghost Ship: The players approach the ghost ship, the misty sea surrounding them with high waves crashing against their hull and stormy skies overhead. As they board the ghost ship, they can feel a chill run down their spines, sensing the restless spirits of the dead sailors that still haunt its decks. The ship appears to be stuck in a loop, repeating the same tragic events over and over again.


As the players navigate the twisting corridors of the ghost ship, they must fight off the ghostly crew and avoid deadly traps. The ship's spectral inhabitants are fiercely protective of their vessel, attacking anyone who tries to interfere with their endless routine. The players may need to solve puzzles and gather clues in order to uncover the truth behind the ship's fate and put the spirits to rest.


Environment: The misty sea surrounds the ghost ship, with high waves crashing against its hull and stormy skies overhead. The ship itself is decrepit and eerie, with ghostly apparitions wandering its decks and twisted corridors.


Undead: The players face off against 10 ghost sailors (CR 1 each). The ghosts are spectral and intangible, able to pass through walls and objects, and drain the life force from their victims.


Plot Twist: As the players investigate the ghost ship, they discover that it was sunk by a powerful sea monster that still haunts the area. The monster has been using the ghost ship as bait, luring in unsuspecting sailors before attacking them. The players must decide whether to focus on putting the spirits to rest or to confront the sea monster and put an end to its reign of terror. As a reward, the players discover a treasure trove filled with valuable artifacts and magical items, which they can use to aid them in future adventures. However, the treasure is cursed, and the players soon discover that it's more trouble than it's worth. They must use their skills to remove the curse and escape the ghost ship before it's too late.


Encounter Nine

Plot Hook: The players are tasked with investigating an abandoned asylum, rumored to be haunted by the ghosts of its former patients. The asylum was notorious for its cruel treatments and inhumane practices, and the players must uncover its dark secrets before it's too late.

The Abandoned Asylum: The players approach the abandoned asylum, its rusted gates and broken windows giving it a foreboding presence. As they enter the twisted halls of the asylum, they can sense a dark energy emanating from the building, a sense of madness and despair that seems to linger in the air. The insane ghosts of the former patients roam the halls, driven mad by the cruel treatments they endured.

As the players explore the asylum, they encounter the twisted and tormented ghosts of the former patients. These insane ghosts are fiercely protective of the asylum, attacking anyone who threatens their home. The players must fight their way through the ghosts, navigating the twisted corridors and avoiding deadly traps, in order to uncover the asylum's dark secrets.

Environment: The decaying asylum is a haunting and eerie place, with broken windows and rusted gates. The twisted and tormented ghosts of the former patients roam the halls, their presence adding to the sense of madness and despair that seems to linger in the air. Undead: The players face off against six insane ghosts (CR 1 each). The ghosts are twisted and tormented, able to use their madness and despair to attack their victims.

Plot Twist: As the players uncover the asylum's dark secrets, they discover that the asylum was used as a cover for a group of cultists. The cultists used the asylum's patients as human sacrifices in their dark rituals, and they still lurk in the shadows, seeking to protect their secrets. The players must decide whether to turn on their employer, who was aware of the cult's activities, or to complete the job for the promised reward, all while trying to survive the wrath of the insane ghosts and the cultists. As a reward, the players discover a hidden room filled with valuable artifacts and magical items. They must use their wits to decipher the room's secrets and claim the treasure before the cultists or their former employer can get their hands on it.

Encounter Ten

Plot Hook: The players are hired as night watchmen for a mysterious and eerie graveyard. They soon discover that the corrupt gravekeeper has been using the graveyard for his own dark purposes, animating the dead and feeding on their life force. The players must fight off the undead and put an end to the gravekeeper's reign of terror before the graveyard becomes a permanent home to the restless dead.


The Graveyard Shift: The players arrive at the dark and eerie graveyard, with creepy statues and overgrown tombs lining the paths. As they take up their positions as night watchmen, they can sense a sense of unease in the air, as if the dead are restless and unhappy. Soon, they discover that the corrupt gravekeeper has been using the graveyard for his own dark purposes, animating the dead and feeding on their life force.


As the players fight off the undead, they must navigate the dark and twisted paths of the graveyard, avoiding deadly traps and dangerous pitfalls. The gravekeeper is fiercely protective of his secret, attacking anyone who tries to interfere with his plans. The players must use their wits and skills to uncover the truth behind the gravekeeper's dark rituals and put an end to his reign of terror before it's too late.


Environment: The dark and eerie graveyard is a spooky and unsettling place, with creepy statues and overgrown tombs lining the paths. The restless and unhappy dead add to the sense of unease and danger that lingers in the air.


Undead: The players face off against one gravekeeper (CR 2) and four zombies (CR 1/4 each). The undead are fierce and relentless, driven by the gravekeeper's dark magic.


Plot Twist: As the players uncover the truth behind the gravekeeper's dark rituals, they discover that he was actually trying to protect the graveyard from an even greater evil. A powerful necromancer had been using the graveyard as a source of power, raising an army of undead to terrorize the nearby town. The gravekeeper had been using his dark magic to keep the necromancer's influence at bay, but he had gone too far, putting the entire graveyard and its occupants at risk. The players must decide whether to side with the gravekeeper and help him protect the graveyard or to stop him and confront the necromancer. As a reward, the players discover a powerful magic item hidden among the graves, which they can use to aid them in their future adventures. However, the item is cursed, and the players must use their skills and magic to remove the curse before it's too late.


​Bonus Essay - Creating and undead themed campaign


Undead creatures have been a staple of Dungeons & Dragons since the game's inception. These monsters, ranging from ghouls to sword wraiths, offer a great way to incorporate horror themes and special abilities into your campaign. In this article, we will explore how to create an undead themed campaign that can challenge players of all levels.


First, it's important to consider the party level. A group of low-level players will have a harder time with combat encounters against high-level undead monsters. As such, it's a good idea to start with low-level encounters such as zombies, skeletons, and crawling claws, gradually building up to higher level monsters like necrotic damage-dealing intellect devourers, goon balloons, and skin kites.


When creating combat encounters, it's important to balance the encounter budget, taking into account the party's level and number of party members. Consider adding special abilities to the monsters such as claw attacks, special attacks, and legendary actions to make the fights more interesting.


In the first adventure, consider having the players face off against a group of lower-level monsters, perhaps with a powerful undead individual creature as the final boss encounter. This can help players get a little bit of experience with fighting undead creatures and dealing with their special abilities.


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