I was a little surprised to see I didn’t have this posted on the site anywhere. Zombies are really fun in fiction, and 5e’s Zombies don’t hit the mark at all. I’m not sure Zombies in D&D, or pathfinder ever really did. Zombies have one basic rule that’s really important for them. You can’t kill them if you don’t smash their brain. Other than that, you can do most anything with a zombie and folks won’t really complain. For whatever reason, D&D usually represents this as them being damage sponges, with damage resistance, damage reduction, boatloads of HP, and maybe even immunities of various sorts. This actually makes them less fun to use, because you can’t yell “Aim for the head”. Hell, some editions of the game even make zombies immune to sneak attack because they have no discernable anatomy. Even though they are up there with vampires for tropey called shot mechanics.
My 5e homebrew has proven relatively popular, and it’s very easy to implement, and when I went looking for it, didn’t have it on the site anywhere. Let’s fix that.
Zombies, and other similar undead at your DMs discretion gain the following two abilities. A religion or arcana check, DC 12, can inform the characters of these abilities. A character who has seen a zombie take damage can also roll medicine or insight at the same DC.
Unimportant Parts: If a zombie would take damage that reduces them below 1 hit point, instead the zombie ignores that damage and remains at 1 HP. Damage from a critical hit, or radiant damage ignores this ability.
Aim for the Head: A character can choose to attack the zombie with disadvantage. If they do, that attack ignores the Unimportant Parts ability of that zombie.