Upon seeing a greenish-yellow zombie, Vlad the ranger rolled a 1 for his own surprise and was thus unable to close the door again. Thankfully, the zombies were surprised also, so after a one-round lull the battle resumed in the doorway. These zombies are not undead (but the party, surprisingly, hasn't figured out yet what they are, so no giving it away!).
It was something of a surprise. The party was expecting harpies, of course - but I figure, the keep has been abandoned for about three years and the harpies have been fouling the place up. There's bound to be some kind of toxic growths in the place, giving plenty of opportunity for other monsters than harpies (it's always good to change up a dungeon, not just give the same monster over and over). I have other surprises laying in wait for the party.
A few game details. One thing I really like about using publisher to run my combats is that I can put notes right on the map as the combat is going on. This zombie has been hit for six points but not killed (they have a random 2d8 for hit dice). The party can look at it during the combat, see which zombie was hit and for how much, allowing them to plan their round-to-round tactics. The red circle is for me, to remind myself that this zombie was stunned in the previous round and therefore won't be doing anything this round. The other zombies will move around it accordingly - and when the zombie round is over, I will remove the symbol.
This is marvelous for keeping track of twenty or thirty enemies that have all taken damage. For the most part, I don't write down how many hit points any of the monsters have, even after I roll their hit points out. If there aren't many monsters, I memorize the total hit points, subtract in my head and if stunning occurs. I remember clearly that this zombie had 8 total hit points (it was killed soon after).
If I'm dealing with a LOT of monsters, for sometimes I have combats with up to forty or fifty opponents, and I forget the number of hit points a given monster has, then I can use the number on the map as a guideline. For example, since this zombie wasn't killed by 6 damage, it must have somewhere between 7 and 16 total hit points. I can simply roll 2d8 again, more than once if necessary, producing a new hit point total for the next damage taken to be measured against. Most likely, the zombie will be killed by another blow or at least stunned again (since stunning is based against the zombie's present hit points, not their original total).
Not having to address something written down on paper helps clear my desk, eliminates any need for a screen to keep back info from the players and as I say, the number on the actual game map improves the player's awareness of what's happened and what they've done. They can then attack injured creatures to get rid of them, rather than wasting their attacks on fresh targets.
In the images above, and below, the circular staircase and the zombies are my own work. I couldn't find any good example of the sort of zombies I wanted, so I had to make my own. They are fashioned from several mixed color layers and then a shadow is added (nicely scary, I think).
The party fought back the zombies in short order (I rolled low hit points for these creatures and they're not very powerful, even for low level characters):
The small blue symbol next to Sunsky indicates that his bow is loaded - he didn't have a chance to fire it, however, as the party destroyed the zombies. Again, such little symbols help keep track of things. For casting spells, which in my world can take a round or more, I use a little green circle. If a crossbow is being loaded, I will use a small blue circle for each round - thus a heavy crossbow can be fired after three circles have been added to the character's hex. The same with spells, as the higher level spells can take two or more combat rounds to load in my world. This system helps limit a wizard's power.
There are yet zombies filling the stairs down, so this combat isn't over. As far as the game on Saturday is concerned, however, this is as far as the party in the yard got. It was 11 p.m. and we called it.
Four and a half hours goes by so fast.