A Voodoo Zombie is the servant of a bokor (or voodoo sorcerer). The potential zombie is given two drugs. The first slows down their metabolism and induces a death-like state. The second is a dissociative chemical, that muddles the brain. In addition to the drugs, the intended zombie may be buried alive, and often has a ritual of some sort performed over them. One can expect psychological trauma or the power of suggestion to play a part as well. The result is a slow-thinking slave that believes they are dead and must serve the will of the bokor who raised them.
Obviously, this sort of zombie is not necessarily undead but may or may not have had his soul sucked out and put in a soul jar.
In fiction, they may be depicted as a dim-witted serial killer, mindless automoton, or chemically neutered servant. The cause is magic, psychological, or chemical, and not viral. As such, this form of zombie-ism is not going to be spread by bite. They are likely to have the Zombie Gait, though. They lack the standard strengths and vulnerabilities of movie zombies.
The caribbean zombie generally may be a metaphor for the horrors of slavery - and for the mindset that allows a slave to become innured to his lot and give up all hope of being free. This becomes more terrible still when the zombies are actually undead - when this happens, the slave comes to realise that even when dead he will not find any rest from labour, but will find himself toiling in the plantations again before his body is even cold.
Pirates once sailed the same Caribbean islands where Voodoo developed. Therefore, it's not too big a stretch for Voodoo Zombies to also be Zombie Pirates or vice-versa. This may be hampered by the tradition that a zombie could be paralysed by the sight of the sea (which would probably have made them rather hard to use on some Carribean islands) and its curse broken if it tasted salt (which may be why they are often depicted with their mouths sewn up).
Game and Story Use
- This is where the zombies depicted in D&D drew their inspiration way back in the 70s. Getting in touch with the roots can help put some flavor back into your campaign.
- May be a good fit for a low-magic campaign, one where a Doubting Thomas needs a little shaking up.
- Can justify why the mooks are slow and stupid.
- The drug enduced hypnosis/actual magic thing can be kept fuzzy - as can the enslaved/undead thing. The Agent Scully of the team might need quite a bit of convincing … rightly or wrongly as it occurs.
- For low end magic, the drugging and burial may assist in undermining the victim's ability to resist the magical attack which binds them to the bokor's service (with or without removing their soul).
- Carribbean zombies are often used as slave labour - this can be exported to other settings with menial, unskilled tasks in a variety of settings being performed by the undead. Traditionally this would be agricultural work, but could easily be changed to industrial tasks or even rowing a galley.