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DMs should fear these things from Fear the Walking Dead

Written by MythicParty - Published on August 31, 2015

imagesMovies and television are always a fertile source for ideas to use in D&D.  Especially horror.  You’ve probably heard that AMC’s the Walking Dead has a spinoff called (ugh) ‘Fear the Walking Dead.’ Now this isn’t a prequel but rather about what’s happens on the West Coast, specifically Los Angeles.  Admittedly when I first heard they were making this series I rolled my eyes as it sounded like a 3.5ish cash grab.  But then I started seeing some slick promos that showed scenes from normal everyday life right before the zomb- I mean walkers/biters/roamers show up.  Behold, the power of advertising made me & 10.1 million other people tune in.  After watching the Pilot twice now, I can share some suggestions for DMs.  Unfortunately, they’re all things that DMs should NOT do.  For example…

  • FEAR cliche adventure starters FtWD opens with someone waking up and not knowing what is going on around them.  Sound familiar?  Well that’s because they used this same bit in the original show, albeit in a hospital bed.  And if that sounds familiar then that’s because you’ve seen it happen in the British horror movie 28 Days Later, which introduced ‘fast zombies.’  Apparently neither the graphic novels nor the film ripped off each other but it still demonstrates that a trope can become a common cliche.  So don’t have the party meet at an inn.  Or be summoned before the King.  Or guard a caravan. Find something new or at least different enough than normal to pull your players in.
  • FEAR obvious clues for foreshadowing  In the buildup to the inevitable Z-pocalypse, one of the characters is teaching a lesson; the subject, ‘To Build a Fire’.  And what he says is London’s point?  “Nature always wins.”  Another character is a student and happens to have a class on…wait for it…Chaos Theory.  “It’s not just for dinosaurs!”  Not exactly discrete right?  If you’re going to cue what’s coming up, subtly pays off.  Slow burns are the best burns.  FtWD had a moment where the principal notices that there aren’t as many kids at school (cue dramatic music) causing him to then ask the bus driver, “What, did you miss a few stops?”  Do those kind of little things and when the ending is eventually revealed- or even discovered- it will mean much more.
  • FEAR having your NPCs be or fall into stereotypes   One character is a drug addict yet his sister is headed off to college at Berkley.  A black character is introduced yet soon revealed as (spoiler) a drug dealer.  Being a horror show he is then killed early on.  Finally, the only person we meet who seems to have a clue about the impending doom is a Geeky misfit with a CHA of 7.  And is named ‘Tobias.’  Sigh.  In real life, people are much more complicated than simple labels.  If you want memorable NPCs then they have to be believable.  And to be believable they have to be realistic.  Its ok to label them by profession or archetype but see if you can inject them with something that makes them unique.  Like real people are.

Ok, so despite those negative points the show was still worth a view.  Have to see how this new group does in the weeks to come.  Meantime, what did we miss?  What did you guys think of the show?  Let us know in the comments below.  After all as Tobias says, “No ones’ going to college.”

Written by MythicParty

Dog-loving, movie-watching, pizza aficionado. Content Editor for DMing.com, Project Manager for AvatarArt.com, & player of the coolest characters in a weekly D&D game. Halflings are the real heroes.

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4 Responses to “DMs should fear these things from Fear the Walking Dead”
  1. Joseph says:

    In summary, avoid stereotypes and cliches like a plague. A good rule of thumb would be: If you’ve done or seen it before in a game, don’t do it again. Thanks for the article.

  2. MythicParty says:

    Hi Joseph, thanks for the comment.

    It’s impossible not to have some duplication when it comes to the numerous aspects of your games; after all, that’s where tropes came from:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fantasy_tropes

    Not to mention constantly coming up with original ideas would be both difficult as well as time consuming.

    Although I enjoyed watching, I definitely felt that the pilot episode of Fear the Walking Dead made a few cliche choices & some of the characters were solid stereotypes.

    But then again, we’re watching for the Zombies, right?

  3. Tiorn says:

    No problem with the stereotypes and cliches in a game. Just own that stuff when you do ‘borrow’ from another source. Put your own spin on it. Whatever. Just make it your own and run with it.

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