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Lessons for D&D from the GoT season 5 finale

Written by MythicParty - Published on June 22, 2015

game-thrones-season-5Since GoT isn’t just great TV, but also the closest thing to D&D that there will ever be on TV, we here at DungeonMastering assume our readers watch it regularly, even if they don’t subscribe to HBO.  So previously we’ve looked at the Season 5 Premiere “The Wars to Come,” as well as the 2nd S5 episode, “The House of Black and White.”  From these we came up with lists of ideas that could be used in D&D games with suggestions such as asking players to enact what their characters are saying for an Intimidate check, having magical power visibly manifest itself, and demonstrate just how angry hungry Dragons become.  Since it’s been a full week now since the finale “Mother’s Mercy” hopefully any of these won’t be spoilers, but yeah, spoilers coming.  Here we go.

imgres-1“Send me to Oldtown to become a Maester.”  Sam implores his friend Jon to permit him to leave his duty to guarding the Wall and be able to journey South (to the opposite end of the continent) to an old city where he can formally pursue become a healer/scholar.  Sam explains that by doing this study he will not only immediately save his family, but later on possibly his comrades as well.   HOW TO USE THIS: if a PC wants to learn a new spell, Feat or even ‘just’ a skill, they may have to travel quite far simply to find the opportunity for that to happen; whether from a tutor or at the “world’s greatest library.”  Going from the Wall to Old Town is approximately 2,000 miles.  While you don’t necessarily have to place a whole map in front of your players to go across, there should definitely be some obstacles to overcome before they can gain what they want.  And the greater the knowledge, the greater the obstacle.  At the very least, a player wanting their character to learn something new is now an opportunity for you as the DM to introduce a side quest or at the very least a cool NPC tutor.

images“A sinner comes before you.”  Outmaneuvered by a religious leader, to escape imprisonment Cersei is forced to take a literal walk of shame, slowly marched back to her keep while the city jeers on.  Adding injuries to insult, the Queen Mother undergoes a barrage of both disrespect and garbage (a cat carcass?!), hurled at her while she is escorted home by the same people she put into power.  HOW TO USE THIS: worthwhile villains- those who might be recurring bad guys instead of one & dones- deserve a good backstory.  Something sympathetic to help ‘humanize’ them or at least explain their malicious motivations.  i.e. why is this evil NPC evil.  In Cersei’s case this one scene of complete humiliation sets the stage for what is sure to be a very bloody revenge.  If you’ve created their background well (i.e. given the antagonist realistic reasons for their behaviors and goals) then they will cease to simply be a collection of stats and instead become a truly believable character.  Albeit one that your players may love to hate.

imgres-2“For the watch.” It should be no surprise by now that in George R.R. Martin’s fantasy world, no character is safe from the specter of death.  Not even Jon Snow, who seemed to be the one person who could possibly rally a defense against the White Walkers.  Yet Valyrian Steel can’t protect against a surprise betrayal, and fan favorite Jon dies Caesar-like in a trap set by some of his own comrades.  Worse, the final Brutus Blow is delivered by a young boy he had befriended.  HOW TO USE THIS: one of the great things about roleplaying games is that the pure randomness that dice add to the story.  So although Jon’s death was ignominious, it was believable because the reality is that not every hero dies a heroic death.  If a villain, NPC, or Player Character should ever get killed from a freak die roll- in combat whether with a kid or with a kobold- then that’s a dramatic surprise that should get worked into the story rather than avoided with a Deus Ex Machina.

Well that’s what we got out of the last few shows.  What about you- have any suggestions of your own from watching this season?  Think of anything else from what we suggested? Let us know in the comments below.

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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2 Responses to “Lessons for D&D from the GoT season 5 finale”
  1. These are some great ideas. We have incorporated some of them, like feat training or learning a new magic spell, similarly to how you have laid them out. We might not have to travel as far, depending on what we are trying to do, but we do have to seek out those who can teach us what we want and occasionally they require us to do something for them first. It brings some interesting things into a session that we would otherwise have missed.

    As to the Jon Snow reference, the way I have been rolling recently leads me to believe I am not safe either. Even if the GM pulls their punches to ensure we live but are scarred by the encounter (i.e. we all got beat pretty bad and barely managed a victory) I still manage to find myself unable to land a blow on a prone target. If my GM was G.R.R. Martin, I would be on my 15th character by now.

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