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Lessons for D&D from the Walking Dead Season 6 Premiere

Written by MythicParty - Published on October 19, 2015
Andrew Lincoln is our kind of sheriff.

Andrew Lincoln is our kind of sheriff.

After a packed Madison Square Garden promo, the sixth season of everyone’s favorite zombie show happened last week.  We’ve written about things from TWD you can use in your D&D games before, but sometimes the topic felt a bit, stiff.  So we took a break from the biters.  Then the unimaginatively named spin-off, Fear the Walking Dead (sigh) came out & we took another head shot at finding D&D usefulness. But much like how DS9 couldn’t hold a photon to STtNG, the LA-based zombie apocalypse felt slow. The articles on FtWD came to a decaying stop.

However thanks to AMC making it available to everyone online, I was able to check out S6E1, aka “First Time Again”, and Holy Orcus its amazing from start to finish.  And no sooner than you could yell “WALKERS!” ideas for D&D came swarming back.  Here are a bunch (spoilers, Der) you might consider including in your table time.

At least once, completely fill the board with the board with bad guys WHAT WE SEE: After a quick visual tie-in to the end of S5E16, the screen transitions to a quarry pit and the screen is just chock full of Walkers. The good guys are discussing a plan about how to deal with this army of Undead but quickly something shifts and the gates holding this horde of herds (per Talking Dead, the script apparently described a “rock concert of the undead”) suddenly opens. They have to get their plan going immediately as the most zombies Walkers we’ve ever seen- 20,000-  are released.  HOW YOU CAN USE IT: At some point in your gaming career, make it a goal to have a battle where the bad guys grossly, grossly outnumber the PCs. Like more than 10 to 1 or even double that. I’m talking somewhere in the neighborhood of triple digits of monsters. Basically either they should figure out a better plan than simply fighting or the figh is going to go down like Zulu Dawn. And speaking of plans…

Love it when a Plan doesn’t come together  WHAT WE SEE: so Rick’s idea is to lead the biters away from the town, a la Pied piper. They used cars and metal to build a funnel for the horde of herds to march through.  Crossbow guy and another car will head this parade, with other (living) people patrolling the sides to push back strays. Flare guns will periodically fire rounds, both to signal other teams as well as to direct the walkers where to shamble onward to. Its a pretty good idea but then everything soon goes to the Nine Hells.  HOW YOU CAN USE IT: As Benjamin Franklin said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”  Don’t punish players for coming up with plans.  In fact, if they develop something clever, reward them by letting it work- provided that is, the dice rolled indicate the necessary successes. But don’t let their enemies fall for the same tricks every time either.  Sooner or later even the dumbest monsters will get wise or get lucky.  And if the antagonists are smarter than human-level intelligence? Well that’s a column for another time but suffice to say, they’d expect pretty much anything that comes out of adventurer’s bag of tricks.  Both the literal as well as the metaphorical kind.

“And I’m supposed to be delivering pizzas!”  WHAT WE SEE: fan-favorite Glenn is basically explaining that yeah life isn’t fair, and how he had things he was doing before the zombie apocalypse. Basically to suck it up, because the world’s a very different place now and what you were doing before doesn’t matter because all that matters is what you do now.  HOW YOU CAN USE IT: every character whether player made or NPC or monster has had a life before meeting up in the adventure.  It might be normal to the point of boring or it might be movie-worthy.  But don’t introduce a character into your world that can’t indicate to the PCs through conversation or through clues what their life was like before they met the adventuring party.  Backstory equals believability.

If they’re proven wrong, it’s good to let them start being right  WHAT WE SEE: the recently widowed mayor of the town, Deanna, literally sees how wrong she was about what the world has become.  She shifts her position, vocally supports Rick and championing his ideas.  Not only that but she also silences any opposition so as to help get things made right as soon as possible.  HOW YOU CAN USE IT: if the players are able to similarly show a stubborn NPC that what they say is the Gods honest truth, then it’s both fair and realistic to have them abruptly change their mind and now follow the players lead.  And speaking of changing minds…

I did get your friend killed and I tried to kill you, but I’m cool now  WHAT WE SEE: Nicholas, the jagoff that got Noah eaten via trapping him in a revolving door of death and then who later tried to murder Glenn in the woods, is feeling guilty and volunteers to help with Rick’s parade plan.  As does Gabriel Stokes, the black priest who boarded his church causing his parishoners to get eaten, plus who then later abandons the group only to release a herd of Walkers that he brings back to the group, plus who then tries to poison the well for his own group at the new awesome town. However they both seem to finally make useful contributions.  HOW YOU CAN USE IT:  Let certain bad guys occasionally see the light and seek redemption. Moreover, while their journey to the side of goodness shouldn’t be quick or easy, it should sometimes be lasting. Making the supposedly reformed villain relapse and pull a traitorous move is cliche. A few could honestly repent and meaningfully so.

Ok, that’s my takeaway from “First Time Again;” what did you guys get out of it?  Remember, AMC is coolly making it available online for free for the next 78 days (as of 10/19/15) and it’s absolutely worth watching.  Here’s the link (FYI, all of the hyperlinks for DMing are colored blue) again:


Check it out, if only for the “rock concert.”


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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Thanks for reading.

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One Response to “Lessons for D&D from the Walking Dead Season 6 Premiere”
  1. MythicParty says:

    Another aspect that I admired about this premiere was how they distinguished between the past & the present; present was in color, past was in B&W. Stupidly simple, yet simply effective. If you do any flashbacks, flashforwards, or any actual time displacement consider using a similar technique to differentiate the periods.

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