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D&D Lessons from The Walking Dead Season 5 Premiere

Written by MythicParty - Published on October 26, 2014

imagesThe new season of Walking Dead premiered spectacularly a short time ago, and then in typical AMC fashion the show was re-run before the newest episode.  Having seen it twice now, here are some lessons for your D&D games.  And yes, spoilers abound- you’ve been warned.  (Plus we’ve waited over a week to do this so get to your DVR/On Demand/Piratey Bay already.  Here we go.

When you know they’re planning to go for the throat, gas them from above WHAT WE SEE: So the episode opens with the group imprisoned in a cargo shipping container, quickly making improvised weapons out of belts, nails, hoop earrings, boot laces.  Anything they can from what little they still have left.  They’re ready to rush whomever slides open the door, gouging eyes and throats.  Too bad the people imprisoning them have an effective counter- dropping tear gas through the roof first.  HOW YOU CAN USE IT: If the antagonists in your story have had the chance to enact their plan a few times, then that plan has had the chance to be improved upon.  Meaning any obvious reactions have already been taken into account.  The smarter the party’s opponent, the more variations will be possibly checkmated- creature like Dragons, Liches, or Mind Flayers would have dozens of moves sorted in advance.  But even bandits could pull out some new tricks in their ambushes; try to be creative by thinking like bandits would have stayed alive by being successful would.

Never underestimate the power of a last ditch weapon WHAT WE SEE: His neck literally on the chopping block, (actually a trough) Rick carefully saws through his bonds with a sharpened stick that he managed to keep concealed in a boot.  Surprise round on his side, the former sheriff then plants it in the necks of both of his would-be executioners.  HOW YOU CAN USE IT: Always give your important NPCs a way out, whether it’s a Possum Pouch, a secret go-to stash, a Contingency spell, magical shiv etc.  In fact, give them 2 last ditch weapons so if the PC’s find or otherwise take out the first one, the backup might still let your cool NPC escape.  Or at least go down swinging- such as with a bead from a Necklace of Fireballs.  Speaking of fire…

Normal Fire + Zombies = Flaming Zombies WHAT WE SEE: A Carol-caused explosion of a natural gas tank turns several walkers into flaming walkers which means that instead of just being regular chomping teeth, they now also do fire damage.  The burning biters  keep stumbling forward, not only eating a few people but also spreading the fire further.  HOW YOU CAN USE IT: Whether by accident or on purpose some undead get set on fire.  They now do d6 extra in flame attacks while also alighting any nearby squares.  If the PCs aren’t careful, they’ll soon be fighting Fire Zombies as well as a full-blown fire.  You can mark map squares with red X’s or just describe the scene becoming more hellish by the round.

You’re either the Butcher or you’re the Cattle.WHAT WE SEE: A Terminus member tries to justify her group’s murderous lure of safety with a claim of cannibalism for preventative self-defense.  Suffice it to say, explanation denied and segue to another great Carol moment of killing karma.  HOW YOU CAN USE IT: In the D&D cosmos, per the Book of Exalted Deads, the ends never ever justify the means.  Ever.  Evil is evil.  Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean it won’t try.  Perhaps appealing to the PCs that what they were doing they had to do, or otherwise offering up an explanation for their acts.  It’s quite possible that some NPCS or even entire races don’t in fact consider themselves evil at all- in their world view, it’s the PC’s who are the bad guys.  Hey, there ARE a lot of Murderhoboes out there.  But bottom line, try having the bad guys give out some motivations behind their misdeeds or at least their actions.  Maybe not full-blown long expositions, just some general rebuttals or taunts.  A lot of interesting villain creation never gets shared with the PC’s, so try to wedge it in through quick conversation.

Well that’s what I got out of watching Episode 501, titled “No Sanctuary.”  After I’ve seen 502 for a second time, I’ll do a write up for that one as well.  But is there anything I missed?  Or if you haven’t seen the show, did any of these lessons seem applicable to your gaming?  Please let us know in the comments section.  Thanks!

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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3 Responses to “D&D Lessons from The Walking Dead Season 5 Premiere”
  1. Roger says:

    Funny thing… I’m putting together a zombie apocalypse game, taking reference from numerous sources, including this show, several video games, and the CDC zombie apocalypse study. A couple things mentioned I’ve already taken into account but this article gave me a few more ideas to work with.

  2. MythicParty says:

    Hey Roger, thanks for the feedback & be sure to keep us updated about your game!

    BTW, have you seen this CDC Zombie comic book:


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  1. […] 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 […]

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