The Walking Dead is Shambling to TTRPGs and Actual Play
The Walking Dead show has been around for over a decade, and in that time has grown to a media franchise that nearly eclipses the comics that the TV series is based on. Beyond Telltale’s critically acclaimed video game saga, there’ve been multiple board and card games, a theme park ride, and novels that have expanded on Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, and Tony Moore’s comic book universe. One area that the franchise hasn’t dipped into before, however, is tabletop roleplaying, but that’s about to change.
Per Polygon, Free League Publishing is partnering with AMC to release The Walking Dead Universe Roleplaying Game, whose Kickstarter will launch in spring 2023. The award-winning publisher has similarly created TTRPGs for franchises such as Blade Runner and Alien, along with its original games Mörk Borg, its sci-fi spinoff Cy_Borg, and Coriolis. Directing the game will be co-founders Tomas Härenstam and Nils Karlén. Serving as its lead writer will be Nils Hintze, and Martin Grip and Gustaf Ekelund its lead artists.
The Walking Dead game will be using the publisher’s Year Zero system (from the Mutant: Year Zero TTRPG), which Free League told Polygon was a “perfect fit” for the zombie franchise, particularly its Threat Meter system. “It’s a really tangible and effective way to manage the presence — and threat from — nearby walkers,” said Free League. “Mechanically, walkers are not treated as individual monsters but rather a constant flood of death and dread.”
Going along with the tabletop game, AMC announced its plans to create and distribute an Actual Play series. Actual Play sees players tell their own stories using tabletop game systems, like Dungeons & Dragons (see: Critical Role, Dimension 20). Helping to guide that eventual series along will be ex-TWD showrunner (and the franchise’s chief content officer) Scott M. Gimple. That series will be an original story that Free League and AMC are hoping will have some of the shows’ actors make an appearance and roll some dice.
“If the stars align (literally and figuratively), tuning into every live play episode to discover which fan-favorite characters, settings, and events might appear should be part of the fun,” said Free League. “That’s an exciting opportunity for this live play for sure.”
With how popular the Actual Play genre has become, and with how big the TTRPG industry has boomed, it makes sense that AMC would want to get in on that market. There’s little doubt that this won’t resonate with Walking Dead fans on the same level of the spinoff shows, or maybe even some of the video games. But it’ll be more interesting to see what this means for the larger media franchise landscape, who’ve been expanding TV series through things like official rewatch and recap podcasts.
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