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The Walking Dead shambles to tabletop with new RPG and AMC-led actual play series

‘Featuring original events pulled from the series’ writers room’

Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

The Walking Dead comes to a close with its season 11 finale on Nov. 20th, but a new tabletop role-playing game from AMC Networks and award-winning Free League Publishing will hand the storyline over to its biggest fans. The Walking Dead Universe Roleplaying Game will debut in fall 2023, and it’ll include an actual play series created with the help of chief content officer and former showrunner Scott M. Gimple.

“Akin to Tales of The Walking Dead and the many TWDU digital series, the liveplay will deliver a new, stand-alone story set within the Walking Dead Universe,” Free League told Polygon via email. “We’re working directly with Scott M. Gimple to develop an original story for the liveplay. An adventure that’s exciting and accessible for new viewers, but rewarding for core fans who’ll appreciate how the unfolding events converge with significant story elements.”

Survivors hold a bus-sized barricade. Barbed wire and shipping containers funnel walkers into a kill zone. Image: Free League Publishing
Survivors aim down sights at zombies as an explosion rips apart the background. Image: Free League Publishing

The actual play will be filmed by AMC Digital Studios, and it will eventually find its way onto the studios’ various distribution channels.

Free League has been on an absolute tear these last few years, finding incredible success with both fans and critics alike with a stable of high-profile licensed and indie TTRPGs. Its catalog includes Blade Runner: The Roleplaying Game, The One Ring: Roleplaying the World of The Lord of the Rings, and Alien: The Roleplaying Game as well as Mörk Borg, Coriolis, and Vaesen. The Walking Dead will be directed by company co-founders Tomas Härenstam (Alien, Blade Runner) and Nils Karlén, with Nils Hintze (Tales from the Loop, Vaesen) as the game’s lead writer. Gustaf Ekelund (Twilight: 2000) and Martin Grip (Alien, Blade Runner) will serve as lead artists.

The Walking Dead will be based on the Year Zero engine, best known for underpinning the classic Mutant: Year Zero TTRPG.

“The Year Zero engine was originally designed to support survival-style RPGs in a sandbox environment,” Free League wrote. “We feel it’s just a perfect fit for The Walking Dead. One (of many!) really cool specific feature that we think players will enjoy is the Threat Meter, which is a really tangible and effective way to manage the presence — and threat from — nearby walkers. Mechanically, walkers are not treated as individual monsters but rather a constant flood of death and dread.”

A mockup of the book itself, featuring survivors making a last stand on top of a school bus. The title reads The Walking Dead Universe Roleplaying Core Rules. Image: Free League Publishing

While the timeline for the accompanying The Walking Dead actual play hasn’t been revealed, Free League hopes that the stars from its various televised adaptations may make some cameos.

“That’s an exciting opportunity for this liveplay for sure,” Free League wrote. “If the stars align (literally and figuratively), tuning into every Liveplay episode to discover which fan-favorite characters, settings, and events might appear should be part of the fun. We’re hoping that fans will be surprised where the story goes and who comes to roll the dice with us in one way or another.”

The Walking Dead Universe Roleplaying Game kicks off with a Kickstarter campaign in spring 2023.