Dead of Winter Provides Some Pretty Good Ideas for D&D Campaigns

Just getting started for our game of Dead of Winter. I hope I don’t get Sparky.

Sparky the wonder dog?! Faark…That’s it, I’m gonna get this bushy tailed little bastard topped! I send sparky out of the colony deftly avoiding the zombies mounting at the door. I’m not going to waste a fuel card on this mongrel. How would he realistically use it?

On the way to the hospital, Sparky finds a pole to pee on. The pole turns out to be the legs of a zombie. In retaliation, the zombie groans and tries rip apart Sparky’s hind legs incurring one would token. Sparky yelps in pain and instinctively turns on his attacker with a snarling bite taking off the wrist of his attacker.

Ewh!!! That must taste awful, but then again Sparky can occasionally be found savouring the truffle-like delights of cat poo.

Sparky yelps away making his way to the Hospital where he encounters one of the survivor that I control, the red headed siren of innocence Janet Taylor (Get it? Get it? Hurh, hurh, hurh…oh nevermind.), who has yet again fallen down.  Clumsy bugger. At least she knows where the good meds are.

Meanwhile, Sparky’s launched himself at the neck of another zombie. Crushing it in his maw. As he starts to develop a taste for zombie marrow, another zombie lurches mouth first at Sparky, taking a chunk out of his hind quarter. Sparky yelps again, zombie neck escaping his mouth, as he leaps through the now opened door as Janet fends off the other zombie. 

Good job Sparky. Have another wound.

While this is happening, hippy fortune teller, Talia Jones, is rummaging through the Grocery Store for supplies. She goes into the back office and finds a med kit in the store manager’s office. A headless clerk lies on the ground nearby. Talia rifles through the clerks pockets. Sweet! In the clerk’s jean pockets she finds a small bag of dried mushrooms.

Talia takes a small one out and chomps down. Holy shitballz. This is some serious stuff. Her spirit leaves her body and drifts over the town. She can see what is going to happen next. Drool running from her mouth, she fumbles for her hand radio pressing the call button to radio to the colony. “More Fuel,” is all she could say before drifts deeper into her trip.

Dead of Winter

The Dead of Winter is a table-top cooperative survival board game for 2 to 5 players. The premise is simple, as a small colony of survivors, you must help each other to survive after a zombie apocalypse.


You initially take control of two characters. Each character has a rating in regards their fighting ability and their searching ability.

To collectively win the game, players must complete a main objective. In my most recent game, we had to have 10 barricades in the colony and one in each search location around town. Easy enough until you are faced with a crisis at the start of each round that you must complete too. If you fail the crisis, bad shizzle happens to you and your team mates. If this wasn’t enough, on your turn the player to your right draws a crossroads cards. As you are carrying out such actions as killing zombies, searching, moving, clearing waste or barricading, one of your actions may trigger the crossroads card. Here, you will be met with a tough choice that could harm of hinder the colony.

There is much more to the game and you can take a look at the rules here or visit the game’s main page here. However, this is all we need to discuss how to incorporate some of the ideas into your next D&D game.

What Can We Use In Our D&D Game?

Multiple Challenges at One Time

We usually have a main objective in D&D but having a number of objective in a single encounter would add to the suspense. If these secondary objectives are not met, negative consequences may occur. Here is a few possible example:

  • Your party is fighting horde after horde of orcs. You are unaware of their numbers and you can’t just beat a hasty retreat without leaving a prized statue behind. In the town earlier, hearing of your adventure into these caverns, a merchant offers your party a sizeable fee for retrieving the statue. Meanwhile, one of your party notices an old mechanical guards that has long since broken down. Fortunately, they are quite the artificer and can probably get it working again to help protect the party on their retreat. However, should they fail, the party will meet heavy damage and may not have the collective strength to escape with the treasure.
  • While your party is trying to convince the city guard clerk to steal a cell key from the local jail, your dwarf barbarian is challenging a number of the off-duty city guards to a drinking contest. If he wins the drinking contest, the guards are much less responsive the next day and your party can roll stealth checks at advantage when attempting to use the stolen key to open a cell and free your companion.

Crossroads Cards

As a DM, you get to know your players in-game mannerisms pretty well. You can make a pretty good guess as to how they are going to behave an respond to a situation. Before the game you could create a small set of Crossroads Cars like in the Dead of Winter. At the start of the situation or the beginning of a round for combat, you could draw a random card. Should a player carry out the action on the card then they the Crossroads Card is activated and the player is given a scenario and a choice.

For example, if Sagan Bra’el casts Agonizing Blast and forgets to speak is incantation out loud (“Miss Silussa is my Daddy!”) he must decide on two options:

  1. He rolls at advantage and on a successful hit adds +6 damage to his attack, but a cloud of pink feathers falls from the sky over his head clouding his vision (blinded) until the end of the next turn.
  2. On a successful hit, Sagan takes half the damage met out to creature he attacks.

Another way of using the crossroads cards to add a little spice to your campaign would be to occasionally give one to your player to hold onto until the condition is reached. Here, the player must alert the rest of their part to the condition being met and then give the party a voting choice.

For example, one of your party has the annoying habit of trying to pick people up and move them around. Should this member attempt this action during this session, you must bring attention to the group and decide on one of the following conditions.

  1. Do nothing, but if the player wished to give an opinion on decision making in the future, he must for the rest of the session make a charisma check at disadvantage. Should he roll less then 12, he must stay quiet. His charisma check increases by one each additional time he attempts to pick someone up.
  2. The party stops what they are doing and collectively pick up the player and dumps him in the closest piece of filth or water. The player loses their most valuable weapon during the process.

Resource Gathering

Gathering resources is an often neglected part of the game. Often a Dungeons Master will think that the concept of collecting resources as a drudgery that players will not enjoy. However, looking at many MMORPG’s it appears that resource collecting is quite a popular past time.

During encounters it can even enhance the enjoyment of the activity. Having a task to do as well as fight will bring a new element into your combat too. Here are some examples:

  • A member of your party has the ability to Identify objects through a divination ritual. However, the ritual requires a pearl worth 100gp and an owls feather. Our hero managed to buy a bag of owl feathers in the last town they went through, but there were no pearls in sight. Fortunately, they are approaching the coast and come across a cave which turns out to the be the home of a tidal pool with a good number of pearl oysters. Little does the party know, but lurking invisible in the depths of this pool is a Water Weird (Monster Manual 5e p299). These Water Weirds are pretty protective of their pearls, so as you collect one at a time, your party distracts the creature.
  • Your party are under attack! You have managed flee to an old house. However, there are far too many points of entry for you to protect at once. Before the main onslaught, some of your party venture out to grab materials to barricade the other entrances while the rest fend of a few advanced troops.

Controlling More Than One Player

Sure some players have familiars, but sometimes it is kind of a fun change for players to control other minor players. Perhaps you party is undermanned to defeat a company of hobgoblins terrorising a town , so the mayor allows you to each to command two of his city guard. Alternatively, you might each need to protect a member of a royal family as you escape hostile territory. These royals are not helpless, they come from a long line of magic users and can help should you need to fight your way through any engagement.


Have a play of Dead of Winter and see what you can use in your next Dungeons and Dragons campaign. It is an engaging cooperative game and well worth the time playing.

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