Dimension 20 is the most fun I’ve ever had watching other people play Dungeons and Dragons. With a master storyteller at the head of the table, talented comedic actors for players, and staggeringly detailed sets, this is the kind of show that scores points with diehard gamers and casual viewers alike.
Dungeons and Dragons has been having a glow-up over the last several years. All things geeky have been on the rise for a while, in fact. It’s just that they’re finally pulling tabletop role-playing games, traditionally the nerdiest of the nerdy hobbies, up with them.
Even famous people are not only admitting to playing, but proudly sharing their characters and stories in interviews. Rumor has it that Vin Diesel taught Dame Judi Dench how to play on the set of Chronicles of Riddick and she now plays with her grandchildren. (I WANT TO BELIEVE!) It’s no surprise that tabletop RPGs like Dimension 20 are becoming economically viable.
Dimension 20 isn’t the only tabletop D&D show around. It’s not even the best known. Most people will name Critical Role or The Adventure Zone before it. Those are great shows with entertaining players but they don’t quite have the appeal of Dimension 20.
A lot of that appeal comes from the strong leadership of Dungeon Master Brennan Lee Mulligan (co-creator with Molly Ostertag of Strong Female Protagonist). He has a good sense of comedic timing, knows when to push the drama and when to ease up on the players, and has an uncanny ability to juggle a massive cast of background NPCs that all feel as real as the player characters themselves.
Speaking as a DM, that’s hard. I’m proud of myself for doing accents at the table and Brennan’s over there pulling out fully painted minis for a character we’ll see twice.
That’s right–miniatures. A lot of them. SO MANY MINIATURES.
I don’t know how many minis are made for this show, but there is at least one miniature for every character that might possibly show up. I’ve watched Brennan swap out a mini of what seemed like a silly background NPC for an armed version when the characters asked them for help (I won’t say who, but if you’re watching Unsleeping City YOU KNOW).
This is a show with pretty high production value in general. It’s visually designed to look like the table is set inside a 20-sided dice, and the background changes color to reflect the mood of the scene. For example, it shades to red during combat.
There are also massive, fully-painted, articulated sets made to scale for each stage of an adventure. Over half the production time must go into making them; they’re so beautifully detailed that even people who aren’t into theater of the mind will be able to follow the action.
The main players–Lou Wilson, Emily Axford, Ally Beardsley, Brian Murphy, Zac Oyama, and Siobhan Thompson–are a mix of veteran gamers and comedians who are new to the game. Aside from being highly talented in their own rights, they have such powerful chemistry that it’s hard NOT to get pulled into the drama of their fictional lives.
Having different levels of experience adds something special, too. It keeps the story from going too far into esoteric game lore and holds the focus on action and character interactions over technicalities.
We’ve hit on another of Dimension 20‘s strengths: accessibility. The mixture of immersive storytelling, enthusiastic players who are skilled in improv, and detailed visual aids makes this a show that even non-gamers can watch and enjoy. You don’t need much knowledge about Dungeons and Dragons to play.
In fact, I think you can just walk right into the show cold (though I’d suggest you give yourself 2 episodes because intro episodes aren’t the best example of how a full game will go). Each player and character has a title card with custom art for their introduction, which flashes when they come back after a long absence, and every episode features a recap of the last game. It’s so, so easy to stay up on the action, but it’s also rich enough in lore to hold the interest of veteran gamers.
Something which may or may not be a draw for you (but I hope it is) is that this is socially conscious storytelling that’s actually funny. The team pointedly stays away from the problematic tropes and storylines that can pop up in Dungeons and Dragons without getting preachy about it.
I don’t think I realized how much I habitually overlook when playing my favorite RPGs until I watched Dimension 20. This is almost certainly because of the diverse cast and crew behind the show. Dropout is making a name for itself when it comes to smart, inclusive, forward-thinking content, and Dimension 20 is no different.
Bottom line–this is a show you can watch with non-gamer family and friends. Maybe they’ll like it enough to play with you, maybe not. Either way, you’re going to have a lot of fun.
Dimension 20 airs on College Humor’s streaming platform Dropout (one of a number of very cool shows hosted there, but that’s an article for another time). There’s a lot of it to binge-watch, too:
Fantasy High: The first season with 17 episodes (each basically feature film length). The players are traditional D&D races (elves, half-orcs, etc) but in a modern setting that substitutes magic for technology. They’re going to high school while fighting werewolves and vampires. It’s amazing.
- Escape From The Bloodkeep: A 6-episode side quest with a table of geek celebrities (Matt Mercer is a player!). This time, the characters are all villains scrambling to stay one step ahead of the heroes and keep their evil kingdom from crumbling. It’s DEFINITELY NOT Lord of the Rings told from the villains’ side.
- The Unsleeping City: Season 2, also with 17 episodes, which brings back the players from season one in a new adventure. This time they’re based in a New York, trying to keep the magical world hidden while protecting average New Yorkers from magical shenanigans. (That’s a terrible description of the story, but if I say it any differently I’ll drop spoilers.)
- Tiny Heist: There’s a new, heist-themed Side Quest coming in 2020!
There’s also a weekly live game running on Dropout’s Twitch channel [Editor’s note: Dropoutlive is their official Twitch channel] that follows the Fantasy High characters from Season One.
You can catch the first 8 episodes of Dimension 20 on YouTube, but you’re just going to be frustrated when you’re left on a cliffhanger. I recommend subscribing to Dropout to get access to all of Dimension 20 and the private Discord, plus a whole slew of other cool geeky shows. It’s only $4 a month and you get a lot of content for that.
(For the record, this isn’t a sponsored post. We don’t get press access from Dropout, and I subscribe with my own actual real world money.)
Have any of you seen Dimension 20? Would you be interested in episode reviews? Let us know in the comments!
Khai is a writer, anthropologist, and games enthusiast. She is co-editor (alongside Alex DeCampi) of and contributor to “True War Stories”, a comic anthology being published by Z2 Comics. When she’s not writing or creating games, Khai likes to run more tabletop RPGs than one person should reasonably juggle.
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