Do you smell that? Freshly sharpened number 2 pencils, sword polish, and thirty seven varieties of teenage body odors. That’s right, Owlbears, it’s time for Fantasy High: Junior Year. Hoot! Growl!
Fantasy High: Junior Year has been on my Dimension 20 wish list since Sophomore Year showed us the team was willing to revisit Spire outside of Side Quests. Fantasy High is DROPOUT’s flagship setting, and while I love every season the Bad Kids hold a special place in my heart. I think that goes for a lot of D20 fans.
Just in case you missed it in the holiday haze (or you just want to watch it again… and again), here’s the trailer.
There’s a lot to take in here. First, it seems like the A Plot- or at least the B Plot- is an actual high school problem. That’s genius. Most people assumed the Big Bad for Fantasy High: Junior Year was going to be the Night Yorb. Maybe it’ll show up, maybe not, but the fact is the Bad Kids are wildly powerful characters at this point. Giving them a major problem they can’t punch or banish with a spell is a fantastic way to raise the stakes without having to level a city.
They might level a city on accident, of course. But that’s beside the point.
Second, Rick Perry and Crew are on point again with the sets. Look at these glorious buildings! I’m openly depressed that they haven’t put the sets on any of the prop auctions because I could run so many sessions in Aguefort Adventuring Academy.
I also want to point out the fun new art direction. The character title cards and season graphics have the same sort of cartoon sketch aesthetic I loved in Ms Marvel and all of Tom Holland’s Spiderman movies. FH:JY gives the trend a DROPOUT twist, making it more stylized and polished.
The artist this season is listed as Cait May. They’ve also done work for Critical Role and The Adventure Zone. Treat yourself to a scroll through their website, because their work is absolutely gorgeous. If Dimension 20 follows in the footsteps of Critical Role and puts out a coloring book, I’d like to see May take part.
From what we’ve seen in the teaser, the players are stepping into their characters like a comfy pair of trainers. Dungeon Master Brennan Lee Mulligan is back behind the screen after a turn as a player in last season’s Burrow’s End. Players Siobhan Thompson, Lou Wilson, Ally Beardsley, Brian Murphy, Emily Axford, and Zac Oyama are all back.
They’re also all playing their original characters despite a bombshell Emily dropped in one of the exclusive videos on DROPOUT. Apparently, she wanted to give Fig an off-screen happy ending with her wizard paramour, Ayda Aguefort. Brennan talked her into playing Fig again by teasing “a really fun surprise”.
“Fun” is highly relative to tabletop players, gang. Some of the most fun I’ve had at a table was when a character failed several incredibly important rolls and accidently got her entire group arrested by Imperials on suspicion of being Jedi (which, you know, they were). Hearing Emily Axford call the surprise fun makes my stomach hurt in the best way.
Everyone seems to be dodging both stagnation and the temptation to go way over the top. Part of that has to be because the Bad Kids don’t have much of an upper limit in the first place. Most of it, though, is just how good these people are at staying true to their characters. They love their characters as much as any gamer does. That connection is what viewers respond to. The players care what happens to their characters and feel the fallout of their actions, and we feel it right alongside them.
I can’t wait to see what they make us feel next.
Fantasy High: Junior Year premieres this Wednesday, January 10th, on DROPOUT. It won’t be available other places for quote some time- if ever- so I highly recommend you find the six bucks for a sub. It’s the best value for a streaming service out there if you like ethically sourced, organic nerd comedy.
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 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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