Is there any more beloved place in the Fantasy High world than the Gold Gardens? I don’t think there is, which is why I love that ‘I’m Worth This’ was set within the Gardens. The Buccaneer Buddies needed this, people.
Given that ‘I’m Worth This’ is almost entirely character development and background exploration, it might seem odd that it’s also one of the longest episodes so far. The runtime is two hours and twenty-five minutes, three minutes longer than even the pilot. I would argue that it didn’t feel that long.
‘I’m Worth This’ was a TREAT, you guys.
To me, Dimension 20 has the deepest heart of any actual play show. It’s their thing. I love Critical Role and The Adventure Zone like anyone else, and NADDPOD is the background entertainment whenever we take a road trip, so I’m not knocking those games in the slightest. There are things they do better than D20. But no one does in-game character moral encouragement like Brennan Lee Mulligan.
Can we call that in-game aftercare? Is that too weird? I’m gonna roll with it.
This season, we got a whole entire episode of in-game aftercare. A WHOLE EPISODE of characters just unwinding and letting their guard down and exploring personal issues. The Buccaneer Buddies all have trauma or self-doubt they’ve been carrying around, and ‘I’m Worth This’ is where they get to set it down for at least a moment.
The Gold Gardens is the best possible place to do that. I’m pretty sure it’s one of the most wholesome recurring locations in Fantasy High, despite (because of?) being a place of absolute indulgence. Garthy O’Brien keeps the place thoroughly warded, so even Myrtle’s jealous deity can’t loom over her there. Everyone got a break- and we got to see what they do with that opportunity.
Shout out to Carlos Luna for taking his underage gnome upstairs pretty quickly. While the players are all adults, Cheese is a kid who acts like a kid. Having him roaming the Gold Gardens looking into the side rooms would have felt icky. Brennan as DM wouldn’t let anything happen for sure, but it’s good to see the player was also right in there like, “Uh people are Doing Things up here and Cheese is still a kid so he’s going to go upstairs and sleep in a closet”.
DROPOUT continues their legacy of being both absolutely wild and non-problematic, I see.
It was kind of cool that Myrtle, Bob, and Sunny wound up in the same room doing some bonding. Very chill and relaxing to watch. Maybe Bob giving Sunny a makeover was a wee tad predictable, but so are 90% of movies and they’re still entertaining. The same applies here. Sunny really deserved to have someone help her straighten that awkward adolescent appearance just so she could feel confident.
Speaking of Bob, Krystina and Brennan did a really fun bit there with the parental group call. Her dad gives off strong Bill-Seacaster-but-as-a-bard vibes, and her mom’s hints about grandkids were so much like my own mom’s that I couldn’t help but laugh. “Oh, Barbarella, you’re so happy in this future, look at that!”
It has not gone unnoticed that Bob’s parents have appeared precisely once and are already so popular DROPOUT put out a sticker set for them. I mean, as an outlet they’re decently quick to follow the fandom on merch, but that’s fast even for them. I could probably even find fanfic of Zarael and Cos if I went over to Ao3 right now.
[Update: I could not, and I’m disappointed in us as a fandom. The first person to write the thing, post it to Ao3, and link me to your own original work in the comments of this article will get that sticker set from the DROPOUT store, (stateside shipping only, and yes you could choose a different sticker of equal value if you like). At least 500 words and nothing that violates our site commenting policy but otherwise go nuts.]
Getting back on track, I am LIVING for Myrtle in a martini glass full of vodka getting slowly hammered. Drunk Myrtle was a delight (and also kind of adorable) but Hungover Myrtle was the best. She just lets her alignment hang right out there. I laughed every time she did her “oh are we not okay with [insert objectively awful thing here]? Because I’m fine with it but I guess if it bothers you…” bit.
Marcid is the group’s other “probably evil but it’s Leviathan so that’s relative” party member. I was taken aback that he spent his relaxation time gathering intel the group needed to move forward. It did endear me to his character a bit more. I liked Marcid fine before. Seeing him hold back from the pleasures of the Gold Gardens to undo some of what he did helped kicked him up a few notches in my esteem.
What was the big surprise here? Jack Brakkow making the audience cry for 20 minutes straight. Jack Brakkow was a broken man haunted by the loss of his crew which he’s just recently realized was not his fault. He was targeted by the Crescent Moon gang just as a feasibility test. The only mistake he made was trusting a friend. We knew that.
Now Jack knows it. Watching him accept that he deserves to be happy again, and to get a win under his belt, was one of the two real tear-jerker sections in ‘I’m Worth This’. Matthew Mercer put an astounding amount of heart into that whole sequence. It’s so powerful the episode is literally named after Jack’s quiet affirmation of self-love.
I appreciated the contrast between the beginning of Jack’s scene, where we all laughed as he was de-filthed by the water genassi, and the end where he was accepting a night of emotional support and platonic cuddles from Garthy O’Brien themself (word up for Nat 20s there). The best emotional beats happen like that- you’re laughing right before a devastating blow, or upset before an NPC guides your characters into a lovely warm shelter and lets you stay overnight doing whatever you like. Super solid storytelling choice tight there.
Oh man, and when Jack reaches back for his mast, but then lets it go…. brilliant. Just incredible. I was tearing up in the real world. I have been known to cry at dog food commercials but I promise, this was an actual tear-jerker. I am a sucker for broken characters healing and I make no apologies.
I can’t wait for the rejuvenated Captain Jack Brakkow to face Clive again.
Brennan said something during Jacks’ bath scene that really resonated with me: “Any disruption in a harmful routine represents an opportunity for something else to happen.” For Jack, he got thrown so off-balance from the knowledge of Clive’s betrayal that he was open to being kind to himself. For us out here in the real world… well, it’s a statement with some weight, isn’t it?
Remember when we were talking with Brennan and he expressed a hope that people will take things they learn in D&D and apply them out in the real world? This is exactly the kind of thing that could be applied. I want to show this episode to anyone who complains about actual play shows being “kids stuff” (like that is a bad thing) or “silly” (ditto).
Everything wasn’t warm and snuggly in ‘I’m Worth This’. While learning the full scale and operation of the intricately constructed Crescent Moon INSURANCE FRAUD PLOT (which I’m putting in all caps because A+ storytelling) we also learned what was happening to the forest gnome youths. They’re being used as conduits to other realms, which sounds like a horrifying experience.
Worse, it sounds like the adult gnomes are in on this. Including Cheese’s parents, who already encouraged his brother Spaulding to brave the Nightmare King’s forest. Carlos really leaned into the acting chops for the rage and helplessness Cheese felt then. I’d really love to see Cheese confront his parents about this. Bonus points if he has Spaulding back and they do it together.
The show’s already been filmed, of course, so we’ll just have to see how it plays out. Two more episodes to go!
The next episode airs live as always on College Humor’s YouTube channel, Wednesdays at 7 pm EST. If you missed ‘I’m Worth This’ or any back Dimension 20 episodes in general you can head over to DROPOUT to catch up.
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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