Not much can prepare you for the absurdity and pure fun that is the tabletop role-playing game: A Crown of Candy. Dimension 20’s fifth season of their Dungeons & Dragons actual-play show is an odd but delightful mixture of Candyland and Game of Thrones set in a world divided by factions of edible food-people.
Yes. You read that sentence correctly.
I was provided with a free screener copy of the first two episodes of A Crown of Candy in exchange for review. The opinions are my own.
Birthed from the mind of Brennan Lee Mulligan, A Crown of Candy begins in the Land of Calorum, as the Game of Thrones-esque intro shows us – a land made up of places like Vegetania, Candia, The Meat Lands, Lacramos, The Dairy Islands, Fructera, Pangranos, and (a personal favorite) The Sea of Pasta. Each of the areas seems to be home to similarly-themed people with their own complex political landscapes – the perfect setting for all hell to break loose in this giant picnic-basket of a world.
A good chunk of the politics in Calorum are introduced very quickly into the game, as the players have all chosen to be characters who are extremely intertwined in the political side of the story. The biggest examples of this are Lou Wilson, Emily Axford, and Siobhan Thompson, who play as King Amethar of House Rocks – the King of Candia, and his twin daughters, Princesses Jet and Ruby Rocks.
As a non-spoilery look at the players and their characters, I first have to tell you about King Amethar, First of his Name, Sovereign of the Ruler of Candia and the Sugarlands, Duke of Cookieshire, Protector of the Realm and Defender of the Faith, Bannerman of the Battle Gumdrop Pass and the Hero of Frosting Valley, The Unfallen. The king is introduced with an imposing title and just as imposing of a figure. However, Lou Wilson has made the incredible decision to have his character be bold on the battlefield, but a little more demure in his dominion.
As a king who doesn’t really seem to care much for politics, it’s obvious upon first meeting him that the queen must be who really keeps the kingdom from dissolving like sugar in water. He struggles to be the stereotypical decisive and strategic king, but where he falls short in metaphorical stature he makes up for it in heart. You can’t help but adore the man who loves his daughters more than anything.
Jet Rocks, hopeful abdicator of the throne, and Ruby Rocks, the younger twin by two minutes and practitioner of magical tricks, are as close as twins can be. Both rogues of different subclasses, they yearn to be seen as “princesses of the people”, and maybe even shedding the “princess” part of that title in their aspirations to become a warrior and circus performer, respectively. The twins are incredibly supportive of each other in both their wild ambitions and clever deceptions, which makes the two of them enormous thorns in the side of their advisors.
Brian Murphy plays Sir Theobold Gumbar, Lord Commander of the Tartguard, and Sworn Knight of the Order of North Gumbia.
Described as “thirsty for respect”, the large Gummy-Bear-man clad in golden armor is an eldritch knight with a familiar named Sprinkle. And yes. Sprinkle is an actual, literal sprinkle. While he is Lord Commander, Sir Theobold seems to spend most of his time chasing after Jet and Ruby’s trail of destruction, reprimanding the hilariously incompetent Tartguard, and butting heads with the Chancellor.
Chancellor Lapin Cadbury, a chocolate rabbit-man as you may have picked up from the name, is played by Zac Oyama. Zac, who has mostly created very likeable and quietly charming characters in past seasons has elected to switch it up by creating a stuffy and haughty warlock with a dark secret. As the primogen of the Church of Bulbia and prime instructor to the two princesses, he seems to bear the brunt of most of their trickery as they try to escape his educational droning. Chancellor Lapin’s mutual dislike of Sir Theobold provides some dry back-and-forth dialogue in some of my personal favorite interactions of the game. To quote Ally Beardsley, “I like [Zac] playing an asshole.”
This season, Ally Beardsley plays the adorable Liam Wilhelmina of House Jawbreaker, a peppermint ranger with a pet peppermint pig named Preston (try saying that five times fast) who will become your favorite thing in the world. (Hi, Brennan, how’s it going? Good, that’s good. Anyway, just popping in to say: please don’t kill the peppermint pig.) Liam is a cousin to King Amethar, and also happens to be the king’s prisoner – sorry, ward. Ward is what they’re calling it. The king’s ward. Despite political machinations forcing him to stay in Candia with the royal family, Liam makes the most of his stay by cultivating what appears to be his two great passions: foraging for seeds and avoiding marriage.
The juxtaposition of watching a complex political story dropped in the middle of the bubblegum-pink kingdom of sugar creates perfectly absurd moments throughout the campaign. It’s so easy to get swept up in discussions between characters about the brotherhood of battle in The Ravaging War and the horrors of trench warfare that you completely forget that one of the characters speaking is an anthropomorphic piece of cake in a very nice pair of pants.
On the other hand, you can also get completely caught up in all of the clever ways food is woven into the world-building that you forget how very dangerous the lives of these characters can be. Everything about A Crown of Candy feels oxymoronic in a wonderfully whimsical way. It’s a show that knows exactly what it is, what new things it can bring, and isn’t afraid to coat its entire world in sugar, down to the sweet way the spell-work is flavored. I’d apologize for the pun, but you’ll have to get used to it.
The amount of sugar-based puns you’ll be subjected to is not for the faint of tart.
In a fireside chat earlier this month, Brennan Lee Mulligan revealed that every player had a backup character or two ready for this campaign and, if that worries you, you’re not alone. Everyone involved has successfully woven the atmosphere of Game of Thrones into A Crown of Candy, but only time will tell if the death-count is anywhere near as high as the famed television show and book series.
Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to the set design and the official artwork. Set design has always helped Dimension 20 stand out from other actual play shows, and this season is no different. Rick Perry and his crew have completely outdone themselves in the construction of the sets and miniatures.
The DM screen that Brennan sits behind is its own set, and is an incredible amalgamation of a crystal-encompassed candy castle (another thing you can try and say five times), as well as representation from all of the other food-based lands in Calorum. The centerpiece looks like a large slab of layered taffy with yet-to-be excavated chocolate bars as a representation of the earth’s crust. Everything that was crafted looks as if a lot of thought was put into every single detail to give the show that extra star quality.
In addition, the official character art for all of the player characters and non-player characters was done by Samir Barrett and helps bring the Kingdom of Candia and its residents to life in an equally stunning way.
Dimension 20’s A Crown of Candy is unique, hilarious, and full of the unexpected – both in character work and storytelling. Watching the way everything fits together feels like observing a big group of people, both in front of and behind the camera, who all just genuinely enjoy doing what they’re doing.
So, if you’re looking to watch something sweet and a little bit spicy, consider putting this show on your watch list.
Author: Michaela Labit
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