Critical Role is like the Dave Matthews Band. While I fully appreciate what they do and acknowledge all the work and talent involved in making it happen, it’s just not my jam. And if I’m honest, no group that streams RPGs is either, save for one. I’ve tried to watch, several in fact, groups that do this and I always end up with the same thought while watching.
I’d rather be planning or playing instead of watching others do it.
That’s not to say that I don’t see the appeal of why programs like this have been so wildly popular. The production level, attention to detail and work involved are to be commended and appreciated. Not to mention the talent of those playing. There’s a reason why shows like Critical Role have become as popular as they are. But it’s just not for me. And that’s totally okay, because not everything needs to be made for me.
While shows like Critical Role have seen a rise in popularity, we’ve also seen RPGs become more and more prevalent in mainstream Hollywood as well. Shows like Stranger Things, Community, and Freaks & Geeks have showcased games actually being played on screen. Then you have the “A-list” inner Hollywood circle that has come to light, with everyone from Tom Morello to Paul Donald Wight to Vince Vaughn all slinging dice in Joe Manganiello’s Los Angeles basement game room.
Remember in high school when you kept that fact that you played Dungeons & Dragons (and your Boy Scouting) a secret, so you’d have a chance in hell of getting that date with Anna Horn
Yeah, me too!
How times have changed. And for the better. I’ve seen a fair amount of gatekeeping around our hobby and how the “hollywoodification” of RPGs and specifically D&D haven’t been a good thing. I would respectfully disagree. And even though RPG shows aren’t my jam, once again, that’s okay. So let’s talk about that one exception. The only RPG show so far that I’ve actually enjoyed and watched all of (to date).
That show is Harmonquest!
If you don’t know who Dan Harmon is, you probably are familiar with one of his shows, most notably, Community or Rick and Morty. If you do know who Dan is, you’re well aware that for years, he and his good friend, Jeff B. Davis, along with Spencer Crittenden, were the trio that lead Dan’s long running podcast show, Harmontown. And if you’re familiar with that work, you know that for a long run of the show, they would play RPGs on the show. In fact, that’s how Spencer was discovered and brought into the show as a regular.
If you’ve watched Harmonquest, it’s not like other shows of its type. They don’t focus on rules very much (if it all), and the show plays more like a table read for an upcoming pilot episode rather than an actual RPG. The system that is used (I think) is Pathfinder, but I can’t be sure of that and Spencer runs the game as GM for Dan, Jeff and Dan’s ex-wife Erin McGathy, and a rotation guest player from episode to episode.
Your enjoyment of Harmonquest will almost solely hinge on whether you enjoy Dan’s type of humor and in a large part, Dan himself. Some of the sessions can get off into the crude humor territory, so if that’s not your thing, be forewarned.
But for me, I think my enjoyment of Harmonquest, where I’ve been unable to enjoy any other shows of its type, stems from the fact that the show plays more like watching people who’ve never played before think that’s what playing an RPG would be like. It feels like more a self-aware meta version of other shows. Something that a lot of Dan’s work has shown previously.
I think ultimately that take away here is there is likely something out there for everyone’s taste, and that is a thing to be celebrated for all of us in this wonderful hobby that we find ourselves!
As always, leave a comment with your thoughts. Until next time, LLAP!