D&D on TV! And Not as a Cheesy Cartoon.
Last night’s episode of Community completely revolved around a game of Dungeons and Dragons. How did the sitcom handle such geeky material — with mockery, disdain, or disgust?
Would it just be silly?
No! It was none of these things. Well, I guess it was silly.
In the episode, titled “Advanced Dungeons and Dragons,” the group tries to help a depressed student by playing D&D with him. The intro was clever as it introduced each character with appropriate medieval titles like Abed the Undiagnosible and Britta the Needlessly Defiant. It was a good primer for all the D&D fans who might be watching the show for the first time.
What amazed me about the episode is that the majority of the show was spent at the table. They were actually playing D&D. It was funny how much of a roleplay focused group they were. They played without tiles and minis, and the cast was convincing. I mean, they are professional actors with a script, but it made me wish real games were as snappy and well performed as their game.
All of the jokes were around the game or within the game, and only when a character was actually set up to be a jerk did the jokes ever become about Dungeons and Dragons. The show never pandered towards gamers either. They played AD&D, so it wasn’t a half-hour commercial for the latest books, and there weren’t any cheesy jokes about magic missiles or gazebos. This was an episode of Community where the characters played D&D. I will admit it is not the best episode of the series (I’m not that biased), but it was still a solid episode.
But that’s enough of the episode review. This isn’t TV Guide. It was funny, I liked it, but now I want to talk about the crunchy stuff.
One) The players never rolled any dice. Abed, as the DM, handled all of that. This may have been done to streamline it for TV, but I realized it isn’t a wrong way to play either. It actually looked like a lot of fun. If player’s are taken further out of the idea that they are playing a game, then maybe dialogue at home could be as fluid as Donald Glover’s. Actually, he never said much more than “Huzzah!” He was that guy.
Two) Pierce, Chevy Chase’s character, as the villain was brilliant. He spent the episode studying Abed’s game world by reading the adventure module, and metagamed his way into become the ultimate villain. This isn’t a totally new idea, but it made me think about how a player controlling the villain is a little more exciting. It’s kind of like going from a single player video game to taking your skills online. I’d say I’d like to try this someday, but I suspect it’s already happening in the Dark Sun game Josh is running. Stupid defiling warlocks…
Anyways. It was a great episode, I don’t think I’ve spoiled too much for you if you haven’t seen it. It’s the best depiction of D&D on television since the final episode of Freaks and Geeks. Go check it out, or at least do yourself a favor watching the following clip. Be warned, it may be a little sexytimes (but SFW).