Critical Role. The Adventure Zone. Friends at the Table. Hello from the Magic Tavern. Aquisitions Incorporated. All marvelous D&D and actual play shows, and ones that have well earned their tremendous fanbases. I've checked all of theses shows out to some extent- for long periods for some of them like Critical Role and TAZ- and enjoyed most of them quite a bit. But the most recent actual play show I've been enjoying has put those shows to shame. The name? Dimension20, from CollegeHumor of all places.
The show is hosted by the incredible Brennan Lee Mulligan, a DM of a level of skill that all DMs should aspire to reach someday. A trained improv actor, comedian, writer, and most importantly Dungeons and Dragons player, Mulligan is not only an incredible player of the game but one of the finest actors and storytellers in the D&D scene at the moment, using incredibly evocative language to paint vivid images of epic tales in the heads of both his players and the audience.
His players, of course, are equally incredible. The team has all been trained in improv, many of them at the renowned Upright Citizens Brigade. They create equal parts hilarious and well-rounded, deep characters to such a degree that I am fully invested in them from the get go. Because of their improv training, the players bounce off of each other in a magnificent rhythm in tandem with Mulligan.
The settings have been equally compelling, often mashing up D&D with common other genres. In Fantasy High, a John Hughes-esque coming of age tale is told alongside a group of adventurers solving a mysterious magical disappearances of girls that go to their school. In The Unsleeping City, a magical love letter to New York takes center stage as magical characters find their way in a changing NYC. And in the most recent, currently ongoing season, A Crown of Candy, Game of Thrones meets Candy Land in an insane power struggle between kingdoms based on the food groups. Sound insane? It is. But it's also some of the most compelling fiction I've watched, let alone D&D actual play.
Check it out on Dropout.tv and YouTube. It's well worth it.