We’ve all heard about Dungeons and Dragons in our lives.
No matter how much or little you know, the tabletop fantasy game has been a cultural staple in America for decades now, having adapted to thrive in the internet age. DND‘s 5th edition came out in 2014, coinciding with the growth of YouTube “let’s play” gaming genre and Twitch’s live-streaming to help spawn a new age of gaming.
Critical Role, a campaign led by prominent voice actors who would live-stream their games, helped DND enter the internet age with a renowned vigor and helped lift the tabletop franchise into being more popular than ever.
Still, the appeal for the series has mostly been in the nerdy-niche subculture, giving rise to Dimension 20’s Dungeons and Drag Queens (★★★☆☆). Created and led by Brennan Lee Mulligan, the latest season, subtitled “Queens on a Quest,” sees Jujubee, Bob the Drag Queen, Monet X Change, and Alaska Thunderfuck play their first-ever DND campaign with Mulligan as Game Master, the narrator and driving force of the story.
While Dimension 20 made a name for its queerness from the start of its shows, this is the first time a season has had people who have never played the game before.
The adventure starts with 40 minutes of backstory, as Mulligan gives each queen a moment to let us know who they will portray. We start with Monet as Troyann, a merfolk assassin with a wild family, before meeting Jujubee as Twyla, a fairy who thinks she can turn invisible, Bob as Gertrude, a witch on the run, and Alaska as Princess, an 8-foot-tall orc wearing a pink tutu seeking vengeance.
After learning how they all came to meet, they’re finally allowed to get to the core of the campaign and improv/work their way through the game, the overall goal being to find a great treasure in the underworld.
If that all sounds dense, that’s because it is. While it isn’t hard to follow, the four-episode series is long, with each episode clocking in at around two hours.
After the intro, things do pick up, but to a newcomer, you may need to pause and take breaks, as it can just be a mind-numbing experience of information overload. With the players being newbies, it also takes a second for them to truly grasp the game, but once they do, they give it their all.
The main detractor for newbies to DND will be how the series isn’t beginner friendly, having left out the entire setup and any general rules. You figure things out as you watch and some concepts are explained, but as a total newbie, I wouldn’t feel comfortable jumping into the campaign itself right away after watching the series.
For my fellow newbies venturing into the DND waters, the saving grace and primary draw of this season is its cast. The queens chosen are decorated performers, ones who hold legendary status in the drag queen world for obvious reasons.
Bob seems to be the first to truly embrace the format, with her monologues helping set a hilarious precedent, while Monet and Alaska hold their own, keeping the story entertaining as they embrace their characters. Jujubee takes the longest to catch on, but helps keep the game from getting too nitty-gritty as the GM explains things to her. Without them, it is easy to see how quickly this series would have slid into boring and skippable territory.
The lead of the series is very much Mulligan, whose talent and experience as a game master keeps the series on track. Being virgin DND‘ers, Mulligan deftly leads the queens down the right path while also knowing when to step back and let them do their thing. Despite the high fantasy setting, everyone rolls with the punches, and Mulligan never shies away from turning a small joke into an ongoing bit.
When Monet, as Troyann, meets the other queens, she immediately decides she is searching for her next target, Mark Ronson. Yes, the real-life producer, who has been terrorizing Paula Abdul and has a bounty on him in this world.
Instead of giggling and moving onto the fantasy, Mulligan makes her roll to see if it works, and the consequences end up playing a part throughout the entire episode. Ronson and Abdul are now formal, canon side characters on the series Wiki page, much to our delight.
By letting the game develop in unexpected directions, the flow never stops, and the series builds terrifically. Jujubee not understanding that her character, Twyla, for instance, can’t become invisible (only camouflaged) becomes a hilarious piece of character-building as Twyla keeps thinking no one can see her naked. Oopsie.
For LGBTQ people new to the game, Dungeons and Drag Queens serves as a great icebreaker into a world that on the surface seems to be homophobic. A loud minority of the new-age nerd culture loves to freak out about the increased representation and claim that queerness does not belong in these fantasy worlds. However, the show is a testament to the fact that this has never been true.
Dungeons and Drag Queens is a great introduction to the tabletop franchise. With a perfectly suited cast of hilarious queens, the series is very watchable, even with its faults. As a newcomer, it isn’t a beginner’s guide, but a good watch for those who may be curious.
Queer fans of Dungeons and Dragons will be enthralled by what they watch, with the series clearly being the most mainstream attempt yet, while staying true to the formula.
Dungeons and Drag Queens is now available on the Dropout.tv streaming platform. Monthly subscriptions are $5.99 and annual subscriptions are $59.99. Visit www.dropout.tv.
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