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Sunday, July 24, 2016

HarmonQuest - Episode 1

You can watch this episode on youtube here.

Today we're going to take a look at HarmonQuest, a new D&D show that focuses on the improv comedy side of the game. HarmonQuest is actually filmed in front of an audience, but pretty much the whole show is animated. 

I don't understand why this show is called HarmonQuest. I googled Dan Harmon to see who this dude is. Dan Harmon created the NBC show Community and tons of other stuff. He has a very loyal, rabid fan-following.

Apparently he was fired from Community and re-hired soon after. The more you read about him, the more you want to back away slowly. This Hollywood Reporter article describes him by using phrases such as "rude asshole," "rage-fueled prankster," and "a ninja of alcoholism."

I really wish I hadn't read that because I think it is going to color my opinion of the show. Who knows, maybe this guy is really funny.

They are using Pathfinder rules, but I'm not sure if they edited all the rules talk out or if the DM is just running it really loose. I don't think we even see people roll for initiative.

Spencer Crittenden is the DM.

The Party

(Dan Harmon) Fondue Zuback - Half-orc ranger
(Erin McGathy) Viari Shimp - Half-elf barbarian
(Jeff B. Davis) Boneweevil - Goblin rogue
(Paul F. Tompkins) Teflonto - Half-orc Cleric, captain of the village militia

We start off with a cool animated intro and then the players talk for a minute. Paul is a guest star. He says that he last played D&D in 8th grade.

The campaign starts off in the town of Earthscar. There's a lot of orcs and seedy folk, but it's not such a bad place. The people are in the middle of the festival of restoration, celebrating the demonseal. This thing keeps demons out of the mortal realm.

The chief asks Teflonto to speak the oath in front of the town as part of the festival. Paul makes up the oath on the spot. It rhymes and everything. Pretty amazing.

A barbarian busts into town. It is Erin's character. There's danger and she needs help. The heroes go outside town with her to investigate.

There are these suspicious trees out there. Suddenly, the trees whistle and turn into evil cultists. The barbarian draws her axe, named "Only Friend," because, you know, it's her only friend. Then she goes into a barbarian rage which looks like this:


One cultist pulls off its hood. It has the head of a jackal. It demands the binding runestone. Looks like we are going to have our first combat.

The DM rolls dice for everyone, which is weird. They have this really nice set, but the DM is rolling on a crumpled notepad that we zoom in on.

The goblin goes for a sneak attack. He's actually going to run all the way around the town so he'll be gone for a while. The barbarian pulls out the ribs of a cultist and puts them in her hair. She attacks another cultist and gets a critical, cutting him in two.

Teflonto pulls out some alchemist's fire and chucks it. He rolls a one. He tosses it in the air and it lands on his head. His hair is on fire and remains so for most of the episode.

The heroes question the bad guys and kind of criticize their whole plan. The goblin is back from his trip and creeps up behind the cultists. He tries to cut their achilles tendons. It's weird how there are so many of that certain type of D&D player who try this achilles tendon thing. He misses and just keeps running.

An evil dude in armor suddenly marches into the town and grabs the binding runestone. A rift opens and three giant abominations come through.


The evil armor guy shoots red energy at the heroes. For some reason he does four times as much damage to Teflonto compared to the other characters. I guess this is because he is a guest star and he's meant to die now.

The bad guys take off. Teflonto is dying, and he asks the heroes to take care of this whole runestone thing.

The barbarian wants to honor him. She starts pulling his bones out of his body while he is still alive. She's going to make a "skull tree."

The group prepares to head out and that is where we stop.

Timestamps

(12:16) Teflonto busts out his flail.
(18:36) The goblin tries to cut some achilles tendons.

Overall

I love the use of animation in this. The live crowd didn't seem to add much, but it's hard to judge from just one episode. This show is way heavy on the improv, which isn't a bad thing, but if you're looking for a more straight rules-abiding show, this is not for you.

As a TV Show: If you approach this show just like any other show, I'd say this is worth watching. It's short, it's fun, and I really like some of the players. It's too bad Paul is here for just one episode, because he was really great. I also like the barbarian - she came right out of the gate as a fully-realized character.

As a D&D Show: If you come at this show from the perspective of a gamer, it's fun. I watch Dice, Camera, Action to see Chris Perkins run Curse of Strahd. This is nothing like that. HarmonQuest is all about comedy. While I don't think we're going to learn how to be a better DM by watching this show, it's still really nice to see D&D used in a comedic way.

What is the Format? I feel like nobody has been able to figure out the best way to do these shows. What stat stuff should be kept and what should be tossed? How loose should the game be? The DM gave the players a lot of control over the narrative, which made me a little uncomfortable. The whole concept is a work in progress.

We are living in a really fun time. I hope these kind of shows are here to stay.

3 comments:

Jason Raabis said...

I'd be interested to hear your opinion of the D&D offerings on the YouTube channel 'Node.' They have an interesting format, camera views, and some post production to make things smoother, not to mention well thought out and unique plots that really work nicely. Compared to any of these shows you've reviewed, I think it's superb. They have run two mini campaigns so far that I know of.

Anonymous said...

Harmon has a pretty popular podcast called Harmontown. Harmonquest grow out of a regular game segment during the podcast (D&D and Shadowrun). He is a divisive figure in the comedy scene, since he is well know to be a difficult artist but equally well know as something of a genius as a very influential figure in teaching people how to write comedy (his big thing is you have to establish emotional connections and relationships and build jokes on top of it, instead of starting with jokes) but by comparison, he is less controversial than say the guys from Penny Arcade. The other stuff he would be known for would be Rick and Morty (which he co-created) and the Sarah Silverman Program (which he co-created with Silverman and his longtime writing partner Rob Schreb).

Sean said...

Jason Raabis: Node? I will check it out, thank you! It's funny, I haven't heard of many of these things... there's a million of them.

Anonymous: Ah, cool, thank you for the info. That's pretty great that they play Shadowrun, I'd love to see a Shadowrun game in this format. In fact, I think Shadowrun would be fantastic (as long as they cut out the rules stuff). It's funny, I love Alison Brie, but I have never watched Community. I bet I am missing out.