Thursday, June 1, 2017

D&D on iZombie

Yes, another another mainstream TV show has featured Dungeons & Dragons!  The episode is titled "Twenty-Sided, Die."

For those who don't know anything about izombie, here's the gist: zombies are real and Liv Moore is one of them.  After she eats a brain, she gets visions from that person's life.  Usually, this helps her police detective friend with solving his homicide cases.

How does this episode measure-up against other episodes showcasing D&D?

The Good:  we get to see two different RPG sessions in progress.  Each had their own flair while presenting the usual trappings of character sheets, dice, DM screen, and other visual elements like miniatures and dungeon tiles.

The Bad:  this episode showed the annoying things that go into D&D (not all games, thankfully).  I'm talking about rolling to see if your character can successfully climb onto a horse and other easy and/or stupidly inconsequential things.  A line of dialog also alluded to character creation taking... I think it was two hours!  I've been out of the 3rd, 4th, and Pathfinder editions for many years (huzzah!) so can't quite remember the average time it takes for a table of 4 or 5 to generate characters, but I doubt it's that long.  Still, anything longer than an hour is bullshit as far as I'm concerned.  Did the writer(s) not have access to 5th edition?

The Ugly:  oh, the stereotypes!  Indeed, gamers are nerds and geeks.  All the guys wanted to get with the girl player.  There was a goth/vampire type, socially-awkward artist, girl into fantasy and cosplay, and a big, burly bearded dude.  The more I think about it, their portrayal wasn't half bad.  But when Liv ate the DM's brain, she was narrating scenes like it was a D&D encounter and rolling d20s to see if she... [shakes dice] follows the detective outside.  I get it. The series shows us victims' inner lives through Liv's external mannerisms, interests, and various idiosyncrasies.  The whole dice rolling in public thing just seemed a bit too heavy handed.

Interesting Bits:  I enjoyed the flashback game where the DM rolled all the characters' saves in secret behind his screen and they all failed... and died.  The players were yelling at the DM, calling bullshit, etc. While I'm all for GM's final arbitration, that seemed messed up - especially since those characters were really high level.

Detective Babineau just could not get over his surprise that actual adults played D&D... until he sat down and played for himself.  Then, he got so into it that everyone had to keep playing, even after Liv had her vision (which means they didn't have to continue the game).  And he was talking about his character after the game and wanting to play again - which are hallmarks of falling in love with RPGs.

So, a little hokey at times, but overall a worthy addition to the pop-cultural plethora of D&D.  Just when you think the hobby is dead it shows up in the damnedest places.  But do all these little appearances help people discover or re-discover the joy of roleplaying games?  Seriously, does anyone know?  I'd love to read some stories about people suddenly playing (again) because they saw D&D on Big Bang Theory, House of Lies, or wherever!


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