The rise of “TV Everywhere” has been tremendously inspiring to content connoisseurs and aspiring content creators such as myself. With major video streaming services pushing out their own original series, this bodes well for the weekly drama series @mcp_vr and I are writing. Since we started writing the pilot earlier in the year, my co-writer has found it entertaining to suggest shows I should watch for sci-fi and/or storytelling inspiration.
Most recently, we watched the first season of HarmonQuest. I have always been a fan of a good quest (@SapphireSBN and I obsessively played the King’s Quest series in the 90s). I also have a lot of respect for tabletop gaming as a springboard for plot and character development, though my own gaming experience is relatively limited. Generally my character was eaten by a monster shortly after the game began, and then I just had to sit around and watch.
Watching others game can be quite entertaining, particularly if said gamers are quick-witted and willing to be a little goofy. This is the essence of what makes HarmonQuest fabulous. With a flexible yet forward-moving storyline by Game Master Spencer Crittenden (himself), the 4-5 actors and comedians are free to choose their own actions – but their success literally depends on the roll of the dice.
Just to set expectations…this isn’t just viewers watching people tabletop gaming. Oh no – there is animation element as well. That’s right. The characters devise the story, and then Starburns Enterprises turns it into a cartoon.
In the first season, the core questers are half-orc Fondue Zubag (Dan Harmon), half-elf Beor O’Shift (Erin McGathy) and goblin Boneweevil (Jeff B. Davis). Each of these character has unique characteristics, weapons and strengths to leverage in a fight.
The animations are particularly entertaining for visualizing Beor’s transformations into Barbarian Rage, which is always accompanied by a makeshift song and the character stalking about, as well as her propensity for making sculptures out of bones. They are also great for Boneweevil’s elaborate attempts at using his Stealth skill to sneak up on enemies. Within the first few episodes, Boneweevil smears mud on his face and continues to add branches and leaves to his costume to better blend in with the forest, and also attempts to leap up in the air and stab an enemy in the base of the spine.
All these thing make HarmonQuest fantastic – but wait, there’s more! Each episode also has a guest player – actors or comedians who may or may not have any prior gaming experience. The 10 episodes of the first season are individually delightful with guest characters by Kumail Nanjiani, Nathan Fillion, Thomas Middleditch, Paul F. Tompkins, Aubrey Plaza, and more. The goofy names the guest characters devise for themselves are outstanding (Hawaiian Coffee, Tech Powers, Eddie Lizzard and Dildo Bogpelt, to name a few), and that’s only a small part of the experience. Most of the 23-minute episodes have at least one laugh-out-loud moment, and a few are so funny I have literally fallen off the couch I laughed so hard.
Viewers also need not have tabletop gaming experience to enjoy the show. At the end of the day, it’s just another form of storytelling, and people love stories. Especially stories about unlikely heroes doing their clumsy, quirky best to save their village, warn townsfolk in neighboring villages, recover magical objects and defeat evil creatures. One of the elements of the first season that really warmed my nerdy little heart was the live studio audience started cheering when one of the characters scored significant damage to an enemy during battles.
Right now HarmonQuest is about four highly entertaining episodes into the season two quest. It’s not on regular TV, Amazon, or Netflix, but available (exclusively) through streaming providers like VRV, and well worth watching.
- Like adventures with danger, demons, scary forests, magic and dragons
- Enjoy improv comedy and/or listening to funny stories
- Delight in random acts of magic – such as shrinking an already diminutive character to 1/8 its original size
Put it in the queue!
However, if you:
- Are going to be snarky about tabletop gaming
- Prefer the characters to be completely consistent every week
- Would be offended by one character telling another to hide a magical stone up her ass to deter the main villain from finding and acquiring it
Don’t put it in the queue.