Dungeons & Dragons Vs. Rick and Morty: A Review

The Stranger Things Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set was a no-brainer considering how wrapped into the TV series the role-playing game was. Close behind in terms of an obvious decision is Dungeons & Dragons Vs. Rick and Morty, the newest D&D starter set that capitalizes on the popularity of both the animated series and the Rick and Morty vs. Dungeons & Dragons comic. Like the comic series, the box set is co-written by Jim Zub and features new art by Troy Little.

DnD Rick and Morty Starter Set.jpg

As with most starter sets it contains a streamlined version of the Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition rules, an adventure (this one for up to five 1st level characters) that will take players up to 3rd level, a set of dice, a DM's screen, and five pre-generated characters. The dice consists of a regular set of polyhedrals with two d20s and four d6s in greenish-yellow with blue lettering.

The adventure was supposedly written by Rick, and it shows through every bit of the content. If you like the comic book or the original animated series, this boxed set is for you. In fact, it's the Rickest of Rick adventures possible.

According to the comic book series. Rick is an old school power gamer, so even when the adventure provides roleplay opportunities in addition to the usual hack-and-slash, Rick's running commentary makes it clear which option he prefers.

The adventure, The Lost Dungeon of Rickedness: Big Rick Energy, lives up to its name – loud, random, wacky and sometimes quite clever (like The Writers Room). The setting is Rick's dungeon on Earth C-141 where he does whatever he wants because he's a celebrity Dungeon Master with a live-streaming show, Cynical Troll. It doesn't have a conventional adventure set-up. Instead you get box text like:
“You're an adventurer. Or maybe you're even a group of adventurers. Whatever. Why are you here? No one cares. Don't tell me your back story. We're here to kick ass and find treasure. That's your motivation. Now get ready to roll!”
Mixed in with the Rick notes is some good DMing advice. Playing up a simple treasure item to make it sound like more than it is and misdirect players is one example. Suggestions on how to manage an encounter that could be handled violently or diplomatically is also useful.

Rick's attitude doesn't just infuse the box text. It also colors the notes to the DM, as if Rick is the proxy DM. Location names aren't fancy. There's a Goblin Room, Another Goblin Room and a Third Goblin Room. This being Rick and Morty, there's also a Butt Room, a Buttless Zombie Room and Tommy Two-Butts Room. I don't want to describe them too much because it would give away the jokes, but there is a Rick-inspired riff on a famous feature in Tomb of Horrors, albeit with a very different result. Goblins & Gizzards makes an appearance, with a note that it's “way better than D&D.”

Treasure in one room includes a set of 11 greenish-yellow dice (sound familiar?). The dice come with a “lifetime of warm, murderous memories” and the character who takes them has the urge to collect many, many more. Let's be honest – it's not wrong.

The conclusion to the adventure is a bit deus ex machina, but in context of the story, and especially Rick, it makes sense. And, in a weird way, it's kind of sweet...sort of.

The pre-gens are two human fighters, a half-elf wizard, a half-orc rogue, and an elf cleric. The artwork indicates that the characters are “played” by Morty, Summer, Jerry, Beth and “Meatface.” The art for Lyan Amaranthia at first made me think it was Donna Gueterman, but reading the adventure confirms it's definitely Beth. While prior knowledge of the Rick and Morty vs. Dungeons & Dragons comic book series is not required, you'll recognize some jokes and references if you do.

This might sound backward, but I really like the Rick and Morty Rulebook more than the adventure...and that's not a slight against the adventure. Rick's attitude infuses the text even more, with notes where he “yells” things like “Life's a tightrope, Morty” and “Force them to jump through pointless hoops for your own entertainment.” Under all of that, there's really good, clear explanations of how the 5th Edition rules work.

The Rulebook also does an excellent job of explaining how a role-playing game works, better than most. Ignore some of Rick's ravings about power, and it has solid DMing advice. It also correctly states that the DM "wins" by default. Despite the ravings about control and power, it makes it clear that killing the players is not the way to “win” as a DM. I know a few DMs who still need to learn that lesson.

Recommendations for this Starter Set are pretty simple.
  • If you're a fan of Rick and Morty who plays D&D, it's a must buy.
  • Love Rick and Morty and curious about D&D? It's definitely worth the purchase.
  • Hate Rick and Morty? Why are you reading this? Seriously, I doubt this starter set will win you over if you don't like Rick and Morty's sense of humor. You'd be better off buying the D&D Essentials Set for classic D&D or the Stranger Things D&D Starter Set if that's your fandom.
For a licensed property that could have been phoned in, they did a good job on this. Of course, between this and Stranger Things, I'm now wondering if a Community Starter Set will follow.
 
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Beth Rimmels

Comments

I know a few people who would be down for a "Community" themed D&D set.
True but I feel like the chance has passed there. Community last had new episodes four years ago and was last a hot property more like six or seven.

It sounds like a fine book and I enjoy the cartoons but I don't really see why I'd buy it based on this review. It seems like the main market would be fairly "serious" Rick & Morty fans (who er, don't have a great history, cf Szechaun sauce) and people who haven't played D&D before but do like Rick & Morty. For the latter it sounds like a good introduction to D&D at least.
 
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gyor

Hero
I’m glad they keep doing these product (this and Stranger Things). The more the merrier and it’s good just to combat the foolish gatekeepers that seem to think they own this hobby.

That said this one’s not for me but that’s OK.
The term Gatekeepers gets thrown around way to much.

Anyways I'm happy for those who love this product, but I personally wouldn't touch it with a 10 foot pole axe. But that is not a judgement of it's fans, just that is extremely unappealing to me personally. Again not an attack, just a matter of personal preferences.
 

Nebulous

Adventurer
I love Rick and Morty the TV show. I took a look at this, but it is not enough to gain my interest to put money down. Still, I think (I hope) it's a good move for WoTC to branch out with niche little things.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
The term Gatekeepers gets thrown around way to much.

Anyways I'm happy for those who love this product, but I personally wouldn't touch it with a 10 foot pole axe. But that is not a judgement of it's fans, just that is extremely unappealing to me personally. Again not an attack, just a matter of personal preferences.
It’s not for you. It’s a starter set. It’s to get Rick & Morty fans to try D&D for the first time.
 
It's probably impossible to measure, but did the Stranger Things set bring many new people into the hobby?

I imagine these niche starter sets generate lots of news mentions as well as purchases by fans of the IP, but I'm curious to what extent they also create significant numbers of actual new players who decide to stick with RPGing?
 

timbannock

Explorer
It's probably impossible to measure, but did the Stranger Things set bring many new people into the hobby?

I imagine these niche starter sets generate lots of news mentions as well as purchases by fans of the IP, but I'm curious to what extent they also create significant numbers of actual new players who decide to stick with RPGing?
Agreed. I'd like to see these hit both notes: (1) be a gateway thing that generates some buzz and is a fun combo of franchise+D&D, and (2) is replayable.

Both the original Starter Set and the Essentials Kit are easily expandable and replayable with just the contents of the box, never mind what you get from adding the free Basic Rules and (of course) the big hardcovers. But Stranger Things was so thin that it made me avoid the Rick & Morty set altogether. Mind you, I really enjoyed running the Stranger Things adventure, but it's both something I had to put some extra work into in order to make it fun for me, and it's hardly replayable IMHO.
 

TheBanjoNerd

Explorer
Agreed. I'd like to see these hit both notes: (1) be a gateway thing that generates some buzz and is a fun combo of franchise+D&D, and (2) is replayable.

Both the original Starter Set and the Essentials Kit are easily expandable and replayable with just the contents of the box, never mind what you get from adding the free Basic Rules and (of course) the big hardcovers. But Stranger Things was so thin that it made me avoid the Rick & Morty set altogether. Mind you, I really enjoyed running the Stranger Things adventure, but it's both something I had to put some extra work into in order to make it fun for me, and it's hardly replayable IMHO.
Having DM'ed the Stranger Things adventure, it almost felt like it was meant to be a self-contained board game. Like, "Here, play the game the kids in the show do but don't worry about actually getting into the hobby."
 

timbannock

Explorer
Having DM'ed the Stranger Things adventure, it almost felt like it was meant to be a self-contained board game. Like, "Here, play the game the kids in the show do but don't worry about actually getting into the hobby."
Certainly to a degree. I mean, there's a couple scenes in the very beginning that specifically talk about roleplay, but don't give you a lot of reasons to be roleplaying because they are at best info dumps. There's also an unstated thread through the adventure that the designers mentioned that's really cool -- the whole thing is Mike writing the adventure as a coping mechanism based on the events he lived through -- but it's not explicit, and it creates holes in the adventure design.

Great idea, poorly executed.

I found a few threads on Reddit that had some amazing advice to spruce up the beginning of the adventure with props and good interaction challenges. I used those and changed up the ending of the adventure, and it really sang at the table. But as written, it's kind of a grindy slog with little in the way of well-developed encounter areas.
 

Emirikol Prime

Explorer
The term Gatekeepers gets thrown around way to much.

Anyways I'm happy for those who love this product, but I personally wouldn't touch it with a 10 foot pole axe. But that is not a judgement of it's fans, just that is extremely unappealing to me personally. Again not an attack, just a matter of personal preferences.
Because gatekeeping happens too much. No reason to be defensive. It’s an unfortunate reality.
 

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