What Makes a Show "D&D"?

Dungeons & Dragons is everywhere these days, and now thanks to D&D-adjacent cartoons, comics, and podcasts, we've got a good idea of what elements constitute D&D-themed media.

DnDmedia.jpg

When looking at some of the media inspired by D&D, there's been plenty of speculation as to the connection, like The Witcher. But why speculate when we have clear evidence of media inspired by D&D, like Critical Role and The Adventure Zone? These blockbuster media franchises started as a streaming and podcast show respectively, but are branching out beyond their D&D roots (and in Critical Role's case, looping back around into official D&D). And now that they're out in the wild in other formats (the Legend of Vox Machina cartoon, the Adventure Zone comics), we can see what they have in common that makes them D&D-esque.

A Permeable Circle

We've discussed before how the magic circle defines role-playing engagement; real life factors influence the game anyway, from bathroom breaks to the physical location of the game, from phone distractions to never-ending tug-of-war of adult responsibilities. This makes for a game that inherently can't be too fantasy-themed even if the characters are true to their roots, because D&D is as much about playing in a shared fantasy universe as it is about playing a game.

As an example, The Adventure Zone actually inserts the Dungeon Master into the dialogue. The characters will often reference out-of-game pop culture and engage in back-and-forth with the DM. To a lesser degree, Vox Machina has its characters use modern turns of phrase when they speak. This has some significant implications on "baseline fantasy."

Humor

One of the defining traits of both Critical Role and The Adventure Zone is their humor. While the occasional character might take himself seriously, it's clear that most don't. It's left to the NPCs to react in a mixture of horror or confusion to the PC's antics.

As most DMs can attest, humor is part of the fun of D&D. Heroes in absurd, often violent situations, failing or reacting inappropriately to larger-than-life threats are part of the game. Part of this humor comes from the fish out of water approach, where "adventurers" are by their nature not usually regular people, but eccentrics from far-flung lands.

Genre Mashups

Basic D&D campaigns have increasingly become kitchen-sink settings in which different adventure backdrops and tones can accommodate a wide variety of play styles, from gothic horror to steampunk, from medieval warfare to Roman politics. While it's possible to create justifications for where these characters come form, the shorthand is that there's a place for each of them: we just don't necessarily see it in play.

This flexibility is part of the game's appeal. DMs can play the kind of games they want, while players can play characters inspired by other genres but still (loosely) fit into the game setting without too much trouble. This is particularly noticeable in Vox Machina, where characters seem to come from different realms with wildly different levels of technology (e.g., guns vs. axes) and levels of magical talent. How does it all work? We don't need to know, because D&D rules explain all that so that the campaign doesn't need to justify it.

To Movies and Beyond

With D&D-adjacent media ahead of D&D's curve, it will be interesting to see what happens when Wizard of the Coast's brand catches up. We have a D&D movie and streaming series on the horizon. They would do well to learn the lessons of what D&D-adjacent media has done so successfully.

Your Turn: What elements of media that makes it D&D-themed did I miss?
 

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Michael Tresca

Michael Tresca

I Don't. But I know what sounds modern. This was far to close to a night out on town listening to modern people.
You think the should talk Old English, so no one can understand a word they say?! Or do you mean you want them to talk ye olde fake medieval?

Really, it makes no sense to have them talk anything other than modern English (or whatever language it is dubbed into).
 

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Mournblade94

Adventurer
You think the should talk Old English, so no one can understand a word they say?! Or do you mean you want them to talk ye olde fake medieval?

Really, it makes no sense to have them talk anything other than modern English (or whatever language it is dubbed into).
I'd be OK with that if it wasn't just a swear fest, Also MOdern Metaphors that don't work in context. That is what I don't like, to clarify. So its not the language I object to as much as the coloquial usages.
 

I'd be OK with that if it wasn't just a swear fest,
Why would they not swear? I'm pretty sure I would swear in those circumstances.
Also MOdern Metaphors that don't work in context. That is what I don't like, to clarify.
Which metaphors did you find anachronistic? I didn't notice any that referred to things that did not exist in that setting.

People use metaphors in speech. Had they used medieval metaphors the audience would not have understood them.
So its not the language I object to as much as the coloquial usages.
Natural speech is colloquial. I'm pretty sure people in ye olden days spoke colloquial.
 

jgsugden

Legend
The difference being, one has D&D in the title and the other has Pathfinder.

We going to split hairs over what constitutes a 5e show and what constitutes an AD&D show next?
If the topic was 'what would be a 5E show and what would be an AD&D show?' Yes. However, that isn't the question at hand.

Here, we're asking what a D&D show would be, and as the IP of D&D is a big part of what makes D&D distinctly D&D, as opposed to something else, the IP is a big part of the answer. Pathfinder and D&D have different IP.
 

Mournblade94

Adventurer
Why would they not swear? I'm pretty sure I would swear in those circumstances.

Which metaphors did you find anachronistic? I didn't notice any that referred to things that did not exist in that setting.

People use metaphors in speech. Had they used medieval metaphors the audience would not have understood them.

Natural speech is colloquial. I'm pretty sure people in ye olden days spoke colloquial.

WHy would they not swear? Because its Aestetically unpleasing

WHich Metaphors? I don't remember but I noted them when I heard them. I'd have to rewatch.

Medieval Metaphors? Wasn't looking for that. I found the metaphors to meta from what I noted.

I thought it was obvious I was talking about Colloquialisms that felt out of place for the setting.

The straw man is that I want medieval. Wheel of Time and LOTR are good examples. Also The Last Kingdom, Knightfall, all have dialogue that is modern and feels natural to that world.
 



I thought it was obvious I was talking about Colloquialisms that felt out of place for the setting.

The straw man is that I want medieval.
This is a setting with flying ships. It quite clearly is not medieval.
Wheel of Time and LOTR are good examples
Oh, you mean fantasy characters should speak with upper class English accents (LotR) or mumble unintelligibly (WoT).
 
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Vaalingrade

Legend
Which works amazingly well in a movie set in the modern with those colloquialisms.
You know we're talking about shows set in entirely constructed fantasy worlds that are not and have never been Earth, right?

There is absolutely not reason to expect them to have medieval speech patterns because while they're at a (also nonsensical) medieval tech level, they never had the people, events and cultures that led to those expressions.

Wanna have the phrase 'parting shot'? Better have a Parthian Empire with archers who fired backward from retreat!

And I better not hear any words invented by Shakespeare.
 

Mournblade94

Adventurer
This is a setting with flying ships. It quite clearly is not medieval.

Oh, you mean fantasy characters should speak with upper class English accents (LotR) or mumble unintelligibly (WoT).
So you missed where I said your "you want medieval was a straw man".

Ok lets Focus in the Last Kingdom then. There's a whole range. But LOTR would be a far site better and I didn't think WoT was mumbling. If nothing else, Last Kingdom, Vikings, that is what I like to see.
 

Mournblade94

Adventurer
You know we're talking about shows set in entirely constructed fantasy worlds that are not and have never been Earth, right?
No I didn't realize that. How silly of me.
There is absolutely not reason to expect them to have medieval speech patterns because while they're at a (also nonsensical) medieval tech level, they never had the people, events and cultures that led to those expressions.

Wanna have the phrase 'parting shot'? Better have a Parthian Empire with archers who fired backward from retreat!

And I better not hear any words invented by Shakespeare.
See above where I said speech used in shows like LOTR, Wheel of Time, Last Kingdom, Vikings.
 


Mournblade94

Adventurer
And those shows are also wrong.

The complaint isn't to do with accuracy or appropriateness despite being frames as such.
Who framed the complaint that way? Because I did not. I said I didn't like it. Other people thought I was talking about accuracy, trying to make a case out of it. If not for how Vox was animating fear and failed saves I probably would have dropped the show because of the dialogue.
I liked Vox Machina, but I REALLY thought the modern quips and swearing brought me out of it. My wife liked it much more than I did, but i would have liked it more if it kept the player talk to what characters in a non modern setting would say.
 


Mournblade94

Adventurer
What would a character in a non-modern setting that is in no way our Earth with our history say?
I don't know. But if I hear it and like it then I'll watch the show. If I think it sounds bad I'll drop the show. Vox had other things than bad Halfling bards and swearing that happened to be intriguing. But I'd never watch the show straight through again though I might watch some animation sequences.
 

See above where I said speech used in shows like LOTR, Wheel of Time, Last Kingdom, Vikings.
So, what you object to, is an American accent. Everyone in fantasyland has to speak with an English accent.

Which for me, is just how everyone around me speaks.

The Last Kingdom is a clear example. This is a British TV show, staring British actors, who speak regular modern British English.

Do you not realise it is a bit offensive when people associate your native accent with fantasyland?
 
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Mournblade94

Adventurer
So, what you object to, is an American accent. Everyone in fantasyland has to speak with an English accent.

Which for me, is just how everyone around me speaks.

The Last Kingdom is a clear example. This is a British TV show, staring British actors, who speak regular modern British English.

Do you not realise it is a bit offensive when people associate your native accent with fantasyland?
Nice try trying to make this an objective case.

WoT was not British accents. Neither was Knightfall.

Also I play in an American LARP. Accents don't break my immersion. But at our larp, you can't swear. I went to another LARP where they can swear at will. Guess what? I lasted 3 events because the language broke my immersion.

Not sure why your still going on about this.

I already said it was the swearing. But if you want to keep your moral crusade on my aesthetic preferences I'm anxiously awaiting what else you have to say.

I don't like the swearing in Vox. Almost dropped the show because it. If that bothers you? Well I don't remember the last time I extended a movie or TV invite to you.
 
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Mournblade94

Adventurer
And you don't find that immersion breaking?! Someone slaps you round the head with a heavy pretend sword and all you can say is "what ho!"
So you can't imagine any other expressions but swearing? Might as well use the same level of assumptions you imply.

Vox though doesn't swear in jusy those situations they will just swear amidst talking about a red cloak

Due to safety head shots are illegal. Yes someone would swear but that is out of game because someone broke the rules.


It's a mixture of British accents (Rosamund Pike) and mumbling.
So fantasy people can't speak in mumbles? Why would mumbling bother you? Why can't you believe people in a fantasy world would mumble?
 
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