Reviewed by Art Schmidt (with commentary from a few Ricks)
Today Wizards of the Coast is releasing two new supplements for the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy roleplaying game, one a hardcover sourcebook based on the Fourth Edition Eberron campaign setting, and the other a new boxed set themed after the popular Adult Swim cartoon Rick and Morty. The Eberron hardcover Rising from the Last War (available today here at Amazon) is sure to appeal to those folks who enjoyed playing in the dark, techno-magical, pulp fiction world of Khorvaire, but the Rick and Morty vs. Dungeons & Dragons set (available here) may appeal to a broader audience, including fans of the show who may never have rolled a twenty-sided die before.
Similar to previous boxed sets, the Rick and Morty set is named for the popular comic Rick and Morty vs. Dungeons & Dragons written by Patrick Rothfuss (author of the Kingkiller Chronicles and The Adventures of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle) and Jim Zub (Samurai Jack, The Young Adventurers Guide series and the upcoming run of Conan the Barbarian) and illustrated by Troy Little (Chiaroscuro, The Powerpuff Girls). The boxed set contains a 64-page rulebook with the basic rules to get a group of players exploring, a set of five pre-generated characters for the players to use (or they can of course make up their own), a dungeon master’s screen to help the game master run things in relative secrecy, a set of eleven sickly-yellow polyhedral dice, and a 32-page adventure (written by the legendary D&D adventure writer Rick Sanchez of Earth C-141, himself), designed to take a group of up to five characters from first to third level.
Seriously, you game nerds should have seen this coming. D&D, once little more than Satan’s Gateway to the Occult, is friggin’ everywhere these days. A crap-ton of folks even sit around watching people live-stream their play sessions, which is, apparently, more fun than actually playing the game. Think about that, Wizards of the Coast: ever heard of the ‘Law of Diminishing Returns’? Read a book! The more popular the game becomes, the less copies you’ll sell! You’re digging your own graves! – Rick C-137
Like the comic series, the game Rick and Morty vs. Dungeons & Dragons is filled with self-aware and fourth-wall breaking commentary and dialogue, giving the characters an unsettling but hilarious point of view of being viewed while also knowing full well the world of the viewer. The result is a gaming experience sure to please fans of the series and the roleplaying game equally, while introducing those who may be unaware of the other to new and enjoyable experiences.
The rulebook contains an abbreviated set of the basic rules found in the original Starter Set and the recently released Essentials Kit (each of which contain the same basic set of rules but have different adventurers and, also, the Essentials Kit contains item cards and other add-ons to the standard pen-and-paper game). However, this rulebook has been edited by none other than Rick himself, although which actual Rick is unclear.
For those who are unfamiliar with the show, Rick and Morty features a space-traveling and muti-dimensional mad scientist, Rick Sanchez, his grandson Morty and their extended family traversing the multiverse in a hap-hazard manner as Rick tries in his absurd and often distracted way to teach his grandson about life. Or how to not be terrible at Life. Whatever.
The dimension-hopping Rick and Morty of the show are known to hail from Earth C-137, and they often run across other Ricks and Mortys from other dimensions, noted by their Earth designators. Sometimes folks are killed off, including the aforementioned Rick and Morty. But never fear! In the multiverse, there are endless copies of everyone, waiting to be plucked out of their reality and thrust into the show, often as though nothing odd has transpired. And in fact, Rick encourages the dungeon master to avoid avoiding killing off any player characters, as they can simply be replaced with a copy from another dimension.
He suggests applying this mentality to the players themselves, though it’s hard to imagine Wizards of the Coast would endorse such behavior.
Rick’s annotations and commentary throughout the rulebook are both hilarious and keep true to the zany character of the show, though not necessarily true to the core mechanics of D&D. For instance, Rick notes the top priority in combat (“Be cool!”), reveals a new damage type (“Shut Up” damage, for which there is no resistance), explains which spells are “Jerry” (dancing lights, aid and dispel magic being among the most “Jerry” of spells) and promotes the logic of using Intelligence instead of Strength for athletics checks (“Mind and body are one, Morty. You have to remember how to swim, and if you don’t, you drown”). It’s like a whole new game! (Schwifty! – Rick C-137)
And the included dungeon crawl, “The Lost Dungeon of Rickedness: Big Rick Energy” is over-the-top Rick and Morty. It’s a straight-forward dungeon crawl, with no backstory, rich history, or really any reason for existing whatsoever, other than to have your characters play through it. Seriously, that’s it.
Hey! This adventure once brought peace to a warring galaxy. What did you ever do? – Rick C-141
It’s a few dozen rooms of standard dungeon crawl fare turned on its head: rooms with mysterious levers, rooms full of doors, treasure chests that aren’t what they seem, ingenious and tongue-in-cheek traps, indestructible mirrors, and rickdiculously absurd monsters. And of course, everything in the dungeon emanates a strong aura of shenanigans.
The rooms are funny and highly entertaining, even for folks who don’t know what Rick and Morty is. There’s a magic mouth room, a statue riddle/trap room, pirates, drunk cultists, a beholder, a dragon, a demon (oh my!) and butt jokes galore. But fans of the show will identify numerous Easter eggs within the adventure, such as the Meeseeks Box, references to the Portal Gun, and pickles. Lots and lots of pickles. And not the kind you eat, even in a Rick and Morty dungeon.
What’s even better, the players can take on the personas of the characters from the TV show, as they appear in the comic books: Morty as half-orc rogue Keth Silverson; Jerry as half-elven wizard Kiir Bravan with all the Jerry-est of spells; Summer as half-elven archer Ari Strongbow; and Beth as wood elf cleric Lyan Amaranthia. There is a fifth character, but it isn’t Rick. You can’t play Rick. No one gets to be Rick. Why on Earth C-666 would you even want to be Rick in the first place? (The real reason I didn’t put myself in as a playable character? No one is worthy to play me. Wubba Lubba Dub Dub! – Rick C-137).
To round out the party of pregens, the writers have added Meatface, the perfect lovable destruction machine (the sound of snapping bones relaxes him) to the party. Using these five characters, for whom the dungeon is written, or any other 1st level characters of the party’s choice, you can romp through Rick’s playhouse of a dungeon, killing monsters and getting loot and having a ton of laughs along the way.
Wizards of the Coast released a similarly-themed Starter Set last year, based on the popular Netflix series Stranger Things. It contains a themed rulebook, a set of seven dice, starting character sheets resembling the characters that the kid heroes of the show play in their home campaign, and an adventure written by the Stranger Things dungeon master and demogorgon-hunter Mike Wheeler.
The “upside-down” isn’t that big a deal. I’m pretty sure it’s just *BRRR-RUP* Earth C-69. – Rick C-131
Per the publisher, Dungeons & Dragons is the wellspring for the entire modern game industry, digital as well as tabletop. While some might call that a stretch, it is fairly easy to trace a lot of current games back to the basic points advancement system, over-the-top storytelling, and fantastical illustrations which defined the brand back in the late seventies and throughout the eighties. Rick and Morty vs. Dungeons & Dragons continues the tradition of expanding the definition of what a storytelling game can be, and aside from that, it’s a friggin’ blast, Morty!
The age label, like all D&D products, denotes 13+, but anyone who has seen the TV show will tell you that Morty uses plenty of off-color language, and sexual innuendos abound. While this adventure set reins some of that in, it is still much more crude and obnoxious than other products by the WOTC team. The product is true to the Rick and Morty brand, which will delight fans, but it may be a little much for folks who want to maintain a little more family-friendly gaming experience.
Rick and Morty vs. Dungeons & Dragons is from Amazon here (and other shops) beginning today. The D&D Essentials Boxed Set is available here (reviewed earlier this year here at borg), and the Stranger Things D&D Boxed Set here.