Last night, I went to see a screening of Dan Harmon’s new show, HarmonQuest.
I am a big fan of Community, Rick and Morty, and RPGs, so I was pretty excited about this. Oh, and there was a Q & A session with a panel of cast members after, too. I did not know much about the show beforehand, other than that it was going to be a taping of Dan Harmon and friends playing Dungeons and Dragons. I was expecting something like Critical Role, where we watch the Dungeon Master and party as they play for a couple of hours.
Instead, it was shorter, about 23 minutes like a TV comedy, and started with the players gathered around a conference table. Spencer Crittenden is the Dungeon Master and sits at the head, and Dan Harmon, Erin McGathy, and Jeff B. Davis are party regulars who sit along one side. Joining them each episode is a guest star. In the first episode, that was Paul F. Tompkins, but they will also have Chelsea Peretti, Steve Agee, Aubrey Plaza, Thomas Middleditch, and Kumail Nanjiani, among others. They briefly talk about their RPG experience and then dive into the gaming session. The “in-character” segments are all animated, and the characters look like the actors, except in fantasy garb. The show is filmed in front of a live audience.
The gaming session itself is much lighter than Critical Role. The characters are less coordinated with one another and seem to try weird things for the hell of it. The fighting is simplified and Spencer handles all dice rolls. The only time I saw a character sheet referenced was when Spencer asked a character to double-check his total hit points to see if he died. The animated combat is quite fun to watch, though. Everyone enjoyed seeing little numbers float up every time someone took a hit, just like in video games. The lighter nature also opened up the group to be goofy and banter more, which was hilarious.
After the episode, it was time for the Q & A panel. Jeff B. Davis, Spencer Crittenden, and Dan Harmon took some questions from the moderator and then the crowd.
Sorry about the poor quality. I turned off flash and held my phone over my head to get a clear line of sight. A few questions in, Dan pulled out a flask and everyone was like, “We’re at a bar, we can get you a real drink.”
I learned that:
- HarmonQuest is a spin-off of Dan’s Harmontown podcast, where Spencer just showed up in the audience because “he knew it was their destiny to get together and play DnD.”
- NBC Universal expressed interest in HarmonQuest before SeeSo (their comedy streaming site) was even created.
- The actual taping/gaming session is about an hour long, which they then edit down to the 23 minute mark. (If he could go back, Dan would want to make each episode a bit longer so they would not have to cut out as much material.)
- Dan said this was his first time doing a multi-cam show, and editing was surprisingly challenging. (The hardest part was getting audience laughter to not sound canned.)
- When asked about the gaming experience of the guests, Spencer said that most guests had played 0 – 2 times. Thomas Middleditch is very experienced and actually drove straight from their taping to his regular Call of Cthulhu game. One of his favorite episode was with Aubrey Plaza, who really drove her session despite not having any previous RPG experience.
- Dan as a player did not want too much information or input about the overall plot, but Spencer worked a lot with the network to flesh out a satisfying campaign over the course of the season.
- Spencer will also privately hint to guests ahead of time if there is anything “above and beyond” expected of them. In the first episode, he asked Paul F. Tompkins to come up with a “great oath.”
The entire 10-episode season goes up tomorrow on SeeSo for your binging pleasure. I will definitely be checking out the rest of the series.