‘Dimension 20: Fantasy High’ review
By Jacey Gibb, Distribution Manager
The jokesters over at CollegeHumor launched their own comedy streaming platform Dropout TV. I’m here to tell you if their exclusive content is worth the subscription fee.
For decades, games like Dungeons & Dragons existed on the fringes of mainstream culture, often associated with nerds hanging out in a basement. However, nerd culture’s having a moment—the phenomenon of roleplaying games (RPGs) has risen to the surface. (Our Editor-in-Chief even wrote a feature about the rise in roleplaying games back in 2017.) These tabletop roleplaying games are the basis behind Dimension 20: Fantasy High, the first Dropout TV exclusive that I feel comfortable dubbing as “must-see” television.
Dimension 20: Fantasy High follows six teenage adventurers as they begin their freshman year at the Aguefort Adventuring Academy. From the very first episode the school is rife with suspicion, and with each clue uncovered come more unanswered questions as the adventurers navigate possessed corn demons, monster-filled dive bars, and cumbersome teenage romance.
Each episode runs between 75 minutes to almost two hours, which might seem lengthy, but the episodes are filled with so much playful banter and plot development that they rarely drag. The show also follows an alternating pattern with the first episode being story-based, the second episode consisting of a combat scenario, and then returning to plot and so forth.
There’s a healthy balance between the two formats, though usually the combat episodes pack the most punch because the stakes feel very real. Characters are regularly knocked out in the game, forcing them to do “death saving” rolls. Three high rolls and the character is revived, but three low rolls and the character dies for good. You might be surprised how often these potentially game-altering rolls come up—even in the very first combat episode.
The cast is all in peak form here: CollegeHumor alumni Brian Murphy, Emily Axford, and Zac Oyama are joined by current CH cast members Ally Beardsley, Siobhan Thompson, and Lou Wilson. They’re as hilarious playing a tabletop RPG as they are in your average scripted sketch video.
The first episode does a lot of the narrative heavy-lifting, giving us a small window into the students’ home lives and establishing their intentions and relationships, but also their passions and flaws. Viewers get a sense of each character early on, though some are more clearly defined than others in the first few episodes.
Beardsley’s character Kristen Applebees, a loyal devotee of the almighty corn god Helio, is particularly charismatic as she begins questioning her faith after a chance incident early on in the campaign. Axford’s half-demon Fig also shines as a punk-rocker on the lookout for her biological father while struggling to open up emotionally to her new adventuring companions.
While the adventuring party is made up of elves, barbarians, and other magical creatures, the true hero here is Brennan Lee Mulligan, Fantasy High’s dungeon master and relative newcomer to the CollegeHumor cast. Mulligan says he’s been DMing since he was 10 years old, and the experience shows. He whips out developed accents with each new supporting character and confidently handles increasingly absurd action requests by the adventurers. In a later episode, one character asks if they can conjure up a “sexy rat” as part of their plan—and instead of dismissing it, Mulligan asks the character to describe in detail what makes this rat so sexy. It’s weird, unexpected, and totally hilarious.
Fantasy High might not be for everyone, but speaking as someone with minimal experience with RPGs, it’s surprisingly delightful to watch. It’s even worth just having on in the background for the audio, though the combat episodes have some wicked prop eye candy.
The first five episodes of of Dimension 20 are available on YouTube, but the rest are exclusively on Dropout TV.