By: Juztin Bello, Copy Editor
OK, imagine this: Game of Thrones as a Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) campaign, except it’s coated with Candy Land-inspired main characters and a food-based setting. Well, you don’t have to imagine it, because this is an actual thing.
Dimension 20, a D&D-based show, is currently airing its fifth season: A Crown of Candy (ACOC). The story is set in the world of Calorum, and follows House Rocks from the Kingdom of Candia as they deal with the bitter realities of war, politics, and family conflict.
Led by Dungeon Master (DM) Brennan Lee Mulligan, ACOC follows the simultaneous improv/tabletop role-playing talents of Emily Axford, Ally Beardsley, Brian Murphy, Zac Oyama, Siobhan Thompson, and Lou Wilson. As a cast that I’ve followed since season one and their CollegeHumor days, I knew going into ACOC to expect tasty jokes, the sweetness of jam-packed action, fully fleshed out and meaty stories/characters, and, of course, a delectable amount of strategic combat.
The season begins with the Saints Day (birthday) of licorice twin princesses Jet and Ruby Rocks, played by Axford and Thompson, respectively. Kept under the watchful eye of their chocolate bunny tutor Chancellor Lapin Cadbury (Oyama) and the right-hand-gummy bear Lord Commander Sir Theobald Gumbar (Murphy), the princesses are introduced to the harsh realities of political struggle while handling the petty hardship of wishing for a royalty-free life. Rounding up the party is the princess’ father/Pop Rocks man King Amethar (Wilson) and peppermint ward Liam Wilhelmina (Beardsley) with his pig companion Peppermint Preston.
Creating an entire lore based around the conflicts of food illustrates high-level creativity that only a DM like Mulligan could muster. While the player characters (PCs) are quite literally chocolate or candy, their interpersonal relationships, issues, and off-the-cuff thinking make them feel completely organic. With themes such as family, trust, religion, and politics, ACOC sees a multitude of dynamics which act as ingredients for an absolutely mouthwatering season.
From the princesses refusing their royal responsibilities, the realities of Liam’s presence in the Candian Kingdom as a political prisoner, Lapin’s relationship with the Bulbian church, Theobald’s secrecy and adherence to hierarchy, and Amethar’s insecurity as both an ill-fit king and father, the characters — and as an extension, the cast — do not hold back from delving into the realities each of their characters must confront and overcome.
As well, what’s stressful about this season is that just like in Game of Thrones, important characters are set to die. With but one healer in the party (Lapin) and a whole lore about the taboo usage of magic, players were told to prepare back-up characters to anticipate full character death at the likelihood of not being able to be revived — something yet to be seen or established on any season of Dimension 20. Is this stressful as a viewer? Yes. Does it make the show that much more intriguing? You better believe it.
The cast’s chemistry is ever apparent, and their ability to play off of one another drives the story in ways that shocks and entices both viewers and the DM, much to his chagrin. You’ll catch on fast that Mulligan simultaneously loves and loathes the chaos created by the PCs — and the infectious taste of PCs and DM “whomping” (besting) one another with nonchalant delight is ever so sweet to watch.
Viewers are also provided with a helping of incredible visuals, consisting of artwork, set pieces, character minis, comedic object work, and more. With character art provided by artist Samir Barrett and sets/minis created by a team led by art director Rick Perry, the entire story is brought to life before the audience’s eyes. A mixture of incredible acting and the completed settings in narrative and combat episodes is the perfect recipe for visual delight. I have definitely spent moments gripped with utmost anxiety/excitement being able perfectly visualize highly emotive scenes.
In addition to the phenomenal storytelling, the entirety of Dimension 20 excels in its unwavering ability to represent identity spectrums across the board, without coming across as unnatural or showing a lack of research. With a highly diverse and open-minded cast, Dimension 20 manages to feel like a safe space that encourages all identities to feel simultaneously represented while enthralled in the world of D&D. ACOC includes polyamorous House Jawbreaker (Liam’s family), POC-coded characters such as the entire Rocks family, usage of non-binary pronouns, amongst several other respectful choices.
Other seasons included NPCs (non-player characters) Ayda Aguefort, a Black half-phoenix who is autistic and non-heterosexual, and Lydia Barkrock, a half-orc wheelchair user. The cast themselves have also well-represented various identities through characters they’ve played. This includes Thompson’s character in Fantasy High, Adaine Abernant, who has several tear-inducing conversations about her anxiety and makes rolls in the first season to see if she can maintain her panic attacks, as well as Beardsley’s character in The Unsleeping City, Pete the Plug, whose identity as a trans man is not pigeonholed as his primary character trait or contextualized as his main story arc.
While the D&D community has currently been reworking the character creation systems and lore to better recognize and dispel racism, Dimension 20 exemplifies the much needed mindset necessary for steps in the right direction for improved, D&D-based equity. Ultimately, Mulligan and the entire cast do not shy away from making efforts towards better representation or touching on the very real issues such as racism, capitalism, and toxic relationships — something I think is significant for myself and other viewers to see normalized. Don’t forget, however, that this entire cast is made up of great comedians. So while these types of conversations are important and included seamlessly into Mulligan’s narratives with the cast, there are plenty of goofs and bits to be had.
My advice to viewers: trust no one, be prepared to fall in love with a food person, and get ready to eat this show up.
If you’re interested in watching ACOC, the show premiers every Wednesday at 4 p.m. on the Dimension 20 YouTube channel, but is removed after airing. Following every episode, the cast also does a talk-back to reflect on the respective episode at 7 p.m., known as Dimension 20’s: Adventuring Party. Although other seasons of the show are found in parts on the YouTube channel as well, all full seasons (which include the two “Side Quest” seasons of Escape from the Bloodkeep and Tiny Heist) can be found by subscribing to Dropout — CollegeHumor’s streaming service. Since content is typically uploaded to Dropout first, remain on Dropout, includes several other shows, and is as cheap as $6.56 CAD a month, I would highly recommend simply subscribing to Dropout to support the cast as well as other genius creators.