It’s been a part of the fabric of geek culture for decades, and yet somehow the tabletop gaming world – and Dungeons and Dragons in particular – has only really begun to appear frequently in film and TV over the past couple of decades.
That most wildly inventive, most inherently social of geek activities, the tabletop RPG might not seem off the bat like it lends itself to the visual – all of the character creation, campaign adventuring, etc. is in your heads after all – but many fan-favorite shows have incorporated a D&D scene into their storytelling with some pretty outstanding results. Here, then to celebrate D&D‘s inclusion in Loot Gaming this month are some of our favorites for today’s Friday Five!:
Community – “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons”
Of course, Dan Harmon’s increasingly eccentric sitcom about a motley crew of community college students would get around to D&D eventually. The presence of Danny Pudi’s flawlessly geektastic Abed alone almost demanded it – the dude exudes Dungeon Master out of every pore – and yet, Community‘s episode strikes a particularly poignant tone in that the real focus isn’t our core group, but Greendale College newbie Neil (Charley Koontz), who Joel McHale’s ordinarily callous Jeff bends over backwards for to make him feel less bullied and more welcomed. Even if no one else in the room (well, okay Abed…and Chang the Dark Elf) has any idea what they’re doing with this game.
Freaks & Geeks – “Discos and Dragons”
Though it lasted a brief 18 episodes on NBC, an entire generation ultimately discovered and fell in love with Paul Feig and Judd Apatow’s near-perfect ode to high school angst and awkwardness, set in the early 1980s. (Freaks & Geeks also launched a boatload of careers including Seth Rogen, Linda Cardellini, Jason Segel and more.) Here, some dude named Franco (as rebel without a clue Daniel Desario) finds himself staying out of trouble in an unexpected D&D bonding session with the younger geek crew, which begs the question: What happens when the school’s biggest delinquent Romeo finds out he’s a natural at RPGs?
Buffy the Vampire Slayer – “Chosen”
Truthfully, there are probably more memorable (and debatable) OMG moments about Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s series finale than you can count on two sets of fingers and toes. And this little snippet here might not be the one that springs to mind first. But we’re enthusiastically including it for multiple reasons: One, the very vision Giles playing D&D is never not delightful. Two, “Silly, silly British man…” is kind of a legendary smackdown, one worth saving for personal use even if your target is neither British nor a man. (They just have to get the joke.) Third, well obviously, that right-up-in-yo-face reference to Trogdor the Burninator!!! Yeah, we see your enormous Homestar Runner fandom there, Whedon. 😉
The IT Crowd – “Jen the Fredo”
It was likely only a matter of time before the much-beloved UK sitcom about the downtrodden nerds in a London IT department got around to a D&D episode, as well. (Richard Ayoade’s Moss is a bit of a spiritual brother of Community‘s Abed, if we’re honest.) What makes the RPG sequence in “Jen the Fredo” so terrific isn’t the usual introducing-noobs-to-how-this-all-works angle (though that does get plenty of play up front) – it’s that through the magic of character immersion, Moss is able to provide a little bit of emotional distance with which he can reach Chris O’Dowd’s Roy in his time of need. Watch as Roy unloads all of his baggage about his recent break-up to Queen Eliza Eldritch of the Elves…
Futurama – “Bender’s Game”
Its title may be a clear pun on the title of Orson Scott Card’s scifi opus Ender’s Game, but this direct-to-video Futurama film is a salute to the RPG through and through. A stuffed-with-setpieces, feature length episode that does eventually veer from scifi into pure fantasy, Bender’s frustration at not being able to participate in a D&D game because, as a robot, he has no imagination culminates in a massive convergence of dark matter that catapults our heroes into a magical realm and… look, we know it’s a busy script. All you really need to know though is LEELA is a CENTAUR. And it’s so badass, that’s worth the watch alone! (Trivia fact: D&D creator Gary Gygax passed away during production of this extended ep; it’s dedicated to him with a post-credits tribute featuring a clip of him in earlier episode “Anthology of Interest I.”)