Encounter Party: And Then There Were Four
April 20, 2024 9:58 PM - Season 1, Episode 1 - Subscribe

"Six strangers share a prophetic dream that condemns two of them to death. As they chase down their impending demise, a dangerous question grows. Does fate change once you've seen it?" In the vein of Critical Role, a group of actors & friends play an original D&D 5e campaign; one of three original series on the new Dungeons & Dragons: Adventures streaming channel.

Six adventurers awake aboard a ship bound for Baldur's Gate. They are strangers to each other, and each has their own reasons for venturing into the world, and their own dark secrets. But a shared nightmare binds them together on a dangerous quest that may end in the deaths of two of their number, if not all of them.

Our adventurers (all starting out at level 3) are:

Dryddian Rootwalker, a male Wood Elf Paladin, played by Andrew Krug
Tolo, a male Tabaxi Barbarian, played by Khary Payton (better known as Ezekiel on The Walking Dead)
Asher, a female Harengon Wizard, played by Landree Fleming
Flik, a male Kenku Rogue/Bard, played by Ned Donovan
Ulavina Thrift, a female Halfling Ranger, and her companion Ulred, an owlbear cub, played by Sarah Babe
Vinh Erikson, a male Human Fighter, played by David Lee Huynh

The game is led by Brian David Judkins, Dungeon Master.

Originally airing on the new D&D FreeVee streaming channel, all 22 episodes of Season 1 streaming free on PLEX.
posted by Saxon Kane (6 comments total)
This is a really fun show. I've been a big fan of D&D for decades, but I don't have a ton of playing experience -- mostly read lots of source books but only occasionally found a group to play with. So it is very cool to watch a group of experienced, creative players make their way through a campaign.

The players here all know each other very well, and their camaraderie and joy at playing together comes through and makes it a really fun watch. All the cast (except Khary Payton) previously played together on a podcast of the same name (which I haven't heard), but the characters and story here is all new with no connection to the previous series.

I've seen most of the episodes; it's a compelling and fun story, and because it is a TV series with an actual budget, they can do a lot of cool things that a DIY podcast couldn't. They play on a really nice custom built octagonal table, have custom minis for their characters, some really sweet custom made game sets, and the DM uses lighting and sound effects to set the mood.

Most importantly, though, there is some really creative story-telling and role-playing. As someone who has mostly been familiar with the hack-and-slash style of play, I was kinda blown away by some of the things the DM comes up with for them in future episodes; things I'd never thought to do in a D&D campaign.

Another fun thing about the show is the personalities of the actors and what they bring to their characters. Ned Donovan seems perpetually delighted by his fellow players; Landree Fleming's excitement when describing her character's actions is contagious and hilarious; Khary Payton imbues his character with great humor; Andrew Krug has a wry wit and a sly smile behind his serious demeanor; David Lee Huynh plays his character with serious passion; and Sarah Babe gets more emotionally invested in the characters than I've ever seen. Finally, the DM Brian David Judkins does a great job running the game, throwing himself into the many roles he must play and keeping the players sufficiently off-balance to create real tension.

A few highlights from the first episode:

The players seem legit confused and caught off-guard when the DM thrusts them into combat at the very top of the episode -- it's a cool way to introduce the story and establish the stakes at the start.

Khary Payton brings lots of charm to his character. One of my favorite interactions between Tolo and Dryddian:
Tolo: "Pardon my Elvish, but holy crap!"
Dryddian: "That's not Elvish."
Tolo: "I'm sorry, was that offensive?"

We get our first hint of the dark secrets of some of the characters when Flik gets the opportunity to earn a little extra silver, resulting in the unfortunate flare-up of a previously existing condition. Ned Donovan in turn displays some impressively quick puzzle solving skills.

And Next Time on Encounter Party: our adventurers are drawn into a murder investigation that puts their journey in jeopardy.
posted by Saxon Kane at 11:37 AM on April 21 [1 favorite]

Oh, as mentioned above, this is one of three original series on the D&D channel. In addition to Encounter Party, there is:

Faster, Purple Worm! Kill! Kill!: a comedy/improv take on D&D. Each week, four first-level adventurers face a different legendary creature and, well, die horribly. Featuring a rotating cast of DMs & players, some actors and some from the RPG community, filmed in front of a live audience, and with live musical accompaniment! Matthew Lillard is one of the co-creators of the show, and features in a lot of the episodes. He is super charming and super goofy and super into D&D; the show makes for a lot of fun. All episodes also available on Plex.

Heroes' Feast: a cooking show based on the official D&D cookbook. I've only watched one episode of this, mostly because I'm not a huge fan of cooking shows and also because I can't imagine the D&D cookbook has many interesting recipes, but I could be wrong. Also, as far as I know you can only watch this on the actual streaming channel, so you have to catch it whenever it is scheduled, whereas the other two shows are available on-demand on Plex.

The channel is also airing the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon from the 80s, as well as some gaming podcasts. I don't think they have enough content to fill the 24 hr cycle, but here's hoping they'll get enough of an audience to keep these shows going and maybe even start some new ones.
posted by Saxon Kane at 11:46 AM on April 21 [1 favorite]

I was delighted to find out that this is available on-demand on Plex so I could watch it sequentially on my own schedule! I admit that I ignored it at first when I started watching the D&D channel because I already consume plenty of RPG actual play via podcasts, but it won me over when I caught the start of one of the earlier episodes and it was compelling enough to make me want to backtrack to the proper beginning. It really has got a great mix of storytelling, roleplaying, and fun physical props (including character portraits and the puzzle). I feel like they're really utilizing the visual medium. And I enjoy how the DM has asides with players away from the main party table. The whole thing with the voice Flik heard was intriguing and shows how the characters have real backstory.

About that opening combat -- it seemed odd that two of the characters started off dead there! It felt like it might interfere with the party bonding, but thankfully doesn't seem to be the case as other events pull them together.

I found Ned Donovan's post about some of the background of the show to be a hopeful read where another season is concerned.
posted by thataway at 5:14 PM on April 21

Hey how cool! Got a Google alert for this conversation, found myself clicking around the site and went ...that's worth signing up for!

Welcome to the party, we're really glad to have you! I hope you enjoy your time. We have a Discord Server where people can interact with other viewers while making their way through the show, including episode-by-episode questions in a forum so you can participate as you make your way, or create your OWN thoughts for people to find on their way through.

Excited to see people making their way through the catalogue, we think season 1 is a blast and we hope we get the chance to make season 2!
posted by neddonovan at 1:28 PM on April 25 [7 favorites]

Hi Ned! Welcome to Metafilter / FanFare / This Thread! Very nice to have you here :)
posted by Saxon Kane at 5:39 PM on May 2 [1 favorite]

Well I'm very excited to be here and to follow long on the journey!
posted by neddonovan at 7:01 PM on May 7

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