Dungeons and Dragons Live brings tabletop role-playing out of the basement and into Comedy Bar.
From the moment the audience walked into Comedy Bar for the first installment of Dungeons and Dragons Live: The Legend of T’Rannah, they were hit by a wall of smoke. Judging by the slightly acrid odour, familiar to anyone who’s attended a heavy metal show, it was clearly the product of a smoke machine. It crept out from the small theatre in the back and filled the whole place, making the regulars sitting at the bar seem like mysterious figures, perhaps adventuring companions enjoying a pint of ale before their next campaign.
Behind the curtain at the back of the bar, the smoke became even thicker, and green laser lights cascaded over the heads of the audience. In the middle of the stage, atop a pedestal, sat the ultimate decider of fate: a huge twenty-sided die, glinting like a magical ruby. Stage right, a hooded figure sat, his hands hidden behind a propped up Dungeon Master’s Guide: he would be the narrator and guide for the adventure that was about to unfold.
The Legend of T’Rannah is a project by the comedy troupe Bad Dog Theatre. It’s being hosted by Comedy Bar for five weeks. Each Wednesday until September 19th, an intrepid cast of characters will explore the mystical land of T’Rannah (which is, of course, a fantasy version of Toronto) with the careful guidance of the masterful Dungeon Master, and the audience. The performance is equal parts role-playing adventure and improv comedy.
The show is an interactive experience that calls for some audience participation. Each audience member is provided with a map in their program, and together they choose the locations that the adventurers—rapscallion halfling rogue May Cottonball (Molly Davis), delicate 1/16th-elf paladin Matthew Glavin (Adam Cawley), bookish half-orc cleric Frok-Nor (Allana Reoch), brash half-elf/half-gnome druid Starhalla Scrindyboot (Evany Rosen), and seductive rascal Berrick the Bard (Rob Norman)—will explore during the night’s quest. In true tabletop role-playing game style, audience members are also called upon to roll the Twenty-Sided Die of Power in order to determine the success—or failure!—of the actions of the brave companions.
During the first performance on Wednesday, the group awoke in the Islington Jail, where they had been imprisoned by the Dark Sorceror Drofbor the Terrible (played by Chris Gibbs, and whose name should be read backwards for an extra giggle) and his ugly hench-thing Grok’Nor Henderson (Ted Hambly), the half-elf assassin. After escaping, half of the party went to explore the mystical ruins of Castle Oma, while the rest ventured to The Dan Fort to untangle an arranged marriage between the hesitant Matthew Glavin and none other than the grand-daughter of the evil Drofbor himself. Along the way, kazoos were swallowed, vines enchanted, time was travelled through, and virginal half-orcs became more experienced (though what happens in the time-portal stays in the time portal). In addition to the cast of adventurers and villains, a full coterie of NPCs (non-player characters for the less nerdy among you) play any other characters the party happens to encounter on their journey (as well as set pieces, scenery, and important objects, such as a dead tree or a sparkling orb).
The adventures in T’Rannah, and the battle to save it from the influence of the boorish villain Drofbor, have just begun. Anyone who has ever played a role-playing game late into the night, sustained by Mountain Dew and covered in cheeto dust, will adore this show, as will fans of improv, comedy, and leather breeches.
Photo by Michal Grajewski.