You know what I love about DnD? It’s not just the settings, the dice collections, the manuals and the infinite potential of the imagination. What I really love about DnD are the moments when people are just kind to each other. In the best games, we share and respect each other’s stories. When one of us is sad, the rest of us respect that. When one of us is brave, we celebrate. When one of us dies, we mourn.
This is what The Ordinary Epic (https://www.theordinaryepic.com/) captures for me. Brandon Crose, Jordan Stillman, Brad Smith, Matthew Lightbound, Stephanie LeBolt and all of their amazing cast and crew have given us a lens into the world of TTRPGs and the culture they create. The Ordinary Epic is the show I’ve been waiting for. It’s a sitcom about playing Dungeons and Dragons that’s as much about the real people involved as it is about the stories they tell themselves.
So here are the basics: The Ordinary Epic is a richly sound designed, beautifully orchestrated, compellingly performed piece of drama. The cast and crew deliver a professional sounding product that’s easy and fun to listen to. This is especially impressive given the fact that the podcast slides between the real world and that of the game almost seamlessly, whilst still giving the audience clear sonic signifiers as to what’s going on so that they don’t get lost.
We follow the story of a group of friends: Athena, Daniel, Dominic, and Emo – as they take a new player, Marcus, on board. We also follow the story of a group of wayward renegades, the Dauntless Dungeoneers, as they accept the addition of a cleric into their party. A cleric, Brother Benedict, who is increasingly distressed by the Dungeoneers’ propensity for theft and violence, and at how quickly he falls into their corrupting ways.
I really want to celebrate the performances of the cast here. Caitlin Gjerdrum’s work with the NPC’s, as well as Athena herself, is pitch perfect. Eliott Purcell takes both Dominic and Caelus all the way up to the line of irredeemably irritating, then tugs them back with begrudging compassion. Rachel Belleman’s work as Thack, Emo, and Elf-Thack are three great variations of a player we’ve all met. Brandon G. Green’s dry humour is a good balance to Brother Benedict’s staunch principles. For me, Michael Hisamoto really leads the party as Daniel and Merrick. His performance is nuanced, funny and charming, and I’m excited to see him do more in this space.
What the show captures are the struggles and triumphs of ordinary people learning how to care for each other. It’s a small stakes story set against a high stakes fantasy backdrop. And in a world where it feels like every day we learn about a new disaster too big for any of us to face alone? It reminds us that there is a reward for going on to fight another day. It’s knowing that you did the right thing.