The hardest part of starting any Dungeons & Dragons campaign (aside from getting everyone's real-world schedules to align) is getting the party together. How many times can four strangers in a tavern simultaneously answer the call to adventure before it gets old, especially when the party's rogue is so dead set on distrusting everyone? Rick and Morty's Rick Sanchez would have no patience for this introductory charade, which is why he does away with all that to start his brand-new D&D adventure module.
"Why are you here? No one cares, don't tell me your backstory," his narration reads at the start of the dungeon crawl. "We're here to kick ass and find treasure. That's your motivation. Now get ready to roll!"
Dungeons & Dragons vs. Rick and Morty, a crossover tie-in inspired by the comic crossover of the same name, dumps you right in, and while it would certainly be helpful if any players were familiar with both Rick and Morty and D&D, the one-shot adventure should hold up pretty well if you're only up on one side of the equation.
"The dungeon is designed so that hopefully it's hitting a bunch of Rick and Morty in-jokes, but it's also really important to me that people who don't watch a lot of Rick and Morty would still have fun playing in the ridiculousness of this dungeon," explained lead designer Kate Welch, who DMed a session for SYFY WIRE and other journalists at a press event in late October.
For instance, one of the dungeon's many rooms is inhabited by sentient pickles (who just might inflict players with the Lycanthropickling curse if they're freed from their jars). Obviously, it's a nod to the "Pickle Rick" episode of the Adult Swim show, but it makes for a bonkers dungeon encounter regardless.
"There's a room that's just a toilet," Welch revealed. "It's the Bathroom Room. That's my favorite."
As Rick's introduction (not to mention the potty humor) might imply, Dungeons & Dragons vs. Rick and Morty is not going to be the most narratively complex bit of roleplaying a seasoned adventurer might have encountered — and yet, there's potential for Inception-levels of roleplaying should players choose to take that route.
If you're playing Half-Elf Wizard Kiir Bravan, you're really playing Rick and Morty's resident loser dad Jerry Smith playing Kiir Bravan. Your DM is playing Rick, and Rick is playing every NPC. Although your table could easily do away with this meta-layer, the added complication actually makes for pretty natural, guided roleplay. In the session that Welch DMed at the press event, all of our characters naturally dunked on Kiir, because everyone in the Smith family pretty much hates him — although since I played Wood Elf Cleric Lyan Amaranthia/Beth, I cut Kiir a break when he did something heroic. Beth just can't quite quit Jerry, can she?
One of the premade player characters is exempt from this, however. Morty, Summer, Beth, and Jerry all get characters modeled after their adventurer personas from the comics, but Dungeons & Dragons vs. Rick and Morty is loosely modeled after the D&D starter set, which has a fifth player character. So, in the new adventure, the Smith family gets a new member — a hulking, brutish fighter named simply "Meatface."
"Meatface was our placeholder," Welch admitted. "But, the more we talked about Meatface and thought about him the more we just loved this character."
"Meatface being this joke that came to life is very consistent with this whole project," she continued. "How can we make each other crack up laughing, and then how can we get away with publishing that in the adventure?"
Perhaps more than the Rick and Morty of it all, it's this that makes the new adventure a worthwhile romp for entry-level players, or even an experienced party looking for a fun one-shot. The Rick and Morty jokes land, and the show's flavor is all over every part of the set (the basic rulebook is 31 pages long, while Rick's rulebook clocks in at 64 pages, due almost entirely to Rick's snarky, occasionally helpful commentary).
But underneath the Rick and Morty skin, there's an exciting, intentionally low-stakes and intentionally dumb adventure waiting for any sort of player. Combining D&D with Rick and Morty just made it easy to bring out one of the inherently great parts of the game.
"I think it's great, because D&D is always funny to me. One of the things that this adventure does that I don't think is necessary for most adventures is the ridiculousness and funniness is built-in," Welch said. "Most tables can take any adventure, and just by churning it through your own creativity and the people at your table, you're going to turn it into something hilarious, probably. I think having that tone set at the outset — this is a funny game, you're going to have fun playing it, people are going to laugh — certainly makes me want to play more."
Dungeons & Dragons vs. Rick and Morty comes out on November 19.