Dungeons & Dragons vs. Rick and Morty’s strange formula for success

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When I was introduced to D&D, it was all about the boxes. I got the Red Box for beginners from a cousin for my birthday after they got the same for theirs and showed interest. Then I graduated to the Blue Box, “expert” level. After I graduated to AD&D — “Advanced” Dungeons & Dragons — I still fell in love with boxed supplements like the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting and Cities of Mystery. But the boxes have usually been reserved for “beginners” sets, a tradition that has lived on through the game’s current Fifth Edition.

We’re back in the age of boxes, with the critically acclaimed Basic Set now going on five years old, which has been joined by an “Essentials Kit” that can be seen as either a sequel, replacement or upgrade to the first box.

Now they’re getting into branded beginners’ boxes — first came Stranger Things, and now Adult Swim’s Rick and Morty are taking the reins.

And what a ride it is.

Even if you’re not a diehard Rick and Morty fan — and you either love them or hate them, probably — the new boxed set Dungeons & Dragons vs. Rick and Morty (not to be confused with the comic book series Rick and Morty vs. Dungeons & Dragons) can be a fun diversion from an ongoing D&D campaign or a way to welcome new players into the fold.

Speaking of fold, like any good set this includes a Dungeon Master’s Screen; the side facing the players features artwork inspired by the game’s adventure, “The Lost Dungeon of Rickedness,” while the side facing the DM has helpful charts and tables, all illustrated with and annotated by His Rickness himself. It’s not as tall and sturdy as some screens you can buy, but it does get the job done.

There’s no need to scare up your own dice — the box includes a set of Pickle Rick-juice-green polyhedrals, as well as five pre-generated characters that you’re encouraged to resurrect or rename as needed.

As for the “Lost Dungeon” itself, it’s a weird dungeon without much of a story — so it fits in well with classic adventures that gave many older players their own start in the game. It’s a fairly linear dungeon delve presented gleefully without history or context, and is all the better for what it is. A DM can add his own flavor — with or without Rick and Morty references — but it’s best to go with the flow. The dungeon is dripping with references anyone who’s seen the twisted Adult Swim series will understand or at least recognize. Although the DM is really supposed to channel the character — which is no small task — Rick himself is saved for a sort of deus ex machina role at the end, needed or no. And it just works.

An assortment of classic D&D magic items from the Dungeon Master’s Guide as well as monster descriptions and statistics round out the adventure booklet in a sort of mini-Monster Manual.

No D&D set would be complete without a rulebook, and Rick’s got his fingerprints all over that, too. The rules are pretty much the same ones you can get for free online (fleshed out by the Player’s Handbook), minis character creation information, but here they’ve been extensively annotated with comedic sidebars by Rick Sanchez himself.

In true Rick and Morty fashion, both the rulebook and adventure encourage you to throw out the material presented when convenient or necessary, making it your own in an appropriately subversive “Rickth” Edition.

The art design and illustrations are fun and relevant, sometimes skewering obscure and obvious bits of game lore. A graph paper theme evokes doodled notebooks and dungeons of old for many veteran gamers.

Rick and Morty, the TV show, is not intended for anyone under 14, and this edition of D&D is no different. For one thing, it’s full of butts — the ridiculous disembodied kind. But for the right group, Dungeons & Dragons vs. Rick and Morty is a critical hit upon a successful formula for keeping D&D’s brand relevant, if not totally distinct, for ages to come. Don’t be surprised if you see the joke beat to death with other branded versions of this entry-level product beyond Stranger Things and Rick and Morty.

Wizards of the Coast provided this product for review.

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Jayson Peters
Digital, social and print media pro. Nerdvana's founder, curator and editor.