Anyone who has played or wants to play Dungeons & Dragons should read RICK AND MORTY VS. DUNGEONS & DRAGONS. With the trade paperback out, now is the perfect time to catch the tale if you missed its serial publication.

RICK AND MORTY VS. DUNGEONS & DRAGONS covers the spectrum of the players one might encounter in any given game of D&D. Therefore, if you’ve never played the roleplaying game, it’s a great way to see who you might come across. Granted, this is all through the perspective of the main cast of RICK AND MORTY, but the experience transfers.

But as a small note before this review begins: if you don’t like RICK AND MORTY, this still might work for you. Jim Zub and Patrick Rothfuss — the writers — did their best to downplay the cast’s “fast-talking nihilism and wanton violence” and emphasize “what makes the characters so memorable,” using D&D to give “new and unexpected spins on who they are and what they embody.” In this sense, the comic is a combination of the best of both intellectual properties. There is still classic Rick (and Morty) — if you know what that means — but the good outweighs the questionable.

Morty Wants to Play D&D; RICK AND MORTY VS. DUNGEONS & DRAGONS is all about Showing Him How

The plot of RICK AND MORTY VS. DUNGEONS & DRAGONS is simple: Morty wants to learn D&D. The comic opens with him hearing conversations about the game during school, and he concludes, in teenager logic, it’s a great way to meet a woman. When he heads to the local hobby store to discover more, he meets a woman there who invites him to her group. But even after he picks up the Player’s Handbook, the game proves too complex for him. Therefore, he goes to Grandpa Rick to learn how to play.

RICK AND MORTY VS. DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS
Image courtesy of IDW Publishing.

This sets off a chain of events that introduces Morty, whether he likes it or not, to D&D. In the first book, Rick invites his friends to his garage for an old-school, 1983-edition dungeon crawl. This is too technical for Morty, and he gets bored. Then Rick takes him to Blips and Chitz (the arcade with Roy: A Life Well Lived), to experience D&D in virtual reality. This ends in disaster, ruining Morty’s experience. Finally, Rick builds a simulation planet to take Morty (plus Beth and Summer) on a proper dungeon crawl. When this ends (also in disaster), Rick ends up finding the real Forgotten Realms. With Jerry leading the way, the whole family bows to the whims of the Dungeon Master (DM) for one final adventure. This is the basic plot.

What you get throughout the series, though, is insight into how D&D has worked in its previous iterations. From the early days to 5th edition, you get to see wizards, paladins, clerics, rogues, and barbarians all on display. But more than technical expositions, you see the story of how D&D affects its players through the RICK AND MORTY cast. It’s a satisfying and educational experience.

The RICK AND MORTY Cast Reflects Different Player Archetypes

For me, however — as a fan of RICK AND MORTY and a player of D&D — what I enjoyed the most about RICK AND MORTY VS. DUNGEONS & DRAGONS was how Zub and Rothfuss depicted player tropes. It’s the players more than the DM who shape any given play experience, and the series reflects that.

On one side of the spectrum, there is Rick, the power gamer. This is the kind of player who seeks to play at an optimal level, regardless of story. At worst (e.g., Rick), the player also criticizes players for making decisions that don’t maximize their class. On the other end is the Storyteller (to use a term from Robin Laws). This player — typified by Jerry, Morty’s dad — is more interested in telling a good story. Morty, Beth, and Summer all fall somewhere in between these two — at least at first.

RICK AND MORTY VS. DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS
Image courtesy of IDW Publishing.

What’s brilliant about RICK AND MORTY VS. DUNGEONS & DRAGONS is that the cast members do have transformational arcs. Morty, Beth, and Summer all push gradually from Rick’s form of roleplaying to Jerry’s. But moreover you see the best of what D&D has to offer: an opportunity to become a hero. I went in expected RICK AND MORTY; I ended up getting a heartwarming tale, too.

The Art of RICK AND MORTY VS. DUNGEONS & DRAGONS Is as Expected and More

Naturally, RICK AND MORTY VS. DUNGEONS & DRAGONS looks like RICK AND MORTY. There’s the style that’s a combination between Matt Groening and Pendleton Ward that’s unique to the show. Troy Little (the artist) and Leonardo Ito (the colorist) get credit for matching the style.

But it’s not just the likeness to the source material that makes the art special. Peppered throughout the series are different bits of gamer trivia that someone in the know can pick up. In addition, every time a D&D book shows up, it’s a facsimile of the original cover. It’s hidden information that isn’t necessary for the plot, but it’s fun to find.

RICK AND MORTY VS. DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS
Image courtesy of IDW Publishing.

And finally, perhaps the most remarkable feat of RICK AND MORTY VS. DUNGEONS & DRAGONS is the way that Ito and Little matched the setting, too. I can’t quite say how, but they have managed to recreate characters and monsters from D&D in the RICK AND MORTY art style. From elves to beholders to kobolds, the inhabitants of the Forgotten Realms are recognizable within the RICK AND MORTY pastiche.

RICK AND MORTY vs. DUNGEONS & DRAGONS
Image courtesy of IDW Publishing.

Final Thoughts on RICK AND MORTY VS. DUNGEONS & DRAGONS

To me, this is an instant-read suggestion to anyone who likes D&D and RICK AND MORTY. Full stop — you won’t be disappointed with RICK AND MORTY VS. DUNGEONS & DRAGONS.

For those who like RICK AND MORTY but haven’t taken the plunge with D&D, I’d also recommend this series. I can’t think of a better introduction to the possibilities and gameplay of D&D. While this story doesn’t replicate the invariable rule-guessing and sex jokes of a typical session, it does present two valid paradigms for enjoying the game. In the best literary fashion, it presents two ways to play (albeit with Rick’s side being skewed a little negatively), and you can decide which better suits you.

And finally, for those who don’t know RICK AND MORTY but like D&D: try it anyway. This is RICK AND MORTY at its most tame — even the language is censored. I’d say while this comic won’t prepare you for the nihilism or black humor of the show, it does capture the character dynamics. As a caution, I’d say it occurs after the events of the second season (and the first episode of the third season), but if you haven’t seen any of it, it won’t detract from the show.

And that’s a wrap. I really have no complaints. Take that as you will in judging whether this is a biased review or not. I’ll be suggesting RICK AND MORTY VS. DUNGEONS & DRAGONS to everyone I know.

RICK AND MORTY VS. DUNGEONS & DRAGONS TPB by Jim Zub and Patrick Rothfuss (writers), Troy Little (artist), and Leonardo Ito (colorist)
Art
Characterization
Plot
Summary
RICK AND MORTY VS. DUNGEONS & DRAGONS manages to pull off telling a good fantasy story mixed in with a narrative of what it’s like to play D&D. Granted, you are getting this through the lens of Rick and Morty; if you like the show, great; if not, you should still like it, too. Because of this lens, the artwork reflects the source material, but it manages to be original, both with in-scene references and in the creation of pastiche-worthy fantasy creatures. As a fan of both source materials, I can’t recommend this series enough.
100 %
NATURAL 20

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