Saturday, August 5, 2017

Edinburgh Fringe: 'Adventurers Wanted' at Sweet Holyrood, 5th August 2017

'Adventurers Wanted' reviewed by David James

Rating: 4 Stars

I've had my fair share of geeky moments over the years, but I know very little about Dungeons and Dragons and tabletop gaming in general. The sum total of my knowledge is that you do things by rolling twenty sided dice and there's a lot of numbers involved (also goblins, probably). So I was a little apprehensive about Total Party Kill's Adventurers Wanted: a 250 hour long role-playing saga performed live (and also streamed online). 

Would I really be entertained by a 1/250th of a story? Would watching people play it actually be interesting? Would I even know what the hell was going on?

As it turns out, I rolled a natural 20 on all three of those questions! (Am I doing this right?)

The setting is a mysterious island upon which the adventurers' ship, the Spirit of the Horizon, lands. Our crew of adventurers is as follows: Captain Golan (Chazz Redhead), a barbarian who's "a cross between a stepdad and an alcoholic"; the dwarven cleric Ulmorn (Chris Hislop)'; Relora (Chloe Mashiter), a half elf bard with a tongue as sharp as her dagger and; Jurgen (Iain Marshall), a perpetually stoned yet powerful cleric. The dungeon master is Alex Levene, tasked with gently guiding the characters through the world he's cooked up.

When I jumped in, the group was venturing down a moist passage in search of a way to open the gate. They'd dispatched one snake woman when they became aware of something big rushing towards them down the corridors. As it approached they realised it was part petrified and, after defeating the wounded beast, realised they were dealing with a Medusa-like situation. And so, thinking outside the box, they the dead gorgon's head and repurposed it as a weapon against the remaining sister. The hour ended with the discovery of a nest containing griffin eggs and a mysterious orb causing the gates to open. As things wrapped up an ominous earth shuddering rumbling sound filled the air...

Adventurers Wanted is the most untheatrical show I've seen in some time. It consists of five people sitting around a table in their civvies rolling dice and chatting to one another. In addition, the four adventurers don't strictly perform their characters, though they often slip into their voices to bicker with one another on the best course of action. Also, in this morning show, I was also the only person in attendance (though I was told there were a thousand people watching on Twitch).

And yet, despite all that, I was quickly hooked. Part of this was due to the quick realisation that tabletop roleplaying wasn't half as complicated as I assumed it to be - it's mainly suggesting things for your character to do in a situation and then rolling the dice to see if you succeed. Part of it was down to watching people improvise their way through a situation with genuine creativity, intelligence and wit. And a whole lot of it is down to these five being charismatic and engaging performers.

I had such a good time watching that I wondered if I'd randomly stumbled into an unusually entertaining slice of this 250-hour adventure but, at least according to the players, it's all been this fun. When my hour long slot finished I was genuinely curious what as to what was going to happen next and found myself imagining what I'd do if I were along on the adventure. 

Total Party Kill! are fantastic ambassadors for table-top role playing, translating something that could be an impenetrable tangle of statistics, dice rolls and fantasy terminology into what is (perversely given that there's zero stagecraft) a very compelling and entertaining experience.

You can watch or play along with Adventurers Wanted is Sweet Holyrood, Edinburgh Aug 5-23 & 26-28. Details hereYou can also watch live on Twitch or follow on Twitter.

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