Rick and Morty's schwiftiest episode isn’t in Season 4. It’s a 'D&D' game.
A new 'Dungeons & Dragons' sourcebook perfectly captures the best parts of the Adult Swim cartoon.
What would you do with the infinite possibility of a Meeseeks Box? Would you make a Jerry-tier fumble and summon those blue creatures to improve your golf game, or would you do something incredible and heroic? Rick and Morty asks questions like this all the time, but a new playable Dungeons & Dragons crossover finally lets fans give their answer. Dungeons & Dragons vs. Rick and Morty is the perfect marriage of high fantasy and wacky science fiction, dropping fans into a Rick and Morty-inspired D&D campaign they can experience rather than just watch.
It’s also the perfect intro for anyone curious but intimidated by Dungeons & Dragons. Maybe it’s about time you tried D&D? After all, if Morty can do it, so can you — even with a Dungeon Master like Rick.
“Rick thinks this is one of the best adventures he’s ever written in any dimension,” Lead Designer Kate Welch tells Inverse, referencing the meta way the story is written from Rick Sanchez’s perspective.
This isn’t the first time these two worlds have overlapped. Rick and Morty already went on a Dungeons & Dragons adventure in a supporting comic book series, and there are even some hints from the Rick and Morty Season 4 trailer that one new episodes could be directly inspired by D&D, giving Morty a pet dragon and teasing Summer as some kind of Elven Ranger — but this new D&D crossover game trumps them all with one of Rick and Morty’s weirdest stories ever, packed full of Easter eggs and totally original ideas inspired by the show’s nihilistic brand of science fiction.
Dungeons & Dragons vs. Rick and Morty, out November 19, lets anyone fulfill their wildest Rick and Morty power fantasies, filtered through the lens of a high fantasy tabletop role-playing game. Not to be confused with Rick and Morty vs. Dungeons & Dragons, the comic book mashup series published by Oni Press and IDW Publishing that brought the entire Smith family into a D&D world, this new crossover game inserts up to five players into a dungeon full of Rick and Morty-inspired obstacles, enemies, and jokes. Rick Sanchez is your Dungeon Master, narrating the adventure with his signature brand of drunken nihilism. There are pickles with faces. There are multiple dimensions. And yes, there’s a Meeseeks Box.
At a late-October event in New York City, Inverse played Dungeons & Dragons vs. Rick and Morty with Lead Designer Kate Welch as the Dungeon Master doing a pretty solid Rick Sanchez impression the whole way through. “Why are you here? No one cares!” she burped in Rick’s raspy voice. “Don’t tell me your backstory. We’re here to kick ass and find treasure.” The whole thing is written from the perspective of Rick C-141 to be a “good old-fashioned dungeon crawl” that can take a party of adventurers from Level 1 to 3. Whether that’s a character of your own creation or one of the five included presets is up to you.
The set includes character sheets, a set of dice, a unique rule book, and an adventure called The Lost Dungeon of Rickedness: Big Rick Energy that takes place in a 39-room dungeon, allowing for some flexibility in a mostly linear journey. “The first 34 to 35 rooms are toys,” Welch says. “Players have to figure out how to get out of these ridiculous situations, and there aren’t many prescriptive solutions.”
Welch’s design approach is to encourage “creative problem-solving” with various ways to solve problems. Do you kill the small group of goblins? Or do you play Goblins & Gizzards with them, make friends, and ask them politely to show you the exit?
“The dungeon is designed so that it’s hitting a lot of Rick and Morty in-jokes,” Welch says. “But it’s also important to me that people who don’t watch a lot of the show or are only familiar with the comic will still have fun in the ridiculous situations.”
Something like the Pickle Rick room or the Meeseeks Box is a “hard ref” that almost anyone will recognize, even if they’re not fans of the show. But as often as this game caters to Rick and Morty enthusiasts, some of the deeper cuts offer even more enriching experiences that feel right at home in the multiverse of Dungeons & Dragons.
At one point in our journey, we encountered the “Many Doors Room,” an obtuse reference to Rick and Morty Season 1’s Interdimensional Cable episode, “Rixty Minutes.” In a commercial from an alternate reality, an awkward salesmen peddles a bunch of doors that lead nowhere. In a visual nod to that bit, the “Many Doors Room” is a puzzle where a dozen doors line the walls, except they all lead into different dimensions. Only one door is the real exit.
As each member of our party went through different doors just to see what might happen, Welch — in a brilliant stroke of improvisation — explained that we all wound up in different dimensions. I chose the correct door by accident, and I was joined by alternate reality versions of my party members. Just like the biggest twist from Rick and Morty’s “Rick Potion #9” episode, several members of my party had to go on existing in alternate timelines where different versions of themselves … died? It’s the kind of storytelling that makes perfect sense in Rick and Morty and somehow carries over to D&D just as well.
The Lost Dungeon of Rickedness has plenty of simple, fun Easter eggs, but it’s also chock full of these brilliantly crafted, inspired twists that actually feel like something that might happen on Rick and Morty, rather than merely a stream of references reskinned for D&D.
In our adventure, we also had to contend with a giant magic mouth that took up an entire wall of an otherwise empty room, and when I shoved my hand into the mouth rather than answer its riddle, every item owned by the entire party except for their primary weapons vanished. We were all left completely naked. Later, in a room full of glass pickle jars, the pickles inside had faces. When a member of our party took a bite out of one, they contracted “Curse of Lycanthropickling,” transforming them into a were-pickle.
The Dungeons & Dragons vs. Rick and Morty box set includes five premade character sheets starting at Level 1, but you could play the game using any Fifth Edition characters as a mini meat grinder to get them up to Level 3. Fans of the crossover comic will recognize the four D&D characters that Morty, Summer, Beth, and Jerry transform into for that story: Half-Orc Rogue Keth Silverson, Half-Elf Fighter Ari Strongbow, Wood Elf Cleric Lyan Amaranthia, and Half-Elf Wizard Kiir Bravan, respectively.
“These are the same characters,” Welch said. “A lot of this game is relatively similar and takes elements, so if you’ve read the comic, you’ll find interesting common ground, but they are agnostic from each other in every conceivable way.”
There’s no wrong way to play as these characters. You can play Lyan as a noble Cleric hoping to preserve all life, or you can play her as Beth pretending to be Lyan. Maybe you’re Beth trapped in Lyan’s body? Our group played into the Lyan-Beth’s scorn for Kiir-Jerry, because who doesn’t love a little Jerry negging?
Four playable characters are members of the Smith family. The fifth? A Barbarian-looking, hulked-out guy named Meatface. Rogue, Cleric, Fighter, and Wizard is pretty much the standard D&D party composition, but Welch said that while designing the game, they decided to add a fifth character into the mix to accommodate the same number of players as the Starter Set the crossover is loosely based on.
“Meatface started as a joke,” Welch says. “We knew we had these four characters from the comic book: Keth, Kiir, Ari, and Lyan. We added a Fighter named Meatface or whatever as our placeholder, thinking we’d figure him out later. But the more we thought and talked about him, we loved him. He’s the stupidest most cliche meat shield character, but he has a surprising amount of nuance.”
I felt as much playing as Meatface during our session, especially when he took the Meeseeks Box for himself, desperate to use its power to find the Temple of the Golden Chicken where his family’s curse might be lifted.
The sound of snapping bones may relax this giant bald human with a greataxe, but that axe is a cherished family heirloom. He comes from a noble family doomed by a curse the player gets to define. Even when he flies into a rage, people are inclined to think the best of him. He’s strong, charismatic, and sturdy — but he’s really dumb and not so good with his hands.
Perhaps the greatest value in this set comes from the unique D&D rulebook that’s heavily annotated by Rick C-131 in a way that makes the game more digestible for beginners.
“His commentary makes you realize what kind of player you want to be,” Welch said.
A cursory flip through confirms as much. Rather than just lay out all the rules in a straightforward, objective manner like the dozens and hundreds of books that have come before, Rick’s version offers “hot protips” and clarifications of rules that are oftentimes confusing to novice and even veteran players.
Do you understand the difference between verbal, somatic, and material components for spells and how to properly execute them? Maybe. Maybe not. Either way, it’s helpful and amusing when Rick explains in a “schwifty” way that includes relevant panels from the comic to demonstrate what it all means. It’s also pretty fun when Rick labels the spells he hates as “Jerry Spells.” (To be fair, Dancing Lights is 100 percent a Jerry Spell. The name says it all.) There’s even a fun and totally unique Critical Fail table, an inspired way to enhance one of D&D’s best rules by punishing players when they roll a 1 on their twenty-sided die.
Like the crossover comic that came before it, the Dungeons & Dragons vs. Rick and Morty is meticulously crafted by creative people who are experts in D&D and adore Rick and Morty. The sheer love for both properties shines throughout the experience.
Dungeons & Dragons vs. Rick and Morty will be released November 19, 2019.