TroubleGMR’s Watching: HarmonQuest

BabyGMR and I just got home from the semi-annual journey to Colorado to see family and friends. The second half of this trip, I typically stay with two dear friends of The Cartographers Guild, Russ and Courtney, and I always look forward to this part of the trip to catch up on all matters nerdy.

When The Hobbit movies came out, I planned my trip around their release in theaters so I could see it with them. Russ is a huge Lord of the Rings fan, and always has been. He’s like a walking Tolkien encyclopedia, and having him there while I watch those movies is like having the commentary on. I love it. I wait every year to see Game of Thrones until I’m in Colorado, for exactly the same reason. There’s always some great video game to play, and as I play MMOs with them, when we’re playing the same one, it’s nice to occasionally get to play sitting right beside them instead of across the country.

This time, they introduced me to a nerdy little show called HarmonQuest.

Have you ever seen the sitcom Community? How about the animated Adult Swim show, Rick and Morty? The brainchild behind these hilarious shows is Dan Harmon, who I honestly didn’t know much about until HarmonQuest. I’ve seen a few episodes of Rick and Morty, and they were pretty funny, but I’m not an avid TV watcher unless someone’s sitting me down and watching it with me.

If you’ve ever played a tabletop role-playing game, or even flirted with the idea, this show is worth a watch. The episodes are about half an hour long, so it’s not a huge time commitment. There are ten episodes a season, and currently there are two seasons. It hasn’t been announced if there will be a third yet, but as HarmonQuest has an 8.5 out of 10 stars on IMDb and seems to be gaining quite an audience, I’m optimistic. While staying with my friends I got through season one and two episodes into season two, and here’s what I learned:

This show is pretty awesome. The Gamemaster does most of the dice rolling to keep things moving, and they don’t say what system they’re playing, but one of the regular players is occasionally seen reading a Pathfinder book, hint hint. If you’ve ever played Pathfinder, you’d expect the show to be bogged down with rules and tables, but it’s not. The show is half animated, illustrating the characters’ adventure in the game world, which I found to be very entertaining. The table banter flows seamlessly into the animated sections, and the result is hilarious. It’s not really a kids’ show, though, there’s some adult themes and colorful language, so just be warned.

This show is like a gifted chameleon: it’s nerdy enough for avid role-players to enjoy while feeling enough like comedy improv to make anyone feel at home. Each episode has a guest star to play an NPC– the season one finale had Nathan Fillion! Nerdgasm!– and that keeps things fresh. One guest star knew what he was doing and even brought his own dice, but the majority are new players, and usually comedians to boot. There are surprising moments of character development on the show, normally coming from Harmon himself, who even so wisely remarks that the real star of the show is the Gamemaster and writer, Spencer Crittenden, who with his long hair and beard and normal uniform of a T-shirt and shorts looks every bit like your dream GM.

This show would probably never make it on live TV, so thank the heavens for the growing and thriving streaming community! You can watch season one for free on VRV or buy it on Amazon, and you currently need a subscription to watch season two on VRV. It’s not on Amazon at the moment, though I imagine that will soon change, with forums blowing up with people wondering how they can buy it. For the people who want more technical rules discussion, bloopers, backstory, and everything else that happens behind the scenes, each season has its “expanded universe,” the scenes that didn’t make the episode.

I haven’t seen the rest of season two yet, but if the finale is anything like season one’s, it’ll be pretty epic. If you’re curious about role-playing, give this a try. No, tabletop games don’t necessarily run this smoothly, and they’re not this funny all the time. But HarmonQuest captures what I feel is a mandatory point about role-playing: the players are working together– or at least, playing off each other– for the purpose of having fun. And as you can tell when you watch, as it’s filmed before a live studio audience, that makes it fun for everybody.


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