One of the most frustrating things about being a nerd, I’ve found, is watching nerdy things. I typically approach movies like the new Star Trek or series like One Hit Die with a mixture of excitement and fear. See, it’s really exciting when something we normally see relegated to a niche market appears in the main stream, but what if it’s bad? What if we finally convince our friends that Dungeons and Dragons is a legitimate way to spend an evening, and then they make a movie like Dungeons and Dragons?
There is an unspoken rule in the nerd community which is “be as nerdy as you like amongst yourselves, but hold it together in front of the norms.” For example, I have no problem with LARPing (Live Action Role Playing. Think of it like playing D&D while running around a gymnasium or banquet hall). I’ve done it a few times, and enjoyed myself. One time in college, though, I stumbled across a group of my nerdy compatriots LARPing on a green in the middle of Amherst, MA, surrounded by bemused locals and I cringed. For some reason, I didn’t want the townies to think that this is what we were all like (although, of course, this was exactly what we were all like).
In our role playing games, board games, collectible card games and ren faires we believe we have developed pastimes that anyone and everyone would enjoy if they would just take the time to check them out. As a result, though, if we think outsiders are actually interested in what’s going on, we tend to hold one another to ridiculously high standards. This is one of the reasons that nerds complain so much about nerdy movies. Yes, it’s great that they’re making a Guardians of the Galaxy movie, but if it’s bad then none of these white hat frat boys will ever take it seriously again.
This is an extremely roundabout way of saying that when I see a title for a series like One Hit Die I am immediately on the defensive. Is this just going to be a group of gamer friends filming themselves LARPing and making in-jokes while awkwardly swinging “swords” and “axes” that are clearly just padded pvc piping and duct tape?
In this case, the answer is a resounding “NO!” One Hit Die is excellent. It’s a clever, confessional-style mockumentary about a group of adventurers searching for a mysterious orb (like you do) which acknowledges the hilarious rules of a D&D universe (characters squabbling over experience points, wizards who won’t use spells) without taking you out of the fun of the story. I’m sure it was a challenge to write, but writer/directer Spencer Estabrooks has done a fabulous job.
The cast is a small but talented group of professional actors with numerous stage and screen credits to their names. Julie Orton‘s fighter character “Sasha” is every bit as surly and quick to attack as one might hope, Andrew Long‘s rogue “Torvald” is appropriately sneaky and avaricious, and Phil Burke‘s wizard “Azurus” is…actually kind of a drunk fraud. He’s probably my favorite character. Last but certainly not least is the party’s leader, Gwendolyn Goodwyn, played by Larissa Thompson, who does a wonderful job. She’s definitely someone to keep an eye on.
The production values are all quite high, and the locations (somewhere in the Canadian hinterlands) are beautiful. Even the goblins (all, apparently, played by Michael Roik) look and sound great. As a nerd, it gives me great pleasure to say this: watch this show whether you’re a nerd or not, because it’s a good show and you’ll like it.