It’s easy to believe that Dungeons and Dragons would fall apart without rules. The tabletop RPG is, at its heart, a game of structured improvisation (and one where hours can be lost arguing about the sacred ‘rules as written’). Even the media surrounding the game is structured, with most DnD series and streams following the same hours-long, barely-edited ‘actual play’ beats.
Not everyone is here to play by the rules, however. Certainly not the team behind the new D&D comedy series, ‘Faster, Purple Worm! Kill! Kill!’ (FPWKK).
“There is no wrong way to play D&D.” So say the show’s co-creators, Bill Rehor and Matthew Lillard. While Lillard is best known for his acting work in Scream, Scooby Doo, and the recent Five Nights at Freddy’s, both he and Rehor are also hard at work in the tabletop gaming world through their company, Beadle & Grimm’s.
Lillard calls this new show a “dream come true” project, and its entire premise is built upon a healthy disregard for rules – in the game and in the industry. He tells Wargamer that a streaming series was a big goal for him and Rehor, but they didn’t want to follow the existing set of tracks.
“The idea of three-hour gameplay, while it works for people like Critical Role or Glass Cannon, who are both incredible juggernauts in this space, isn’t something we could do well”, Lillard says. “It’s something they’re doing well, so we were like ‘what’s the difference? How can we do something that’s shorter and collects people along the way?’.”
This desire to be different helped establish the core premise of FPWKK. The episodes are short (under an hour), and they end when every player dies. Each entry in the series has a different cast and concept – the show takes us from goblin-infested dungeons to iconic DnD cities – but the characters are always level one, and death is always guaranteed.
FPWKK started as something of a joke, and it is a funny series. Lillard describes it as “Whose Line Is It Anyway meets Dungeons and Dragons”. But both he and Rehor quickly realized they’d built a vehicle for surprisingly deep storytelling.
“Facing guaranteed demise and finding out who you are in the face of that and what kind of person you’re going to be is a very profound thing”, Rehor tells Wargamer. “It’s something that ultimately will apply to all of us as mortals.”
“It seemed very funny when we started and it still is very, very funny”, Rehor adds. “Most of the time, we’re just killing people, but it does provide some moments of real meaning.”
“It becomes a really human story”, Lillard continues. “The show is actually the story of people that do incredible things in the face of, ultimately, their demise.” “And what we find at the end is Bill, who plays the host in every single episode, offers the opportunity for every single one of the players to find closure for their character.” “You’ve got an emotional journey that happens every single time.”
That journey – with laughs and sobs in equal measure – is what FPWKK is really about. This means paying a lot less attention to battle maps, DnD character builds, and constantly rolling dice.
“It’s a very rules-light game [in the show]”, Lillard says. “Maybe that’s something that people will take away – that it’s all really about the storytelling and the stakes, more so than the rules or the combat.”
Rehor says he hopes FPWKK will showcase the possibilities of storytelling in D&D. “There’s maybe 12 or 13 different DMs who we encouraged to come in and bring their own stories and a different voice from ours – and they open your mind to what you can do, what kinds of stories you can tell.”
One of the more emotional tales in FPWKK is ‘Everyone Dies Renovating’. What begins as an adorable all-girls house renovation becomes a high-stakes story about different kinds of love – and what people are prepared to sacrifice for it. “I think that cast in particular did a really wonderful job of creating meaningful connections between them”, Rehor says, “and then showing a meaningful human sacrifice – it actually carries a lot of weight to see that”.
“That’s a great episode”, Lillard adds. “It speaks to, I think, one of the great things about the show – which is that there’s no wrong way to play this game.”
One of Lillard’s goals was to bring Dungeons and Dragons to an entirely new audience – one that may not be ready to study a pile of DnD books or commit to an hours-long Critical Role campaign. “To watch a three-hour game when you don’t know Dungeons and Dragons is a hard onramp”, he says. “It’s something I’m sure can be overwhelming.”
Part of this goal was gathering the right cast. While many of the players and DMs in FPWKK are seasoned actual play professionals, the show also features performers recognised in other spheres. Lillard says he hopes the show will also appeal to “people that may not be interested in Dungeons and Dragons” but who are fans of actors like Deborah Ann Woll, Seth Green, Patton Oswalt, and Skeet Ulrich – all of whom appear in the series.
FPWKK is Lillard and Rehor’s self-described love letter to Dungeons and Dragons, and it represents a version of the game that has little to do with rules. Lillard sums up the show’s priorities best: “Our hope is that we become a beacon, calling people into a world of sitting around a table and sharing stories with your friends.”
Faster, Purple Worm! Kill! Kill! will be available on Amazon Freevee and Plex from November 16, with new episodes airing on Thursdays and Saturdays. For more on the latest Dungeons and Dragons content, check out our Deck of Many Things review. We can also help you choose DnD classes and DnD races for your next character.