ICYMI: D&D Web Series The Party Is a Delightful Tabletop Romp

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ICYMI: D&D Web Series The Party Is a Delightful Tabletop Romp

Editor’s Note: Welcome to ICYMI! With so much TV constantly premiering, we’re highlighting some of the best shows you may have missed in the deluge of content from throughout the year. Join the Paste writers as we celebrate our underrated faves, the blink-and-you-missed-it series, and the perfect binges you need to make sure you see.

It’s been too damn long since I’ve watched a good, old-fashioned web series. In a way, it feels like the web series is a dying art, one that has all but gone extinct with the rise of streaming and the onslaught of Peak TV. Shows like The Guild and Carmilla were born out of a need to fill a gap (whether it be through nerd-focused storytelling or admirable displays of queer representation), areas that, at least for the past five years, have been filled through the seemingly endless field of originals across a wide variety of streaming services. But over the weekend, I sat down with a series that my YouTube algorithm had been suggesting to me for weeks, and I’ve never been more glad to have finally listened. The Party, a seven-episode, D&D narrative web series, is a true gem worth seeking out. 

The series, which comes from co-creators Margaret Borchert and Geneva Willis alongside writer-EP Tori Chancellor, follows a high-strung grad student, Viola (April Yanko), as she worms her way into her roommate’s Dungeons & Dragons game in an effort to do research for her communications master’s thesis. The Party themselves—composed of the dungeon master DM (Nabila Hossain), doormat druid Thistle (Leah Jarvik), mysterious rogue Ecstasy (Jewell Karinen), self-centered warlock Yorik (Zach Kumaishi), and good-guy paladin Jean (Grayson Niles)—are skeptical at first, but when Viola offers up a Shakespearean twist they can’t refuse, she’s welcomed into their merry band of misfits, both in-game and in real life. As the group navigates how their personal drama affects the game (and the way the game affects their personal drama), they discover that the real adventure was the friends they made along the way. 

The Party, in its short, 80-minute runtime, employs the kind of witty and quick writing akin to classics like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, with each line coming loaded with necessary information for expounding upon the characters, the relationships, the world, and the overall stakes—all while still managing to be natural and funny thanks to this extremely charming cast. Even down to the minute details of its set design, this series instantly creates a distinct atmosphere that aids in elevating its characters and story. From a The Bold Type poster hanging in Viola’s room (which is so ridiculously, hilariously in-character that I had to pause for a beat when it showed up during an Episode 3 montage) to the fantastical tavern of the Party’s in-game world, The Party is confident in its identity and unique in its execution, all to its fullest potential. 

Each character is defined by the role they play within the titular Party (none of them actually ever receive a proper name beyond their in-game PC name), but while these characters do embody the stereotypes and conventions of their chosen D&D classes, they never devolve into one-note caricatures. They share the same moody brooding or egotistically main-character-energy of their selected boxes, sure, but that’s only an extension of what makes these characters interesting in the first place. Their subclasses and races are used as shorthand to quickly communicate basic information about each character, but the series is at its most satisfying when they ultimately subvert those expectations.

Ecstasy, for instance, plays a tiefling rogue who makes out with everything she sees and has trouble asking for help from her friends, mirroring the way she struggles to open up to those around her in real life. But even beyond that, her confidence in her later interactions with DM proves that she’s not shackled by the restraints of roguish mystery or tiefling promiscuity, but instead is driven by her own agency and desires entirely separate from what she brings to the table. Yorick, who begins as a gatekeeper and antagonist towards Viola, remains a scene-stealer throughout, and ultimately grows beyond those constraints, becoming Viola’s closest friend by the time the credits roll on the final episode. From Jean realizing his selfish ways and Thistle putting herself first to DM seeing that there’s a life beyond the game and Viola grasping the magnitude of the friendships she’s made within the Party, everyone with a seat at the table grows and changes in satisfying ways. 

More than anything, this series is an excellent character study, one that uses its comedic situations and TTRPG slant to examine the complex relationships we build with one another through hobbies like Dungeons & Dragons, while also emphasizing how we can be shaped and changed by those around us in the best possible ways. Over just seven episodes, these people become better by being in each other’s presence, and even the climactic reveal six episodes in doesn’t undo all the incredible work put into making this group a Party to root for. Much like D&D itself, The Party invites you into this lovable, queer, and hilarious band with open arms.

This series is perfect for anyone looking for a quick, fun D&D romp to watch between episodes of Dimension 20 and Critical Role, acting as a love letter to the hobby and the community (its cameos from across said community are further proof of its deep admiration towards the game it lovingly skewers). And for those unfamiliar with TTRPG games and the fever surrounding them, the series’ palpable heart, stellar charisma, and snappy pacing make its tale of friendship, betrayal, connection, and romance admirably accessible and approachable. It’s extremely well-written, well-acted, well-shot, and just plain well-done—and well worth your time. 

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Anna Govert is the TV Editor of Paste Magazine. For any and all thoughts about TV, film, and her unshakable love of complicated female villains, you can follow her @annagovert.

For all the latest TV news, reviews, lists and features, follow @Paste_TV.

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