Actor Jeff Goldblum is joining the cast of a fan-made Dungeons & Dragons podcast called Dark Dice, created and written by Fool and Scholar Productions. The high-concept audio drama starts out as a traditional session of D&D, complete with dice and a Dungeon Master. Sequences are then cut, condensed, and performed with additional voice acting, original music, and sound effects. Episodes featuring the Jurassic Park actor will begin airing for free on May 12. The announcement was made Wednesday by Deadline.
Speaking with Polygon by telephone, co-creator Travis Vengroff said that Fool and Scholar originally began as a vehicle for more traditional audio dramas. A few years back, as a team building exercise for his cast, Vengroff ran a short D&D-themed adventure. The experience proved so engaging for the audience that a whole new series was born.
“We have these really fun horror actors who are in Germany, and Iceland, and England, and various parts of America, et cetera,” Vengroff said, “We basically recorded four six-hour sessions, and they survived much longer than I thought they would, and the audience reception to the release was much better than I thought it’d be. It became kind of its own podcast from being just kind of a bonus episode.”
This next season picks up where the previous story left off, but also adds a second full group of adventurers. Goldblum will be part of this second group, taking on the role of an elven sorcerer named Balmur. The goal, Vengroff said, is for both groups to eventually square off against each other in a climactic season finale.
The first episode (which does not include Goldblum) is currently available for download, and features the survivors of the previous season recuperating from a painful loss.
D&D publisher Wizards of the Coast appears supportive of the project. Senior communications manager Greg Tito even tweeted it out on his personal account. But, no doubt thanks to Goldblum’s high-profile involvement, there will be some changes going forward. Vengroff takes time in the first episode to note that monsters, deities, and other elements from the 5th edition of D&D will not be included going forward, a necessary change needed to abide by Wizards’ licensing of the D&D intellectual property.
“I’ve been playing D&D since I was six years old, basically,” Vengroff said, “and I’ve been playing the same campaign in the same world. [...] To make it more understandable for our audience, we used a bunch of Wizards’ IP. [...] My goal in the future is to basically use all of our own stuff, and I’ve spent the better part of eight months at this point working with a team of creators from around the world to redevelop my world.”
Tabletop role-playing is undergoing a huge renaissance, brought on in part by these kinds of actual-play performances. That’s partly thanks to the fact that the fifth edition of the original role-playing game is available for free through something called the System Reference Document (SRD) via the Open-Gaming License (OGL). It’s effectively a subset of the larger D&D rules and intellectual property that serves as the source for transformative works with certain restrictions. It’s the same method that former Blizzard Entertainment executives Chris Metzen and Mike Gilmartin are using to create the world of Auroboros: Coils of the Serpent.
Update (May 12): The first episode of Dark Dice featuring Jeff Goldblum is live and available for download.