An era is over: Game of Thrones has ended. Not George R.R. Martin's best-selling book series A Song of Ice and Fire, but the television series that brought fantasy to the small screen has ended. Some are disappointed with how the series turned out. Others are glad to have been taken on this journey at all. However, there remains that eternal question: what next?
Fans of good television are in no short supply for other shows to watch. However, fans of fantasy are in a different situation. For fantasy fans, Game of Thrones was a once in a lifetime sort of deal. It was a fantasy series that came after a long drought of good fantasy content. For that reason, it's hard to imagine anything following it up. There are fantasy series coming to streaming, such as The Witcher and Amazon's Middle-Earth series. However, what if the next fantasy sensation comes from something less structured? A place where the writers can just make whatever they want?
It is time for a Dungeons & Dragons television series.
Dungeons & Dragons Has Been Adapted Before
This would not be the first adaptation of Dungeons & Dragons. The popular tabletop game has been brought to the big and small screens before. But these adaptations are all pre-Game of Thrones. Actually, the ones people most fondly remember were released before Lord of the Rings (though, ironically, New Line Cinema released both Fellowship of the Ring and the first Dungeons & Dragons film). So, what about them would be different in a post-Game of Thrones world?
Before we establish what would be different, let's consider what already is. Dungeons & Dragons has been adapted as an animated series and a trilogy of films (though only the first film was released in theaters). The animated series was controversial upon release, being one of the most violent cartoons on television for a time. The movie was not controversial; everyone accepted it as a so-bad-it's-good classic.
These shows and films featured fairly generic, straightforward conflicts. Dark lord. Band of heroes, each one defined by their race and/or class. Find a magical artifact. Save the world. The conflicts remained very straightforward and simple, enforcing a strict black and white morality system (often ignoring the more complex alignments from the game itself).
Additionally, very little actual Dungeons & Dragons lore was ever incorporated. Tiamat and Beholders appeared in the animated series, but the movies bore very little resemblance to any canonical Dungeons & Dragons world. No Forgotten Realms. No Starjammers. No Ravenloft. None of that.
But now we live in the post-Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones era. So, what would be different now if a big budget Dungeons & Dragons series was made? And why should fantasy fans want to see this?
A Massive Playground to Work With
One reason people adore Game of Thrones is due to its nuanced world. There are numerous political bodies, with everyone acting on their own interests. Eventually, the numerous plot threads intersect and intertwine, creating a large, epic story.
Dungeons & Dragons has lore spanning thousands of years, with a large, complex history, multiple realities and a myriad of cultures that exist simultaneously. These cultures would be difficult to present in a single film. They'd have to hone their focus on a singular plot, while a show can tackle multiple plotlines and their various intersections.
But in part, what would allow the series to be made in the first place is budget. Game of Thrones proved big budget fantasy has a huge audience. To bring to life some of Dungeons & Dragons' more bewildering monsters, you need a lot of money. Before, only a movie could warrant a budget of that magnitude. But now, after Game of Thrones brought White Walkers and dragons to life, it's clear that a television budget, if it utilizes its money wisely, could bring Beholders, Mind Flayers and Tiamat to life.
What Can Dungeons and Dragons Add?
But what can Dungeons & Dragons really add? The game is over 40 years old. Sure, the lore has been updated, but how would this series be relevant today?
Diversity. Not just in terms of characters. Sure, the creators can cast any number of diverse people in terms of race, gender and sexuality to the series. Without being restricted by pre-existing narratives, this is an absolute possibility.
But more than just diverse characters, it can offer diverse plots.
Dungeons & Dragons can be any kind of story. It can be a small-scale adventure, a personal journey, a horror story, a space opera -- anything. The only limits are those you impose on yourself. While, yes, if the series drew from its most iconic stories and characters, hardcore fans might be satisfied. But even if it doesn't? A good Dungeons & Dragons story doesn't need Drizzt Do'urden or Count Strahd von Zarovich. It needs to capture the feeling of adventure you get when a bunch of friends make up a story as they go along.
Which means, yes, it can be a dark, heavy fantasy. But it can also -- at the same time -- be a lighthearted adventure. Will the heroes need to take down a zombie horde? Goblins? Lolth and her priestesses? Or will it be political, with a group of heroes (or people with sharp swords) settling international disputes? Will it be a horror story? Adventure? It doesn't matter.
One clever idea could be to make Dungeons & Dragons like American Horror Story. Each season would tell a new story, with perhaps only the realm being the reoccurring element. Or, perhaps, heroes from previous seasons could return for a supporting role. And, yes, putting in Drizzt or Strahd would be cool, too.
But what if there was already a Dungeons & Dragons series in production right now?
Dungeons & Dragons might not have a new series coming out (though a movie is, supposedly, in development), but it has found new life in the world of podcasts and livestreams. Among the most popular of these is Critical Role, a podcast Dungeons & Dragons campaign with famous voice actors playing. Matt Mercer serves as Dungeon Master.
It is hugely popular. So popular, in fact, that the crew behind Critical Role started a Kickstarter to create an animated special based on one of their campaigns. Their goal was $750,000 to produce one episode. They raised over $11 million.
Which means they're making a series.
An animated series is not quite the same as a live-action epic like Game of Thrones. However, this proves that there is a huge audience for Dungeons & Dragons content, probably larger than the number of people who knew about George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire before it became a hit television series. There's a built-in audience, huge potential for storytelling and a chance to ride the momentum of Game of Thrones.
Why wouldn't someone make a Dungeons & Dragons series?