When news broke that Rick and Morty vs. Dungeons & Dragons was about to become a comic book, it caused a few head scratches. After all, how do you combine the world's greatest role-playing game with Adult Swim's answer to a constant existential crisis?
Much like any absurd Rick and Morty plot, though, it works. Not because it tries to create a super franchise of sorts, but due to the fact that the comic parodies everything about Dungeons & Dragons and the general elitist nature of nerd culture.
When Morty decides he wants to learn about D&D in order to find success with the opposite sex, he heads down to the local hobby store to pick up some info on the game. Store clerk Annika offers her assistance, but Morty pretends as if he's buying a beginner's book for a friend. Annika tells him that his purchase is a real easy read, and invites Morty to join her group for a game.
Morty goes home and tries to decipher the game – but it proves to be littered with too much jargon for him to understand. Having no success and running out of time before Saturday's group, he asks Rick for help. His grandfather, who happens to be a fan of D&D, obliges and sets up a game night with some old friends. It quickly turns into a humiliating experience for Morty, however, as the old-school D&D specialists share inside-jokes and he has no clue what he's doing. Frustrated, Morty storms off before Rick agrees to help in the crazy way only he could.
While the ending sets up the inevitable intergalactic adventure that'll form the basis of the next few issues, this chapter stands alone as intelligent social commentary on D&D culture. In the first issue alone, it touches upon two important feelings that most newbies encounter when trying to subscribe to the hobby: confusion and exclusion.
A common complaint about anyone wanting to join the role-playing game is the starting point. It's not like you're born with the ability to assimilate knowledge via osmosis, so you'll need an entry-level breakdown or jumping-on point. Too often, these guides and info dumps are written by seasoned campaigners who stuff their content with jargon and insider language. As a result, most newcomers find it's too complex and there's a distinct attitude that if you can't grasp the basics you're stupid. It's practically impossible to ask anyone for help, so most people either pretend or give up along the way.
Second, being a novice is intimidating enough as is. It's a period of learning as much as possible while trying to not stifle the more seasoned players. Unfortunately, the courtesy isn't often returned, as experienced groups do not open their doors to new players. If they do, the beginners are ostracized and feel left out. It's an exclusive club, which you can only join if you're good enough. However, you can't get better if you don't play and learn. It's a catch-22, really.
The standout panel of Rick and Morty vs. Dungeons & Dragons #1 is when Rick takes a subtle dig at D&D by revealing that no one sticks to their rolls if someone isn't watching. In doing so, he basically confirms to Morty that everyone pretends to know what's going on... but it's a whole lot of hogwash. It's a defining moment that speaks volumes about how no one is really the expert they claim to be. A lesson for D&D, as well as life in general.