Escape Velocity

A curated Collection of Fantasy and Science Fiction Media

January 30, 2022


Collected on: January 30, 2022

In this D&D web series, we follow a group of kids during their first year at Agueforth Adventuring Academy, a high school where kids learn to be classic D&D adventurers.


Fig has recently found out her elf father is not her real father, and she’s going through a rebellious phase. Gorgug is a gentle half-orc barbarian whose adoptive parents are gnomes. Adaine comes from a wealthy elven family, and is only going to Agueforth because she had a panic attack during her entrance exam for a fancy school. Fabian is the typical high school jock, the son of a ruthless but loving pirate father and a day-drinking elven mother. Kristen comes to realise that perhaps the god she has worshipped day and night for all her life isn’t quite all he seemed. And Riz is a wanna-be detective, desperately trying to solve the disappearance of his baby-sitter.

Peter: Welcome to this in-depth, spoiler-free discussion of the online video series Fantasy High by Dimension 20, which our curator Lotte has added to the Escape Velocity Collection, a series of items that we believe represent the absolute peak of what the speculative genre has to offer.

I challenged Lotte to defend her addition to the Collection – but also to explain what this emerging genre of filming yourself while playing a tabletop role playing game is all about.

Defended By





So generally, I would start off by asking questions on when and why you enjoyed Fantasy High, but in this case I feel we need to take a step back and talk to our readers a bit about what Fantasy High actually is.


I am assuming you are all familiar with the concept of tabletop role playing games like Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, Call of Cthulhu, etc: games that are a weird amalgamation of rules, storytelling, and improv theatre, often complex, that tend to take the better part of an afternoon for a single session in a campaign that might span years.


Over the past years, a genre has emerged where people film themselves playing these kinds of games. Most of that content is made by enthousiastic amateurs, but by now there is also a fair number of professional productions out there – including Fantasy High.


I’ve watched a non-neglible amount of these videos, but they never worked that well for me – though our other curators don’t all agree. Lotte, before we dive into Fantasy High, could you maybe elaborate a bit on your experience with the the type of content that we are discussing here to get some perspective?

So I started watching Critical Role a couple of years ago, on the recommendation of a friend. I started watching when they were at the early stages of their first campaign. Now I’m the kind of person who likes to have some kind of video playing in the background while I do other stuff, so I got through the episodes quite quickly. I enjoy the fact that I don’t always have to be paying complete attention. Sometimes my mind wanders, but if it seems like I missed something important, I can always rewind a bit to see what I missed.

So, the genre never really worked for me because many productions are (relatively) unfiltered, unedited gameplay. They tend to be relatively slow to get going, and while they can definitively have awesome moments, these are separated by long hours of chatter and gameplay that don’t hold my attention. Fantasy High, however is different – so let’s turn there. Lotte, how did you run into Fantasy High, and what made you fall in love with it?

I started watching Fantasy High on the recommendation of the same friend, actually. It was the very start of the pandemic, and she send me a video of Gorgug asking people if they are his dad. She also assured me that it was only 16 episodes of two hours tops. Let’s just say I had some time on my hands, so I watched it – binged it, actually – in the next couple of weeks.


Fantasy High, isn’t like most other D&D shows out there. I’ll be honest: I haven’t seen many other streams other than Critical Role and Dimension 20 (who made Fantasy High). Still, Compared to the massive time sink of Critical Role, Fantasy High felt very manageable. It’s also mostly focused on comedy, and the episodes are edited. This show – while probably incredibly fun to play for the creators – is made for the viewers.

What Makes Fantasy High Different

As I said above, the genre never clicked for me and I assumed it was just because I didn’t like to watch other people play. So when you recommended Fantasy High, I expected to only watch it for the purpose of writing this post. What blew my mind though, is how different – how much more watchable – this type of content becomes when the people that make it, are actively editing and designing it to improve viewer experience.

You’re definitely right in saying that the concept of Fantasy High was created with the viewer experience in mind. I think this is where it really differs from something like Critical Role. And I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with Critical Role! I love the show, there’s just too much for me to keep up with at this point. The difference is that the cast of CR chose to continue their home campaign, thus starting their web series as a very traditional D&D game. There’s no editing apart from the opening titles, and episodes can range from 3 to 5 hours. This is what people liked, and so they’re still doing their main campaigns this way. None of this is criticism; it really works for them and they tell some amazing stories. It does mean that it’s very hard to get into for a casual viewer, or even for someone who wants to start watching halfway through a 500-hour campaign.


Dimension 20 makes shorter campaigns, Fantasy High itself totalling at most 32 hours. Because of the editing, we don’t see the players talking about rules too much. The world building is based mostly on concepts the viewer is likely already familiar with, so there isn’t a lot of exposition that, when missed, leaves you confused about the setting.

The Setting and Style

Good point about the world building: Fantasy High is set at a high school for fantasy adventurers – think a wizard as the principle and enrolling in ‘barbarian classes’. At the same time, it’s overflowing with Grease/The Breakfast Club type Hollywood high school movies clichés – the jocks, the nerds, the popular girls, etc. It may seem like a weird mix – and it is – so why did it work so well for you?

Now I love me a weird mix. I’m not a huge fan of high school media, but I’ve seen a lot of it. Some genre’s you just can’t avoid. I do, however, love Fantasy, and I’ve seen a lot of it. That’s why it’s so fun to see something like Fantasy High doing something with the genre that I haven’t seen before. Look, I love High Fantasy, but seeing something taking the classic Fantasy tropes and turning them on their head? There’s nothing better.

Surprisingly, I also enjoyed the humour. Comedy (especially American comedy) tends not to work for me at all. However, I play tabletop RPGs, I have consumed more fantasy media than I can remember, and I have even seen a couple of high school movies. I tick all the right boxes for the parody to work. I’m not saying none of the moments are independently funny – but don’t you think that for the setting of Fantasy High to work, you should probably have some experience playing a tabletop RPG and be familiar with fantasy tropes and clichés?

I do think you need to be familiar with some of the tropes, but definitely not with everything. I feel like most people have seen The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. That should be enough to get you to understand the majority of the Fantasy tropes used. And like you say, even you have seen some high school movies!

I do agree that people who have played some tabletop RPG’s will probably enjoy it the most, but I definitely think it’s comparable to the books of Terry Pratchett in this respect: if you know the tropes, you’ll love it. However, if you don’t know anything about fantasy, it will still be really funny.

The Game

Another important element to discuss is the game itself. Even if Fantasy High is different in that it is sleekly edited and a lot shorter, this is still a series about people playing D&D – and it therefore has some of the same pitfalls.


You just said that you didn’t feel that experience with tabletop roleplaying games is necessary to get the story – but does that also apply to the rules? If you’ve never played a game like this, would you understand what happens when someone says ‘roll for initiative’ and everyone groans, or ‘natural twenty!’ and everyone cheers? Do you even know what a hit point or a D8 is? Isn’t half of what is going on just mumbo-jumbo?

I think it probably can be confusing at first, but I find that in Fantasy High, even the rules aren’t the most important thing about combat. The players describe their actions, so while you may not understand exactly why an action did not work, it won’t detract too much from the experience, because it’s not the why that matters – it’s what actually happens. There’s actually plenty of people who got into D&D from watching streams like Fantasy High and Critical Role.


I suppose it’s similar to how I’ve recently started watching figure skating: At first I didn’t know the skaters, and I didn’t know the rules. Now I know much more about individual skaters, but I’d still be unable to tell two jumps apart. Still, I enjoy it more, because knowing the “characters” means that I know what the stakes are for them. And at the end of the day a high number is good, a low number is bad, and when someone falls flat on their face even I know that’s not great. There’s a lot you can tell from people’s reactions to the result of a dice roll that will ensure that you don’t even need to know the specific rules.


Also, there’s a fair amount of the cast who are first time D&D players in Fantasy High! So you wouldn’t be alone in being unfamiliar with the rules.

But even if you (sort of) understand it – is it fun to watch? A single turn of combat can still take about ten minutes… Don’t you feel that, with all the emphasis on roleplay, the fact that these people are still playing a game is getting in the way of it being a great improv show?

In this show, combat is never just combat. There’s no combat for the sake of combat, it always serves a point in the story. I’ll be honest: I’m not a huge fan of combat myself. Sometimes I feel like I’d prefer to just skip it. However, in Fantasy High, it’s not just rounds and rounds of swinging swords and slinging spells back and forth. Instead of it being an hour of roleplay followed by an hour of combat, there is roleplay in the combat as well. Every scene in Fantasy High serves a purpose, which is absolutely wild if you consider that it’s basically all improv.


I should also mention that there’s some lovely set design in the show. Because it’s not a typical high-fantasy setting, I imagine it’s a lot harder to source/create set pieces for the battles. They’re always stunning, though.

I would have to agree that one of the things that makes it tick for me is indeed that each of the longer combats feels like a set piece battle, and the DM does a great job of steering the players away from irrelevant plotlines or combats and spinning them back into the main story.

Oh yes! Brennan is an amazing DM! I think tastes probably vary in terms of what people look for in a DM, but Brennan, for me, just does a lot of things really well. He’s incredibly knowledgeable about the rules, but he’s very willing to let players try (and succeed at) cool things. He’s funny but also able to handle emotional situations really well (sometimes at the same time). He’s also just amazing at improv. Like, he’s the DM so it’s clear he probably prepares a lot for the show, but nothing fazes this guy – and the players absolutely do try sometimes!


So we can conclude that Fantasy High is a D&D-game stream which is much more accessible than other versions of the same content – shorter, better edited, focussed on fun moments and improv comedy, with a cool cast and a great DM. I would recommend Fantasy High to anyone who has been on the fence about this kind of content – give it a shot, you might be surprised how much you like the experience. Is there anything you would like to add or specific people you think should give Fantasy High a shot?

I would recommend Fantasy High to people who like their fantasy a little bit light-hearted.

And as Peter said, if you’ve been interested in D&D and feel intimidated by a show like Critical Role, then Fantasy High is the perfect way of dipping your toes in the genre to see if it’s your kind of thing.


I’d also recommend the show to people who really like the books of Terry Pratchett and people who loved the show Galavant for it’s delightful mix of classic fantasy and modern concepts.

We’ll wrap it up there, thanks for reading – go watch that first episode of Fantasy High, and let us know if you’ve enjoyed it.

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