Dimension 20 is back with Pirates of Leviathan, a new Dungeons & Dragons mini-campaign that follows a group of pirates exploring a floating city. Since 2018, Dimension 20 has wowed fans with its innovative use of the Dungeons & Dragons system, its fantastical sets and miniature dioramas, and some of the best roleplaying on the Internet. Typically filmed on set, Dimension 20 had to make changes to its most recent "Side Quest" campaign (shorter campaigns with guest players) due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Pirates of Leviathan, which launched in September, was filmed remotely but still features all of the charm and surprises you'd expect from the show.
When Dimension 20 Dungeon Master Brennan Lee Mulligan spoke to ComicBook.com about Pirates of Leviathan, the challenges of producing the show during the COVID-19 pandemic quickly came up. Not only did the producers have to deal with the logistical hurdles of filming six players from their apartments (each with their own ISP and equipment), Mulligan worried whether the show would retain its spirit now that the players weren't sitting around the same table.
"One worry we had when we went remote was if we were going to miss that essential spark that only comes with physical presence," Mulligan said. "I have a little bit of an old fogy streak in me of like, 'If we're not physically at the table together, how would ever learn to laugh?' But the second we started playing, there's laughter and we're gregarious, and we're having an awesome time. So that concern evaporated right away. The emotional, creative hurdle completely evaporated the second we actually started playing. The magic was immediately there with these awesome players remote or otherwise."
As with past "Side Quest" campaigns, Pirates of Leviathan features a cast of TTRPG all-stars, including Critical Role's Matt Mercer and Marisha Ray, B. Dave Walters, Carlos Luna, Aabria Iyengar, and Krystina Arielle. "We were so psyched to play with our cast for this Side Quest," Mulligan said when asked about how he brought the cast for this season together. "There were people that I've played with before on Dimension 20, there were people that I had played with before in home games. And then there were some people that I had just found out about a couple months prior and was like, 'Man, that person rules, I want to play with them.' It all came together so seamlessly and awesomely. Truly a gang of just all stars, what a privilege."
Playing remotely also presented other new challenges for Dimension 20, especially as the show lacked the breathtaking set, dioramas, and miniatures from past seasons. "A lot of the things that have become part of the creative language of Dimension 20 were reactions to limitations," Mulligan said, pointing out that much of what set the show apart came from the decision not to air Dimension 20 live. While Pirates of Leviathan lacked the "toys" of previous seasons, the producers of the show continued to find ways to innovate, using animation and artwork to help bring the action and world of the game to life for viewers.
Mulligan likened the changes to Dimension 20 to what every D&D campaign has experienced with the shift to remote play. "Players are sharing audio, so what can you do with audio cues now that everybody is on a shared audio track? What can you do with a virtual tabletop that you could never do before with miniatures, right?" Mulligan said about home games trying new things online. "Limitations are always a secret advantage if you get creative."
Dimension 20's biggest strength continues to be its fantastic roleplaying, pushed along by innovative and genre-defying plots. And with a few episodes left to air, this season's best moments are still coming. "I think some of the most fun moments in the entire side quest are around the corner," Mulligan said. "Not only is the conclusion to the side quest one of the most thrilling ends we've seen, there are moments coming up that reveal these characters hearts in ways that are incredibly touching and meaningful. I will say that some of the best contributions in the upcoming episodes are not only from our brilliant cast of players, but also from our good pals, the dice. People have a lot to look forward to."
Of course, the pandemic isn't over and Dimension 20 is continuing to film remotely. Mulligan noted that they have a full season in post-production, and they're preparing to film another side quest with more guest players. He also noted that the Dimension 20 team continues to develop and adapt to the remote challenges. " Every season of Dimension 20 currently in the works has some big advancement within the production quality of what we were able to do while still living in COVID world," Mulligan said. "So what's very cool is no season that is currently in production or pre-production, will have the same visual language or technical aspects to it because our game just keeps getting stepped up as we got our COVID resources together, which is really, really exciting."