Dungeons & Dragons is hitting your home TV in a way it hasn't before with the Dungeons & Dragons Adventures channel launching on Freevee and Plex on the 13th of November. One of the new programs headlining its launch is Season 1 of Encounter Party.
We got to talk with Co-Producers Ned Donovan and Brian David Judkins of Encounter Party about the launch of Season 1 next week, what it's been like transitioning to TV, and what viewers might be able to expect. Judkins is also the Dungeon Master of the story, while Ned takes on the role of Flick the Kenku.
What is Encounter Party?
Encounter Party is a Dungeons & Dragons 5e Actual Play. Dungeon Master Brian David Judkins runs the game and he is joined around the table by Ned Donovan, Landree Fleming, David Lee Huynh, Sarah Babe, Khary Payton, and Andrew Krug.
As they embark on a new campaign, we join the party of six as they're all recovering from a shared prophetic dream, including the death of two among them. Realizing they need to stick together, they search for the cause of this deadly premonition.
Encounter Party: From Podcast To TV
To start off, the most obvious question I had to ask was how Donovan and Judkins felt about being part of Dungeons & Dragons Adventures.
"First of all, it feels great to be a part of it," began Judkins. "There is some interesting new content coming out with these programs," referring to Heroes Feast and Faster, Purple Worm! Kill! Kill!
"What you're seeing now is what's always been the vision for Encounter Party. When we first made the podcast, which ran for three seasons, we were actually operating a secret mission which was to build a proof of concept to shop to networks," Judkins revealed.
"When we ended up at Wizards to consult getting a license for [Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition], they very graciously were on our side all the way. What we didn't know is that they were hunting for a program like this but they couldn't find one that was fitting."
"We were the people who showed up and said 'Hey, we have a way to get this down to an hour'"
Judkins went on to explain that their aim in removing the personal experience of playing D&D is to focus on the story that they're telling. They don't want to be another show about "people playing D&D" like Critical Role or Dimension 20, but instead they want to use "Dungeons & Dragons to tell a fiction/fantasy story."
It was from there that Judkins and Donovan worked with Entertainment One, who created the Dungeons & Dragons movie and were responsible for the programming for the D&D Adventures channel.
There was a "little bit more luck than we expected" admitted Judkins. Commenting on the quality of the other shows that will also be joining them on D&D Adventures, both are "really excited to see where D&D and gaming-based entertainment can go"
Speaking with Donovan. I wanted to understand the recording process and how they were able to take a free-form game like Dungeons & Dragons and turn it into 48-minute episodes with space for 12 minutes of ads.
"The short answer is there's nothing different from the Podcast."
Donovan explained that the cast was flown into Chicago where the whole season was recorded over the space of about a week. After everything was recorded, it was then Donovan and fellow cast member Andrew Krug who spent time in an editor bay.
Interestingly, Donovan explained that when the cast got together and recorded, they just recorded and played all day. At no point did they know when episodes would start or end.
"Brian has ideas, Brian has given incredible railroad tracks to follow, but we fundamentally make that choice later."
Each day of footage would be six to seven hours "and we would start at the beginning and we would take out anything that didn't serve the audience's experience. We would leave marks for ourselves [...] and when we would finish a whole day's work we would go back and say 'Did any of them fall at 48 minutes?'"
Judkins added in for those who might be disappointed at the 48-minute mark "Somehow we managed to cram in more than you might find at your home game. Everyone's on target, we are not playing a game, we are performing [...] If you take out all the fluff and non-gameplay that comes from hanging out on a Saturday and playing for three hours, you actually get about 40-60 minutes in the fictional world."
New Experiences That Encounter Party Wants To Deliver
Having seen Encounter Party tease that they were ready to offer an experience that no Actual Play has done in the past ,I had to ask Donovan and Judkins about that, is there anything they could hint at or elaborate on?
The answer I got from Judkins was a simple "No."
He went on to explain that in his experience as a mystery writer, and from having people watching Encounter Party, he knows that D&D audiences are smart. "We want you to experience it at the same time everyone else is experiencing it."
"I'm always afraid our listeners are going to suss things out before I get to show it. Ned and I as producers intend [the audience] to discover it at the same time as the cast."
Donovan jumped in again: "Here's what I'll promise you as both producer and cast. It's a 22-episode show that does feature the majority of the time people sitting around a table playing Dungeons & Dragons. I promise you that what you experience in episodes 1, 2, 3 is not the experience of episodes 9, 10, 11, [...] we are constantly changing the way the show vibes for the sake of not having a show that feels the same for 22 straight hours."
If you've been a follower of Encounter Party for this long, chances are you'll already know what to expect from the new season.
Legacy Kenku or New Kenku?
Knowing that Donovan was playing Flick the Kenku, I wanted to see, in a roleplay format, whether he ascribed to the idea that Kenku are creatures that can only parrot or if his Kenku can create their own words.
"We actually allude to it in Episode 2. My personal opinion is that I follow the books." Donovan and Judkins went on to explain the changes made to Kenku with the release of Mordenkainen's Monsters of the Multiverse.
"Flick can talk, whether or not he's only parroting things he's heard through life, I won't tell you, but Flick is not restricted by conversation at this point in his life or campaign and maybe one day we'll get into if I believe he's been talking since the beginning or if this is a development."
Where To Watch Encounter Party?
The first two episodes will be airing on Freevee and Plex on November 14th at 9 pm ET/PT with subsequent episodes released every week until all 22 episodes have been released.
"There were gorgeous moments that just couldn't fit a 48-minute structure, and they're great scenes, but they don't inform the audience experience." For those that don't fit into the edit, though, Donovan explained they were looking forward to releasing them as deleted scenes.
For those who aren't able to catch the episodes live, there will be an on-demand release that will be available on Freevee and Plex. Donovan was able to at least say the episodes would be available to stream within a week of initial release, but specifically when was still up in the air at the time of the interview.