A Crown of Candy: A sweet escape

Heather Reynolds reviews the highly anticipated new series of Dimension 20: A Crown of Candy, and asks why you aren’t watching it too

In the ever-growing world of Dungeons and Dragons actualplay, there is one show that continuously rises to the top of the pack, and its latest series, A Crown of Candy, is no different.  Dimension 20’s latest series is its third starring their main cast, once again guided through a fantastical world best described as Game of Thrones meets The Nutcracker by their resident Dungeon Master, Brennan Lee Mulligan (Upright Citizens Brigade, CollegeHumor).

The series begins by establishing its world through the education and rebellion of the Princesses of Candia, Jett Rock (Emily Axford, Hot Date, Not Another D&D Podcast) and Ruby Rock (Siobhan Thompson, CollegeHumor, Rick and Morty), who have skipped their royal lessons on their 18th birthday to travel to the nearby town. This is a return to form for Axford, playing another rebellious teen in search of romance, whereas Thompson instead wants to run away to the circus. The relationship between the twin Princesses is one of the many delights to be found in this series, as their unwavering support of each other, along with their youthful ignorance of everything important around them, quickly establishes itself as an emotional centre for the show.

Another wonderful relationship that is quickly introduced is that of the twins and their father, King Amethar of House Rocks (Lou Wilson, American Vandal, The Guest Book). He is introduced gushing about his daughters to statues of his deceased sisters, who died in the battle that led to the current continent wide peace. He is quickly established as a doting father, and an incompetent king, turning to his advisors for almost every decision. In this role, Wilson once again excels at portraying what is essentially a well meaning, unintelligent jock.

The crux of the action in this series surrounds the declaration of who is to inherit the throne of Calorum, and rule over the various kingdoms that reside within. King Amethar is one of the many in the running, and he sets out along with his daughters, a caravan of nobles (portrayed by Mulligan), and two of his advisors, Chancellor Lapin Cadbury (Zac Oyama, Adam Ruins Everything, CollegeHumor), a Celestial Warlock with a secret, and Sir Theobald Gumbar (Brian Murphy, Hot Date, Not Another D&D Podcast), a grizzled knight who just wants to do his duty. The last member of their travelling party is Liam Wilhelmina (Ally Beardsley, Tales From the Closet, CollegeHumor), a ward/prisoner of the king, whose family seems to be encouraging him to assassinate the king for their honour, and whom the queen is encouraging to marry, so that he can leave the castle sooner than if he were to wait to turn 18. He does not seem interested in either of these options, and is much more interested in becoming a woodsman.

The series, as to be expected, is absolutely hilarious. The cast is made up of accomplished comedians who have been working together for years, and have a palpable chemistry that can be felt in every interaction. From the Chancellor and Sir Gumbar’s comical rivalry, to the sweet moments between the king and his daughters, A Crown of Candy hits every emotional button you would expect it to and more.

A Crown of Candy also serves, like most other Dimension 20 series, as the perfect entry point for anyone who is interested in seeing what this new D&D craze is all about. Unlike a lot of actualplay shows, Dimension 20 keeps to a relatively short (although still feature length) run time, and doesn’t expect its audience to enter the show knowing everything there is to know about the game. Mulligan often takes a moment to explain, either to the audience or to a player, why a certain rule is being called, why a certain class has a certain ability, or other technical details that could otherwise lead to confusion, and he does it without breaking the immersion of the scene. It is both incredibly accessible to newcomers, and incredibly bingeable content.

It also regularly switches things up from your average, expected, high fantasy tales that D&D has become known for in pop culture. A Crown of Candy, for instance, while retaining a high fantasy core, constantly reminds you that everything and everyone in it is made of food, with enemies bleeding rotten cheese, wielding arrows made of charred bacon, and with the absolutely fantastic sets and battle maps created in hues of pinks and purples, reminding the audience of peppermint and sugar plums. Previous series have been John Hughes-esque high school murder mystery, a Borrowers inspired heist miniseries, and a magical realism series set in New York. Through this series, Mulligan establishes himself time and time again, not only as a master storyteller, but one of the most aspirational Dungeon Masters currently playing D&D.

Setting aside all of the Dungeons and Dragons bells and whistles that adorn the series, it remains that A Crown of Candy is a show to watch out for. Uproariously funny, and full of heart, it’s bound to nestle its way into the heart of all who watch it, both in D&D fans and non-nerds alike. The comedic timing across the whole cast is nothing to scoff at, and the show is so immersive it will transport you to Candia alongside the intrepid adventurers for a journey so sweet you’ll need a filling afterward.

Dimension 20 returns this Wednesday, April 8th, premiering on the Dimension 20 YouTube channel at 11pm GMT, and afterwards will be available on demand at Dropout.tv.