Like much of the nerd world, the original role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons has undergone a lot of change since the game began in 1974, going from maps drawn on graph paper to apps for managing characters and epic multi-year campaigns played out on podcasts like The Adventure Zone.
Now, it’s being transformed into a stage show called Q.E.D&D premiering April 25 at Astoria’s den of all things geek, Q.E.D. Co-host Wade Bowen, a lifelong D&D fan since he only had his brother to play the game with in the ‘90s, created the show with Glen Hall, whom he met doing improv comedy at Upright Citizens Brigade. “Part of [the inspiration] is the improvised nature of the game,” he says about creating the show. “We realized we could do that onstage with performers and that could be entertaining.”
Bowen will serve as dungeon master, and a different comedian will accompany them on their monthly journey through the town of Pitsberg, named for the extensive excavations done by its previous dwarf residents. As a fan of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books, Bowen is shaping it into “a fantasy setting with some satirical, modern city problems.” This month’s guest improviser Glo Tavarez, who’s also part of the D&D podcast Second Best.
Though it seems improbable, the game already has all the elements for a stage show, says Bowen. At its heart, Dungeons & Dragons isn’t about counting squares on a game board or tallying points on a spreadsheet — it’s about invoking the “theater of the mind,” as he describes it. Q.E.D&D will do away with much of the game’s strict math, rolling of 20-sided dice and moving figurines around a board in favor of interactive moments, multimedia like atmospheric music and even a live comedy set integrated into the show.
“A lot of it will just be storytelling with the players onstage,” says Bowen. “It might not even be as much pantomiming, though I would encourage people to do so.”
Each hour-and-a-half-long show will be its own self-contained adventure, with new characters joining the party every week in the form of two randomly chosen audience members. Got your own character sheet ready to go? Great, they’ll use it! Never played before? They’ll make up a character and get you questing on the spot. And in a way, the entire audience will be be playing along.
“Given Q.E.D. and the atmosphere there, we’re planning to work in some drinking games, pretending like the audience is in a tavern,” he says. “We’re trying to incorporate the audience into the story as much as we can.”
Q.E.D&D premiers April 25 at 9 p.m. and will run monthly on Wednesdays at Q.E.D. Astoria, 27-16 23rd Ave., Queens. Tickets are $8.