Rivals of Waterdeep Returns for S9
It is a time of great troubles in Faêrun. The people toil under the boot of unjust selfish leaders who seek to make themselves fat off the sweat of their labour. Kings and Queens cower behind their castle walls as the lands around them grow darker; the violence and lawlessness taking hold. But even now there are heroes...
So begins a 9 season D&D odyssey; 80 episodes down, and who knows how many more to go.
Rivals of Waterdeep, for those those that don't know, is a Dungeons & Dragons actual play show. In fact, as hinted at above, it's one of the longest running D&D shows around, with its 9th season premiering this Sunday, January 31st, at 10 AM PT/1 PM PT on Twitch.
Rivals started as a way to showcase how easy it is to play D&D. "It was close to when 5e released," said Tanya DePass, one of the shows original cast members, and a face familiar to many in the TTRPG community. "[At the beginning] we had players of all experience levels, including folks who had never played an RPG, to folks who had been playing for years."
Shareef Jackson, who's also been with the show since the beginning adds, "I originally thought I would have to memorize the Players Handbook to have fun with the game. Turns out that we prefer improv and character moments over a strict adherence to the rules. Same with DMing - knowing the Dungeon Master's Guide front to back is not essential."
And the story, and the character interaction, are amongst the many things that make the show great.
Rivals is Different
The show, in addition to being one of the longest running, is different than many other D&D shows in a few unique ways.
First, the Dungeon Master isn't the same every season; they mix it up. And with multiple insanely creative cast members, it makes for interesting viewing. "Switching up [DMs] allows the players to stay sharp and just increase the likelihood of encountering something we would never have thought of because of the originality each person inherently brings," said Masood Haque, one of the shows newer cast members.
(LaTia Jacquise, a three-season veteran of the show, takes over the big chair for season 9. I spoke with LaTia about her career and Rivals' season 9 on The Cocked Die podcast. Check it out here.)
Second, it's a Dungeons & Dragons show, but its not necessarily all about dice-rolling. In fact, last season there may have only been only one or two combats. It goes back to what Jackson was saying about the rules. They serve as a reference point, but they don't let them get in the way of a good story.
And, frankly, that was the design intent for Fifth Edition. Use what you like, skip what you don't, and change anything you want so it works best for you. The slavish devotion to rules as written (I spent many an hour parsing language in the third edition books, let me tell you) is less of a concern for the current edition of the game.
It's accessible; it's probably why D&D has never been more popular and Rivals embodies that.
Third, before the pandemic, they filmed together in a studio. That connection allowed them to build an incredible chemistry, which amazingly has remained, even though they can't be in the same room.
"The chat doesn't see it," said Haque, "but our preshow hangs are so much fun. Getting together to check in on one another, riffing, and just vibing is a blast, and I love that being carried into our game sessions."
The Future of Rivals
Rivals of Waterdeep is a WotC partnered show, and given its popularity and quality, I hope it's renewed for quite a while longer. It's clearly fulfilling its mission as a showcase for the ease of fifth edition D&D, with a byproduct of being a hell of a lot of fun.
After all, isn't learning without realizing you're learning the best way to learn? "Our game shows that everyone can play and [have] fun, and by combining new and [experienced] players [we can] make something special," said Jackson.
As popular as it is, the show has seen cast changes over the years. Season 9 is no different and introduces not one, but two new cast members to the group. Brian Gray and Eugenio Vargas.
Gray (aka Urb) is streamer, a foodie, and TTRPG player.
Eugenio Vargas is an actor, a streamer, and he's both the Storyteller for Into the Motherlands (which we love) and a familiar face to fans of Mini Terrain Domain.
We're talking to both Brian and Eugenio about their first appearance on the show, look for that episode of The Cocked Die on Tuesday!
And on Sunday, watch the premiere of season 9 of Rivals of Waterdeep.