The pilot episode of Destination Fantastic - the Dungeons & Dragons-themed travel show hosted by Dwarven Forge's Stefan Pokorny and professional Dungeon Master Satine Phoenix - has been released to Kickstarter backers.
This 40-minute episode saw the bubbly pair whisked off to Iceland, in many ways the birthplace of the modern fantasy genre as its sagas directly inspired JRR Tolkien and others to create the worlds that, in turn, inspired Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson to create Dungeons & Dragons.
Along their journey, the hosts met Viking re-enactors, sampled Viking food, voyaged into the heart of a volcano, played D&D with some locals, met with an "elf whisperer", and touched the ancient tomes that hold the oldest written versions of the legendary Icelandic sagas.
Destination Fantastic aims to uncover the roots of the fantasy genre as well as inspire gamesmasters and players by taking them (virtually) to evocative real world locations that could double as fantastical environments in adventure scenarios.
And there are few better places to start than Iceland.
If I had a criticism, it would be that the show wasn't long enough. In the Q&A session after this first episode dropped online over the weekend, it was revealed that much more footage was shot than used.
Satine, Stefan, and director Josh Bishop (who also made the made 2016's fabulous Dwarvenaut documentary about Stefan) teased us with anecdotes of these 'lost' scenes, many of which sounded as inspirational as the footage that made it on screen.
It was great to intercut some of the moments with shots of Dwarven Forge terrain and fantasy miniatures of Stefan and Satine, and the gaming session with the locals at a Reykjavik games store was a clever touch (I hope that 'gaming with locals' becomes a regular part of future episodes).
However, I do wonder if, to differentiate it from other travel shows, Destination Fantastic should lean further into the gaming aspect of its declared raison d'etre and share more of the RPG story ideas that Satine and Stefan get from the places and objects they encounter on their journeys.
Obviously, the pandemic has thrown a rather large wrench in the works of producing any more episodes at present, however, hopefully the show's recent partnership with the Hollywood entertainment company Legion M means we will - at some point - be getting further episodes as the show clearly has potential.
I really enjoyed Destination Fantastic and tweeted to that effect after watching it on Sunday morning, drawing "likes" from both the hosts (see below), which was very nice.
- Don't forget to sign up to the Destination Fantastic mailing list here, so you can be among the first to discover what comes next.