Actual play network Dragon wants to be a Netflix for tabletop RPGs
Includes spoof reality show set in the world of D&D and upcoming David Bowie Spelljammer adventure.
A new online video network wants to act as a “one stop shop” for tabletop RPG shows, bringing a library of actual play series, podcasts and other roleplaying content under its banner.
Dragon was created earlier this year by the teams behind D&D series The 4th Culture (T4C), DM interview show How Not To DM and D&D-themed game show Dragons Duel, who envision the online platform as offering something similar to Netflix’s expansive library of videos - but for tabletop RPGs.
“Our goal with Dragon TV is to offer an experience to our users that’s similar enough to Netflix to not require a learning curve,” T4C Studios’ creative director Hamilton Ross-Bottomley told Dicebreaker.
“Our short term goals are around having a streamlined hub for content, and a single point of reference for our audience, which allows our audience to be exposed to more of our creators’ great shows. [...] One of the longer term goals of Dragon T4C as a platform is to provide a convenient ‘one stop shop’ for our audience to jump from/to TTRPG and adjacent content.”
Dragon’s current interface is a simple affair, letting viewers browse by show before delving into individual seasons and episodes. Ross-Bottomley revealed plans for improved discoverability in the future, allowing users to search by genre and other preferences to find new shows.
Other planned additions include a ‘live on Dragon’ channel, allowing users to immediately watch a currently airing show directly via the website - much like turning on the TV to see what’s on. “In the grandest version of our visions, this is a bit like skimming through your cable TV box’s ‘what’s on now’ section,” Ross-Bottomley said.
Individual episodes of each show will last 30, 45 or 60 minutes in an effort to make actual plays more digestible for the typical viewer.
“Our goal is to present content that’s edited to near-TV or radio production quality and do so via a service that works in a familiar manner to our audience,” said Ross-Bottomley. “Our learning from the heritage series was that few people have the time or inclination to catch up on 54 episodes of three hours of actual play.”
Among the actual play series already available on Dragon are Theatre Macabre, a gothic playthrough of dark fantasy game Mörk Borg, and Vampire: The Masquerade show Singapore by Night.
Future series will include Bowies in SpellJammer, a playthrough of sci-fi D&D setting Spelljammer inspired by David Bowie - featuring characters named after the late musician’s songs and alter-egos, such as Jareth, Major Tom, Hunky Dory and Ashes - due to air later this year.
Ross-Bottomley added that while traditional actual play series will be a key part of Dragon, the platform intends to go beyond the template popularised by the likes of Critical Role by offering a number of shows looking at tabletop RPGs away outside of the live-play format.
Those shows include Just a Minotaur, a roleplaying riff on the long-running BBC Radio 4 panel game Just a Minute - in which contestants must talk on a single subject for 60 seconds without hesitation - and upcoming parody reality show The Real HouseMates of Faerun, set in the titular region of Dungeons & Dragons’ Forgotten Realms.
Other extras will include behind-the-scenes looks at character creation for popular series, post-episode debriefs and fireside chats, and a peek at Session Zero playthroughs ahead of a show’s full premiere.
Dragon’s catalogue will include both existing shows and original content produced specifically for the network, with Ross-Bottomley providing reassurance that creators will be paid for their work, typically via a revenue share once initial production costs have been recovered.
“Our goal at Dragon is to ensure that creators can focus on creating great content - with the security of knowing they’re not going to get screwed over on the other side of the coin,” he said. “Where we’re bringing people under contract to ‘make’ a show for us, we pay them directly and promptly, or share revenue under a clear and transparent contractual agreement.”
Creators of shows licensed to Dragon would also retain rights to their works depending on their specific agreement with the platform, Ross-Bottomley said, adding: “We take moral rights of creators seriously, and the creator of the works will always be acknowledged and have their moral rights clearly recognised.”
Dragon’s flagship shows will be free to watch, with plans to launch a Patreon-style supporter tier in the future. The planned premium offering will include supplementary “in-depth experiences” for the main series, such as behind-the-scenes content, and early access to certain videos.
“There are some shows that depending on the success of the membership platform may be for members only - but we would never break a narrative arc of a show by paywalling ‘the final episode’ or equally unscrupulous things,” Ross-Bottomley added.
Dragon launched earlier this month with a slate of weekly shows including actual play series Roll of Cool, The DM's Travel Book Club, Theatre Macabre and the bi-weekly Just a Minotaur. Podcast-only shows The DM's Book Club and How Not To DM air weekly, with podcast episodes of the video shows releasing a week after their broadcast.