Home Reviews Twenty Sided Tavern is a delight for fans of comedy and D&D

Twenty Sided Tavern is a delight for fans of comedy and D&D

Make a Constitution Saving Throw, or else you may ache from laughter.


It’s tough being a Dungeon Master. You set create a fun and challenging adventure for your party. You carefully plot out monsters and traps they will encounter. You meticulously map out a dungeon full of tricks and treasure.

And then the characters cheerfully stomp all over your plans by deciding to go off map, or failing their saving throws and dying in the first five minutes, or just deciding to go all Leroy Jenkins on a dragon’s den. Or the random roll of a die gifts them with an incredibly powerful item that lets them stroll right through all the monsters you put in their way.

Player characters can be real jerks like that.

But, that is also part of the fun and charm of the game of Dungeons and Dragons. Although you are trying to hit plot points in your adventure, side quests and character choices can have major repercussions later in the game. And a good DM can always plan for the proclivities of the players. (Once, when I had a party of real “look before you leap” types, I set up a coal cart on the top of a hill, knowing that they’d hop in and ride down. Of course, they didn’t see the Gelatinous Cube that was waiting for them at the bottom of the mine…) The chaos is part of the fun.

It is also a big part of the charm of The Twenty-Sided Tavern, an interactive comedy show that is currently running at the Stage 42 theater, just west of Times Square. I went to see it with editor emeritus of The Workprint, Christian Angeles.

Christian Angeles (L) and Victor Catano (R) roll for initiative. 

The show is, to use a phrase I learned in critic school, a hoot and a half. It’s an absolute blast. It’s an extremely fun version of the kind of campaign you’d run with your good friends, one where you are more interested in hanging out than leveling up.

When you enter the theater (after posing for some obligatory selfies with a giant D20), you are told to take out your cell phone. Yes, that’s right. Turn it on and leave it on. You’ll need to scan a QR code in the program so you can participate in the show. This links to a Gamiotic site that will allow you to vote on which characters are going to be in the show, different paths the characters can take, and puzzles that need to be solved to progress.

You also get a sticker in your program, and the color determines if you are in the Warrior, Mage, or Trickster cohort. I got Warrior, and the day we were there, the character choices for the warrior were “Monk With a Dark Secret” or “Bro-iest Bro.” Bro-Barian won, so the Warrior slot was filled by a chill dude party dwarf, who was all about working on his best self.

Other votes include mundane things like “How will the party duck their bar tab?” The options were Honesty or Deception, and Deception won. When it was revealed that the difficulty of the task required an extremely high roll (over 18 on a 20-sided die), the audience groaned. This prompted the on-stage DM to scold us with, “Hey Actions, meet my friend Consequences.” Fortunately, the party’s clever deception (of faking a slip and fall) succeeded as our Mage got a high roll. Oh yes, the characters on stage all roll for saving throws and damage, and there are little cameras on their dice to show the audience so they don’t fudge anything.

So, in effect, you really are watching people play a game of D&D, albeit played a lot more broadly and for comedic effect. And because the actors are all skilled at improv, it’s really fun to watch. The audience got extremely invested in the game, bursting out in cheers when a character rolled a natural 20, which let the Warrior launch an attacking street urchin into a low orbit. And each character gets a “mulligan,” or a re-roll, once per game. When the Warrior failed a crucial saving throw in the dungeons, the cries of “RE-ROLL” from the audience were deafening.

The audience is also tasked with naming the NPCs (Non-Player Characters), that is, the townsfolk and people the players encounter. This led to the villain of our story being named Mayor Cupcake. (Don’t let the name fool you. He wasn’t very sweet.) And the audience as a whole was really into the show. I thought I was being cool by wearing my Beholder t-shirt, but many people were decked out in D&D swag, some in full cosplay.

So, this is a slam-dunk recommendation to anyone who has ever rolled for initiative or knows what THAC0 means.

But what if you aren’t a D&D person? Well, the basic rules get explained by the Tavern Keeper, who doubles as an assistant DM to help keep the show moving along. They also get projected on the video screen before the show, but this is really more about the broad comedy and the improv. So, if you like fun, I think you’ll be fine.

And because the characters and audience decisions can change with every show, you can see it many times and not see the same one twice. Which I encourage you to do, because this was a ton of fun.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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