DM: Brennan Lee Mulligan (Dimension 20)
Players: Hank Green (he/him) as The Fix, Danielle Radford (she/her) as Anastasia Tension, Alex Song-Xia (they/them) as Conrad Schintz (he/him), Siobhan Thompson (she/her) as Imelda Pulse, Mike Trapp (he/him) as Detective Hunch Curio, and Freddie Wong (he/him) as Daniel ‘Dan’ Fucks
Streaming Service: Dropout
Dimension 20 returns with a fantastic first episode as we jump into the brain of Elias Hodge. Mentopolis leans into its 1920s/30s noir, taking its adult Inside Out basis to the next level. From the fantastic character artwork by Allison Cooper to the immaculate set design by Dropout’s Art Department, the look alone announces viewers are in for a wild ride.
This season of Dimension 20 utilizes the Kids on Bikes system from Hunters Entertainment. Aimed at small-town mysteries, this RPG perfectly fits the noir lean. We’re in the brainstorming mind of a young researcher, so I wouldn’t call it a small town. However, this is a sanctioned noir-flavored hack.
Brennan Lee Mulligan once again returns in the Game Master’s seat. As always, Brennan captivates with his theatrical bravado and welcomes our “Prefrontal PIs.” This is his first time running a non-D&D RPG for Dimension 20 in the dome. Any failure results in the awarding of a Moxie Token. The wonderful art department has even created marble runways from Brennan to each player, allowing him to directly feed the token like a synapsis firing in the brain.
Meeting the Characters
Through the Cerebell Pacific’s switchboard, we open to a murder before shifting to Detective Hunch Curio, a private eye played by Mike Trapp. He and Brennan riff back and forth, building up the cliche gumshoe office. A classy dame, as is traditional in noirs, enters the scene.
Siobhan Thompson plays Imelda Pulse, our classy dame and femme fatale. She immediately gives Hunch a pseudonym, Stacy Fakename. This results in Siobhan getting the first Moxie Token. Imelda reveals she influenced Elias, pushing him to act, and as a result, unexpected backlash haunts her.
Switching to the Cerebell Pacific, we enter the crime scene where a switchboard lays broken. Danielle Radford plays Anastasia Tension, a reporter looking to land her first big story. Stalking the scene, Anastasia finds the sister of the deceased switchboard operator, pumping her for information and getting us the name of the deceased: Norrell Ojiccle.
Despite managing to creatively salvage two Nat 1s in a row, Danielle receives her third, resulting in an ultimatum. Either she presents a front page story, or she loses her job.
From there, we swing down to Sugah’s, a speakeasy run by Daniel ‘Dan’ Fucks (Freddie Wong). Dan has a number of staff members who help run the speakeasy and embody physical pleasures that range from sneezing to that one time a barber whispered in Elias Hodge’s ear. A run-in with an intrusive thought, Donny Urges, spins us from Dan to Hank Green’s character, The Fix.
The Fix works to eliminate distractions, including intrusive thoughts like Donny Urges, who intends to interrupt the work day by pulling a heist of another department’s cake. The Fix takes care of Donny’s crew and gets a new assignment, putting him on the trail of Conrad Schintz.
Conrad Schintz, played by Alex Song-Xia, is a newsie selling papers alongside his dog and best friend, Justin Fication, who encourages Conrad to do more than just switch around the newspaper pages to make a difference.
Hank Green is a dream, spitting facts and intimidating with his easy rolling tone. I expected to enjoy the more regular cast members like Danielle, Siobhan, and Mike, but Hank stole the show.
Alex’s earnest soft voice sells their character. We only spend a short time with Conrad as he is the last introduced player character in the game, but Alex quickly won me over.
Everyone lived up to their character cliches, but Freddie suffered a bit tonally as he tried too hard to match the cadences of the more experienced players. He has some snappy one liners, and with any luck, he’ll relax in the next five episodes, allowing himself to shine.
Feeding into the 1920s/30s noir theme, the dome had more shadows than ever before, shrouding the players now and again in half-lights that creates heavy contrasts. Brennan and the players aren’t shy about embracing the tropes either.
The Great Depression colors Elias Hodge’s mind. Captain Tightass and Daniel Fucks underline this as “love” and simple pleasures are forbidden with Captain Tightass even saying that Elisas Hodge doesn’t deserve to feel good. Whether this will be further addressed as a constant struggle or alleviated as part of the story remains to be seen.
However, if you’re seeking extra content, Hank Green released a video talking about the first episode where he revealed that there won’t be any minis used in this series.
Final Score (4 out of 5 Stars)
With all the makings of a fantastic new setting, Mentopolis holds promise, bringing together a creative cast of characters who are willing to jump into the madness of Elias Hodge’s mind.
Brennan’s puns are top tier, and with so many already riffing off the noir trope train, we are undoubtedly going to see more.
Do you have a favorite pun? Were you tempted to make your own marble maze cerebral city? Let us know in the comments below or head over to our Discord channel to join the conversation.
Featured Image: Dimension 20
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