“I Love You, Shortpants!”: ‘Standard Action’ Review

Statistics have shown that it’s virtually impossible to achieve happiness with an Intelligence score of higher than 14.

I spent a large part of my childhood (defined here as 12-32) playing a plethora of roleplaying games. While my friends and I moved from one publisher and game system to another, there will always be something of a soft spot in my heart for Dungeons & Dragons. You never forget your first.

Standard Action is a web series created by Vancouver actor and geek Joanna Gaskell. It’s set in a fantasy world very much in the vein of the realms of Gary Gygax, and focuses on a misfit band of adventurers including the cheerful Elf barbarian Edda (Gaskell), who tries to be savage but tends to just want everyone to get along and be friends; Fernando the half-Halfling bard (Edwin Perez), desperate to prove his valor in battle, and compose a truly epic ballad; a vain and fashion-concious sorceress named Gwenevere (don’t call her Wendy) (Tara Pratt), who generally wastes all her spells just trying to keep her impractically stylish boots clean; and Martin (Daniel Johnston), the nature-hating Druid that gets a skin irritation whenever he “hugs a tree.” They’re all awkward, inexperienced, slightly inept, and make for one really dysfunctional adventuring party.

All four of the principle actors are pretty great. Gaskell’s Edda is just so adorable as the “meat shield” of the team. When she roars down a forest path to attack a foe (“Whoa, rage fatigue.”), or throws the most hysterically earnest stage punches in a tavern brawl, my heart just melts. And Perez is particularly fun hamming it up as the loveably eager Fernando. I sincerely hope that as the series progresses he’ll finally get to compose and (gods willing) perform the operatic ballad he knows he has in him. Hell, I’d buy a soundtrack album just for that, guys.

One of my favorite elements of the series is the way it’s so self-aware. The characters often refer to themselves and their world in game terms, referencing game mechanics such as Intelligence and Charisma scores, experience levels, and character class and race abilities (“Bards have spells too!”)

Many of the cast do double (or triple) duty as crew as well. The production is solid, in that free web series, MST3K sort of way, naturally. Costumes are great, in particular Martin’s green druid tunic, hood, armor… and black converse sneakers. I love the way Edda’s elfin ears droop down, almost puppy-like. And Wendy, err, Gwenevere is stunning in her elegant black and purple gown and cloak, kept mystically mud-free. The series is filmed in and around Vancouver, British Columbia, and the locations are suitably fantastic; green and earthy and wet, very often snowy. I’m looking forward to seeing some amazing (first or second level character appropriate) battles being fought in the forests of this goblin and kobold infested land.

At this time there have only been five episodes, with the first four serving as the pilot mini-series, bringing the heroes together for the first time, in a tavern naturally. Episode 5 sets the party on it’s first quest. It appears future episodes will follow roughly one every two weeks or so. I confess I was spoiled by being able to watch all five episodes back-to-back, so now I have to suffer the wait for new pieces of the adventure. But it will be worth it. I highly recommend you all give this fun, quirky little sword and almost sorcery web series Standard Action a look.

 

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