The long-running Dungeons & Dragons liveplay show Rivals of Waterdeep celebrates its 100th episode this week. Launched back in 2018 during the “Stream of Many Eyes” streaming event, Rivals of Waterdeep has become a leading innovator in the D&D streaming space, building their own stories within the official sandbox of the Forgotten Realms, the campaign setting and home to many of D&D’s recent campaign-length adventures. Rivals of Waterdeep often incorporates elements of these adventures into their own story, without necessarily committing to that adventure’s full storyline. In some ways, this makes Rivals of Waterdeep a perfect partner for the D&D brand – the show expertly demonstrates how a table can take “official” D&D content and make it their own.
Rivals of Waterdeep’s cast currently comprises of Shareef Jackson, Tanya DePass, LaTia Jacquise, Masood Haque, Brian Gray, and Eugenio Vargas. One of the show’s major innovations is that it rotates DMs every season. This gives each 10-episode block a distinct flavor and allows the cast to explore a plethora of themes and storylines without feeling like things are growing stale.
The longevity to Rivals of Waterdeep is impressive, not only because the show’s characters are on the cusp of reaching the fabled “Tier 4” levels that most D&D campaigns never reach, but also because of what the show means to the wider D&D community. Notably, Rivals of Waterdeep’s cast are all people of color, offering important representation to a group typically underserviced in both the D&D streaming space and the wider tabletop roleplaying game community.
Speaking to Tanya DePass, LaTia Jacquise, Brian Gray, and Eugenio Vargas via a video interview, ComicBook.com asked about the show’s longevity and what it represented. “I remember those first episodes,” Jacquise, who joined the cast of Rivals of Waterdeep during Season 6. “I live tweeted the first episode because I was so excited to see a bunch of Black people and people of color playing D&D, and y’all were from Chicago, [Jacquise’s hometown.]” Jacquise also pointed out how important it was to see the show continue over the past three years. “It was amazing to see Rivals continue to come back season after season, especially when you saw the other shows that Rivals premiered with start to taper off, either because they were finishing or because they were going on breaks or hiatuses or whatever. It’s amazing just to have that representation and to continue to see that representation.”
Although Rivals of Waterdeep originally launched as a Wizards of the Coast-produced show, it recently spun off and became a Rivals of Waterdeep-partnered show, providing them with more freedom to grow their brand. DePass noted that change has provided both the show and cast with more opportunities in the wider D&D community and TTRPG spheres. “We’ve gotten way more sponsors, more partnership opportunities,” DePass said. “We have two characters in Idle Champions of the Forgotten Realms, and a birdie tells me there may be more coming. Warriors of Waterdeep just approached us. So we’ve gotten just more visibility. A lot of us have been guests on other shows. Brian’s been doing a lot of cool stuff, like he did a Humblewood one-shot recently for Roll20.”
Although a show with 100 episodes might seem like an imposing backlog of episodes to catch up on, the deep continuity of the show is also one of its strengths and provides them with more storytelling freedom. “There’s so much over the past to pick from,” Gray said when asked about how the show keeps things fresh. “But what I like is that we’ve actually had slice of life up episodes. Like, ‘Oh, what is everyone doing? That has nothing necessarily to do with combat or magic?’ And then we had like, “Okay, it’s a road trip episode.” We’ve had those moments where they are not reliant or dependent on a specific fiction or property coming out.”
Rivals of Waterdeep has been a bulwark in the D&D streaming space, which seems to constantly shift and change by the week. “I’ve noticed a definite surge, and a good surge, in online streaming of D&D and other properties,” Gray noted when asked how the streaming space has evolved during the past three years. “And what I’m loving seeing is I’m seeing people who are just enjoying streaming TTRPG content, and they are not trying to make it like Rivals. They’re not trying to make it like Critical Role. They are saying, “Hey, I can now play TTRPGs with my friends who may be separated by hundreds or thousands of miles. And we can all get together,” and they stream it. And they’re showcasing worlds they like, systems they like. They’re going back and they’re reclaiming things that weren’t written very well, or they’re making changes that need to be put into old setting books. I would love to say because of actual play shows like Rivals of the Waterdeep, everybody has realized that they can do this. They can have this fun and then they can stream it if they want.”
When asked about what hopes the cast had about the future, several of the cast members expressed hope that the show would just keep being the same experience that they love. “Fingers crossed, I’ll hope for a lengthy, lengthy future,” Vargas said. “That said, part of me wants to say…and it’s not about stagnation, but part of me wants to say that the show keeps doing more of the same. More of the DM rotating, more viewpoints at the table, more of the fun, genuine friend shenanigans, more all of that. Because that’s what I love, and it’s what I think a lot of us love. It’s what made me excited about this show. So in some ways, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
The 100th episode of Rivals of Waterdeep will air this Sunday, July 25th, at 1 PM ET on Dungeons & Dragons‘ Twitch channel.