Patrick Rothfuss Talks Rick and Morty, D&D and the Dark Ways

The following is a video transcript

Todd: I sat down to talk to Patrick Rothfuss about D&D, the new Rick and Morty comic and also the dark ways.

Patrick: You know, they approached me and I get asked to do a lot of cool things. And it's a nice position to be in. Part of the problem is you want to do cool things when they get offered to you. And so it's like Vertigo reached out to me and they're like, "Hey, do you want to do a comic?" And I'm like, "Oh man, with Vertigo? Like the house that sandman built? Like you do such good storytelling, I'm so flattered that you'd ask." And it's like the New York Times it's like, "Hey, do you want to write an opinion piece?" And I'm like, "Yeah." Like boy, that would take me a long time to feel really comfortable with the piece of writing I was going to put in the New York Times on a subject that I care about.

Patrick: And so a lot of things I just have to say no to for one reason or another. But then this one came out and it's like, "Hey, we're going to do a Rick and Morty D&D comic. Do you want to write that?" And I'm like, "Ah, son of a bitch." Like, "Yeah, I really do." And I'm probably the perfect person for it 'cause I really know D&D. I mean, I haven't known Rick and Morty as long but I caught that pretty early on and I've obsessed about it a fair amount. And I have some things to say about Rick and Morty. Like there's some brilliant parts and there are some parts that are really dangerous in my opinion. It's like including the fact that Rick looks like such a hero, like a tragic hero. The sexiest kind of hero is the tragic hero. And I'm like, "But you know, that's not really what's going on there. He's not supposed to be an admirable character but people are viewing him that way and that's really unhealthy."

Patrick: So the chance to go in and play in this beautiful world ... But that said, it's also gorgeous, emotional beat storytelling in this silly ultraviolent sci-fi bullshit cartoon. Like the craft brought into this storytelling is amazing and I've known D&D since I was in the fifth grade. And so, the chance to kind of mix up the two, I felt like I had to say yes because I didn't want to miss that opportunity. And it gave me the opportunity to really practice this collaborative storytelling. To not just have an illustrator or to write something with someone, but to have a co-author, illustrator, there's colors and letters. There's like three or four editors on the project. And then beyond that, there's two different people who own the two different IPs. So Cartoon Network gets to look at what we write and then say, "Uh-uh, no." And so does Dungeons & Dragons. So does Wizards of the Coast's gets to look at it and say, "Oh no, we don't want our brand represented in this way."

Patrick: So I'm like, "If I can do this sort of collaborative storytelling, I can do anything." Because in my world, working on my books, my editor only changes a word if I say okay. And admittedly, I'm mental. I am truly obsessive. My editor and I fought on three separate occasions as to whether or not I was going to be able to spell gray with an e instead of an a. Which went against the house style. And I went to the mat for it. I'm like, "No, grey with and e is different." And she's like, "I have said no to C. J. Cherryh that she could not. And if I say yes to you, what will that mean to her?" And we went back and forth and I had to trade her something else to win that fight.

Patrick: So that's the amount of control I posses over my own work. And to go from that to six collaborators and two people who can simply line item veto anything you write ... Again, it's been a real experience. But it's been a good one. The IP holders have been very good. I think a lot of that has to do with Jim Zub. He's really good at this process, he's really good at comics. He understands the scripting and he has built up a good relationship with the D&D crew over the years. But I also like to think that ... I've hang out with him a fair amount myself over the years, and I would hope that they would sort of trust me a little bit and know that if I was doing something and it seemed a little weird, there was a purpose. And if I poked a little fun at D&D, they would know that it's out of love.

Patrick: But that I'm sure of because when I hang out and I do stuff at D&D ... I sat in on one of the games that they regularly run. I think it was on Wednesdays, I was there consulting. That sort of an open secret that I'm consulting on a project although nobody knows of the project yet. And I was talking to Chris Perkins, he's like, "Okay, now we go and do this." He's, "Now we go play a game." And I'm like, "So you actually get together and you play D&D here?" He's like, "Oh yeah." He was, "We play AD&D to remember our roots."

Patrick: And so I got in this room and we all played AD&D and I rolled up a character. And I'm like, "Oh, the old ways, the dark ways, the no death saving throw. Oh you hit zero, you are for real done. Put your character shit away days. Like the struggle to go from first level to second level days. Like that is months of work going by the book, killing goblins. And the back when you got experience forgetting gold days." And it was all this old sense memory from back when I was a child.

Todd: When elf was a class.

Patrick: When elf was a class. And of course you wanted to play an elf 'cause that means that you start and you get one spell and you can wear armor and you can use a sword. Like so why would you be anything other than elf even though it meant that your level cap was lower? But who cares 'cause you're first level. It's like, "I want to survive. Just let me live for like three hours."

Patrick: So they're aware of their roots, they're aware of some of the weird places that D&D has gone over the years. They're not precious about it, they're constantly looking to do beautiful things but they love D&D as well but with a genuine honest love. Which means you sort of love it warts and all and you know that maybe, "Oh my partner, you have done some embarrassing things in the past but we can all grow and be better." And I don't know, it's a great team to work with.

Todd: Thank you Patrick Rothfuss for being on D&D Beyond. I am Todd Kenreck. Thank you so much for watching.

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