Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves

New Warhorn Media post by Nathan Alberson:

I played D&D back in the 1980s and recently restarted playing a D&D-adjacent RPG with my children, but I was going to give Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves a pass since I normally don’t enjoy action/fantasy/superhero movies. However, my teenagers convinced me to take them to see the movie, and I actually liked it enough to want to go see it again with my wife.

Perhaps this arises from my narrow exposure to action/fantasy/superhero movies, but the movie that Dungeons and Dragons reminded me most about was The Princess Bride. I think that is because Dungeons and Dragons it not a simple narration of a story, but it is obviously the role-playing of characters in a story. This meta-narrative aspect is more subtle than in Princess Bride, but the dialogue and weirdly specific constraints around magic are very reminiscent of D&D role-playing, at least at the teenage level, and this aspect goes beyond merely getting more out of a LOTR or Harry Potter movie if one has read the books. So I found Dungeons and Dragons pretty funny, and without that meta aspect, I think I would not have enjoyed the movie much at all.

Regarding the shallowness of the moral universe in Dungeons and Dragons – it had to be that way to be true to the genre. Evil is necessarily cartoonish in role-playing games and superhero comics because its purpose is to motivate the plot and create drama. The characters in a role-playing game set off to fight a wizard. Why do they want to fight him? Because he is evil. How do they know he is evil? Because he turned everyone in the country into zombies. But no one (at least at the teenage level) takes a moment to sit around the table silently pondering the horror and depravity of such an act. And having a character’s parents turned into zombies who attack the child is exactly the sort of backstory that will developed to explain why a member of typically evil race has turned to good. But no one (at least at the teenage level) spends time comforting that character and helping him cope with the trauma.