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Honor Among Thieves’ directors explain where and why they broke the D&D rules

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The triumph of geek culture has had some big, obvious effects, with adaptations of fantasy novels, superhero comics, and video games dominating movies and TV. Less talked about, but very much part of the equation: the rise of geek creators. These days, simply drawing on an intellectual property that has a devoted fan following isn’t enough. If the people behind the scenes aren’t fans themselves, the core audience will notice, and are likely to rebel. which is a big part of the reason the movie Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves needs to be made by people who have played D&D themselves, and who just don’t Know what tabletop gaming sounds like, but is actually Care about this.

John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein – directors game nightand writing partners on projects Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 To horrible Bosses To Spider-Man: Homecoming – are a D&D fan, and it shows honor among thieves, The director and co-writer (working with Michael Gillio, who also has story credit) tells a pretty standard fantasy tale, complete with an evil sorceress, a party of mismatched adventurers set out to stop her. Seeking to obtain the magical item, and the necessary action sequences along the way. But honor among thieves Wizards of the Coast invests heavily in the lore and background for its setting, and in the actual D&D rules for the parameters of its magic and its characters, right down to their stat blocks. Play Gamez sat down to talk with Daly and Goldstein about where they followed those rules, where they broke them, and why.

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Director Jonathan Goldstein looks in a viewfinder as Chris Pine, dressed as his character Elgin the Bard, stands together on the set of Dungeons & amp;  Dragons: Honor Among Thieves

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Photo: Paramount Pictures

D&D players will definitely take note of this honor among thieves Steps outside of the game’s canon in small ways and significant ways – for example, the party’s druid, Doric (Sophia Lillis), uses the standard wild shapeshifter power to take on animal forms, but twice a day is standard. activate it more often than the rules allow. (And also uses it to become an owl, which real players can’t do — but that’s a different can of worms.) The writer-directors are proud that the party’s magician, Simon (Justice Smith), has to take the time to Attune to a magical item before using it, but the complexities he must face in the process go beyond the boundaries of the game.

“We had a consultant on set who knew all those rules inside and out, and she would lean over and tell us, ‘Okay, for this magic, technically you have to do This And This, ” Goldstein tells WebMD. “So we’ll try to honor those things every chance we get. But ultimately, the movie had to come first, so if it feels like we’re deciding between a regimen or a plot point that needs to move the action forward, we’ll err on the side of plot.

“The underlying challenge is how do you portray this in a cinematic way that doesn’t completely alienate non-fans, or people who aren’t familiar with Dungeons & Dragons?” Daly says. “So it was a desperate trick that we were doing all the time. It seems to be working, at least for the people we’ve screened it for.

“We tried too hard to be true [the rules]Goldstein says. “The only thing we really got away with was the rest period, because that’s not really fun on screen.”

“But our use of magic, I think, will delight hardcore players,” Daly says. “We actually use the components, be they physical or somatic or verbal, in each of our spells. All spells are technically accurate.”

Michelle Rodriguez, in black leather as Holga the Barbarian, roars and raises a comically small hammer at a cringing Armored Knight in Dungeon End;  Dragons: Honor Among Thieves

Image: Paramount Pictures

Another thing hardcore fans may question is why the party’s upbeat face character, Chris Pine as Edgin the Bard, doesn’t use magic himself. Bards in D&D aren’t just singers, they’re wizards with a wide range of abilities. But you wouldn’t know that from the film.

“Our intention was not to overpower everyone in the party—which is to say that there are all kinds of strengths that may be at odds,” Daly says. “We love the idea [Justice Smith’s] Simon, as a magician, is the primary source of the traditional magic you typically see portrayed on film. But I would say that the magic inherent in Chris Pine’s character is his ability to persuade and charm people. And he is very much a storyteller, which is very much in common with the Bard.

That said, he thinks Edgin can still remind D&D players of their tabletop experiences: “The character of Chris is very much ideal for the casual player who hasn’t necessarily done their homework when it comes to the campaign. he says. “So if hitting people on the head with your weaponized harp works, why would you stray from that?”

Clerical magic is also downplayed in the film – there’s a quick mention of “cleric’s tokens”, which have a spell associated with them, but standard healing and resurrection spells are clearly not part of this world. Again, that was a necessary story choice.

“I think it’s different about a game versus a movie,” Goldstein says. “When you’re in a movie, if you give a lot of magical abilities to a lot of people, it becomes very difficult to keep coming up with obstacles that they can’t get over. So the party we created, we wanted brute-force characters, we wanted our sword-wielding paladin [Regé-Jean Page as Xenk] And our shapeshifting druid, but we didn’t want spells being cast right and left.

Dungeon & amp;  Dragons: Honor Among Thieves' Adventure Party—Michelle Rodriguez as Holga the Barbarian, Chris Pine as Edgin the Bard, Sophia Lillis as Doric the Druid, and Justice Smith as Simon the Sorcerer—in a gladiatorial Arena standing close together against a wall, looking worried as displaced animal traps in the corners of the frame

Image: Paramount Pictures

Ultimately, while some viewers are likely to quibble with the film on gamer forums and Reddit, the writer-directors think they’ll be happy with the look and feel of the film, which packs the screen with familiar elements from The Forgotten Realms. Is. The Continent of Feron, the City of Neverwinter, and the experience of exploring through them.

“We really tried to capture the feel of the gameplay, where nothing goes the way you expect,” Daly says. “So we’ll set up something in our story that the DM will have very painstakingly made up for the players, and with one wrong roll of the die, it all goes to shit, and they have to figure a way out of it. It’s unorthodox.” Is.

Goldstein and Daly’s D&D credits contain one particularly large (no pun intended) piece of evidence: an action scene revolving around Themberchaud, a fat red dragon with a long history in the D&D canon.

Goldstein says, “We wanted a dragon that belonged to the lore, that would fit the environment in the Underdark, specifically a red dragon.” “And that led us to Themberchaud. Now, traditionally, he’s not portrayed the way we portray him.

“But he’s a glutton in lore,” says Daly. “We’ve just extended that feature. But the mandate for us was to portray dragons in this movie that you haven’t seen before. Whether they’re the acid-spewing black dragon Rakor, which we created, or Themberchaud, who exists in history.” We’re really hooked on the fact that he’s not like any other dragon you’ve seen in a movie before. And what’s so cool is that it doesn’t feel like we’re cheating on the source material. are a dragon set apart so uniquely, because D&D itself is so unique.

D&D fans who are accustomed to listening to actual-play podcasts or watching game streams on Twitch and YouTube may wonder if they’re seeing any of Daly and Goldstein’s personal D&D experiences. honor among thievesThe Way Critical Role Group Sees Their D&D Adventures Into The Animated Series the legend of vox machina, For the most part, though, they aren’t—the directors say they wanted to avoid using other people’s past creativity to shape their work. But he definitely put some favorite things on screen.

Dungeon & amp;  The Dragons: Honor Among Thieves adventure party—Michelle Rodriguez as Holga, Chris Pine as Edgin, Sophia Lillis as Doric, and Justice Smith as Simon—stand together in a gladiatorial arena, one behind them gelatinous cube, complete with a half-digested skeleton hanging inside

Image: Paramount Pictures

“My campaigns were over a hundred years ago, so I don’t remember a lot of specifics about them,” says Goldstein. “Except that there were a Very of gelatinous cubes. And we included one of them in the film.

“One of my expeditions had a platform suspended from chains,” says Daly. “I thought it was an interesting scene, so we incorporated it pretty extensively through our characters in the Underdark dungeon.”

That said, while they may not be living out the fantasy of seeing characters from their past come to life on screen, they are experiencing a different fantasy – the chance to revisit the D&D canon, as recreated for film. Elements appear in WoTC. source material. “WOTC was very supportive, and put very little pressure on us,” says Goldstein. “Actually, in the beginning, we were developing this prison — the movie starts in a prison in Icewind Dale, and there was no prison in Icewind Dale. But now there is: they put it in the module.

“It’s in rhyme of the frostmaiden campaign book,” Daly says. “They’ve been great at collaborating. I would say that the geek in me was probably more excited to see something we made in a campaign book than to see our names on the poster for this movie.

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