This may come as a shock to you, dear reader, but I’m a bit of a nerd. I know I come off as a total alpha chad, but I actually have a huge collection of roleplaying books, card games, board games, and just so much geek shit. I’ve been playing Dungeons & Dragons since I called my friends over, slammed the core three books on the table, and said that we’re the kind of geeks who should be playing this game. As a longtime nerd, the various official D&D movies have been disappointing. The first was bad camp, the second was just bland, and the third has seemingly been scrubbed from everywhere. But not we have a big budget film with big name stars! Being a nerd is in! It’s just a shame that throughout it all, I kept thinking about how D&D‘s parent company has been making some awful decisions lately that harm the brand.
But first, the movie. Edgin (Mr. Chris Pine) is a scoundrel who–with his non-romantic, barbarian life partner Holga (Michelle Rodriguez)–were caught when a job went wrong. Mostly because their “friend,” Forge (Hugh Grant) conspired against them with his new wizard, Sofina (Daisy Head), who is definitely not actually evil and undead. Breaking out of prison, our protagonist duo try to get back Edgin’s daughter, Kira (Chloe Coleman), but Forge has turned her against her father through lies and trickery. Time to pull off a heist that’s also a rescue! The duo reunite with the ineffectual sorcerer Simon (Justice Smith) and meet the tiefling druid Doric (Sophia Lillis). A tiefling is like a half-demon, by the way. The four-person party need a MacGuffin and team up with the paladin Xenk (Regé-Jean Page) who to Edgin is absolutely insufferable in how nice he is. But Xenk parts ways with the group after they defeat a morbidly obese dragon, because he was most likely a support/babysitter character provided by the Dungeon Master, if you imagine the movie as an actual sit-down D&D campaign. It makes sense if you’re the right kind of nerd, trust me. Anyway, can our heroes get revenge on Forge, stop Sofina’s evil plan, and rescue Kira? I mean… yes. It’s not even a spoiler to assume the good guys win, but there are some hurdles along the way like the threat of a PC death (player character, not personal computer).
The movie was made by nerds for nerds, filled with too many Easter eggs to name. Most of the spells thrown about are taken straight from the D&D Players Handbook, with some as obvious as Evard’s black tentacles. Wait, it’s not named after him anymore? Doesn’t matter, that’s what I know it by. Hell, the end credits are done in the papercraft style of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which was absolutely done on purpose. The movie is fun, funny, and almost made me forget that Hasbro and Wizards of the Coast have been real shitty lately!
Some of you non-nerds may have heard grumblings about this while you were… I dunno, going outside? Socializing appropriately? Whatever the fuck you weirdos do. Part of the appeal of Dungeons & Dragons is the OGL, or Open Game License. It’s a contract that says that other people and companies can use the rule framework of D&D in their own products. Hell, I know people who have actually made money producing their own specialty supplements for the game, ready to make weird and exciting choices a more mainstream company would never go for. And everyone liked the OGL! Except apparently the higher ups at D&D‘s parent company, Wizards of the Coast. Why were these other, lesser companies making money off their hard work? So while developing the next edition of D&D, WotC decided to change the OGL to be way more in their favor, demanding a portion of profits from big name studios using their rules; you know, the competition. Everybody hated that and it hurt Wizards not just in reputation, but also financially as people stopped buying their products and cancelling their paid D&D Beyond subscriptions. WotC eventually relented and said the OGL will remain in place, but the damage was done.
That’s just capitalism for you. I actually work in the gaming industry and have seen so many companies make decisions not out of love of their games or respect for their fans, but because they bristled at the idea of not making all the money. And it sucks, man. I play games because I want to have fun with friends, but corporations are getting in the way. To go away from D&D for a moment, rumor is that a roleplaying game line I really love–Chronicles of Darkness by Onyx Path Publications–hasn’t announced any new products in over a year because a separate company owns the license and is producing a similar game–the newest edition of Vampire: The Masquerade owned by Paradox Interactive–with the company holding the IP either shooting down ideas or having the process be such a hassle that Onyx Path just doesn’t want to deal with it. Something something, capitalism bad and we all suffer.