Dungeons & Dragons: The Book of Vile Darkness Thoughts

So, there comes a point in every role-player’s life. At this point, they’ve played a few different campaigns, a few different characters, but there has always been one this that at least one of the DMs they’ve had have never allowed.

Playing an evil character.

The DMs will argue that having evil characters just doesn’t work in their game. It’ll ruin the plot and cause characters to fight and why would the rest of the party allow Ethelred the Adulterer to travel with them, especially after the damage he caused to the Temple of Boccob when they needed the priest to give them his blessing to enter the Sanctum of Magic and repair the Crown of Marragin? But I digress…..

The point is, at this point, the bright eyed and bored role-player wants to try his hand at slaughtering villagers instead of saving them, of holding the princess for ransom instead of rescuing her. In comes the evil campaign

The evil campaign is the ultimate gamer cathartic experience. They get to try their hand at “more complex characters” with “deeper back-stories”. A lot of the time, this is baloney. They just wanna smash stuff and get rewarded for it, instead of chastised for their insolence by the DM.

The Book of Vile Darkness is the third installment in the D&D movie franchise. If the first movie was the franchise in it’s infancy (and let’s face it, it wet the bed), and the second movie was the more mature flick that had some better indication of what it wanted to be, then the third film is the adult realization of the bunch. And I do mean adult. Apparently, if the mature content disclaimer on the front of the D&D splatbook of the same name is any indication, then the nudity and “mature themes” in this movie are well expected.

The film features Grayson Azreal, newly knighted member of the Knights of the New Sun, a coterie of knights dedicated to the Sun God, Pelor and the eradication of all evil. Every knight during their initiation prays to Pelor hoping to gain his divine blessing, but no knight has in over 800 years, but they still get to be knights, so it’s not that bad. Grayson is butthurt that he wasn’t the one to awaken the blessing of his deity, but before he can sulk too much, the knights are ambushed, and Grayson is the only survivor, his father carried off by the baddies. Grayson denounces his faith, and rushes off to find his father. He soon discovers the best method to achieve his goal is to join a group of evildoers on their quest to locate the pieces of the titular Book of Vile Darkness and present them to the man who kidnapped Grayson’s father.

Forced to to terrible things like murder in cold blood, break his vow of chastity, lie, cheat, and steal in order to fit in with the group and not arouse suspicions that he is more than just a man-at-arms looking for gold. Eventually it gets to the point that when he reaches his father, he’s decked out in black armor, carrying a cool wicked-looking vorpal blade, has a scar on the side of his face, and his father thinks that he’s just gone totally evil. This led to one of the facepalmiest realizations I’ve ever had. Gray-SON. His entire quest revolves around engaging in morally GRAY activities on a quest to rescue is FATHER. Clever writers, very clever…

I think this is the strongest out of the three Dungeons & Dragons films, and the purest example of the evil campaign done right. The film has relaxed a little on the previous installment’s penchant for referencing the source material while still presenting the casual role-player with enough Dungeons & Dragons-y things to call it self a D&D flick. Bonus points for including the Slaymate from the Libris Mortis splatbook in what is genuinely a very creepy scene. If you can find this movie, check it out. It’s my personal favorite of the lot, and is a great way to cap off a series that has until now really dragged.

Dungeons and Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon God thoughts

So, a few years back, the Nostalgia Critic reviewed the Dungeons and Dragons movie. That movie was somewhat universally disliked by it’s intended audience, and only has a 3.5/10 in IMDB. I was given a DVD of it a couple of years ago for Christmas. I was surprised to discover that it actually had a sequel, Wrath of the Dragon God, and that it was on the reverse side of the DVD. After watching the first one, I never really mustered up the interest to watch the sequel. Last night, I had just finished the MST3K collection I had picked up from the library, and I was desperate for something else to watch (while I worked on my super secret project). I grabbed the nearest DVD to me, which was Dungeons & Dragons. I realized I’d never seen the second movie, so I popped it in my laptop. I usually check out the special features first, and this disk had InterActual Player on it, you know, that DVD-ROM gimmick that was hard to actually get your computer to run for some reason? The disk has a module on it! I could actually print out the for four 1st-level players Servant of Decay module and play it if I wanted (and if I had friends), how awesome is that?! I looked up the module online and no one was talking about it, so either no one liked it, or no one had it.

Next I watched the interview with Gary Gygax, where he gives his blessing to the film, and it’s discovered that the characters in the movie actually have stats! Most of them are seventh level, and it even lists their stats and abilities. Almost as if they put actual thought into this movie!

Then I moved on to the actual film. The bad guy in this is Damodar, the second-in-command to Jeremy Irons in the first one, who has been cursed by Iron’s character Profion to become an undead Death Knight.

He’s trying to awaken a Black Dragon God and destroy the world. In Izmer (the city from the first one), an ex-knight turned bureaucrat named Berek is tasked with putting together a group of adventurers that can travel unnoticed. He chooses Lux, 7th-level Barbarian warrior woman, Nim, the grubby-looking but super competent 7th-level Rogue, Ormaline the Half(?)-Elven Wizard, and Dorian the Cleric of Obad-Hai. I was going to say I wasn’t a fan of the woman who played Lux because she seemed a bit too…svelte to play a Barbarian, then I found out she’s the same height as me, so….yeah…

Already I really like this movie.  It just feels like a D&D set up. A previous villain coming back stronger, an excuse to put a party together and a quest to send it on, each one filling out a desired niche (although in a real party, there probably would have been at least one Half-Dragon Rakshasa Warmage with levels in the Celestial bloodline. God I hated ECLs).

They travel to find the location of the abandoned temple that Damodar is hiding in with his MacGuffin what will awaken the dragon. Along the way, the Cleric dies (as per usual), and the Rogue is by far my favorite character. They get attacked by monsters in the Monster Manual (A White Dragon, darkmantles, unfortunately, no goblins), and eventually discover the location of the temple, and teleport there, only for the mage to teleport herself into a stone wall, trapping her arm. After another of one of this movies surprisingly well choreographed fight scenes, Damodar gets his arm cut off by a vorpal sword (which thanks to a scene getting cut just spontaneously appears in the main character’s hand).

They get the orb back to the temple, and stop the dragon. Those of you who have seen this movie know that I’m glossing over a lot. I’m not going for a full review, only a recommendation. If you are a hardcore fan of D&D (especially 3.5), definitely find a copy of this movie, it’s 100% worth the watch. It’s full of inside references, especially to classic D&D modules and items, and it’s done really well.

If I had to point to a part of the film and call it bad, it would be the special effects. These are made-for-TV budget effects, and it shows. The only thing that stops them from being silly, is that they’re used so often, and it just becomes part of the “look” of the film.

Wait, no post yet?

I know you’re all waiting with baited breath to hear my masterful words on the subject of gamer movies. Well, rest assured, I’m on a secret government mission to increase the awareness of my proffered genre.

Just kidding, kinda. I’m working on something special for you, but it’ll take me a while.

Maybe entertain yourself by taking a look at some of my favorite webcomics?

8-Bit Theater: http://www.nuklearpower.com/8-bit-theater/

Enemy Agency: http://www.enemy-agency.com/

Keychain of Creation: http://keychain.patternspider.net/archive/koc0001.html

Order Of the Stick: http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0001.html

Other genres??

Wassup? Sorry, no new full post today, no excuses, I’ve just been working. I had a question though. Can anyone out there in internet-land recommend any RPG movies?

I’ve been compiling my list, and I was wondering if there existed any non-fantasy RPG movies? There are sooo many different genres of RPGs. Pulp, Cyberpunk, Urban Fantasy (which comes in both Vampire and Faerie flavors), not to mention whatever Don’t Rest Your Head is.

There is so much unused potential for different genres or even cross-genre clashes! A group of Vampire LARPers get the crap kicked out of them with boffer weapons. A bunch of CCG players are ostracized by role-players (Yes, I am currently watching Gamers: Hands of Fate, episodically on youtube, I highly recommend it). Both are great opportunities for lots and lots of papercuts!

Goblin Interstitial: Fantasy Sequences

So, it could be argued that a gamer movie is usually made up of two things. Reality and fantasy sequences. Film being a visual medium that it is, it helps to take the viewers in for a closer look at what goes on in the heads of the players. Usually this consists of the actors playing the players dressed up as their characters. Some movies get artsy with it, like GamerZ, and it’s easily the best part of that movie. Some movies go half and half, like The Gamers, and the counterbalance is really neat. I had a thought though. No single gamer pictures a scene the same way. You say ” Inside the dusty room, there is a table with a frayed red tablecloth lain across it, and on the table rests a dusty old book” You have three players playing. Let’s call them Bob, Jasmine, and Ozymandias. All three players will focus on the book. Here’s what they see:

Bob:

book1

Ozymandias:

book2

Jasmine:

book3

She has issues.

Point is, even a single, simple detail can be seen different ways by your three players. So why are they always the same in movies? I propose something different. Those of you who have been on Cracked.com have probably seen After Hours. For those of you who haven’t seen it, it’s a group of people from Cracked sitting at a diner and talking about stuff. What stuff? Doesn’t matter. They discuss pop-culture stuff, and occasionally, like a gamer flick, they slip into a kind of imagine spot. But the main difference is, every character in After Hours has a different artist illustrating their brain.

This is  a free idea for anyone working on a film. Try that. Show each fantasy in a vastly different way. Imagination is important because no two are alike. Might be a nice shake-up. Have fun!

Diceroller Flicks: The Gamers

Okay. On with the show…

This week we’re looking at The Gamers.

Made in my home state of Washington by Dead Gentleman Productions in 2002 for about $1000, The Gamers is a love letter to late night gaming sessions with your friends. It opens with almost VGA level graphics of the main player characters, it’s acting is a bit on the poor side, and the writing was good not great, but none of that matters. If you have any experience with gamer movies, you’ve seen this one.  It pretty much invented the genre, or at least defined it. You can tell by their casual mentions of “the dark elf with the scimitars”, that they were being very careful to not get into any legal trouble, and the name of the game is never actually mentioned.

The movie starts off with an introduction to the player characters (and yes, I finally mean players in the gaming sense, you can relax now) and a text crawl that mentions an evil plot by a villain called The Shadow. bunch of dorks standing in their dorm hallway, chatting about something gaming related, one of whom wants to use the new sword of ogre decapitation he got, when a girl in a nearby  who is trying to study for finals goddammit tells them to be quiet. I’ve never been to college. Do people actually study there? I thought it was all drunken orgies…nevermind…

The gamers enter their little conference room, and get set up for their game. One of their players, Mark is absent, being out with this girlfriend. More dialog is tossed around that at a glance sounds like something a gamer would say, but isn’t: “I got your dice right here!

Then we learn that the DM has gone with the classic tried-and-true method of character motivation: Killing everything and everyone the character has ever loved.

gm1

WHYYYY!?!…Because I said so. That’s why.

They receive a letter telling of a kidnapped princess, whose only hope is them. They go to investigate, and decide that the answer they seek might be at the bottom of a bottle of dwarven ale in nearby tavern. I’ve only been in one game where drinking a bottle of dwarven anything has ended well.

gm2

Uh…Rogar? Buddy? You alive?

The thief goes to get more drinks, and in the process tries to steal everything physically possible from the guy sitting at the bar, including his pants.

Then the director walks in, angry that they left him behind to die in a previous battle.gm3

God I love director cameos, don’t you?

The angry warrior is about to kill the party, when Nimble the Thief attempts to backstab the poor guy with a ballista. There’s nothing against backstabbing with siege weapons in the rules, so it’s okay, and he proceeds to turn the obstinate giant into chunky salsa all over the tavern walls. Since they’ve now scared everyone half to death and can’t get any information off of the gore-splattered commoners,  they leave.

Having ruined any chance of the DM being able to give them information, he resorts to having the princess show up as a blue jedi spirit and tell them where she is.

gm4

 

Help me…Please help me…I am a prisoner in the dungeon of the castle. My name is Zelda…wait, what? Shit, wrong game. My bad.

The group journey’s onward until they reach a river, and thanks to a system of flaws and perks, the mage is afraid of water. In their attempts to knock him out they get a little overzealous and end up killing him. Short one party member, they travel along the waters of Puget sound until they get ambushed by “The Bandit King”. The elf kills the Bandit King before he gets a chance to pontificate overlong (that means make a boring speech, for those not in the know). The DM vetos this, and continues on anyway, attacking the group. They appear to be losing, until they remember that Mark’s character has been standing in the background, staring off into the middle distance. Mark shows up, and wrecks house, winning the battle with a berserker bonus

gm5.

A thousand-mile stare like that is usually reserved for the DM when he realizes one of his players is missing…

So they continue on to the castle where the princess is being held, and outside they find a familiar face. Their mage from earlier, or, wait, a completely different mage who just so happens to be played by the same actor and player. Adding new characters to a pre-established group is hard, okay?

They travel through the castle, until they come upon The Shadow, an evil Dread Pirate Roberts-type. After getting their asses handed to them, the mage comes up with a plan. Using baleful polymorph, he turns The Shadow into an ogre. The rest of the party consider this a very bad idea, until the fighter remembers the sword of ogre decapitation in his bag. They curbstomp the ogre and the day is saved, except that…the princess is nowhere to be found. they travel further into the castle, eventually stumbling upon a strangely well-lit corridor with a door, behind which they can hear voices. They decide to take no prisoners and charge into the room, in which a bunch of familiar dorks are sitting, Playing D&D. This leads to the most literal case of a total party wipe in existence as the movie ends with the girl from earlier storming in, not noticing the bodies, and tells the characters to shut up so she can study.

 

That was trippy, right?

Portrayal of RPGs – 4/5

The movie really feels written by a gamer, albeit one who was prevented from making more specific jokes thanks to copyright. I think if the movie had been allowed to actually say what game they were playing (all of their gamebooks had the covers taped over, but you could see they were using D&D 3.5 manuals) as well as reference it, it might have been a bit funnier, like it’s sequel, which we’ll get to next time.

The Plot – 4/5

I actually wasn’t sure how to rate the story here. It’s a standard fantasy save-the-princess plot. The dialogue was poor, and sounding like things someone thought a gamer might say if the observer had only been to a couple of games. But this movie did a great job with very little. was a pretty solid flick that made it’s way to having a cult-following among role-players. It’s got definite heart, and every gamer should check it out, unless they have to study.