How to play the D&D movie as a D&D game, according to the directors

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 Honor Among Thieves — Simon (Justice Smith), Doric (Sophia Lillis), Edgin (Chris Pine) and Holga (Michelle Rodriguez) stand in front of a crowd in a gladiatorial arena, and look collectively worried Image: Paramount Pictures

Here’s how to get the authentic Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves experience

Ever since Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves hit theaters, gamers have been hitting up Reddit threads and RPG forums to discuss ways they can draw on the movie to enrich their home D&D games. Wizards of the Coast released official stat blocks for the movie’s primary characters, for anyone who wants to use them as NPCs or even try to play them. But DMs and players want to go further, hoping to replicate some of the movie’s specific action sequences, its central heist focus, or the gladiatorial arena combat in the third act. Honor Among Thieves writer-directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein actually have D&D experience themselves, so Polygon asked them for their best advice on bringing their movie to the gaming table.

Goldstein says that a key part of playing enjoyable D&D games is to not make the characters too idealized, or lean too much on wish fulfillment. “Our characters were crafted to be highly imperfect,” he says. “We always embraced the idea that all of them are flawed — with the possible exception of Xenk [Regé-Jean Page’s paladin character], except that he’s imperfect because he has no sense of humor. So with any good D&D campaign, it’s about figuring out the strengths of your team as a whole. Where can your cohorts fill in the weaknesses in your own character?”

“I would say, if you’re creating a character, don’t be swayed by low number rolls,” Daley says. “I think in many ways, it’s through the weaknesses of your characters that you discover where their true strengths lie. Just from a storytelling perspective, it’s always more fun to create limitations for your characters, versus having them be good at everything — that doesn’t create a good game, nor does it provide a good story to tell.”

 Honor Among Thieves from Paramount Pictures. Image: Paramount Pictures

In terms of what DMs should focus on when they’re planning a campaign narrative, the directors suggested one idea most DMs are likely familiar with: drawing on favorite media to give a story some flavor and the right pacing.

“We looked to some of our favorite films for story beats,” Goldstein says. “That’s always baked into our brains from a lifetime of watching movies. We wanted to tell a heist story, so we looked at some of our favorites in that genre, and figured out — what are the conventions? What are the tropes? How do we do it differently? And how do we make it specific to D&D, where instead of technology, the characters have access to magic?”

“And don’t be afraid to get really detailed with how you approach any one problem,” Daley says. “One of the most gratifying scenes for us to envision and ultimately create was the portal heist sequence, where the characters are trying to sneak a portal onto a picture, and sneak the picture onto a carriage. On paper, it is so unrelentingly specific that it can seem almost boring. But to us, those specifics, those obstacles the characters have to overcome, is where you can really craft a moment unlike anything you’ve ever seen in the film space.”

Daley adds, though, that DMs need to be willing to experiment, and to accept that not every story beat will land the way they expected. “In any good campaign, a DM could create something and not really know if it’s going to work out until they playtest it,” he says. “That’s the fun of making a game, or playing it — and the fun of making a film.”

Goldstein, for his part, has one more specific tip for DMs: “The last thing I would add to the would-be storyteller here is: Give one of your characters a Bag of Holding, because you can pull anything out of it that you may need. It’s very useful!”

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