In the middle Dungeons & Dragons: Honor among thieves, Michelle Rodriguez, Holga the barbarian, visits her from the house to find some closure in their relationship. The scene is pretty straightforward, with Holga and Marlamin (played by Bradley Cooper) having a heart-to-heart about where their marriage went wrong. But there is one of the scenes in the film, when two actors have this deep and emotional conversation, when one of them is a small, normal-sized man in a chair, the other is gruff, carrying an axe; a barbarian wearing a fur coat, who was soon beaten by the entire company of guards.
This series tickled me the most because, in my opinion, ex-floating is such a fun mechanic to integrate into a role-playing game. It’s a reminder that in this fantasy world of dungeons and dragons, the characters still mean something to each other. That goes beyond the cute romance and backstory – I just love the personal, one-on-one interactions within the game settings, because the characters feel real, like they’re in this world beyond discovery and adventure. They reach others, in addition to killing monsters, taking loot.
The benefits can be mechanical and personal. One of the current D&D characters has a long list of exes that I have woven into his back. Only one of them has appeared in our game so far (more friendly interactions than Holga and Marlamin), but my character is constantly drawing a long string of erosion. The details of his history have been told, but I have also used him to argue for the knowledge of certain languages and historical facts, because of the variety of things he has picked up from past reports.
I’ve written many, many, many times over at Polygon about my love of downtime, perhaps it’s no surprise that I love video games where one of the core mechanics is just hanging out with the other characters. Fire Emblem: The Three Houses and her tea-party system has all my heart, but I also adore it To wonder at the middle suns, which not only builds on the angst initiated in drama, but adds extracurricular activities, even though it is not even a school setting. Best Mass DLC it’s one where you go on a light-hearted, full-of-fun mission, then throw a party and hang out with your friends. That scene in Dragon Age: The Quest where the rogue narrator Varric ropes everyone into the card game? Prodigious (And yes, I’ve been told the Persona games I’d play are in an ever-growing backlog).
I’m the type of person who wants to stop and talk to every NPC, so when the game recognizes and integrates it into the game, I get excited. I like that my player character has an effect on the world around them! I like what people think about them, and they want to hang out!
It makes sense that when I started exploring board games, I would still love the time and role of the game, the opportunity to interact not only with the puzzle or the battles, but with other people. At first, not having dialogue options was a bummer, but now I realize that tabletop RPGs have everything I loved about video games, but more freely. I’ve been lucky to have DMs who indulge in this prerogative, from specifically plotting a behavior card to setting up an entire group where player characters and NPCs alike brought dishes for a potluck dinner.
Don’t get me wrong – I still enjoy some good competition in my games. But there’s something especially satisfying about memorable role-play interactions that always give me a burst of creative energy. Part of the fun is social, just with friends, part is the joy of creating something together, even if it’s just us as an audience.
And this is something the Dungeons & Dragons movie captures surprisingly well. Among the action sequences and heists, the main event is the party fun in one. Since this is a movie and not a long-running television show, the episodes aren’t designed to be filled with episodes where everyone goes to the beach or plays drunken video games. But within the framework of the film, the filmmakers have managed to integrate enough social scenes and personal interactions to really emphasize that these characters get and interact outside of what we see on the screen, an all too rare thing in the high-flying action genre these days.
Let’s have funny characters. They might struggle to reach for magical things, and get bogged down by their own insecurities. They could have awkward conversations with their exes. But later, when a grieving Holga gets off her horse and starts to ride, her good friend Edgin (Chris Pine) sings a song to cheer her up. It is not long before a smile flies to his face and they are both singing together. What kind of shit am I here!
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor among thieves is now in theaters.