Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Gygax on a D&D Movie

In issue #13 of Polyhedron talks briefly about the status of a supposed Dungeons & Dragons movie. Three years earlier, the topic comes up in an interview with Gary Gygax in the September 1980 issue of Fantastic Films. What he has to say is actually quite interesting, especially in light of my own feelings about a D&D movie.

Reading this, two things stand out to me. First is Gygax's reference to The Hobbit as a good template for "a fantasy quest." That's no surprise really, since Gygax was quite open about his enjoyment of The Hobbit (in contrast to The Lord of the Rings, which he found dull). Still, it's additional fodder for the never-ending discussion the extent of Tolkien's influence over D&D, if that's something you enjoy. Second is Gygax's accurate assessment of his ability to write dialog, which suggests a level of self-awareness lacking in many creators – not that it stopped him from trying his hand at fiction writing anyway.


  1. Krull was absolutely the best D&D film that had the licensing yanked late in the progress!

  2. The "in D&D there would normally be no beginning and no end" bit catches my attention. It's just hooey for all but the most long-running and sandbox-y groups. The beginning of every D&D campaign is character creation, and almost every adventure module Gygax ever wrote has a de facto end point where the content has been full explored and exhausted. What's generally missing in most early D&D is a storyline, but even that isn't consistent - you can't legotimately say the Giants-Drow-Demonweb modules aren't volumes in an epic tale.

    Whether the shift toward more plot-driven linear material over the years is good or bad is debatable and subjective, but I will acknowledge that Gygax rarely wrote anything that could be fairly deemed a railroad.

  3. It's interesting that Gygax recognized that the classic "hero's journey" doesn't fit completely with the D&D gameplay loop, and that he assumes the presence a Dungeon Master would be minimal. In my opinion the previous D&D films have been forgettable generic fantasy because they didn't include anything that makes D&D unique. I've come to think that a D&D movie should be more like "The Princess Bride", with frequent flashes back to the game table. (You could either use the same actors for the players and PCs, or for humorous effect have a 14 year old player represented by Dwayne Johnson or the like for his PC.) You could even have a "daily grind" montage between sessions to show the players going through their regular lives looking forward to their weekly game night.

    The thing that makes D&D unique is that it is a social game. Strip that away and you just have a fantasy film. It could be good or bad on its own merits, but there's nothing particularly "D&D" about it.

  4. "In D&D there would normally be no beginning and no end" So make the movie episodic, like a bond film instead of an epic adventure like LOTR. It's amazing the new D&D film is the best they've managed in 4 decades or so?