Some 3+ years ago, I was on the BNP discord when a call went out for anyone interested in Dungeons & Dragons to come to the “proverbial” basement. (Actually, the D&D channel is at the bottom of the channel list aka what I call the basement.) I had never played the game and never really heard it spoken of growing up, but I remember playing my own make-believe games of being a Power Ranger or Mortal Kombat fighter. I decided to give it a shot.
Now, over 3 years later, I’ve been loving being part of the BNP D&D, as well as enjoying different on-going D&D programs like Dimension 20 and Critical Role (and there are many more). So, when I saw the first trailer for Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, I was more than excited.
Light spoilers may be hiding like mimics in a maze…get your spells and weapons ready
Our campaign is about a bard and thief, Edgin “Ed” Darvis (Chris Pine), and his barbarian companion, Holga Kilgore (Michelle Rodriguez), trying to return home to the thief’s daughter, Kira (Chloe Coleman), who they have been co-raising since the death of Kira’s mother. They were detained in an artic prison after a heist gone bad. When they find Kira, she is in the care of the rogue, Forge Fitzwilliam (Hugh Grant), a con man and one of their companions in the heist who was able to get away. However, they find out that once a con man always a con man.
Forge not only has been lying about them to Kira, but Ed wasn’t meant to survive. The heist was set up by a wizard friend of Forge named Sofina (Daisy Head), who is hiding her true identity. She is a Red Wizard of Thay and follower of the evil Szass Tam. She needed Ed to help her steal a particular object she needed for a magical ritual to create an undead army. After that, everyone else besides Forge was expendable.
With Sofina’s magic and Forge’s charisma, Forge took over as ruler of Neverwinter which gained him immense power and wealth, and he also became the de facto father figure for Kira. However, with preparations almost complete for both the schemes of Forge and Sofina, Edgin and Holga are on a strict timeline to complete the quest objective of: get Kira back. That means we need more companions.
The Players at the Table
There are 3 more companions that Ed and Holga need to help complete their quest. The first they find is their last former companion, a sorcerer name Simon Aumar (Justice Smith), a descendant of Elminster Aumar, a powerful and renowned wizard (from D&D lore). Though Simon has magic flowing through his veins, the same cannot be said for his confidence. He tells Ed and Holga he was able to escape the failed heist but is almost killed by Sofina while Forge watches on. Simon has a quest of his own that he needs to fulfill. (More on that later.)
Next, we meet the new member and once (maybe again) romantic interest of Simon, Doric (Sophia Lillis), who is a druid that seems to favor her owlbear wildshape. Doric is a tiefling outcast who lives with wood elves and helps protect them from Forge. They believe (and are correct in their belief) that Forge took power through shady means and chose to speak out against him, so he has named them enemies and has been destroying the forest outside the castle and having them killed. This mutual enemy becomes her reason for joining.
The last member is only a temporary one. Saying that statement while thinking about D&D makes me think, “oh, he must’ve died while fighting the big bad,” but no, paladin Xenk Yendar (Rege’-Jean Page) is more of the character that leads you to the item you need (in this case he knows where the Helm of Disjunction is that they need to get into the castle vault), but once you have it as Xenk says in the film, “this is your quest.” Xenk and Ed don’t get off to a great start, because Xenk is Thay. Thay killed Ed’s wife. (Sofina is also Thay.) In the end, Xenk is probably the most upstanding character in the film (as most paladins are known to be) and saves Ed’s life as well.
The big bad evil guy, or gal in this case, is Sofina. As I said earlier, she is an evil Red Wizard of Thay and follower of Szass Tam. We learn through a flashback of Xenk’s life that he was a child and present when Szass Tam usurped power over his fellow high council of Red Wizards. He performed a ritual and summoned “The Beckoning Death” which turned all those who saw it (the other council members and the people of Thay) into undead. We see Sofina and several other Red Wizard followers of Szass Tam keeping the Thay people from leaving. Xenk’s parents are turned as well, but he is able to escape.
Now, Sofina is pretending to be a regular wizard (to everyone but Forge who knows she is a Red Wizard) and wants to take over Neverwinter by summoning “The Beckoning Death” to turn the people into undead, too. This is where Forge comes in. As a rogue and con man, Forge’s charisma helps win over the people of Neverwinter (well, after Sofina basically uses her magic to put the current ruler in a coma) and make him the new ruler. Forge then brings back the High Sun Games to bring more people to the area and more money. This is where their plans meet: more people for Sofina to turn, more money for Forge to scurry away with while no one’s looking.
I also want to mention the elite group of Thay assassins that work for Sofina as well. We don’t see much of them, and they are pretty much handled by Xenk alone, but they are definitely a formidable group that I wish we could have seen more of and been a bit of a bigger threat overall.
The next big bad I want to mention is here because he is BIG, HUGE, LARGE, and any other adjective you can think of that means great in size, and that’s Themberchaud.
If it has a name, it has got to be important or well known, and that’s Themberchaud, a rotund, adult red dragon who tries to eat the party. Being still pretty new to the overall lore of D&D, Themberchaud is from the “Forgotten Realms.” Now, Themberchaud is not the big bad, but he’s a big bad. Watching him trip and roll was a highlight of the movie, but it was only a momentary reprieve from the danger of this huge creature trying to eat the party. It does not even die when a sword has been driven through its skull, and we actually don’t know if it’s dead. We only saw an explosion, and then the party is swimming away after being trapped in a flooded chamber by Themberchaud.
I have to give a dishonorable mention to Forge. Forge played his role well, and though Sofina is once again the big bad, Forge’s willingness to do whatever it takes to get his hands on wealth, including putting a knife to the throat of a young girl he claimed to actually love as a daughter, shows that he is at least worth mentioning as a bad guy.
Okay, so let’s talk about the great things about the movie. I really have so much I could talk about, but I want to sum it up like this: Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is a great representation of how players imagine the games in their private spaces playing out.
The characters each had their moment to shine, and just like any table, each played their roles well. The bard, barbarian, sorcerer, druid, and hell, even the rogue and wizard were just great to watch as characters without thinking about them in comparison to game lore.
Speaking of the lore, I’m still finding out new things as I dig into the lore that was used or sprinkled throughout the movie, but I know that those who have spent many more years than myself playing the game were probably able to pick out every character and setting that came from the source material. As a magic user player, I had the most fun putting names to the spells. I absolutely cracked up when I saw Simon use Fog Cloud. I did this with my table because I was holding my action until a door open. Let’s just say I accomplished my goal of the enemy not being able to see…but neither could my party.
Also, an Easter egg that one of the Discord members pointed out, that I looked for during my second viewing, was that in several of the rooms the floors were laid out in square like maps that many players use, including my table since we meet online. I really loved that they did the overhead view during the heist, and you could see just how much the room looked like a dungeon map. I immediately felt like I was watching my DM open a map for us to explore.
Overall, the movie was a fun time. They ended the film in a way that gave it closure, but I’m hoping for at least one sequel so we can get more Xenk and have him join the party so they can go up against Szass Tam. From what I’ve read, Paramount+ ordered a series, and there is a possibility of a sequel. So, I’ll keep my dice warm until then.
Goes to get more tickets
A Low Roll
There was nothing in the movie that I thought was bad. There were things I wanted more of or just fleshed out more, but nothing that wasn’t good to me at least.
As I said earlier, I wanted more of the Thay assassins. They came in strong and fought Xenk well. I wondered why we couldn’t see the entire party try to take on or at least help Xenk out. This is one thing that I did notice that felt strange to me. If you look in the background when Xenk and Dralas, the leader of the assassins, are fighting, no one else is there; none of the other assassin Xenk knocked out nor the party. When I thought about this later, it made more sense in D&D terms.
When we are in combat, we roll for initiative order. Because we are going in order, the other players have to wait their turn. The fight between Xenk and Dralas seems to work like that in my head. It’s their turn in the initiative order, and I just have to wait until they’ve finished their action, movement, and bonus action before I can go.
Another thing I understood better on my second viewing was Ed “being” a bard. So, I knew Ed was a bard of course, but I felt I wanted more from that side of him, especially since bards are/can be healers. It was on my second watch that I realize he does do something like that for Holga after she leaves the house she once shared with her ex-love and sees that he has moved on. Ed, seeing that she is down, pulls out his lute and begins to sing a little tune that for me was quintessential bard behavior and, in a way, a form a healing. A good song can definitely provide some healing.
I think the last thing I wanted more of was the fight with Sofina. She was giving me such formidable energy that I feel the fight ended just a few minutes too soon. I know she had more up her sleeves than that, but I enjoyed the wizard vs. sorcerer battle between her and Simon.
Custom Character Creation
As I close this out, there is one last thing I want to talk about that really made me connect with this movie. Earlier, I said that Simon had his own quest. Simon is a descendant of a powerful wizard from the D&D lore, but he is pretty underwhelming and not confident in himself. His lack of confidence in himself makes it pretty much impossible for him to attune to the Helm. It is only when he finally finds his confidence that he is able to attune (seen above), and while ultimately it is for naught, it was necessary for him to grow (and level up basically).
I connected with Simon so much. It has taken 3+ years, but I still know that at times my confidence waxes and wanes like the Lunar sorcerer that I am, and as a sorcerer (with 1 level of wizard), charisma is important. While the mechanics of the game don’t really play out where dice can see when I’m not confident and then low roll on me, it was still great to witness the character played out; bumbling, making mistakes, and being afraid to fail because you’ve failed many times before. I may be reading too much into it, but that’s how I connected with it.
(Also like Simon, I even failed to romance a tiefling during my table’s first session.)
Returning to how I opened the review, I was recently driving past an elementary school and saw two boys posing as if they were firing off Dragon Ball Z style Kamehamehas at each other. I thought about how I also pretended to have these fights with my best friend at the time, and it made me think that I hope that they never lose that love for make believe and one day discover Dungeons & Dragons where they can go on adventures in whatever setting they see fit.
Your getting-better-with-my-confidence sorcerer
Cover image via IMDb