1985 was the year that truly made me who I am today. It was the year I began collecting comics, The year I met my first best friend, and the year I discovered Dungeons and Dragons.
I guess I need to begin my tale in 1982. My first exposure to D&D was the awesome toy line produced by LJN. I loved these figures and they were a “blink and you missed it” toy on the shelves. At the time they didn’t have a cartoon to advertise them and like with all properties in the 80’s they went whole hog with products. They made Colorforms, Shrinky Dinks, Books, and Coloring Books. The figures had great accessories, designs, and “sold separately” mounts and monsters. I remember my Parents friends had all of the figures on shelves in their office at home (and all of the first run Star Wars figures). I wasn’t allowed to play with them, but I remember looking at each and everyone of them with a unrequited love. Many, many years later I learned that my Parents Friends were gamers, wish I would have had a chance to role some dice with them.
Then in 1983. Like most kids of the 80’s I watched the short lived animated show of ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ that aired on CBS on Saturday mornings. The show was made by Marvel’s (sweet) cartoon division and TSR. The show was silly, had some horrible characters (Uni and Bobby), and their depiction of the creatures was laughable. But it laid the ground work of what would be a life changing era of my life. The show ran until 1985 and lead me to discover the infamous RPG game.
Our local library had a small selection of D&D books in their games and leisure section. They had the Players Handbook, Dungeon Masters Guide, Monster Manual, Dungeon Explores Guide, and Unearthed Arcana. At that age I didn’t understand what all the numbers and rules meant, so I gravitated towards the Monster Manual. At nine, monsters were something I could read about all day long…and I still do. I actually own that very same copy of the book now, as well as the Players Handbook, Dungeon Explores Guide, and Dungeon Masters Guide. The library sold them off when they updated to Second Edition in 1989 and I was lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time. I cherish those tomes of yore. Every yellowed page, stain, and penciled in notes. Those books have seen a lot, not just from me but all the people who checked it out of the library before me. And in the small town I grew up in, I ended up meeting most of them.
It wasn’t until years later that I actually learned how to play the game. In 1989 I had joined my High School’s ‘Strategic Gaming Club’ when I was a freshmen and I got in on the ground floor of D&D’s Second Edition. By this time I had read many novels (the most recent at the time was the recently released R.A. Salvatore novel ‘Crystal Shard’), seen many fantasy movies, played fantasy video games, and had a general grasp of First Edition D&D. I played Second Edition through out High School and a little afterwards. I also started playing other games in other subjects, Marvel Super Heroes by TSR and any Palladium Game being the go to. Almost every weekend was filled with gaming for me and my friends. It was a way of life and to be honest most of us weren’t the nerds you’d see on TV. We balanced our gaming sessions around girls, partying, sports, and other normal endeavors and jobs. I could go on and on about Second Edition and I might one day, but not today.
By the year 2000, we hadn’t played a true D&D campaign in years. And we haven’t had a gaming session and a very long time. Then Wizards of the Coast (TSR) released the Third Edition of Dungeons and Dragons and we were sucked back in. We were all on the ground floor again and most of our Saturday nights were spent playing very long form campaigns that took a year plus to complete. We would revolve between us all who would run and we all had our own unique campaigns (Mine were mostly horror and supernatural based). Most malls in America had a Wizards of the Coast store and with the open game license of the D20 system, it was a great time to be a gamer. The Lord of the Rings movies came out and we thought fantasy would be the new norm. It wasn’t. Eventually the market crashed, marriages happened, kids were born, and free time disappeared for most of the group. I would pick up a couple games here and there with other groups but for the most part I haven’t slung dice in a very long time but I still have a passion for RPG’s. I joke with my wife that when the kids are older I will teach them and create my own little in house gaming group.
Now that was a lot of background to get to my very simple point. Warner Bros. is planning on making a new D&D movie. In the “fresh off the presses” news of it is spreading across the inter-web, they have turned a blind eye to the horrible movies that were made in the past. Dungeons and Dragons was the only “big budget” outing of the three. Released in 2000 it was a worse fantasy movie than what we saw on VHS in the 80’s. Bad story, acting, and a very loose use of the worlds of TSR sank this ship as soon as it left dock. A year later Peter Jackson came along with Lord of the Rings and set fire to the D&D wreckage. Five years later Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon God was released on DVD and aired on the Sci-Fi Channel. It’s budget was smaller and was about what you’d expect from a Sci-Fi movie in 2005. Than again, the stuck while the iron was hot…in 2012, and released Dungeons & Dragons: The Book of Vile Darkness. Also a direct to DVD and Sci-Fi gem. I won’t dwell on these offerings because I’ve taken enough time talking about the good of D&D in my life, why discuss the bad?
Now, here we are today. As I said Warner Bros.is planning on making a new Dungeon and Dragons movie. There has been talk for a little bit about this but it was announced that ‘Goosebumps’ helmer Rob Letterman was hired to direct the film. Letterman’s other gigs have been ‘Gulliver’s Travels’, ‘Monsters vs. Aliens’, and ‘Shark Tale’. Outta these flicks ‘Monsters vs. Aliens’ is the only one I’ve seen and it wasn’t a bad movie. His most recent outing, ‘Goosebumps’, looked pretty neat and made some good coin in it’s release. Letterman is also writing the script with David Leslie Jones. Jones also wrote ‘Wraith of the Titans’, which while not a great movie was great monster porn. Maybe some big monster fights will make a new D&D movie easier to stomach. In an interview, Producer Roy Lee said…
“This new Dungeons & Dragons will be a Guardians of the Galaxy-tone movie in a Tolkien-like universe. Because when you think of all the Hobbit movies and The Lord of the Rings, they have an earnestness to them, and to see something fun, a Raiders romp inside that world, I feel is something the audience has not seen before.”
Sounds fun and who knows what the future will bring with this film. No other word has been given other than they want to cast a “Vin Diesel” type of actor for the lead. Hell, get Vin. He’s a dork from way back, so he’ll bring the heart to it.
UPDATE: Here’s a list of notable players I found. Some were news to me, while others are old favorites. Dungeons & Dragons in Popular Culture