Monday, March 5, 2012

Why "Supplement I" May Be The Most "D&D" Of All D&D Books (well... the Oe ones, anyway)


For some reason, over the weekend I got to thinking that regardless of how good of a movie "property" that D&D and should be in Hollywood terms (e.g., built in fan base, potential for crossover sales, etc.), that it will probably never be that for a few very important reasons.

First, the majority of the clichés of the game were "borrowed" from other sources, the most obvious and pervasive being LotR (duh.) So open up the "Men & Magic" book from your Oe trinity and start scratching out things like elves and dwarves as being even remotely unique to D&D. Then go to the Monsters and Treasure book, and start scratching out the things that come either from specific mythologies (e.g, the Greek monsters that are definitely more Clash of the Titans than uniquely D&D), general mythologies (vampires, giants, nixies, pixies and dryads), or from LotR (well, TSR actually had to do that pretty early on anyway, didn't they?) That doesn't leave too much that is uniquely D&D there, does it?

Second, production companies seem obliged to include dragons in any version of D&D they attempt. (Please don't go reviewing the ones they've done. God forbid you have to re-expose yourself that Wayan's brother movie with production values lower than 1980's version of Flash Gordon, or the 3rd rate CGI from 2005's Wrath of the Dragon God.) And as any of us know (and as has been discussed repeatedly on the blogalogs out there), rarely do dragons make it into what most of us consider "normal game play" anyway. Why? Because, though "dragons" is part of the name, there is so much more to the game than that.

Third, you can't call it "Dungeons & Dragons" if you want anyone who's never played the game to see the movie. Hell, I'm 45 years old and the only time I ever use the full words "dungeons and dragons" (out loud) is when someone asks me "What's D&D?" because they're not familiar with the term. More than that, though, I feel like in some ways "dungeons and dragons" has become a fairly generic term to those outside of RPG circles. Try to tell someone outside the hobby what Tunnels & Trolls is and my guess is they're likely to say, "Is that like Dungeons & Dragons?"

So how do you solve the above?

To the first point above... USE THE PROPERTIES THAT ARE TRULY UNIQUE TO D&D!!! And as anybody who's ever had to deal with the OGL knows, that means: beholders, blink dogs, carrion crawlers, displacer beasts, gelatinous cubes, phase spiders, rust monsters, stirges and umber hulks. Holy shit! Every single one of those is from the Greyhawk supplement and half of them are "product identity" owned by WotC. The only other quintessential monster missing from that list is the mind flayer. Not to mention Supplement I is also responsible for magic items like the dancing sword.

To the second point above... WHO THE HELL NEEDS DRAGONS WHEN YOU'VE GOT BEHOLDERS, RUST MONSTERS AND UMBER HULKS??? Honestly, throw a wise/advising dragon, or a starving one that needs some monsters vanquished and the nod has been made. The dragon does not have to be the villain. (Yes, I know you know that, but Hollywood doesn't.)

And finally, to the third point... "GREYHAWK" SOUNDS A HELL OF LOT COOLER AS A MOVIE TITLE THAN "DUNGEONS & DRAGONS" ANYDAY. Just picture the word "GREYHAWK" in the font Trajan moving slowly at you on the screen with dramatic orchestral music, then a flash cut an extreme close-up of an umber hulk with a loud snarling burst. (BTW, the entire audience has to make their saving throw at -1 due to surprise.)

Now that's some shit I'd spend ten bucks to see (though I think it would actually work better as a cable TV series.)


  1. Displacer Beasts are actually ripped off from the Coeurl, which is exactly like a Displacer Beast except smarter. WotC can claim whatever they like but I'd like to see them prosecute a cease-and-desist on it.

    The image of the Rust Monster is from a weird Japanese plastic toy - though someone involved in D&D came up with the idea of the rusting touch attack. AFAIR Umber Hulks have a similar origin.

    Beholders were invented by a player in Gygax's game as a challenge - stats, image, etc. I'd like to see the release that gives WotC rights to that IP.

    Gelatinous Cubes are just a mindless jelly monster like H.P. Lovecraft used in At the Mountains of Madness, except cube shaped. Tenuous as heck.

    I can see your point, but D&D isn't about its IPs, it's about stealing every idea that sounds like fun and playing with it. WotC as a company just happens to be interested in IPs.

  2. I'm afraid the Saturday-morning 'Dungeons & Dragons' cartoon had the smallest cringe-factor.

  3. @1d30 - That was my general point about the IP of D&D, and it's ironic that you (1d30) added the note about the coeurl because the "displacing creature" is listed in my d30 DM Companion as the "coeurl" to avoid any OGL infringements. What you may be thinking of in regards to the umber hulk is probably the owlbear (also introduced in Greyhawk); like rusty, the owlbear was also "inspired" by a toy from Hong Kong. At the end of the day, what the forefathers of the game brought to the table were the abilities/stats which (I suppose) in IP terms makes them unique (as I recall, it's actually the stats for these monsters that WotC claims as not part of the OGL). For example, the original couerl "ate ids" but the displacer beast has no psionic abilities. The rust monster is the rust monster because it rusts. But in terms of other traditional mythological creatures, they didn't really make any of these "unique contributions" (for example, a medusa turns you to stone on sight.) That was sort of my point about Greyhawk vs. the other books that really just put stats against other accepted conventions/traditions, rather than trying to create (somewhat) original creature concepts.

  4. @ welbo - Actually, that may be Hollywood's one chance at a D&D property... turning the old cartoon into a live action movie.