Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Projecting D&D

Sometimes movies that have nothing to do with fantasy interpret the old school style of D&D much better than many fantasy movies do.

For example, my wife and I have been watching the mini-series Lonesome Dove (1988) this week. It stars Robert Duvall (with pretty great performance, I must say!), Tommy Lee Jones, Robert Urich, Danny Glover, a young Steve Buscemi and Chris Cooper and a very attractive Diane Lane who all put in great performances supported by an outstanding script.

It is a western about two former Texas rangers (Duvall and Jones) who decide to move cattle from southern Texas to Montana.

Pretty standard fare, right?

Well, first off, morality is quite blurred as these 'good guys' rob, gamble, and have quite an affinity for chasing down the whores. And I don't mean some stereotypical broad stroke of a character. It's the underlying theme of the story. In fact, most of their conversations revolve around whores and killing Indians. Their whole venture is based on stolen cattle and horses from a rancher in Mexico.

Lonesome Dove is a godforsaken town in the middle of southern Texas along the Rio Grande river. It's not much of any type of settlement but these two rangers have cleared at least a couple of hexes worth of indians and bandits.

As they break out on their journey, they are accompanied by a number of great NPCs and are followed around by a number of interesting sub-plots.

It's a great slow-paced wilderness adventure filled with danger at every turn, small towns and gritty violent death. It doesn't hold back on any of the true darkness that is missing from most westerns. In fact, the violence can be quite pulpy if you take my meaning. Oh and being a woman in this movie is not something that anyone would find enjoyable no matter how tough a character they may be.

True, westerns are not a far cry from the worlds of rough D&D adventures but this has more of a classic pulp D&D vibe with it's camaraderie, blurred morality, tough characters, wild lands and savage violence than most other fantasy movies.

Am I just projecting D&D onto a show I'm watching? Well when my wife, who has only been playing D&D for about 6 or 7 sessions now, blurts out, "this is one old school adventure!", there must be something there to take notice.

So over this holiday season, if you can't roll dice and you have a taste for a great wilderness adventure I would suggest checking out the mini-series Lonesome Dove (I think they made a tv series after it but I can't vouch for that). You can watch it instantly on NetFlix.


  1. Love Netflix instants. We're groovin' on Eureka right now. Just started another season yesterday. Love the instants.

  2. No you are not just projecting. There are other examples of non-fantasy movies that have aspects of D&D. Off hand I cannot name any (I was going to) because I have watched so many sci fi and fantasy movies the ones that are coming to mind are titles like 20k, Goonies, IT - ah there we go let's hear it for stream of consciousness posts.

    IT is very much like a classic D&D adventure. Think about the plot. There is a nasty villain who terrorizes the nearby town but no one understand what is going on. In come the reluctant heroes who agree that the evil needs to be stopped. They literally go on a dungeon crawl, find the monster and vanquish it - or do they???

    For that matter so is The Stand and just about anything else Steven King wrote. Dark Towers IS fantasy for instance.

    Epic Score for your wife! My isn't wonderful when our spouses play with us?

  3. This is such an excellent show...and book. I have never thought of it along the lines of D&D. I'll have to ruminate on that.

    How about Traveller? The characters are shepherding a cargo through danger, stopping at backwater planets and finding adventure at every turn.

  4. @the general - "My (life) isn't wonderful when our spouses play with us?"
    Indeed it is, sir!

    @Narmer - Traveller didn't initially come to mind, but you are correct! I guess I didn't see past the lack of technology.

  5. I agree there's a lot of overlap between many a good western and good D&D...but i don't think those are "D&D aspects" as much as aspects of a certain type of adventure storytelling.

    That in no way diminishes its inspirational value.

  6. Just stumbled on this, but the ensemble western "Silverado" feels like a D&D movie. If it were a campaign, the GM would have done a really good job of tying together the backstories of the characters.