Like many other nerds in the space, I've been cautiously optimistic in watching the promotional materials for the upcoming Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. Seeing that we're getting several familiar monsters, settings, and characters that are apparently playing by the book rules has been reassuring to our hopes that this movie will actually be quite fun.
Of course, the thing that most people are curious about is the party composition. So when Wizards of the Coast dropped the stat blocks for the movie's main cast, I was intrigued. I opened them up immediately and...well, surprised and confused are good descriptions.
To begin with, all of the blocks are NPC stat blocks rather than character sheets. I understand why this was done - it's a promotional tool that lets DMs incorporate these characters into their games with ease and prevents many major spoilers - but I would have preferred to see full-blown character sheets to compare with my own ideas of how the characters might be built. Still, I'm happy to have been given anything at all.
There were a few things, though, that stood out to me as being strange.
The Druid Has Weird Wildshape
Doric our tiefling druid - who is in fact book-accurate having normal-toned skin but c'mon, everyone loves a red or green or blue tiefling! - is the first available stat block. She's a Circle of the Moon druid, which is an interesting choice with lots of fun abilities that might tie into her classically dark backstory.
The first weird thing about her stats is her Wildshape. First of all, it's not called "Wildshape;" it's listed as "Change Shape." I'm not sure why this was a necessary change but whatever, it's the least interesting thing they changed. No, I'm more interested in the fact that it's specifically called out that she is capable of turning into an owlbear.
This is a longstanding argument in the D&D community; Wildshape as an ability lets a druid transform into any creature that's classified as a beast according to the game, and Owlbears are classified as monstrosities. Now, technically, this is because owlbears are artificially created crosses between owls and bears. But many argue that, because they're considered indigenous to many settings now - with the experiments that created them having been centuries back in the lore - they should be reclassified as beasts. And come on, turning into an owlbear would be cool! Apparently, Wizards agrees with this argument - here's hoping they stick to it in the upcoming rules revisions.
The second strange thing about her stat block is her listed reaction: "Fiery Rebuke." This is based on a spell that tieflings get as part of their racial features called "Hellish Rebuke." I'm again unsure why the name was changed - are they afraid of saying the word "hell" in this game filled with literal devils? It just seems a bit silly.
The Barbarian Isn't Called a Barbarian
A few blocks down from Doric is our barbarian, Holga Kilgore. Holga's stats make sense to me - she has great Strength and Constitution, she has reckless attack and an awesome great axe, and she's great at grappling - but there are a few points that stand out as strange.
Firstly, Wizards hasn't specifically said that Holga is a barbarian. In fact, her class isn't specified at all, nor is her race. The fact that she comes from a clan - specifically a warlike clan that's apparently been wiped out - leads me to believe she's probably either a half-orc or a goliath, and I'm leaning more toward half-orc because it's a classic D&D race. Her description matches that of your classic barbarian - talks with her fists and her axe, fierce in battle, loyal to a fault - and her background leads me to think that she's probably a totem warrior or, if they feel like going beyond the basic combinations, an ancestral guardian.
But that doesn't explain the lack of the ability to Rage or the fact that she speaks Halfling for some reason despite obviously not being one. I'm not sure why they wouldn't give us any more details about her - are her race and class important story beats that they can't spoil?
The Sorcerer's Ancestor Is Who?!
Just under Holga is Simon, our extremely classic half-elf wild magic sorcerer. I'm excited to see this in action - I would love to see a wild magic surge on-screen - and his stats are fine, as far as I can tell.
No, what really caught my attention about this character was the name in his description:
"Though he is a descendent of an elf and the legendary wizard Elminster Aumar, Simon’s own sorcerous wild magic runs uncontrolled through his veins."
Excuse me?! He's a descendant from who exactly?!
Elminster Aumar is a classic D&D character that originated in Second Edition. Known by many aliases including the Sage of Shadowdale and simply the Old Mage, Elminster is one of the Forgotten Realms' most powerful magic users of all time. He was created by the creator of the Forgotten Realms themselves, Ed Greenwood, and has starred in a series of novels and guest-starred in Dragon Magazine and other official publications since the 1990s. Beginning as a normal wizard, he was dubbed a Chosen of Mystra, the goddess of magic, and rose in power and ability to god-like status. He's lived and adventured for centuries, becoming a nearly untouchable legend both in-game and out.
Now it's not unheard of that people play or create children, grandchildren, and various descendants of Elminster, but to pull it in the movie is a bold and interesting move. I'm excited to see what they do with this - is Simon well-known? Is he trying to live up to a family legacy? Is he hiding who he is, or showing off? I hope it isn't just a name-drop for the sake of it.
I'm generally excited about this movie (and yes, I'll be writing a full review of it when it comes out), but some of these changes are confusing to me. I hope they come to something in the movie, and that these changes and omissions are deliberate rather than just poor writing.
Weird stats or not, I'm glad to see Wizards relying on the classics and fan favorites. The story seems heartfelt and original while still staying true to the spirit of the game, which, as a fan of this franchise, gives me hope that I'll like the end product enough to actually incorporate these characters into my games.
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