If, like me, you’ve never played a game of dungeons and dragons in your life, there’s a good chance you have a vague idea of what it’s all about but have no idea how to play. Well, you’re not going to learn by watching Dungeon Masters. Smartly, this film doesn’t try to take the viewer through the rules of the game. Based on all the guide books that have been made to accompany Dungeons and Dragons, that approach could have potentially been the most boring thing to watch on screen. Instead it starts by giving a general impression of how the game play is framed and then takes us into the lives of three game masters who are passionate about the game and, to some extent, live it.
Scott is married, unemployed and trying to make it as a writer of fantasy novels. Early on he tells the story of how, when he started high school and the teacher asked what name each student preferred to go by, he said “My name’s Scott but you can call me Sherlock.” From then on you get a sense of how his social life has gone.
Richard is a game master who was run out of Florida when all of his players were lead to their death during one of his games. He took all their character sheets and they walked out on him; then he left the State. Now he’s only allowed to play once a month, as a promise to his wife.
Elizabeth is a dark elf. Through 80% of the film she is dressed in full costume: black makeup covering her arms, hands, neck and face, a long white-blonde wig and pointed ears. She has a sad background of abuse but her passion for D&D, LARPing (Live Action Role Playing) and online video games like World of Warcraft.
The three characters all serve the same role in D&D, but live very different lives. Each life is tinged with sadness, disappointment and regret, but there is hope and a lot of laughs throughout the film.
The highlight of films like this are the moments when the subjects get visibly emotive about their passion. In Dungeon Masters that moment is when Scott explains how he punishes his dice. (Hint: it involves the freezer, a hammer and lining up all your other dice to see what happens when you’re bad).
As an aside, if you like that kind of thing (and don’t mind watching seven minutes of profanity), check out Cannibal Corpse’s singer Corpsegrinder’s heated rant about his love for Warcraft.