RPG Evolution: What If the D&D Movie is a Hit?

Like, a really big success?

Like, a really big success?


The Big Bet​

It's become clear that the Dungeons & Dragons brand has transformed in the eyes of Hasbro from a product that didn't merit much attention to a tentpole merchandising machine that's a lynchpin of Hasbro's brand playbook.

I've covered the battle over the movie's rights elsewhere in detail, but what's most relevant to this discussion is that somewhere along the line, it was decided the movie property was much more valuable than it had been in the past. Valuable enough to go to court over it.

Hasbro's always wanted to mimic Disney's success with Marvel's intellectual properties. Given that Hasbro was particularly concerned about Disney using the Open Game License, it seems the game company feels they're going to be successful enough in the brand space to be a competitor.

All this adds up to Hasbro betting big on the movie and treating it like it will be a success, well before the movie is even released. But what makes a film successful?

The Right Ingredients​

According to a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science:
Star power, acting expertise, rousing reviews and public ratings are all key factors that influence our decision to see a movie. Researchers from UTS, HEC Montreal and the University of Cambridge compared these factors across 150 studies to boil down the formula for box office success.
The D&D movie's star power is certainly higher than any other D&D-themed movie released to date. It will feature Chris Pine as bard Edgin davis (Wonder Woman) and Michelle Rodriguez as barbarian Holga (F9) in the lead roles. Justice Smith (Detective Pikachu) as sorcerer Simon, Regé-Jean Page (Bridgerton, The Grey Man) as paladin Xenk, Hugh Grant (Paddington 2) as rogue Forge, and Sophia Lillis (IT) as druid Doric. Additionally, Chloe Coleman (Big Little Lies), Jason Wong (Strangers), and Daisy Head (Shadow and Bone). Test screenings have been positive too:
...the thing that we learned the most from our test screenings was that it really appealed, not just to D&D fans, [but] people that had no idea what they were watching when they were going into the test screening actually were engaged, and they didn't think that they would be because it's a D&D movie, and it's got us not necessarily a stigma, but it has a lot of baggage attached to it in terms of what people expect out of it. I think that was like a pleasant surprise for a lot of people.
The D&D movie was advertised during the Super Bowl, which is another data point indicating the company's confidence in the movie. An average 30-second Super Bowl ad costs 7 million dollars. The movie itself $151 million (UPDATED, thank you for pointing this out!), with Chris Pine's salary pegged at $11.5 million.

Of course, reviews and public ratings will be determined after the box often returns are tallied.

And If It Does Well...​

After box office returns come in, the most immediate sign of the movie's success will be how much it earns. Estimates range between $100 to $120 million.

If the film clears the bar of making more money than it cost to produce and market, the outcomes will be familiar: sequels, spinoffs, and merchandising. That merchandising can take a lot of forms, from pencils to bookmarks, socks to blankets. D&D's already in these spaces, so it won't be a big stretch to brand specific creatures or characters from the film.

Of relevance to tabletop gamers is if any of this attention will result in more players. Hasbro seems to be following the Disney playbook, which means there isn't much cross-branding between the movies and the books that spawned them. While there are signs D&D tabletop gaming will reference the movie, it seems to be a one way street. Contrast this with DC's new strategy, in which they advertised the Flash comics that inspired the movie at the end of its Super Bowl spot.

The good news is even without specific tie-ins, D&D will likely get a boost. We can use the sometimes fraught relationship between Marvel movies and Marvel comics to understand if brand awareness drives readership. According to ComicBookHerald, we can expect anywhere from a 4.5x to 6x increase in sales of D&D-related books:
During non peak seasons (defined here as the first 14 days following a tentpole movie, or the month-long duration of WandaVision hype), the average views for the ‘Where to Start’ guide were 245 per day. During peak seasons, that total jumps to 1096 per day on average, a near 4.5x jump. And if we’re just looking at the Avengers movies, the average is closer to 1500 per day, a 6.1x increase.

Buckle Up!​

Between the legal wrangling, financial investment, and advertising dollars at stake, there's a lot riding on the D&D movie. The brand is about to be introduced to folks who have never played D&D but likely heard of it (thanks to streaming and Stranger Things) in a very big way.

One thing is clear: if the film is a blockbuster hit, D&D fandom will no longer consist of D&D players alone. Here's hoping we can welcome them to the hobby.

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Michael Tresca

Michael Tresca

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If it does hit big, it will be important why. It does matter why people paid to go see the movie. Far too much of Hollywood just looks at the numbers, and not the content.

It's bad enough the D&D movie is an obvious Marvel Guardians of the Galaxy copy: so goofy characters quipping One Liners and endless humor with CGI Spam action. Is that the movie people will pay to see?

But just because Guardians worked does not say you can toss some random one liner characters together to make fun of acceptable target Chris Pine character and just have a "great movie". Even if that worked for Guardians.

But the Marvel Type movies is burning out....Ant Man 3 was only 'ok'. So we will have to see.

Alot of the SFX are partical effects, not CGI, they only use CGI when nothing else will work.


Also, news to me that displacer beasts use their tentacles to project their displacement. Cool idea but I never thought it was something they projected like a holographic beam?
This is going to sound nitpicky, but that's not how I've always imagined displacement working. Creating the appearance of a second displacer beast seems to me more like mirror image. Displacement means you see only one displacer beast, and it's two feet away from where the real displacer beast (that you don't see) actually is.

Here there is a thing the movie producers love: the brand is about the setting, not about certain characters. This allows more freedom to tell their own story.

A Dragonlance adaptation is wished, but they are going to await until the next phase, at least.

Paramount has to understand they can't repeat the same mistakes by Disney or Warner.

The audience wants spectacle, epic fights and funny pieces of comedy, in the right proportions. Spelljammer can offer that with the right screenwriters.

Jackandor could be produced, but the reboot would be total. Why? Because it is a Jurraisc Park but dinosaur-like monsters, and these are protected by copyright, and then you can make money with the merchandising.

Al-Qadim is possible, but Disney could ask the title to be changed. Kara-Tur? Chinese market is not easy, and there aren't good vibes between Japan, China and South-Korea. If you want to be friendly with one of them, the others will be not happy. Maztica?

Birthright? Maybe, but then Paramount will have to prove this will be not only a rip-off of Games of Thrones. Stryxhaven looks as if it was been created to be Harry Potter's archirival. Birthright can be perfect for the literary subgenre of "magic princess", but here the writters could have got their own point of view about the continuity.

Will we see any time any supernatural romance novel set in Ravenloft? (and with a happy end?)

My suggestion is some serie style "Love, Death & Robots" with one-shot stories (althought someones could be hidden pilot episodes).

Random Task

Their best, easiest to understand epic story with characters that should be iconic is probably the original Dragonlance Chronicles.

An Icewind Dale / Crystal Shard series adaption would also be a good way to get to Drizzt without having to get involved with all the underdark Drow stuff from the beginning of the movies - they could work their way into it. They probably would have to make some changes about how Drow society worked, anyway.


If this really goes over, I hope that they are able to move forward with a real Dragonlance movie - that's a built in 3 movie deal right there. And I don't think it will be confusing - that the X-men movies (and Spiderman movies) weren't set in the MCU hasn't made things confusing - people can already understand the concepts of "different world from the same creators".


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This is going to sound nitpicky, but that's not how I've always imagined displacement working. Creating the appearance of a second displacer beast seems to me more like mirror image. Displacement means you see only one displacer beast, and it's two feet away from where the real displacer beast (that you don't see) actually is.
Totally agree. I always assumed displacer beasts were just blurry, as the two images were indistinguishable. I get why they portrayed it differently in the movie though, because it wouldn't work nearly as well in a maze. The displacer beast is big, the maze is tight quarters, and if you just swing you'll probably hit it anyway. Making it a projection means heroes can have it sneak up on them (although even then, the only way this works is if it's presumably got line of sight, so it has to pull this trick when lurking around a corner).

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