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D&D Movie/TV Update on D&D TV Show -- Underdark, Small, 6-10 Episodes

Writer Derek Kolstad (John Wick) has shared an insight into the upcoming D&D TV show with Collider, which he says will be 6-10 serialized episodes with an Underdark element.

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His approach is a "tinier sliver" of the world, compared to epic stories like Lord of the Rings. He compares it to Star Wars and Jaws. He mentioned that he's like to go "deeper and deeper into the Underdark".

"In the first Star Wars, you heard about Jabba the Hutt and you don't see him until the third one because you earn at that point, and whatever the budget was for the third one compared to the first one, who cares, right? And I think in Dungeons and Dragons, who has this massive, dedicated community of acolytes, I don't want to suddenly throw everything on screen and say, 'Here's the buffet.' You'd much rather keep the story intimate. When you think of our favorite movies, I'd rather do the First Blood version. It's a guy in the woods being hunted. And it's very small, but you allude to the other things through conversation."


As yet the show is untitled. Kolstad talked a bit about legal meetings and available characters for use. It sounds like he wants to set it towards the end of any 'metaplot' that D&D might have -- "... don't want to go in the middle of the mythos. I want to come near the end where everything is canonical, it's biblical, it's happened. Or, it's about to happen. That way you can revisit certain sequences and storylines that everyone loved in the past through flashback, but where we go is new"

 
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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey

hopeless

Explorer
Great I've been imagining a meeting between a Witcher character in a d&d scenario!;)
A noble woman has been approached with a deal for the exchange of some land deeds that have been recovered and traced back to her house.
Not willing to bargain for the deeds return she hires a couple of mercenaries to "recover" the deeds from the contact giving them a bag of 50 gold to either pay for the deeds or encourage them to get the contact to part with the deeds.
Turns out the contact only wanted to exchange the deeds in return for one that covers a long abandoned hamlet now home to a den of undead she wants to turn into a waystation after she has consecrated the area to put them to rest.
Guess which hamlet the meeting has been arranged for?!
I figure they might try violence then discover she has only consecrated the ruins of a ruined barn she is using as a makeshift camp.
No she isn't going to tell them that just warn them that they need to get beyond the hamlet boundary before "they" wake up.
My dream scenario is the mercs run into a witcher style character and tells them about their mission, him being curious comes along to find out whats going on and ends up having to shelter in the barn overnight as the hamlet is overrun by undead as the mercs having shown their hand can't get access to the barn because the same consecration prevents them from entering.
Sorry for the slight change in subject just wanted that out of my head so I can get back to discussing this properly!:rolleyes:
 

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Maybe, but Drow, as written, are also intensely problematic these days. And steps taken to remedy that would also be intensely problematic among toxic fans. If I wanted to get any D&D media going, whether TV or movies, I'd be staying away from them as much as effing possible.
I am not so sure about this. I mean, Hellboy did their take on dark elves and Thor had dark elves. Hellboy's weren't as psychopathic, but Thor's were quite evil.
I just think it is all how they approach the subject. It seems like the ones that pretend nothing is wrong have nothing wrong, and that is on both sides of the coin. The Witcher series got backlash (for some stupid reason) by having diversity in the cast. They barely addressed it. Just said, that's what we did, and moved on. It seems to me that is the best approach D&D could make.
 

MarkB

Legend
I think if you do little/no location shooting, no crowd scenes, no battle scenes, and you keep the amount of CGI down (like, any Mindflayers have to be mostly practical FX and you can't have a Beholder on screen too long), then yeah maybe you could push it that low and keep it looking okay but I'd be surprised if it didn't look visibly lower-quality than something like The Witcher, and you really want to avoid looking cheap these days.

One thing I do wonder is who would be in the Underdark, because if your leads are all classic Underdark races, they pretty much all need quite a bit of makeup and/or other practical or special FX.

I mean, given who it is writing, I'd honestly be shocked if it isn't mostly about the Drow, given they're exactly sort of John Wick-ish badasses who would fit with his vibe.

They also might have some kind of weird FX trick up their sleeves which could drastically reduce costs, but The Mandalorian did that (a lot of the sets don't actually exist but are rendered in Unreal 4 engine, moreso than you'd think) and still cost $15m/episode.
Logically they'll be more likely to make the leads not native to the Underdark but instead be venturing in there for whatever reason. That way you can introduce the setting to the audience as it is introduced to the characters.
 

Logically they'll be more likely to make the leads not native to the Underdark but instead be venturing in there for whatever reason. That way you can introduce the setting to the audience as it is introduced to the characters.
That's kind of the 1990s approach though, I think a lot of writers and showrunners ask more of audiences now, and have been doing for quite a while. Based on Kolstad's previous work I'd expect something a bit less hand-hold-y, and a bit more aggressive - like with John Wick, it's not like Wick isn't familiar with the assassin stuff - but things are explained in other ways (not always entirely elegantly - there's a bit of "As you know Bob..."). I'd be unsurprised if there were surface-dwellers involved, not least because they'd require less make-up, but will be surprised if all the leads are.
 



ART!

Hero
Absolutely. Can you imagine how much of a flop it would be if you made a big budget movie with a halfling as the focal character?
It's an interesting point. On the one hand, hobbits look almost entirely human: just a bit of ear prosthetics (whose edges are cleverly hidden by carefully-placed wisps of hair, which I find incredibly distracting btw), and some prosthetic feet which again are conveniently not focused on. So as far as having main characters be as relatable as possible, hobbits are basically humans.
 

It's an interesting point. On the one hand, hobbits look almost entirely human: just a bit of ear prosthetics (whose edges are cleverly hidden by carefully-placed wisps of hair, which I find incredibly distracting btw), and some prosthetic feet which again are conveniently not focused on. So as far as having main characters be as relatable as possible, hobbits are basically humans.
This was certainly the case in the novels: Hobbits are the ordinary people, humans (AKA The Big People) are portrayed as somewhat alien.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
I am not so sure about this. I mean, Hellboy did their take on dark elves and Thor had dark elves. Hellboy's weren't as psychopathic, but Thor's were quite evil.
I just think it is all how they approach the subject. It seems like the ones that pretend nothing is wrong have nothing wrong, and that is on both sides of the coin. The Witcher series got backlash (for some stupid reason) by having diversity in the cast. They barely addressed it. Just said, that's what we did, and moved on. It seems to me that is the best approach D&D could make.
Yes, and any Underdark-based show will have to do something similar if they want to include Drow - absolutely no casting just black actors and no blackface on white actors. And then they have to weather the backlash from the usual gang of idiots - and my concern is that anybody making an Underdark-themed show may not have the kind of fortitude or backing that the Witcher's showrunners and producers had to push back on the people complaining about diversity in the cast.
So yes, they can do it. But they've got to be able to face down the toxic elements of the fanboy crowd who will piss and moan about the dark elves not being canonical. And the rest of us will have to rally around them to put that toxic behavior in its place - the junkheap. That's potentially a lot of shit to stir.

And that's before even getting into issues of misogyny with a matriarchal society being evil and sexually depraved...
 

Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
I am not so sure about this. I mean, Hellboy did their take on dark elves and Thor had dark elves. Hellboy's weren't as psychopathic, but Thor's were quite evil.
I just think it is all how they approach the subject. It seems like the ones that pretend nothing is wrong have nothing wrong, and that is on both sides of the coin. The Witcher series got backlash (for some stupid reason) by having diversity in the cast. They barely addressed it. Just said, that's what we did, and moved on. It seems to me that is the best approach D&D could make.

I'll add, Warhammer also has their version of Dark Elves, that are very similar to Drow in being "Evil" and "Weirdly sexual" but differ in one noticeable way; they're pale, not dark-skinned.

They have avoided any large-scale criticism (as far as I've seen), even though they were revived in the popular Total War: Warhammer game, and are sort-of rebooted in Age of Sigmar. It really goes to show that folks don't really have so much of a problem with a fictional race having an evil culture, but they do have a problem with it when there is a physical distinction that connects it to a real-life minority. IE: dark-skinned drow is very problematic, pale-skinned drow not very controversial.

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Dire Bare

Legend
Supporter
I'll add, Warhammer also has their version of Dark Elves, that are very similar to Drow in being "Evil" and "Weirdly sexual" but differ in one noticeable way; they're pale, not dark-skinned.

They have avoided any large-scale criticism (as far as I've seen), even though they were revived in the popular Total War: Warhammer game, and are sort-of rebooted in Age of Sigmar. It really goes to show that folks don't really have so much of a problem with a fictional race having an evil culture, but they do have a problem with it when there is a physical distinction that connects it to a real-life minority. IE: dark-skinned drow is very problematic, pale-skinned drow not very controversial.

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Any fantasy or sci-fi "race" that is biologically or culturally always evil (or always something else) is poor world design and perpetuates problematic ideas about race in the real world. IMO, of course.

But you're right, the general public doesn't seem to worry too much about it unless it's too on-the-nose, like being dark-skinned as a signifier of evil. And it's a common trope in all sorts of fantasy and sci-fi literature.

However, it's easy to notice, that in many fictional properties that have a long history of development (D&D, Warhammer, Star Trek, etc) that traditionally evil or antagonistic races ("bad guys") get more nuanced as the property is expanded over the years. I used to refer to this personally as the "Klingon Effect". Stereotypical bad guys evolving into more fully developed and nuanced races capable of all sorts of behavior. It seems that folks appreciate fully fleshed out characters, and quickly move beyond more slim portrayals.
 

MarkB

Legend
It's an interesting point. On the one hand, hobbits look almost entirely human: just a bit of ear prosthetics (whose edges are cleverly hidden by carefully-placed wisps of hair, which I find incredibly distracting btw), and some prosthetic feet which again are conveniently not focused on. So as far as having main characters be as relatable as possible, hobbits are basically humans.
Yep - and the same can be done with the majority of the PHB races. We may not get our first Tiefling or Dragonborn protagonist, but there'd be no problem going with an elf, half-elf, halfling or dwarf.
 

I'll add, Warhammer also has their version of Dark Elves, that are very similar to Drow in being "Evil" and "Weirdly sexual" but differ in one noticeable way; they're pale, not dark-skinned.

They have avoided any large-scale criticism (as far as I've seen), even though they were revived in the popular Total War: Warhammer game, and are sort-of rebooted in Age of Sigmar. It really goes to show that folks don't really have so much of a problem with a fictional race having an evil culture, but they do have a problem with it when there is a physical distinction that connects it to a real-life minority. IE: dark-skinned drow is very problematic, pale-skinned drow not very controversial.
I guess that is true. Both elves in Hellboy and Thor were pale skinned, which if you live underground, makes more sense. ;)
 


Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
I guess that is true. Both elves in Hellboy and Thor were pale skinned, which if you live underground, makes more sense. ;)

A lot of racial things in D&D don't make sense. Dwarves in Dark Sun for example do not have beards (the explanation being their too hot), but in reality beards provide great sun protection and help hold moisture around the face.

Strange what things people fixate on sometimes. No one seems to bat an eye about red-skinned tieflings, for example.

It is a lot harder to draw a connection between tieflings on a real-world race, compared to the elf split. High Elves are usually described as fair-skinned and having slender athletic body-type, essentially the Legolas "Anglo-Saxon Ideal" look. Obviously the "all the elves who turned to evil have much darker-skin" is going to raise a lot of concerns.
 

ART!

Hero
Yep - and the same can be done with the majority of the PHB races. We may not get our first Tiefling or Dragonborn protagonist, but there'd be no problem going with an elf, half-elf, halfling or dwarf.
They could even get away with (a version of) tieflings, really - all you need is some horns, some skin coloring, and a tail.
 

Just a mention, the elves in Hellboy 2 are just elves, not dark elves.

Also a mention, the adjective "elfin": (of a person or their face) small and delicate, typically with a mischievous charm, is a lot older than D&D/Tolkien, going back to 1590 (Spencer's Faerie Queen). The point being, even without D&D, the common idea of elves is kind of "white" in terms of facial features.
 
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hopeless

Explorer
And here I was imagining a society based around Corellon's infidelty that caused one of his wives to make a deal with Grumsh to get revenge for his playing around.
However Grumsh got his eye put out and the combination of her helping an elf's traditional foe along with Grumsh being unhappy with losing an eye got her banished into the Abyss!
Making deals to survive she emerged due to retaining control over those of her people who turned away from Corellon when they learned why she did whats she did.
I can't help picturing a matriarchal led society that's been slowly altered over the countless years they've been forced to remain in hiding and the resulting innate cruelty originating from that original event.
I'd probably leave that image of the bondage and other stuff as a mere rumour making them able to hide in plain sight as everyone assumes they're some kind of albino elf due to their enforced stay underground.

Would be hilarious if they go the opposite direction and make this about them trying to defend themselves from Grumsh followers and fanatical Corellon worshippers who haven't let go of their hate whilst only a small portion of drow society still holds any enmity in return!
 


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