This started as a twitter rambling of mine a couple days ago. A new D&D movie is being discussed in Hollywood with Hasbro having wrangled some legal win or some such. I’m not up on the particulars, just that I’ve seen articles about a new D&D movie in the works. And then there’s the new Vin Diesel movie The Last Witch Hunter due out next month – a movie that I describe as, “Vin Diesel finally got to make his D&D movie.”
This is all a long way of saying that I’ve been thinking about what would make a good D&D movie. So here’s my pitch.
The film starts off with a lone dwarf1 walking a lonely trail through a picturesque, sublime2 forest. The dwarf has seen hard times – he’s dirty and his clothes are threadbare, though he’s obviously physically fit. He comes to a small farm and speaks with an elven matron. The dwarf introduces himself as Gambol and inquires after an old comrade – an elf archer; they served together. They stayed in touch for a while after the war but Gambol hasn’t heard from him in a few years, could be his fault, he’s been wandering. The matron looks sad and explains that her son died, a lingering curse from the war that consumed him, rotted him from the inside. They had to burn his body at the end just to be safe. The dwarf is clearly set back by this. He awkwardly thanks the matron and continues on his way. Gambol walks through forests and mountains, never with a clear destination.
Cut to an elf warden3 mounting up on a large beast one morning, something large enough to carry two or three humanoids. The warden is an older elf, wizened by the years but still vigorous and rugged. As he rides through town, he warmly greets villagers by name and with a short wave. The village is cozy. Meandering cobblestone streets are lined by comfortable looking homes built from stone. Smoke lazily rises from chimneys in the late autumn air. Trees fill much of the space between buildings. It’s quaint. Homey.
At the outskirts of town the warden happens upon Gambol and confronts the wandering dwarf, demanding to know who he is and where he is headed. The dwarf is taciturn and reluctant to reply. He clearly has issues with authority figures. The warden, clearly armed with a sword and spear, offers to give Gambol a ride through town. Not wanting trouble, Gambol accepts. The two chat along the way and it’s made clear the warden doesn’t want Gambol or other dwarves in town. He drops Gambol off on the far side of town, just past a bridge over a gorge. The warden turns to head back to town; Gambol follows. The two quarrel when the warden notices Gambol heading back to the village. He loses his temper and arrests the dwarf, finding a hatchet strapped to the dwarf’s back.
In the town jail, the warden directs his deputies to clean up the vagrant and toss him in a cell. They’ll take him to a city court in a few days. The hatchet is confiscated along with a royal writ – a symbol of Gambol’s military service in a war ten years gone. Gambol’s led the underground cells where the deputies force him to strip and shower in ice cold water; Gambol flashes back to a terrifying chase through icy mountains and falling under a frigid waterfall. They abuse Gambol, hitting him with their clubs to coerce his cooperation. Cut to further flashbacks of Gambol being severely beaten and bloodied by orcs and hobgoblins. One deputy voices an objection – he’s opposed to the mistreatment but isn’t willing to take a stand on it. Several deputies hold him down when the senior among them suggests they shave the dwarf. Gambol stares in wide-eyed horror as a deputy approaches stropping a razor. Flashback to a twisted orc cleaving into a dwarf warrior as Gambol watches in horror, occupied with his own enemies, unable to help.
It all proves too much for the dwarf. He snaps and flies into a rage, mindlessly assaulting the brutish deputies and fleeing out of the dungeon. Upstairs he bursts through the remaining deputies, who are caught unprepared. With a whistle he summons his ax to his hand and runs into the street, clothed in nothing but trousers. The warden steps from his office only to catch a glimpse of the dwarf flying through the door. Gambol steals a horse and rides hard for the wilderness. The warden gives chase, mounting up on his larger beast. A thrilling chase ensues through town and out into the mountains. Gambol makes good use of his smaller mount’s agility and ability to squeeze to tight spaces, maintaining a slight lead over the warden. The warden gives hard pursuit, smashing through fences and crops in an effort to recapture the dwarf. The chase ends when Gambol’s horse leaps a small ravine and the warden’s mount fails the attempt, slamming hard into the ravine’s side and rolling into the stream at the bottom. It is clearly injured.
Other wardens, battered and bloodied, arrive on their own mounts as Gambol escapes up into the rocky cliffs. The action cuts between the warden arranging a search party, calling for hounds and a wyvern, and Gambol running up and up the mountain. The chase resumes with the chief deputy riding on the wyvern as the warden and the rest follow Gambol up the mountain with dogs and crossbows. Gambol breaks free of the woods, only to find himself on a cliffside. The dogs at his heels, he has no choice but to free climb down. The wyvern rises up out of the gorge and the chief deputy draws his bow. As Gambol climbs down he is forced to dodge arrows. He reaches a small shelf on the cliff and hides around the corner. The deputy stands up in the saddle to get a better shot. Gambol, in a desperate move, throws a rock at the wyvern, striking its eye and causing it to violently shy away. The deputy falls to his death on the rocks below; the wyvern’s rider swoops away out of the canyon, returning to town. Gambol finishes his climb and finds the deputy dead. The warden and the rest of the deputies reach the cliff’s edge to find Gambol standing over the body. He tries to surrender, shouting, “It was an accident!” but the warden orders the men to fire and Gambol is forced to flee once more, pausing only to grab the bow and arrows.
Gambol flees deeper into the woods and higher up the mountain. The search party must go around the gorge, giving Gambol much needed time to prepare. He comes across an abandoned mine where he uses his hatchet to assemble traps and a makeshift coat from burlap and rope. The dogs catch Gambol’s scent as dusk settles over the mountains. Thinking their prey is cornered, the warden looses the dogs to attack the dwarf. Brief yips signal the end of each animal. Undeterred, the warden orders his men forward with crossbows at the ready. One by one they are injured seriously but not killed until the warden is the only one left. And he is ambushed by Gambol, who quickly disarms him and holds the blade of the hatchet to his throat. “You started this, not me. You can end it. Just leave me alone,” the dwarf says before fading into the twilight forest.
The warden carries one of his men, bleeding from debilitating leg wounds, down to the town. A call is put out to call up the local militia. The deputy who voiced doubts about abusing their prisoner approaches the warden, “I messaged the capital. Gambol’s a hero. Fought in the war, some kind of master warrior. They made him a baronet when he came home.” The warden doesn’t care, calls up the militia and sets about planning an attack come daylight.
Before dawn a finely dressed human woman approaches the warden’s command tent. She introduces herself as Lady Exeter, Duchess of Morand4 and explains that she’s here to collect Gambol. When the warden fights her on it, she relays his history – how Gambol was trained by the best, to be the best; how he was used as a weapon in a failed attempt to kill a god. She recruited Gambol from the dwarves and gave him his mission. The warden insists on resuming the hunt with his men, confident their superior numbers will allow them to trap and capture (or kill) Gambol. “If you send that many men, be sure to leave your gravediggers behind. They’ll have a bloody lot of work to do tomorrow,” Exeter offers.
The militia track Gambol to the abandoned mine where their battle wizard casts fireball, collapsing the mine entrance. Convinced they’ve killed Gambol, the militia begins to celebrate. The warden is upset the militia went against his orders. He wanted to kill Gambol himself. Exeter watches the scene unfold with a wry smile. She accompanies the warden back to the village where they discuss the fate of Gambol over mugs of ale.
Inside the mine, Gambol has survived but is trapped. He creates a torch and navigates his way through the mines, following the drafts of air till he finds a new exit. It is night again by the time he emerges from the mine. Breaking through the militia camp, he steals a mount and rides into town. There he sets fire to a hay barn to distract the militia and townsfolk. The warden, knowing the fire means Gambol has returned, takes position atop the jail with a crossbow. Gambol moves through the town silently, slipping from shadow to shadow. He nearly strikes a killing blow from the shadows but Exeter calls out a warning to the warden. A tense battle ensues with Gambol victorious. As he stands over a wounded and bleeding warden, Exeter talks him down. Gambol is taken into Exeter’s custody as the warden’s wounds are seen to. Fade to black…
Yep, it’s a blatant rip off of First Blood but I’d watch the shit out of it.