This Is a Film! (Not a D&D Gaming Session)
First, it must be kept squarely in view that our medium here is cinema! This is a film in the fantasy/action blockbuster format. It draws upon things about the D&D gaming experience that are fun and engaging but should not be overly constrained by them. This film will belong to a genre of fantasy films that includes some very notable successful translations of source material to the silver screen, including the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the [Game of Thrones](tag:817617) series, and the Conan the Barbarian films. These examples set the highest standards to meet within the fantasy genre. In particular, film translations of high fantasy and swords-and-sorcery source material have proven very challenging for filmmakers, as the list of these films is littered with failed attempts.
What works so well for a Dungeons & Dragons tabletop experience or a video game will probably not translate to a cinematic representation. The trick is to identify the elements of those experiences that do translate to a film story.
I do however think it makes sense for the film to assemble an adventuring party of fairly standard classes. Naturally, features such as moral-behavioral alignment will only be shown through behavior. (More on that below.)
Follow the Core Elements of Good Storytelling
We must have characters that are thoroughly likeable (or if evil that we love to hate) and relatable in the most fundamental ways. The story that unfolds around them must make us really care what happens to them. It can be a simple tale, and probably should be: this is fine just as long as it is well told by the director and writers. The action must be briskly paced. And of course people will expect to be wowed by the CGI. That's a given.
Avoid Cliches (Every Bit As Much As Possible)
I would expect that this may be the most difficult challenge of all for this type of film. Genres are based on standard conventions. So of course for a film like we expect to see an assortment of playable classes, monsters, combat, magic, all placed in exotic settings. Those will of course be there--especially in a first film that launches a cinematic universe for the franchise. But the trick is to offer something fresh, original, and somewhat surprising to each of these.
Give Us Humor!
What [Marvel](tag:932254) has done so brilliantly with the superhero film genre by mixing relatively serious action/adventure/drama with light-hearted moments of mirth and one-liners should work great here as well. Some of the best scenes in the Conan the Barbarian series are the humorous ones. Do that here!
Other Conceptual Cornerstones
In addition to the above, some other foundations of this film (i.e., my pitch for it) are as follows:
1) Establish a feel for the fantasy setting (here the Forgotten Realms) that hints at its richness and depth. This is one of the things that is so engaging about Tolkien's and Martin's fictional worlds.
2) Show what is most fun about D&D gaming: a team cleverly working together to defeat powerful foes equipped with epic powers, abilities, enchanted weapons, and artifacts. The basic gist of this is all that need be shown.
3) A great villain... Should it be a dragon? I would say that makes sense to establish the franchise, yes. But something will need to be done to make this dragon feel fairly original. Perhaps something that makes us somewhat sympathetic to it?... Also, if it is too great a Wyrm then only magic can defeat it, and that may be hard to translate to an action film in a satisfying way. But then again, theoretically it can be a dragon of awe-inspiring majesty that can only be brought down by a careful and brilliant coordination of efforts by the party.
A Loose Sketch of the Story
As to the sub-setting(s), I would suppose that the story will use the most current setting of the Forgotten Realms. I would start in the Western Heartlands in the grand metropolis of Baldur's Gate; and indeed with some minor references to the events of the Baldur's Gate Bhaalsapwn Wars saga sprinkled in (show a statue in honor of Minsc, etc.). From that point of origin the party will travel about Faerun in order to give a flavor of the depth, breadth, and diversity of the Realms.
The protagonist will be a youthful male half-elf. His bi-racial status places him somewhat as an outsider which always seems to work well for stories of this type. His class shall be Fighter-Sorcerer. He will (of course!) be Chaotic Good in alignment. He will have a roguish, rakish streak to his personality that routinely gets the party into trouble (modeled a bit after Chris Pine's Captain Kirk). Our hero is still learning to harness his latent sorcerous dragonblood abilities (humorously at times). He is a formidable dual-wielder with swords, and skilled with the bow as well.
Our protagonist's lifelong best friend since childhood will be a Neutral Good half-orc Cleric-Thief who worships the peaceful harvest goddess Chanteau. This duo harkens back to Fritz Leiber's wonderful Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser short stories collections. The best friend will be powerfully built and a hulking seven feet tall; yet on the wiry side for a half-orc and deceptively nimble and fast (e.g., able to slip into shadows in almost the blink of an eye). Our main hero will identify with his best friend in large part on the basis of him also being a social outcast--him even moreso as a half-orc. (There will be playful banter between them about which of their non-human races is more maligned as a basis for mock sympathy.)
This half-orc best friend has been trained in standard 'thieving' skills. However those were not developed for any anti-social purposes whatsoever, but rather in order for him to discover and explore subterranean ruins. He is charged with exploration of ruins as an assigned to duty of his religious order. This character uses only a quarterstaff for a weapon (he is astonishingly deft with it, and he even "backstabs" with it). He does not wear heavy armor (nothing heavier than studded leather). In terms of personality think of the X-Men's Hank McCoy.
Fans will expect a dwarf in the adventuring party. Fair enough. They should get one. But rather than the standard Scottish-accented Chaotic Neutral axe wielding berserker or barbarian type, here we'll make him a Rogue--and specifically an Assassin from Waterdeep skilled in the use of poisons and daggers. This character is Neutral Evil in alignment, and as such he is inherently untrustworthy. His motivations for being in the party will be questionable. Not sure yet how to formulate that. But there will have to be a compelling reason for them taking him on. As we can easily imagine, there is a high risk of him double-crossing the party. That very real concern could ultimately be used as a kind of red herring, though.
The final party member will be a female human. She could be either a Bard or a Monk. Either is fine, really. If a Bard, her alignment will, like the main hero's, be Chaotic Good. As a Bard she would have extensive knowledge of the Realms, some spellcasting ability (mainly minor illusion spells), performing arts ability (poetry and song), pickpocketing, and so forth. If a Monk she would of course majorly kick butt with her prodigious martial arts skills. I would make her a member of a particular monastic order devoted to Tiamat that has struggled to reestablish itself (and human civilization as well) from what is left of the Lapilliyan city-state of Ormpur in the wake of the Spellplague. Her alignment would be Lawful Good.
Actually, as I write this I'm thinking that Monk of an order of Tiamat should work quite nicely given that the main protagonist has dragon blood in his distant ancestry and the main villain is a dragon. There's probably an intriguing way to connect all that. The party's journey will in fact take them to Ormpur for a final battle with the big bad there. So let's go with Monk.
Toward the end the party will also enlist the help of a very likable and noble (father figure) middle-aged human wizard who will die in the final battle. They will need his magic to win that battle.
The film will begin with our half-elf hero and his half-orc best friend/sidekick growing up as children and forming their lifetime bond. Both have very tough beginnings, etc. They will leave their home town to venture forth at around the ages of 15-18. Fast-forward then to them in their early twenties hanging out in Baldur's Gate where they're looking to sign on for whatever work they can find (usually as caravan security, mercenaries, or bodyguards). In Baldur's Gate they will receive a quest. The duo will then assemble a party, finding two other party members.
I'm not sure yet how it would all be developed, but the central quest will ultimately end in an epic battle with a great dragon. Some sort of deception will be involved in killing this foe that unfortunately has very unintended negative consequences; and that will set the stage for the next adventure in what will be a trilogy of films for this story arc.
As for fancasting... I think it fair to say that no A-list actor would get anywhere near a D&D film. So while it would be awesome to have Charlie Hunamm, let's say, as the lead, there's no way on earth that will come to pass. So for each of the party members, the actors listed below simply denote the type that I would look for among lesser known actors:
Half-elven Fighter-Sorcerer: Charlie Hunamm
Half-orc Cleric-Thief: Nicholas Hoult
Dwarven Assassin: ? (suggestions welcome)
Human Wizard: ? (please make a suggestion)
Human female Monk: Charlize Theron
Okay. So that's my stab at pitching a story for the D&D franchise first film. Thanks for taking the time to either skim or read it. Hope you enjoyed it!