The recently released Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves might not only be the start of a movie franchise, it could also be the beginning of an entire catalogue of D&D adaptations. Depending on how well the film performs – the title topped the US box office the weekend it released – the fantasy roleplaying game film may well spell the birth of many, many other Dungeons & Dragons projects.
A television series based on D&D is already in development over at Paramount+, with Red Notice director and producer Rawson Marshall Thurber confirmed to be leading the project. Should Honor Among Thieves continue to draw in viewers at the box office, then it’s possible we’ll have a Marvel-esque cinematic universe on our hands. From iconic villains such as Strahd to beloved heroes like Drizzt Do’Urden, the world of Dungeons & Dragons features more than enough material for creators to use for inspiration.
Besides the screen, another avenue that adaptations of the tabletop roleplaying game could explore is the stage with a Dungeons & Dragons musical. Before you scoff, consider this: from Legally Blonde and British television comedy series Only Fools and Horses to a musical version of Green Day’s seminal 2004 album Amercian Idiot, there have been some strange inspirations for musicals already.
Heck! Spider-Man and Batman have both received musical adaptations and both were terrible flops, but they happened! It’s never been a better time for a weird musical adaptation, as being based on a property that people know is sometimes the only way for an ambitious production to get the investment needed to open its doors.
But whatever would a Dungeons & Dragons musical look like? How do you go about adapting a tabletop roleplaying game for the stage?
As long as the story has good writing and character development, all the specifics should fall into place with little issue.
One potential direction a hypothetical musical producer could go down is to have the story focus on a group of people playing D&D, with their gameplay sessions serving as a framework for a narrative about the players. This concept is similar to Here be Dragons, an actual musical that launched off-Broadway last summer, that takes inspiration from Dungeons & Dragons but isn’t a licensed adaptation.
Restricting the D&D parts to a campaign the main characters are experiencing within the greater narratives of their ordinary lives would make things a lot more straightforward and affordable. However, it’s a lot more fun to imagine a scenario where this hypothetical producer has been handed a big fat cheque by D&D publisher Wizards of the Coast and can do anything they wanted.
In this more fun scenario, rather than it being about a group playing D&D, the musical could focus on a story set within the world of Dungeons & Dragons itself. This kind of plot could draw on any number of inspirations – from specific adventure modules like Rime of the Frostmaiden or Tomb of Annihilation to sourcebooks such as the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide or Eberron: Rising from the Last War.
A song could even communicate the events of an epic combat encounter to the audience.
The most obvious choice for setting is the Sword Coast. There’s a reason why a large chunk of Honor Among Thieves takes place in Neverwinter; this region of the Forgotten Realms is where most of the most iconic imagery for D&D comes from. While the setting might seem obvious, the story shouldn't be. As long as the story has good writing and character development, all the specifics should fall into place with little issue.
The most important aspect of a musical is that the songs should drive the narrative in some way. When creating a D&D musical, the producer would need to consider how the songs would move the plot forward, while also enabling the audience to understand the characters’ thoughts and feelings. Perhaps characters could sing whilst travelling along the road to their next quest? Maybe a song could describe how the characters navigate their way around traps in a dungeon? A song could even communicate the events of an epic combat encounter to the audience.
A great example of an epic musical adaption is the 2006 Lord of the Rings musical, which didn’t disappoint when it came to depicting the world of Middle-earth.
Another way musicals tell stories beyond the script and stage directions are through costuming, makeup, set design and lighting. In this case, the Dungeons & Dragons musical would do well to take notes from the 1980s era of blockbuster musicals such as Les Misérables and Phantom of the Opera. Both of these influential shows featured awe-inspiring spectacles designed to immerse the audience in their respective worlds, whether than be through a full-sized barricade or a swinging chandelier. When you imagine an enormous dragon puppet stomping around the stage, pyrotechnics sparking, sound effects crashing and cast members in full adventuring garb, a D&D musical gets that much more immersive.
A great example of an epic musical adaption is the 2006 Lord of the Rings musical, which didn’t disappoint when it came to depicting the world of Middle-earth in all its epic glory. However, The Lord of the Rings musical was a notorious flop, largely in part because – despite how wild the world of musical theatre can be – there is still the inescapable fact that lavish musicals cost a lot of money.
For now, musical theatre fans will just have to hope that there’s an eccentric billionaire who loves Dungeons & Dragons to fund this particular pipedream.