12 things you need to know about ‘funtasy’ epic Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves

Already the surprise adventure hit of the year, Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves has generations of tabletop RPG nerds to either delight or disappoint. Happily, early reviews are suggesting that most die-rollers will fall into the former category, with the film’s likeable ensemble cast, lore-rich story, and action setpieces rolling a D20 with critics.

Here’s what we know about this fun fantasy epic, from the filmmaker’s close ties to their source material, to some of the unlikely cameos and musicians involved in making Honour Among Thieves so honourable.

1. Honour Among Thieves takes place in the hugely popular Forgotten Realms campaign setting

Released by game designer Ed Greenwood way back in 1987, the campaign setting Forgotten Realms has all the main components you’d expect of the D&D world—to the point where it serves as D&D’s official campaign setting for all its adventure materials in each updated edition of the role-playing game.

It’s a fantasy world that was once not so distant from our earth, but us lame earthlings forgot about its existence, hence its name. Greenwood’s mystical setting of supernatural phenomena, all-powerful deities, and dangerous beasts is the perfect place for Honour Among Thieves to lay its scene.

2. Chris Pine will belt out a tune or two as rakish Bard Edgin Darvis

Our main ensemble of characters in Honour Among Thieves each represent a standard playable character class within D&D, and of course the suave Chris Pine gets to play bard. His lute-shredding adventurer is a widower and single dad to daughter Kira (Chloe Coleman), imprisoned for two years at the start of the film along with his best bud/’barbarian’ Holga (Michelle Rodriguez).

Once they escape, the race against time is on to stop former friend Forge (Hugh Grant) from teaming up with a sinister Red Wizard of Thay and whipping up a new army of the dead for their nefarious, Realm-conquering purposes. But you can’t do that kind of swashbuckling alone—or without some lute ditties along the way, we hope.

3. The supporting cast is packed with genre talent and breakout Netflix stars

So Pine and Rodriguez are joined by a motley crew including a tiefling druid, a slow-aging paladin, and a wild magic sorcerer. You’ll definitely recognise these folks: druid Sophia Lillis was sensational in the It horror films and Netflix’s I Am Not Okay With This, sorceror Justice Smith played buddy cop to Detective Pikachu and featured in Netflix’s underrated The Get Down, and paladin Regé-Jean Page became a heartthrob overnight for his romantic role in Bridgerton.

Seeing the Netflix connection here among the young cast? Still, familiar faces such as Grant’s foppish bad guy and the Fast franchise‘s Rodriguez bring charm and muscle respectively to the quirky ensemble.

4. The filmmakers have given us great board-game comedy in the past

Back in 2018, Game Night surprised us, too, with its comedic aping of David Fincher thrillers and great chemistry between the cast. Directors Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley can be counted on to deliver above-average studio comedy, and now they’ve carved out a niche in adapting tabletop games into big-screen fun.

What’s even cuter is the fact that as a child actor, Daley portrayed iconic RPG-playing nerd Sam Weir in cult teen series Freaks and Geeks. This stuff is in his blood, apparently.

5. Aussie sketch comedy group Aunty Donna will show up for some dead-funny cameos

As a trio of buried corpses whom Justice Smith’s sorcerer must interrogate, unhinged Australian comedy trio Aunty Donna will bring some weird modern flavour to their short appearance in Honour Among Thieves. You’ll know them from their Netflix (again!!) series Aunty Donna’s Big Ol’ House of Fun.

Speaking to Kotaku about his role, Broden Kelly gave this typically surreal response to what happened when he was asked to appear in the film: “I went, ‘Let me just quickly go to NIDA.’ And so I went and auditioned for NIDA. I did two contrasting monologues, one classical and one contemporary. They said I was too old and bad at acting. I said, ‘Well, joke’s on you. I’m in… I’m in this movie’. And they said, ‘wow’.

But the goofs n’ gaffs don’t end there: Bradley Cooper is credited with a short but sweet cameo appearance as Holga the Barbarian’s lover. A nerdy D&D player reviewing the film for Forbes claims that Cooper’s cameo “absolutely slays. I won’t spoil it. Trust me, it’s hilarious. A very small cameo. Very, very small—but it lands big.”

6. The film’s inspired by great fantasy—and fantasy-comedies like Monty Python’s Holy Grail

When it comes to fantasy worlds populated with loveable, idiosyncratic archetypes, you can’t do any better than classic 80s adventure The Princess Bride. But what about Tolkien’s genre-defining Middle Earth texts?! Along with Monty Python, Indiana Jones‘ artefact-snatching action, and the canon of heist movies, they’re all blended together in Honour Among Thieves.

With our band of thieves searching for a mysterious tablet of resurrection, co-director and writer Daley has said that his film’s heist structure helps uninitiated audiences “understand what our characters are setting out to do without being overwhelmed by lore or proper nouns”. So don’t worry if you’re too much of a cool jock to have ever played D&D: while the game is lovingly represented here, there’s also plenty of other references to enjoy.

7. You won’t see magic solving every problem, or shooting boringly out of character’s hands

Something that sucks about the recent Harry Potter prequel films (and we could really go on here) is that the climactic magic duels only ever look like two guys shooting lasers at one another out of sticks. Honour Among Thieves will be a little more inventive, drawing from the tabletop game’s in-world rules of “combining physical components and verbal spell-casting to show a variety of magical effects onscreen”.

It heightens the stakes and even makes magical ability more, well, magical, if some supernatural force isn’t able to just simply solve all of our heroes’ problems. Characters like Smith’s Simon the Sorcerer will need to collect items such as the Hither and Thither teleportation staff to get out of trouble, somewhat mimicking the D&D’s decision-and-luck-based gameplay.

8. There’s been attempts at making a D&D film since the early 1980s—including one pretty crap trilogy in the 2000s

Yeesh, look at those costumes—that very un-fantastical cinematography. While they do have some forgiving cult fans, the 2000s-era trilogy of Dungeons & Dragons films wasted actors like Jeremy Irons and Thora Birch on an inexperienced director and clunky cash-in storytelling.

The D&D franchise is owned by Wizards of the Coast, a subsidiary of manufacturer Hasbro since 1999. Hasbro kicked up a massive stink in 2015 when they found out that Warner Bros. had greenlit their own script of the RPG: the toy giant filed a lawsuit that was settled in August of that year, with WB and Hasbro agreeing to work together. In 2017 the project was bumped to Paramount Pictures, and finally Daley and Goldstein joined the team in 2019. It’s been a long and embattled journey of studios and rights-holders, but we may have finally got the good D&D movie we’ve been waiting for.

Apart from, of course, Tom Hanks’ lead role debut in the 1982 made-for-TV movie Mazes and Monsters: a cautionary tale about the addictive evils of tabletop gaming. A cringe classic.

9. Locations in Iceland and Northern Ireland stand in for the Forgotten Realms

Filming for Honour Among Thieves began in the sweeping vistas of Iceland in April 2021, before shifting to Belfast later that month. When the cast arrived in Northern Ireland, they took part in a gruelling seven-hour D&D sesh, playing as their film characters and getting a better grasp of the game’s themes and dynamics. Goldstein has said that some of their improvised moments of banter and battle informed his direction of the film, bringing the characters and their performers closer together in spirit.

10. Psych-rock project Tame Impala recorded a new banger for the film

With Aunty Donna’s appearances and a new tune from multi-instrumentalist Kevin Parker a.k.a. Tame Impala, Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves has multiple Australian connections. Perth musician Parker’s song ‘Wings of Time‘ ruminates upon friendship and victory over a galloping beat and hair-metal guitars.

Composer Lorne Balfe, known for the stirring scores to action movies such as Top Gun: Maverick, takes a more traditional approach with the film’s orchestral score. He’s apparently a D&D fan himself, and the clip below hints at a romantic, sweeping aural landscape fit for a bard’s adventuring.

11. Honour Among Thieves‘ characters and locations have made their way into D&D novels

Months before we’ll even get to see Honour Among Thieves, the team have already been publishing prequel fiction about these characters we haven’t met yet. There’s a young adult novel focusing on druid Doric, an Edgin Darvis stand-alone adventure, and the kids books featured in a big ol’ bookstore promotional stand below.

If you’re a graphic novel fan who wants a taste of what Chris Pine’s former thieving brigade was up to before the events of the film, 96-page comic The Feast of the Moon will do the trick. There’s certainly hardcore D&D literature fans who are already all over this stuff.

12. A TV spin-off is already on the way

The team behind Honour Among Thieves isn’t just confident enough in their product to poop out a few hundred pages of fiction, though: as of January, a whole-ass live-action series has been confirmed. It’s tipped to be Paramount’s largest-scale TV project ever, presumably winding up on Paramount+ for available regions, and dragging out the trendy tabletop game renaissance for who knows how long.

We hope that any extra additions to the world of Honour Among Thieves, be they much more serious in tone or more of the ‘fun-tasy’ we get in this romp of a film, give fans just what they’ve been rolling for all these years.