For those not up to date on the long string of terrible and creepy cartoons coming down the pipes, some very concerning news has recently come out about NETFLIX’s She-Ra reboot. Some people might recall when the first glimpse of the show came out, it attracted immediate hate for turning a beautiful grown woman into a pre-pubescent boy. (judging by the looks anyway.) But despite its creepy design, it still retained good storytelling potential. Then they dropped some heavy news on us: that the creators based the story on their D&D campaign.
You know that alarm bell that shrieks in the back of your mind when someone says something like “I’m vegan” or “Hitler did nothing wrong?” The phrase “I based this off the D&D campaign I was in” usually raises a pretty similar warning. Dungeon and Dragons is an incredibly popular role-playing game, and this rampant popularity is partly due to its group story telling elements. D&D let’s you get together with friends, play awesome heroes, and vanquish terrible beasts. You’re also not limited to certain actions like you would be in a video game. If you wanted to try taming a dragon instead of killing it, you can. This almost limitless amount of freedom can result in memorably epic or hilariously stupid situations that would arise in any other format. But more than that, Dungeons and Dragons is a game where players play through a story. Whether that be hunting down ancient treasure or rescuing a princess, the story is shaped by the players actions. So, it’s understandable for new writers to think turning their adventures into a linear story for television is a good idea. It isn’t.
It’s important to remember that Dungeons & Dragons is a game that revolves around a story. The freedom allowed to the players combined with the game element is a big reason converting your D&D campaign into a book or show can fall flat.
- In a story, a character might be hesitant to make a sacrifice in exchange for power
- In a game, the character might eagerly cut off his right hand, so he can max out his stats.
- In a story, a character might rigidly adhere to his moral code, even if it leads to a violent confrontation with his team mates. This could be played as a dark chapter in the story.
- In a game, players are encouraged not to do this since it may cause friction within the group in real life. This is likely to result in a contrived peaceful end to the conflict.
- In a story, the character might never throw away his weapon because of his emotional attachment to it.
- In a game, the player might make an excuse to change weapons for the sake of stats
Linear storytelling requires different pacing. There needs to be an effective beginning, a thrilling middle, and a satisfying ending. A game of D&D can make a simple rescue the princess story fun because of the game element. Set that same scenario in a story, it might not work out as well. In a game, the challenge keeps you engaged. In a story, it’s the plot alone that must grab the reader’s attention.
Now, is it possible to turn your D&D campaign into a good story? Of course, but it takes skill and talent. Both things have been severely lacking in the media’s darling diversity hires, especially if they put their politics first – which judging by how they’ve mutilated the once beautiful She-Ra, politics first will likely take priority over story first. So, when She-Ra is released, we’ll see what a feminist D&D campaign looks like. But if I were to take a guess, just like everything else feminism touches, it’ll be full of hate and completely devoid of humanity.