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How The Honor Among Thieves Team Translated D&D's Complex Magic Systems To The Big Screen

Since its premiere in 1974, the influential RPG game "Dungeons & Dragons" has ignited the imaginations of fantasy fans worldwide. The once-controversial game eventually spawned a franchise of properties, including video games, magazines, an animated TV series, and a film released to lackluster reviews at the turn of the century. But a full-scale, big-budget cinema extravaganza had always been lacking until now.

"Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves" brings the imaginative world of the game to theater screens, and its visual effects faithfully translate its complex magic systems to the silver screen. Speaking to IndieWire, visual effects supervisor Ben Snow revealed just how detailed the process was when it came to bringing a filmable magic system to life. "At one point, I made a giant table of spells, like a Google Slides of spells," he explained. "We always did have the little card from the Dungeon Master's Guide describing how the spell was supposed to work and deploy, and we tried to keep to that as much as we could." 

Adapting the fantastical elements of an influential game into modern film graphics would prove to be more complex than simply ensuring landscapes and spells were on point. Here is all the research the feature's VFX team conducted.

The VFX team relied on the Wizards themselves to guide the movie's world-building

"Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves" combines CGI and practical effects to construct Neverwinter, The Forgotten Realms, and more. Ben Snow told IndieWire that the movie's visual effects team worked consistently with the role-playing game company Wizards of the Coast, the owner of "Dungeons & Dragons," to ensure all the world's aesthetic elements were designed with precision and meticulous accuracy.

Snow stated, "Wizards of the Coast has a story group, a little similar to Lucasfilm, where they look after the canon and make sure you keep within the world that they're creating, and they do it in a similar way," before observing how the company would allow the filmmakers to take certain creative liberties but would be relentless in asking questions about character motivations in the script that do not align with the traditional roles of "D&D" roles.

He also commented on the multiple variations of computer and practical simulations he and his team would try to match the game's rules. Sofina (Daisy Head) became a particularly complex character to build VFX around due to her necromancy as a Red Wizard of Thay –- which came with minute details that distinguished the red wizards from other sorcerers in the original RPG.

The attention to detail certainly makes "Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves" stand out from other adaptations. And judging by the reactions from fans and critics, it seems the VFX team's hard work paid off tenfold.