This article contains Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves spoilers.
With Paramount and eOne’s Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves now in theaters, and blowing past studio projections for its opening weekend, it’s a good time to be a D&D fan. It also seems to be a good time to examine the easter eggs that old fans and new may have missed.
If we missed anything please feel free to drop it in the comments.
Cult of the Dragon
Early on the film treats us to a delightfully narrated “getting to know the character” monologue by one of the film’s main protagonists, Edgin the Bard (Chris Pine). In a flashback, we learn that Edgin was a member of a secret organization known as the Harpers, a fact that serves as a bit of an emotional chord that plays with themes of redemption and destiny throughout the film. It also should be recognizable to longtime D&D fans, since the Harpers have been a fixture of The Forgotten Realms since the late ‘80s and are almost as well known as the cruel Red Wizards of Thay that serve as the antagonists of this adventure, another lesser-known collective is mentioned in the film that may have gone unnoticed.
The party’s lovable barbarian, Holga (Michelle Rodriguez), an outcast of the Elk Tribe, helps her companions locate the burial grounds of her people. During an amusing sequence where the party’s sorcerer, Simon (Justice Smith) uses an amulet to speak with the dead, we learn that the majority of the graves are filled with members of Holga’s clan who had fallen in battle against the Cult of the Dragon and the Black Dragon Rakor.
The Cult of the Dragon has a bloody and destructive legacy in the Forgotten Realms in the game, with crimes ranging from kidnapping to the destruction of Phlan, to attempting to resurrect undead dragons in a campaign for world domination—those familiar with the 5e adventures Horde of the Dragon Queen and Rise of Tiamat will be very familiar with their draconic cultists.
The cult has served as foes to countless players over the years, and more than a few adventuring parties have failed their death saves to their founder, Sammaster, the evil wizard and former chosen of Mystra, the goddess of magic. While seemingly unimportant to the events of Honor Among Thieves, the ramifications of the Cult of the Dragon being active will likely seed future stories with these characters and the world that is being established in the film.
Bag of Holding
The film is full of items both magic and mundane, from the newly introduced Hither-thither staff that allows the party to jump through portals like an Aperture Science test subject, to the druid Doric’s (Sophia Lillis) arm-mounted slingshot that seems both handy as well as an easy conversion to something every kid is going to want from Target this holiday season. One of the items that never gets mentioned by name but is featured heavily in the background is a Bag of Holding. Simon the sorcerer is constantly being handed items that the keen observer will notice have no logical way of fitting onto his person, as he is only carrying a small leather sack emblazoned with a grinning stylized face. However, those who have been playing the most recent editions of D&D will recognize one of the most useful items in the history of the game.
The Bag of Holding is a magical bag that’s capable of carrying up to 500 pounds in a small pocket dimension that exists within the bag’s confines. While the bag itself can carry quite the haul, it only ever weighs 15 pounds. The person carrying it only needs to reach a hand inside and think of an item stored within to produce it. This awesome little accessory is how such a slight of-frame sorcerer was able to haul around the multitudes of items passed his way.
In a blink-and-you-will-miss-it moment, two rust monsters are seen fighting over a metal lock as guards lead Holah and Edgin to be executed.
What was really standout for me in this scene was the dungeon that the main characters are led through is made entirely of stone, with very few metal trappings. What metal there is, is only seen in the form of iron bars and cell doors, which are covered in rust.
Rust monsters are large, roach-like creatures with long antennae tipped with bristling feathers. Anything metal that these feathers touch begins to immediately corrode and rust, which the aforementioned rust monsters consume—a particularly horrible fate for players who find themselves facing other dungeon encounters with brittle battle-axes and blessed armor that is suddenly more hole-filled than holy.
While debatable if Edgin was stretching the truth or not, the well-known wizard Elminster is name-dropped as he is weaving bardic lore of Simon’s wizarding lineage.
Elminster has appeared across multiple forms of D&D media for decades. Starting life in Dragon Magazine articles penned by Ed Greenwood, Elminster would act as a wise sage, imparting esoteric knowledge to a fictional interviewer about the legends and lore of the realms. He would later make the leap to his own series of novels and even go on to appear in video games, card games, and comic books.
It remains to be seen if the iconic figure is indeed part of Simon’s family, but the mere mention of his name was something I am sure longtime fans will have caught.
The duplicitous rogue Forge Fitzwilliam (Hugh Grant), an ally-turned-enemy of the party, works closely with Sofina (Daisy Head), one of the evil undead Red Wizards of Thay, to hatch a plot that would put Neverwinter and all of Faerûn in jeopardy. Sofina is working for the vile lich lord, Szass Tam, an undead necromancer who is only shown in flashbacks and in a bit of a shadow projection during a scene between Sofina and himself.
While a shadowy and unknown figure in the film, fans will likely have heard the name Szass Tam mentioned more than a few times across various adventures and novels. A key villain, Szass Tam can be counted among the ranks of Vecna (made popular in the zeitgeist by Stranger Things), and Xanathar, the well-known beholder who graces everything from Funko pops to t-shirts and beyond. I could see them bringing about Vecna himself as the big bad down the road, or at the least positioning Szass Tam to become a Thanos-level villain in some great conflict to close out a potential mainline series starring Edgin and company.
After a bit of adventuring, the party encounters a charming and heroic paladin named Xenk Yendar (Regé-Jean Page) who joins them for part of their quest. During his time with the group, a coven of Thay assassins sent by Sofina sets upon the party and Xenk engages them in some of the most fun combat I have seen on the big screen in years.
During the fight, the lead assassin ignites his blade with a flickering greenish-yellow flame before he clashes swords with Xenk. While a dazzling bit of fantasy, those flames are a bit of a deeper cut to those familiar with the spells in D&D.
The Green-Flame Blade is a spell that allows the caster to coat their weapon in writhing green flames. In gameplay, this spell is formidable at lower levels and can do some real damage if cast by a higher-level combatant. While spells like Fireball and Cone of Cold are iconic and seen often in media, it was really cool to see one of the newer spells being put to use in the film.
Dragons are cool, but dragons who eat dragons (and anything else they can get their plump little claws on) are the absolute best: Thus in crashes the scene-stealing Themberchaud, who first appeared in Drizzt Do’Urden’s Guide to the Underdark in 1999. He’s been featured in all the marketing going back to the movie’s first trailer, as well as action figures, plushies, and more, making the pudgy Red Dragon something close to iconic—-although some (including the person writing this article) might say he’s still not been on enough of the products. So to call his presence an easter egg may be a bit outside the normal scope of the word.
But where Themberchaud is found is a bit strange to those who know the lore: typically found in Gracklstugh in the D&D lore, the dragon is found in Dolblunde in the movie. While this could just be an arbitrary choice to move the world around a bit, if you go back up to that bit where I mentioned the Cult of the Dragon, this becomes a far more intriguing move.
Dolblunde is the traditional home of the undead dracolich Daurgothoth. Knowing that the Cult of the Dragon’s founder is quite the fan of raising a dracolich, it feels that we may be returning to this location in a future installment and seeing exactly what is hiding under those piles of bones and if it poses a bigger threat to our party of adventurers than the chunky good boy that is Themberchaud.
The big set piece in the third act of the film is a shifting wall labyrinth within a massive arena surrounded by the inhabitants of Baldur’s Gate, who act as spectators for a bloodsport-like game put on by Grant’s Forge as a cover for the movie’s penultimate evil machination.
In an amusing little nod to traditional tabletop play, the top-down view of the labyrinth resembles the classic tan-colored gridded battle map that one can draw upon with dry-erase markers. These maps served as the play mat for miniature-based combat that has been popular for the majority of the hobby’s existence.
Saturday Morning Adventures
The aforementioned games are stuffed full of very recognizable D&D monsters, including the perspective-distorting displacer beasts, acidic gelatinous cubes that dissolve the bodies of anyone unlucky enough to run into their shape for longer than a minute, and the ambush predator mimic in its trademark treasure chest form.
However, a special bit of easter eggery hidden in the film comes in the form of the kids from the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon that aired for three seasons in the early 1980s. The show was focused on a group of kids who were transported to “the realm of Dungeons & Dragons” by an enchanted amusement park ride. Upon entering the realm, the kids were given brightly colored magical items by the mystical Dungeon Master, who sent them on adventures to find their way back home. While the series never did get a proper ending (save for an audio play based on a script that was published online after the show was canceled), the iconic characters have been featured in Dragon Magazine, golden books, shrinky-dinks, and even in recently re-released action figures.
While not named, the kids make a cameo appearance in the finale’s deadly games, almost being saved by the movie’s protagonists… before they decide to change plans mid-action, leaving the party of Saturday morning heroes to their own devices off-screen.
In the Eye of the Beholder
A last little easter egg jab (all pun intended) comes during the ending credits where an illuminated manuscript pop-up book showcases the characters and events of the film. An aside is mentioned far earlier in the movie where it is claimed that Simon once blinded a Beholder with a gourd and we get a very amusing depiction of this event on one of the pages of the manuscript as the credits flash by.
While we did not see an actual beholder in all its computer-rendered glory within Honor Among Thieves, the mere mention of this multi-eyed horror and then seeing it on the screen bodes well for the eventual arrival of one of these classic D&D fixtures. I would wager that with the most recent action figure announcements and inclusions in other toys that have come out in recent years, we may see the most famous of beholders, Waterdeep’s own crime lord himself, Xanathar, making a big screen debut… but we’ll have to wait for the next session to find out if that is going to happen or not.