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Film / Of Dice and Men

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A 2014 independent dramedy film produced by Cavegirl Productions, based on the 2011 play of the same title by Cameron McNary. Set in 2006, it concerns a group of thirtyish Tabletop RPG gamers reacting to the announcement that one of them has enlisted in the Marines and is going to Iraq.

The characters:

  • John Francis, the Dungeon Master and narrator.
  • John Alex, his best friend since childhood. His Player Character is a 12th-level rogue named Spango Garnetkiller XVII (or Spango Garnetkiller XXII in the play).note 
  • Jason, who has been gaming with John Francis and John Alex since high school. He plays a paladin named Kester the Younger.
  • Tara, who has played with the group for a few years. She plays a half-elf wizardnote  named Alayanote .
  • Linda, who hosts the game at her and Brandon's house. She plays a dwarf cleric named Durak McMackMack.
  • Brandon, Linda's husband, who plays mostly as a social activity. His character is a barbarian named Throg.

Jason's announcement that he has enlisted throws the group into turmoil. John Alex picks a fight with Jason because he can't express his concern any other way, and John Francis starts to question the point of gaming at all. They only have one last game session before Jason's deployment to heal the rift in the group.

Of Dice and Men provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Ambiguous Ending: Whether Jason is killed in Iraq is left uncertain, as he is still there when the story ends.
  • Arc Words: "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now I see through a glass, darkly" (1 Corinthians 13:11-12). They reflect John Francis' dilemma about whether gaming is worth doing as an adult, or just childish play that should be forgotten when you grow up.
  • Artifact of Doom: The Libris Mortis or Book of All Souls, which will cause, as Tara puts it, "massive, world-ending zombie badness" if not destroyed.
  • Ashes to Crashes: Brandon's story of how he threw the vase containing his grandmother's ashes at the wall when he was upset over a football game.
  • Awesome McCoolname: "Spango Garnetkiller" was this to John Alex at the age of eight.
  • Backstory: Alaya has loads of it, which she will be happy to reel off at the drop of a hat. The backstory contains its own set of tropes, including Blood Oath, Cain and Abel, Circus Brat, Death by Origin Story, Doorstop Baby, First Love, Kids Are Cruel, Muggle Foster Parents, Parental Abandonment, and Royal Blood.
  • Basement-Dweller: Subverted. John Francis lives in his mom's basement, but he doesn't have any of the social problems normally associated with the trope, and he's about to move out in order to take a job offer in another town.
  • Berserk Button: Jason is sensitive about being called stupid. It's implied that he dropped out of college.
  • The Berserker: Throg, during the final combat as a result of seeing Durak get killed by the dragon.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The group breaks up due to so many people leaving town, but they all remain on good terms. John Francis and Tara finally get together, and he decides gaming is worthwhile as an adult.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: All the Player Characters introduce themselves directly to the audience, and John Francis serves as the narrator.
  • Combat Medic: Durak, who has a warhammer and an arsenal of offensive spells in addition to healing abilities.
  • Deep-Immersion Gaming: The characters introduce themselves to the audience as if they existed separately from their players, although they are portrayed by the same actors. During the final game sequence, the lines blur a bit, as the characters sometimes speak lines within the game world that are obviously being said by the players at the game table.
    • The stage show also places the final game sequence midway between the game world and the real world. The actors wear the costumes of the players rather than the characters, but they carry the characters' weapons. The dialogue freely switches in and out of character.
  • Double Entendre: Durak's introduction speech is full of them.
  • Flashback: Much of the story is told this way.
  • Foreshadowing: The dragon figure used in the final game session can be seen on John Francis' shelf in the first scene.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: John Alex's drawings of the previous Spango Garnetkillers.
  • Funetik Aksent: Durak's "truly ludicrous Scottish accent" is spelled out phonetically in the stage script, and presumably in the screenplay as well.
    Durak: It also allooz me the privilege of calling doon specTACKular divoine blessin’s upon moiself an’ moi compatriots, which primarily involves resoiting spoine-chillin’ theological incuntEEtions in this knee-wobblingly resOOnding bahritone which ye hear...
  • Glass Cannon: Alaya.
  • Godwin's Law: John Alex's rant about how Second Edition Dungeons & Dragons got rid of demons and devils ends with him comparing Pat Robertson to Hitler looking for lebensraum.
  • Grappling with Grappling Rules: Averted. When asked to make a grapple check, John Alex just rolls and no one complains.
  • Happy Dance: John Alex does one when he rolls a Critical Hit.
  • Heroic Lineage: All of the Spangos.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Spango gives up his life for Kester, as John Alex's way of apologizing to Jason and expressing his concern.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: John Alex.
  • Moment Killer: Tara and John Francis almost have a moment just before the game, until John Alex barges in on it.
  • No Social Skills: John Alex.
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted. John Francis even mentions that he and John Alex have the same last name, though he doesn't say what it is.
  • Overly Long Name: Alaya's full name has twenty-seven parts.
  • The Paladin: Kester.
  • Pardon My Klingon: Alaya says some rude things in Elvish.
    John Francis: Just because it’s a made-up language doesn’t mean I didn’t understand you.
  • Repetitive Name: Durak McMackMack (son of Clendak McMackMack, son of Gorak McMackMack, son of Gak McMack, son of Mack the Mack).
  • Shipper on Deck: Linda, for Tara and John Francis.
  • Sir Swearsalot: John Alex. His swearing is not only profane but creative, sometimes managing to be filthy without using any of the classic four-letter words. It is also a lifelong habit, evidenced by the fact that his eight-year-old self uses words like "cowsucking" and "dumbsuckers."
  • Skewed Priorities: In a Flashback, John Francis and Jason are angry at Edward for cheating on Tara because he broke her heart. John Alex is angry at Edward for cheating on Tara because now they have to decide which one to kick out of the gaming group. And he's genuinely conflicted about which one to keep: on the one hand, Edward is a complete Jerkass, but on the other hand, "he gives really good roleplay."
  • Squishy Wizard: Alaya. When Tara asks why she keeps dying so much, John Francis replies, "You're the party's wizard. It's kind of your job."
  • Take That!: Done in-universe to Edward, Tara's ex-boyfriend; John Francis arranges for his character to exit the game in the most painful and humiliating way imaginable.
  • Team Mom: Linda.
  • They Killed Kenny Again: Alaya dies constantly. Justified in that she's a character in a roleplaying game where Death Is Cheap.
  • True Art Is Boring: Mentioned in-universe by John Alex when John Francis is deciding which books to take along on his move.
    John Alex: Nobody actually reads Wuthering Heights. Except English majors. And even they don't enjoy it.
  • UST: John Francis and Tara.
  • Unrequited Love Switcheroo: John Francis and Tara ... repeatedly. They are both interested in each other, but every few months, just as one of them is getting up the courage to make a Love Confession, the other will announce excitedly that he/she has just met someone great...
  • We Help the Helpless: Kester's stated philosophy; presumably the rest of the group is in on it as well.
  • Written-In Absence: In-universe, John Francis creates one for Edward's character when Edward is kicked out of the group.