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Film / The Gamers: Hands of Fate

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The third feature-length movie in The Gamers series, Hands of Fate brings back many of the characters from The Gamers: Dorkness Rising, though the focus of the film is on Collectible Card Games rather than Tabletop RPGs. We do briefly see the party from the second film and find out that Lodge is now running Pathfinder instead of Dungeons & Dragons (also seen in The Gamers Live).

The plot focuses on Cass, who begins playing the story-based CCG Romance of The Nine Empires in an effort to impress Gamer Chick Natalie. At the same time, across time and space in the mystical land of Countermay, Princess Myriad is troubled by visions of her own death and the destruction of her kingdom - visions that seem more like long-forgotten memories than simple nightmares...

After the Cliffhanger ending, there were several attempts to continue the story with future installments, (with The Gamers: The Series and The Gamers: The Shadow Menace being two attempts), as well as a mini series The Gamers: Natural One, but sadly any proper continuation of the main story never came to be due to constant delays and cancellations.

Unlike the previous installments of the series, this one was Kickstarted and can be watched for free on YouTube.

No relation to another film mentioning "The Hands of Fate".

The movie provides examples of following tropes:

  • All There in the Manual: Literally. The rules booklet for ''Romance of the Nine Empires'' contains several pieces of information about the movie characters and the R9E setting:
    • Natalie's last name is Warner.
    • Jase's full name is Jason O'Reilly, and he made it to the quarterfinals of the tournament.
    • Malchior is built on a ruined dwarven city. It's a society of tough, ruggedly independent settlers trying to survive against the waves of undead spilling over from the ruins of Ixhasa.
    • The Displaced were thrown into Countermay as a result of the 1945 atomic bomb test in New Mexico.
    • Simm Buxtehude (Leo's character) died of a strange wasting illness which the Displaced called "radiation poisoning" after they used a "city-killing bomb" on the Godhead Seat.
    • The Pathfinder adventure The Shadow's Dungeon reveals that the Shadow is Shad-Hujem the God King, the previous Big Bad from Countermay, who escaped to the RPG world following his defeat.
    • There's also an-universe Wiki that gives explanations and background for all the Nine Empires factions and some history of the tournament scene.
  • The Alliance
    • Cass, Natalie, Jase and The Meach form an unofficial one to beat The Legacy. Consists mostly of not trying to knock each other out of game before reaching finals.
    • The LARP session is a meeting of representatives from all the empires to form an alliance in the last attempt to stop The Dead Army of Ixhasa.
    • In-universe, the Kingdom of Holden and the Protectorate of Malchior forge one against the undead, later cemented with an Arranged Marriage.
  • Ambiguous Syntax: The Show Within a Show Ninja Dragon Riders: the Dragon Riders and Dragons are both ninjas.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: The (hallucination of the) main character of Ninja Dragon Riders delivers one to Gary: Is harassing and even murdering an innocent man who dresses up as Chibi-chan to earn some cash really a proper way to honor the memory of the Ninja Dragon Riders?
    • Joanna asks Kevin what she needs to do to deserve him, after he made a deal about need to do something to deserve her.
  • Arranged Marriage: The one between Myriad and the Malchior's prince. They are both perfectly aware it's political, nobody is trying to pretend otherwise, the prince is having sort-of an affair and he basically tells Myriad to go search for the next Apple of Life to resurrect Dundareel and find her happiness.
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety: Played for Laughs and perfectly justifiable, since Dundareel has no clue about firearms, so he's putting a barrel of a machine pistol to his armpit while playing with the trigger.
  • Ascended Fanon: A big part of the game in-universe. Negotiations between players make it into the plot, and the head writer is seen hanging around the player LARP with a notebook.
  • Beat Them at Their Own Game: To complete astonishment of everyone present during the final round, Cass ends up starving the starvation deck. Louis is so confused it takes him a while to understand what happened.
  • Boring, but Practical: The Biggest Turnip is a cheap and quick 2 Renown card. One of the few non-Game Breakers featured in the movie. Cass uses it to win the game against The Legacy.
  • Break Them by Talking: The Legacy tries this on Cass, with a heavy dose of "Not So Different" Remark and We Can Rule Together. See Characters tab for details and result...
  • Call-Back: At the end of Dorkness Rising, Cass admitted, "I'm a dick." At the end of Hands of Fate, he tells Natalie, "I'm a dick, not an asshole."
  • The Cameo: Joanna Gaskell of Standard Action appears briefly at the end as Myriad's new husband's lover.
  • Character Development: Remember how in Dorkness Rising Cass was this massive Jerkass obsessed with power-gaming and with no redeeming qualities? He gets better. Boy, he gets better. Ultimately, he even manages to outgrow his compulsion to just win everything for the sake of winning.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The Apple of Life and Largest Turnip quests. Both are critical to Myriad and Cass winning their respective fights.
  • Chekhov's Lecture: Leo explains to Cass the mechanics behind giving items to enemy for renown and possibly buying a turn in the process.
  • Chromosome Casting: The Legacy is male-only, as part of their deliberate hate-inspiring image of sexist pigs.
  • Cliffhanger: OH SO FRICKING MUCH.
  • Complacent Gaming Syndrome: Invoked and discussed. The only reason The Legacy does so well is that their deck list is a hard counter to the Military decks that had been dominating tournament play before them. Decks that are built around the other victory conditions have fallen so far out of favor that Starvation decks didn't bother to include much to counter them.
  • Contest Winner Cameo: In-universe, R9E seems to make special hero cards based on the past world champions. The Meach has one, as does Cass at the end of the movie, as well as, apparently, Leo (who went by the name Simm Buxtehude back when he still played).
  • Cool Old Guy: The Meach is considerably older than most of the players - he was their age when the game started.
  • Corpsing: In-Universe. During the LARP, Natalie cannot avoid smiling openly when the child representing the Cult of the God King growls toward Jason the second time.
  • Cosmic Chess Game: The fictional characters seem to become aware they are playing pieces in a game.
  • Crossover: The genie from JourneyQuest makes an appearance.
    • And in the extended edition, the one of the True Dungeon puzzles strongly resembles the first room of the Temple of All Dooms.
    • This. The first entry in Matt Forbeck's Dangerous Games series takes place during the same Gen Con as this story, and Leo is involved in both plots. It's why he remarks a few times on having a hectic day off-screen.
  • Dark Horse Victory: In the on-going conflict between hardcore story-players and The Legacy group trying to make the game more competitive, the ultimate victory goes to Cass, who only started playing to win a bet and thus get laid, never really caring much about the game itself.
  • Darkest Hour: Cass' deck is lost, and he can't replace it.
  • Deep-Immersion Gaming: Taken to another level when The Shadow banters with the heroes for a bit while they're waiting for the DM, then asks who's controlling him.
  • Demoted to Extra: Lodge and Joanna barely appear and have few lines. They have their own side plot in the longer cut, but it doesn't have any effect on the main story.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Part of Cass' Character Development. His acceptance of this prompts Natalie to upgrade to Maybe Ever After.
  • Epic Fail: When Cass was first learning Romance In The Nine Empires, he gets completely owned twice by some kid. Then he plays a different kid and gets completely owned. The kicker? With the latter, the kid was playing the Pokemon-Expy game. Somehow he didn't notice he was playing a completely different game.
  • Fictional Counterpart: Romance of the Nine Empires is basically a viewer-friendly version of Legend of the Five Rings, including the players controlling the metaplot and being made by AEG.
    • Similarly, Chibi-Chan seems to be one for Pikachu/Pokemon in general, and Ninja Dragon Riders seems to have some similarities to Power Rangers.
  • Five Stages of Grief: Gary seems to be stuck at the Anger stage about the cancellation of Ninja Dragon Riders, to the point where it weakens his sanity and leads to sociopathic behavior. It's not until a hallucination of NDR main character asks him if murdering a mascot of a rival show, however terrible it was, was something a Ninja Dragon Rider would do, that Gary is able to move on to the quieter Depression stage. The hallucination even lampshades that "Acceptance is the final stage of grief".
  • Flat Character: There is very little time for Natalie, The Meach and Jase, not to mention The Legacy, especially in the regular cut. A common complain is how there is a tremendous amount of time wasted on the Chibi-chan subplot (and in the Extended Cut on Joanna and Lodge) that would be better spent on those characters.
  • Flipping the Table: Flipping the table after losing? Pretty immature. Flipping the table after losing to two children...
  • Foreshadowing: In the opening roleplaying sequence, Gary's cellphone ringtone is the Ninja Dragon Riders theme song.
    • There are a couple hinting to the viewer the true nature of The Shadow namely, him being the displaced and believed dead God King Shad-Hujem. The most blatant, near the very end, in an almost Freeze-Frame Bonus we can see a banner in the room of The Shadow, it is exactly one of the banners that we see at the begin of the movie, when all the banners of Countermay are shown, and the very same worn by the child representing the Cult of the God King Shad-Hujem faction during the LARP. The second, more subtle, bordering on Meaningful Background Event is when Cas/Brother Silence hears the card players and asks: "What is that noise?" and The Shadow/Shad-Hujem replies: "My minions, minioning."
  • Fun with Subtitles: What Chibichan says and what Gary hears are two very different things.
  • Funny Background Event: When Cass and the Meach make their alliance the writer can be seen ripping up the envelopes with the possible story endings and rushing off; the final version she reads is scribbled on notebook paper.
  • Game-Breaker: Romance of the Nine Empires has A) a food mechanic where you have to keep your forces fed, B) an undead faction that gets to ignore A, and C) cards that destroy all the food production on the board. Decks that exploit this are almost totally unbeatable unless their opponent has a deck full of lesser game breaking tricks. In fact every card and combination we see appears to be massively overpowered, since in-universe the game is designed as much more roleplaying-focused than competitively balanced.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: You can win the game about empires at war by farming a giant turnip. Cass instantly points out how ridiculous it sounds. And it's exactly how he wins the final match.
  • Gang of Hats: All The Legacy players wear black shirts of a bowling team and have atrocious sideburns.
  • Genre Shift: In the Extended Cut there is a "scene" read from the book by Leo about him finding a dead body under one of the convention booths, in style of hard-boiled detective story.
  • A God Am I: In his Hannibal Lecture Louis tries to really, really impress Cass. Cass, being who he is, doesn't even blink and almost instantly leaves the room after bluntly shutting down Legacy's leader with few rude cuts into his monologue.
  • Good All Along: The Meach is revealed as one of the most hardcore story-players, who put roleplay on meta-level. He lets Cass win their match not only to beat The Legacy in the big scheme, but also because that would fit his faction's lore.
  • Graceful Loser
    • When Cass beats Jason in the qualifier, they instantly become friends with no hard feelings whatsoever and congratulations for Cass.
    • Louis, who congratulates Cass for beating him and even admits it was one of the best games he had in years.
  • Hero of Another Story: Jase, who is rallying all the other story-players together in unified effort against The Legacy.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Simm Buxtehude pulled one with a city-destroying bomb.
  • Hidden Depths: Leo, who is Dorkness Rising was just a pathetic munchkin, is revealed as one of the co-creators of R9E and an avid story-player from the old days, to the point of having one of the characters created in respect for his victories and later steadily elevated until becoming a legendary champion.
  • Humiliation Conga: For The Legacy. Cass managed to win his way against their seemingly unstoppable starvation tactic by questing, the openly mocked part of the mechanics. In the final game he starved Louis' army to death... and won with the lousiest, easiest and least rewarding move possible.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: The Meach said to Cass twice that questing won't get him through the finals. The only reason why Cass was able to reach the final was because The Meach concedes after striking a deal with him. Otherwise Cass would be simply crushed in just nine cards - which is 4 turns. Louis is also intentionally screwing every quest Cass is trying to do, denying almost all his strategies.
  • Just Eat Gilligan: The head writer for Romance of the Nine Empires sadly says that even the most hardcore players are leaving the game because The Legacy is using overpowered decks and trying to win story prizes that will eliminate the popular Questing mechanic. Apparently it's completely lost on her that her job as someone who works on the game allows her to do any one of the following things:
    • Write some new story development that tilts the balance of power in favor of the other factions (e.g. some sort of newfound anti-zombie magic)
    • Report to the game designers that players are quitting the game and recommend nerfing The Legacy's overpowered cards (or alternatively make Questing and other underpowered tactics more viable)
    • Just don't even offer a story prize that completely wrecks the setting and gameplay!
    • Should Cass report what was done with his deck, The Legacy would end up kicked permanently from tournaments, solving the issue without even having to face Louis.
  • LARP: Which Cass insists he's too cool for. This does not endear him to Natalie, who says it's one of the highlights of her year. Sizable chunk of R9E players treat it as a Serious Business, since it's one of the ways to push the official lore and story further - even the head writer is present on the session, taking notes from players' actions and decisions. Also features an in-universe Big-Lipped Alligator Moment when a couple of impeccably dressed Ord cosplayers (or real Ord?) run in briefly and speak nothing but their native language.
  • Large Ham:
    • The Meach's avatar in-game, as opposed to the real guy.
    • Displaced American troops are apparently large enough to be imitated as such by other inhabitants of the game's world.
    • During the LARP:
      • Jason, who seems to come out from a John Wayne movie
      • Proportionally to his height and age, the child playing the representative of the Cult of the God King
    Child: Minor dispute?! They killed our GOOOOD!
  • Large Ham Title: The Meach.
  • Leitmotif: The Displaced got one - an upbeat military drum assisted by flute. Whenever a reference to them is made or Jase, their player, is doing something special in real life, it's played in the background.
  • Manchild: It tells something when Cass comes out as more mature than entire bunch of The Legacy players. Even if they intentionally play up such image, their grand plan and motivation is still extremely childish and the execution makes it even worse.
  • Maybe Ever After: Natalie holds out the possibility that she and Cass could get to know each other better in the future.
  • Men Act, Women Are: In the extended cut, Joanna calls Lodge out for having this attitude. He thinks he has to do something to deserve her, but he doesn't think she has to do anything to deserve him.
  • Mirror Character: Cass and Lewis are both preoccupied with winning and the prize, rather than any other aspect of the game, up to the point the Legacy is trying to recruit Cass into their ranks, noticing he's "just like us". On a flip side, they both have Hidden Depths and come to realisation they can also play for the fun it brings, rather than trying to achieve victory no matter the costs.
  • Missing Steps Plan: The Legacy's master plan has signs of this. They want to drive away story-players from the game, so the publisher will be forced to change the target and the way of running the entire business, starting sponsored tournaments and making the game much more competitive, with cash prizes for winners. They apparently missed entirely the fact there is absolutely no guarantee publisher will do that. In fact, story-players are the vast majority of the player base, so once they are gone, the lack of revenue might just as easily kill the publisher and force to declare bankrupcy or to simply discontinue the game rather than re-focus. There's also the issue that they rely almost entirely on their style of play being unusual in the meta; if the focus does shift, they'll have an influx of other highly competitive players (including professional Magic players) to deal with.
  • Moving Beyond Bereavement: Played With in the case of Gary, who spends most of his personal arc going through the Five Stages of Grief over the untimely cancellation of his favorite show, Ninja Dragon Riders. While it seems to be Played for Laughs at first, the subplot takes a much darker turn when Gary becomes so isolated and unstable, his actions start getting actually harmful to others. Towards the end of the film, he calms down enough to finally accept his loss and gives NDR a solemn, heartfelt sendoff.
  • My Greatest Failure: The Meach trained Louis and now even he can't oppose the starvation deck Louis is using to completely kill off any storytelling from the game. And story is the main reason why The Meach is playing in the first place.
  • Not Cheating Unless You Get Caught:
    • Listing the entire deck Cass is using by The Legacy players is pretty much an equivalent of card counting. Nobody does anything about it.
    • What The Legacy later did with Cass' deck is incredibly unsportsmanlike and would probably get them banned for good without even having to play against them.
    • Jason basically steals Cass' deck list and assembles required cards from gathered story-players. This means Cass is not even playing his deck.
  • Not in This for Your Revolution: Cass just wants to win the tournament. He doesn't care much about either of the agendas. Which means he's more frustrated about mechanical loses when one of his hero cards is permanently removed from the game, but is also completely unimpressed with perspective of being paid for playing, since that's his first and last time. He still ends up as the story-players' champion.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: Cass imagines his training with Leo as taking place in the loading room of the Matrix, surrounded by floating cards and hearing vaguely Gregorian-sounding chanting in the background... that happens to consist of phrases like "Do or do not - there is no try" and "All your base are belong to us".
  • Pimped-Out Dress: Which doesn't suit Myriad at all.
  • Poor Communication Kills: When the Legacy members come to invite Cass to speak to their leader, they play up the "evil minions" bit so much that he thinks he's being legitimately attacked and tries to defend himself. They react in shock and horror to what, from their perspective, was him randomly punching a guy in the face.
    Cass: Are we not fighting? I thought we were fighting.
    Bleeding Guy: I'm a hemophiliac, you asshole!
    Cass: It was clear to me we were fighting...
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: All the alliances featured can qualify
    • Story-players' alliance combines a Powergamer obsessed with winning, a tough Gamer Chick, an Insufferable Genius and what can best be described as a Genki Boy. They made a surprisingly effective team supporting each other, even if some level of teeth-clenching is initially involved.
    • During the LARP session the characters form an alliance of all possible factions from R9E universe to oppose the undead expansion, while struggling together.
    • The Kingdom of Holden, the faction Cass and Natalie are playing as, was created by refugees from other empires.
  • Recruiting the Criminal: Leo equips and trains Cass, a pathological power-gamer obsessed with winning and who has a complete disregard for stories and plots in games, to win the nationals and save the game from The Legacy, who view the game more like Cass does than the rest of the player base.
  • The Reveal:
    • The Meach is a hardcore story-player.
    • Louis is a former trainee of The Meach.
    • In-universe, Malchior leader wants to forge a secret alliance with the Kingdom of Holden, not raze it to the ground.
  • Revive Kills Zombie: Sort of. Cass wins against Louis' undead army by raising them all from the dead with a rare artifact. It doesn't actually kill them, but the now alive army immediately starves to death because they never had any food. Of course, they would come back again as undead in the next round, but one free round was all Cass needed to win.
  • Screw Destiny: The main theme of the in-game story is Myriad's realisation she isn't just a Cosmic Plaything and growing a spine to act on her own. When Cass is playing against The Meach in the finals, he literally can't find her card in his deck, while she has a quest on her own.
  • Show Within a Show: Ninja Dragon Riders, a Fictional Counterpart X Meets Y of... quite a few shows. The protagonists look a lot like Power Rangers and are secretly rock stars. The dragons are also ninjas who wear masks, and the red one uses sais. Hikaru is searching for the seven Dragon Crystals. Oh, and it's a canceled cult classic. The last aspect is lampshaded when Gary, during his final goodbye to the show, ends with a line from Firefly's theme song.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Cass couldn't care less about The Legacy's agenda and shuts them down almost instantly with few rude, but to-the-point lines, making sure they realise how pathetic their schemes are.
  • Standard Hero Reward: A big theme in this movie.
    • First brought up by the Shadow in the opening roleplay sequence.
    Osric: You will release the princess at once!
    The Shadow: And what in our long relationship suggests I would do this?
    Brother Silence: There is but one way this can end: with your death and us departing with our prize.
    The Shadow: For women are prizes to be won, yes?
    • Natalie sarcastically offers herself as this to Cass if he wins the tournament at GenCon. He takes her seriously and starts training with Leo.
    • Also, in the extended version, this is Lodge's explanation for why he feels like he has to do something to deserve Joanna—he grew up on literature where the heroes won their love interests by doing great deeds.
  • Tactical Rock–Paper–Scissors: Discussed. Cass's questing deck is vulnerable to other top-tier decks but is specifically good against the starvation deck that's been dominating. The Meach concedes a game he has in the bag specifically for this reason; he knows he can't get a victory in the final match but he can negotiate for his preferred story choice if Cass does.
  • Talk to the Fist:
    • When The Legacy players swarm over Cass, last thing they were expecting was him putting actual, physical resistance instead of just following them after a verbal threat and some bullying. They are visibly shocked and completely taken by surprise after he casually throws a single, well-aimed punch mid-sentence, unphased by their threats. What makes it even better is that we've got bunch of overweight gamers against a guy who boasted early in the film about his physical prowress.
    • When in-game Undead!Dundareel is having a Hannibal Lecture with Princess Myriad, she just knocks him down with a punch.
  • Take That!:
    • Weaver's big motive speech for The Legacy reveals that they want to turn R9E into "another poker. Another Magic."
      • It's very likely that "The Legacy" are based on a group of Legend of the Five Rings named "Team Dynasty." R9E was based on L5R, and just like The Legacy, Team Dynasty advocated for cash tournaments and had developed a reputation as being more interested in competitive playing over the story.
    • In-game bit, when Myriad and Dundareel manage to win against group of the Displaced.
    Dundareel: Hey, who am I? (in thick American accent) Baseball! Democracy! Apple pie!
  • Terminal Transformation: In climax, Cass wins the Final Battle by bringing his opponent's entire undead army Back from the Dead as ordinary mortals... only for them to immediately starve to death, as none of them have eaten anything in days, because Cass's opponents previously destroyed all food production in their conquered territory to ensure nobody else could control it — on the assumption that the undead army wouldn't need food.
  • This Cannot Be!: Louis' reaction after realising The Biggest Turnip card was used to beat his seemingly unstoppable deck.
  • This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!
    Ixhasa's emissary: ( Upon suddenly being given the Apple of Life) Oh you clever bitch...
  • This Means Warpaint:
    • Natalie wears one for the finals. She even playfully smears some of it on Cass' forehead.
    • Players who cosplay and take part in LARP as the Displaced wear combination of tribal warpaint and military ranks, which is apparently based on game's lore and card art.
  • Token Evil Teammate:
    • The LARP for the alliance has one representative from Ixhasa, who talks about how the Undead are totally going to kill them all.
    • Cass, to a certain extent, being a powergamer who is fighting for the side of the story gamers, so that he can get laid. He gets better.
  • Too Awesome to Use: The Apple of Life card is even lampshaded as such by Leo. It has to be physically torn apart to activate and there were only 500 of them ever printed. It's power doesn't even seem worth sacrificing the card, even outside the context of limited supply, thus making it a glorified collectible item and of course a Chekhov's Gun.
  • Trapped in Another World: The Displaced faction seems to be American soldiers from WW2. The few references we get to their origin mentions nuking a god in the process.
  • Underdogs Never Lose:
    • Subverted during the finals - from all the players, none is considered to be an underdog.
    • Played straight in-game, where the Kingdom of Holden is the weakest of all empires, yet it's the faction that ultimately wins.
  • Variable Player Goals: Like it's real world equivalent Legend of the Five Rings the game has several paths to victory, although in recent years a straightforward military victory has been considered the only competitively viable one. This has left the Holden faction, which is optimized for using Quests to persue the Renown victory condition, something of an underdog until Leo figured out a deck to exploit Tactical Rock–Paper–Scissors.
  • Wham Line:
    • Meach to Leo: "Why, thank you... Simm."
    • "My quarrel's never been with you, rather it's been with those that have continuously thwarted my plans. Now you, I have quite the quarrel with."
  • You Can't Go Home Again: The Displaced used their only a-bomb to stop the God-King. The power released during the detonation was their only known chance to get back home.
  • Writing by the Seat of Your Pants: Happens in-universe. The head writer for R9E prepared in advance few different endings of the story, depending on how the semi- and finals go. After Cass and The Meach strike a deal, which obviously wasn't planned for, she tears down the envelopes with her endings and quickly writes a new one during the final match. People present in the room are too focused on the game to even notice she's reading from a page torn from a notebook.