I’ve never understood the appeal of “Dungeons & Dragons,” and still don’t after watching the documentary “The Dungeon Masters.” However, its purpose is not to explain the role-playing game, but to show the human side of those who get into it. And I mean really get into it.
Keven McAlester’s nicely shot film focuses on three game masters, also known as “GMs.” There’s Elizabeth, who admits to spending much of her life either playing “D&D” and “World of Warcraft” or otherwise being online. There’s Richard, whose wife “ or “current wife,” as he calls her, somewhat dismissively “ won’t allow him to play more than once a month. And there’s Scott, who says he’s a full-time apartment manager “ until his wife points out it’s a part-time position “ and whose hopes for happiness hinge on selling a 500-plus-page fantasy novel.
McAlester’s lens juggles between the three as we hear their stories and watch them interact “ sometimes painfully “ with family and friends. None of their relationships appear to be all that healthy, unfortunately, but as all confess to the camera, they’ve never been social superstars.
“The Dungeon Masters” neither mocks nor laughs at its subjects. These people may be different, it seems to say, but they’re still people. What’s sad, however, is how much of their misery may be of their own doing. For instance, Richard appears to live for his gaming sessions, yet makes no qualms about dropping friends at the drop of the proverbial hat because he takes “D&D” way too seriously. It’s a pattern in his life; we see him attempt to break bread with his ex-wife’s son, with whom he used to be inseparable until the day Richard decided to just leave the family behind with neither warning nor explanation.
With her face painted in metallic-black makeup and wearing a white wig and pointy ears to make her look like an elf, Elizabeth laments that she’s “a drama-attracter” when it comes to men and has trouble in her romantic relationships, and the viewer thinks, “Hmmm, you don’t say.”
Most notably, Scott recalls being picked on regularly as a kid for being nerdy, especially when his parents bought him a big briefcase to tote his books to and from class. So what does he do when he walks to pick up his own young son from school? He wears his full LARP regalia, prompting kids to ask, “Whose dad is that?” He’s essentially ensuring his own child is doomed to experience the same peer abuse.
I found “Dungeon Masters” to be incredibly insightful, sometimes moving, always entertaining and never hateful. It’s everything that similar-themed doc “Darkon” was not. “Rod Lott