Back in 2002 Dead Gentlemen Productions made the straight-to-dvd movie The Gamers, combining low-budget effects and amateur acting with geek humor that was instantly recognizable to anyone who's ever played Dungeons and Dragons. The result was a hysterical movie that become legendary in gaming circles. Dead Gentlemen Productions has upped the ante, with more polished special effects and much more professional acting, with their semi-sequel The Gamers: Dorkness Rising.

Lodge (Nathan Rice) is the gamemaster with a problem: His players -- Gary (Christian Doyle), Cass (Brian Lewis), and Leo (Scott C. Brown) -- keep getting slaughtered in the adventure he wants to write for publication. But when new player -- and Cass's ex-girlfriend -- Joanna (Carol Roscoe) joins the group, with a new type of fighter, the adventure could get underway.

Much like the original Gamers, this movie alternates between the players in the real world and the adventure of their characters. Unlike The Gamers, in The Gamers: Dorkness Rising, the characters and players are represented by the same actors. Joanna becomes Daphne, a quick fighter. Gary plays the female mage Luster, who is Gary in drag except when he remembers that his character is female (at which point Luster is played by actual female Jen Page). Cass becomes the martial-arts monk Brother Silence, with bright orange robes and a bald head. And poor Leo tries playing the bard Flynn the Fine, who proves remarkably mortal. ("As if killing the bard would impress us!") Even Lodge gets in on the action, as he becomes the non-player character Sir Osric, the paladin sent to babysit the players.

The Gamers: Dorkness Rising is a lot of fun. Adding a novice player provides both a means to explain some gaming terms to non-gamers and a way to show that roleplaying can be about more than just hack and slash. Gamers will enjoy seeing some of the rules acted out in real time (such as Flynn the Fine seducing every female he can, no matter where they are, with a single die roll), and gaming references abound, from the weapons from Munchkin turning up in a treasure chest to Nodwick, the most famous henchman ever, making an appearance. The movie even includes pirates vs. ninjas!

Comparisons with The Gamers are inevitable, and the second movie does lack some of the first one's inspired lunacy. But the cast of The Gamers: Dorkness Rising does very well as both players and adventurers, and there are a tremendous number of laugh-out-loud moments. (Gotta love the Bard strumming his mandolin and making up little songs, almost always dying right afterwards.) After watching The Gamers: Dorkness Rising I felt happy, amused at one of my favorite hobbies -- and wanting to sling some dice!

Overall grade: A-

Reviewed by James Lynch

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