TTRPG Settings That Need a Film Adaptation

With the modest sucess of D&D Honor Among Thieves, it is only a matter of time before other TTRPGs get the big screen treatment. We have 10 strong recommendations.

Published: April 8, 2023 12:00 PM /


The cover of Blades in the Dark, featuring a smiling man in a hood.

This past weekend, Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves released in theaters. Overall, it has received a very warm reception from both audiences and critics. It has also earned a solid box office, outperforming Shazam 2 on its opening weekend. While not a major hit, the movie's success does highlight the possibility of other TTRPG settings getting the cinematic treatment. There are even talks of sequels and TV adaptations of other beloved settings within the D&D multiverse.

So with that in mind, we here at TechRaptor have dived deep into settings and worlds from other TTRPGs, seeing which ones can make for a great time at the movie theater.

Artwork of a group in an old lab surrounded by large rats from the world Numenera
Keep that barrier energized.

10. Numenera

Starting off the list is the land of Numenera. Created by Monte Cook and the debut setting for the award-winning Cypher System, the land of Numenera seems like a standard fantasy setting with kings, castles, swords and armor. However, it actually takes place in our world one billion years in the future, with all of the fantastical magical artifacts just being highly advanced technology from the past. It's a world that has spawned plenty of official adventures as well as a videogame adaptation.

Given how ubiquitous the Marvel Cinematic Universe has become with its intermingling of battlesuit billionaires, interdimensional Norse gods, and gamma-radiated giant berserkers, there's a good chance a general audience is more than open to accepting a far future fantasy operating on Clarke Tech. Plus, the setting is ripe for social commentary and character-driven narrative.

Artwork of a peaceful hillside with people resting from Coyote and Crow
Glad to see life continues on after 7 centuries of hardship.

9. Coyote and Crow

A more recent addition to the TTRPG business is the world of Coyote and Crow. Published in 2021, the setting depicts an alternate history where the indigenous peoples of North America and South America were not colonized by the Western nations. This is because a horrible cataclysm occurred during the 1400s, putting the world into a harsh new Ice Age. Fast-forward 700 years, and the indigenous people thrive with their own technological marvels and cultures as well as troubles and tensions.

In terms of high-concept stories, this is a world begging for a cinematic adaptation. There's plenty of precedent for stories from different perspectives as seen in the Black Panther movies as well as distinct voices from indigenous talent from films like Blood Quantum and Prey. Not only can a movie help put a spotlight on indigenous talents in the film industry, it can be a potent examination of the far-reaching effects of colonialism in our modern world.

Artwork of several clan members from Legend of the Five Rings
Whether it's the Shadowlands or danger from within, they will defend the Emperor with their all.

8. Legend of the Five Rings

Fantasy Flight Games' long-running tabletop franchise, Legend of the Five Rings  is a vast and rich setting based heavily in Japanese folklore and culture. The stories revolve around seven clans that serve the imperial land of Rokugan. But it is a land full of political strife amongst the clans, natural calamities have disrupted the peaceful populace, and there are supernatural forces readying to destroy the empire.

In other words, it is an Akira Kurosawa take on A Song of Ice and Fire. There's plenty of potential for stories regarding the different Samurai clans. The conflicts are perfectly primed for political intrigue and skullduggery. Plus, the introduction of dark magic, oni, and yokai can help it stand out when it comes to bombastic action.

A group of thieves moving through a city at night while an electric anomaly lights up an alley from Blades in the Dark
Just another night in Duskvol.

7. Blades in the Dark

The world of The Shattered Isles from John Harper's Blades in the Dark is practically begging for a cinematic adaptation. As the name implies, players take on the roles of bandits, thieves, and scoundrels as they pull off elaborate heists. But what makes the setting so memorable are its details. This is a gloomy and gothic world full of corrupt law enforcement and a burgeoning criminal underworld fighting among itself for dominance.

It is also a world full of wild sci-fi and fantasy elements. An event called the Cataclysm has destroyed the sun, turned the ocean into a dark void of unspeakable terrors, reducing what little of civilization remains into a moody domain of storms and shadow. If that wasn't bad enough there are occult rituals, restless spirits that attack the populace, and an entirely electrical power grid that runs on the blood of leviathans.

Not only is the heist conceit for Blades in the Dark a proven format (Ocean's 11, Logan Lucky, Baby Driver, etc.) the trappings of the setting can lead to some striking industrial gothic vignettes and setpieces. In terms of elevator pitches, Robin Hood meets The Crow practically sells itself.

Several cowboys, guns drawn against a zombie horde from the RPG Deadlands
Show no fear! Seriously don't. It'll make things worse.

6. Deadlands

Going back to the domain of alternate history, we have Deadlands created by Shane Lacy Hensley. Set in 1876, Deadlands depicts a horror-tinged version of the Wild West, one where the very land is twisted by sadistic supernatural forces called the Reckoners. The greater the collective fear in an area, the more control they have. This can mean anything from creepy trees to having zombies and madmen attack the population.

It is essentially a mashup of Tombstone and Evil Dead. Lean into the pulpy nature of the material and explore the historical implications of supernatural forces on American history for a grounded human perspective and you have a fun bit of schlock ready to go.

Artwork of Cthulhu rising from the sea on a dark night from the RPG book Call of Cthulhu
In strange aeons, even death may die.

5. Call of Cthulhu

When it comes to adapting the cosmic horror of H.P. Lovecraft to the big screen, there aren't many notable entries. Aside from the 2019 adaptation of The Color From Out of Space, there was Guillermo del Toro's attempt to adapt At The Mountains of Madness, which is currently in production hell. But given that the Cthulhu Mythos is public domain, potentially any story can be told. This means that filmmakers aren't just beholden to Lovecraft's works, and all of the problematic baggage that comes with it.

Enter Chaosium's Call of Cthulhu. Get some detectives. Have the story set in the 1920s. Have the detectives unravel a mystery that leads to the discovery of horrors beyond mortal ken. In addition, the films can be treated as a loose anthology with new characters in each story, reflecting the game's high lethality. Horror movies are going through a renaissance right now, so why not give the Great Old Ones another chance to shine?

A cover depicting officers sitting in front of monitors, barking orders to at each other from the RPG Paranoia
They didn't have clearance, send in the warbots!

4. Paranoia

Moving from fantasy and cosmic horror and into dark sci-fi comedy is Paranoia. Created by Greg Costiykan, Dan Gelber, and Eric Goldberg, the world is set in a dysopian far future overseen by an artificial intelligence known as Friend Computer. Players are enforcers of Friend Computer's will. But they are also part of a prohibited underground movement, and have their own agendas to fulfill.

At first glance, the game is just a straight recreation of other dystopian sci-fi futures like Logan's Run, 1984, or THX-1138. But what makes Paranoia stand out is consistent, tongue-in-cheek comedy and dark satire of a society built around the nonsensical, contradictory rules of an authoritarian state. It is basically impossible for players to both complete their tasks and not infringe on one of Friend Computer's arbitrary edicts, leading to hilarity and a high body count. In other words, it's a property tailor-made to spoof dystopian sci-fi.

Three people in front of a fast food screen wearing body armor and guns from the Cyberpunk Red Rulebook
Alright, get some burgers, kill our target, head back home. Cool?

3. Cyberpunk

Of course, no list of film-ready tabletop settings wouldn't be complete without mentioning Mike Pondsmith's dark sci-fi masterpiece. There really isn't much to say about the appeal and dangers of Night City. In fact, it has already found some success in cinematic adaptation with the Cyberpunk Edgerunners anime. All it would take for a feature film adaptation is the right creative team to build on those foundations. Just imagine the kind of fights the stunt team from John Wick can think up with multiple cybernetic limbs and deadly mono whips.

A runner falling outside a building,  firing a grappling hook in terror from Shadowrun
Here's hoping he rolls enough exploding dice.

2. Shadowrun

If the world of Cyberpunk is a hard sci-fi dysopian future, Shadowrun is a more gonzo take on the format. What makes this setting distinct are the fantasy elements. Magic, dragons, and even elves, dwarves, trolls, and ogres have returned to the world thanks to a combination of world-altering plagues and ancient prophecies being fulfilled. It would be a lot for a general audience to buy into, but the visual creativity of seeing a corporation run by a literal dragon or a dwarf with a shotgun has plenty of potential.

Artwork of a pale-skinned vampire in a bar, her eyes red, as seen from Vampire The Masquerade
Join her for a bite, I'm sure the embrace will be unforgettable.

1. World of Darkness

Finally, when it comes to settings more than ready for their time on the big screen, World of Darkness is one of the most deserving. White Wolf's TTRPG world is packed with urban fantasy lore, depicting everything from secret vampire societies, ecoterrorist werewolves, tortured spirits, and monster-hunting humans. A movie can easily be made by focusing on any of these groups. And at the risk of giving some film executives some big ideas, it is also prime fodder for a shared universe with complex group conflicts. Just don't use Universal's failed Dark Universe as a template and this should be a no brainer.

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a candid selfie of the staff writer, husky build, blond hair, caucasian.
| Staff Writer

Ever since he was small, Tyler Chancey has had a deep, abiding love for video games and a tendency to think and overanalyze everything he enjoyed. This… More about Tyler