The "The Fast & The Furious" franchise is a D&D narrative and I will fight you if you say otherwise.
Following my recent move to the UK, I was struck with a bout of unemployment. What else could fill this sudden influx of free time but nearly the entire run of The Fast & The Furious series on Netflix. Indeed, my streaming service of choice now boasts all but the last two installments of Vin Diesel & Co’s epic tale of living life one quarter-mile at a time.
Over the course of a few afternoons, I would idly watch through the parts of the series that my memory had lapsed a bit (2 Fast 2 Furious and Tokyo Drift), or that I’d only seen in five-minute chunks on TV (Fast Five). In a haze, somewhere between ranking Dom Toretto’s one-liners to remembering that a The Rock-centric spin-off is in the works, something struck me:
The Fast & The Furious franchise, for all its flaws, is the ideal framework for a Dungeons & Dragons campaign.
I will prove it to you by recounting the entire series in the fashion of a group of real people playing Dungeons & Dragons. Also, yes, this will absolutely contain spoilers.
The Fast & The Furious
In our first film (or “adventure”), we introduce two of the main protagonists for the series. These are those players that stick with you, through thick and thin, and make a real effort to show up to every session.
First, you’ve got Dominic Toretto, human fighter, chaotic good. It was probably this player that suggested you start playing D&D in the first place. His goal as both player and character is to keep the group— the family— together, and will stop at nothing to achieve those ends. For a time, between 2009 and 2011, he goes through a baking phase, and brings some pretty alright cookies to your sessions.
As a character, Dom is introduced as having a fairly ordinary life. He’s got his own shop, a steady gig, a family that he cares about, and he only engages in illegal sports every so often. Well okay, quite a bit. He’s really good at them. Besides, they’re only illegal if you get caught, right?
Dom brings his partner, who’s playing Letty Ortiz: human rogue, chaotic neutral. Letty and Dom have a good thing going, both in and out of game. Together, they coordinate heists specific to Dom’s illicit extracurriculars. If anyone crosses Letty, Dom makes sure they never walk again. If anyone crosses Dom, Letty makes sure they stop breathing.
Enter Brian O’Conner, half-elf paladin, lawful good. Why half-elf, you ask? Just look at those baby blue eyes. You’ve played previous games with Brian, and helped roll this character sometime last week. Together, you’ve decided that Brian’s deity Tyr, god of law and order, has instructed him to infiltrate Dom’s illicit sports, and take them down from the inside.
Now, because it’s D&D and because the character sheets are right there on the table, Letty and Dom know right out the gate that Brian’s playing a lawful good paladin, which is bad news bears for their established backstory. Dom, ever the good host, convinces Letty to roll with it anyway, because it wouldn’t be much fun to shun a third of their table right away. They introduce Brian to the world they’ve built together: the shop, the crew, Dom’s NPC little sister. They tell Brian happily that they race… well, let’s say they race horses. That’s in D&D, right?
Brian says, “Great! I happen to have a holy steed right here. I mean, did I say ‘holy’? Just a steed! A normal steed!”
Dom, again the good host, challenges Brian to a race, “to prove himself.” Once Brian has been accepted into the group in-character after a few races, Dom and Letty reveal that they not only race horses, they steal them. And, the Dungeon Master reminds them, the next big shipment of horses is tonight. Dom and Letty invite Brian to the heist, and at this point Brian is reminded of the moral struggle he should be having. The DM prompts a vision of Tyr, which tells Brian to locate the shipment, then call for the forces of good to arrest Dom and his gang of thieves.
The heist plays out, and the DM throws in one more guard than Letty’s investigation rolls revealed, taking Dom by surprise. Brian, beset by his own moral compass, uses his paladin abilities to save Dom’s life, allowing the gang to successfully steal the new batch of horses. The sudden appearance of Brian’s holy powers well and truly blow his cover, however, and now Dom has to fully commit to the bit of being an anti-lawful character. The game quickly becomes a swift bout of player-versus-player roles, each riding their horses faster into the night as Brian chases Dom across Faerun.
Suddenly, Dom rolls a natural 1. He is flung from his horse, and lies on the desert ground, immobile. Brian sees another flash from his vision of Tyr, another reminder that this is what he came here for. Brian informs the DM and the other players that he will now read the Scroll of Summoning, and bring forth the other servants of Tyr, who will be able to properly incarcerate Dom for his horse-thievery.
Then the doorbell rings, and the pizza’s here. “It was getting late,” Dom’s player says sheepishly, “I figured we could all use some pizza. No, no, it’s cool. I can cover it, I just got a bonus at work. You can spot me next time.” Damn, what a good guy. Brian can’t just let his character get shuffled off like this!
Play resumes, and as the Dungeon Master describes the lights and sounds of the oncoming holy servants, Brian interrupts. “Actually, I’m gonna help Dom to his feet. He can take my horse.”
Brian and the DM describe helping Dom up to the horse, and watching him ride off into the sunset as the other servants of Tyr arrive to the scene, just moments too late. Brian has to pass a pretty tough Deception check to keep them from arresting him instead, convincing them that it was in fact he who had the accident.
“You still owe me a ten-second horse!” shouts Dom from the distance, referencing a joke made earlier. Everyone laughs.
2 Fast 2 Furious
A few weeks have gone by, and Brian is itching to play again. He’s had some time to think about his character, what he really wants, and how he can play a paladin that’s not “lawful dumb.” He calls up the DM and schedules a good time for a game, but it turns out that Dom and Letty can’t make it that night. “Go on and play without us,” they say, “We’ll catch up in the next one.” The DM encourages Brian to bring whoever he wants, to help fill the gap. Maybe they’ll just run a one-shot or something.
Enter Tej Parker, true neutral bard, and Roman Pearce, chaotic evil barbarian. Brian, who has decided to break his paladin oath and live as an anti-paladin, is being called by Tyr for “one last job.” If he wants, he can complete the job, and regain his paladin status. Brian enlists the help of his friends to complete the job, taking down an evil wizard by infiltrating his fleet of specialized delivery people, much to the chagrin of Roman’s barbarian nature.
There’s some intrigue, some double-agent action, a race or two. Everything played mechanically more or less by-the-book. Then, following a couple failed Deception rolls on Roman’s part, the group decides to lean into the chaotic nature of the group, and screw over the Church of Tyr while they’re at it. Combining Roman’s raw strength with Tej’s innate ability to gather a crowd, they manage to lose the church in a massive horse race, and still take down the evil wizard. As this double-cross means that Brian’s paladin status isn’t restored, Tej spends the last hour or so of the session flipping through the rules on multi-classing, shoving the more interesting bits in Brian’s direction.
It’s a quick game, and arguably the group spent more time making jokes than they should have, but fun was had by all. They agree to get this group back together soon.
The DM hasn’t heard from anyone in months.
This happens occasionally, and no one really knows why. Maybe something to do with the holidays? But then, why is the DM available? Does everyone else take different holidays? Damn.
While at their day job, we’ll say they’re flipping burgers, the DM relays this feeling to their coworkers. Two of them chime in, “Well, we’ve never played D&D before, but we’ll play with you, if you want!” The DM wants very much. They spend days planning. They roll up characters for the new players, so they can leap straight into the action: Sean Boswell, chaotic neutral rogue, and Han Lue, lawful good monk. The DM introduces them into this world they created with the other players, filled with government intrigue, dramatic heists and horse racing. They set it in a time years into the future from their previous games, and describe the rumors of the events of sessions past. A rich tapestry of lore and mystery is woven.
The game goes horribly.
Han’s character has to spend the majority of the session teaching Sean’s character how to ride a horse, while the DM had to repeatedly remind them both which die the d20 was. Nobody seemed to have much fun at all. When they were supposed to finally get to the rich tapestry of intrigue and mystery, all they really had time for was a semi-climactic race scene. Then, in a series of poor decisions and worse rolls, Han dies!
The session ends. The DM is defeated. Sean says, “Thanks for inviting us over, I just… don’t think this is for me.”
It’s understandable. It’s no one’s fault, either. Sometimes it just doesn’t go to plan.
As Han is about to leave, there’s a knock at the door. It’s Dom and Letty! And they have… sandwiches? Letty got the DM’s text message, it turns out, but they mixed up the times! Is it too late to play?
Fast & Furious
With Dom and Letty on board, the DM convinces Han to give it one more go. “You can keep the same character, even. It’ll be like a flashback for you,” they say, “Now you get this great tragic hero story!” Which, to Han, sounds pretty good.
“But, look.” says the DM, “I wrote a lot of shit for this session that we never got to. If we’re gonna play, I want to do this right. I want this to be epic. We need more players.”
Dom sets the sandwiches down, “I was born for this.”
A few minutes later, Brian’s at the door. Dom then convinces his sister to join in, and play as his in-character sister that was an NPC in the first adventure: Mia Toretto, neutral good cleric. Mia agrees to join in only if she can bring her friend, Gisele Yashar, chaotic neutral ranger.
As the six players take their seats around the table, the DM describes the jobs that Dom and Letty have undertaken in the in-game years since their last adventure. Together they tell the tale of daring heists in far-off lands. But, the DM explains, the group drew too much heat, and had to disband for a time.
“Dom and Letty,” says the DM, “Tell me what you’ve been doing in the five years since then.”
Dom stutters, “Uh… I guess I’ve just been laying low, with my earnings from the heist?”
“Sure, sounds great. Letty?”
A phone buzzes. Letty picks it up, “It’s a work call, you guys, I’m sorry. I have to run. Just say that, uh… Say I was murdered! Yep, totally dead now. See you next week?” And suddenly the table has one fewer player.
This wasn’t what the DM had planned, but it was worth rolling with. “Dom, you awaken suddenly in the middle of the night to a phone call: Letty’s been murdered.”
The group swirls around and comes together via the investigation of this murder. As the night winds on, they find themselves racing illegal potions across national borders in an attempt to take down the alchemist who’s been brewing them, who may have connections to Letty’s killer.
As they get closer to the alchemist, it’s revealed that one of his henchmen killed Letty. Dom attacks him, demanding reasons. The DM falters, trying to keep up the charade that this had been the plan the whole time. Brian picks up on this, and steps in, “It was my fault. I was trying to become a paladin again, and to get into the church’s good graces, I had Letty working undercover for me.”
In the wee hours of the morning, heads aflutter with the revelations of the day, Dom leads the group to take down the nefarious alchemist. As the others get away, Dom and Brian are left in the desert, the Church of Tyr swooping in to take the credit for their work, as usual. Brian knows that they’ll arrest Dom if they catch him, and attempts to stall while the group spitballs ideas to get him out of this predicament.
Dom checks the time. It’s late. “I’m tired of running,” he says, and allows himself to be captured. The group calls it there, and tries to get some sleep for the night.
A couple weeks later, Brian and Dom are discussing the course of the game.
“I don’t know, man. Letty’s been real busy with work still, maybe we should just take it a different path. I’ve been rolling up a new character, even. How’s this sound to you for a name? ‘Vin Diesel.’”
“It sounds like you’re trying too hard,” says Brian. “I have a better idea: let’s break Dom out of jail.”
Brian pitches the idea to the DM, and they gather everyone they can from the previous games: Brian, Mia, Tej, Roman, Han, Gisele, and Dom meet up for the next session. They play fast and loose, racing to catch up with the caravan of Tyr that’s taking Dom to their castle-turned-prison. In a series of rolls with advantage (for good planning), they break Dom free, and arrange to meet him in the next country over.
“Now, Brian,” says the DM, “Originally we said that you could get back into the church if you wanted to be a paladin again. This makes that a lot more difficult, is that cool with you?”
Brian agrees, and the DM lets them know that a paladin breaking their oath this badly would only incur more wrath from the church. In response, they’ve sent another paladin to chase after the team, and he’s hell-bent on tracking each and every one of them down. Enter the group’s new primary antagonist: Luke Hobbs, lawful good paladin.
In a way, Hobbs represents a sort of creative outlet for the DM. A bulky pressure valve, if you will. By this point in the campaign, most of the players are around level 12 or 13, and their plans are getting more ridiculous. Hobbs is a happy accident that lets the DM crank the pressure up a bit on them. Plus, I mean, no one’s gonna check his character sheet. He can totally have hill giant stats if the DM wants him to.
As the players take steps to regroup after breaking Dom free, the DM has Hobbs and his team inch closer to their hideout. Meanwhile, in the shadows, the cartels that the players have wronged do the same. Hobbs gets to them first, and thanks to a few poor rolls on the players’ side, he and his team capture them all. Despite their best efforts, Hobbs alone takes out most of the party single-handedly. They place the team in a well-guarded caravan headed towards the most remote hideout the church can muster.
En route, the cartels attack, set on turning the players from captured criminals to dead ones. In the ensuing cross-fire, the players are released, and Hobbs’ team is wiped out. Now on his own, Hobbs strikes a deal with the players: help him exact righteous vengeance against the criminals that killed his crew, and he’ll let them walk. The job? Steal a vault, out from the middle of a stronghold held by the cartel. It’s filled with all of the gold they’ve collected over the last decade, either running their illicit potions racket, or outright stealing it from the church.
In true level-13-ish fashion, Roman, Tej, Han, and Gisele come up with the worst plan the DM had heard yet. They get their hands on some magical rope, drug their horses with super speed, and rip the vault right out of the fortress, dragging it tumbling through the streets of Neverwinter. In exchange, Hobbs gives them a head start to get away. As he opens the vault, he finds it completely empty. One of them had used a scroll of Dimension Door to port the stash straight back to the team’s hideout.
Fast & Furious 6
By the end of the last adventure, most of the players have reached levels 15 or 16. The DM knows that in order to up the ante, there’s got to be something that genuinely scares them, if not multiple things.
The DM finds a time when everyone can sit down together, and describes to them an epic heist. Something only people with their exact skill-set and ingenuity can muster. They get away with millions of pounds of gold.
“I don’t remember running this adventure,” says Tej.
“You didn’t,” replies the DM, producing a stack of character sheets. “They did.”
The players pass the sheets around: evil, twisted versions of themselves. Their exact level, classes, all built to be mirror images of the party.
“Wait a second,” says Dom, flipping through the sheets, “The hell is this?”
He reads the name on the character sheet aloud: “Letty Ortiz.” And there’s a knock at the door. Letty appears, lets herself in. She sits down next to the DM, opposite the players.
“I got the night off,” she says, “And we rolled a whole new sheet. Letty didn’t die, but she doesn’t remember any of you. So, watch out.”
What ensues is the most difficult battle the players have faced yet: against themselves, and one of their own. The mission costs the group both Gisele and Han, who decides that this is the point the team’s adventures catch up with his first, ill-fated adventure. The team eliminates the gang of doppelgangers and their nefarious leader. After many hours of back and forth and a few slices of pizza, Dom convinces Letty to come over to their side, and the team completes the job as a family yet again.
Still trying to one-up the players at every turn, the DM messages the group to let them know that the gang leader they killed had a brother. A really, incredibly, impossibly evil brother. Worse still: he’s the guy that killed Han. And he’s out for revenge.
The players reconvene, going over the details of what would become Han’s funeral. Out of the corner of his eye, Dom spots a black horse pull up. Riding it is the man that matches the description the DM provided earlier: Deckard Shaw. He prepares for combat.
Before fighting can ensue, a flock of elves swoop in, scaring off Shaw. The leader of the elven unit, the creatively-named Mr. Nobody, offers to help the party stop Shaw in exchange for retrieving an item for him. The item, known as “The Eye of Vecna”, is equal parts evil and vague, but the team needs to rescue its creator, who’s being tracked by a mercenary. It’s all very complicated.
The artifact is being carried as part of a convoy in a faraway country, and the elves offer their flying ship to get there. Tej, attached to his horses, arranges to have them shipped along on the ship. As the ship hovers over their target, the DM reveals that the ship can’t actually land. So they cast Feather Fall on the horses and parachute them in. This happened in the real movie and it cannot be unseen.
Using a combination of their raw talents, magic spells, and the variety of magical items they’ve picked up on their many adventures (but we somehow haven’t really talked about), the party easily retrieves the Eye of Vecna. After fiddling around with it for a bit, they use the artifact to track down Shaw, and trap him in a final confrontation.
In a depressingly quick bout of combat, the group decides to hand over Shaw to their new friend Hobbs, who places him in the same high-security stronghold that the players would have wound up in two adventures ago.
As the adventure winds down, it’s revealed that, for reasons that no one likes, Brian can’t continue playing with the group. This hits everyone pretty hard, but Dom especially. This is one of the few times that he can’t keep the group together through sheer force of will, and is unfamiliar territory for him. It’s unclear whether the group will continue playing at all.
The Fate of the Furious
To my great shame, I still have not seen this film. Partially this is because it came out at a time where I wasn’t able to frequent the theater, and partially because I have real trouble with media properties coming to an end. This may not be the end, who knows? When the next movie comes out, then I’ll see this one. It took me three years to watch the last season of How I Met Your Mother, and still haven’t played the third Mass Effect (yes I know the ending is problematic please don’t talk to me about it or spoil it or mention this ever again).
That said, based on the information that Wikipedia and the movie trailers have provided to me, what follows is my understanding of the latest film in the franchise, as it occurs in my fictional Dungeons & Dragons group setting.
Brian leaving the group was a blow to Dom’s confidence. They had started the game together, and he didn’t like the idea of playing without him. Although, the others still seemed to want to keep going, in one fashion or another. The community that Dom and Brian had built had turned into a pretty solid group, which is hard to come by these days. To try and satisfy both of these feelings, Dom reached out to the DM with an idea:
”Let me run this one.”
It didn’t take much convincing, as the DM had expended a lot of energy in the last seven adventures that the group had run together. It would be nice to be on the other side of the screen for a change.
So, the two trade places. The DM takes the (now level-appropriate) Luke Hobbs on as their player character, and Dom sits down rather awkwardly in the DM’s usual chair.
Play begins like many of the usual DM’s missions: a criminal is looking to steal an important artifact, and Hobbs recruits the team to steal it first. Dom even has his character stay with the team as an NPC, to help give them a leg up. The characters are now nearing epic levels, easily 19 or 20, and things can truly go off the rails.
Using their array of powerful abilities, the team locates the artifact in question quite easily: a wand that can disable all magic within several miles. Before they can grab it, however, Dom has his character swipe it first, and disappear along with a mysterious newcomer.
“Oh yeah,” he says to the group, “I’m not the good guy anymore.”
The players reel in the realization, and learn over time that Dom’s character has been caught up with a mysterious woman named Cipher, who has the ability to control horses remotely. They learn the scope of her power when she sends hundreds of horses hurtling off a building onto them, as they get close to Dom’s new secret hideout. What follows is an epic chase across the nation, Cipher and Dom just barely staying ahead of the group, who are using every tool at their disposal. The players pull out all the stops, summoning elementals, flying ships, and at one point Dom and Cipher have to steal a dwarven submarine to try and get away.
Dom proves to be a dangerous foe for the party. He knows their every move, predicts every step, and— arguably most importantly— doesn’t order pizza for this game. The hungry, bedraggled crew tries desperately to retrieve the artifact from Dom, and free him from whatever grasp this Cipher has on him.
Sensing the frustration, Dom introduces what seems like a new obstacle for the players: Deckard Shaw, and his gang leader brother, suddenly appear! But instead of fighting the players, they explain that Cipher had kidnapped Dom’s illegitimate son, and was holding him hostage. Though they may be criminals, even the Shaw brothers understood that family comes first. The crew takes the exposition dump as an opportunity to finally, finally!, lay down the hurt on Cipher, and Dom’s character joins in. “After all, we’re a family.”
Cipher uses her powers to deflect the team’s horses just long enough to summon a flying ship of her own, and barely escapes on the wind. Months later, the group would hear rumor of her exploits in Waterdeep…
What the future holds…
Apparently, it’s been confirmed that there should be two more movies in the series! And maybe an animated TV show? And then there’s the whole Hobbs/Shaw spin-off movie, which will probably be at least a trilogy. There’s so much room to go from here, which is why leaving the last adventure at a cliffhanger is such a great choice at this point.
that’s my argument for how Fast & Furious is actually the story of a typical D&D group. They start with enthusiasm, hit some bumps along the way, and eventually settle into a groove. Within that groove, they make friendships that will last a lifetime, tell stories that can be told and re-told ad infinitum, and experiment playfully with the rules of the game. Sure, it’s not perfect, but family doesn’t have to be.
If nothing else, maybe this will convince you to go watch the movies. Maybe, just maybe, it will convince me to finish the series. Who knows? I’m just living life one quarter-mile at a time.