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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Dungeons & Dragons The Animated Series - Part Two

Welcome to Part 2 of my comprehensive look at every episode of the classic Dungeons & Dragons cartoon. Along the way, we'll pull out concepts from the show for you to steal for your campaign.

Click here for Part One.

Episode 7 - Prison Without Walls

Guess what this episode has? More dwarf slaves! Wait, no, they're gnomes. They say things like: "So tired. Can't.... work... anymore!" They're mining "mystic gems for Venger." There's a spell that prevents the gnomes from leaving.

There's a wizard named Lukyan who can break the spell, but Venger turned him into a shambling mound (apparently he was designed to look like Marvel's Man-Thing, as a sort of tribute to this episode's author Steve Gerber, who created that character).

Why wouldn't Venger just kill Lukyan? Just saying. And all of Lukyan's wizard stuff, including an important magic gem, is just sitting in the hollow of a tree.

I assume Lukyan is a gnome wizard. Here's a question: What race is Dungeon Master? A dwarf? A gnome? I'd guess he's some kind of god-like being that can take any form he chooses.

Anyway, we get to a really cool part. The heroes return to where the slaves are. It's a crater with an open sky and there's all these mystic gems embedded in the walls. The heroes place a gem in the chest of a dragon statue, and when all four suns align, they send a beam of light that strikes the gem, which reflects light beams to all the embedded gems, creating a grid of rainbow laser light. Each point where the light intersects is a portal to a different world.

The Realm is apparently some sort of prison plane, and all of the races were dragged in from their homeworlds.

This set-up is awesome and is begging to be stolen for a home game. You can do so many cool things with this.

Venger animates these metal or stone colossus things (looks similar to the one from that awful bogbeast episode). One grabs Uni, and Bobby yells at Uni to teleport! Uni does. I did not expect that.

Lukyan beats Venger in a wizard duel but tragically, the gem that would have created a portal to Earth was destroyed.

This is an OK episode, but the gnome area is really cool.

The Swamp of Sorrows: A swamp that is home to mushrooms with tentacles, zombies that protect a shack and a wizard cursed to wander as a shambling mound.

Vale of Mists: The gnome place.

Episode 8 - Servant of Evil
We kick it off with Bobby's birthday. I guess they used Presto's hat to get wrapping paper? With Presto's hat they can probably pull out all sorts of cool gifts. Eric gives Bobby a basket full of little.. heads? He's not going to eat them, is he?

Venger's lizardmen capture the heroes, minus Bobby and Uni. They are taken to the prison of agony. Wow, this is another really cool location. It's a prison fortress suspended over a pool of lava.

The prisoners in there include a busty lady in pink with wide-rimmed glasses. What the hell? There's also a frog-man with a kangaroo pouch and a really weird monster that looks like dungeon master with a long snout.

There's all sorts of fun easter eggs in these scenes. Eric fans himself with a spider-man comic. We also see Diana affectionately leaning on Hank! Well, they are the two oldest of the group. And she's walking around in that fur bikini all the time.

Strongheart the Paladin is in the prison. He's another major NPC who got his own figure. Why the hell did they make an action figure of him and not ones of the stars of the show? Apparently he had a magic item too - a golden hammer. Venger has it.

Bobby comes to the rescue, armed with an amulet that repels Venger's spells and he recruits an ogre to betray Venger.
The heroes escape, and Venger sicks lizardmen on them. The lizardmen have the heroes' weapons. That s a cool idea.

There's a really weird part where Venger shoots the floor and a dragon made of lave oozes through and attacks the heroes. A DRAGON MADE OF LAVA. It has two heads!

Venger gets his ass kicked again thanks in part to the Dungeon Master's Amulet of Venger Repellant. The whole place blows up just as all the prisoners escape.

An above-average episode due mostly to the awesome location and the fact that the creators put a whole lot of fun little easter eggs in this one.

The Prison of Agony: A fortress suspended over a pool of lava by massive chains.

Episode 9 - Quest of the Skeleton Warrior
A skeleton warrior (reluctant servant of Venger) brings the heroes to a tower that tests their fears. If the heroes can survive the challenges, they can obtain the circle of power, a magic item that can bring them home. Venger wants the circle for himself. The party gets split up in the tower...

Hank: Is on stairs that begin to collapse, revealing outer space. He runs up the stairs as they collapse behind him. This scenario is burned deep in my brain. I think I had dreams about it after seeing it as a kid. Hank figures out it's a dream right away and appears near the circle of power. He yells to everyone that they are being attacked by their own worst fear. His fear is that he's not a capable leader.

Shiela: She falls into a vast, empty demiplane. She's scared of being alone. Once she hears Hank, she knows she's not alone and is no longer afraid. She appears near Hank.

Erik & Presto: End up in a swamp. Wights or spectres show up and steal Presto's glasses. They hover about the pair, making fun of Eric, whose ears and nose have grown to freakish proportions. What an odd episode. They hear Hank's voice. A wight just sort of drops Presto's glasses. Then Presto summons... an aircraft carrier. Not kidding! Why? Who knows? Somehow this cures Eric and they appear with their friends.

Sheila, Bobby & Uni: They wander in a hall of mirrored crystal. The mirrors transform them. Bobby becomes a baby and Diana becomes an old lady. Old lady Diana REALLY freaked me out as a little kid. She just looks wretched. And, well, I'm pretty sure we can see her nipple. Look for yourself.

A bunch of stuff happens. The skeleton warrior tries to redeem himself. Venger wants the circle of power. Hanks destroys the circle of power. It's a memorable episode. Not great, but interesting.

The Lost Tower of the Celestial Knights: Only one pure of heart can enter the tower and survive its' test of courage.

Celestial Knights: They seem like swordmages who ride griffons.

Episode 10 - The Garden of Zinn

This giant monster "scratches" Bobby's arm and snaps Shiela's magic pole in two. She calmly fuses it back together. What?! Bobby is poisoned or something. Dungeon Master lies and says he can't cure him. The cure is in the garden of Queen Zinn - a yellow dragon.

There's a lot of stuff involving foraging for food. Presto can summon an aircraft carrier! Something tells me he could summon a cooked turkey after a few tries.
There's a really weird part with two phantom stalkers both pretending to be dungeon master that trick the heroes into going down a certain path. 

The heroes are dragged down into this tunnel where there's a giant monster worm. Why it isn't a purple worm, I have no idea. It is defeated like this: Diana jumps on it. Taps it with the staff a few times. Then it is tamed and easily ridden.

Now that they've passed the ultra-difficult test of the worm, the heroes are brought before Queen Zinn. She wants to marry Eric. It turns out that the yellow dragon is a flower. She hands them a spore, which will cure Bobby. Eric plans to stay and marry the queen

At the wedding, in attendance is a dwarf, an orc, a lizardman, a bugbear, and a really weird cartoon-y little turtle.

This episode is pretty lousy. There's a monster who's actually the king and is transformed back into his human form by one of Sheila's tears. This show really runs the "don't judge a book by its' cover" trope right into the ground.

Let's not even mention that the King wants to marry Shiela at the end. How old is she supposed to be, anyway?

Episode 11 - The Box
This one has a really cool premise. The adventurers find a box that should only be opened in a certain spot at a certain time of day. But as the heroes are dragging it to the spot (which is a day away), bullywugs attack and end up opening the box. They climb in. Inside is an entire demiplane!

Dungeon Master says his friend Zandora was trapped in there by Venger.

The heroes have to bring the box to skull mountain and place it under the skull's shadow at noon. But they go to the wrong skull mountain! Pretty amusing. It's actually a giant illusion created by Venger.

They open the box and there's stairs that go down. This is another episode burned into my brain from childhood. I probably ripped off this scenario three times when I first started running games.

The stairs lead down into this crazy chessboard dreamscape. They fall through the black squares into this vertical shaft with cage rungs on the side. The heroes hang onto the rungs and are attacked by a giant wasp. What an epic encounter.

Venger's trusty sidekick, shadow demon, closes the lid. The heroes are trapped inside the demi-plane even after they defeat the giant wasp. Bobby just smashes the lid open with his club. Oh. OK. 

The heroes free Zandora, who is like a female Dungeon Master. She moves the box to a spot that, if opened, will lead to earth. The heroes climb in and actually fall into the roller coaster car and return home. But get a load of this: Venger follows them!

For some reason, Venger's magic works on Earth, but the heroes' magic items don't. The heroes decide they'd better go back to The Realm, otherwise Venger will destroy Earth.

They go back and Venger follows them. Zandora tricks Venger into going into the box. The stairs lead Venger to a cave with a door in it. He opens the door. Behind it is Tiamat! What? Why? Where? Who knows, it's pretty cool.

Of course, the spot that leads to Earth is destroyed. At the end, Zandora and Dungeon Master wink to each other. Is she his wife, or sister?

This episode is very good and it has a really great premise for you to use in your own game: A chest that opens to different random planes, depending on where you open it.

Episode 12 - The Lost Children
This is a really bad one. Venger has captured a spaceship. An alien ("the elder") is repairing it. The other aliens, children, live in The Realm looking for their elder. Dungeon Master tells the heroes that the space ship can take them home, so the heroes team up with the lost children to try to rescue the elder and steal the ship from Venger.

The series has shown Venger's home numerous times. It is built in hanging rock and it has these rock walkways. But in this episode, Venger is in a smaller dwelling.

Shiela sneaks in alone and gets captured by Venger, who disguised himself as a prisoner (?). The heroes bust in and free her and the elder - who is pretty much a wookie.

The heroes steal the ship and then Venger shoots it down. The ship crashes and will take 15 years to prepare. What a horrible episode. Ridiculous even by the show's own standards. Let's just pretend none of this ever happened.

Episode 13 - P-R-E-S-T-O Spells Disaster

The adventurers are chased by a stegosaurus into a cave full of orcs. The heroes do their usual "evasive combat."
There is a moment where Diana flips through the air and lands in Hanks' arms and they have a moment. I wonder how many clues to this relationship there are throughout the series? There was a moment in "The Box" where Hank saves Shiela and it's a little romance-y. I wonder if there is a hidden love triangle going on?

This is a really lousy, unpleasant episode. The heroes are stuck in a giant's castle being chased around by the giant's pet "slime beast" (which for some reason is the same monster they ran from in the prison of agony - which blew up).

Presto ends up climbing this giant petrified tree after almost losing Uni in a game of chance. Of all the characters to focus an episode on, they pick Presto. Horrible.

The giant is stealing gold dragon eggs. For some reason the gold dragon doesn't have wings. Skip this episode!

More Presto's Hat

20. An orc is attacking Eric. Presto pulls out his hat and goes: "Kabeeble kazip! Send that orc on a trip!" The orc is suddenly wearing a hawaiian shirt and wielding a ukulele. I do not accept this.
21. Summons weed killer to fend off a swamp creature. It is very effective.
22. Summons a cannon to fight a colossus. Presto needs a cannonball. Summons ball bearings.
23. He wants a cannon again. Instead he creates a flower explosion.
24. A lizardman has Presto's hat, and expertly uses it to summon an eagle that steals Strongheart's golden hammer.
25. Presto needs something to fight the lava dragon. He summons a working fire hose.
26. Presto tries to teleport the skeleton warrior away. Summons a telephone.
27. He tries to "get rid of a wall" and summons purple smoke that chokes the party.
28. Presto wanted to summon an aircraft carrier. He did. It was really odd.
29. Erik was sprayed by a skunk. Presto tries to cure the odor. He summons a gas mask.
30. Presto tries to create bug spray to kill a giant wasp. He summons a cloud that creates a second giant wasp.
31. Presto tries to summon an umbrella, but instead pulls out a vampire bat.
32. Presto tries to "put Venger's troopers in the lost and found". The bad guys vanish, leaving their robes behind.
33. Tries to summon a 20-ton tank. Gets a little toy tank. Venger steps on it and it explodes in a light show.
34. To escape orcs, Presto summons a magic cyclone that causes the entire party to ve whisked to a giant's castle save for Presto and Uni.
35. Uni uses the hat (yes really) to summon a magic flying carpet.
36. Presto creates a birdcage that traps "Willy the slime beast".

Eric's Life is Horrible Because:

7. Eric makes a comment about giving gifts on your own birthday. Dungeon Master embarrasses him by pointing out that Bobby gave him the gift of freedom when he freed him from the Prison of Agony. Everyone laughs as Eric stammers an apology.
8. Erik is cursed to have donkey ears and a big nose. Presto calls him a nerd and laughs at him.
9. Dungeon Master turns him into a blue-nosed baboon just for fun. Everyone laughs at him.
10. Eric frantically tries to keep bullywugs in a magic box. Everyone laughs at him as he panics and begs for help.

Hank's Bow Can:

8. Explode at the feet of two orcs, sending them hurtling into the air, crashing into scaffolding and falling unconscious
9. Make Swamp Thing grow in size and strength
10. ...Not stop zombies. Hey, that's what they said.
11. ...Not do much against a stone colossus
12. Fire one arrow that splits into two and totally annihilates two lizardmen who were grabbing Sheila.
13. ...Not harm Strongheart's hammer.
14. ...Not harm Bobby's club.
15. Collapse a ceiling on a two-headed lava dragon.
16. Raise a lever that four lizardmen could barely lift.
17. ...Not harm the skeleton warrior (he caught the lightning arrow in his hand and squashed it!)
18. ...Not take down a wall in the Celestial Tower (despite blowing open a tunnel through solid rock a few episodes back)
19. Destroy the circle of power in one shot
20. Fire an arrow that wraps around a monster's snout, tying it shut.
21. Fire an arrow and tie up a phantom stalker
22. ...Not effect tentacle vines
23. Wrap around a phantom stalker, pinning it to a tree trunk.
24. Create fireworks that scare off bullywugs. I am pretty sure this is re-used animation from a previous episode.
25. Create Light
26. Fire an arrow that literally grabs a ladder rung and remain extended as if Spiderman fired off a webstrand.
27. Fire arrows through giant wasp wings and stop them from flapping.
28. Create a lightning rope that everyone can climb...?! Really?!
29: Critical Miss: Fires an arrow that bounces off a ring wraith's staff, hit's Eric's shield and sends him flying, then bounces back at Hank and disarms him of the very bow that shot the arrow.
30. Shoots an orc's mace, sending him hurtling back into two more orcs, knocking them all out.
31. Actually hit a lizardman and knock him out.
32. Create an explosion that scatters 5 orcs
33. Critical Hit: This one is utterly ridiculous. Hank shoots an arrow that ricochets off a wall and floor, hits Bobby's club and carries Bobby all the way up to a giant's windowsill.
34. Shoots a massive curtain, tears it clean off, causing it to fall on a giant and blind him.


Bronk said...

Episode 7 was the one I remember as the quintessential plot, and the first time I really got angry at them not getting home. It made Episode 11 rather anticlimactic.

Episode 8, where the fake Dungeon Master turns around, really freaked me out!

I don't remember episode 10, but I bet that would have been 'best case scenario' for Eric!

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Dan said...

Cool summaries. You mention the online encyclopedia of the cartoon and I remember it being very informative, but it seems to no longer exist.