Thursday, December 15, 2011

Speaking of Kiddie D&D

The other day I was searching the Web for an image and I stumbled across this one instead:
Any negative thoughts I might have had back in 1983 about Red Box D&D were nothing compared to what I thought about stuff like the Fortress of Fangs Playset. Bad enough that they were making ridiculous action figures with names like Strongheart the Paladin and Warduke the Evil Fighter but that they slapped the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons logo on it was even worse.

77 comments:

  1. Oh dear. I owned all of those in that picture...

    ReplyDelete
  2. "every corridor"?!?!

    I don't see any corridors...

    ReplyDelete
  3. How did I miss thiat. I love that!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I love that those action figures managed to work their way into the island nation of Irendi in X10.

    ReplyDelete
  5. There are three kickass traps you can't even see in the picture: falling axe, cruching wall o' spikes, and trapdoor dropping you to the lower level.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Whoa...

    I never saw anything wrong with the D&D figures when I was a kid and not now. These are figures and playsets made for kids. It's not worth transferring "maturity" and "seriousness" on to them.

    Look at it this way. Those figures likely brought the name Dungeons and Dragons into many homes that would not have otherwise heard it. It also put a positive, fun, and playful spin on a game who's name had been dragged through the mud a bit. In short, these toys may have helped to mainstream the name "Dungeins & Dragons".

    -Eli

    ReplyDelete
  7. That looks awesome.


    And, yes, I know two other people said that.The reason they said it was because it was true.

    ReplyDelete
  8. My buddy up the street had everything in that picture.
    I can not even begin to estimate how many times a squad of Stormtroopers led by Skeletor assaulted that thing to kill Zartan and that wizard.

    ReplyDelete
  9. That half-orc assassin (Zarak) ended up being my henchman in a long-running AD&D campaign. He was LAWFUL evil, so he followed the orders of the other good and neutral party members without complaint. Man, I miss Zarak and my apprentice Scruple (with his Ring of Contrariness)....

    ReplyDelete
  10. Not liking those toys is like not liking fun.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I did not have problems when they were completely separate lines. It is when they "crossed over" that I had a problem. Ever play Quest for the Heartstone? Every time that Strongheart the Paladin appears in that module, his name is followed by (TM). And I mean every time, even in encounter text.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I remember my confusion upon first encountering both the playset as well as the "heroes". None of the heroes struck me as something that would have actually come from the tabletop game, and the playset looked to be a generic copy of most other superhero playsets that were popular at the time.

    On a related note, what year were these released? Curious as to how their production fell into the timeline of TSR's business decisions at that time.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Not liking those toys is like not liking fun.

    Haven't you heard? No-Fun is one of my middle names.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Every time that Strongheart the Paladin appears in that module, his name is followed by (TM). And I mean every time, even in encounter text.

    I never owned the module in question, but I can well believe it. This was the era, after all, when TSR was slapping a TM on just about everything.

    ReplyDelete
  15. On a related note, what year were these released?

    '83, I believe.

    ReplyDelete
  16. that might be the most awesome thing I've ever seen, and now that D&D is legally owned by a toy company they could ease my loathing of 4e by re-releasing this.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Didn't bother me. By 1983 I played Runequest, Stormbringer or the brand new Call of Cthulhu.

    ReplyDelete
  18. The first 3.5 game I ever ran was a mash-up of this and Temple of the Frog.

    ReplyDelete
  19. This webpage has listings of all the toys that were in this line. I remember most of these, but in particular the Tiamat is one I don't recall seeing.

    http://www.toyarchive.com/DungeonsDragons.html

    ReplyDelete
  20. Also not shown is the ladder that came out the front nostril holes …and the corridor is where the wall of spikes was … LOVED this toy.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Do you know how much these things go for now?
    I was like you and thought they were stupid, but brother who was younger bought a bunch and then unloaded some of them on eBay. He made hundreds of bucks. He let me keep Tiamat and some of the others though.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Warduke deserves to be the anti-hero of a series of Swords & Sorcery novels.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Too bad they didn't make a cartoon for these toys XD !

    ReplyDelete
  24. I still don't have the problem with the following.

    1) So-called "Brandification". The D&D Trademark has been used in computer games, for instance, as well as for other merchandise. Creating a set of toys and iconic figures is, in my mind, pretty much a great way to get younger kids into things, especially since TSR was a gaming company, which is pretty much toys based at adults.

    2) Since they didn't change their core products to branch out, it didn't affect the World of Greyhawk, or other elements of the game.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Obviously a blatant ripoff of the Encounter Critical Playset.

    ReplyDelete
  26. I loved this toy line. I only had one of the action figures, but I had all of the PVC "minis." This, and the Moldvay Basic Set, were what inspired me to play D&D.

    I rushed to buy Quest for the Heartstone because it featured these characters, and made sure to buy the Basic D&D "Rogues Gallery" clone "The Shady Dragon Inn" because it featured all of these characters. They were all staple NPCs in my Mystara campaign.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Color me shocked & amazed, but Paizo has the Hook Horror available for sale for $9.99.

    http://paizo.com/products/btpy85rn?Dungeons-Dragons-Hook-Horror-Action-Figure

    ReplyDelete
  28. The first 3.5 game I ever ran was a mash-up of this and Temple of the Frog.

    "Infinity minus one," chattered the computer, "Improbability sum now complete."

    ReplyDelete
  29. This doesn't beat the GI Joe action tower (which a Joe could slide off of on a cable) and command center I had as a kid, but it's pretty cool. It's OK to like kidde versions of grittier things, like this play set and plush Cthuhlu etc. It doesn't diminish the originals for me at all.

    No matter how grown up we want our D&D to be, when we toss out the kid in us during our time with it then we are just weird grown up guys sitting around pretending. Or pretending we are pretending.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Weren't those characters in one of the "Official" AD&D coloring books?

    ReplyDelete
  31. My oh my, it is only by visiting the 'Toy Archive' link that I realised that I owned quite a lot of those toys. I'm not sure I even realised they were D&D toys, though I was into Fighting Fantasy gamebooks at the time.

    ReplyDelete
  32. "Ever play Quest for the Heartstone? Every time that Strongheart the Paladin appears in that module, his name is followed by (TM). And I mean every time, even in encounter text."

    Nah, it's nowhere near as bad as you imply.

    While its true that the prerolled characters based on Strongheart et al. have a (TM) next to their names, those names are only used once (each) in the prerolled character section, plus the cover (where some uses have the TM and others don't), and that's it.

    The LJN character names aren't used in the encounter text at all, because the module doesn't have anything to do with those characters.

    That said, there is a fair bit more use of (TM) in the module text compared to a normal module, because it references the various LJN monster figures: Terrible Troll, Hook Horror, Dragonne, Raging Roper, etc. But we're talking about a half-dozen instances of that, plus or minus.

    Despite any initial turn-off one might have due to the apparent toy tie-in, XL1 is worth a read. It's a better module than most people would expect, with quite a bit of old school flavor. I'd drop the "help save the king" starting point, but otherwise run it as-is.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Warduke was fine... strongheart the pretty pony transmogrified into a lawful good wimp not so fine.

    ReplyDelete
  34. They even made a Neo-Otyguh:

    http://www.toyarchive.com/Dungeons&Dragons/PVCBendy/NeoOgtoh1a.jpg

    and a Hook Horror from the Fiend Folio!:

    http://www.toyarchive.com/Dungeons&Dragons/HookedHorror1a.jpg

    ReplyDelete
  35. A little darker paint on that Otyguh and you'd have a pretty decent Triffid.

    ReplyDelete
  36. @jonathan, oops. You'd already posted the hook horror. for a minute there, i thought paizo had released a new version.
    I feel like the bendy toys especially have something i like about them in common with a lot of old school art. i mean look at this troll:

    http://www.toyarchive.com/Dungeons&Dragons/PVCBendy/TerribleTroll1a.jpg

    it's crude, creepy, and not generically steroided-out.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Dig the goblin playing bass in the troll's band.

    ReplyDelete
  38. I ... I would've loved that when I was a child :(

    ReplyDelete
  39. As a child of the Star Wars/GI Joe action figure generation, I received some of these toys as gifts, and they made D&D seem more accessible to me whereas the "older kids" made the game look more difficult just so they'd look smarter.

    Eventually, Warduke became a regular villain in one of my campaigns, and I was inspired by the action figure Deeth to run a noble-born female knight in a solo game that remains one of my most cherished gaming memories.

    ReplyDelete
  40. The Fortress of Fangs was a fun chunk of toy! I had a bunch of AD&D figures until some stepcousins got a hold of them. As to the Heartstone adventure and the Rogues Gallery versions of the characters, I have a fondness for them. When the D&D cartoon came out in 83 I thought it was going to be about the figures. The AD&D figures are nowhere near the lamest thing TSR did...

    ReplyDelete
  41. What is that brown thing that looks like a pile of poop beside "Warduke"(TM)? No, not the dwarf... on the other side, behind the teeth. It it supposed to be the lizard's tongue? Cause it just looks like Warduke (TM) dumped on the floor.

    ReplyDelete
  42. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  43. Who knew? Gary was ahead of his time, doing to d&d what lucas would ultimately do to star wars...

    Next up, ELDER SCROLLS VI: adventures of the davorkids!

    ReplyDelete
  44. I liked the...Too bad they didn't follow the 'Heartstone' Adventure where the Wizard Kellek makes off with the Heartstone after turning evil up with an adventure based on the toyset...I could have gone for 'Quest for the Heartstone 2: Fortress of Fangs'.

    ReplyDelete
  45. I'm inventing a time machine so I can go back and buy this for my younger self. This looks amazing.

    I'm also legally changing my name to Warduke. Warduke Cubis.

    ReplyDelete
  46. I had some of the figures, purely as collectibles, but didn't realize they went so far with this line! I had hopes that it helped popularize role-playing; maybe it did, judging by other posters' reactions.

    ReplyDelete
  47. Man, I had several of the action figures, but never the Fortress... darn it, never got to Toys-R-Us enough! (The only place I could ever find the rarer stuff... remember Crystarr?)

    ReplyDelete
  48. I owned several of these toys as a child, though I was a little old (11-12) when I got them and they were not something I played with with my friends (even my gaming buddies). I will say the 'ogre king' and 'young titan' figures (not pictured above) were directly responsible for two of the monster entries in my B/X Companion.

    ReplyDelete
  49. Strongheart and Warduke came from the Saturday morning cartoon and I had both of their action figures.

    http://dungeonsanddragonscartoon.blogspot.com/2009/08/strongheart.html

    http://dungeonsanddragonscartoon.blogspot.com/2009/08/warduke.html

    I recently bought the full series on DVD from Amazon because they have it for dirt cheap. It's only $6.49 but the packaging is crap and there are no extras. However, for a complete set of the series the price is right. I know James would probably "Bah, humbug!" the cartoon but I was a kid and I really liked it so there is a nostalgia factor there for me.

    ReplyDelete
  50. So they wanted to sell toys to kids- big woop, it looks like the kinds toy I woulda loved in the day.

    The D&D logo is not a sacred thing. Everyone from EGG on down wanted to make a bit of $ from he game.

    The toys don't effect your game at all.

    ReplyDelete
  51. I thought the toys were fine. I have a couple. D&D is a rich world that invites all levels of play.

    Kids playing with dolls does not stop you from DMing a killer campaign.

    ReplyDelete
  52. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  53. Didn't WotC make a Warduke miniature for their miniature line? That character apparently has aged well for some fans.

    ReplyDelete
  54. Actually, the toys came before the Cartoon. From Mark Evanier's site.

    Marvel's show was called something like Swords and Sorcery. It had been created by a clever writer-producer on their staff named Dennis Marks and it was somewhat inspired by the popular game of Dungeons & Dragons, though without the official imprimatur of that institution.

    The following year, Marvel hooked up with the folks who did own Dungeons & Dragons, and Dennis refried his idea into a show with that title. CBS picked it up as a potential project and the Marvel staff produced more scripts, more outlines, more artwork, hoping to sell it there. I have a hunch the runner was very careful about delivering them to the right folks.


    The toys came first, and a few characters were placed into the story because of it, but the basic premise of the kids coming into the D&D World was adapted from the original idea, worked with the D&D Entertainment Company to make it more official and better fit with the product.

    ReplyDelete
  55. I want that demon!

    I can imagine the ridicule when it appears to the players. "Him not a demon. Him a overgrown tapir with wings."

    ReplyDelete
  56. Sorry dude. The toy line was awesome. Deal with it.

    ReplyDelete
  57. This sort of stuff was AWESOME James. I don't know what the hell is wrong with you other than you have no soul or sense of fun...

    ReplyDelete
  58. Ah! Some of these made their way to Italy, too. I had Ogre King and North Lord. Many years before I first picked up D&D. Good, old fun.

    ReplyDelete
  59. I did not have the playset but I still have four of the action figures. And Warduke is coming with me to the after life.

    ReplyDelete
  60. James Maliszewski said...
    Not liking those toys is like not liking fun.

    Haven't you heard? No-Fun is one of my middle names.

    Then the 4 E terrorist have already won.

    ReplyDelete
  61. Hey now,
    By saying "Speaking of Kiddie D&D" are you inferring that you think Frank Mentzer's Basic D&D is Kiddie D&D? Hehe, that is a contentious statement!

    ReplyDelete
  62. My 4 year old saw this post and is demanding that castle for Xmas! :-(

    ReplyDelete
  63. I had everything in that picture and plenty more. I'm not ashamed to admit it.

    ReplyDelete
  64. On the one hand, the toys were cool for appropriately-aged kids at the time. And there's nothing wrong with adults appreciating that.

    But for kids a little older than the target market, at the age where you don't want to be associated with "little kid" stuff - I think the cartoon and these toys played a part in turning kids away from the game. Especially kids who had been attracted to D&D in the first place as being an *older* person's game.

    ReplyDelete
  65. "What is that brown thing that looks like a pile of poop beside "Warduke"(TM)? No, not the dwarf... on the other side, behind the teeth. It it supposed to be the lizard's tongue? Cause it just looks like Warduke (TM) dumped on the floor."

    There is a "fence" of stalagmites behind him, and two of them fold down to serve as a bridge over the lava.

    I had everything in the picture, plus the titan and ogre king. I think I gave most of the figures away, but recently my mom found the Fortress in the attic, so now it is my attic, waiting for my son to be old enough to play with it.

    Also, Monte Cook had blogged a while back about how some friends had made a Monte Cook action figure out of a Riker action figure. I gave him my Warduke so he could have a villain.

    ReplyDelete
  66. The kid in the photo...is that Mikey from the Life cereal commercials? Now THAT's old school.

    ReplyDelete
  67. The D&D toyline! Never had those as a kid, my He-man knockoffs were Galaxy Warriors/Galaxy Fighters, sold in dollar stores and supermarkets, flea markets, etc... They look cool though, but the names are kinda suckish. Where are the non-dudes, though? Also needs moar kritters!

    Man, LJN. All their sins are forgiven for the NES Friday the 13th game. :-)

    The toys may not have helped D&D get 'mainstream', but I'm sure some kids enjoyed the heck out of 'em. And they didn't give the wrong impression of the game like the cartoon did, from what I've seen. I still bump into people who think you play yourself from Earth thrown into the 'D&D' world. I can only imagine the misconception was more widespread back then.(Though at one point I read an interview with Gygax who stated they were going to scrap this and start over with a more 'harsh, realistic' take more akin to real [A?]D&D in the new season.) Not to mention the sanitized violence, but everybody knew why they did that. Thank the Lords of Light for Thundarr! ;-)

    Now I gotta dig up some of my old 80's figs...

    ReplyDelete
  68. I had the Strongheart, Warduke, and the titan action figure. Good fun.

    ReplyDelete
  69. trying to get golden foie gras

    ReplyDelete
  70. But for kids a little older than the target market, at the age where you don't want to be associated with "little kid" stuff - I think the cartoon and these toys played a part in turning kids away from the game. Especially kids who had been attracted to D&D in the first place as being an *older* person's game.

    I agree, especially about the appeal of the game being in part rooted in its being "an older person's game." That definitely had an impact on my 10 year-old self back in 1979.

    ReplyDelete
  71. James -- Thanks for this post and the previous one. It really made me think about the advantages and disadvantages of "kiddie D&D" and the blurring of the child/adult boundary for many of us. I wrote a post about it!

    http://professorpope.blogspot.com/2011/12/response-to-kiddie-d.html

    ReplyDelete
  72. You know, I just found my D&D coloring books this week. (Liked 'em because I liked the cartoon. But I'd been playing D&D for years already.) I still wish I'd had the cash to buy those dorky storybooks I found one time, but childhood is a time of shortness of cash.

    ReplyDelete
  73. James - I discovered your blog only recently... Thanks for this post - and many others... When I was 13 or so, I owned three of these figures, of which two I have still to this day... The evil knight - a monster i found later in the Expert set - has lost his armored leg at the hands of my younger son, but the troll chieftain (not pictured in the photo above) is still alive and well. I also had a titan, but in the adventures these figures had, he was always the dumb guy and the other two were the real heroes... go figure.
    Playing with these figures didn't turn me away from AD&D (and other RPG) at all... adult life did ;-)
    Cheers, and a Happy New Year!

    Mikołaj

    ReplyDelete

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.