Friday, September 25, 2020

The Treasure of Time

In the comments to a previous post, a reader asked if the character of Kelek ever appeared anywhere else. As it turns out, he did. There was another AD&D storybook released by Marvel Books in 1983. This one was entitled The Treasure of Time and was co-authored by David Anthony Kraft and Jane Stine (wife of R.L. Stine, who wrote The Forest of Enchantment). Kraft is an interesting fellow with lots of credits to his name, including stints on various Marvel comics properties, in addition to acting as the literary agent of the estate of pulp writer Otis Adalbert Kline (who was himself the literary agent of Robert E. Howard from 1933 until 1936). The illustrations were done by Marie Severin, who also had connections to Marvel Comics, in addition to working as a colorist for EC Comics in the 1950s.

The Treasure of Time tells the story of the evil sorcerer Kelek, who seeks the eponymous treasure, the location of which is guarded by Charmay the good magic-user. I believe Charmay is unique to this story, but I am admittedly not well versed on all the characters created for the AD&D spin-off properties. Was there ever an action figure of Charmay? 

In any event, Kelek steals a scroll with information about the Treasure from Charmay (whom he charms with a spell). Elkhorn the Dwarf and Strongheart the paladin then vow to stop him, lest he use the powers of the Treasure for evil.

Kelek, though, stays one step ahead of the pair and he beats them to the location of the Treasure of Time. In a Twilight Zone-like twist, however, it turns out that the Treasure doesn't work the way he thinks he ought. He uses its power to make himself young again – but at the cost of all the magical knowledge he'd gained over the years. 
Like The Forest of Enchantment, the storybook is harmless enough, though there's scarcely anything in it that could be called distinctively D&D, let alone AD&D. I'd love to know more about the whys and wherefores of their creation, particularly on the part of TSR. What did the company think it was gaining by licenses like these? Did they, in fact, result in more sales of D&D products or even just more revenue for the company? As fascinating as the early history of the hobby is, in some ways, I think that the period starting around 1982, after D&D had gone reached a degree of mainstream name recognition and TSR was grappling with that reality, is much more interesting. 

9 comments:

  1. I believe Charmay is one of several characters that were statted out in AC1: The Shady Dragon Inn but never made into toys. Presumably they eventually would have been had the toy line lasted longer.

    And yes, I agree that the 1982-84 period is totally fascinating in a "what were they thinking? what were they trying to accomplish? what was the strategic end goal?" way. TSR was pretty much on top of the world during those years, but they made one bizarre move after another with the end result that by the end of 1984 they had managed to almost drive themselves out of business.

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    1. Charmay is not in AC1. So this might be her only appearance. The good wizard in AC1 is Ringlerune and he is an old man.

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    2. Right you are! I seem to have confused Charmay with Skylla.

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  2. Kelek appears as the antagonist in the 4th Dungeons & Dragons Cartoon episode, "Valley of the Unicorns." It is actually a very good episode.

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    1. Yes, I remember him from that episode, which is why I asked James if he had any further appearances. Other crossover characters -- like Warduke -- had further appearances across various products, so I wondered if Kelek had also appeared elsewhere, perhaps in an obscure adventure somewhere.

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    2. He showed up in the adventure/LJN AD&D toy line product placement module Quest For The Hearthstone, along with Warduke and other monsters that they conveniently suggested you could use their actions figures to assist in gameplay.

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  3. In as much as any thought may have been put into these books, I suspect it was just to be a gateway product. Get the brand into the minds of kids too young to play/but the game yet.

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    1. I tend to agree. Such story books were a bit juvenile for the average (A)D&D player back then, I can't imagine any players would have picked up those books (except, by mistake, one issue :)).
      Branding seems the logical explanation. D&D Chocolate Chip cookies?

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