Thursday, September 17, 2020

Power Creatures™

In the 1980s, LJN made a lot of money by making toys of licensed properties. One of these properties was Advanced Dungeons & Dragons – and it's important to remember that all their toys were branded as Advanced D&D rather than simply Dungeons & Dragons. Over the course 1983–1984, LJN released a very large number of AD&D toys. Some of the toys, such as these figures, are quite well known, since at least a few of them appeared as characters on the D&D cartoon and in a few TSR-published RPG products.

I was a teenager during this time, so I never owned any of them myself, though I regularly saw them in shopping mall toy stores that also sold RPGs. Naturally, I turned my nose up at them, seeing them as another example of "kiddie D&D." Even so, I'd sometimes take a look at the monster figures, if only so that I could criticize how bad they looked (and they generally looked very bad).

One range of D&D toys I don't ever recall seeing were the Power Creatures, which were wind-up toys.
What's strange about these toys is not their appearance or construction – I actually think the cave fisher looks half-decent – but the choice of monsters. These are all pretty obscure monsters; certainly none of them could be called iconic Dungeons & Dragons adversaries. The cave fisher first appeared in the 1981 module, In the Dungeons of the Slave Lords, and was later included in Monster Manual II, along with the Tarrasque. The pernicon appeared in the Fiend Folio and, if anything, is even more obscure (and useless) than the cave fisher. 

I assume that these three were chosen almost entirely on the basis of the fact that their names could be trademarked. That makes sense form a business standpoint, I suppose, but I can only imagine what a kid, who was only vaguely familiar with D&D, would have thought of receiving one of these as a gift. By almost any measure, they're odd toys, particularly if one of their purposes was to popularize and promote Dungeons & Dragons outside its usual audience. 


  1. A further oddity is that at least 2 of them are badly out of scale, assuming they were intended to be used alongside the other action figures: per the MM2 the cave fisher is size M, which probably works for this toy. But a pernicon is 2 inches long (as in this toy was probably bigger than a "real" pernicon) while the tarrasque is, of course, 50' long, so this toy would only be in scale with, like, maybe 5mm micro-armor scale figures.

  2. They probably just thumbed through the books looking for the coolest-looking monster that conformed to an existing wind-up toy "skeleton". The plastic shell is new, but the mechanical elements are well-known. The cave fisher resembles existing wind-up spiders, and the tarrasque resembles a wind-up walking Godzilla. I'm not familiar qith any particular wind-up jumping toys, but I'd bet if you go to a smaller, non-chain toy shop you could probably find something that h
    operates on a similar mechanism

  3. Given that it's a monster from French folklore, how did they trademark the Tarasque? That's like trademarking Grendel or Medusa.

    1. I am no expert in these matters, but TSR spelled the name with two r's.

    2. Wow. In all these years I never noticed that.