Adapting the D&D Cartoon to Playable Adventures, Part 1.

The Dungeons & Dragons Cartoon: 30 Years Old Today - GeekDad

Recently I decided to do a short, episodic D&D campaign based on the D&D cartoon series. As many of you know, the D&D animated television series “was a coproduction of Marvel Comics and TSR, and made in the US during the 1980s. Based on the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game, the show was popular in the US and Brazil, and ran for three seasons. Although aimed at a young audience…the show had distinctive plots, and was quite unique in children’s television for the amount of ethical awareness and empathy displayed to and encouraged in the viewer. It was not unusual for members of the band to lose hope or break down in tears, only to be comforted by others, or reinvigorated through good works. The general premise of the show was that a group of kids were pulled into the “Realm of Dungeons & Dragons” by taking a magical rollercoaster trip at a fairground. Invariably, the children just wanted to get home, but would often take detours to help people…. After arriving in the Realm, the…Dungeon Master appeared, assuming the role of their mentor, and gave them each clothing and magical paraphernalia to suit their abilities.” These abilities and weapons related directly to character “classes” in the D&D roleplaying game.

It debuted “on the 17th of September, 1983 and ran for 27 episodes until December, 1985. In the style of most Western animation the series was nonlinear. There was no clear plot being followed and most episodes ended up where they had begun, having no bearing on any future episodes in the series.” ( )

My campaign would adapt only a selection of these episodes. Here’s a quick glance at the full episode lineup:

Season One (1983):
Episode 1 – The Night of No Tomorrow – 17th of September, 1983
Episode 2 – Eye of the Beholder
Episode 3 – The Hall of Bones
Episode 4 – Valley of the Unicorns
Episode 5 – In Search of the Dungeon Master
Episode 6 – Beauty and the Bogbeast
Episode 7 – Prison Without Walls
Episode 8 – Servant of Evil
Episode 9 – Quest of the Skeleton Warrior
Episode 10 – The Garden of Zinn
Episode 11 – The Box
Episode 12 – The Lost Children
Episode 13 – P-R-E-S-T-O Spells Disaster

Season Two (1984):
Episode 1 – The Girl Who Dreamed Tomorrow – 15th of September, 1984
Episode 2 – The Treasure of Tardos
Episode 3 – City at the Edge of Midnight
Episode 4 – The Traitor
Episode 5 – Day of the Dungeon Master
Episode 6 – The Last Illusion
Episode 7 – The Dragon’s Graveyard
Episode 8 – Child of the Stargazer

Season Three (1985):
Episode 1 – The Dungeon at the Heart of Dawn – 14th of September, 1985
Episode 2 – The Timelost – 21st of September, 1985
Episode 3 – Odyssey of the 12th Talisman – 28th of September, 1985
Episode 4 – Citadel of Shadow – 12th of October, 1985
Episode 5 – Cave of the Fairy Dragons – 9th of November, 1985
Episode 6 – The Winds of Darkness – 7th of December, 1985 (?)

In the series, there were six children. Hank was the oldest and was the begrudging leader of the group. Dungeon Master gave him a magic bow and called him “Ranger.” The bow shot bolts of energy that could not only do damage, but also be used for pretty much anything a cartoon writer could come up with, including fireworks, a rope and a trampoline!

Sheila the Thief was given a cloak that, when the hood was up, turned its wearer invisible (and sometimes – but not always – intangible). Sheila was the big sister of Bobby.

Bobby, Sheila’s little brother, was the youngest of the group. His ‘class’ was Barbarian and he was given a magical club that knocked down buildings, produced small earthquakes, and generally smashed things. Bobby was very protective of his sister and even more so of his girlfriend, Uni (see below).

Eric was a bratty, obnoxious, spoiled kid who said “Gimme a break” a lot. He was a coward and a whiner, and incidentally probably the most realistic character! He always injected the “modern” zeitgeist into the otherwise fantastical realm. He was voiced by Donnie Most (of Happy Days fame) and his class was (ironically) Cavalier. Dungeon Master gave him a magic shield that seemed like a bit of a ripoff but it did keep the group from being blasted into oblivion or crushed by an avalanche.

Presto, the nerdy “magician” was given a magic hat out of which he could prestidigitate all manner of things, from an aircraft carrier to a cow, although nine times out of ten the ‘spells’ would backfire or produce something entertainingly useless.

Diana the acrobat (a non-standard class that I think appeared in Dragon magazine or in Unearthed Arcana) was given a versatile ‘javelin’ that was actually more a staff. She used the javelin to vault over all manner of things, and the one time it broke she just put it back together as if it were no big thing.

Other characters included Uni the girlish Unicorn – the token cutesy animal sidekick found in cartoons around the time (Gleek, Slimer, Snarf, etc). Uni bleated like a goat and had an strange relationship with Bobby.

None of these above characters appear in my campaign. I allowed my players to make up characters using the traditional 3.5 edition D&D rules, with a few alterations which I’ll describe below. However, other characters appeared (or will appear) faithfully as from the series:

Vengers sister

Dungeon Master was a little gnomish, Yoda-like character whose hobbies included speaking in riddles and disappearing right before combat broke out. DM served as the group’s mentor and tormentor, as it was pretty obvious that the kids had been transported to Hell and their punishment was coming ju-u-u-u-ust within reach of the exit every episode.

Venger was the “force of evil” in the world, and he also had a Darth Vader/Obi-Wan thing going on between him and DM. He rides a “nightmare” – a bat-winged demon horse from the Monster Manual, and has a little spy shadow demon servitor.

Tiamat, the invincible and super-nasty five-headed dragon, was purportedly the only thing that Venger was afraid of (though I think he also had a fear of success). She pops up throughout the series at random times in random places just for kicks, or so it seems.

Next I’ll be explaining my basic approach to adapting the series and going through the characters my players came up with.