Dungeons and Dragons Cartoon – THE ESSENTIALS – Part 2 (Season 2)

Click for PART ONE (Season 1)
Click for PART THREE (Season 3)

This season the episodes begin to focus on individual characters a bit more, giving them connections with other kids they meet during their travels. There are 8 episodes.

14. THE GIRL WHO DREAMED TOMORROW

Essential? No
Game adaptation friendly? I haven’t tried to run it but it seems problematic.
AD&D Monsters: bullywugs, lizard men, hydracockatrice. Original monsters: bat-winged tentacle monster

Bobby’s true love episode. The kids meet another refugee from the D&D ride on Earth, Teri, with an ability of prophetic dreams. DM tells them a portal home lies within within the Maze of Darkness. Teri dreams that she will be reunited with Bobby in America and DM confirms it will happen. Venger wants the secret of Teri’s powers. For some reason Bobby destroys the portal after Teri passes through it. 

Notes: Sheila spanks a lizard man, and We learn former pupils of DM died in the maze!

15. TREASURE OF TARDOS

Essential? No
Game adaptation friendly? No, for multiple reasons
AD&D Monsters: plesiosaurus, orcs, shadow demon. Original monsters: demodragon

Venger has created a two-headed horror Demodragon in an effort to trick Queen Sulinara of Tardos Keep into giving up their treasured dragonsbane. Venger would use the plant against Tiamat, but DM sends the kids to help. Somehow they avoid dying. 

16. CITY AT THE EDGE OF MIDNIGHT

Essential? No
Game adaptation friendly? I think this could work if you’re willing to separate a PC from the rest of the group.
AD&D Monsters: hook horrors, possibly a modified Type III Demon

King Ramuud, posing as a caravan merchant from Kadish, has lost his daughter Aisha to a creature called the Night Walker, who enslaves kids in his city where time is stopped. When Bobby is also taken, the kids go to rescue him.

Notes: Schoolmate Jimmy Whitaker says Presto does stupid magic tricks. Ramuud is way nicer than Eric’s dad. 

17. THE TRAITOR

Essential? No
Game adaptation friendly? Yes, the plot is quite simple, though I have not run it myself. 
AD&D Monsters: orcs, shadow demon. Original creatures: Cloud bears.

In this Endor/Ewok/Care Bears ‘ripoff/homage’, Hank and Bobby are captured by Venger, and Hank makes a deal to betray his comrades in order to save Bobby. Then he learns that the magic stones of the cloud bears are Venger’s kryptonite.

Notes: Venger uses orcs to attack the tree-dwelling cloud bears. He should have used his flying apes from episode 3!

18. DAY OF THE DUNGEON MASTER

EssentialYES!
Game adaptation friendly? Not with any regard to power balance, no.
AD&D Monsters: giant wasps, yeti, red dragon, roc, giant octopus (presumably)

Eric takes on the mantle and powers of Dungeon Master while the kids quest to the City of Darkhaven to acquire The Golden Grimoire. 

Notes: They reference Star Wars. Eric has a selfless moment, Bobby is fine with leaving Uni alone in the realm this time. The animation during the climax is higher quality than the rest of the ep.

19. THE LAST ILLUSION

Essential? No
Game adaptation friendly? Probably, but I haven’t run it personally.
AD&D Monsters: Tiamat, orcs, giant squid

In this fairly dark episode, Presto connects with a natural illionist Varla, held captive by Venger in the Forbidden Tower. The kids must rescue her but Venger frames them as witches and townsfolk throw them in jail. 

Presto’s love episode, with a happy ending, but we don’t know what happens to Varla for the rest of the series. 

Notes: DM takes a bow at the end of the episode

20. THE DRAGON’S GRAVEYARD

Essential? YES! One of the darker episodes where the kids finally try to take control of their destiny.
Game adaptation friendly?
Not sure how you would do this. Would give the PC opportunity to gain new Weapons of Power.
AD&D Monsters: frost giant, shadow demon, Tiamat

Remarkably this episode starts with the kids finding a portal home, and the kids are fed up when Venger thwarts them. The plan: to put an end to Venger, permanent-like, with the help of Tiamat.

21. CHILD OF THE STARGAZER

Essential? No
Game adaptation friendly? No
AD&D Monsters: doombat, demon

Diana falls for the extremely uncharismatic Kosar, recently escaped from a dungeon in city of Turad by the demon queen to prevent the fulfilling of the prophecy “On the Night of Starfall, the child of the stargazer shall come from a far away land to stand in the Temple of Light and the demon shall be banished.” 

Notes: No Venger in this episode. Episode opens with Diana singing the end credits music. The animation is uneven in this episode, off model at times but more anime at the end

ESSENTIAL EPISODES FROM SEASON TWO:
DAY OF THE DUNGEON MASTER

THE DRAGON’S GRAVEYARD

…on to SEASON THREE!

Dungeons and Dragons Cartoon (1983-1985) – THE ESSENTIALS – Part 1 (Season 1)

In which I suggest only the absolute essentials for someone who might be curious about the show but not want to invest in the whole series. There are 27 episodes in total, and I’m going to suggest six, which together come to about the length of a feature film.

What are my criteria? Well written, not overly goofy, portrays the D&D game world reasonably authentically, and has heart.

Click here for Season 2
Click here for Season 3

A Marvel/TSR co-production, developed by the legendary Mark Evanier. Mark has a fun blog entry on how it all got started
https://www.newsfromme.com/pov/col145-2/

The conceit of the show, explained in the opening credits, is that six American kids are transported to a realm of sword and sorcery via a carnival ride. There they are assigned AD&D classes (ranger, barbarian, thief, cavalier, magician, acrobat) and magical “Weapons of Power” by a Yoda-like character called “Dungeon Master.” Ol’ DM basically tortures them with riddles and teases them with quests that promise to lead them back to the good ol’ US. Naturally, they never escape the realm of D&D.

Oh, and because it’s the 80’s, the mandatory cutesy mascot is in this case a baby unicorn “Uni” voiced, of course, by Frank Welker. Peter “Optimus Prime” Cullen is the voice of the recurring bad guy, Venger, who we learn secrets about in later episodes.

The score is excellent, and shares some tracks with the contemporary Marvel Spider-Man and Hulk series. The animation also at times transcends typical Saturday morning fare, with some clear “money shot” sequences, such as when a castle crumbles into a volcano and Venger’s immortal spirit towers over the heroes.

As a Dungeon Master myself, I’ll be looking at this series with my DM hat on. Are some episodes D&D adventure-adaptation friendly? Could it be a playable scenario to run with your home group? I have adapted some episodes, which I detail at length in old 2005 blog entries here and here https://torenatkinson.com/2005/04/16/part-2-campaign-adaptation/

There are 13 episodes in season 1

  1. THE NIGHT OF NO TOMORROW

Essential? It’s fine but you can skip it.
Game adaptation friendly? No, too much of the plot is dependent on particular decisions a group probably won’t make.
AD&D Monsters: Tiamat, plus wyverns that breathe fire.

Presto the nerdy magician is tricked into releasing a swarm of dragons that plagued the town of Helix 100 years ago. The kids defeat Tiamat twice because she is very dumb.

Watch my commentary as a storyboard artist, voice actor, and DM:

2. THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER

Essential? No. As much a fan as I am of beholders, they don’t really do the monster justice, and the episode drags somewhat.
Game adaptation friendly? I can’t see how the kids could survive this in normal play, so I say no.
AD&D Monsters: beholder, giant scorpion, blue dragon. Original monsters: giant snail people, hyena-like creatures.

The kids get mixed up with a cowardly knight, Sir John. DM leads the kids to a portal home, guarded by a beholder. The beholder disappointingly only shoots lasers or energy tentacles from its eyes. Venger shows up to kill John and the kids forego the way home in favor of saving John.

Notes: Frank Welker voices Sir John. My video commentary is here:

3. THE HALL OF BONES

Lolth demon queen of spiders

Essential? Yes, I recommend this episode.
Game adaptation friendly? I think you could do it, but it relies on the PCs trusting Hector, which may not happen.
AD&D Monsters: Tiamat, shadow demon, troll, orcs, misc townsfolk including a bugbear and lizard man or troglodyte? Lolth demon queen of spiders! Original monsters: “simian bats”

The kids’ weapons run out of magic and must be recharged at a tomb called the Hall of Bones. Hector the pantsless halfling guides them.

Notes: Frank Welker does the “don’t stop!” background voice and Hector the Halfling

4. VALLEY OF THE UNICORNS

Ponder the orb

Essential? Yes, the new villain Kelek is cool.
Game adaptation friendly? If your group doesn’t have a unicorn buddy, probably not.
AD&D Monsters: (dire) wolves; unicorns

Kelek the bad wizard wants to collect unicorn horns from the few remaining specimens. Uni learns she can teleport, although this seldom comes up in future episodes. Watch my analysis here:

5. IN SEARCH OF THE DUNGEON MASTER

Essential? It’s a run of the mill plot, but has some charm. Still, you can skip it.
Game adaptation friendly? Yes, I did it successfully. For the ‘how to’ CLICK HERE
AD&D Monsters: sprite, zombie, bullywugs, lamassu, earth elemental, orcs, giant snapping turtle, shadow demon. Original monster: giant snail, “Know Tree”

The mercenary Warduke captures DM to sell to Venger. In the quest to rescue him, the kids are captured and thrown in slave mines where they meet a dwarf who talks like Yoda.

Warduke was given an action figure, and years later was statted up in Dragon Magazine and given an official miniature

This was the only episode I could find on VHS back in the day

6. BEAUTY AND THE BOGBEAST

Essential? This is a decent character episode for Eric, so watch it if you like his character, otherwise you can skip.
Game adaptation friendly? Possibly but I haven’t tried it.
AD&D Monsters: giant metal golem, ogre mage. Original monsters: bog beasts

DM leads the kids to a portal home that opens once a year for 60 seconds, but Eric is transformed into a croaking “bog beast” by a magic flower. In order to break the spell they must seek out more bog beasts who are threatened by Kawamung the ogre mage. The kids actually make it home, but return to the realm to restore Eric’s form.

7. THE PRISON WITHOUT WALLS

A stone golem?

Essential?  It’s pretty good, but I wouldn’t say it’s mandatory.
Game adaptation friendly? Maybe, but the riddles are fairly obvious, and it requires a character to work a magic spell so probably one of the PCs should be a spellcaster.
AD&D Monsters:: shadow demon, orcs, violet fungus, shambling mound, zombies, animated statues or stone golem, 

DM tells the kids that a gnome wizard trapped in ‘a prison without walls’ can help them get home, but first they must release him and free his people from Venger’s enslavement. 

8. SERVANT OF EVIL

Essential? Yes. I think this ep is emblematic of the show, showcases character, has heart, and portrays the quality of D&D.
Game adaptation friendly?
Yes, and I’ve run it successfully! 
AD&D Monsters: lizard men, a giant, xill. Original monsters: unidentified land tadpoles, lavender serpentine prisoner, lava hydra (possibly just a spell)

With the exception of birthday boy Bobby, Venger captures all the kids, takes their weapons and puts them in the Prison of Agony. DM gives Bobby a magic amulet, and sends him to rescue his friends, which he does with the help of the fighter Strongheart and the kind-hearted giant who serves as gatekeeper

Notes: Strongheart was one of the characters in the D&D action figure line

9. QUEST OF THE SKELETON WARRIOR

Essential? No. It’s got good qualities but is annoying in places.
Game adaptation friendly? Not easily – the PCs are separated and subjected to their phobias, which can be tricky to run. 
AD&D Monsters: Grimlocks, swamp hags, giant eagle AKA war bird. 

A powerful artifact called the Circle of Power lies within the Lost Tower (of the Celestial Knights), and DM says it can get the kids home. Dekkion, the last Celestial Knight (presently cursed by Venger), admits the kids into the tower where their worst fears of the kids are manifest.

10. THE GARDEN OF ZINN

Ridiculous
Ridiculous

Essential? No
Game adaptation friendly? I say no.
AD&D Monsters: baby green dragon (?), phantom stalkers, bloodworm, choke creeper (?)

Bobby is poisoned during a monster fight and the only cure comes from the garden of an evil queen. The queen needs to wed a king to avoid losing her throne, and the successful applicant must survive the Trial of the Worm. The kids find an ally in the monstrous Sorlarz who has his own secret past.

11. THE BOX

Essential? A neat inventive concept but if you’re pressed for time it’s okay to skip.
Game adaptation friendly? Yes I think so but I haven’t tried.
AD&D Monsters: bullywugs, shadow demon, Tiamat, giant wasps

The kids must take the sorceress Zandora’s magical chest to Skull Mountain at noon and open it to find a way home. The kids actually do get home but Venger comes through as well and threatens to destroy Earth so they return.

12. THE LOST CHILDREN

Essential? This ep stands out from the rest because of the space stuff, which is cool. If you’re a Spelljammer fan you might check this out. Otherwise ok to skip
Game adaptation friendly? Yes I think so!
AD&D Monsters: shadow demon, orcs, lizard men, possibly a grimlock. Original monsters: some cloaked one-eyed humanoids and the creatures they ride

DM informs the kid about a ship and a group of kids from another planet, who they find and befriend. They must all rescue the groups elder and spaceship, held in Venger’s castle.

13. P-R-E-S-T-O SPELLS DISASTER

Essential? Definitely not
AD&D Monsters: stegosaurus, orcs, a xill, a three-headed giant/firbolg? a giant and 2 gold dragons.
Game adaptation friendly?  Possibly

One of Presto’s spells backfires and sends the other kids to the house of a hairy giant, who torments his new playthings with his pet ‘slime beast’ Willy. He’s also been stealing eggs from a gold dragon’s nest.

SUMMARY: THE 3 ESSENTIALS FROM THIS SEASON:
1. Hall of Bones

2. Valley of the Unicorns

3. Servant of Evil

Go to Season 2 here! https://torenatkinson.com/2023/04/13/dungeons-and-dragons-cartoon-the-essentials-part-2-season-2/

Toren’s Taiwan Trip 12: Sanxiantai

MAR 1 2022

Important note: Sanxiantai bridge was affected by earthquakes in 2022 and is closed for maintenance until 2024

Time for another drive! And a stop at a roadside snack – drinking coconut water straight out of a fresh coconut.

Soon we arrived at Sanxiantai Island!

And the magical bridge of magic!

The view from the bridge is fab, and a little path leads further into the island, we could see the bridge behind us

Lizards! Lizards just off the path! Scampering and chasing eachother around!

After we left, we drove on for a bit and then took a short break at Jialulanxiuxi Station 加路蘭休息站(停車場) park for another look around

Weird plant!

Tomorrow: A bike ride and pheasants in Taitung Forest Park and a walk around Taitung including Railway Art Village!

Toren’s Taiwan Trip 11: Farm Dream Estates – Just South of Hualien

MONDAY FEB 28 2022

Breakfast and then time to leave the B&B!

Today I drove wife, mom, sister and niece to Farm Dream Estates which is about 30 minutes South of Hualien by car.

The entry and main concourse

There were many exhibits in the main building including the indigenous peoples of the island and also bugs!

Outside, many caged animals, including birds of all kinds, tortoises, red panda, raccoon, coati, and meerkats.

Way in the back, you get to the ‘farm’ part of the estate, which glamorizes the American West

On the way back to Taitung, we stopped at the Tropic of Cancer landmark, which you can go inside of! There was also an indigenous shop

Drivin’

In Taiwan, you will see dogs on scooters

Next stop: Bridge at Sanxiantai

Toren’s Taiwan Trip 9: Taitung to Hualien

SATURDAY FEB 26 2022

The car was making weird noises so we took it to a mechanic! I enjoyed the giant seed pod trees nearby

Many wondrous sights were beheld along the oceanside #11 Highway

We stopped for a Taiwanese sausage made at the side of the road near Changbin township

Not long after we were up the mountain highway and I ate an ice cream bar at the Baqi Rest Stop. I saw a macaque in a tree on the way up!

We soon arrived in Hualien and checked into the Edinburgh B&B. Wandered around the city and found a store that sells Magic cards

As the evening came we walked out to the Dongdamen Night Market

being the pandemic, they were looking for really hot people

We didn’t stay long, as it was raining and started to get a bit crowded as the evening wore on

Next time: Taroko Gorge!

Toren’s Taiwan Trip 8: Drive to Taitung

FRIDAY FEB 25 2022

Even though driving in Taiwan is stressful, the drive along the East coast from Kaohsiung to Taitung was lovely. I drove my wife, her older sister (jeijei) and crazy niece.

There are many giant fiberglass fruits on the road

The stray dog problem and the plastic problem in Taiwan

gatchas in the 7-11 along the highway
Be careful if you get gas here
7-11s are everywhere… and can get anywhere!
Stopping to stretch the legs
Warm and breezy
almost there…
Make sure you get your welcome punch

We had dinner at a Korean bbq place and then for a special treat we went for bubble tea at Ding Go and fried chicken at Blue Dragonfly

Toren’s Taiwan Trip 7: Love River + Lotus Pond Kaohsiung (First Visit)

FEB 24 2022

Still in Kaohsiung! But not for much longer. Took a walk around mom-in-law’s neighborhood by myself and observed some things! For example…foliage!

I liked this pizza food truck

How traffic works:

What is this I see? Jackfruit or durians or something growing right in the public park?

Here’s a pedestrian/bike overpass with a covered seating area, over the Love River

Erica and I took a train North towards Lotus Pond, and then rented some Ubikes to ride around Lotus Pond.

Subway station has a barber!

A weird store with fun western clothes

\It was smelly and rife with mosquitos, but I liked it. We didn’t go in, but I think you’re supposed to go into the dragon and come out the tiger…

Right across the street was a great bakery, we got a lot of treats!

These are just your average doors for buildings in Kaohsiung!

Toren’s Taiwan Trip 2: Tainan Lantern Festival – Rained Out

February 19 2022

MORNING IN KAOHSIUNG

Quarantine is over! It’s warmish outside! Kaohsiung is a noisy place! Finally I get to be outside in Taiwan during the day!

Outside Mom’s apartment.

First thing on the docket is to get a haircut. Pro tip: if you’re white, don’t go to this place

Not a great haircut, but you might see a corgi

I walked around and found my first street food – which was a drink – I got guava and yakult (yogurt), delicious.

Got to see our quarantine hotel from the outside. One of the things I looked at every day was the 9×9 stationary store across the street. This photo is from the door of that store. I bought pens!!

Royal Hotel – we spent 2 weeks trapped inside here watching the doves cavort in that tree.

Typical Kaohsiung street views – notice the abundance of scooters. Because of the pandemic, whenever you went into a business you were supposed to scan a QR code for the purposes of tracking any spread. Naturally me and my phone took forever to do this.

If this restaurant was open when I was nearby, I would have tried it.

Residents in Kaohsiung don’t have lawns, so they do what they can by having gardens in planters out front! Also check out the crazy trees!

AFTERNOON: ANPING OLD STREET, Tainan

Wife’s sister’s friend drove us 50 minutes North to Tainan City for the lantern festival. During the afternoon we walked about and found some fun places in Anping Old Street, including Miaoshou temple, a crazy soft serve ice cream shop, and some place with fun crustacean mascots.

We also found a great pudding shop where the seats were pudding shaped!

Scooters are ubiquitous, and of course they have a scooter sharing program
I picked up this cap from the market, which you will see me wear for the rest of the trip!

Sadly, the lantern festival was called due to rain, so at dusk we travelled to Ba-Wei hot pot/ginger duck restaurant on Anping Road where we met some of Erica’s old friends who luckily speak English!

The Anping Canal, unless I’m mistaken

Unfortunately comfortable seating is a rarity at these kinds of restaurants, as you can see the stools are tiny. I had hurt my back somehow during the flight and/or quarantine hotel and I had to stand up periodically to manage the pain.

A great first day out and about! By the way, if you come across these – they’re delicious. It’s like what if bubble gum ramune was an ice cream!

2022 Year in Review

Countries visited: 1 (Taiwan)

D&D, Mork Borg and Ruin Nation Sessions Played: 17

Band practice/writing sessions: 7
Live Shows: 2

Shows worked on that I can talk about (2):

Agent King – due on Netflix in March 2023
Spidey and His Amazing Friends streaming now on Disney Jr and youtube

Number of #torentries: 62

Number of pomellos eaten: 7

Movies watched for the first time: 150

Movies I watched that rated 8+ out of 10:

The Stranger, Barbarian, The Guns of Navarone, Bullets or Ballots, The Verdict, Everything Everywhere All At Once, East of Eden, The Grave of Fireflies, Licorice Pizza, Doctor Zhivago, The Wages of Fear (1953), Hotel Rwanda, Flee, The Handmaiden, Mississippi Burning, Your Name, Minari, The Banshees of Inisherin

New Friends made: 4

Post-apocalyptic movies watched and REVIEWED ON MY BLOG: 12

2020 Texas Gladiators, Captive Women, Deluge (1933), Tides (The Colony), Appleseed Alpha, Beyond the Time Barrier, Black Crab, Teenage Caveman (1958), Stryker (1983), Raiders of the Sun, Mother/Android, Virus (1980),

Migraines: 3

Doctor Who episodes watched and REVIEWED ON MY BLOG: 30

From Image of the Fendahl 1977 to Stones of Blood 1978

Podcasts made: Just 1, somehow!

Youtube videos uploaded: 36

https://www.youtube.com/@torenatkinson1986

Drawings drawn: Incalculable! But here’s some…

Properties purchased: 1. Anxiety breakdowns: 2

Overdue Who Review: The Pirate Planet

Season 16, 1978, 4 episodes… Second story in the Key to Time story arc.

If you’re wondering about Tom’s lip it’s because he was bitten by a Jack Russell terrier.

The Doctor and Time Lady Romana arrive on the planet Calufrax and are surprised to find the docile society placated by the prosperity gifted by the bombastic, murder-hungry Captain. Turns out the planet is not Calufrax, but a shell planet Zanak enveloping Calufrax, destroying the latter in a planet-wide mining process. After that’s done, the Captain would move on to ‘process’ planet Earth, were it not for the Doctor and help from the psychic Mentiads.

Some really interesting ideas here, and it’s written by Douglas Adams! He even uses his catchphrase “I’ll never be cruel to a [insert noun] again!” The bombastic Captain is 110% ridiculous with his assassin robot laser parrot. There are some interesting twists and I was hoping for a clever ending but it all just winds up with technobabble nonsense that is a very unsatisfying ending to a story with a lot of potential.

Next up: The Stones of Blood