Adapting “Prison Without Walls” D&D Cartoon Episode to a D&D Tabletop Adventure

“With each brave deed you grow more worthy” – Dungeon Master

This is part 2 of Adapting the D&D cartoon into a campaign. For the basics and part 1 “In Search of Dungeon Master” see my blog post:

Episode 7 features a pretty straightforward plot and some fun encounters. I’ll post the video link down below. This adaptation is edition agnostic, no stats are provided.

Here is an overall map of the area and encounters, with great thanks to Andrew Bator

Scene 1: Mist-Enshrouded Mountains

The party is lost in a sort of misty wasteland. The episode script reads “these are old mountains, not unlike the Appalachians, except the trees on the slopes grow in contorted, vaguely demonic shapes” and “we hear the distant sounds of hammers pounding rocks, and baleful moaning.” Dungeon Master pays them a visit and provides the first clue/riddle: “When the dragon’s heart is in the right place, it may show you the way home” and then DM disappears. The fog gets so thick they can’t see where they’re going and they fall down over a ledge into….

Scene 2: The Vale of Mists.

The valley (more like a big crater, which the script describes as “reminiscent of the Devil’s Punchbowl in the Mojave”) harbors an (inexplicably *not* foggy) gnome village. There are two immense stone warrior statues poised like sentries, and the walls of the crater are filled with “Mystic Gems.” The gnomes are all busy on various scaffolding, mining gems from the rock under the watchful eye of their slavemasters, the orcs. In the center of the village is a large stone statue of a dragon with a hand-sized hole in the center of its chest — where it’s heart would be. One of the pitiful gnomes falls off a scaffolding. He is tired and hurt! A merciless, evil orc comes to whip him – this is the heroes’ cue to come to the gnomes defense. This is our first combat encounter.

This is not a terribly challenging fight for the heroes. Once it’s over, the gnome (he isn’t given a name in the show, let’s call him Orson) explains that his people cannot leave the valley because of Venger’s spell. In the script it says “the gnomes cannot leave unless summoned by Venger — or else they die!” Orson explains “only our wizard Lukyon might break the spell. His magic protected our valley for centuries” and “No one can find Lukyon. When he refused to tell Venger the secret of the dragon’s heart, Venger imprisoned him in the Swamp of Sorrows.” Orson also tells them that the swamp is South, beyond the forest.

Scene 3: The Swamp of Sorrows

Any battle map will do for this encounter – here’s a nice one from DiceGrimorium

The heroes slosh knee-deep through the dismal swamp, overgrown with vines. Sunlight barely penetrates, and insects are everywhere.

Dungeon Master appears and provides the second clue/riddle: Lukyon dwells in a prison without walls.

Immediately after DM vanishes, the heroes are attacked by violet fungi. In the middle of the fight, a shambling mound appears. It frees them (rather violently) from the grip of the fungi, and then it lurches menacingly towards the heroes – Eric gets stuck in the creature and is seemingly almost sucked inside it. After taking a few hits from the heroes, the monster retreats back into the foliage.

Swamp Part 2.

The heroes continue searching in the swamp, being eaten alive by mosquitos. Dungeon Master appears and give them another clue: “You will know Lukyon by what he says without speaking” He adds “find him quickly, young ones. Tomorrow, during the crossing of the four suns, is the only time Lukyon can help you.”

Scene 4: The Cursed Dwelling

The kids come across a rotting house. The script describes it as “the ruins of a dwelling on a small patch of moist, grassy land. The roof is rotting. The walls are partially caved-in. Drippy, slimy gobs of moss hang like curtains from the rotting timber supports” However, a more welcoming description would invite the PCs to use this location to rest – perhaps this is the only solid ground they’ve come across for hours of wandering in the dark. You also might describe the dwelling with some or all of the walls missing, as if this might be the “prison without walls.”

This encounter must happen in the evening or at night, after some time has passed since Dungeon Master reminded them that the crossing of the four suns happens the next day. For a battle map, try searching “swamp hut shack battle map” on your search engine of choice.

There’s a bed on the porch. When the kids enter the shack they are attacked by zombies who are very possessive of their house and start grappling with the party. The party is overwhelmed! But, the shambling mound returns, scares off the zombies, and demolishes the house with a tree trunk.

The kids realize that the monster is Lukyon because it’s saved them twice.

Scene 5: Breaking the Spell

Lukyon brings the heroes to a tree where the cursed gnome has stashed his magic items, as well as the Dragon heart – a large violet gem about 5 or 6 inches across that pulsates – like the beat of a heart!

Lukyon shows Presto (more or less) how to break Venger’s spell by using Lukyon’s spellbook and magic wand, and Lukyon reverts to the form of an elderly gnome wizard. There’s a brief chitchat, and then…

Scene 6: Climactic Wizard Battle

With a wave of Lukyon’s wand, the group is teleported back to the Veil of Mists and the gnome village where, just in time for the four suns to converge, he puts the dragon’s heart back into the dragon (using the Mage Hand spell, no doubt). The entire crater lights up with glowing gems, with a lattice of glimmering lasers pointing between them. Lukyon explains that each point of light is a gateway to another world. Just at that moment, Venger appears on his nightmare, releases the orcs and activates/animates the two giant statues which start crushing the gnome houses with their tremendous feet, and attack the PCs (as do the orcs).

The kids defeat the colossi while Venger and Lukyon have a battle of magic. Venger keeps far overhead out of range of the kids. During the battle, one of Venger’s energy blasts ricochets and destroys an area of the gem cliffs, specifically the portal back to Earth. Venger is ‘banished’ by Lukyon. The kids are cheated out of their way home and must adventure on.

Of course, there are countless gateways to other worlds through the gems while the solar conjunction is happening, should the group and DM want to explore that option. Otherwise, the conjunction ends and the gateways close. On to the next adventure!

DM challenges

As usual, there are a few decisions the kids in the cartoon make that allow this adventure to play out the way it does, which could be a challenge for the Dungeon Master if their players make different decisions.

In the Vale of Mists, the entire group falls down into the crater because of the fog. This means in game terms that every single group fails their saving throw and falls several feet. Probably the best way to handle this is through narration, avoiding any dice rolls. 

Clever players may try to avoid falling by using a pole or something as a cane to check the ground as they move through the fog. Feel free to simply have the ledge crumble and bring the kids down. Whether or not you require saving throws or dexterity checks to avoid taking a small amount of damage from the fall is up to you. I personally would avoid damage but might have a character stunned from the fall and more easily grabbed by an orc.

Antediluvian miniatures

The scene with the gnome getting whipped by the orc is a good one for story, flavor and characterization if you can keep it in. Combat with the orcs is likely even if the PCs don’t go charging in – you can simply have an orc spot them and sound the alarm. The orcs should not be an overwhelming challenge for the PCs – play them dumb and with low morale, and arm them only with swords and whips, with leather armor at best. Quick to run away, but they will return in greater numbers later, after Orson gives the PCs the vital directions for where to look for Lukyon. The interior of the cave is not detailed here, but it can be a simple barracks for the orc slavemaster and soldiers, should the PCs want to investigate.

https://www.printables.com/model/100486-violet-fungus-minis-6-variations
https://azazelx.com/tag/shambling-mound/

The shambling mound/Lukyon is more tricky. In the cartoon, Lukyon is initially viewed a threat by the kids because he is scary, bumbling, and dangerous simply due to his size and the composition of his body. If your players realize that he is the gnome “in the prison without walls” during this encounter then the second swamp encounter with the zombie house will likely be skipped.

In the zombie house, you might add a “boss zombie” to make things more interesting.

Otherworld Miniatures

Using Presto to break Venger’s enchantment on Lukyon is a very particular character/plot device that might prove difficult to adapt, depending on the classes and abilities of the player characters. If all that is needed is for a character to wave Lukyon’s wand over his spellbook and read aloud some magic words, that’s great. But if it relies on a skill or class ability, and that fails, then the plot grinds to a halt. Take a look at your player characters and see how you might be able to handle this conundrum.

Once Lukyon is restored, make sure you give the PCs time to rest and heal before the final encounter, where they will be dealing with the stone titans and a contingent of orc warriors. You can easily say that there are a full 8 hours before the conjunction of the four suns.

Crocodile Games

The giant statues in the Vale are described as stone golems in the script, but the rules have stone golems as size Large. These statues are what I would call colossal or gargantuan. You might base your monster on the Walking Statue of Waterdeep, but prepare to play it fast and loose with the numbers, because two of those could wipe out the party quickly and easily. If a golem hits, rather than do massive damage, have it grab the victim and hold them fast in its hand. Make them slow and nigh-invulnerable so that the PCs will have to think of some ingenious way to disable them, such as the marbles that Presto used.

In the episode, we the audience see Shadow Demon. You might permit the PCs to make some kind of perception check to detect his presence, it could add an interesting element to the story, even just seeing him skulk away.

Please Support my work on Patreon! https://www.patreon.com/torenatkinson

I Became A Paid DM. Am I A Monster? If So, What’s My Challenge Rating?

HOW DID IT COME TO THIS?

One day I received this message from a Facebook friend:

To which I agreed, except it wouldn’t be a campaign, it would be a ‘one-shot.’ Primarily because I don’t have time to game regularly and with a group of strangers I didn’t want to make a commitment beyond the ‘test run.’ You know, in case it goes horribly wrong (spoiler alert: it wen’t terribly right)! They would also have to supply the venue since I lack gaming space of my own. (And no, DMing for novices is not annoying.)

“I WOULD NEVER CHARGE TO PLAY D&D. I DO IT FOR FUN”

I play music for fun, I can also get paid for it. I draw for fun, I can also get paid for it. And of course when I DM for my friends and regular gaming group, I don’t charge money. But what was asked of me is a very different context. And context is king.

We decided a rate – $80 for 4 hours. They didn’t ask my bona fides, but I’ll put them here in case it makes a difference to you:

I’ve been GMing since 1985. I co-wrote an award-winning RPG (Spaceship Zero). I’ve organized game conventions. I’ve run tournaments (at my day job) for about 20 different groups – each a mix of experience and novice players.

WHAT DOES A PROFESSIONAL DM PROVIDE, EXACTLY?

The players (3 of them in total) mainly worked out the characters themselves, which I checked and tweaked. In addition to the adventure itself, I provided dice, battle maps, dungeon tiles, player handouts (clues etc), miniatures for the Player Characters and monsters and Non-Player Characters.

BUT PAID DMS ARE RUINING THE OH-SO-PURE HOBBY!

What if I told you DMs have been receiving compensation for decades? Conventions and game shops have been recruiting people to run games for years. Sometimes that compensation is free attendance to the event, or store credit, but sometimes also cold hard cash or a combination of those things.

At your home game, do your players not bring any contributions? Do they not bring snacks or beverages for you to enjoy? Do they not chip in for any new books or peripherals (dice towers, minis, your D&D Beyond subscription)? I mean sure, this probably counts as ‘gifts’ rather than ‘payment’ – but all these things have value, and to my mind the DM does a lot of work for the players. There is a – perhaps unspoken – transaction happening in many (but not all) cases.

THE PERKS OF PAID DMING

One of the banes of group games like D&D is player cancellations can really upend an otherwise perfectly planned game night. Everything I’ve heard from professional DMs is that when the players have put up money, they actually show up and are fully present, rather than showing up 45 minutes late and dicking around on their phone.

For my own experience, when the first session had to be cancelled, they offered to pay me anyway for all the prep time I did. I told them not to worry about it, we’ll just reschedule.

ISN’T BEING A PAID DM LIKE PROSTITUTION?

This is actually a take that I read someone post on a Facebook group. Come on, dude. Somebody wanted to hire me and I accepted. Also, there’s nothing inherently wrong with sex work.

Adapting “In Search of the Dungeon Master” Dungeons and Dragons Cartoon Episode for a D&D Campaign

In 2005 and 2014 I adapted episodes of the 1983 TV series for my gaming group. I’ll tell you how…

If you want an overview of adapting the series check this blog entry – keep in mind that was written for 3rd edition D&D.

Where to start? First, get familiar with the episode


Have your players create human characters that are children from Earth. They could be from the ’80s or they could be from modern times. In the cartoon the ages ranged from 9 to 15, so that’s probably a good range to choose from.

Each kid should have a phobia. For example, fear of crowds, fear of fire, fear of drowning, fear of growing old, fear of germs, fear of thunder and lightning. This will be important if you want to run them through the Quest of the Skeleton Warrior episode.

WHAT ABOUT MOTIVATION?
In the tv show, the kids were motivated to get back home. They found the monsters of the Realm to be scary and weird, whereas your players will look forward to slaying evil dragons etc. Check with your players if getting home is a good ‘final quest’ for them, or, if not, figure out what is actively moving them through the story.

NO MURDER HOBOS PLEASE
Stress to your players before the first session that all the kids are friends (and/or relatives) who care about each other (even if they may not admit it, like Eric). Decide what your tolerance for ‘lone wolf’ characters are and stress that to the group. Also, while I personally don’t use alignment, I recommend all the PCs be Good for purposes of motivation. In the cartoon the kids defeat, but do not kill, many monsters. Usually they fend off foes and one side or the other runs away. Will your campaign be similar? Will your kids slay some orcs and take their weapons and armor?

THE WEAPONS OF POWER
Work with each player to come up with a Weapon of Power. You know the ones from the cartoon, and if you watch the episode The Dragon’s Graveyard you will see some additional ideas. Here are ideas from my players:

A wand that had a random effect (we put together a table of 20 effects, similar to presto’s hat, they were not all particularly helpful and sometimes they were very unhelpful like duplicating a foe).
A musical instrument that could cast certain spells.
A lump of clay that the character could sculpt into something that would animate.
A horn which projected a cone of force and sonic affects.

Other ideas – maybe an amputee who gets a magic gauntlet to go on her missing arm?
A mirrored shield or weapon which can temporarily blind foes and perhaps scry?
A cloak that can transform the wearer into a woodland creature?

As dungeon Master, you will have to think carefully about the implications of each Weapon of Power and how they could be used to circumvent certain challenges or even entire scenes important to the plot.

ANIMAL COMPANION – YES OR NO?
We all remember Uni from the cartoon, and usually not with fondness. But if you want a creature in the party this can be memorable and help with player motivation. Remember Freddy the dog from the episode The Girl Who Dreamed Tomorrow? When you want the players to go somewhere, having the beloved pet run in that direction helps.

On the other hand, one of my players wanted to play a baby owl bear and I allowed it. However, be mindful about how restrictive playing an animal can be in terms of verbal communication and general role-playing.

STARTING THE ADVENTURE!

The first time you have a session, run the actual opening intro scene from the cartoon — they go through the amusement park ride, emerge in their new garb, and encounter Dungeon Master who gives them them their weapons, and are attacked by Tiamat and Venger.

KID GLOVES

Probably you will want to start everyone off with Inspiration or some kind of cheat dice so they can get out of impossible situations and don’t die from random bad rolls. Dying from stupid decisions is fine. But this first encounter, which seems ridiculous, sets the tone that sometimes they will have to run away. They are after all just kids and not seasoned warriors. Also, don’t play Tiamat and Venger smart. Tiamat is indestructible but is easily avoided and baited. She is ponderous and takes her time. Venger has powerful magic but prefers to just make threats and monologue about how great he is, how foolish and weak Dungeon Master is, and how the kids are doomed to fail. Play the villains creatively, not efficiently.

Battle Map Suggestion: Dragondown Grotto

Please take a look at my blog entry at the beginner’s guide to the D&D cartoon. This will show you which episodes I believe are friendly to game adaptation.

SCENE 1: THE FOREST WITH KNOW TREES

The narrative begins as the group wanders through the woods. Dungeon Master has told them “you will find a clue to the way home in the forest with no trees.” On cue, they encounter a talking tree which introduces itself as a “know tree.”

Before it gives the clue for the characters to go home, it worriedly reports that Dungeon Master is in great danger, and reverts back to a normal tree. Optionally a character who has a good Perception score could hear some combat coming from some distance away. At any point they are attacked by bullywugs! Have one or more PCs see Warduke as he disappears into the woods, just as a preview to who the villain is that they will encounter later.

There are numerous options for forest battle maps. Here’s one of Paizo’s Flip Mats

SCENE 2: MOUNTAINOUS CHASM

After the battle, or if things are looking grim during the battle, a sprite flies to the group and tries to enlist their help to rescue Dungeon master. the pixie leads them into a mountainous area and along a cliff ledge, but there is a gap in the ledge the characters must cross. If they cannot work out a way by themselves, or if a failed roll leads to someone falling, have lammasu come help them across, as in the cartoon.

SCENE 3: CAVE OF THE EARTH ELEMENTAL

The pixie leads them into a scary cave with lava rivers inside and they are attacked by an earth elemental, and subsequently, orcs. If you want to keep the characters from escaping, you can have the earth elemental collapse the entrance through which they came. The orcs take the weapons and enslave the kids in the Slave Mines of Daramorn (this will be tricky, players dislike having their agency taken away).

Possible battle map: Hellspike Prison

SCENE 4: SLAVE MINES OF DARAMORN

It’s ok to split the party at this point if only some kids are captured. The kids meet enslaved dwarfs who explain that this was their (silver?) mine before the orcs took over. They offer to help the kids rescue DM if the kids help the dwarfs escape the mine. As an option, introduce random tremors throughout these scenes, maybe even some lava leaks – this might inspire the players to come up with their plan.

Battle Map Suggestion for the Slave Mines of Daramorn

A dwarf (let’s give him a name – Balzad) tells the kids that Dungeon Master is just on the other side of a mine wall. The PCs should have an opportunity to reclaim their weapons and get through the wall of the mine into the chamber where DM is held by Warduke. Before they can rescue Dungeon Master, Venger shows up. This is the climactic battle with Venger, Warduke and the bullywugs. The The key to surviving this encounter is to free dungeon master from the magic of Warduke’s ice sword.

You can find Warduke’s game stats online, but they usually give him a flaming sword. Don’t use that – give him the ice sword which freezes whoever it hits. And can shatter the magic ice it makes!

DM turns Venger’s evil magic against him and Venger explodes! DM warns the children that he’ll soon regain his form and they must flee the mines as the intermittent tremors are now shaking the place apart. And don’t forget the dwarves! In the chaos of the quakes, the baddies are scattered and that’s the end! Huzzah!

Final Battle – Underground Grotto

DENOUEMENT: WHAT ABOUT THAT KNOW TREE?

This is one of the few episodes of the cartoon where the kids don’t find a portal home. Why can’t the PCs go back to the Know Tree and get their clue now? No reason I can think of. This was a plot thread left dangling in the cartoon. If this bothers you, you can edit out the tree encounter altogether, or think up some clue to give the PCs that will take them on their next journey.

Next episode: Prison Without Walls

Please Support my work on Patreon! https://www.patreon.com/torenatkinson

Just for fun, here are the stats for my players when I ran the game:

MC, age 10 (Khodi),
HP 10, STR 9 DEX 17 CON 11 INT 13 WIS 14 CHA 15
SKILL: Stealth, Perception, Sleight of Hand, Performance, Athletics, Search
Phobia of crowds
Weapon of Power: Whip

GILBERT, age 12 (Gibby)
HP 12 STR 9 DEX 11 CON 13 INT 15 WIS 14 CHA 17
SKILLS: Performance, Sleight of Hand, Insight, Perception
Pyrophobic
Weapon of Power: Horn (short burst = cone of force (save vs STR), long blow = cone of sonic damage (1d6 dmg, save vs CON or temporary deafness), melody = drowsiness (save vs. CON)

MADISON, age 12 (Louise)
HP 10 STR 13 DEX 15 CON 11 INT 17 WIS 9 CHA 14
SKILLS: Acrobatics, Performance, Intimidate, Deception
Phobia: doctors
Weapon of Power: Clay

LORI, age 12 (Toni)
HP 11 STR 11 DEX 17 CON 13 INT 14 WIS 9 CHA 15
SKILLS: Acrobatics, Sleight of Hand, Stealth, Deception, Perception, +______
Phobia of drowning
Weapon: Boots

MARTY, age 10 (Carl)
HP 13 STR 15 DEX 13 CON 17 INT 11 WIS 9 CHA 14
SKILLS: Deception, Intimidate, Athletics, Stealth
Phobia: growing old
Weapon: Crossbow (Bolt of Piercing 1d10+1; Bolt of Fire 1d6 + save vs DEX or catch on fire; Bolt of Poison save vs CON or be sickened; Bolt of Tether 100′)

BENNY, age 11 (Mike)
HP 12 STR 13 DEX 14 CON 15 INT 17 WIS 11 CHA 9
SKILLS: Search, Acrobatics, Athletics, History
Phobia: germs
Weapon: Staff of Random Weirdness

OWLBEAR, age 1 (Tomoko)
HP 12 STR 14 DEX 11 CON 14 INT 7 WIS 12 CHA 12
full attack: 2 claws + 1 bite (+2 to hit and 1d4+2 dmg each attack)
Fear of thunder and lightning (brontophobia)

https://torenatkinson.com/2024/03/02/adapting-prison-without-walls-dd-cartoon-episode-to-a-dd-tabletop-adventure/

20 Minute Monster Series: AD&D Monster Manual

In 2022 I started a drawing series in which I attempted to draw a monster from each letter of the alphabet from the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual (1977).

These were livestreamed on my twitch channel twitch.tv/torenatkinson and I am as of this writing doing the same thing for the Fiend Folio so come visit on Sunday mornings!

You can watch the old videos on my youtube channel, I’ll post the link below. I also post to instagram @torenatkinsonartist

If you enjoy what I do please send me a dollar on patreon!

https://www.patreon.com/torenatkinson

100 NPC Names Your Players Will Remember (Probably) – Part Two: Actor Names

For part one, see https://torenatkinson.com/2023/09/07/100-npc-names-your-players-will-remember-probably-part-one-car-names/

One issue I’ve noticed both as a player and DM is that names of non-player characters get lost in the mix, sometimes because they are too banal or otherwise forgettable. If you as a DM want your players to remember that important NPC’s name, I’m here to help you pick one!

My friend Tony on facebook said “As a GM I am not a fan of celebrity or joke names in serious games as it breaks immersion for me.” and I get that. I’m not putting names like Bogart and Pacino on this list because I think they might be TOO ripe for caricatures. One way to mitigate this concern is to swap gender, for example: Theron the dwarf priest; Lugosi the tabaxi handmaid. Another trick is to use old-timey celeb names for groups of younger players, and names of hot new tiktokkers for groups of old grognards. The players might have heard these names peripherally, but can’t connect them with an individual. So hopefully they will remember the names without a preconceived association – if that is your wish.

The idea here is using familiar names as a ‘hook’ to jog player memory. You, the GM, control the NPCs personality and looks. There may even be a few names on this list that resonate with you but you can’t place them without googling!

Anouk
Arkin
Bela (a baron?)
Bo (alt: Beau)
Bronson
Chavalier (a chancellor or chamberlain?)
Claude (alt: Klod)
Cobb
Crispin
Cybill
Damon (definitely NOT a tiefling, heh heh)
De Havilland
Dench (a deputy?)
Diaz (a duchess or duke?)
Eckhart
Elba
Firestone
Forest (a priest? Father Forest, or Forrest)
Furlong
Goldie
Guillaume (gee-yohm)
Gwyneth (a traditional Welsh name for happiness)
Hagen
Harrison
Herzog (sounds like an orc or bugbear to me)
Hoagy
Humphrey
Irrfan
Izzard (…the lizard wizard?)
Jada
Jaffe (alt: Jaffey)
Joaquin
Karloff
Keitel
Khan
Kiefer
Kingsley
Klaus
Krige (alt: Kreeg)
Kruger
Kubrick
Lakshmi
Lancaster
Langella
Lansbury (a legate? Legate Lansbury?)
Lithgow (lord or lady?)
Lugosi
Lundgren (a lieutenant?)
Mads
Mervyn
Mifune (a magistrate?)
Monaghan (a marquis?)
Morgan
Nimoy
Novak
Odenkirk
Ogden
Omar
Orlando
Orson
Palance
Patel (Prince Patel?)
Pfeiffer (Fifer)
Quan
Quinn
Radcliff
Radner
Rama
Rathbone
Ratzenberger
Red
Richter
Rockwell
Rogen (alt: Rogan)
Rutger
Sandoval
Sarsgaard
Savalas
Scarlett
Seacrest (the notorious)
Sigourney
Simu
Skelton
Slezak
Sloane
Stormare
Sutherland (alt: Southerland)
Swinton
Takashi
Talia
Tallulah
Tautou
Theron
Tremayne
Uma
Viggo (a vassal, no doubt)
Vincent
Voight (alt: Voyt)
Warwick
Winkler
Wolfard
Yaphet
Yul
Zane

YOU MAY ALSO ENJOY… 500 Post-Apocalyptic Place Names https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/370354/500-PostApocalyptic-Place-Names

Like my content? Send me a dollar through Patreon

All my DM Tips are tagged on my blog, just click on DM Tips

Jarm, orc cleric $65

100 NPC Names Your Players Will Remember (Probably) – Part One: Car Names

One issue I’ve noticed both as a player and DM is that names of non-player characters get lost in the mix, sometimes because they are too banal or otherwise forgettable. If you as a DM want your players to remember that important NPC’s name, I’m here to help you pick one!

You probably won’t recognize some of these names as cars, but I assure you, I’ve done my research, all the way back to 1889. This is one part of a larger series. Note: if you run a serious campaign where jokes are frowned upon, this list is not for you!

Acura – maybe put the emphasis on the second syllable
Ajax – also a figure in Greek mythology
Alfa Romeo
Altima
Argo – also the ship from Jason and the Argonauts!
Astra -literally means a star
Audi
Austin
Bendix
Bentley
Bolt
Borgward – possibly an orc name?
Buckeye – also a tree!
Bugatti – some people told me to not include this one but it just sounds too great.
Camaro
Carhartt
Cayenne – also a spice!
Citroen
Cricket
Cutlass
Cyklon
Daihatsu
Dingfelder
Dudly Bug
Durango
Edge – probably a rogue or some guy who thinks he’s cool.
Elantra
Elgin – sounds like a scholar to me
Envista
Ferrari
Fiat
Ford
Forester
Grout
Gurgel
Gurley
Gutbrod – another orc name? Or a dwarf?
Harley
Heinkel
Huracan
Impreza
Jetta
Kermath
Kia
Kukushka
LeRoy (accent on the second syllable, HATES being called LEE-roy)
Levante
Lexus
Lincoln
Lockheed
Lux
Malibu
Maserati
Maverick
Maxima
Mercedes
Metris
Murano
Nautilus
Niro
Omikron
Otto
Packard
Passat
Peugeot
Pieper – pronounced ‘peeper’ if you like
Piggins – a plump halfling?
Porsche
Portofino
Primus Priamus Prius
Protos
Renault
Rickenbacker
Riker
Roma
Rover
Royce
Saab
Savana
Scion
Sienna / Sierra
Sirocco – also a Mediterranean wind!
Solidor
Solterra (literally ‘sun earth’)
Sonata
Sorento
Spark
Spaulding
Sprinter
Stinger
Studebaker
Talbot
Telluride
Tiguan
Trax
Urus
Wartburg
Wendax
Wingle
Yugo
Zender

YOU MAY ALSO ENJOY… 500 Post-Apocalyptic Place Names

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/370354/500-PostApocalyptic-Place-Names

Like my content? Send me a dollar through Patreon

All my DM Tips are tagged on my blog, just click on DM Tips

20 Minute Monsters: N-S

Every Sunday morning I livestream monster drawings from the 1st edition Monster Manual on twitch.tv/torenatkinson with the time limit of 20 minutes (ish)

Ned the nerdy neo-otyugh nibbles nervously on a nymph in a negligee. Nightly.

Ollie the orange owlbear ogles an octopus in the ocean.

A prowling pack of petite purple worms preys upon a panicking paladin

Quentin the quintessential quasit in a quarry of quartzite quiet quits his quest to quaff a quart of quicksilver

Rudy the ruddy rust monster revoltingly retches remnants of Ruddiger’s ringmail

Six stubborn stirges swarm a sorry straggler and his steed

Dungeons and Dragons Cartoon – THE ESSENTIALS – Part 3 (Season 3)

Click here for part 1. Click here for part 2.

There were only 6 episodes in season 3!

22. DUNGEON AT THE HEART OF DAWN

Essential? Yes. This episode explains some of Venger’s backstory, and what master he serves.
Game Adaptation Friendly? It could be challenging but also interesting to take away kids’ weapons of power during the Underworld set pieces. Possibly your players would hate it.
AD&D Monsters: Shadow demon, salamanders, duergar (possibly), purple worm
Bonus monsters: He Whose Name Cannot Be Spoken

When the kids release a powerful evil entity from the Box of Balefire, DM drains the Weapons of Power to fend it off, and escape to the Underworld. Without magic and with Venger on their heels, the kids are separated one by one as they cross the Planes of Fire to revivify DM in the Dungeon at the Heart of Dawn.

Notes: Starts off with the characters in pitch black, saving thousands on the animation budget! Frank Welker voices Hogar the duergar.

23. THE TIME LOST

Essential? No but as a kid’s cartoon with Nazis it’s worth a watch
Game Adaptation Friendly? No this could go sideways in many many ways.
AD&D Monsters: blue dragon

Venger uses the Crystal of Chronos to send a Nazi fighter pilot back to WWII Germany with modern jet technology to win the war for Germany, thus eliminating the kids before they’re born. 

Notes: Diana has never seen an American fighter jet. Frank Welker Voices:  American fighter pilot

24. ODYSSEY OF THE 12TH TALISMAN

Essential? No
Game Adaptation Friendly
AD&D Monsters:  jackalope. Bonus monster: some kind of dire camel or possibly off-model catoblepas

DM quests the kids to find and destroy the unpredictably dangerous Stone of Astra, which is in the hands of a kid that Eric bonds with named Lorn. An evil wizard frames the kids in an effort to acquire the artifact.

Notes: this is Eric gets a friend episode. Frank Welker voices the wizard Korlock

25. CITADEL OF SHADOW

Essential? No
Game Adaptation Friendly? No
AD&D Monsters: orcs. Bonus monster: flying bat-thing

Sheila frees a girl Kareena from her magic prison, and there’s two magic Ring of the Heart and the Ring of the Mind that can send the kids home, but Kareena has a connection with Venger. 

Notes: Frank Welker voices an orc

26. CAVE OF THE FAERIE DRAGONS

Essential? No
Game Adaptation Friendly? Quite possibly! But I haven’t tried it yet.
AD&D Monsters: Faerie dragons, giant ants

Tasmira, queen of the Faerie Dragons, is held prisoner by the evil warlord King Varen, who desires their treasure. Aided by the sassy little dragon Amber, the gang must free her and help her people find a new home.

Notes: Presto makes a reference to the 1950’s giant ants movie “Them!” 

27. THE WINDS OF DARKNESS

Essential? No
Game Adaptation Friendly? Quite possibly! But I haven’t tried it yet.
AD&D Monsters: brontotherium. Bonus monsters: furry pet, darkling.

BONUS EPISODE: REQUIEM

Essential? Tough call. Considering it’s not official, I would say it’s strictly not essential. But if you want closure, watch it.
Game Adaptation Friendly? Ask me later.
AD&D Monsters: Hydra, bronze dragon, lizard men, shadow demon. Bonus monster: amoeboid

The final episode that wraps up the kids’ journey was scripted by Michael Reaves but was not professionally animated, as Mark Evanier explains on his blog. A radio play of the script was released with the DVD box set, including the original voice of Sheila, Katie Leigh. In 2020 a fan-made animation was released on Youtube which you can see here.

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!

20 Minute Monsters: I to M

I stream these every Sunday at 10am pacific time!

Around this time I started putting the monsters in alliterative situations!

Invisible Stalker. Poor Ruddiger the elf is getting a handful

Jerry the jackalwere with a jerkin and javelins

Kobold riding a Ki-Rin

Lani the lavender Lich in a loincloth and lanyard casts lightning bolt

Mauve Mind flayer mentally messes a Mimic in the mold of a massive monstrous morning star