Development of the Dungeons and Dragons Cartoon, often referred to as the "Series Bible." Written by Mark Evanier, March 25, 1983.
(Webmaster's note: words that are italicized were typed in the original document and then circled by hand and marked with an illegible note that seems to say "ST". Words that are
...to a land like none other; where heroic fantasies clash with their opposite number in Evil. It's like no world you've ever seen...
So much of it is hauntingly familiar. All our lives, we've heard tales of knighthood and heroism and sinister magic and epic adventure. And all of it -- every bit of it, in fact -- is here. Someone took all these concepts and combined them into an instant classic of a game -- one played the world over by young and old alike as they live out this elusive dream of Adventure.
But for six kids, misplaced in reality, this is no dream. At times, in fact, it is a full-fledged nightmare.
(Stop and think: Here you are, just your average American teenagers -just going about a life with a jeopardy level no greater than driving on the Santa Monica Freeway. Suddenly -- and unbelievably -- you find yourself trapped in a world of giant lizards who breathe raw flame; of winged demons who come swooping down on forgotten cities; of endless caverns that lead into worlds where no man has stepped. Quite a change of life there. And that is what has happened to Hank, Diana, Presto, Eric, Sheila and Bobby -- average age: Just into their teens.)
They are in this land -- trapped with no conceivable way back to their safer, saner reality. There is no way -- not unless it's served up by the maddening and mysterious game in which they find themselves trapped like pawns on a cosmic chessboard. And spanning seemingly-infinite playing field is a land rife with eternal challenge: Monsters, demons, swordsmen, blackguards, pirates, unknown civilizations, strange plants, impossible animals and -- as a shroud hanging over their every step -- the spell of unadorned Evil, personified by one known as Venger.
An impossible place? Most assuredly. And you're the lucky one for you can visit for one half-hour, every Saturday morning. You're not like the six young adventurers who find themselves swallowed up - perhaps forever - in the world of ...
A fast-paced bit of back-story tells us why they are here they are. It's a story that starts in the world that all our viewers know -- and one that, we strongly suggest -- could have happened to any of them. In this case, it happened to Hank, Diana, Presto, Eric, Sheila and Bobby...the first five, rather average American teenagers, plus Bobby, the eight year old younger brother of Sheila.
And it starts in an amusement park...
They're enjoying the rides and wolfing down cotton candy -- a slightly discordant bunch of friends plus one tagalong little brother. It's Bobby who drags them all to a ride they've never explored. They pile into a little cart and are moved swiftly along a track into the yawning mouth of a parti-colored dragon. Scary? Well, it's supposed to be.
As they enter, the Barker operating the ride smiles through his sinister demon mask. Or is it a mask?
And, as they disappear into the mouth of the dragon, we notice a sign that wasn't there before: THIS RIDE CLOSED INDEFINITELY FOR REPAIRS. And the Barker vanishes.
Whirling lights...pounding thunder...
The kids take it for a dynamite special effects job. Amazing images flash by them: A grinning skull... a reptilian being, beckoning them onward... faces of fear and laughter and anger.
And then, they find themselves in a cavern with six strange objects. Each of them feels drawn to one of the objects. It is Hank who first dares to touch his -- a gleaming, golden longbow. He lays a hand on it and--
Suddenly, Hank isn't Hank! Not precisely. Suddenly, he is wearing a costume more befitting the strange land they are about to enter. He looks like Hank, talks like Hank, thinks like Hank, is Hank. But he is also THE RANGER, clad in a colorful outfit as befits a true hero of the realm.
Diana touches a shining javelin and -- in another flash of energy – she is suddenly THE ACROBAT!
Presto is next. The young aspiring magician is drawn to a magical hat. He touches it and it leaps onto his head while the rest of him is magically cloaked in the raiment of...THE WIZARD!
Sheila takes a cloak. Like it was alive, it wraps itself around her and she is transformed into the guise of ... THE THIEF!
Then her brother Bobby hefts a ponderous club and -- ZAP! --little Bobby is suddenly THE BARBARIAN!
Lastly, Eric: He touches a shield and, in an instant, he is the dashing and heroic figure of THE CAVALIER. Six kids transformed. They are different and, yet, they are still the same kids they always were. They have been granted their new names in this world... and incredible powers that will aid them in surviving this incredible land. But they are still Hank, Diana, Presto, Eric, Sheila and Bobby. They are still youngsters, despite their garb and magical weaponry.
And then the mystical voice of the Dungeon Master beckons them forth... through the caverns and into this strange world. He will be their guide. But he won't give them all the answers. If they ever expect to find their way home, they will have to do it on their own. That is how it begins.
Now, let's meet our unwilling warriors...
|Dungeons and Dragons by ayamepso|
At age 15, Hank's the kind of kid who's always the leader in whatever gang he's in. Not that he asserts himself; it's just that he's such a likable, level-headed gent that most of his friends naturally look to him to pick the hamburger stand or movie they're going to patronize. He's tall, handsome and reasonably smart -- and, if he has any special leadership skill -- it's that he knows what he doesn't know. He has no pretense about being a great hero...no belief (like someone we could and will name) that any of them is equal to the tasks they face. He knows well that they're all in way over their heads but he also knows that you can't go through life complaining about how unfair it all is; you have to deal with each challenge as it comes before you. Thus, he believes in making the best of the impossible situations in which they find themselves. There is no conceit in him; he's the kind of "leader" who can and will say, "I have no idea what to do," rather than to bluff, thinking that will keep the respect of his associates.
|Hank from Dungeons & Dragons by SANTI IKARI|
The gleaming longbow which Hank wields in his role as The Ranger is an amazing artifact. It "fires" arrows of lights and instantly "reloads" itself after each firing. He pulls back the energy bowstring (not made of string but, rather, of the same glistening light that comprises the "arrows") and he lets a bolt fly. Instantly, another "arrow" appears in its place. And these are not real arrows; they're shafts of light that do what they have to do, then fade away. He can fire a line of them into a wall to provide a temporary energy ladder for someone to climb to safety. He can make them boomerang to scoop something up then fly it back to him. When a villain is fleeing, running towards the drawbridge to freedom, Hank fires a fast volley of his light arrows at the drawbridge controls and parts a rope causing the bridge to suddenly be raised and the miscreant to plunge into the moat. He does not fire at people to stop them; rather, he puts a little "English" on it and will stop them via the indirect route.
The Ranger has terrific aim and the gleaming longbow; all that was given to Hank when he entered the world of D&D. The courage, he brought with him.
|Diana the Acrobat by Zackules|
But then, this is an amazing lady. Diana is a brave, (usually) level-headed young woman who is probably the least intimidated by this bizarre world. Back home, she was the one who always loved to try new things. Here, she is the first one to suggest a new exploration. She'd much rather be home but, since they're here, they might as well explore. She frequently has to be outvoted on some proposal ("That's too dangerous," Sheila often tells her and is usually right) but she always goes with the consensus. Sometimes, though, there's no time for a vote: When she sees some wonder that cries out for investigation, she will walk right in... which often leads to trouble. There's a lot of curiosity in this female; also, a certain spirit of adventure that is hard to discourage and which sometimes makes their predicament a little less excruciating. When others may whine about how they dearly want to be home, she's the comforting one, finding the "good" in their situation: "Sure, we'd all like to be home. But, since we're stuck here, let's enjoy this adventure."
When things get really bad -- when the doom seems certain and absolute -- you know because even Diana wants to go home. Badly.
Her respect for Hank is immense, though she often wishes he were a little bolder. When he has a decision to make, she represents the "daring" point of view while Sheila represents the "timid" P.O.V. The decisions Hank makes are usually right down the middle and, usually, correct.
In school, fourteen-year-old "Presto" (real name: Albert) was the kid with the Coke Bottle Glasses... the clumsy one who wasn't especially good at anything so he took up magic. He figured, that was the only way held ever be able to do anything that someone else couldn't do. He drove his friends berserk with 'Pick a card' and earned the nickname under which he performs as an amateur magician. And an amateur is putting it mildly; most of his tricks were unqualified disasters.
As a magician, he was a failure. He wasn't dumb; just disorganized. But that was before he received the Magic Hat that he now wears proudly atop his head in his role as The Wizard. And from that hat, he can produce... anything! Any object -- big or small --can be made to appear merely by Presto reaching into his hat, uttering a few magic words and pulling out... something! He can produce a live chicken or a steam roller or a map of Downtown Scranton or a Hot Turkey Sandwich with cranberry sauce. He can produce anything but what he wants. You see, he's no better organized now than he was when he was attempting card tricks in the school yard. Sometimes -- incredibly -- he'll actually produce what he wants. Sometimes -- equally incredibly -- he'll produce the wrong object but his friends will figure out how to use it to solve their current dilemma. (When a three-headed fire-breathing rhino is bearing down on you, you'd be amazed at how handy that Hot Turkey Sandwich can turn out to be!)
The power of The Wizard is, potentially the greatest power of them all -- if only he could get everything working properly. Presto tries hard; oh, how he tries! He is constantly trying to save the day and prove to his friends that he isn't an utter incompetent. (Actually though, it's not them he's trying to convince; it's himself.) Sometimes, he succeeds.
He isn't brave, but. he forces himself to be. His role model is Hank and Presto often spouts Woody Allen style, self-deprecating lines about what a nebbish he is and how he'll never be courageous or strong or handsome or competent as he thinks Hank is. Presto's hero worship, by the way, is one of the things that gives Hank some of his courage. Anyone who's ever had anyone look up to him knows that feeling: You can't let your fan down. Presto's attitude towards the other kids is very simple: He thinks everyone is better than he is at everything -- but he's determined to change that, someday! For Presto, being in this world may be a strange kind of blessing; you get the feeling that, if and when he ever gets out, the real world won't seem like such a formidable opponent to him.
Everybody knows an Eric: The kid who, no matter what you're doing, it isn't good enough for him. Nose in the stratosphere, Eric goes through life as snobby as they come. He comes from a family of wealth and breeding and, in the past, has never had to do much of anything himself. He occasionally likes to associate with the poorer folks -- if only because it makes him feel like a bigger man -- and that's what he was doing with them at the amusement park, that fateful day. But, no matter what you say, Eric will top you. If you won a silver medal, he'll tell you he won a gold medal. If you tell him you just got a new Corvette, he'll tell you about the three BMWs he had custom-made.
|Eric, the Cavalier by marciolcastro|
Snooty? Not to be believed. But, when you get right down to it, this is a kid who is no more secure than Presto; he just deals with it a different way. All his life, Eric has had everything done for him. Now -- in the world of D&D, he suddenly has to begin doing for himself and it comes as no small shock. When the gang is catching exotic fish for dinner, Eric tries to get someone else to catch his. He's told, catch your own or don't eat -- and he grudgingly resorts to (ick) manual labor. Like Presto, he's learning something in this world...something about doing for yourself and not relying on others all the time. Every so often, we see that for, in an unguarded moment at a time of stress, he may accidentally let the real Eric be seen -- but only for a moment. Most of the time, however, he is the craven little preppy with an ego the size of all outdoors.
The Powers That Be have bestowed upon him a shield that transforms him into an armored figure reminiscent of Lancelot. He is The Cavalier and the shield is an impregnable force behind which he can hide. Sometimes, his cowardly streak emerges when her refuses to share its cover with the others.
Eric tries very hard to impress the ladies in the gang and is often the receiver of bubble-burster sarcastic barbs from Diana who thinks he's a big phony and is probably the least tolerant of the troupe. He also tries hard to impress Presto and is quite envious of the fact that Presto is more impressed with Hank. In fact, Eric is most assuredly jealous of Hank's role as leader but, of course, while might claim he should be the leader, he is much too big a coward to ever assume responsibility for any decision. Rather, he tags along, sniping in his own way at Hank's competence. He can be a pain at times but he's one of their gang and, so, they help him out, saving him more often than he'll admit.
In the world of Dungeons and Dragons, being a thief is not thought of as a dishonorable profession. Sheila wears a cloak that gives her expert powers of stealth and espionage. She can disappear into shadows. She can sneak about places without making a sound. She can even pass through some (but not all) solid walls. Her powers are the most mysterious; even she is not always certain just what she can and cannot do -- though everything she does somehow involves going someplace that no one else can go or hearing something that no one else can do. When a troll has a key that our heroes desperately need, she is the one dispatched to fetch it -- and she lifts the key from the troll's pocket without being seen or heard. When she steals, it is only for a good purpose, naturally.
|Sheila from Dungeons & Dragons by SANTI IKARI|
She admires the cool bravado of Diana and the levelheadedness of Hank (though, as mentioned earlier, she always tries to appeal to his common sense not to take unnecessary risks). In fact, she admires Hank a lot and what courage she does muster, she gets largely from the inspiration of Hank and/or Diana. Perhaps she and Hank will even be an "item" if and when they ever get out of this weird world. She has a lot in common with Presto and she frequently functions as Confidante and Big Sister to him -- and he thinks she's terrific. She's probably the nicest of the gang, incapable of getting too mad at anyone, even Eric. The only time she raises her voice is at Bobby and then only because he's given her cause to worry. Which she does a lot of. Her power is apt because, when there's trouble, she's the kind of person who doesn't want to be out front. She would much rather disappear into the shadows.
At age eight, Bobby is a mite small for his age. But what he lacks in stature, he more than makes up for in spunk. A little kid with a big voice, he's always been the kind of boy who gets into trouble because he refuses to act like a little kid. He'll take on any opponent, no matter how huge.
In the world of D&D, he is The Barbarian, thanks to the unwieldy club that he wields. It gave him the animal pelt suit and horned helmet he wears. The club also gives him incredible strength but only in conjunction with the club. If a boulder is thrown at them, he can bat it miles away or shatter it into a zillion pieces. He can smash a hole in the side of a mountain or make the earth quake by beating his club on the ground.
|Bob by Ykikoori|
He is constantly playing David to an endless array of Goliath-like opponents they come across. Villains laugh at his size, unaware of the great power he wields. He gets along great with Diana (possibly even better than with his own sister; Sheila's too timid for his tastes). He respects and (usually) takes orders from Hank. He thinks Eric is a stuck-up snob (he's right) and Eric responds with a W.C. Fields-like dislike for children, especially this one. Bobby doesn't understand Presto and is the most impatient with his botched-up tricks -- while Presto's inferiority complex is done no good by the knowledge that an eight year old is far more powerful than he can ever dream of being. Frequently, however, Bobby's youthful impetuousness gets them into a jam and even the eight-year-old has to admit that he maybe has a lot of growing to do.
There are countless native inhabitants of the world of Dungeons and Dragons but two recurring ones must be mentioned...
Cross Obi Wan Kenobi with Yoda and you have the weird, weird being that serves as guide of this weird, weird land.
Some guide! He's only sometimes there when they need him and, most of the time, he leaves them completely alone to stumble and venture all over the terrain.
The Dungeon Master knows all about this land (so he says) and he's on our heroes' side (so he says). But he has this maddening way of appearing, telling them something they need to know, and then vanishing before they fully understand it. He rushes about, always seeming to be in a hurry, and he'll tell them some vital, important fact about the next leg of their journey or about what they'll encounter over the next hill. Then he'll be gone and they'll be left to wonder just what he meant by what he said. Eventually, of course, they'll find out. Everything the Dungeon Master says has a purpose, even if it takes until the end of the episode to figure out what. But he speaks in ciphers and puzzles and he is constantly leaving them to figure things out for themselves.
|Mestre dos Magos by mushisan|
He doesn't just vanish into thin air. Or maybe he does. The kids will be distracted by something and, when they look back, no Dungeon Master! Gone, just like that! Or he'll lead them into a room and, when they get inside, he's nowhere to be seen. Somehow, he evaporated in mid-threshold.
How he appears and disappear is but one of the mysteries of the Dungeon Master. The kids feel that he knows all the secrets – including the all-important one as to how they can finally get home. Why doesn't he just tell them these things? Why does he make them go through one dangerous situation after another when he obviously could tell them how to avoid these things? Eric especially gets exasperated at the Dungeon Master's cryptic ways -- but they have no answers. All they know is that he is wise, that he seems to be on their side, that following his advice always turns out in the end although it may get very, very hairy along the way; that everything he says has a meaning if you can figure it out...and, above all, that he is the dread enemy of the evil Venger. Perhaps they have even been brought here specifically to combat Venger.
Like the kids, we see little of the Dungeon Master. He pops up from time to time in the oddest places to offer advice, though he never actually solves their problems; in fact, he sometimes seems to complicate matters. In the end though, they understand what he meant, though not always why he didn't just come out and tell them. This odd little man is one of the greatest mysteries in a land that is All Mysteries.
Now, here we have Evil with a capital E. Evil is personified in this sinister version of the Wizard of Oz.
Venger is the would-be conqueror of the land of Dungeons and Dragons. His power is awesome but even it is not enough to conquer everyone and everything. He needs six more items...the six magical everyone an items that our heroes carry! Each time he gets his hands on one, his power grows greater and, of course, their power is lessened as the team member without the magic item is returned to his or her Earthbound, non-magic state. If Venger ever gets his sinister hands on all six, there will be no stopping him!
|Venger DD by Yukikoori|
He can command all the bad elements of this land. He can send ogres to capture our heroes. He can direct giants to come after them. He can command the trees of the Black Forest to grab them or the waves of the Forbidden Ocean to envelop them. Many of the foes they fight are operating at the command of Venger...and they often go a long time without seeing him, only to find him right where they least expected -- or to find that some benevolent ally they've encountered is actually possessed by the sinister spirit of Venger! This is a formidable opponent and the full extent of his power is never known. What is known is that there is no human quality in him, save for an insatiable craving to eliminate all who oppose his power especially our six heroes and, mainly, the Dungeon Master!
Venger operates from a series of castles and caverns across the terrain. He is served by a coterie of trolls and gnomes who do his bidding. His power is far-reaching and awesome.
|Venger Again by ferwar|
Even unicorns. A frisky little pup of a unicorn named UNI becomes a constant pet to Bobby. Uni is none too courageous but she's enormously fond of Bobby and will follow him anywhere. The kids all think she's adorable; all but Eric who is above that kind of thing. Uni becomes a mascot and, like all unicorns, she's part bloodhound, able to sniff out trouble.
Not all creatures are nice, however. The land abounds in dragons and they're nearly all deadly. One is deadlier than most. That's Rogull the Red Dragon -- an indestructible, uncontrollable beast that roams the land, popping up at inopportune times. Rogull cannot be defeated by any of the kids' magic objects; not even by the unleashed might of Venger! Rogull is not in every episode but, when he shows up, all other problems become minute in comparison to the hideous, huge, flame-breathing monster that is bearing down on our heroes. He must be avoided at all costs!
And there are other creatures -- like the Blink Dog, a unique little critter who can appear here, then over there, then over there, all in the wink of an eye.
This is a land filled with riddles. Every magic artifact has its purpose and, often, the kids find themselves with some artifact that will come in handy (they're told by the Dungeon Master) but they have no idea how or where. The terrain of the land of D&D presents constant puzzles: Which door do you go through? Which dragon is the real one? Which tower contains the captured princess? As the Dungeon Master says, "Look for the clues. There are always clues." And there are. Though individual menaces may be vanquished by the amazing powers our heroes have been granted, the Big problems get solved by brain-power; by them putting their heads together and figuring out the clues and the ciphers that they've found or had offered to them by the Dungeon Master.
Each week, they venture into a new area of the strange world into which they've been catapulted. They're ultimately searching for the passageway that will let them return home but, along the way, they find people who need their aid and mysteries that cry out for unraveling. The Way Home is sometimes tantalizingly dangled before them but, when that happens, Hank's urges to help the helpless often places them in the predicament: Do they go for the route home or let this opportunity pass while they help the village threatened by Rogull or some other menace? Inevitably, they opt for the heroic course.
Six kids -- not so different from any of us, but for their ages – trapped in the most amazing adventure ever. Watch your step when you enter the world of...
On the occasion of her birthday, the Dungeon Master presents Diana with one half of a lovely amulet. He calls it a gift of "wisdom." She asks where the other half is and where's the wisdom? He answers, "When you find one, you shall find the other" and then vanishes without further explanation. Puzzled, our heroes press on...but, when they reach the next town, a whole village of troll-like little people fall to their knees before Diana. It was written that the great woman warrior would someday return to rule the town and that she would be identified by the amulet she wore. Despite Diana's protests that she is not who they think she is, she is crowned and she and her friends are treated like royalty -- fed the finest foods, offered great riches, waited on hand and foot. It reminds Eric of home, he says. Diana tries "running" the town and, for a time, has a wonderful and successful time of settling petty squabbles and injustices. When Hank suggests they move on, Diana doesn't want to leave: Where else can she be treated like this? Reluctantly, they leave without her ... only to chance upon a band of cut-throats heading for the town to ransack and plunder! They're captured and tossed in the Pit of Eternity -- a black chasm of quicksand-like consistency -- as the villains ride off to destroy Diana's town. Can they get away and help Diana? Can Diana, as leader, lead a town of unarmed gnomes against the well-armed savage hordes? And just what is the wisdom she will learn?
In the Valley of Bao, our heroes separate into two groups to search for the answer to a riddle presented to them by the Dungeon Master. Hank, Sheila and Bobby encounter what they think is a. good King – King Kanto -- who enlists their aid in the war against the evil (?) hordes of King Lorvi across the valley. Meanwhile, Diana, Presto and Eric are enlisted by what they think is a good King --King Lorvi -- to help vanquish the evil (?) hordes of King Kanto which, King Lorvi "proves" are out to destroy his people. Each team of our heroes think they are on the side of right. Not so -- but, before they realize their mistake and the fact that both sides are in the wrong, four of the six of them have been captured! The unlikely team of Sheila and Presto is all that gets away -- and it is to them that falls the responsibility of rescuing Hank and Bobby from King Lorvi and Diana and Eric from King Kanto! And, watching over all of this is the careful, cold eye of Venger -- just waiting for the moment when he can seize our heroes' magical artifacts.
The latest clue from the Dungeon Master says that the way home may be in the land of Forever. But where is the land of Forever? The trail leads to...nowhere. Until they look up. There it is, resting on a cloud high above the desert floor. Now, the first problem is -- how to get to it? And, once they achieve that, how to get inside it? And once they do get inside it, what they find is...their hometown! Hank leads them through a door and they are suddenly on their old streets only with one difference: There are no people around, anywhere -- just them! This is an alternate world ... a world exactly like the one they've dreamed of returning to but with this one difference: No people! Hank and the kids can't resist frolicking through the town...walking into the movie theatre, helping themselves to the candy store and so on. It seems like a dream existence but, at about the same time they begin to realize how empty this world is without others, a pack of Venger's men arrives, having followed them here. The "men" are empty suits of armor that cannot be destroyed: Knock one to pieces and it instantly reassembles! The "men" want their magical artifacts and, in a battle played out in the deserted streets of their hometown, there seems to be no way to stop them.
The latest directions from the Dungeon Master send our heroes deep down into an underground civilization where they find themselves in the lair of the Gamesman. The Gamesman is a wild-eyed gent with a high-pitched laugh who informs them that they are to play a game with him... with their magical artifacts at stake. They cannot leave for the way out is blocked by Rogull. They enter into the game of trying to find the Gamesman in his underground labyrinth. If they find him, they win; if he imprisons them, they lose their weapons. One by one, he captures them...until, finally, our heroes are stripped of all their powers and deposited in a dungeon. The Gamesman takes their artifacts and goes off to play the biggest game of his life; he will wager them all against Venger with control of this land as the prize. Can our heroes break out of the dungeon -- without any powers -- and slip past Rogull to reclaim their weapons before the Gamesman loses them all to Venger and, in doing so, loses the entire world?
It's Wizard versus Merlin as our heroes come upon a castle ruled by a man who claims to be the legendary sorcerer! He lures Presto from the group, promising to make him his apprentice and teach him all his secrets -- and Presto decides to stay and learn them all. Following a sad parting, the five others press on -- only to finally unravel the latest riddle from the Dungeon Master! Merlin, they realize, is not what he seems! He is, in fact, Venger in disguise and...But wait. We have a whole pilot script of this story. Why waste your time reading storylines? Read the script and see if you can find all the clues. It took our heroes until halfway through Act Two.
In the process of creating this post I came across a Dungeons & Dragons Encyclopedia of sorts.