Thirty-five years ago this week, the Dungeons and Dragons animated series saw six children who wanted to board an innocent, D&D themed amusement park ride get pulled into a magical realm where they are nearly killed by every creature out of the Monster Manual, including and especially Tiamat.
That’s right friends, thirty-five years ago this week, the devious grin of an all-knowing Dungeon Master bestowed magical artifacts on a bunch of children who had the misfortune of trying to board an amusement park ride that they thought might take them through a track with monsters, pitting them in opposition to a powerful archmage and a five-headed Queen of evil dragons…
…and that’s just the opening credits segment.
Armed only with their–well not their wits, exactly, these children did once fail to realize that the shapeshifting evil wizard who can disguise himself except for his white hair, which is a very obvious tell was actually not a wizard in a blue dress named Merlin, but was in fact the shapeshifting evil wizard who can disguise himself except for his white hair, which is a very obvious tell.
Although to be fair, it wasn’t his white hair (which was stuck to his hat, it was his white hare–get it?)
…and that’s just the first episode. But the point is, these children armed with little more than Dungeon Master’s magical artifacts must fight their way through a magical land of enchantment. It’s about as cheesy as it sounds, but the cartoon did manage to showcase Dungeons and Dragons at a time when people were worried that it would lead you to casting real actual spells on your parents to…get them to buy you more miniatures, I guess?
The D&D Cartoon may or may not be a beloved part of your tabletop history, but it’s part of the shared game that connects us all. If you watch this cartoon, you’ll realize that it’s not so much a cartoon set in the world of Dungeons and Dragons, but a campaign where the DM tricked the players into playing D&D but didn’t tell them until they had made characters for a different modern kids-on-bikes type game. It makes so much sense if you think about it.
Featuring beloved characters whose names are indicative of the typical D&D group:
Hank the Ranger
Who is almost certainly Freddy from Scooby Doo’s long lost son.
Eric the Cavalier
His picture tells you literally everything you need to know about his character.
Sheila the Thief
AKA the competent one–her cloak of invisibility is one of the most useful items in the show.
Bobby the Barbarian
Hey we ought to have a character that the youths can relate to. You know what–everybody loves it when there’s a younger brother character who gets people into trouble more often than not.
Presto the Magician
His name was Presto before they got transported to the magical world of D&D, and that should tell you everything you need to know about him.
Diana the Acrobat
Back when Acrobat was a class. But to be fair, so were Jester, Physician, and Metaphysician at one point.
Of course there was also Uni the Unicorn everyone’s favorite plucky and adorable comic relief.
Boy the 80s sure were a cheesy time. Good thing D&D’s moved past that, right?