The most recent D&D release, Stormwreck Isle (a simple adventure with premade characters meant to introduce new players to the rules and general worldbuilding of Dungeons and Dragons) includes a number of NPCs that may seem somewhat familiar to longtime DnD fans. If you can’t place them, you might take a look at some of the retro-inspired merch that’s available.
Notice the similarities between some of the characters: the blonde ranger, the black-haired fighter, the fur-adorned acrobat, and the cute baby unicorn? And that goofy-looking Dungeon Master costume that came out a few years back – you might recognize him too! That’s cause they’re characters from the classic 1980s Dungeons and Dragons cartoon, who aren’t a part of the Forgotten Realms lore, or any official sourcebook. But they do make cameo appearances every once in a while, as beloved archetypes and characters to longtime players.
If you haven’t yet seen the cartoon, you can find most episodes on YouTube. Before you get started watching, here’s some basic information about it:
A Short Timeline of the DnD Cartoon
Launched in 1983, the D&D cartoon was produced by both Marvel and D&D Entertainment (still a part of TSR at the time, not Wizards of the Coast or Hasbro). It aired for 3 seasons, and had 27 episodes, which aired until December of 1985.
The first season was directed by John Gibbs and Bob Richardson and included 13 episodes. The next 2 seasons, directed by John Gibbs alone, had notably fewer episodes. The second season had 8, while the third had 6. The third season, notably, was meant to have a final episode which was never fully created.
The Characters of the DnD Cartoon
The characters of the show, which you might have seen adapted in Stormwreck Isle, are a standard but memorable adventuring party. They’re all humans, though, with classes that might sound a little odd to 5e players. But when the show was made, those were the classes available (with the exception of the acrobat, cavalier, and barbarian, which were added in 1985), and different species of character were often classes in and of themselves!
The Good Guys
- Hank the Ranger: A kind and level-headed leader of the party, who watches out for the others and fires magical arrows at enemies.
- Eric the Cavalier: A somewhat spoiled, but ultimately well-intentioned knight-in-magical-armor, whose Griffin Shield can create a force field to shelter all of his friends.
- Diana the Acrobat: An adventurous but rational young woman, whose acrobatic martial artistry is supplemented by a Javelin Staff that can change lengths on command.
- Presto the Magician: A nerdy and nervous mage, whose hat double as a bag of tricks, with powerful (if unstable) magic.
- Sheila the Thief: A dexterous and kindly rogue, whose Cloak of Invisibility lets her sneak into places and get extra information.
- Bobby the Barbarian: a young but eager kid who fights in a straightforward manner. He doesn’t have any magical items, but is the closest companion to Uni.
- Uni the Unicorn: A baby unicorn who accompanies the party
- The Dungeon Master: A mysterious mage, who gives dubious advice, powerful weapons, and dangerous quests to this bunch of children. He seems to mean well, but he does constantly pull them into deadly situations.
The Bad Guys (Excluding Episodic Villains-of-the-Week):
- Venger: A powerful wizard who yearns to rule the fantastical world of Dungeons and Dragons, and requires the power of the party’s magical items to do so.
- Shadow Demon: An evil spy for Venger, who watches and reports on the party to his master.
- Karena: Another powerful wizard, who competes with Venger for rulership of the world.
- Tiamat: An ancient dragon with five heads, who also seems to want power over the world, but mainly wants to kill the party instead of taking their magical items.
The Basic Plot of the Show
The DnD cartoon follows the adventures of a group of normal teenagers who board a fantasy-themed ride at their local theme park. But when the ride starts, they don’t get the fun they wanted, and instead find themselves transported into a fantastical world full of magic, dragons, and monsters. An elderly man who calls himself the Dungeon Master grants them weapons and powers to protect themselves, and sends them to various leads which might let them go home. Their efforts, however, are interrupted by the evil wizard Venger, who desires their magical weapons, and the evil dragon goddess Tiamat, who just generally wants to destroy things and eat people.
The kids do sometimes make it home, but trouble is never far behind them. There always seems to be a reason why they can’t quite justify staying there, especially when the new world that they are constantly drawn to seems to require saving every other week! Furthermore, a strange connection seems to be drawn between Venger and the Dungeon Master, who may just have a hand in drawing them back to the fantastic world when they do manage to get out.
Should You Watch the DnD Cartoon?
If you want a serious, realistic fantasy story with in-depth emotional development and character arcs, well…you probably won’t want to watch any kind of 80s cartoon, DnD being no exception. Like any children’s show from the 1980s, the DnD cartoon is silly, goofy fun, with animation that doesn’t compare well to todays, or to the high-budget movie productions of the time.
It’s a silly show, with simple characters, but ones that are extremely lovable. It gives you a glimpse at the monsters of the world, at the kind of adventures that might be had in it, and at the fun that is meant to be had in the world. If you don’t mind the old trappings, it’s absolutely worth a watch. You’ll come out of it even more in love with the world of Dungeons and Dragons than you thought you could be.
Have you ever watched the Dungeons and Dragons Animated Series? Did you enjoy it? How any easter eggs have you noticed from the series in 5e modules and official campaigns? Let us know in the comments below!
EDIT: Thanks to commenter Arturo for pointing out a mistake - not all of the classes shown in the game were playable when the show aired! We've corrected the article accordingly.