|Based on the creations of Gary Gygax and the various myths from which he liberally borrowed, Dungeons and Dragons is one of the memories that '80s kids all have that provides a cultural common ground for the geeks and everyone else.
For those who aren't aware of what Dungeons and Dragons is, it's a role-playing game in a fantasy setting. Players create characters represented by statistics and other characteristics on a sheet of paper. Characters are divided by character class, which refers to the area of their training and the way they make a living. From time to time with allegations of luring children to Satanism or some such intangible evil when some kids who play the game go and do something monumentally stupid.
The height of D and D's popularity was in the late '70s, and the D and D cartoon was an effort to boost sagging sales. It succeeded as a half-hour sales pitch, but it also somehow managed to remain one of the shows "they should run again."
The story of the cartoon was very simple. Instead of sitting down at a table with a bunch of dice and a character named Tarth Earthenroot or something like that, this group of 6 kids sat down in a rollercoaster car and BECAME Tarth Earthenroot or something like that. Upon entering this new world, they met Dungeonmaster and were each issued a magic item and were assigned a class, character statistics and saving rolls -- no, not really. Just the magic items. Had you going, though.
The six friends (well, FIVE friends and Eric the cavalier) traveled the world, hunted for treasure, slew goblins by the score, and picked a fight in every tavern they -- no they didn't. I don't know what's come over me. What they DID do was have Dungeonmaster tell them some weird riddle and then go try to find yet another way home (which they did at least once, although it didn't last), and then get attacked by Tiamat the Queen of the Dragons on a semi-regular basis. No real Dungeon Master worth his salt would use Tiamat as often as she was used in the show (He wouldn't be asked to be DM too often if he did, unless he also handed out magical items like candy)
I've been crossing a line with that summary. Dungeons and Dragons accounted for a considerable amount of my time and money in high school, and I consequently have difficulty not talking about it from my own perspective (like any gamer, really. Be glad I don't have a "Gazebo story." More on that if space permits). For my lack of objectivity in the summary, I apologize. But then again, you should see my ten-page rough draft with the extended cut of the "Girdle of Masculinity/Femininity" incident. On with the review.
Willie Aames may be deserving of a nation's ridicule for his current project, "Bibleman," but both Dungeons and Dragons and Charles in Charge should clear some of that up. Hank (main characters in the '80s were always named something like "Hank" or "Lance") was a pretty rad dude with a Bow of Lightning Bolts (the boy never missed with that thing once. I don't care how many weapons proficiencies in Bow you have, the dice are ALWAYS against you rolling a hit EVERY TIME!). The others in the little group were the aforementioned Eric, the Cavalier (his weapon was a shield -- a SHIELD! -- but his "friends" were always picking on him when he ran away -- just once, I'd have liked to see him say, "What do you want me to do? Dungeonmaster gave me a SHIELD, for God's sake! What am I supposed to say, 'Don't move or I'll try not to get hurt?'"), Shiela the Thief (although the only thing that made her a thief was her Cloak of Invisibility), Diana the Acrobat (who only wore, as I recall, a fur micro-miniskirt, a bikini bra and a gold tiara), Presto the Magician (inept to a level rivalling that of Orko of Masters of the Universe fame) and Bobby the Barbarian (who had a pet Frank Welker in the shape of a unicorn).
This show, in short, rocked when I was 10. It's been too long to confirm whether it has withstood the test of time (I missed the 2000 airing on FOX Kids), but sometimes (not always) nostalgia can salvage an otherwise awful something from one's childhood.
Now for the Gazebo story. As I said, this isn't one of mine, so I'll let the source tell it. Remember, this is a transcript of a session of Dungeons and Dragons. These are the kinds of people parent groups around the country are convinced are being led to the dark side by the works of Gary Gygax.
Eric and the Gazebo
ROLE-PLAYING GAMES SIG
by Richard Aronson
Let us cast our minds back to the early days of fantasy
role-playing... In the early '70s, Ed Whitechurch ran "his game," and
one of the participants was Eric Sorenson, a veritable giant of a man.
This story is essentially true: I knew both Ed and Eric, and neither
denies it (although Eric, for reasons that will become apparent, never
The gist of it is that Eric... well, you need a bit more about Eric.
Eric comes quite close to being a computer. When he games, he
methodically considers each possibility before choosing his preferred
option. If given time, he will invariably pick the optimum solution.
It has been known to take weeks. He is otherwise in all respects a
superior gamer, and I've spent many happy hours competing with and
against him, as long as he is given enough time.
So... Eric was playing a neutral paladin (Why should only lawful, good
religions get to have holy warriors? was the rationale) in Ed's game.
He even had a holy sword, which fought well and did all those things
holy swords are supposed to do, including good or evil (by random die
roll). He was on some lord's lands when the following exchange
ED: You see a well-groomed garden. In the middle, on a small hill, you
see a gazebo.
ERIC: A gazebo? What color is it?
ED: (Pause) It's white, Eric.
ERIC: How far away is it?
ED: About 50 yards.
ERIC: How big is it?
ED: (Pause) It's about 30 feet across, 15 feet high, with a pointed
ERIC: I use my sword to detect whether it's good.
ED: It's not good, Eric. It's a gazebo!
ERIC: (Pause) I call out to it.
ED: It won't answer. It's a gazebo!
ERIC: (Pause) I sheathe my sword and draw my bow and arrows. Does it
respond in any way?
ED: No, Eric. It's a gazebo!
ERIC: I shoot it with my bow (rolls to hit). What happened?
ED: There is now a gazebo with an arrow sticking out of it.
ERIC: (Pause) Wasn't it wounded?
ED: Of course not, Eric! It's a gazebo!
ERIC: (Whimper) But that was a plus-three arrow!
ED: It's a gazebo, Eric, a gazebo! If you really want to try to
destroy it, you could try to chop it wih an axe, I suppose, or you
could try to burn it, but I don't know why anybody would even try.
It's a @#%$*& gazebo!
ERIC: (Long pause - he has no axe or fire spells) I run away.
ED: (Thoroughly frustrated) It's too late. You've awakened the gazebo,
and it catches you and eats you.
ERIC: (Reaching for his dice) Maybe I'll roll up a fire-using mage so
I can avenge my paladin...
At this point, the increasingly amused fellow party members restored a
modicum of order by explaining what a gazebo is. This is solely an
afterthought, of course, but Eric is doubly lucky that the gazebo was
not situated on a grassy knoll.
[Reprinted from the SIG's fall '87 Spellbook #13, edited by Corey and
Lori Cole, via Mensanity, Lewis Wasserman, ed. Send your compliments
to the author along with your subscription to the SIG newsletter ($8)
in care of L Mary H. Kelly, 4030 Valley View Lane #233, Farmers Branch,