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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Dungeons & Dragons

This past month has been a rather rough one for me, and I think that it has been somewhat reflected in the tone of my blog. September 2012 has not exactly been a month that I really want to relive any time soon.

However, a new week is approaching, and with that, a brand new beginning. If there are any lessons that I have learned over the last few days, it's that sometimes things happen that you simply can't control. Sometimes you may have to walk away from something or someone in order to get peace of mind. And sometimes you end up having to say goodbye to someone a lot sooner than you expected.

And sometimes, you just have to take a deep breath, collect your wits, and do your best to get on with your life, no matter how badly one is feeling at the time.

In the spirit of moving on with life, I look ahead by focusing on a brand new week of blog topics, starting with the Saturday Morning feature.

And it happens to be a cartoon that is based on a popular role playing game.

I don't know how many of you played the game Dungeons & Dragons in your youth, but I know that thousands of people have played the game since its early beginnings in the year 1974. Before people began playing role playing video games such as “Final Fantasy”, “The Legend Of Zelda”, “Phantasy Star”, and “Chrono Trigger”, they gathered around a kitchen table and played a game of Dungeons & Dragons. Depending on the number of players who are playing, the characters that are used, and the various rules within the game, players could visit a mythical world filled with magic, fighting, and quests to solve.

Consider it a board game version of “World of Warcraft”, if you will.

Over the last few years, Dungeons & Dragons has evolved into several different formats. At least four different editions and ten separate revisions have been made since the game was originally released thirty-eight years ago, ensuring that several generations of RPG freaks could enjoy this game.

And, when I refer to people as RPG freaks, I mean that as a term of endearment. I am, after all, and RPG freak myself.

But did you know that a cartoon series was based off of this popular RPG? It's true. Just take a look at the intro which I have posted down below!

Yes, we're going to take a look at the television cartoon “Dungeons & Dragons”. The show aired as a part of CBS' Saturday Morning line-up between September 1983 and December 1985. Although only twenty-seven episodes of the series were made, they were split up into three seasons. The first season contained thirteen episodes, the second contained eight, and the final season contained six.

The television series followed the trials and tribulations of six youths between the ages of eight and fifteen. All six of them are at an amusement park, riding all the rides, playing all the games, and stuffing their faces with churros and cotton candy. At some point, all six of them meet up in front of a giant roller coaster type ride known as the “Realm of Dungeons & Dragons”. All six are excited to ride the coaster and don't hesitate to board the ride.

It turns out to be a ride that they will never forget.

You know how most roller coasters are designed in such a way that you make twists, turns, and loops? At first it started that way. But then things became weird. The track began to disappear, the roller coaster cabs were sucked into a giant vortex, and magically the children and their 1980s haute couture were trapped in a magical world filled with dragons, knights, and fashions that were worse than leg warmers and acid wash jeans!

The six youths are incredibly frightened, and all they really want to do is go back home. I can't say that I blamed them. I remember very vaguely watching this show when I was four years old, and I recall telling my parents that I would never go on a roller coaster again if it meant that I would end up in a strange world with no way out! Though, during the 27 episodes that were filmed and aired, I really don't remember if they ever found a way out. I'm guessing that they didn't, as I read somewhere that producers briefly considered keeping the program on the air for the 1986/87 season.

However, the six youths did end up having an ally in the form of the Dungeon Master, a wise old man who helps equip each of the kids with weapons that they are to use to defend themselves with.

And just what exactly are the kids defending themselves against?

Well, the forces of evil of course. It was bad enough that there was a frightening five-headed dragon named Tiamat which was big and scary enough that it was a suicide mission to go against it alone. But there was also an evil wizard who went by the name of Venger, and Venger had the belief that he could rule the entire realm if he could get his hands on the very weapons that the Dungeon Master bestowed upon them. Once he had the weapons, he could extract their power to rule the whole world.

Of course, Venger had to deal with the fact that the six youths were a lot tougher and smarter than he thought.

So, who are the six kids who were brought to this magical land to save it from Venger and Tiamat?

Well, from left to right are Hank, Eric, Diana, Presto, Sheila, and Bobby.

Hank, the Ranger is the eldest of the group at fifteen years of age. His best qualities are bravery and the ability to think quickly without losing his cool. A skilled archer, his weapon is the magical bow, which has the power to shoot arrows laced with glowing energy. Certainly the arrows could be used to pierce people, but more often than not, he uses the bow and arrows as a way to make a ladder, or blinding his enemies temporarily with the light given off by the arrows.

Eric, the Cavalier is one of those spoiled rich kids who came from money. In the other world where he becomes trapped, he's your typical comic relief character. Sure, he's snobby, selfish, and sarcastic (basically Reggie Mantle in a knight costume), but he also has heroic qualities that help save the day. His weapon is a magical shield which he uses to produce a force field that protects the others.

We also have Diana, the Acrobat. In the real world, Diana was in training to become the next Olympic champion in gymnastics, but in the other world, she is a natural leader, and is very skilled with her magic weapon...a magical staff that can change size and can be used as a weapon or a prop with her gymnastics moves.

Albert is the next person to be introduced, although he would rather be known as Presto, the Magician. He may be well-meaning and have a diligent disposition, but as a magician, he's more like the Amazing Mumford than Harry Houdini. His low self-confidence proves to be more detrimental than helpful, but whenever he has his magical hat around, he is able to usually pull the right item out of it that is needed to save his friends.

Finally, we have the brother and sister team of Sheila, the Thief and Bobby, the Barbarian.

First, we'll take a look at Sheila. Her weapon comes in the form of a magical cloak, which she could use to make herself invisible. And being invisible definitely was an asset when it came to escaping danger. Sheila's personality is such that she can come across as apprehensive and shy...but the minute her friends end up in danger, she comes out of her shell and displays a lot of bravery. She's also usually the one who deduces whether a plan will work out or not.

Contrast that to Bobby, who at age eight is the youngest member of the group. His weapon is that of a club which he used to cause earthquakes. He is also more impulsive than his sister, wasting no time in charging towards enemies, no matter how strong they are. He also has a pet unicorn named Uni, who is also a key figure in the series.

TRIVIA: When you watched episodes of the series, did you notice that a lot of the voices sounded quite familiar? If so, it's because several of the voice actors were sitcom stars. These included Willie Aames (Eight Is Enough, Charles In Charge), Adam Rich (Eight Is Enough), and Don Most (Happy Days).

Now, the show itself was well loved by the target audience, but not so much by parents groups, which were highly critical of the amount of violence that was being shown in the cartoon during the Saturday Morning time slot. In 1985, the National Coalition on Television Violence demanded that the FTC run a warning at the beginning of each episode that stated that the show had been linked to several, real life, violent deaths.

In fact, one script for a particular episode of “Dungeons & Dragons” was almost shelved after it revealed that the kids considered killing Venger.

I personally think that it was a complete overreaction, to be honest. You certainly don't see kids throwing anvils at each other just because they saw Bugs Bunny do it to Yosemite Sam. I know I certainly didn't try to attack my classmates with a katana blade just because I saw Leonardo kill off a few Foot Soldiers with it on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Besides, if a parent is REALLY concerned about the level of violence, maybe watch the program WITH your child and judge for yourself.

Parental supervision, people. It's common sense. 

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