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Venger & Dungeon Master

Dungeons & Dragons Cartoon Classics
by yo go re

Dungeons & Dragons may be popular today, but is it "random carnival ride" popular?

Fear not, ranger, barbarian, magician, thief, cavalier, and acrobat. I am Dungeon Master, your guide in the realm of Dungeons & Dragons. It is an exciting place of wonder and beauty - and grave danger. You are about to embark upon a grand adventure, and I am here to show you the way. To succeed in your quest, you will need to be brave, smart, and just a little bit lucky. So keep your magic items close and your wits sharp. Good luck adventurers. We shall meet again.

When the six Earth children got transported to... whatever planet Dungeons and Dragons live on ["The Realm" --ed.], Dungeon Master was the first person they met. And just like your real dungeon master, he offers only vague hints about what they need to do at any given moment.

Dungeon Master is a weird little goblin (note: not an actual goblin), so the toy stands only about 3" tall. His lumpy head is bald on top, though the white hair that hangs down the back is long enough to reach his waist, and a pair of sideburns(?) that reach to his chest. The animation on the series was inconsistent at best, so Dungeon Master's appearance varied a lot during the three seasons, but you could probably find a scene where he looked like this. Like, his head should be wide, but not this wide

A figure this small is going to necessarily be very simple. He only moves at the wrists, shoulders, and head, because most of his tiny body is covered in his robes. He wears a maroon collar with gold trim over a red robe with white on the sleeves and hems. A golden necklace lies against his chest, with a white gem in the center. His left hand is curled as thought it was going to hold something, and his right hand is pointing.

Dungeon Master is too small to sell alone, so this two-pack also features the series' main villain, Venger.

Dungeon Master calls Venger his greatest mistake - a comment heavy with mysterious meaning because Venger is both his son and former student. Venger once had a good soul, but that was long ago - before Venger came into contact with the force of evil that turned him against his father. Just what or who that influential force was remains unknown to all but Venger, Dungeon Master, and Karina, Venger's twin sister. Like Dungeon Master, Venger is over a thousand years old, and during his life he has killed many of the heroes that Dungeon Master employs to oppose him. Only Hank, Eric, Diana, Presto, Sheila, Bobby, and Uni have managed to thwart Venger for so long and so often.

There's no text on the packaging or the website, so that bio is taken from the Dungeons & Dragons Animated Series Handbook, an official, 30-page book that was included with the Complete Series DVD release in 2006. The word "official" is important in that sentence, because while the show gave hints at the relationship between Dungeon Master and Venger, it certainly never confirmed it.

Although it's tame and rather goofy today, you must remember that the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon was very violent for its time (1983) - Venger may look silly, but put him on Eternia and he'd be ruling it inside a week. Other villains lost because they had comically bumbling lackeys; Venger lost (if you can call it that) because the heroes he was fighting were just that good. He's absolutely one of the weirder-looking villains of the era, with pale blue skin, a fanged overbite, no discernable nose, and a headdress with a single horn curling up from the left side. You've heard of the one-winged angel, get ready for the one-horned devil!

Venger stood 7' tall (not counting the horn), so this toy is about ¾" larger than it should be. And although he had wings, he didn't seem to be able to fly under his own power - or maybe he was just shy about people being able to look up his dress. He managed to pre-date Gargoyles by draping the wings around his shoulders like a cape, but on this toy they're just a solid piece that plugs into the center of his back. Both the shawl on his chest and the long silver skirt are soft PVC with splits in the sides so allow for articulation, but that also means the pieces don't line up very well.

And it's not even like the articulation is much to brag about. He has a joint at the neck, but the shape of his cowl renders it moot. Move the shoulders, and his black shrug is completely out of place (remember that it's supposed to be a single solid garment that falls underneath his scarf, not two different pieces stuck to the sides). The chest joint is good, but even with joints in the hips, thighs, knees, and ankles, the dress makes them mostly useless. I'm pretty sure we saw Dungeon Master's legs more often than Venger's, but he's still got fully detailed boots under there.

Venger doesn't use any accessories, he simply fights by throwing magic around. The figure represents that by giving him an alternate pair of hands, with energy blasts coming out of the palms. It's like Iron Man's repulsor blasts, but permanently attached. There are still hinges in these hands, so you'll be able to have him firing energy even without having to point his arms forward.

Each of the Dungeons & Dragons Cartoon Classics releases comes with a die; collect them all, and you'll have a full set! This release gives you an oversized D20, just like previous sets have offered, and a percentile die (a D10 marked 00, 10, 20, etc.). Yes, you could just use a regular D10 for the same thing, but who doesn't like more dice?

This, being the deluxe set, also comes with an extra the others won't: a 10" x 31½" carboard backdrop. You could probably use it for a DM screen if you wanted (though folding like an S instead of a U might leave too much visible to the players), but it seems designed to suit the figures. One side has the stylized ampersand logo, while the front has the amusement park where the kids found the ride that stole them away from Earth in the first place, as seen panning by in the closing credits of every episode.

Although the D&D cartoon only lasted 27 episodes, it's remained a cult favorite in the decades since. Unless you live in Brazil, where it (like Saint Seiya) was wildly popular - that's why that was the only place you could find a fan comic adaptation of the unproduced final episode, or that live-action car commerical, or a set of high-end 1:10 statues. Although LJN had a D&D toyline in the '80s, it was just based on the game as a concept, not on the cartoon, so the only toys ever released for these characters until now were solid PVCs: one set in Spain, a different set in Portugal. It's been a long, long wait for official figures of these characters, but unfortunately, it feels like Hasbro is counting on good will and nostalgia to do a lot of heavy lifting when it comes to the quality.

-- 02/01/23

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