Dungeons & Dragons, LJN

Dungeons, and Walmart, and LJN? part 2

The world that LJN helped create had its roots in the standard world of Dungeons and Dragons, but it was its own distinctive thing as well. This world had its own unique world building; so let’s take a look at what we know so far:

  • Dwarves build castles inside huge caverns carved into the side of mountains.
  • Dwarves fight giants and dragons for territory there.
  • Elves are magical forest dwellers
  • There are four metaphysical forces at work in the world: Law, Order, Evil, and Destruction. These forces oppose each other with Law and Order often working together while Evil and Destruction often join together. This replaces the traditional alignment system.
  • Evil sorceres are constantly fighting the forces of Law and Order
  • Only good people can become clerics.
  • Barbarians are always human beings.
  • Barbarians are fearful and distrustful of all things magical.
  • Barbarians are always brave.
  • Ogres are found everywhere, in all climates, and on all continents.
  • Ogres average over 9 feet tall.
  • Ogres are too unintelligent, on average, to be able to make their own weapons so they steal them from others.
  • Ogres have many enemies – so many that they’re in a near constant state of combat.
  • Ringlerun the Wizard is a powerful force for law and order.
  • Ringlerun will always help those in need.
  • Ringlerun is such a powerful opponent that the forces of evil and destruction flee before him.
  • If you’re honest enough, you can tell evil wherever you find it.
  • Being good enough allows certain characters to heal the sick and wounded.
  • Titans are among the most magical creatures in all of existence.
  • Titans can: become invisible, fly, use clerical spells, and speak all the giant languages.
  • They live either in flying castles or giant, underwater caverns.

In 1984 LJN Toys would come out with the final, abbreviated series of figures. This time they would introduce us to Bowmarc the noble Crusader, Deeth the good Fighter, Drex the evil Fighter, Grimsword the Evil Knight, Hawkler the Ranger, Mandoom the otherworldly Warrior, Mettaflame the Evil Fire Giant, and Zorgar the Evil Barbarian. These characters would represent the end of LJN’s official world. Let’s look at these characters a bit closer and see what new lore was added.

image from Figure Realm

The introduction of Bowmarc brings another new class into the world: the Crusader. The text states “Bowmarc is a great and noble crusader. He fights on the side of good and can never change, or else he will loose his special powers. Bowmarc and his ‘Holy Sword’ are feared by all evil doers. He may sometimes fight battles alone, but Bowmarc usually leads a army of good crusaders and fighters.”

From the text we learn that:

  • Bowmarc must always fight on the side of good or lose all his abilities
  • He uses a ‘Holy Sword’ that strikes fear into the hearts of all evil doers.
  • Bowmarc is a leader of armies.
image from Figure Realms

Deeth is the second female character to be introduced in the series, and unlike Mercion, Deeth is out there in the wilds seeking to confront the forces of evil. As the text states: “Deeth is a powerful fighter who is capable of defeating any and all evil doers in combat. Since childhood, she has trained as a warrior with many weapons. She is feared by many because she uses her sword of light and battle mace with lightning speed and accuracy. Deeth usually travels alone, but will always join forces with other good fighters when it is necessary.”

From the text it appears that Deeth is one of the most powerful fighters in the game. We also learned:

  • Deeth travels solo but will join with others when necessary.
  • She is feared for her ‘Sword of Light’ and battle mace with ‘lightning speed and accuracy’ [1]
  • She is skilled in many weapons[2]
Image from Figure Realm

Drex is the first evil character of this series that we’ve encountered and he comes with the remarkable chest tattoo and shield emblem. The text states: “Fighters, both good and evil, are known for their superior strength. Drex is one of the most strongest and feared of all evil fighters. He carries a variety of weapons and is an expert with all types of swords, maces, and knives. Drex, however, because of his sheer power and razor sharp armor plates, is most dangerous during hand-to-hand combat.”

Drex continues the trend of providing us less information about the world and more about the individual character that we’ve seen with Bowmarc and Deeth. However, we do learn some new things:

  • There are not many characters in the world who are proficient with a variety of weapons. Most seem to be very limited.
  • Drex’s armor doubles as a weapon [3].
image from Figure Realm

Grimsword the Evil Knight feels like he should be the natural foil to Strongheart the Paladin from set one, though he may be better suited to battling Bowmarc. In either case his text gives us little information about the world. It states, “Grimsowrd Evil Knight is a mighty warrior and fierce fighter. He hopes to rule the land someday, after he defeated all his enemies in combat. Grimsword has many evil friends fighting by his side, but he cannot be trusted. He will betray or fight anyone in order to gain power.”

Like Drex above, Grimsword is an evil character whose figure asks more questions that the text actually answers. Is the snake wrapped about his chest alive and capable of aiding him in battle as it appears in the graphic on the backer board. Why does he promote the snake so prominently?[4]

image from Figure Realm

Hawkler is the first Ranger to appear in the LJN world. The text states, “Rangers are fighters on the side of a good and specially trained for scouting and fighting in the forests. Hawkler is the most famous of all rangers. He is very strong and intelligent and is an expert with his bow and arrow. Hawkler also has the ability to track down and destroy evil beasts deep inside of dungeons or in the wilderness.”

Hawkler provides us with some new world building information:

  • Rangers are only good
  • There are a number of them in the world, and Hawkler is the most famous
  • evil beasts are found deep inside dungeons and in the wilderness.[5]
image from Figure Realm

Mandoom the good Warrior, is a huge world builder for the LJN toys. As the text states, “Mandoom is a very fierce warrior from a very strange place. He has golden skin and appears to be made of stone. Mandoom is often called to this world by magic users who need his help in war or battle. He always carries gold weapons and wears golden armor when he goes into battle against enemies of the magic users.”

From the text we learn:

  • that there are other places than the world of LJN.
  • that characters can be summoned from other realms to fight in this one.
  • that somewhere there exists a golden-hued, stone skinned people who tower over regular men.[6]
  • While it is not expressly stated, it is implied that any magic user could summon Mandoom to fight for them.
image from Figure Realm

The texts states that “Fire Giants are one of the many types of giants on earth. Mettaflame is the most dangerous and most powerful of these fire giants. He is very tall and muscular and has bright red eyes. Mettaflame cannot be harmed by fire or dragon’s breath. He uses many special weapons and wears armor made of dragon scales when fighting his enemies.”

From this we learned:

  • that there are many types of giants in the world. [7]
  • It is implied, though not expressly stated, that all fire giants are immune to fire and dragon’s breath.
image from Figure Realm

The final figure released was Zorgar the Evil Barbarian, who the text states: “is the meanest and strongest of all Barbarians. He fears nothing or no one and will attack his enemies with a club and dagger or with his bare hands. At times he appears to be more like a savage beast than a human. Like most barbarians, his only concern is his own survival and he will fight anyone who stands in his way.”

From this we learn that:

  • Zogar is the natural enemy of the mighty Northlord
  • Most barbarians are only concerned with their own survival.

Next time we’ll combine all of this world building and begin looking at the official TSR publications that featured the LJN characters during their limited run.

Notes

[1] It appears from the text that the battle mace may be imbued with magical powers and were I to introduce the item into my home games I would certainly treat it as such. Perhaps providing it with a +3 bonus and classifying it as a quick weapon that gets an extra attack. It bears more thought.

[2] It’s worth noting that this is the first time that we see such a comment on any of the LJN boxes. It implies that she is capable of using most any weapon the other characters possess, but that they are not able to do the same. This alone makes her one of the most powerful fighters in the game.

[3] That Drex’s armor is stated to be a razor sharp weapon in its own right implies that this isn’t something unique to him; rather it’s something that characters in that world might run into occasionally as a fighting style that certain people employ.

[4] It would be entirely reasonable to have Grimsword be a Yaun Ti, a snakeman, under his armor as no skin shows.

[5] This marks the second time that dungeons are mentioned in the game world. The first time is in the description of Zarak from series one.

[6] As the image on the backer board shows, Mandoom is nearly half again as tall as Grimsword.

[7] The only previous mentions of giants in the LJN world are in the description of Elkhorn the Dwarf where it is noted that giants are the worst enemies of dwarves, and in the description of the Young Titan where it is noted that they particularly like Storm Giants. [corrected on 1-5-2022]

Read the Whole Series

4 thoughts on “Dungeons, and Walmart, and LJN? part 2”

  1. Interesting…I can’t recall ever having seen or heard of this “second series” of LJN characters, nor any of the toys.

    There was an old, BECMI supplement, “The Shady Dragon Inn” (AC1, published 1983) that included write-ups for most of the original toy line characters (i.e. the ones found in your Part 1 post), albeit statted out for basic D&D (Zarak, for example becomes a normal thief, Strongheart a lawful fighter, etc.). However, NONE of these characters are part of the roster in the book. Likewise, I don’t recall seeing any of these in any otherTSR-produced, toy promoting supplement (the coloring book, for example). Neither did ANY of them appear in the cartoon (as far as I can recall…and I own the series on disk and have watched most episodes multiple times).

    It is also curious that LJN produced these particular characters, when there were already a number of characters/personalities attached to the same “world” as the first series toy line characters: Skylla the witch, for example, or that bard girl. Why didn’t they simply build on the IP already established under the brand?

    My guess would be that these were original LJN creations, produced after the toy line had cut ties with TSR but before their actual license expired…a last gasp at making a few bucks off molded/painted plastic. I would not be terribly surprised to discover they were knock-offs from a different toy line, repurposed. “Mandoom?” Really?

    A couple notes:

    Not sure who Mettaflame is fighting on his board backer. With the larger “battle master” figures (at least of the first series) their illustration always included a smaller “action figure” opponent as an opponent, just as Mandoom’s board backer features “Grimsword.” But who is the dude with a hammer going up against the fire giant? Thor?

    Also: the original toy line had a bronze dragon mount that could be purchased for Strongheart (or, I suppose, any similarly sized action figure), so there WAS an earlier mention of dragons in the LJN world.
    ; )

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cool!

      I know that they also showed up in a few Dragon articles over the years and in ’84 they showed up in the adventure XL1 Quest for the Heartstone! Sorry it took me so long to respond. I was in the middle of the Christmas madness at work and putting in way too many hours!

      Like

  2. We also know that there are Storm Giants, from the writeup on the Young Titan. Also, “they can speak all of the giant languages” implies other types of giant humanoids, but might only be referencing giant creatures (e.g. giant bird or giant snake).

    Liked by 1 person

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