11 February 2012

NPC Profiles: The Cast of the D&D Animated Series

A lot of old school gamers have fond memories of waking up each saturday morning to catch the latest adventures of Hank, Eric, Bobby, Sheila, Presto and Diana in their epic quest to thwart the forces of Venger and Tiamat and ultimately find their way back to the "real" world from the "world of Dungeons & Dragons" they had been magically transported to.

In that spirit of nostalgia, and as a tribute to the light hearted heroic adventures of that era, I present a short series of posts detailing the characters, magic and adventure locales from the Animated Series, adapted loosely to a Mystara campaign mindset. Hopefully something here will find its way into a Classic D&D game somewhere.

First off, we take a look at the mentor and guide to our heroes, an enigmatic being known only as the Dungeon Master.

Game Mechanics:
The Dungeon Master is essentially an all powerful, invincible Immortal. He avoids direct conflicts, but cannot be harmed by any known means. Through some personal code or perhaps a pact with the other powers of the multiverse, he also avoids most direct intervention in the affairs of mortals, choosing instead to aid them through gifts of potent magical items and sometimes cryptic hints and advice.

The details of the Dungeon Master's prior doings in the Known World are a bit sketchy, but here are the basics:

Historians in Karameikos know the Dungeon Master by his mortal name, Gygar. As a mortal wizard, Gygar peacefully ruled a small realm around Lake Windrush in northeastern Karameikos, just north of the town of Threshold, from which the ruins of his old keep, Mistamere, can be seen. After a lengthy reign, Gygar vanished from Mistamere and Karameikos, and eventually his servants and the other folk of the keep abandoned it, claiming the dungeons beneath were haunted by evils emboldened by their master's "death".

Gygar didn't die though, during the final years of his reign, he had withdrawn to his keep to experiment with new magical items and train a small coven of apprentices; all part of his pursuit of the Paragon Path to Immortality (as described in the D&D Master's Set, DM's Book). Once he achieved Immortality, Gygar became obsessed with travelling the myriad planes of the multiverse and quickly lost interest in the mundane affairs of his realm in Karameikos.

Of particular interest to Gygar is the seemingly infinite alternate manifestations of the prime material plane, of which Mystara is but one example. The old wizard and his circle of apprentices, who began calling themselves The Game Wizards, based on a theory of Gygar's that all the prime worlds and their mortal inhabitants are simply pawns in the games some eldritch group of elder Immortals or Gods play and the rationale that by achieving Immortality themselves, the group could become part of this mysterious pantheon of masters of the multiversal game, have explored dozens of worlds, linking them together through both lore and actual planar gates.

As his knowledge of the workings of the different prime material planes increased, Gygar, who worried some dark Immortals or Fiends would learn of his true identity and thus gain some power over him, took to calling himself the Dungeon Master, and only the highest members of his circle of wizards now recall his true name.

As it happens, the Dungeon Master discovered and became fascinated by a world whose inhabitants called it simply "earth". A rather mundane world, free of monsters and magic and overseen by aloof Immortals who rarely manipulated things in the world, preferring to watch from on high as the mortal humans "found their way", the Dungeon Master reveled in revealing the wonders of the other primes to these silly, naive humans. After sharing as much lore of magic and monsters (or, as he is apt to say "Dungeons & Dragons) to the people of earth as he felt possible, he came up with a mischievous plan: He would take a group of average young people from earth and transport them to Mystara, to see how people from such a mundane realm would react to the wonders of a magical place such as Karameikos!

He chose a group of teenagers; Eric, Hank, Diana, Sheila and Albert (who is teasingly known as Presto due to his obsession with real world stage magic), who were riding a fantasy themed roller coaster at a carnival, along with Sheila's little brother Bobby, and magically transported them to Mystara, where he keeps them out of serious trouble while watching how they adapt to life in a world full of magic and monsters.

Using the Dungeon Master in a Classic D&D campaign:
PC parties who interact with the teens and pose a threat to them for whatever reason are apt to run afoul of the Dungeon Master, but his interference on behalf of the kids is usually harmless, just enough to get them out of danger without harming those threatening them too much.

On the other hand, if the DM (the real one, the game referee) wants to send the PCs on a little world hopping adventure, to another campaign setting or even to the "real" world of earth, the Dungeon Master makes for an interesting tool to do so. Perhaps a situation on the other world has piqued his interest and he needs a party of brave heroes to step in and act on his behalf?

On the other hand, the entire idea of the teenagers and the Dungeon Master and magical roller coasters may be a bit too silly for a more serious D&D campaign. That's fine, but I at least hope this made for an interesting read.

This article is (quite obviously) dedicated to Gary Gygax and the rest of the Game Wizards at TSR and WotC who've helped an entire generation of us unlock the magic, wonder and Dungeons and Dragons of our imagination. We're forever in your debt!