Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Dragon’s Graveyard a.k.a. Dragonborn kicking it old-school!

In honor of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen opening, I thought I would take a little time to highlight some of Peter Cullen’s work.  Not his work as Optimus Prime, which would be way to obvious.  Rather I wanted to talk about his work as Venger, the primary antagonist on the Dungeons and Dragons Animated TV series.

Of course the best way to talk about Venger is to talk about The Dragon’s Graveyard, which is probably the best episode of the series and a great episode showcasing Venger.

There are some startling revelations in this episode, which is posted in three parts on YouTube.  So feel free to watch the videos before reading my comments on them.  Unless you are Greg Leeds.  If you are, please forget you ever heard of this site.

The Dragon’s Graveyard - Part I

The episode starts with the group randomly fighting a frost giant.  It does not take them long to dispatch him with their ancient Arkhosian artifacts (more on this later).  It is revealed that the main reason they are wandering around the arctic is that the Dungeon Master told them that they could locate a portal home.  They are able to open the portal home despite piss poor instructions, but Venger shows up to cock block them again.  He decides to entomb them in ice, then inexplicably leaves the scene.  This gives the kids an opportunity to escape.

The kids seem to be taking this failure to get home a bit harder than usual.  So hard that they decide that Venger has to pay.  Hank decides that since they haven’t been up to the task that the best solution is to sic Tiamat on him.  I have to admit, as half-baked plans go, this one could actually work.

The Dungeon Master, obviously concerned at the turn his game is taking, shows up to give his typically cryptic advice to the group.  He begins to talk about how the '”Duke of Darkness” has taken over some distant land, evil must be vanquished, etc.

This time, Hank is having none of it.  He demands to know how they can find Tiamat and how they can trick her into taking Venger out.  Hank and the rest of the group surround the gnome-like little man and make it clear that saying “no” is not an option for him.

Realizing he has a full-fledged player revolt on his hands, Dungeon Master spins some nonsense about them needing to go to the Dragon’s Graveyard.  When they ask where that is, he only says that “they carry the way with them”.  No longer surrounded, he quickly makes an exit stage right.

I think I speak for all DM’s when I say that we have all had to deal with a player revolt at some point.  Looks like he managed to spin it well.  Good for him.

The Dragon’s Graveyard – Part II

The group mulls over Dungeon Master’s advice and realize the obvious.  Since they carry artifact weapons from the Dragon’s Graveyard, that must be what Dungeon Master was referring to when he said that they “carry the way with them”. 

(Not Dungeon Master’s best work, but he did have to come up with something fast)

Anyway, while they are attempting to puzzle out how to use the weapons to reach the Dragon’s Graveyard when they are attacked by Venger again.   Totally outclassed, the kids run for a nearby cave.  Venger takes out his wrath on Uni, blasting the young unicorn with his evil magic.  The group manages to reach the cave, but Venger collapses the cave entrance on them.

Now trapped in the cave with a dying unicorn, the group is really pissed.  Nevertheless they manage to activate the magic to enter the Dragon’s Graveyard, which is apparently on the moon.

I never realized the ancient Arkhosian Empire was on the moon! The kids wander among the bones in the graveyard when… HOLY CRAP IS THAT A DRAGONBORN SKELETON AT THE 5:54 MARK?!?

It seriously is.  Not the last appearance dragonborn skeletons will make in this episode either.  In fact a ton of them litter the graveyard, and all of them are holding ancient Arkoshian magic items!

All this time I figured dragonborn represented the worst excesses of 4E.  Now I realize they are old-school.  Well, at least early-eighties old-school.

Back to the episode, like any adventuring party worth its salt, the group begins to loot the dead bodies for their magic.  They find many items, including a horn that apparently summons Tiamat.  She is less willing to talk when she first arrives, so they decide to shoot first and ask questions later.  This causes them to realize that their weapons are more powerful in the Dragon’s Graveyard.  We then abruptly cut to:

The Dragon’s Graveyard – Part III

After a perfunctory battle Tiamat, she realizes they want her to kill Venger.  She won’t, but she does clue them in that they can do the deed themselves with their enhanced weaponry.  Tiamat also offers to serve up Venger to them on a silver platter before teleporting away.

Bored, the kids decide to play around with some of the loot.  Specifically, Eric is scared by a trident that spews lightning and the thief finds a net that feels “alive”.

Tiamat arrives at Venger’s castle, sending him to the Dragon’s Graveyard to battle the kids.  Not wanting to play fair, Venger casts a spell to raise the dragonborn as skeletons.

The group figures the skeletons will be pushovers, but as noted before all of them are wielding their own artifact weapons.  That battle initially goes poorly for the party, but in the end the skeletons are no match for them (probably due to their low hit dice).

The party gets the drop on Venger and Hank ties him to a rock with his magic arrows.  The party tells Hank that it is up to him whether or not to kill Venger.  He obviously considers it, but realizes that as a 1E ranger that he needs to maintain a good alignment.  Knowing Dungeon Master will probably be a dick about the “killing in cold blood” thing, Hank opts to let Venger go.

Speaking of Dungeon Master, the smug little gnome appears as soon as Venger is freed.  He uses the “living net” that the thief found earlier to heal Uni.  While the party is gathered around Uni, Dungeon Master tells the vanquished Venger “rise my son” before sending him back to the Realm. 

Returning to the kids, he spews some more B.S. before transporting everyone back to the Realm where they can continue to do his bidding.

Player revolt averted.  My hat is off to you Dungeon Master!


Scafloc said...

I thought I remembered some kind of Venger/Dungeonmaster connection.