Advanced Dungeons & Dragons
Produced by LJN in 1983
The History of LJN Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Toy Line
“Dungeons & Dragons” (D&D) is an RPG (role-playing game) founded on a fictional fantasy-based universe. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson originally designed the tabletop game and first published it in 1974 under Tactical Studies Rules, Inc. (TSR). D&D is often credited as the beginning of the first modern role-playing games, paving the way to the now popular RPG gaming industry.
The Dungeons & Dragons concept expands itself by moving away from traditional two-dimensional top-down war games that originated from a “Japanese Military Chess” concept dating back to known documented origins around 1895. The D&D RPG concept innovatively allowed each player to create their customized character that would imagine their way into adventures within an exciting imaginary realm of action and fantasy. A D&D game session would typically require four to six players, plus a Dungeon Master. The Dungeon Master serves as the game’s adjudicate and storyteller while setting the scene in which the D&D adventures occur. The Dungeon Master also plays the role of the local inhabitants within the gaming realm.
Together the players engage in and solve predicaments, enter into battle, explore the D&D realm, and gather knowledge, power, and treasure to advance each player’s quest. As the game advances, each character seeks to earn “experience points,” providing advanced levels and increasing player powers collected over a series of separate gaming sessions. This innovative concept of continuous development of character structure allowed the player to take ownership in the growth of their characters, therefore increasing the game’s overall replayability.
In 1977, due to the game’s rising popularity, D&D was divided into two divisions attempting to attract new younger players on a more beginners level while maintaining the progressive requirement of advanced players. An entry-level version with an introductory structure and more relaxed rules was created to attract new players and better accommodate beginners. A second version with a more challenging game system, strict structured rules, and detailed narration became Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. By 1981, Dungeons and Dragons had become the most popular game globally, attracting over 3 million monthly players. The popularity of the RPG game continued to expand, allowing TSR to eventually sell over 750,000 copies of the Players Handbook and Dungeon Master’s Guide book by the mid-1980s.
With the growing success and popularity of Dungeons and Dragons and other RPG games, in September of 1981, a novel by Rona Jaffe titled “Mazes and Monsters” was published too surprising success. The book became popular enough to become a made-for-TV movie in 1982 and featured the star bound actor Tom Hanks as the lead role. Before Jaffe’s novel, Urban myths sounding the Dungeons and Dragons game began to develop, speculating that several university students became heavily influenced by the game. After an RPG game session, students supposedly disappeared into campus utility tunnels and became lost, and were rumored to have died on a subterranean quest. These urban legends became the foundation for Jaffe’s novel and perhaps unintentionally incited cautionary awareness of the then-new hobby of fantasy role-playing games.
Adding to the controversy, a young active role-playing gamer committed suicide on June 9, 1982, with a self-inflicted gunshot to the chest. The boy’s mother, Patricia Pulling, believed his suicide was directly related to the Dungeons & Dragons game and founded the public advocacy group “Bothered About Dungeons & Dragons” (BADD) in 1983. The organization’s primary objective was to regulate role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons and encourage parents’ consciousness regarding the alleged dangers of fantasy RPG-style games.
With attempts to capitalize on the recent controversy, TSR, Inc began shopping the Dungeons and Dragons licensing to toy companies and animation studios. After failed negotiations with Mego Toys, TSR struck a licensing deal with LJN and would begin producing a unique toy line based upon the popular “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” game franchise.
Teaming up with TSR’s talented roster of artists like Jeff Easley and Tim Truman, LJN accepted the challenge to bring the Advanced D&D World to life. With a 1983 series one launch, LJN released 3 to 6 inch fully articulated action figures with notable size differences accompanied by a lineup of beasts and dragons. In addition, LJN also introduced several non-poseable plastic (PVC) figurines and one full-sized “Fortress of Fangs” playset to accompany the 1983 series one release. TSR and LJN attempted to develop various D&D character classifications that may be found relevant to the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” game. The LJN design team drew additional inspiration from the legendary illustrated fantasy art featured in the original TSR publications and rule books and worked very hard to keep the traditional fantasy combat aesthetic true to the original campaign models.
In 1984, LJN released a second series with added “Battle-Matic” Spring action features, which allowed arm swinging movement triggered by a switch located on the action figure back. LJN also introduced a new “shield-shooter” feature that allowed a projectile to launch from the action figures shield. Two new action figures were developed with a “shield-shooter” feature, and three previously released series one figures were readopted as a “shield-shooter” variation. In the life span of two years, LJN produced 19 different articulated action figure characters, seven beasts, and one action playset. Several other creatures, characters, and playsets were developed and perhaps even prototyped; however, they were unfortunately never produced.
In addition to the articulated poseable player character and beasts, non-poseable PVC figures, bendy characters, and wind-up toys were also produced, bringing a total of over 45 carded and boxed LJN D&D releases. Although the LJN toy line phased out in 1984, the Dungeons & Dragons RPG game and franchise still live on to this day with popularity and has a worldwide fan base loved by all ages.
History of the Dungeons & Dragons TV Series
Dungeons & Dragons is an animated television series co-produced by Marvel and based on TSR’s Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game. The series ran for three seasons and first aired on September 17, 1983, on CBS Saturday Morning programming. Twenty-seven episodes were produced by the Japanese animation company Toei Animation.
The series focused around a group of six young friends, who are magically transported into a mysterious realm and find themselves on many adventures, amongst their quest to find a way home. Upon arrival in the magical realm, the group immediately encounters Tiamat the Dragon and escapes with the help of their new friended guide, the Dungeon Master.
Interestingly, none of the lead characters appear in the LJN action figure line. However, only a few LJN Advanced Dungeons & Dragons characters like War Duke, Strongheart, and Tiamat the Dragon make brief appearances in the animated series. This was primarily due to a licensing issue, as the Marvel characters developed for the show we’re never licensed for action figure production by LJN.
The star cast of animated voice actors included Willie Aames and Adam Rich of the 1977 comedy-drama series “Eight Is Enough,” and Don Most commonly known as “Ralph Malph” from the 1974 television sitcom “Happy Days.” Other actors included 1980’s animated voice legends Peter Cullen and Frank Welker, who most notably are credited to the voices of Optimus Prime and Megatron. The cast also had several other voice actors, including Sidney Miller, Tonia Gayle Smith, Ted Field III, and Katie Leigh. Leigh would decads later reprise her voice acting role in an audio-only version of the final episode.
Like several other animated series in the 1980s, Dungeons & Dragons was no stranger to controversy. The episode “The Dragon’s Graveyard” was nearly shelved because the characters contemplated killing their nemesis, Venger, in the attempt to return home. In 1985, the National Coalition on Television Violence demanded that the network and the Federal Trade Commission display a warning before each broadcast, stating that Dungeons & Dragons had been tied to real-life violent adolescent deaths. In conjunction with the public advocacy group “Bothered About Dungeons & Dragons” (BADD), it wasn’t enough to stop the show’s production or overall sales of the game. However, after a good run of three seasons, the show did run its course and last aired as a new episode on December 7, 1985.
Unfortunately, no final episode was ever produced, leaving no conclusion to the story or insight into whether the group of friends ever returned home. However, a final script was commissioned, and veteran series writer Michael Reaves did finish a final episode script. The show was canceled before the episode was made. However, the script eventually surfaced and is now obtainable online for fan enjoyment. The final episode script was eventually performed as a “Radio Style” drama and appeared as a special feature on the BCI Eclipse DVD edition.
Dungeons & Dragons TV Series Characters
- Hank, The Ranger
Played by Willie Aames
- Eric, The Cavalier
Played by Don Most
- Diana, The Acrobat
Played by Tonia Gayle Smith
- Presto, The Magician
Played by Adam Rich
- Sheila, The Thief
Played by Katie Leigh
- Bobby, The Barbarian
Played by Ted Field III
LJN Advanced Dungeons & Dragons TV Commercials
Above is a 1983 series one video compilation of vintage LJN Advanced Dungeons and Dragons toy commercials. LJN produced several 30-second T.V. commercials in 1983 to market and promoted the series 1 toy line. Most toy commercials from the 1980’s typically aired during after school programming and Saturday morning cartoons as they were common demographic timeslots for children’s programs. Often, the producers of the toy commercials creatively used scenes of children playing with the toys as part of their action-packed commercial-based marketing.
Collector's Price Guide
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|Image||Product Name||Alliance||Type||Series||Year||MLC||MIB / MWC||MISB / MOC|
|https://x7s81d.p3cdn1.secureserver.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/Young-Male-Titan-THUMB.jpg||Young Male Titan||Hero||Action Figure||1||1983||$65||$80||$215||https://retrotoyquest.com/action-figure-young-male-titan-advanced-dungeons-and-dragons-ljn-1983|
|https://x7s81d.p3cdn1.secureserver.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/Ogre-King-THUMB.jpg||Ogre King||Evil||Action Figure||1||1983||$85||$100||$295||https://retrotoyquest.com/action-figure-ogre-king-advanced-dungeons-and-dragons-ljn-1983|
|https://x7s81d.p3cdn1.secureserver.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Bronze-Dragon-THUMB.jpg||Bronze Dragon||Hero||Action Mount||1||1983||$100||$125||$300||https://retrotoyquest.com/action-monster-bronze-dragon-advanced-dungeons-and-dragons-ljn-1983/|
|https://x7s81d.p3cdn1.secureserver.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Hook-Horror-THUMB.jpg||Hook Horror||Evil||Action Monster||1||1983||$40||$75||$190||https://retrotoyquest.com/action-monster-hook-horror-advanced-dungeons-and-dragons-ljn-1983|
|https://x7s81d.p3cdn1.secureserver.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Fortress-of-Fangs-THUMB.jpg||Fortress of Fangs||Evil||Playset||1||1983||$500||$650||$900||https://retrotoyquest.com/playset-fortress-of-fangs-advanced-dungeons-and-dragons-ljn-1983|
|https://x7s81d.p3cdn1.secureserver.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Tiamat-Dragon-THUMBb.jpg||Tiamat Dragon||Evil||Action Monster||2||1984||$750||$1,400||$5,000||https://retrotoyquest.com/action-monster-tiamat-dragon-advanced-dungeons-and-dragons-ljn-1984|
|https://x7s81d.p3cdn1.secureserver.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Mandoom-THUMB.jpg||Mandoom Shield Shooter||Hero||Action Figure||2||1984||$130||$160||$350||https://retrotoyquest.com/action-figure-mandoom-advanced-dungeons-and-dragons-ljn-1984|
|https://x7s81d.p3cdn1.secureserver.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Mettaflame-THUMB.jpg||Mettaflame Shield Shooter||Evil||Action Figure||2||1984||$90||$120||$275||https://retrotoyquest.com/action-figure-mettaflame-advanced-dungeons-and-dragons-ljn-1984|
|https://x7s81d.p3cdn1.secureserver.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/Missing-Item-THUMB.jpg||Young Male Titan Shield Shooter||Hero||Action Figure||2||1984||$280||$310||$445||https://retrotoyquest.com/action-vehicle-thunderhawk-matt-trakker-kenner-1985-mask/|
|https://x7s81d.p3cdn1.secureserver.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/Missing-Item-THUMB.jpg||Ogre King Shield Shooter||Evil||Action Figure||2||1984||$280||$310||$445||https://retrotoyquest.com/action-vehicle-thunderhawk-matt-trakker-kenner-1985-mask/|
|https://x7s81d.p3cdn1.secureserver.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/Missing-Item-THUMB.jpg||Northlord Shield Shooter||Hero||Action Figure||2||1984||$280||$310||$445||https://retrotoyquest.com/action-vehicle-thunderhawk-matt-trakker-kenner-1985-mask/|
|https://x7s81d.p3cdn1.secureserver.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/Missing-Item-THUMB.jpg||The Whole Collection||NA||SERIES 1&2 TOTAL||1||1983||$3,750||$5,460||$13,160|
How To Use This Price Guide
MLC = “Mint Loose Condition” This is when the action figure or Vehicle is in excellent condition, and is loose and “complete” with all original accessories, but without the packaging and original included paperwork.
MIB = “Mint in box” This is when the collectible is in excellent condition, and is loose and “complete” with all original accessories and original included paperwork.
MWC = “Mint with Card Back” This is when an action figure os is excellent condition, and is loose and “complete” with all original accessories, however included the original card back fully intact. If the original blister bubble is intact, It can bring additional value depending on the condition of the blister bubble.
MISB = “Mint in Sealed Box” This is when the Collectible is in excellent condition, and is factory sealed and was never opened or used.
MOC = “Mint on card” This Is when the action figure is in excellent condition and is factory sealed and it’s original blister bubble and was never opened or used.
COMPLETE = “Complete” This is when the collectible is 100% complete with all of its accessories. Additional paperwork included with the original package does increase the overall value but does not necessarily consider the item complete
DISCLAIMER: All values are estimated by Retro Toy Quest and subject to change and discrepancy, depending on the advanced nature of any collector.