Please excuse the dearth of posts of late. As I mentioned last week, several personal issues arose that kept me from my intentions to continue taking a deeper look at TSR's Dungeons & Dragons mini-adventure ad campaign (as seen in comic books in the early 80's). I'm back, at least for now - it may be a while before I'm able to resume my daily posting schedule, however.
Picking up where we left off, here's the blow-by-blow, gamer's-eye view of the third D&D ad ("Ad 3") circa February, 1982:
Ad 3, Frame 1
Following the second unfortunate event to befall Indel, the party's elf (at the end of the last ish), we find Grimslade, Valerius, and Saren scouring the dungeon for their lost comrade. Well, at least Grimslade and Saren are. Valerius is not calling out for the missing elf, presumably because he's a neutral (if not chaotic) character - as such, he has little desire to risk his own life for the troublesome Indel. (He may even already be formulating his own solution to the Indel Threat* - I know he would be if I were playing the fighter.)
*I view Indel as a threat not just to himself, but to the entire party. There was some discussion in the comments here regarding Indel being an NPC, a tool used by the DM to lure the party into dangerous situations and/or force them to expend resources. I don't personally subscribe to this theory, for reasons I'll discuss below.
Ad 3, Frame 2
Once again, the party is jumped by a wandering monster - or monsters, in this case - as a group of goblins descend upon them, bent on stealing their loot. Although, I'd honestly expect the "Take their treasure!" line to be coming from Valerius' mouth. Apparently nobody's informed the goblins that their sole purpose for existing is to be slain and have their bodies looted by adventurers.
Ad 3, Frame 3
And once again, Grimslade takes charge of the situation. We've been seeing the character's bossiness grow since the first panel of Ad 2. Prior to that, he seemed to need a bit of direction. Either Grimslade's player has a lack of faith in the combat abilities of his comrades, he's got control issues, or he's one of those players (we all know at least one) who needs to hog the spotlight. Whatever the reason, if I were playing one of the other characters - especially Valerius, who has so far been ordered about and left out of combat - I'd being getting a little tired of that commanding old bast- er, coot.
This behavior seemed to start after Grimslade's hair fell out and his beard went white. What happened to him? Is the player just being pissy because the DM made him roll on a critical spell failure chart that caused the PC to age unnaturally? Was the character picked up by another player? Was he perhaps possessed? Hmmm...
If anyone in the party's an NPC, I'm leaning toward it being Grimslade. I'm thinking Grimslade's original player bailed on the game group, and the PC was taken over by the DM. He's already shown that he knows the 5th-level spell hold monster, which makes him - at the minimum - 9th level. What's he doing hanging around with these other mooks? They don't seem well-equipped or confident enough to be anywhere near that level. Grimslade smacks of an NPC, the type a bad DM uses to railroad the players, or to make himself look cool. (I've played with several DM's who liked to insert NPC's into the party for just this reason - the players were just along for the ride. The games usually went the way these mini-adventures have gone thus far.)
Ad 3, Frame 4
And here's the aftermath of the encounter with the goblins. Grimslade used a "simple" sleep spell to handle them, but before they can be sent to their makers, Valerius pulls him away - which I find simply bizarre. (I'm sure we've all played enough to know that a crew like this - despite protests from Saren - isn't going to leave a bunch of sleeping goblins alive and un-looted.) Obviously, Valerius is up to something. Or maybe he is chaotic, after all, and has some motive for sparing the monsters. Or maybe he's just trying to impress the cleric, whose - um, "endowments" seem to have increased since the last ad. (Is she smuggling a pair of crystal balls in her tunic?)
Ad 3, Frames 5 through 7
Cut to Indel, as he tumbles from whatever chute or spell the pit trap in the previous ad dumped him into. From the looks of it, the fall wasn't too far:
"Oh, my head!" is - of course - role-playing shorthand for:
"I only took 4 points of damage from the fall? That's nothing!"
The DM's obviously playing with him. I can just see the devious look of glee on the cruel DM's face as he makes Indel's player feel even better by leading him to believe that the elf may have found an exit...
...only to turn the corner to come face-to-face with a dragon! Not just any dragon, either - it's a red dragon, one of the nastiest of nasties in B/X D&D. And it's not even sleeping...
It's this little scene that leads me to believe that Indel is, indeed, a PC. This looks to me like a sadistic DM getting his kicks by torturing a player character. I could, of course, be wrong. But, being a bit of a sadistic DM myself, this seems like something I might pull. /wink
This brings us to another cliffhanger, and - once again - Indel's in a very bad way. (Given the choice of being dissolved by green slime or roasted by a red dragon, I'm not sure which I'd choose.)
Next time, we'll take a good, hard look (no, that's not a sly reference to frame 2!) at "Ad 4":
Interview: Harrison Smith: Death House Movie - In a world full of zombie and demon movies, Harrison Smith and Entertainment Factory have dared to do something different. That's right, my creepy cohorts...