Dungeons & Dragons: Ultimate Warduke by NECA

It’s crazy how you can go ages without any real D&D licensed toys and then all of the sudden, they’re dropping all over the place, like slimy guts out of a slain Beholder. Hasbro has been using the license to make figures based off the old 80’s cartoon and the upcoming film, Honor Among Thieves, but now NECA has stepped into the ring with the license to do modern versions of the old LJN Advanced Dungeons & Dragons figures. The first two releases are Warduke and Grimsword, and I’m starting my look at these today with Warduke!

To me, Warduke was the Boba Fett of the AD&D world: A mysterious masked warrior with waves of badassery wafting off of him. He was easily my favorite figure in the LJN line, and he would always be waging some epic battles with the heroic Strongheart. NECA’s version comes in their standard Ultimate style packaging. You get a window box with a flap covering the front and a mix of artwork and actual photos of the figure all around. And that’s a hell of a piece of character art on the front of the box! I’m really excited to check this guy out, so let’s just dive right in!

Even before I got him out of the box, I have to admit that I was in awe of this figure while still peeping at him through the window. NECA took the original toy design and just ran with it, turning everything up to the hyper-detailed and realistic max. I’m actually a bit speechless and not sure where to begin, because this figure looks absolutely stunning on just about every level. The network of belts and straps crisscrossing his torso are all sculpted separately, giving up a lot of depth to the figure in general. The yellow belt from the original figure is now painted in gold with a demon-head motif and a more pronounced brown furry sash dipping down between his legs. He has one buccaneer boot on the right foot with red oval stones and his left boot is fortified with a sculpted, spiked armored plate and straps. Warduke’s right side is far less heavily defended and showing a lot of skin, while his left arm and leg are clad in sculpted chainmail, with a gorgeous metallic blue finish. His right arm also has an armored bracer and gauntlet with individually sculpted straps, painted right down to the tiny silver buckles. The eclectic costume is rounded out by a spiked left shoulder guard and an amulet hanging around his neck, strung with what looks like golden fangs. Warduke may not be a fan of symmetry, but he sure knows how to look intimidating!

The mysterious helmeted head is painted in the same sumptuous metallic blue as the chain mail, with the exposed area inside the helmet left black and featureless, except for two piercing red eyes. The package suggests there is just a man under there, by as a kid my imagination went with something more dark and demonic. He has some red ornamental stones on the forehead and back of the helmet, as well as stubby horns on top. The wings on the helmet are a bit more refined than the ones on the original figure, and they’re even pretty damn sharp at the tips! Part of me would have liked to see a little more in the way of facial contours inside the helmet, but it almost looks like he’s meant to be wearing a mask under it, and that’s fine.

Warduke wears three blades on his person, carried in varying styles of scabbards and sheathes. The most notable being his broadsword, which resides in a scabbard across his back. The scabbard is smooth and without texture, but does have some sculpted straps and a copper painted throat and tip. The second largest is a blue scabbard with ornamental gold throat and tip, as well as some bands, and hangs off his belt by a real gold chain. He also has a sculpted red pouch hanging between this scabbard and the one for the larger sword. And finally, on his right hip he has a brown sheath with some black wraps, sculpted stitching along the edges, and a red diamond-shaped jewel with some ornamental beads hanging. The detail on all of these pieces is fantastic, and they contribute to his eclectic look. Campaigns in AD&D are always about improving your gear through loot, and all of this stuff certainly looks like it was acquired and added to his arsenal along the way.

The articulation here is pretty solid, with rotating hinges in the shoulders, elbows, knees, and ankles. The neck is ball jointed, and you get another ball joint down near the waist. The hips are ball jointed, allowing for a bit of swivel up there, and the ankles ensure his feet can stay flat on the ground in wider stances. The wrists are hinged pegs, allowing for the hands to be swapped out. You get two pairs of accessory holding hands, and a right hand with a pointing finger. I had no issues with any of the joints on this figure, and I think the range of motion is really good. The elbows can pull of 90-degrees, which is not bad for this type of joint, albeit double hinges would have been preferred. I think my only nitpick here would be that the arms hang a little far from the body, but I guess that gives him a readiness stance, which works for the character. OK, let’s look at the weapons, and we’ll start small and work our way up!

The brown sheath holds what looks like a miniature fachion. It has an angled blue hilt that matches the color of Warduke’s chainmail and helmet. The blade is painted silver and has some notable wear on the blade. I’m actually not sure if this is intentional or not, but it really looks great for weathering. The grip has some deep sculpted scrollwork patterns and two silver painted rivets.

The dagger is probably big enough to be considered a short sword. It has a long, thin blade, almost like a stiletto. The hilt is gold with some red painted jewels and not much of a guard. It’s not a perfect match for the broadsword, but the two do go together fairly well.

The broadsword is certainly an imposing piece of cutlery, with an extended grip that could work as a two-hander. The grip is painted brown and the guard and pommel are both gold, with a painted red jewel in the center of the guard. The blade thins near the blade and then swells out just a bit for the remainder of its double-edge. Unlike the smaller weapons, the silver finish on this blade is immaculate.

Of course, Warduke also comes with his rather iconic skull shield! It never occurred to me as a kid playing with the figure, that Warduke’s armor was designed with his left arm intended as his sword arm, and the shield carried in his right to protect his less-armored half. I don’t think I made that connection until I was a teenager studying arms and armor in my spare time. The shield looks amazing with a beautiful dark steel finish and a lumpiness to the sculpt that makes it look like it was forged with a bit of crudeness. It’s an absolutely intimidating piece with the horned skull and dark voids for eyes. The reverse side has a grab bar and a sculpted arm strap textured like leather with rivets holding it into place.

And finally, Warduke comes with a flame effect for his sword, which really elevates the display quality of what was an already amazing figure. The piece is cast in soft orange translucent plastic and it fits rather snugly around the sword. Because clearly this guy didn’t look badass enough without igniting his blade. I mean, holy shit!

I’m well aware that I tend to churn out pretty positive reviews on the stuff I look at here. What can I say? I don’t buy stuff that I don’t think I’m going to like, and as a result I’m not usually disappointed. But when I say that Warduke here is one of the best figures I’ve handled in a long while, I hope that comes across as genuine and not just some hyperbole. This figure is absolutely stunning to look at and loads of fun to play with, and while some would demand more in the way of articulation, I think this is a perfect blend of sculpt and poseability. But in the end, it’s the modernized design, the detail in the sculpt, and the quality of the paint that sells it so well. It is indeed the ultimate version of the character that I could have only dreamed of owning as a kid. And with so many excellent Mythic Legions figure reviews under my belt, I’m still willing to say that this is probably the best fantasy-themed figure I’ve ever looked at here. I’m anxious to check out Grimsword, and I can only hope that this line continues to cover as many of the LJN figures as possible.

Vintage Vault: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Young Male Titan by LJN

We’ve come to the last of the AD&D figures in my collection, or at least those that I can put my hands on at the moment. I know there are some more in one of those scary, unsorted tubs in the back of one of my closets, but until I get the ambition to start digging through it, this may be the last time we see AD&D on VV for a little while. In fact Vintage Vault may be going on hiatus for a bit, but that’s a topic and a decision for next week. Today we’re looking at the last of the three Giants figures in LJN’s AD&D line: The Young Male Titan. I’ve got no in package shot of this guy, so let’s just dig right in.

There’s definitely a Grecco-Roman vibe going on with this guy. He’s wearing a yellow chestplate, yellow skirt, yellow grieves and arm bracers, and sandals. Yellow may seem like an odd choice, but I’m not going to pick on the coloring here, since this line was all about bright coloring and the fact that YMT is pretty color coordinated, I think it works ok. The paint work isn’t too bad either.

I’m not so crazy about the head sculpt on this guy, as it looks like he’s taken a few too many whacks in the head. It’s not so much that he’s ugly (although he kind of is), but it literally looks like part of his head is partially caved in. Let’s just say he looks odd and leave it at that. The sculpting on the figure’s body is passable. He has some well-defined muscles and a little shallow scrollwork sculpted into his armor.

The articulation is the same as the other giants in the line. He has ball jointed shoulders and hips and his head turns. Unfortunately, the hip joints on my figure have really seen better days. Unless he’s standing with his legs perfectly straight, his legs collapse under the weight of the figure and he winds up doing the splits… ouch!

YMT follows the same accessories formula as the other giants, Northlord Barbarian and Ogre King. He has a detachable belt with a loop for one of his weapons, he has a removable helmet, a shield, and two weapons, in this case a spear and a sword. I really dig the helmet’s Greek style complete with red bristle comb and it fits the figure pretty well. The silver on the face guard is a little chipped on mine, but it still looks good. The shield is really ornate with a raised yellow lion head above an eye circled by laurel branches. The sword is leaf bladed with a yellow painted hilt and the spear is pretty straightforward.

Digging out a lot of my AD&D figures was a whole heap of fun. It really caused the nostalgia to come at me in waves, but oddly enough I’m not feeling it so much with this guy. It’s strange because I really loved this figure as a kid, but looking at him now he’s just a little bland and a whole lot of ugly. I still dig all the gear he comes with, but he doesn’t hold up as well as the Northlord Barbarian did when I first got him out of storage. Not to rag on Young Male Titan too badly. He’s still a solid enough figure and a great addition to any AD&D line, but the magic just isn’t here anymore.

Vintage Vault: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Zarak by LJN

Yes, we’ve come back around to LJN’s AD&D line again. Today we’re checking out another one of the standard figures. He’s Zarak, the Evil Half-Orc Assassin! It’s been a long week for me, so I’m just going to get right to it.

Zarak came on a standard AD&D card, with some subtle differences depending on whether you got him as part of Series 1 or Series 2. The character art is pretty cool. It’s a lot darker and more sinister than the somewhat goofy figure. As always, you get a rather lengthy bio blurb on the front of the card, which is more about the Race and Class than it is the specific character of Zarak. I always found it odd that LJN decided to do a Half-Orc figure and never a full-blooded one. Maybe they had one planned before the line was cancelled.

Out of the package and Zarak is an odd little fellow indeed. Yes, “little” isn’t what one tends to think of when one thinks of Orcs, but Zarak probably got his altitude-challenged nature from his human side. Still, he’s got a stout, stocky build and crooked shoulders, which helps give him an undeniably twisted look. I like his outfit, it’s black with some red trim, red gloves, and he even has a whip and a red pouch sculpted onto the back of his belt. I’m a little divided on the head sculpt. First off, he has a blue hood with a black outfit? Girlfriend, you need to learn how to accessorize! <double snap> It just looks weird and wrong. I’m tempted to pick up a spare and paint it red or black to see how it looks. And then there’s his face itself, which kind of looks like Shrek with chickenpox. He’s certainly an ugly bastard!

Zarak has five points of articulation. You get ball jointed shoulders, ball jointed legs at the hips, and a head that turns side to side. His short, stubby legs and arms don’t give you a lot of poseability, but the articulation is pretty standard for the line.

Our little assassin friend comes up pretty light in the accessories department, which is disappointing. LJN obviously didn’t use a lot of plastic on him, so one would think they could have thrown a few more goodies into the mix.  All he comes with is a little yellow dagger. How about the whip? Why not include a whip instead of just sculpting it to his back?

Even all the nostalgia in the world can’t help some figures, and Zarak is almost one of those. There’s not a lot of redeeming qualities here, but I still have too many fond memories of him as a kid to hate on him now. Granted, as a kid I just used him as toady, rather than a fierce assassin, but there was still always a place for him crawling around my Fortress of Fangs playset. Still, you can pick him up for pretty cheap nowadays and if you get him without his dagger, you aren’t missing out on much.

Vintage Vault: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Hook Horror by LJN

Ok, I think it’s been long enough that we can stand to come back to revisit LJN’s AD&D line on Vintage Vault. Today we’re checking out another one of the poseable monster figures. LJN only did two of these (I’m not counting Tiamat, because he’s in a class all by himself!) and we’ve already looked at the Dragonne, so today we’ll take a look at the Hook Horror! THE HORROR!!! Today’s going to be a bit of a quickie, as I have some drinking social obligations later on and since there isn’t a hell of a lot to him, Hook Horror is a figure that I can do justice in a pretty short amount of time.

No packaged shot, but like the Dragonne, this fellow came in a window box. It’s nothing spectacular, but it does show off the toy pretty well and has lots of fun AD&D information on the back panel. Since I don’t have the package, I had to resort to one of my dog eared Monster Manuals for this one. Apparently Hook Horror is a neutrally aligned aberration that tends to live in caves and possesses its own language to communicate with other Hook Horrors.

The figure is a pretty good representation of official TSR illustrations. He’s a hulking black and gray creature, which despite having an overall humanoid appearance, features birdlike feet and beaked head similar to a vulture. He’s got little upturned ears and, of course, his powerful arms terminate into giant hooks. LJN did a nice job sculpting this beastie, as there’s a lot of texturing, particularly on his back, and the muscles on his chest are nicely defined. The coloring is pretty simple, as most of the figure is molded in black plastic, with the hooks and ears molded in a softer, yellow plastic. There’s some grey paintwork at the ends of his arms and legs, and his beak and eyes are painted yellow.

Despite being one of the poseable monsters of the line, Hook Horror still doesn’t have a lot of articulation. His head turns from side to side and his arms rotate at the shoulders. The rest of him is just a statue. Some cuts in the hips would have been welcome.

And that’s all I’ve got on the Hook Horror. Told ya this would be a quickie. He’s not a bad figure when placed in the context of the line, but he doesn’t come close to the amazing work LJN did on the Dragonne. Still, he’s relatively cheap to buy, I replaced my broken original for about $12, so if you want, you can put together a whole herd of these things to fight your heroes and not have to empty the treasure chest to do it. They tend to turn up in good condition, with the two biggest problems being loose arms that won’t stay up and chipping on the yellow paint around the beak. As I mentioned when looking at the Dragonne, I’ve always been surprised LJN went with Hook Horror as being one of the only two poseable monsters in the line, rather than one of the more higher profile monsters, but then I’m reminded that many more were planned before the line was cancelled. And that was a real shame.

Vintage Vault: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Mercion by LJN

Hey guys, its Friday and that means Vintage Vault. I know, I know. I promised something other than AD&D this week, but I’m going to have to beg your indulgence for just one more week as when I pulled the Sectaurs figure I was originally planning on looking at, I found I needed to do some additional tote hunting for his accessories. So, let’s extend the Friday AD&D marathon just one more week and check out this figure. And holy hell, its even still carded!

Ah, yeah, the card has seen much better days, but that’s ok. We still get the point and I don’t feel so bad about tearing it open. The card proclaims Mercion as a Good Cleric Female, which gives her the distinction of being the only girly-girl in the poseable figure line. Check out the price tag… Bradlees! Holy shit, I remember Bradlees! For you young’uns, it was basically a forerunner to the big box stores like Target. You could buy all sorts of stuff there and they usually had some pretty good selections of toys and action figures. Mercion was originally ticketed at $2.97!
As we saw when we looked at the cardback for Melf, Mercion has a little bio about her race and class under her character art. I really dig the character art, even if it is a bit at odds with the actual action figure. What does disappoint me a little is that the blurb points out that the clerics’ main weapon was the mace or hammer, and Mercion comes with a staff. No biggie. At least they didn’t give her something as uncharacteristic as a sword. The back of the card is identical to Melf’s with some artwork displaying some of the other characters on top and some rather poorly composed photos of some of the PVC monsters on the bottom. Ok, let’s tear this baby open and bask in the funk of pure, unspoiled 80’s air.
The bubble may have yellowed, but the figure inside is minty fresh and that’s doubly cool because she has so much in the way of softgoods garb. Much like the wizards, Kelek and Ringlerun, you don’t get to see a lot of the sculpting on Mercion’s body because she has an actual belted tunic and a hooded cloak. You can see her boots and her plate armor covered arms and gauntleted hands. Her head sculpt is pretty solid, especially for a line where hardened, ugly faces are the norm. Mercion’s fairly attractive and has long sculpted blonde hair. If you peek under her tunic, she actually has a full set of sculpted armor. When I was a kid, I actually did a little custom work on my worn version by painting her hair and removing the rest of her tattered tunic. The result worked pretty well for a completely different figure.
I really can’t say enough great things about the softgoods outfit. The tunic is perfectly shaped and neatly belted at her waist and tied at the back. It looks better than it should on a figure in this small scale. The sparkly cloak hangs around her neck with a tiny piece of silver thread and is easily removed for when she needs room to move and put the smackdown on some evil.
Articulation? If you’ve been reading these AD&D figure features for the past couple of months, then you should know what to expect, but Mercion throws us a little of a curve. Her head and hair are all sculpted in one piece with her body, so there’s no head movement. You do still get ball joints at the shoulders, and the legs are ball jointed at the hips.
As previously mentioned, Mercion comes with a staff. In fairness, it does have a mace head giving it some potential as a bashing weapon. But based on the character art on the card, I think its intended to be more of a magical piece. She can comfortably hold it in either hand, but not really both at the same time.
Mercion may not be a major stand out figure in this line. She’s pretty normal looking, doesn’t come with a flash assortment of weapons, she’s just generally low key. I think the expertly crafted and fitted softgoods are definitely her strongest point and she does look great standing on the shelf with the rest of her good adventurer chums. She can be tough to find with her tunic and cloak in good condition, but even if you need to get her without any of her softgoods, the sculpted armor still makes for a decent figure or variant.

Vintage Vault: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Ogre King by LJN

Its Friday, and that means its time for a look at another action figure from LJN’s AD&D line. This update will be the last time I devote Friday’s to strictly AD&D as next week Friday becomes the only day of the week for Vintage Vault and it will feature a rotating lineup of toylines. AD&D will continue to be featured heavily on VV, I’ve got lots more figures to look at, but it just won’t be every week. We’re ending the Friday AD&D Marathon today with another one of the Giants in the line. Its the Evil Ogre King!

As with the Northlord Barbarian, The Ogre King is a larger and more deluxe assortment of figure, but he’s still meant to be scaled with the rest of the figures and hence he’s a Giant! While pitting the Northlord Barbarian against this guy may have seemed like a fair fight, I used to love having to send a whole party of adventurers against him, and he usually wound up hurling Melf or Elkhorn before one of the more substantial adventurers did him in. Good times!
As an Ogre, you would expect this guy to look mean and green. Well, he’s certainly green, but the head sculpt could use a little more mean. There’s a lot of attention to detail in the head, and he’s certainly a whole bucketload of ugly, but I think he could have done with a fiercer expression. He sort of looks like he’s smiling and possibly about to invite you to tea.
The Ogre King also features some rather peculiar armor choices. He has a gladiatorial style ensemble for his right arm, which is accompanied by various belts sculpted across his chest. He’s also got what looks like a segmented plate armor tube top that comes up just under his chest. Its capped off with a removable soft plastic belt and “skirt” that is made to look like an extension of his stomach armor. His legs have knee guards and he has armor for his calves, but his feet are left bare. Its a bit of an odd choice of coverings. I would think an Ogre King could afford better protection. You could pretty much just stomp on his toes and then stab him in the heart.
The paintwork on this figure is solid enough, but once again its a bit odd. The aqua colored armor is peculiar, but certainly makes for a distinctive looking figure. I do really like the dark green used for his skin. There is a variant, which uses a much lighter skintone, that I don’t think works as well.

The accessories for the Giants all follow the same pattern, so just like with the Northlord Barbarian, Ogre King comes with a helmet, a removable soft plastic belt, a sword, a shield, and a spare weapon, in this case a spiked mace. The belt features a loop so you can store the spare weapon, although this figure can only store his mace there as the sword blade is too big to fit. Indeed, the sword is a pretty wild shaped piece with a blade that bellows out and features a notch in the edge. The hilt is nicely sculpted and painted yellow. The shield is long with an embossed dragon motif and the yellow, black, and aqua coloring matches the rest of the figure’s motif. The helmet is a simple cap that balances procariously on his head. I help it stay in place with a dot of bluetack.
Ogre King’s articulation is identical to that of the Northlord Barbarian. The head turns, the arms are ball jointed at the shoulders, and his legs are ball jointed at the hips. Not exactly super articulated, but it gets the job done.

There’s no bones about it, The Ogre King is a strange figure. I have to confess that I really dig it, but I think a lot of that love comes mostly from nostalgia. If I hadn’t owned this figure as a kid and spent tons of time playing with it, I don’t think I would be nearly attached to it. Even now, its pretty far down on my list of AD&D figures. One thing that is pretty cool about him is that you can army build him and mix up his accessories to get a pretty convincing little band of Ogres together to fight. As with the Northlord Barbarian, he’s pretty easy to find with all his goodies and minimal paintwear for around the $25 range. if you’re looking for extras to fill in your ranks, you can probably find incomplete versions for a little less.

Vintage Vault: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Warduke by LJN

Its Friday, Its Vintage Vault, and its time for some more 80’s AD&D goodness from LJN. This time we’re checking out the Evil Fighter, Warduke.

It may surprise some to learn that I place him up there as one of the most iconic action figures of the 80’s.  It helps that I was really into the AD&D game at the time and there’s no better way to say it: For me, Warduke was the Boba Fett of the AD&D universe. I didn’t know much about who he was, but he was a mysterious masked guy and in my mind, he was an utterly evil badass. And I clearly wasn’t the only one, because Warduke enjoyed his own little line of merchandise at the time, which included everything from pencil sharpeners, stickers, and even a Halloween Costume. He even appeared in the Saturday morning cartoon and in the official TSR game canonicity.
And there he is in all his badassery. Despite being classified as a human, Warduke’s head suggests otherwise. He wears a blue helmet with a crystal in the top center and those iconic antlers on the sides. His face is blacked out, all except for his glowing red eyes that peer out menacingly from the helmet’s cutout. You know he’s a tough dude, because he fights with very little armor. His chest is mostly bare, except for some criss crossing straps, and his right leg and right arm are bare as well. He has a little magical bling around his neck and a cool demon skull motif on his gold belt. His right leg and arm feature blue textured chainmail, a silver gauntlet on his hand, and a spiked leg brace just above his boot. Its a great sculpt and like I said, totally iconic for me. The paintwork is very clean and makes for a really colorful figure.
While Warduke was originally released in a regular version, LJN re-released many of the figures with a couple different kinds of play gimmicks. You could get some with shields that shot their spring-loaded fronts, and then you could get the Battle Mattic (also sometimes known as Battle Masters) versions, like Warduke here. The only real difference between the two versions was that this guy has a lever on his back that works his sword arm, moving it in an up and down slashing motion. It doesn’t really impose on the figure much and its a cool little gimmick. One of my favorite things about the Battle Matic version is it confirmed the idea that Warduke was left handed. I’ve often seen him posed with his shield an his left hand and sword in his right, which makes no sense given his left side is armored and his right side is bare. Logically, his right side should be protected by his shield, and by putting the sword slashing gimmick in his left arm, I was vindicated in many a schoolyard debates, even if his appearance on the cartoon had it the other way around.

Despite his action feature, Warduke still has the same level of articulation as most of the LJN poseable figures. You get ball joints in the shoulders and hips and a head that turns 360-degrees. The action gimmick includes a ratcheting joint in his sword arm’s shoulder, but it doesn’t inhibit the articulation in any way.
Warduke comes wtih two accessories. You get his iconic skull shield and his magical sword, Nightwind. The shield is a very cool piece and has a handle for him to hold it. I remember my original Warduke’s shield lost the handle and so I had to put a piece of modeling clay in there and stick it onto his hand. I’ve since replaced that figure with this fresh minty, like-new Battle Mattic one. Nightwind is also a cool little accesory. The hilt is slightly ornate with a yellow paintjob and the blade is slightly leaf shaped.
If you can’t tell by now, I absolutely adore this figure. The design is great and the attention paid to the sculpt and paintwork really reflect the love that LJN often vested into this line of action figures. Its somewhat uncommon when a mere action figure becomes so popular that he creates his own lore, but that’s exactly what happened when LJN created this guy and he eventually found his way into the cartoon, and thus the rich fiction of TSR’s official canon. If you happen to just want one figure that represents this line so well, be sure to pick up Warduke. He’s surprisingly easy to find in great condition and even with his weapons, he shouldn’t set you back that much treasure.

Dungeons & Dragons cartoon image borrowed from The Dungeons & Dragons Cartoon Encyclopedia. Your one-stop source for everything and anything related to the classic Saturday morning cartoon.

Vintage Vault: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Melf by LJN

Yes, its Friday and thank God for that, because if it weren’t for Vintage Vault, I’d be shit out of content. The stores’ toy shelves are still bare of anything new or interesting and we’re hovering in the Summer duldrums, waiting for new product to launch. So, today we’re checking out another AD&D figure by LJN and for the first time I actually have a cardback to show off!

And there it is! Today we’re looking at the Good Fighter Elf, who just so happens to be named Melf. Yes, Melf the Elf. Its unfortunate. The front of the cardback has a stripe on the top corner declaring him to be one of the good guys. There’s a nice piece of artwork showing off the character beside the bubble, and under that, there’s an informative blurb about the Elf Fighter. Its not so much a bio of the character, but more details about the race and class, which I always thought was cool. As a tie-in line, LJN really worked hard to keep these toys authentically linked to the AD&D lore, and I always appreciated that.

The back panel of the card shows a pretty cool illustration of some of the figures and beasts in action. You can see the Northlord Barbarian and Strongheart the Paladin, both figures we’ve already looked at. You can also see some guys we haven’t gotten to yet. The bottom shows some rather poor quality photos of some of the PVC monsters, although oddly enough doesn’t tell you who they are!

Moving on to the figure itself, Melf has always been a mixed bag for me. On the one hand, he is a very cool figure, with some exceptional detail for such a little guy and some very cool gear. On the other hand, his head sculpt always bothered me, because it just doesn’t seem like an Elf to me, and that’s why I always used him as a Half-Elf. His noggin is just too big and meaty and he looks like there’s some human mixed in there. Apart from that the head sculpt is very nicely detailed. You can clearly make out his pointed ears, flowing blonde hair and his headband. Unfortunately, it just looks like he got punched in the face a bunch of times. He certainly looks nothing like the face illustrated on the cardback.

The rest of the figure, on the other hand, looks pretty close to the artwork. The most important thing to know about this guy is that he is tiny. Nonetheless, LJN spared no expense on the sculpt. The chainmail on his arms and legs is all textured with a nice criss-cross pattern. His tunic features armor discs and he has a little belt with a pouch sculpted on it. Even his tiny boots feature some loving details. The paintwork is equally impressive, with light blue for the chainmail, brown for the tunic and boots, and yellow for his armor accents. The whole ensemble is finished off with a softgoods cape and high collar that attaches around his neck with a little silver string.

In addition to great detail, Melf comes with some cool weapons. He has a bow and quiver of arrows, a sword, and a shield. The sword is pretty standard with a yellow hilt and a leaf-shaped blade, all of which is as long as Melf is tall. [So, obviously, my alcohol addled mind missed it, but as an astute reader has correctly pointed out, I shot this with Warduke’s sword. I’ll have to dig through some baggies of parts to find Melf’s original sword, but I’ll get to it eventually. As always, folks, thanks for keeping me on my toes! -FF] The shield is very well done with a sculpted wood pattern on the front face, sculpted rivets, a sculpted emblem, and a yellow border. The bow and quiver are sculpted in one piece, and while he really can’t hold them in an action pose you can sling it on his shoulder or have him leaning on it.

Despite his size, Melf features the same basic articulation as nearly all the AD&D figures. You get ball joints in the shoulders and hips, and a head that turns left and right.

Melf is by no means a perfect figure. It should be really hard to get past that head of his. But everything else about this figure is executed so well, that I can be pretty forgiving. He’s always been an iconic looking figure and one that looks like he jumped right out of the pages of one of Gygax’s player manuals. His gear is well thought out and fun, and he looks great when displayed in an adventuring party with the other good guys of the bunch.

Vintage Vault: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dragonne by LJN

[As promised, I’m back today with a wee bit of content. I still have no idea whether I’ll be here for the weekend or not, but if I’m still kicking around at home, I’ll probably get some time to do some posting. If not, I’ll be back on Monday to try to wrangle things back to normal at the FigureFan Ranch. -FF]

Its Friday, and that means its time for some more 1980’s AD&D action figure goodness from LJN. Today we’re going to check out our first creature from the line, and no, Strongheart’s Destrier didn’t count! Most of LJN’s AD&D creatures were the non-poseable PVC kind, but there were a couple bonafide action figures based on the beastiary of Gary Gygax’s Monster Manuals. The Dragonne is one of those, so let’s see what he’s all about…

No package shot, but the Dragonne came in a large window box with a backflap on the top. My familiarity with AD&D is a bit rusty, so I had to consult the ratty, dog-eared Monster Manual. Ahem… according to the all-knowing Gygax, the Dragonne is a Neutral Aligned, desert dwelling, magical beast that looks like a cross between a Brass Dragon and a Lion. When I was a young’un I always thought this thing was supposed to be a Griffin, but I guess that’s different. He has wings, but apparently they’re only good for short trips. He can also let out a terrifying roar that renders all creatures fatigued or exhausted unless they can win a saving throw. All in all, this guy probably isn’t the worst thing you could come across while on a campaign, but you probably wouldn’t want to meet it when it was pissed off.
There’s a fair amount of differences between LJN’s toy and many of TSR’s concept drawings, but that having been said, I think LJN really did the Dragonne proud and I really can’t say enough great things about the sculpt here. The head is amazing, both ferocious and majestic with plenty of detail in the mane, the teeth, and even his little beard. Each individual scale is sculpted on the body as well as the segmented plates in his chest. His toes, claws, and even the pads on his feet are all here. The wings, sculpted in separate and detachable pieces have sculpted veins running through them. Clearly a lot of thought and love went into this toy.
As amazing as the sculpt is, the coloring on thsi figure is equally fantastic. The toy is cast in a beige plastic with loads of paint applied all around. The coppery color used for his wings and scales is just perfect. It makes the figure really stand out on the shelf and it holds up so incredibly well. Even after 30 years, this figure still looks so bright and vibrant. There’s plenty of detailed paintwork on the head, both white and copper on his fur and great crimson eyes. The coloring is finished off with a rich orange for his belly, brown for his footpads, and white for his claws.
The Dragonne isn’t one of the most articulated figures out there, but when compared to LJN’s bendy PVC statues, we’ll take what we can get. There are a whopping four points of articulation here. The head turns from side to side, the front arms (legs?) rotate at the shoulders, and the tail rotates at the base. The wings don’t move, but they are removable.
With all the iconic critters to choose from, I can’t quite understand why LJN chose the Dragonne as one of the deluxe, poseable monsters, but in retorspect I’m glad they did. Its hard to deny that this turned out to be one great looking toy. What’s more, while he often turns up for sale missing his wings, it only takes a wee bit of dedication to track down a nice, complete example. He’s a pretty rugged toy so there isn’t much breakage or wear to worry about, and its not uncommon to be able to pick up good examples at toy shows or on Ebay for under $20. There may have been a lot of creatures I would have rather seen produced in this format, but in the absence of any real evil dragons to fight (I never did own Tiamat), this is usually the beast that my noble adventurers had to slay in order to get at the treasure. Thirty years later, he’s still a great looking figure, and I’m proud to have him on my shelf.

Vintage Vault: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Kelek and Ringlerun by LJN

While the dungeons and the dragons may have received top billing in TSR’s roleplaying game, AD&D was just as much about wizards and their crazy magics. Contrary to popular belief at the time, you didn’t have to be an old bearded fart in robes to be a spell-slinger, but it didn’t hurt either and LJN did their best to uphold the stereotype with their wizard figures. There were two wizards released in the 4-inch scale AD&D action figure line, one from each alignment. So you got the Good Wizard Ringlerun and the Evil Wizard Kelek. Actually, to be precise Kelek was termed a Sorcerer and Ringlerun a Wizard. They were available packaged separately, each on their own card back, but today we’re going to take a gander at the pair of them. Suffice it to say, the packaging on this pair is long gone.

Let’s start off with Kelek because, well hot damn, I love this figure. Talk about iconic? I know he made a cameo in the Saturday morning D&D cartoon, but I’d swear this figure is based on cover art from one of the TSR books, I just can’t find the proof. Anyway, much like Strongheart was the epitome of righeous knighthood, if you look up evil wizard bastard in a dictionary, this is probably what you’d see. He looks like he’d be right at home at Alestair Crowley’s Christmas party.
As far as sculpting goes, you don’t see a lot of it on Kelek, because he’s wearing a set of black softgoods robes that covers everything but his head, hands and little upturned feet. It’s a great garment for a figure in this scale, complete with a stitched red border and a high collar behind his head that looks like flames and I’m shocked that it survived the near 30 years in such great condition. I know there’s sculpting underneith the robes, but they’re stitched on good, and quite frankly, I’m not sure I want to go peeking under there.

Nonetheless, what little sculpting you can see, particularly his head, is really amazing. Stare into this guy’s crazy fucking eyes long enough at your own peril, because it just might drive you mad. The contrast between his shiny bald pate and his flowing white beard and mustache is classic, but its those friggin eyes that just creep me out and really make this figure something special. Any figure released today would be proud to have a head sculpt this expressive.

Kelek has only four points of articulation, because his bearded head is sculpted as part his body. He does have ball joints in his shoulders and hips, as is standard for all LJN’s AD&D figures.
Evil Sorcerers need their gear, and Kelek comes with two accessories. You get a long staff and a short wand. Both are molded in this delightfully ethereal neon green plastic that I immediately associate with the slime we used to get in buckets. The sculpt on both pieces is very nice, with snakes coiled around the shafts. The staff has a dragon spreading its wings and a tormented face at the top. Kelek is meant to be able to hold each accessory in each hand. Mine holds the wand just fine, but he tends to drop the staff a lot. Thankfully, I have plenty of blue tack handy.
And then there’s Ringlerun, who is the Yin to Kelek’s Yang. Or vice-versa. The two of these guys could be brothers who at some point went on their separate ways. Ringlerun has the same bald head and flowing beard, but a kinder face that doesn’t give me nightmares if I stare into his eyes. My Ringlerun’s beard has yellowed, which I presume is age and not by design because his bushy eyebrows are white. Nonetheless, the headsculpt is just as good as Kelek’s, particularly for such an old figure. Ringlerun features the same four points of articulation as Kelek. You get ball joints in the shoulers and hips. His head is sculpted as part of his body.
Much like Kelek, Ringlerun sports the softgoods robes. Ringlerun’s are predominantly white with glitter, giving them something of an ethereal quality. Unlike Kelek, Ringlerun’s robes have proper sleeves, but still cover everything except his head, hands, and feet. He has a red sash with black border running down the front and a high collar behind his head. Ringlerun also features the same upturned wizard shoes as his nemesis, Kelek.
Ringlerun gets by with just one accessory. Its a simple staff with a spherical top. Its the quinticential combination of magic staff and walking stick. I actually like the simple, understated quality of this piece a lot, and RInglerun looks great holding it.                         
Kelek and Ringlerun are both great figures, representing the two opposing sides of what is basically the same character class. If I had to choose between the pair of them, I’d say I like Kelek a little more, mainly because he just looks so thoroughly evil, but Ringlerun is no slouch either. The pair of them are still pretty easy to find without breaking the bank, but their predominant softgoods robes make them a little tougher to find in good condition. Case in point, my Kelek looks like he just came out of the package, while my Ringlerun’s robes are a bit on the shabby side.