When Earnest Gary Gygax and David Arneson combined forces to create the groundbreaking Dungeons & Dragons tabletop RPG game, they changed the landscape of gaming. Previously, all tabletop games either were traditional board games, family-focused games, or wargames. However, these two challenged gamers to use their imaginations as they delved into a fantasy world. While the game is now the staple example of tabletop gaming, it began slowly with only one thousand copies sold by Tactical Studies Rules (TSR) in 1974.
Thanks to positive word of mouth, the game that originally failed to find a publisher became a cultural phenomenon. Even negative press coverage from the media helped build the game’s popularity. As Christian groups rallied against the game with claims of satanism, TSR aimed to encourage fresh players into the franchise. So, they toned down the demons and occult nature of the game as they sought out avenues to market the game to children.
Thus, they decided to license Dungeons & Dragons to create a toy line in the early 1980s. While the passing of time lost the details of TSR’s search for a manufacturer, fans know that both Mego and LJN considered the idea. In the end, LJN won the dice roll to become the company that would produce D&D’s first set of action figures. Thus, they debuted the first series of these fanciful toys in 1983.
Presenting the top ten Advanced Dungeons & Dragons toys
10. Northlord Great Barbarian
When players sat down to create their chosen character for their Dungeons & Dragons campaign, the game provided them with a large array of classes. For those who enjoyed overwhelming their foes with brute force, the barbarians became a desirable class. Beyond their immense strength, these characters had one defining factor, the fury that fueled their actions. For, no Barbarian was known for its tendency to show mercy to its enemies. Even worse, some barbarians became so fuel-filled that they would go into a battle frenzy.
When LJN set out to create a barbarian for the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons toy line, they presented the human, Northlord. As his profile described, Northlord was fast, hardy, and strong, capable of tracking in both forests and mountains. He also instinctually feared and distrusted all things touched by magic. Coming from the wild lands, his people became known for bravery even in the cradle.
Despite his distrust of magic, Northlord’s party could count on seeing him at the forefront of the battle. Despite the odds, he would leap into the fray to attack a fearsome dragon or giant sea monster.
As with the rest of this toy line, Northlord featured a large range of articulation. He also came with several accessories, including an ornate helmet, shield, sword, and axe.
9. Good Destrier Mighty Battle Horse
Amongst the first offering of action figures for the new Advanced Dungeons & Dragons toy line, LJN introduced two mounts. First, there was the Nightmare horse that the forces of evil rode into battle. This horse had a black paint job that allowed its skeletal wings to stand out. Moreover, it featured flames on its rubber hooves. Even its large, jagged teeth helped this steed become the embodiment of its namesake, nightmares.
Meanwhile, the forces of good rode the Good Destrier into battle. This brown horse wore an armored saddle that featured silver wings. Prepared for battle, this horse also came with a full set of armor, from a helmet to a harness. Once the horse donned the armor, it made the perfect complement to the heroic paladin, Strongheart, as he battled the forces of evil.
For the most part, both of these mounts were solid chunks of plastic. However, they featured some articulation. Most importantly, these toys allowed the action figures to ride them thanks to a trap door mechanic around the saddles. While the toys could not straddle the mounts, the saddles featured fake legs to complete the illusion.
8. Warduke Evil Fighter
When it came to physical combat, few classes had more expertise than fighters. With their strengths lying in their mastery of weapons, a fighter could hack and slash through most of their opponents. Still, any given fighter would pick a specific style to fully master. Meanwhile, they kept a basic understanding of all other weapons. They also could wear most armors. With so much understanding of combat, the fighter became a valuable asset in both battlefields and dungeons.
When LJN designed a fighter for their evil forces, they created the human Warduke. Like any given fighter, he could tackle any physical challenge. While he could use all types of weapons, his favorite was his magical sword. With the mastery of his sword, he sought to gain the strength to rule all beings in his path. Moreover, he would quickly take out any foes that showed any weakness.
Despite having a potential mastery of armor, Warduke exposed over half of his body. With his right leg, arm, and chest exposed, he entered battle with the forces of good. He also came with a sword and shield that he could wield in battle.
7. Elkhorn Good Dwarf Fighter
Typical of most fantasy worlds, Dungeons & Dragons had a large array of races for players to choose from. Unsurprisingly, Dwarves became one of the core classes in the game. Like most versions of dwarves, this race loved to live around mountains with blazing forges defining their cities. While no dwarf stood over five feet tall, they still gained respect as courageous warriors. Meanwhile, many other dwarves became infamous for their skills as miners and blacksmiths.
When LJN created a character to represent the dwarf race, they presented Elkhorn, the heroic fighter. Typical of most dwarves, he spent most of his time underground with little light. Even though most men towered over him, he was an extraordinarily strong fighter. Still, his people struggled with giants, who loved finding and destroying dwarven castles. So, Elkhorn often took up his sword against giants and dragons that threatened the mounts that he lived in.
Notably, Elkhorn stood nearly half as tall as any of the other Dungeons & Dragons action figures. Still, he maintained the articulation that defined the toy line. He also came packed with a small, circular shield and a yellow sword.
6. Mericon Good Cleric Female
While sorcerers and wizards have become the classic depiction of magic users in popular culture, there are a large array of classes that can use magic. For instance, the Clerics use their faith to call upon the power of the gods. Usually, they use this divine power to help the people. Thus, most clerics serve as healers, especially those who join adventuring parties. However, a cleric also could call upon divine powers to smite their foes.
As LJN considered the cleric class, they decided to create the human female, Mericon. Like most clerics, she used her knowledge to help the sick and wounded. Meanwhile, her holy powers allowed her to fight magical evil creatures. As she helped the innocent, she used either a mace or hammer in battle. Most importantly, her daily prayers fueled her divine powers as she fought on the side of law and order.
Unlike some of the other figures in this toy line, Mericon wore a cloth cape and tunic. While her artwork showed an emblem on her chest, the tunic lacked any intricacies outside of the black belt. As her profile indicated, Mericon came with a double-ended mace staff.
As TSR set out to create a fantasy world for their tabletop RPG, they redefined several classic fantasy monsters. They also created several unique creatures that would make the game stand out. Thus, they created a lion-like drake that they dubbed the dragonne. These creatures featured brass-colored scales, making them resemble bronze dragons. However, they had heads and paws that resembled lions. Even though these creatures had wings, they could only fly for short intervals. In general, these creatures grew to be around twelve feet long and stood about five feet tall. However, some older members of this species became even larger.
As highly territorial creatures, Dragonnes would strike out at any creature that encroached on their territory. However, they held no malice in their attacks. So, many travelers had the chance to escape with their lives. However, they became even more ferocious during mating season. Adventurers also feared the sound of a Dragonne’s roar, which could weaken both the mind and body.
As one of most unique creatures from Dungeons & Dragons, LJN decided to include them in the monsters subline. Along with the Dragonne, LJN also created figures of the Behir and Hook Horror. Each of these figures had limited articulation that allowed them to move their forelimbs and heads. LJN also scaled these figures so that they towered over the average action figures from the line.
4. Kelek Evil Sorcerer
One of the most dangerous beings that an adventurer could come across is an evil sorcerer. These people have gained mastery of magic, so they could cast powerful spells to spread cruelty across the land. In exchange for this power, the sorcerers could not use most weapons. Instead, they could only use daggers, darts, or staves. In their quest for dominance, an evil sorcerer fought the forces of Law and Order.
As LJN introduced Kelek as the evil sorcerer for their toy line, they created an iconic character that would outlast the line. Not only did Kelek appear in the animated series, but he also became a pre-generated character for players to choose from. He also made an appearance in the storybooks from Marvel. In all incarnations, this magic user sought more power and wealth.
Unlike figures like Elkhorn, Kelek wore a black cloth robe with red trimming. Under this cloth, he wore a light blue outfit with shorts. His figure also featured golden armlets on each arm. He came with a lime-green staff and dagger.
3. Bronze Dragon and Strongheart (Good Paladin)
As a paladin, Strongheart was one of the most honest and brave fighters around. With no larger desire than to fight against the forces of evil, he protected the land. He also became well-known for riding on top of his charger as he sought out new evils to fight. He only ever used his sword to protect the weak and deserving.
As an honest man, Strongheart easily spotted deception and the forces of evil. Unlike fighters, Paladins could call upon some divine powers. Thus, he could heal the sick and wounded as he fought for good. With his power, he even made several evil creatures run in fear.
Unlike the forces of evil, Strongheart had his choice of two different mounts. While he could sit on top of the good Destrier, he also could soar as he rode a bronze dragon mount. Unlike the typical dragon, LJN specified that this dragon breathed out bolts to attack his foes. Along with the huge wings, this dragon also featured a slashing tail. Like the horse, the bronze dragon’s saddle featured a trap door and fake legs.
Meanwhile, Strongheart came with his signature sword. He also wore a blue cloth cape.
2. Tiamat Five Headed Evil Dragon
Unlike the Mesopotamian goddess, Tiamat from Dungeons & Dragons was not the personification of the sea. Instead, Tiamat was a mighty queen of dragons with five heads. As the mother of dragons, each of her heads represented the diverse colors of the chromatic dragons. While the largest, middle head was red, she also had a white, green, blue, and black head. Each of these heads then called upon different destructive powers. Adventurers also had to fear the poison stinger on the tip of her long tail.
For the most part, Tiamat is known as an evil dragon, along with her offspring. She terrorized the land as she roamed in search of treasure. Thus, she became the most feared dragon on the planet.
As one of the most important creatures in the Dungeons & Dragons mythos, LJN made certain to include her in their toy line. So, they made the massive Tiamat action figure which was larger than any of the other figures in the line. Each of her five poseable heads sat on bendable necks, allowing users to give her a unique pose. Meanwhile, her jaws opened and closed. She also had a bit of articulation in his arms along with flexible wings.
1. Fortress of Fangs
As the centerpiece of the action, LJN created a massive playset for their Advanced Dungeons & Dragons toy line. The Fortress of Fangs offered multiple rooms and levels filled with danger and adventure. There were even obstacles and traps littered around the fortress. However, dedicated adventurers would locate the hidden treasure.
Unlike a typical dungeon or fortress, this playset resembled a gigantic snake’s head. It even had reptilian eyes. So, it stood out on any display case.
To reach the upper levels, adventurers braved the “stone” staircase while avoiding the falling skull hatchet. Otherwise, they could scale a secret ladder. There, they would locate a “torture chamber” that featured a sliding spiked wall. Luckily, it also had a hidden escape door. Elsewhere, adventurers could locate a “weapons room” which held the fortress’s dangerous arsenal. There was also an “Evil Throne Room” with a trap floor, flying dragon throne, and treasure slide. Finally, the subterranean levels hid the treasure and the “Sea of Fire”.
What were your favorite Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Toys?
Today, we have shared our picks for the top ten Advanced Dungeons & Dragons toys from LJN. Each of these action figures brought life to the imaginative works of TSR. Still, we would love to hear from you. Let us know what your favorite Advanced Dungeons & Dragons toys were in the comments below.
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Bio: I am the founder and owner of Wheeljack’s Lab pop Culture and Toy Shop. My vision has always been to reunite customers with their favorite childhood toys and pop culture, triggering fond memories, and reigniting their imaginations. Every day, I work in the “lab” where it’s Christmas 365 days a year. I scour the internet, like when we had the Sears Catalog of yesteryear, for the next great treasure. Then, I await the arrival of the postman as if he were Santa Claus himself and helping collectors worldwide with their own versions of Christmas. Every day as a vintage toy buyer is an absolute joy!