D&D General Warduke. An attempt to provide an historical look at the character in print.

Hi all,

I am a history student at University, and I am practising my writing, so I decided to give my research skills a test and did a practice paper on Warduke.

I hope you enjoy it.

Cheers
Damien

Warduke, an attempt to provide a historical look at the character in print.

Created in the early 80s for Dungeons and Dragons, Warduke has become one of the game's many iconic villains who has regained popularity in recent years. Starting as an action figure, he jumped onto the page to become a pregenerated character in The Shady Dragon Inn and Quest for the Heartstone, both published by TSR. Although Warduke has slowly crept back into the public eye, his background remains a mystery. Warduke has gained notoriety as a mercenary and assassin, moving from one conflict to another, answering only to the highest bidder. How did this character become so well known and loved by fans remain so elusive? Unlike, Elminster and Drizzt Do'Urden, Warduke has stayed on the periphery of Dungeons and Dragons lore, showing up for a little while before heading back into obscurity. Starting his adventuring career in the early 80s, Warduke did not appear in further publications until Erik Mona resurrected him in 2003 for Dungeon Magazine #105. In 2021, Warduke is set to return in The Wild beyond the Witchlight, a 5th edition adventure for Dungeons and Dragons. Warduke has stood the test of time and looks to make a significant contribution to the game once again.

Dungeons and Dragons gained popularity in the early 1980s, spawning a cartoon titled Dungeons and Dragons, while inspiring LJN Toys, an American toy manufacturing company, to make Advanced Dungeons and Dragons toys in 1983 under license from TSR. Included in this line-up was Warduke, standing at 4.5 inches; Warduke became instantly recognisable due to his blue-winged helmet. Dark red eyes peering from within the helm created a demonic presence and instant curiosity, as the original packing indicated Warduke was an evil character. Along with Warduke, two other notable characters would also make their appearance, Strongheart and Kelek. These characters would also appear in the Dungeons and Dragon cartoon, which was airing simultaneously. Warduke appeared in the fifth episode of the cartoon entitled 'In Search of the Dungeon Master'; Warduke captured Dungeon Master and attempted to sell him to Venger for a high price. Unfortunately, his bid to sell Dungeon Master did not go as planned, as the show's heroes were able to overcome Warduke and rescue Dungeon Master. With the success of the toy line and their appearances on the show, Strongheart and Warduke would be reissued the following year under the Battle-Matic series with the addition of two mounts, Destrier for Strongheart and Nightmare for Warduke. The Advanced Dungeons and Dragons toy line was known for its high quality and became highly sought after in the collector's market.

Unlike other cartoons and toy lines in the 1980s, the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons toy line did not synergise with the cartoon. Instead, they both worked to promote the two different versions of the Dungeons and Dragons game available at the time. Warduke and his companions would play out their rivalry in the toy line, while the TTRPG would explore their origins on the page. Though Warduke would first appear officially in The Shady Dragon Inn, a game accessory for Basic D&D, Warduke's iconic helm is seen on the cover of The Dragon magazine #17 (1978). The front cover features a fighter wearing the recognisable winged helm with the face in shadow and glowing red eyes; although not confirmed, this may be the original inspiration for the action figure produced in 1983. The Shady Dragon Inn had a small paragraph dedicated to Warduke as it was a product focused on an assortment of pregenerated characters. In this paragraph, we learn of the rivalry between Strongheart and Warduke, instigated by the item known as the Heartstone. This would later be expanded on in the Quest of the Heartstone adventure published in 1984. It also states that Warduke's horse is a Nightmare horse, also known as a demon or hell horse; the 1st edition Monster Manual describes them as 'gaunt and skeletal with a huge head, glowing red eyes, flaming orange nostrils, and hooves which burn like embers.' Though Warduke's steed's name is not in the book, the LJN toyline referred to the horse as Nightmare. Another notable feature of this product is it lists Warduke's sword as a +1 broadsword that flames on command, referred to as Nightwind in the text; this sword and Warduke himself would evolve over the years to become a far more menacing presence in the future.

Warduke would make an appearance in Quest for the Heartstone the following year in 1984. The adventure, designed for BECMI, centres around the Heartstone first hinted about in The Shady Dragon Inn. It comprises multiple environments, namely swamps, marches, mountain caves, and the classic dungeon crawl, which had become the hallmark of adventures produced in the 1980s. The premise of the story revolves around the death of King Ganto. His widow, Queen Leahra, needs to choose a new king and seeks counsel from Loftos, the High Patriarch of the Kingdom of Ghyr. He reveals to her the nature of the Heartstone, which had been stolen years early by a Master Thief known as Dahnakriss. The Heartstone reveals the true nature of a person and enhances those inner qualities. The idea is that Queen Leahra would be able to choose a new husband and king, knowing that the person would not be playing politics and looking to take control of the throne. The nature of the Heartstone and the morally questionable use on an unsuspecting person doesn't become the adventure's focus. When they encounter it later in the adventure, its effects on the party will put the players in a questionable position and could make or break the adventure and the campaign's longevity.

Within the pages of the adventure, the artwork showcases the friendship of Strongheart and Warduke. On the front cover, it's possible to see the two companions working together to slay a 'huge reptile' erupting from a frozen pool. Then again, on page 2, the art depicts both of them sitting at the same table discussing the upcoming adventure with Loftos. When the information in this adventure is coupled with the original description in The Shady Dragon Inn, the friendship between the two characters is somewhat apparent. However, it should be noted, Warduke is labelled as an evil fighter both in the toyline and adventures. Strongheart and Warduke were able to work together on some level without interparty conflict. The point of interest in the adventure is the Chamber of the Heartstone. It is there where the party comes under the effects of the gem. Upon entering the chamber and having a brief encounter with Dahnakriss, the Heartstone creates copies of all the adventurers with a twist. If the player had a good alignment, they would have to face against their evil version and vice versa. This series of events is possibly the turning point for Warduke's career, as he would have had to battle his evil twin. Since Warduke is a mercenary and assassin in later publications, it is quite possible his evil twin won the battle and assumed his identity. The switching of alignments during a campaign may cause lasting harm to the party, as the adventure states that any alignment changes should be kept hidden. Alignments can gauge how a character plays, but forcing a situation that may cause characters to switch alignments may cause party conflicts later down the path.

After this adventure, Warduke would take a step back. Appearing only in third party merchandise like stickers and colouring books, Warduke wouldn't see his return to official publication until 2003, when Erik Mona made him a centrepiece of one of their Critical Threats articles in Dungeon Magazine #105. In this reiteration, Warduke is placed into the Greyhawk Campaign setting with a brief history of his involvement in the Greyhawk Wars and becoming a member of the Horned Society. His stats were also increased and buffed from their BECMI edition iterations, creating an 18th level fighter with a Challenge Rating of 20. Erik Mona was indicating that Warduke was not your typical threat and treated with extreme caution. His reputation in the Greyhawk Wars caused him to be the boogeyman who spread terror from the Barrier Peaks to the Solnor Ocean. The article describes Warduke as having a raspy, otherworldly voice before the battle -- a possible reference to the original adventure and the creation of the supernatural twins which the players would have had to stand and fight. In Warduke's list of equipment, Warduke's Helm is described as being presented to him by the Unnamable Hierarch and leader of the Horned Society. Whether this is a retcon or not is hard to confirm, as Warduke appears in The Realms and Mystara, the possible home location for the Kingdom of Ghyr. The helm itself was given a significant stat increase: as originally only listed as a helm, it is now at the major artifact subtype with a list of magical abilities to enhance its demonic elements. His sword, though not named, still has some of its original flavours, now becoming a +3 bane vs humans anarchic flaming burst bastard sword. The Development section of the article hints that Warduke is used as a counter to powerful player characters who portray the mightier-than-thou attitude and believe they can handle anything. Warduke would later appear as a miniature in the D&D Miniatures line, included with the release of the War Drums set in 2006. Warduke is listed as a rare figure and #60 in that line. His appearance matches art done by Wayne Reynolds in Dungeon Magazine #105.

Although the popularity of Warduke has risen and fallen over the years, his iconic stature has never faltered. Fondly remembered by those who played Dungeons and Dragons in the 80s, Warduke is about to make a splash again in the gaming community as he and some of the other characters from the toy line make their long-overdue return in The Wild beyond the Witchlight, an adventure to be released in September 2021. This release will also coincide with the release of the Funko Pop figure, which has Warduke dressed in his original 80s costume and accompanied with a special D20 die. Throughout the new edition of Dungeons and Dragons, Wizards of the Coast have continually been drawing on the franchise's history to bring back adventures and characters to introduce them to a new generation of gamers. It could be that Warduke's time has come, as he sets to stand toe-toe with other highly regarded heroes and villains; hopefully, he will stay on stage for a long time to come.
 
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Rabulias

the Incomparably Shrewd and Clever
see his return to official publication until 2003, when Erik Mona made him a centrepiece of one of their Critical Hits articles in Dungeon Magazine #105.
Minor Nitpick: The article series was called Critical Threats.
His stats were also increased and buffed from their 1st edition iterations, creating an 18th level fighter with a Challenge Rating of +2.
A typo here? Warduke's CR in the article is 20.

Warduke also appeared in the War Drums D&D Miniatures set, as both a standard card and an Epic card, with RPG stats based on the Critical Threats article.
 


Minor Nitpick: The article series was called Critical Threats.

A typo here? Warduke's CR in the article is 20.

Warduke also appeared in the War Drums D&D Miniatures set, as both a standard card and an Epic card, with RPG stats based on the Critical Threats article.
Thank you, Rabulias.

I changed the Critical Hits to Critical Threats.

Yes, +2 was a typo, not sure what happened there.

I was going to mention the War Drums set. I decided to keep it to publication history, but I'll keep that in mind for future write-ups.

Thank you for your comments.
 



Also, the cartoon wasn’t based off of B/X, but AD&D. Specifically classes like ranger, barbarian, acrobat, and cavalier (coinciding with the same time period Unearthed arcana came out)
Thank you for the comment.

Exploring the history of D&D has been fascinating, so I appreciate the clarification. I'll edit the original post.
 
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Azzy

KMF DM
Warduke would make an appearance in Quest for the Heartstone the following year in 1984. The adventure, designed for the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons system for levels 5 thru 10.
Actually, it was designed for the BECMI iteration of the D&D game.

His stats were also increased and buffed from their 1st edition iterations,
BECMI edition.

Cool article, though.
 

Actually, it was designed for the BECMI iteration of the D&D game.


BECMI edition.

Cool article, though.
Thanks, Azzy.

I appreciate the feedback, this is the same process as a peer-reviewed document, and it takes a couple of drafts to work out the errors. The errors have crept in because I've interpreted things based on my experience with the game.

The history of D&D is fascinating, and looking at its evolution over the years is intriguing. I'll try to be more thorough in my next history article.
 

I have the Warduke (and Elkhorn) toys from when I was a kid. My first D&D game we were playing and the DM had us choose between a few characters from the Shady Dragon Inn, and the Conan Unchained. I didn't even know Warduke was in there so I chose Elkhorn. It was a LOT of fun and needless to say I've been hooked on D&D ever since. I always wanted to play as Warduke but never got the chance again.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
Appearing only in third party merchandise like stickers and colouring books, Warduke wouldn't see his return to official publication until 2003, when Erik Mona made him a centrepiece of one of their Critical Threats articles in Dungeon Magazine #105.
Not sure if it's worth mentioning or not, but he was also on the cover of that particular issue.
 

Stormonu

Legend
I think you mean Dragon Magazine #17 (1978), not Dungeon Magazine #17. Dungeon magazine didn’t even exist until the mid-eighties.

Also, I think you should include the Wardrums model. You did mention the Funko pop figure, which has nothing to do with written publications, after all.
 

Rabulias

the Incomparably Shrewd and Clever
I think you mean Dragon Magazine #17 (1978), not Dungeon Magazine #17. Dungeon magazine didn’t even exist until the mid-eighties.
Yes, I think that's the issue he meant. Pinning down the cover artist is a bit tricky, as The Dragon did not give detailed art credits back then. This post (Old School FRP: Photo) claims the artist to be John Sullivan, who also did the cover to The Dragon issue 10 and created (and provided a color illustration of) the Death Angel back in The Dragon issue 6.
 

I think you mean Dragon Magazine #17 (1978), not Dungeon Magazine #17. Dungeon magazine didn’t even exist until the mid-eighties.

Also, I think you should include the Wardrums model. You did mention the Funko pop figure, which has nothing to do with written publications, after all.
Fair point. I've included a line to that set.
 

Quartz

Hero
However, it should be noted, Warduke is labelled as an evil fighter both in the toyline and adventures. Strongheart and Warduke were able to work together on some level without inner-party conflict.

This is not actually a problem: the conflict between Law and Chaos in D&D is as important as the conflict between Good and Evil. I recall an adventure in an early issue of Dungeon (Iron Orb?) that touches on this and you can also see it in the Knight Protectors of the Great Kingdom, where champions of both Hextor and Hieroneous are members and loyal to the Great Kingdom and defend it against chaos, and also in the Oligarchs of Greyhawk City where some are Good and some are Evil.

And a nit-pick: it's intra-party or inter-party conflict.
 

This is not actually a problem: the conflict between Law and Chaos in D&D is as important as the conflict between Good and Evil. I recall an adventure in an early issue of Dungeon (Iron Orb?) that touches on this and you can also see it in the Knight Protectors of the Great Kingdom, where champions of both Hextor and Hieroneous are members and loyal to the Great Kingdom and defend it against chaos, and also in the Oligarchs of Greyhawk City where some are Good and some are Evil.

And a nit-pick: it's intra-party or inter-party conflict.
Thanks for the comment.

'Inner' lol. That's from 1984. I'll fix that up.

The concept of opposing alignments working together for a common goal is a cool idea. Unfortunately, in my past gaming experiences, it hasn't worked out so well.
 



jayoungr

Legend
Supporter
This is an enjoyable read--thanks for posting it. I agree that you're going to do very well in your studies! But if you don't mind, here are a few suggestions (from me as a professional editor) to make the paper even stronger. I apologize in advance if these comments seem really nitpicky, but trust me, they're the kind of thing that will really impress professors and take the paper to the next level!

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Your opening sentence assumes the reader knows what context Warduke was created for. This is fair for an audience such as the members of this board, but for a more general paper, you should spell it out. Otherwise, readers might be scratching their heads wondering if he's a movie or comic book character or something. Here's a suggestion for how to work it in: "Created in the early 1980s for Dungeons and Dragons, Warduke has become one of the game's many iconic villains who has regained popularity in recent years."

Warduke appeared in the fifth episode of the cartoon entitled In Search of the Dungeon Master; Warduke captured Dungeon Master and attempted to sell him to Venger for a high price.
The title of the cartoon episode where Warduke appears should be in quotation marks. Props to you for getting the capitalization right, though!

With the success of the toyline and their appearances on the show. Strongheart and Warduke would be reissued the following year under the Battle-Matic series. With the addition of two mounts, Destrier for Strongheart and Nightmare for Warduke.
First, you have toyline as one word here and at several other points in the essay. I would make it two words. Second, there should be a comma instead of a period after "show" (this is probably just a typo). Third, the final phrase (starting at "with the addition") seems to be part of the previous sentence and can be joined on with no punctuation. So the revised sentence would look like this: "With the success of the toy line and their appearances on the show, Strongheart and Warduke would be reissued the following year under the Battle-Matic series with the addition of two mounts, Destrier for Strongheart and Nightmare for Warduke."

Though Warduke would first appear officially in The Shady Dragon Inn, a game accessory for Basic D&D. Warduke's iconic helm is seen on the cover of The Dragon Magazine #17 (1978).
Again, there should be a comma instead of a period after "Basic D&D." Also, the name of the magazine should be in italics (same for the mention of Dungeon in paragraph 6).

The Shady Dragon Inn had a small paragraph dedicated to Warduke as it was a product-focused on an assortment of pregenerated characters.
"Product focused" should not be hyphenated in this context. That would make it a compound adjective (e.g. "product-focused design"), but here product is a noun modified by focused.

Though Warduke's stead's name is not in the book, the LJN toyline referred to the horse as Nightmare.
Should be steed, not stead (probably just a typo).

The adventure, designed for the Basic, Expert, Companion, Masters & Immortals (BECMI) edition of Dungeons and Dragons for levels 5 thru 10. The adventure centres around the Heartstone first hinted about in The Shady Dragon Inn.
Join these as one sentence ("The adventure, designed for BECMI, centres around the Heartstone").

His widow, Queen Leahra, needs to choose a new king and seeks council from Loftos, the High Patriarch of the Kingdom of Ghyr.
Should be counsel (advice) rather than council (a group of people who may offer advice).

Coupled with the original description in The Shady Dragon Inn, the friendship between the two characters is somewhat apparent.
You have a dangling modifier here; the friendship is not what's coupled with the original description. Here's a suggested way to make it clearer: "When the information in this adventure is coupled with the original description in The Shady Dragon Inn, the friendship between the two characters is somewhat apparent."

It describes Warduke as having a raspy, otherworldly voice before the battle. A possible reference to the original adventure and the creation of the supernatural twins, the players would have had to stand and fight.
This passage is a bit opaque. First, "it" as the subject of the sentence is a little confusing, as it's not clear what it refers to; I'm guessing you mean the article says this? Also, the second sentence seems like it should be part of the same thought, but the comma after "twins" made me a bit confused about what the players were fighting. I had to read it two or three times to get what I think was the meaning. Here's a suggested rewording to smooth it out a bit: "The article describes Warduke as having a raspy, otherworldly voice before the battle--a possible reference to the original adventure and the creation of the supernatural twins which the players would have had to stand and fight."

In Warduke's list of equipment, Warduke's Helm describes it as being presented to him by the Unnamable Hierarch and leader of the Horned Society. Whether this is a retcon or not is hard to confirm, as Warduke appears in The Realms and Mystaria, the possible home location for the Kingdom of Ghyr. The helm itself was given a significant stat increase as originally only listed as a helm; it is now at the major artifact subtype and a list of magical abilities to enhance its demonic elements. His sword though not named, still has some of its original flavours, now a +3 bane vs humans anarchic flaming burst bastard sword. The Development section of the article hints that Warduke is used as a counter to powerful player characters who portray the mightier than thou attitude and believe they can handle anything.
This passage is a little jumbled; it reads like you may have edited it several times and left in fragments of earlier versions. Again, I'll just give you a revised version with suggested changes in blue (let me know if the reasons for any of these suggestions aren't clear): "In Warduke's list of equipment, Warduke's Helm is described as being presented to him by the Unnamable Hierarch and leader of the Horned Society. Whether this is a retcon or not is hard to confirm, as Warduke appears in The Realms and Mystara, the possible home location for the Kingdom of Ghyr. The helm itself was given a significant stat increase: originally only listed as a helm, it is now at the major artifact subtype with a list of magical abilities to enhance its demonic elements. His sword, though not named, still has some of its original flavours, now becoming a +3 bane vs humans anarchic flaming burst bastard sword. The Development section of the article hints that Warduke is used as a counter to powerful player characters who portray the mightier-than-thou attitude and believe they can handle anything.

Fondly remembered by those who played Dungeons and Dragons in the 80s, Warduke is about to make a splash again in the gaming community as he and some of the other characters from the toyline; make their long-overdue return in The Wild and the Witchlight, an adventure to be released in September 2021.
You have a random colon in the middle of the sentence here. Also, the title of the adventure is The Wild beyond the Witchlight (you got it right in paragraph 1).

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I'd like to stress once again that these are all really small things, and the paper overall is clear and well-written. I offer these suggestions only in the spirit of showing you things to watch for when writing for a grade.

I actually hadn't heard of Warduke before reading this paper, and it makes me want to check out some of the adventures mentioned in it!
 

Liane the Wayfarer

Frumious Flumph
I actually hadn't heard of Warduke before reading this paper, and it makes me want to check out some of the adventures mentioned in it!
Warduke is from an era of TSR where it seemed like they were shotgunning stratagems to merchandise products. The action figures weren't a bad idea, but they didn't have really solid setting properties yet -- the action figures came out in 1982, and the Forgotten Realms Box Set (which arguably was their first attempt to really set down a 'campaign bible' for a setting) didn't come out until 1987. As a result, the action figures were names and occupations without backstory; and, much like in an RPG, when you are given a name and an occupation, you write your own background. Later they expanded the action figures a little, but by then I suspect every kid who got them had already mapped out their own imaginary realm for the figures to live in.
 
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