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TristramEvans

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WARDUKE
A Brief History of D&D's Most Iconic Villain
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Warduke began life on the cover of issue 17 of The Dragon magazine in 1978, as an unnamed evil fighter with the iconic dragon-winged helm and glowing red eyes.
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He would not be fleshed out and named until a few years later in the 1980s AD&D toy line. Premièring in 1983 from LJN, the AD&D toyline introduced Warduke as the primary antagonist for Strongheart the Paladin.
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Warduke was available as a single figure, or mounted upon Nightmare.
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Warduke's origin, along with several other characters from the toyline, was revealed in the 1984 module XL-1 Quest for the Heartstone by Michael L. Gray, with art by Timothy Trumane & Jeff Easley.
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Originally a close friend of Strongheart the paladin, the two became mortal enemies when exposed to a magical item called the Heartstone, which brought Warduke's cruel nature to the fore. He is a close ally of a woman named Skylla, an evil wizard. Warduke is loved by one woman, a formerly good cleric named Raven, and hated by another, a good cleric named Mercion. He works under the evil Sorcerer Kelek, but he and Skylla plan to overthrow him once all the good fighters are defeated.

“A true fighter,” Warduke feels, “makes himself rich and powerful by the strength of his sword arm. He takes what he can—if you would keep your possessions, kill those who seek to take them.” He calls his sword “Nightwind.”
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Warduke previously made his first appearance in the Dungeons & Dragons gameline, however, in 1983's AC-1 The Shady Dragon Inn by Carl Smith, a supplement designed to help DMs introduce fully designed characters into any scenario.
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Herein Warduke is mentioned as being a member of the same adventuring party as an elf named "Peralay," who also had an action figure in the LJN toyline.
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Interestingly, the Peralay figure was originally named "Melf." In the Greyhawk campaign setting, Melf, also known as Prince Brightflame, is a grey elven archmage, and was originally a player character of Lucion Paul Gygax in Gary Gygax's home campaign.

Warduke would also appear in two D&D colouring books in the early 80s...
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As well as being immortalized in the Dungeons & Dragons animated series episode "In Search of Dungeon Master," wherein Warduke succeeds in capturing the Dungeon Master with plans to ransome him to Venger.
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Throughout the 80s, Warduke would continue to be featured in a number of D&D-branded merchandise
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After the TSR takeover, and the end of D&D's merchandising endeavours, Warduke fell into obscurity, though he lived on in the hearts of those who grew up with him.

It wouldn't be until December 2003, after Wizards of the Coast acquired the D&D brand, that Warduke made his triumphant return in issue #105 of Dungeon magazine.
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Erik Mona’s Critical Hit article in this issue provides an updated character sheet for Warduke, now 18th level and with far greater stats: AC: 34, HP: 318, S 32, I 13, W 15, D 16, Cn 28, Ch 20. His original sword +1 (flames on command) became a +3 anarchic flaming burst human bane bastard sword, and his other possessions were statted out as a dagger of venom, +3 moderate fortification adamantine ceremonial spiked half-plate, +5 bashing heavy steel shield, Warduke’s helm, amulet of health +6, gauntlets of giant strength +6, boots of speed, ring of protection +3, and a fearsome eye fiendish graft (from Fiend Folio, pg. 210).
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Erik Mona went on to explain Warduke's somewhat illogical half-suit of armor, as “ceremonial armor… typical worn not for combat but for show, or to intimate or impress.” Mona also provided Warduke with a new origin story: The Unnameable Hierarch managed to rebuild his organization so quickly in large part due to the influence of a ruthless fighter named Warduke, a mysterious and relentless killer who emerged from nowhere after the Greyhawk Wars to spread terror and uncertainty among mercenaries, soldiers, and fighting societies from the Barrier Peaks to the Solnor Ocean.

Finally, in March 2006, Warduke was included in the D&D Minis War Drums expansion with his very first official miniature:
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Warduke retains his popularity among a generation of roleplayers, not only because of his iconic appearance, but the continued mysteries and unanswered questions surrounding him. He continues to be a popular subject for fan creations, from custom action figures to actual suits of armour, and even home-made videogames.
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I love that character design. Is there anyone specific credited with creating him?
 
I think Timothy Trumane defined his look, but I don't know if that came before or after the action figure design.
 
I have to admit I was an action figure snob as a kid. After getting into G.I.Joe, with the swivel-arm battle grip, there was no way I was going to play with figures like the D&D line.
 
1983 was the year I stopped collecting action figures. Star Wars movies were now done forever, so what was the point? I'd also started playing D&D, so my allowance and gift wishlists were geared towards that rather than toys. This meant I was both consumed with D&D at the time, and yet I was utterly oblivious to these D&D toys that other people wax nostalgic about.

Reading through this, It strikes me as strange branding to have "Advanced" as part of the logo on the toys, simply because it means nothing at all in the context of a toy, and it isn't like they weren't pushing Basic sets pretty hard at the time. It's even more odd as the game material concerning War Duke ended up in BECMI.
 
Good stuff. I do have a weak spot for Truman's art (see avatar) though I admit to not having read much of his comics work.

As a TSR D&D art piece, though, Warduke suffers from a bad case of Loincloth Armor Syndrome — there's no good mechanical reason for a single-classed Fighter to forgo armor. And if that is "plate mail" (per AD&D1 stats) I'm going to have a hard time explaining a player why his plate-mail-clad Paladin won't be able to sneak, or swim, or do a cartwheel in armor. Dude looks like a go-go boy.

Very cool design, though.
 
Good stuff. I do have a weak spot for Truman's art (see avatar) though I admit to not having read much of his comics work.

As a TSR D&D art piece, though, Warduke suffers from a bad case of Loincloth Armor Syndrome — there's no good mechanical reason for a single-classed Fighter to forgo armor. And if that is "plate mail" (per AD&D1 stats) I'm going to have a hard time explaining a player why his plate-mail-clad Paladin won't be able to sneak, or swim, or do a cartwheel in armor. Dude looks like a go-go boy.

Very cool design, though.
He's wearing the lesser know but well loved loin-plate.
 
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Erik Mona went on to explain Warduke's somewhat illogical half-suit of armor, as “ceremonial armor… typical worn not for combat but for show, or to intimate or impress.”
Yeah, a full suit of armour would present a problem there, no argument:evil:!

Mona also provided Warduke with a new origin story: The Unnameable Hierarch managed to rebuild his organization so quickly in large part due to the influence of a ruthless fighter named Warduke, a mysterious and relentless killer who emerged from nowhere after the Greyhawk Wars to spread terror and uncertainty among mercenaries, soldiers, and fighting societies from the Barrier Peaks to the Solnor Ocean.
That, however, is like a background in quite a few of my campaigns...and an AAR for some of my PCs as well:grin:!
 
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