Posts Tagged ‘Spellfire’

The DragonStrike Connection

April 26, 2014

I’ve come to the realization that I’ve been limiting myself too much with regards to this blog. When I started Intelligence Check, I had in mind that it would be dedicated solely to Pathfinder. This was supposed to serve as a tight focus that would serve to keep me on target with regards to what I wrote about. Everything that wasn’t Pathfinder was off the table for this space.

In hindsight, this was an easy promise to make to myself, since back in early 2010 I was still very enthusiastic about Pathfinder, and couldn’t imagine a time when I wouldn’t be so. Alas, such a time eventually came to pass, and that’s a large part of the reason that my posting here has waned over the last several months. (The other reason is that I feel I need to post large, involved articles, which is a habit I have less energy for these days.)

So I’ve decided to relax my own rule regarding posting content. This doesn’t mean I’ll suddenly start talking about anime or video games, though – I’m not completely dismantling this blog’s theme. Instead, I’m going to open it up to more generalized tabletop RPG topics. So if I feel like talking about D&D or BESM or some other game, you can expect to see that here.

Having said that, I’m going to exercise this new-found freedom to post on a particularly niche subject: TSR’s old DragonStrike game.


DragonStrike was, as Wikipedia calls it, an “adventure board game” that was pretty clearly meant to be a gateway to Dungeons & Dragons. It came with large boards that were maps, some pre-made character sheets, dice, a very large number of plastic miniatures, and a 30 minute “hyper reality” video.

The video was the game’s big hook, as it showed a fantasy adventure using a mixture of live-action actors and computer graphics that were fairly cutting-edge for the early 90’s, but now look hysterically bad. Intercut with these were shots of a Dungeon Master (or, as he called himself, the “Dragon Master”) talking with some faceless players, all of them playing the characters we see in the adventure.

The game was fairly low-impact (I suspect that even back in then, few people were very impressed with it), but it did get a bit more support from TSR than a lot of people knew at the time…the people who cared, I mean.

For instance, there were four DragonStrike short novels released, one about each of the adventurers. There were also two DragonStrike Endless Quest novels (which were Choose Your Own Adventure novels, but they couldn’t use that name), and a single-issue comic book adaptation of the video. There was even a two-page expansion for the game in issue #196 of Dragon magazine, consisting of a map and an alternative adventure outline.

Even more arcane was the knowledge that a sequel game, called WildSpace, came very close to being released. WildSpace introduced Spelljammer concepts into DragonStrike, using the same cast of characters and presumably the same game rules. The game was going to have several support products as well; there were some four novels written, and of course another terrible video was produced. There were even rumors they were trying to make that video into a TV series. Man were we lucky that deal fell through.

As it was, all of WildSpace was canceled just before being released, save for a single Endless Quest novel, which somehow made it out the door just in time.

This is all an interesting bit of TSR history, of course, but beyond the Spelljammer connection – which is iffy, since the cosmology is different (having no crystal spheres or spelljamming helms, for instance, and having the Phlogiston be a magical wind that the space-faring ships can sail via) – it has no real connection to the classic D&D multiverse.

Or does it? Would you be surprised to learn that there’s evidence to suggest that the game world in which DragonStrike is set is actually the Forgotten Realms?

The Realms Connection

The first point of evidence here is that the WildSpace Endless Quest novel, cosmological problems aside, is set on the Rock of Bral, which is the default “hub” point for PCs in Spelljammer. While the Spelljammer products never give the Rock a definitive location, the Forgotten Realms product Faiths & Avatars (in the entry for Tyr) places it within the Tears of Selune, the asteroids that follow Toril’s moon around.

Now, there’s a strong argument to be made that this isn’t actually the case, and that that entry is more likely mistakenly identifying a similar asteroid-city, but it’s still noteworthy. It’s also not the primary point of evidence.

More central to our case is a certain D&D trading cards. D&D trading cards were produced in 1991-1993, with a new set coming out each year. Made for AD&D Second Edition, each card featured a character, monster, or item, with a picture on the front and a description on the back. It’s notable that some characters that received stats nowhere else got them here (such as Teldin Moore, the main character of the six-part Spelljammer series of novels).

One of the characters from the 1991 set (card #411) is King Halvor II – a character with the same name as the king in the DragonStrike video. Labeled as being in the Forgotten Realms, the card denotes that he’s a 15th-level warrior (that is, a fighter), is Lawful Good, and is described as follows:

Halvor is king of a large country. He has great plans to control all the lands between the sea to the west and the sea to the east. He believes the gods favor him in this goal.

Now, obviously this 1991 card came out before the 1993 release of DragonStrike, and this might be a coincidence. After all, the two characters are clearly nothing alike. Even the picture that’s used on the card is very different from how the bumbling king in the video looks. But there’s still another card to play…

King Halvor II

The same picture on both cards. Coincidence? Or conspiracy?

That card is from Spellfire. I’ve talked about this game before, but as a quick overview, Spellfire was a CCG based on Dungeons & Dragons. It was TSR’s answer to Magic: the Gathering, but ultimately failed to dethrone it. However, it did produce some interesting materials, not the least of which was card number 64 from the First Edition set…King Halvor II.

The card uses the same artwork as the 1991 trading card, listing King Halvor II as being a level 5 hero card, with the Forgotten Realms logo, but no other special powers or abilities. By itself that tells us nothing new, but for the Spellfire Reference Guide Vol. 1. This guidebook for the first several sets of cards reviews each of them in terms of how best to use them, or not use them, in the game. But for some cards, it also has a few sentences discussing the subject of the card in further detail. King Halvor II is one of the cards that receives this treatment, saying the following:

This king is best known as the bumbling ruler in the DRAGON STRIKE videotape adventure. What is not so well known is that the bumbler is actually an imposter. The real king Halvor II, shown here, was a noble and good king of fiery temper. He carried a magical sword of unknown powers. His current whereabouts are unknown.

That seems to settle it, as that description explicitly connects the character on the card with the one in the video, which along with this card’s world logo (and that of the character with the same picture on the earlier trading card) clearly denote his origin as being in the Realms.

(As a note, the bit about the magical sword is slightly odd. The trading card says that it’s a longsword +4 defender, and in the Fourth Edition of Spellfire, the card is revised to have a +5 flaming sword which can’t be removed from him. Maybe people simply didn’t know what the original sword did? After all, the defender power isn’t flashy like a flaming sword would be.)

Now, it’s likely that this entry (written in 1995) was written to patch up the discrepancy, but I think that’s a great way of reconciling these sorts of errors; turning what’s otherwise a puzzling contradiction into an opportunity for intrigue in your game. What happened to the real king? Who is that imposter really? Who else is in on the plot? An enterprising GM could have a lot of fun with these questions.

These sorts of connections – small cross-references that are easy to miss, but fascinating when noticed – are part of what I’ve always loved about the wider setting of D&D, and why I was sad to see it go away come Third Edition. Still, what’s already out there can’t be taken away, and I plan on writing about more of these in the future. Stay tuned for more D&D – and Pathfinder! – goodness.

Erom Gib Nuf

July 14, 2012

Here’s the next in the series of Spellfire cards-turned-NPCs that I spoke about previously. This time it’s the first “Gib” card ever printed, Gib Ekim.

Gib Ekim was the first in a handful of cards that, as you can see to the left, had a split level designation, which the text on her card indicates are her levels as a wizard and as a fighter. Despite how obvious it seems now, at the time it took me a little while to realize that this was meant to be indicative of her being a multiclass character (or rather, “dual-class,” as we said back during AD&D Second Edition).

In converting Gib Ekim to Pathfinder, this presented some interesting decisions regarding how much to “tailor” her conversion. Obviously I’d need to fill in some areas using my own judgment, since a Pathfinder stat block is much more complicated than a Spellfire card, but there were a few aspects of converting her character that gave me pause.

Her levels were a big one. While I was initially intent on converting her levels as shown, making her a wizard 5/fighter 7, I couldn’t help but be struck by just how poor that build was. After all, multiclassing can really cripple a character if the classes don’t complement each other, and that was the case with a straight wizard/fighter build. But at the same time, I wanted to be true to her original depiction on the card.

Ultimately, I compromised. While she still has a total of twelve levels, I split the difference by giving her as few levels of wizard and fighter as I could while devoting the rest to levels of eldritch knight. This kept most of the abilities she’d have from her fighter levels, while at the same time saving most of her abilities as a wizard.

Beyond that, most of Gib Ekim’s build is structured around buffing her AC. Given that her picture (which, like virtually all Spellfire cards, is recycled art that TSR owned) didn’t show her wearing heavy armor or using a shield, I elected to find a number of less-direct methods of helping her avoid being hit. If you elect to use her in your game, please let me know if her design worked!


This beautiful woman regards you warily, dropping her backpack to the ground in anticipation, but without apparent hostility. Dressed in a fairly skimpy garb, she has no armor save for an odd crown-like headpiece over her long wavy brown hair. One hand falls to the hilt of her blade, which along with her crossbow are the only weapons she seems to be carrying.

Gib Ekim CR 11

XP 12,800

Female human wizard 5/fighter 1/eldritch knight 6

CG Medium humanoid (human)

Init +2; Senses Perception +9


AC 19, touch 13, flat-footed 17 (+6 armor, +2 Dex, +1 deflection)

hp 73 (5d6+10 plus 7d10+7)

Fort +6, Ref +7, Will +7


Speed 30 ft.

Melee masterwork cold iron longsword +13/+8 (1d8+3/19-20)

Ranged masterwork light crossbow +12 (1d8/19-20)

Special Atks Arcane Strike, Combat Expertise, hand of the apprentice 3/day, Vital Strike

Spells Prepared (CL 10th; concentration +13)

5thbaleful polymorph (DC 18), hold monster (DC 18)

4thfire shield, lesser globe of invulnerability, stoneskin (DC 17)

3rdfireball (DC 16), gaseous form (SM), protection from energy (DC 16), slow (DC 16)

2ndcat’s grace (DC 15), darkvision (DC 15; SM), false life, glitterdust (DC 15), scorching ray

1stendure elements (DC 14), feather fall, magic missile, ray of enfeeblement (DC 14), shield

0 – detect magic, detect poison, disrupt undead, mage hand

Arcane School universal


Str 16, Dex 14, Con 10, Int 17, Wis 8, Cha 12

Base Atk +9; CMB +12; CMD 25

Feats Arcane Armor Training, Arcane Armor Mastery, Arcane Strike, Combat Expertise, Dodge, Eschew Materials, Iron Will, Lightning Reflexes, Scribe Scroll, Spell Mastery, Toughness, Vital Strike

Skills Knowledge (arcana) +16, Knowledge (dungeoneering) +14, Knowledge (history) +14, Knowledge (local) +14, Knowledge (nobility) +14, Perception +9, Sense Motive +12, Spellcraft +16

Languages Common,

SQ arcane bond (ring), diverse training

Spellbook as spells prepared, plus

5thinterposing hand, passwall

4thdetect scrying, illusory wall (DC 17)

3rdphantom steed (SM), water breathing (DC 16)

2ndknock, whispering wind

1stalarm, unseen servant

0 – acid splash, arcane mark, bleed (DC 13), dancing lights, daze (DC 13), flare (DC 13), ghost sound (DC 13), light, mending (DC 13), message, open/close (DC 13), prestidigitation, ray of frost, read magic, resistance (DC 13), touch of fatigue (DC 13)

“SM” indicates spells utilized with the Spell Mastery feat

Gear masterwork cold iron longsword, masterwork light crossbow, 30 bolts, +2 glamered chain shirt, ring of protection +1, minor crown of blasting, scrolls (CL 10) of detect scrying, illusory wall, passwall, phantom steed, and water breathing, diamond dust (750 gp), 10 days’ trail rations, waterskin, 50 ft. silk rope, spellbook, explorer’s outfit, backpack, bedroll, blue sapphire (1,000 gp), golden yellow topaz (500 gp), 2 silver pearls (100 gp each), 53 gp, 9 sp


Hand of the Apprentice (Su): Gib Ekim can cause her longsword to fly from her grasp and strike a foe before instantly returning to her. As a standard action, she can make a single attack using a melee weapon at a range of 30 feet. This attack is treated as a ranged attack with a thrown weapon, except that her attack bonus is +12. This ability cannot be used to perform a combat maneuver. She can use this ability three times per day.

Gib Ekim is one of an exceptionally small band of individuals across myriad worlds and planes who have taken the prefix “Gib” in front of their name. While their reasons for doing so are unclear, as they never volunteer information about their organization – indeed, usually denying that they’re part of an organization at all, but rather coincidentally possess similar names – though it seems to have something to do with the notorious Gib Htimsen.

In combat, Ekim tends to focus on defense while she tries to discern her opponents’ abilities. She always uses false life and endure elements each morning, and will use shield as soon as a fight breaks out, following it up with lesser globe of invulnerability, stoneskin, fire shield, and protection from energy, in that order. If her opponents consistently hit her, she’ll use her Combat Expertise feat to its fullest.

Ekim prefers to fight at range. She’ll use her hand of the apprentice ability first before falling back on her crossbow. She’ll target truly dangerous martial fighters with hold monster, and dangerous spellcasters with baleful polymorph. In the event that defeat seems imminent, she’ll try and flee using gaseous form or her scroll of phantom steed. If needing to use a spell that she hasn’t prepared (or has already expended), she’ll use her arcane bond with her ring to cast it again.

Gib Nuf

November 26, 2011

My first collectible card game was Magic: the Gathering, which my mother bought for me when I was a kid. She’d noted my growing obsession with D&D and thought that I’d get a kick out of this new fantasy card game that she’d heard about.

I, of course, was intrigued by the new game, and played it thoroughly…for a few months. My love affair with Magic ended before it really got off the ground, however, when I saw an ad in Dragon magazine saying that, if you sent them your Magic: the Gathering deck, they’d send you a two-deck starter set of their new D&D CCG: Spellfire.

I didn’t even have to think twice. Magic was out, Spellfire was in.

Of course, with the benefit of hindsight it’s easy to see just how flawed a game Spellfire really was. For the most part, this was because its initial run of cards were lacking in special powers, save for a relative few, which made them comparatively worthless against those cards which did have a special effect. Later editions of the game corrected this, but by the time they did it was too late for the game, which had failed to upset Magic’s growing hold on the CCG market it had created.

I didn’t know any of that at the time though, and enjoyed the hell out of the game, both in play and for its presentation of the many different characters, places, and things from D&D. I also, naturally, collected like mad, particularly the limited set of “chase” cards. These were cards that were outside the usual numbered set, and always had powers…usually greater than those of non-chase cards with powers.

Some of the most famous of the original chase cards were the Gib cards. There were three to begin with, those being Gib Ekim (1st chase/4), Gib Evets (1st chase/11), and Gib Htimsen (1st chase/13). Obviously these were “Big Mike,” “Big Steve,” and “Big Nesmith” all spelled backwards, being the names of people who worked on Spellfire. Still, it was a quirky, and endearing, trio of characters; so much so that the Gib cards eventually became de facto representatives of Spellfire itself, and as the booster packs continued, more and more Gib cards would be unleashed.

Of those first three though, Gib Htimsen was the most interesting, and as you can see on the left, it’s not hard to figure out why. In addition to an arresting picture, Gib Htimsen also had an impressive – for when the game first came out – set of immunities. He was pretty well immune to almost anything you threw at him! He was one of Spellfire’s most fearsome champions in the game’s early years.

Fast forward to a few days ago. I found myself thinking about Spellfire, and while mentally comparing over how certain facets of D&D were translated to Spellfire, I came to realize that the reverse wasn’t true – that many of the things original to Spellfire had never been officially brought over to D&D.

In particular, none of the Gib cards.

Well, as a fan of both D&D and Spellfire, I couldn’t let that stand! I immediately set out to convert the Gib cards to D&D and unleash them upon the world. Of course, I play Pathfinder now, so those are my stats of choice for bringing these classic cards into your game world.

Here’s the first, and greatest, of the Gibs: Gib Htimsen. I’m hoping to eventually convert all of the Gib cards, but since there are (with the official online booster packs) fifteen of them altogether (and a few other cards that specifically affect the Gib cards, to boot), it’s anyone’s guess if I’ll manage to convert them all. Of course, a direct conversion isn’t feasible, but I’ll do my best to keep the stat blocks true to the spirit of the original cards.

And besides, it’s the very least that these characters deserve after all the oddly-named fun they gave me over the years.


This nether monstrosity is the size of a small forest, complete with dozens of tree-sized serpentine heads!

Gib Htimsen CR 25

XP 1,638,400

NE Gargantuan magical beast (extraplanar)

Init +4; Senses darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision, scent; Perception +30


AC 43, touch 6, flat-footed 43 (+47 natural, –4 size)

hp 562 (25d10+425); regeneration 25 (acid and fire)

Fort +31, Ref +16, Will +10

DR 20/good; Immune magic; Resist acid 30, fire 30


Speed 30 ft., swim 30 ft.

Melee 25 bites +35 (3d6+13/19-20)

Space 20 ft.; Reach 20 ft.

Special Attacks pounce


Str 37, Dex 10, Con 45, Int 2, Wis 11, Cha 9

Base Atk +25; CMB +42; CMD 52 (can’t be tripped)

Feats Combat Reflexes, Critical Focus, Diehard, Endurance, Improved Critical (bite), Improved Initiative, Improved Natural Attack (bite), Iron Will, Lightning Reflexes, Power Attack, Staggering Critical, Stunning Critical, Weapon Focus (bite)

Skills Perception +30, Swim +21; Racial Modifiers +2 Perception

SQ hydra traits, regenerate head, relentless


Hydra Traits (Ex) Gib Htimsen can be killed by severing all of its heads or slaying its body. Any attack that is not an attempt to sever a head affects the body, including area attacks or attacks that cause piercing or bludgeoning damage. To sever a head, an opponent must make a sunder attempt with a slashing weapon targeting a head. A head is considered a separate weapon with hardness 0 and 25 hit points. To sever a head, an opponent must inflict enough damage to reduce the head’s hit points to 0 or less. Severing a head deals 22 points of damage to Gib Htimsen’s body. Gib Htimsen can’t attack with a severed head, but takes no other penalties.

Immunity to Magic (Ex) Gib Htimsen is immune to any spell or spell-like ability that allows spell resistance.

Regenerate Head (Ex) When one of Gib Htimsen’s heads is destroyed, two heads regrow in 1d4 rounds. Gib Htimsen cannot have more than twice its original number of heads at any one time. To prevent new heads from growing, at least 25 points of acid or fire damage must be dealt to the stump (a touch attack to hit) before they appear. Acid or fire damage from area attacks can affect stumps and the body simultaneously. Gib Htimsen doesn’t die from losing its heads until all are cut off and the stumps seared by acid or fire.

Regeneration (Ex) This regeneration applies only to damage inflicted on Gib Htimsen’s body.

Relentless (Ex) Gib Htimsen does not need to breath, eat, or sleep. Additionally, it treats all ability drain as ability damage, and regenerates 1  negative level and 1 point of ability damage to each ability score per round. Gib Htimsen is immune to fatigue and exhaustion.

For one of the deadliest creatures in the cosmos, very few know of Gib Htimsen’s existence. Perhaps that is fortunate, for if the creature was more widely-known, then it would surely be brought forth much more often by those wishing to spread havoc and destruction throughout the multiverse.

Gib Htimsen’s origins are unknown, though its clearly from one of the evil Outer Planes. Some have speculated that, given its hydra-like qualities, it’s perhaps the original hydra from which all others sprang. Others put it as kin to Demogorgon, citing a  vague resemblance to the Prince of Demon’s twisted offspring, Arendagrost. A few hold that it was the prototype of the monstrosity known as Demodragon.

Whatever the creature’s beginnings, Gib Htimsen’s existence is one of unending rage and devastation against all within its reach. Unsleeping, the creature ceaselessly wanders, never failing to destroy anything that falls within its gaze. This eternal rampage seems without cause, for the creature does not even eat what it kills. It simply ravages everything it can find.

Those with the courage to fight this engine of annihilation usually don’t live long enough to regret their error. Most find out too late that Gib Htimsen is immune to virtually all magic, and that it quickly shrugs off even the most egregious of wounds. Those who try to hack its myriad heads from its body usually find themselves ripped to pieces before felling more than a handful.