Saturday, October 4, 2014

DFC: Dragonriders of the Styx - Playsets

DFC produced 5 playsets, Dragonriders of the Styx, the Dungeons of Castlelon, the Tower of the Night, the Fires of Shandarr, the Forest of Doom and a mini playset that is just called Fantasy Playset.  Multi Toy added two playsets, The Demons of Castlelon and the Giant Castle Playset.  The Dungeons of Castlelon was pulled from stores thanks to TSR and was replaced with the Demons of Castlelon.  Both of the Castlelon playsets are very rare.




















Photo from ebay auction.

Photo from ebay auction.

33 comments:

  1. I had gotten Dragonriders of the Styx for Christmas back in 1980. It got tossed in a garage purge. So upset. I would love to have that set again. I loved that playmat with the "maze". The plastic "castle / fort" was flimsy as hell I recall. The Volcano of Evil Gargoyles was fantastic. Twelve red gargoyles were the bane of all the heroic light blue knights.

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  2. Great pictures. I didn't know the 25 piece Fantasy Playset existed. Is that a Famous Battle from History? LOL. Love the box art.

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  3. Ya, its based on Custer's last stand . . . against the orcs.

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  4. I always found it odd that they sold these mixed "Fantasy Assortment" playsets with the plastic figures from the Dragonriders line combined with the chariots - made more for use with the DFC Dragonriders action figure line.

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  5. This really was one of my favorite toys from childhood - my folks had splurged and gotten "Fires of Shandarr", "Forest of Doom", and "Tower of the Night" for my brother and I one Christmas in the early 1980s. They pretty much pushed our handful of Star Wars figures, G.I.Joe, and all the rest of the better-known toys out of the picture. I have no idea where they got them, or how they afforded them. A couple years later, I remember seeing the heavy cardboard "giant castle" set at a local department store, and would have loved to have gotten that, too, but it was way beyond the price range in an era where we were getting a sporadic 25-cent weekly-monthly allowance; I seem to remember that it included cavemen along with the usual knights and demons.

    Instead, we did somehow get a "Crossbows and Catapults" set a year or two after that, though, and we used the castle parts and weapons from that game with these DFC knights sets more than anything else (sadly, the "C&C" vikings and barbarians were a noticeably different scale from the DFC guys, so they usually got left out of the epic fantasy wars my brother and I would set up.) I seem to recall that the Arco "Sword and the Sorcerer" figures, though somewhat crude and hideously painted, were a pretty good match for the DFC sets.

    There were smaller (and more affordable!) plastic-bag-with-title-card packs of the figures which appeared in little dollar stores from time to time, and we had gotten one or two of those, the figures were in markedly different colors or shades of colors, and included the bizarre faceless orcs and "worm men" (I remember we hated the faceless orcs - couldn't they have bothered to give them decent faces? - but the faceless worm-men were pretty creepy for some reason. Never made the connection to D&D, only found out about the likely lawsuits that resulted in disfiguring some of the figures and changing the name from "Dungeons of Castleton" to "Demons of Castleton" (which I'd never heard of in the 1980s) years later after researching them in a fit of nostalgia on the internet. It's really a shame that TSR didn't partner with DFC instead - who knows what might have happened, had they worked together to produce cool fantasy figures, and games that used them?

    Alas, my old toys, including these, vanished in a housecleaning one year when I was away from home, never to be seen again (I suspect my mother gave them away to some neighborhood kids) - what a shame! I'd have loved to have given them to kids of my own.

    I wonder whatever happened to the folks at DFC who dreamed "Dragonriders of the Styx" up, and where the molds for the toys ever went? (One might imagine the molds eventually wore out, considering that Toyco began releasing some rather obvious and somewhat inferior knock-offs a while later, while the original DFC/Multitoy figures seem to have ceased production and vanished into the mists of history. (Apparently, "Schylling"/"Polotoy"/"Justen Products" also made some obvious knockoffs as well, combining them in playsets with what look like copies of "Crossbows and Catapults" components; I wish I knew more about those - they don't seem to exist outside of occasional images on the internet.)

    In any event, I would be fascinated to hear about the history of the DFC sets and what eventually happened to the molds, as told by the folks who were behind it all - between the revival of "army men playsets" (as buckets or tubes of figures and scenery) and the success of fantasy film and television franchises recently, it seems like now would be a great time for DFC-style fantasy playsets to make a comeback - if the original molds are still around and in useable shape, that would surely cut most of the expense of doing so!

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    1. Sounds like we had similar childhoods. DFC playsets only cost about $5-$15 when they were first released. They were cheap toys, which is why my brother and I could afford them.

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  6. Cheap, but still great toys! Nevertheless, $15 was a lot of money for my folks in those days.

    As an aside, I just managed to snag a mostly complete "Dragonriders of the Styx" playset and a handful of loose figures from different eBay sellers, enough to replace the three missing and one broken figure. I suppose it'll make a nice collectible and nostalgia item, if nothing else :)

    For those who worry about such things, the scale of the human knight figures is about 51mm - just a tiny bit smaller than the apparently more popular 54mm figures that are available in hobby stores. The titan/giant ("Viking") figures are 54mm, and fit in fine among other 54mm figures. There are a few 51mm knights sets out there that seem to fit in fine alongside these DFC guys, though: the black and silver knights from the "True Heroes Medieval Bucket" are just about right (closer to 50mm I think) and a great bargain, while the black and silver knights from the cheap 36-piece "Guardian Knights" bags are a perfect match and another great bargain. I figure the black knights are probably villains who like hanging out with stinky giant purple orcs, creepy faceless worm-men, and bat-winged demons.

    (The good knights do seem like they ought to have 51mm noble family king/queen/princess, and some fantasy adventurer-types to lead them into battle against those demons of Castleton, though... seems like the handful of wizards are unlikely leaders of this mob... maybe someone will eventually release sets these sorts of figures in 51mm or 54mm scale....)

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    1. Funny you say that. I am working on a post about 45mm knights and other ancient soldiers that fit with the DFC knights. Stay tuned.

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  7. Is it wrong that I'd like to have these even now?

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  8. What do you put as a value on the first of the two fantasy assortment boxes above? The one with the super awesome purple dragon/demon/cyclops sled that you never find loose? I have a chance to buy one and I don't want to over pay!

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  9. Sweet, I did good then. I went ahead and took a chance on it and paid earlier today. 100 bucks. I've wanted that purple sled thing ever since I first saw it. Amazing! Thanks so much for the info Shaun.

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    1. Nice score. Send me some pictures if you get a chance.

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  10. I certainly will. I have some decent shots that the seller sent me before purchase. I can start with those and get you more when it arrives.

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  11. Are there any nice loose pics of the Dungeons of Castlelon playset or better yet, high quality scans of the playmat?
    I run D&D games and the little text blurb on the box just has my dungeon master's gears turning.

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    1. I have always hated playmats. To me, toy soldiers are for playing with in the dirt. I don't have any pictures of the Castlelon playmat.

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    2. I always hated playmats too, even as a kid. But I just want to use this as the basis for a dungeons in a Dungeons & Dragons adventure, because I really like that premise they offer on the box.

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    3. There's a Dungeons of Castleton set up on ebay right now. (Shameless plug)

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  12. I have the following
    292 Gargoyles
    255 Knights
    94 Wizards
    78 Ogres
    74 Vikings
    53 Faceless Lizards
    39 Dragon Riders
    Of every color you can imagine. I have a guy offering me $150 for this lot. Is this a fair price of should I throw the lot on ebay? Thanks for any help. I just don't know the value of these figures and didn't want taken advantage of :)

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    1. Well, it depends on how many of the figures are rare colors. If they are all original colors $150 is on the low end of fair. If you have several of the rarest colors, I'd pay more than that and I would guess that others would as well. Send me picture and I can give a much better idea of value.

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    2. Not sure how to do it on here. Can I send them to a cell or maybe fb?

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    3. I posted some on your army men timeline. But text me 740-457-6374 I can show more

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    4. email them to me at fantasytoysoldiers@gmail.com.

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  13. Looking at some saved eabyauction pictures I have. Apparently the contents list of the GIANT CASTLE PLAYSET (assuming they were all the same and the seller had all the pieces, which is a big assumption):
    10 Dragonriders
    6 Wizards (5 blue, 1 red)
    50 Knights (the most of any set!)
    12 Titans/Giants (the most any set came with as far as I know)
    8 Ogres (gray)
    10 Demons (black)
    10 Demon (red...NOT the larger winged gargoyles)
    1 Dragon (black)

    Unusual that the heroes had an advantage in this set.

    I don't know if this common knowledge, as I've previously heard the Giant Castle just including the same assortment as the Dragons of the Styx big set. I never owned the giant castle set.

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    1. That sounds about right. I was probably a way for Multi-toys to dump leftover stock.

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    2. Thank you for the rundown on the contents!

      I'd seen one of these in person in a Cincinnati department store in the '80s, and I could swear that the roster of figures in that set included some brown cavemen - some throwing boulders, some with stone knives and spears, all in a sort of brown or khaki colour. It stood out to me both because I was familiar with some of the other sets ("Fires of Shandarr", "Forest of Doom", and "Tower of the Night"), and these were figures I'd never seen before, but also because cavemen seemed like a weird addition to the setting.

      The box I saw was open, but I'm pretty sure those cavemen were packaged with the rest of the figures in the box (and maybe even appeared in the photos pasted on the box), but since then, I've never seen photos of this set that actually included these cavemen, so I have no idea if that was unique to that store or set (maybe the store repackaged a returned set with some random loose figures from an unrelated dinosaur set?), or a false memory, or a matter of there being some rarer variations on this set that that were altered in DFC's clash with TSR, or the rebranding to Multitoy....

      Multitoy using these sets as an opportunity to dump surplus stock of almost random fist-fulls of assorted figures might explain a lot: it might be that the contents varied wildly depending on whatever Multitoy had leftover on their shelves! (Some of the bagged sets seem to fit that scheme, too - for example, I know I've seen some of the bagged sets labeled as containing "flaming men", which actually contained no such thing, with those figures apparently replaced by the nearly ubiquitous winged demons!)

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    3. Speaking of that giant castle playset, I can't help chuckling at the blurb on the box cover that claims that the castle is suitable for 2"-5" action figures, including Masters of the Universe... those MOTU figures would have looked kind of silly trying to squeeze into that castle, even as giant as it is!

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  14. Does anyone remember the commercials from the early 70's of these playsets? My friend Travis would love to know, he used to have 386 figures but they had t be gotten rid of while he lived in maryland. Thankyou guys!

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    1. P.S. was seen in Dayton Ohio during those years on channels 2,7,9 and 22. Any information will be greatly appreciated, will answer any questions about the my troops and demons, had 386 figures in total.anything that would help would help in getting my answer. Thanksguys!!! Travis

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    2. I lived in Cincinnati at the time, I don't remember seeing any TV commercials for these, they would certainly have stood out to me if I had! If the ads exist, I would love to see them now.

      I remember the toys being available in one or more of the department stores in Cincinnati at the time - Shillito's, Gold Circle, Sears, or whatever... no idea how this sort of thing would have been distributed, marketed, etc. at the time, but it was an era of local TV stations, with local programming, and do-it-yourself local TV advertising, for local stores with unique products, and it's entirely possible, I would imagine, for a local store to produce its own holiday TV commercial that would feature this sort of thing among its unique selection of stuff!

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  15. By the way, someone with nice examples of the original cardstock bits from these sets REALLY needs to scan them up to preserve them! I get the impression that many of the original are lost forever, and the artwork on this stuff - especially that haunted forest, and that larger building from Tower of Night, is really atmospheric and evocative stuff!

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  16. the dragon rider and demon figures are poor recasts (imitations?) of these Ral Partha miniatures
    http://www.miniatures-workshop.com/lostminiswiki/index.php?title=Image:RP-01-034v2.jpg
    http://www.miniatures-workshop.com/lostminiswiki/index.php?title=Image:RP-01-003v2.jpg
    http://www.miniatures-workshop.com/lostminiswiki/index.php?title=Image:RP-01-003v1.jpg

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