Several weeks ago Rachel's dad helped us wire up a variety of technical doohickies to our TV, which meant that - after several years - we finally had a working VHS player again in the house. I know, very retro!
Which brings us to: Beastmaster 2 - Through The Portal Of Time, an old VHS tape I've had knocking about for ages - but with no way to play it.
And you know what, it wasn't half as bad as I'd heard.
The Beastmaster Dar (Marc Singer) is leading a rebellion against wizard-warrior Arklon (a scenery-devouring turn from Wings Hauser) - who turns out to be Dar's brother, for all the difference that makes.
Arklon teams up with jive-talking witch Lyranna (the ever-yummy Sarah Douglas) who happens to know that Arklon's main weapon, the magical Key Of Magog, can open a portal she has been studying ... to a parallel world (not "through time").
This parallel world turns out to be early '90s L.A. and Lyranna also happens to know of a mighty Earth weapon called the "neutron detonator", which Arklon immediately wants to get his hands on.
Complicating matters further is annoying senator's daughter Jackie Trent (Kari Wuhrer) who accidentally drives her sports car through the portal - from Earth - and ends up befriending Dar and his menagerie of animal helpers.
Jackie is captured by Arklon and Lyranna and Dar chases them all back through to the portal to Earth - where Dar is promptly arrested by the L.A. police.
This all unfolds at breakneck speed and before you know it, Arklon has trashed a department store and broken into a military base (with Lyranna's aid) to steal the neutron detonator. There's some double-crossing on the baddies' side - and Lyranna eventually disappears out the picture.
Arklon proceeds to demonstrate what a total moron he is, after standing right in front of the open portal back to his world, by deciding to drive back into L.A. - forgetting that his nemesis can control animals (luckily so do the scriptwriters) - and make his final stand in the Los Angeles Zoo!
The dialogue throughout is pretty dire, with Jackie's constant unfunny one-liners a particular nuisance and the animals' occasional "humourous" thought balloons totally groan-worthy, but the pacing and action is solid. The whole "fish-out-of-water" scenario isn't overdone either - with Arklon, for instance, using his ability to drain others' memories adapting to 20th Century Earth very quickly.
Quite mercifully, no cliché romantic sub-plot develops between Dar and Jackie and, instead, they remain friends and travelling compaigns throughout their adventures.
Beastmaster 2 is a rather camp sequel to the classic original, but approached from a gaming perspective, it certainly suggests a leftfield campaign plot-twist worthy of the great Gary Gygax himself.
What old school Dungeon Master worth his salt wouldn't want to send his player-characters on a journey to contempory Earth?
And don't worry, the portal has a TARDIS-like ability that grants everyone, from both sides, the automatic ability to understand each others' language.
Key Of Magog: The key is a broad, six inch tube or rod with round, green, glowing spheres at each end. The top also has a miniature dragon figurine mounted atop that sphere.
The device is actually alien technology, but is easily used by whoever has hold of it. When first discovered it will have (19+1d20) charges in it. When used, a pair of beams come from the spheres, meeting just in front of rod and then heading towards their target as either a solid beam, a pulse or ever-expanding rings of green energy.
Each of its special powers uses a different number of charges -
- Attack: A single charge will cause the key to emit an energy pulse with a range of 600ft, attacking at +5 to hit and causing 2d12 damage on a successful hit. If this is enough damage to kill its target, the victim's body will burst into flames for 1d3 minutes.
- Force: Expenditure of three charges will cause the key to create a cone of force (100 ft long and 60ft wide at broadest point), like a very strong wind, that is capable of throwing anything of large size or smaller (humanoids, rocks, rubbish, drapes etc) backwards, into the air, 3d6ft. Larger objects will be pushed as well - although not as far - if not attached to the ground.
- Earthquake: Expenditure of six charges causes a powerful earthquake in a 60ft by 60ft area, up to 100ft in front of the key. This will topple walls, causes rockslides and open fissures into the earth - anyone caught in the area of effect may (one in six chance) need to make a 5d6 save versus their DEX+LVL to avoid plummeting into a fissure to certain death (Hero Points, magic etc, of course, can be used by Player Characters to escape this fate).
- Portal: If a "certain magical portal to a parallel world" is found, the key can be used to open it - with the expenditure of two charges. The portal will only remain open for 2d4 minutes.
Magic Portal: In the Western deserts on the planet Erph, there is a certain arch of rock which contains an invisible portal to a parallel universe (Earth, Los Angeles, 1991). Unless the portal is activated, the archway can be walked through without any effect.
Anyone with magic, on the Erph side, can use the portal as a kind of scrying mirror to study Earth and learn its ways, but it can only actually be opened with the Key Of Magog. While opened though, traffic may travel either way through the portal.
On Earth, the portal opens through the wall of a warehouse in a backstreet of downtown Los Angeles. Unless activated (from either side), it is simply a solid wall.
On this side, it can only be opened with the Key of Magog and on a night of a full time, and then only for the first two hours after sunset.
The portal is only visible - and can only be looked through - from the side it opened/activated from.