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Over 40 years later, the warrior on Dungeons & Dragons' iconic Red Box has been given a face

Red Box Warrior gets the Samus Aran treatment.

Illustration of a warrior fighting a red dragon, an updated piece to the one gracing Dungeons & Dragons' Red Box.
Image credit: Larry Elmore/Facebook

One of Dungeons & Dragons’ oldest promotional figures will enjoy a toy treatment that shows fans more than just a chainmail and fur armour-covered butt. The warrior fighting the dragon on the cover of D&D’s 1983 Red Box set now has a face, and WizKids has interpreted the dragon fighter as a big, buff lady.

As revealed by earlier this week, the figurine can be found in WizKids's D&D Icons of the Realms: 50th Anniversary set as one of 10 “secret rare” toys packed inside randomised booster boxes - other elusive miniatures include characters from the animated D&D cartoon and both the Green Knight and the Blue Wizard from the cover of the tabletop RPG’s basic set box.

Renders shared with ComicBook show off the warrior in her classic pose, shield in left and sword raised horizontal in the right. It’s pulled directly from storied artist Larry Elmore’s original illustration, sans the massive red dragon and hoard of gold treasure. More interesting is the front of the toy: the warrior boasts D&D’s famous ampersand - basically synonymous with the brand - alongside fine details on her armour, belts, sword and stoic face.

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WizKids said rendering the warrior as a musclebound woman was “purposefully and clearly” done by the team, likely aware that it would upset the more regressive players and those with a fierce loyalty to TSR’s canon. Elmore perhaps inadvertently provided those folks ammunition when he wrote on Facebook that he imagines the warrior as a man. He goes on to add that “the thing that I love about D&D was that anyone can be anything in this game. Male, Female, both, neither, it does not discriminate. It's a game of imagination and you can be and do whatever you want.” (As ENWorld pointed out, Elmore edited his post to remove less charitable language from his initial reaction.)

The Red Box opened the door to many new players when it was released in 1983, snugly fitting a version of the Player’s Handbook and Dungeon Master’s Manual alongside dice and other materials for running the RPG. Among book and adventure illustrations that have come to symbolise D&D as a concept, Elmore’s warrior and dragon, locked in battle, recalls a period before the 1990s D20 boom and the current period of tabletop culture domination.

Wizkids’ D&D Icons of the Realms: 50th Anniversary set will hit retail in July, and preorders are already open on the toy maker’s website. Here’s to all of us avoiding anyone angry that a woman warrior has calves and thighs like tree trunks, echoing last month’s dismal controversy over canonical women in Warhammer 40K’s Adeptus Custodes.

Images: WizKids/Wizards of the Coast

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