The name "Peter Perfect" comes from a Hanna-Barbera cartoon called The Wacky Races. Peter Perfect was an oh-so-perfect gentleman racedriver with whom Penelope Pitstop was always flirting.
This was supposed to be reminiscent of the "voice modulator" on the instrument panel of K.I.T.T., the indestructable talking car from the TV series Knight Rider. Except, of course, that K.I.T.T.'s voice modulator was red, not green. The green color was a reference to the green glow given off by the sword Excalibur in the movie Excalibur.
Throughout the Disgusting Characters stories, the characters refer to the Dungeon Master's Guide as "the Book of Infinite Wisdom." This term comes from a 1978 Saturday Night Live sketch titled "Theodoric of York, Medieval Judge". In this sketch, Steve Martin plays a medieval magistrate who has to decide what the proper punishment is for adultery. He thinks for a moment, and then says, "Consult the book of infinite wisdom!"
The other books in the AD&D oevre are referred to by the stories' characters as follows:
The name "Smogzilla" is, of course, a cross between the dragon Smaug from Tolkien's The Hobbit, and Japan's national hero, Godzilla.
"See that pool over there, well,"The Rainbow Connection" is, of course, the first song heard in The Muppet Movie. It's sung by Kermit the Frog while he's playing the banjo. (Hence, the joke about Melnic the Loud's Ollamh Harp being an "Ollamh Banjo.") The reader should sing the above 3-lines of song to the tune of the first 7 or 8 bars of "The Rainbow Connection" for their full effect. (Note that the last line is a few syllables longer than the number of notes in the relevant "Rainbow Connection" passage — but in the words of Tom Lehrer's "The Folksong Army," it don't matter if you cram a couple of extra syllables into a line.)
It's really fresh water,
And a quick dip now might be re-freshing!"
The bit about the "pool over there" really being fresh water comes from the 1st Edition Player's Handbook's description of the suggestion spell. It was said that the spellcaster could use this spell to convince his victim that a pool of acid was really just water, and that a quick swim now might be refreshing. Melnic the Loud was using the bard's ability to plant a suggestion in a song.
This incantation, of course, comes straight out of the 1st Edition Dungeon Master's Guide. It appears at the beginning of the "Rods, Staves, and Wands" section on page 132, as a suggested possible command phrase for activating a wand of lightning.
The wand of lightning was copper due to a particularly long-running game of Rogue, the computer dungeon-adventure game that preceded Nethack. In Rogue, every different kind of wand was made of a different substance, usually a metal, chosen randomly when the game begins. In one particularly long-running game of Rogue, in which the player character was jokingly named Rog-O-Mattock (after Rog-O-Matic, a program designed to play Rogue automatically), wands of lightning were copper.
The Sick Sword was patterned after the sword He-Man used on the original Masters of the Universe cartoon series.
In the Nethack dungeon-adventure computer game, if you read a cursed scroll of enchant armor or a scroll of destroy armor while you're confused, the game replies, "Your <piece-of-armor> glows purple for a moment." The piece of armor can be anything you're wearing, including a helmet. In game terms, the purple glow means that the piece of armor is no longer rust-proof.
The movie Heaven Can Wait, starring Warren Beatty, featured a depiction of the Pearly Gates of Heaven. In this variant, all the new arrivals in Heaven had to board a Concorde — a supersonic jet airliner — in order to be flown to wherever they would be spending the rest of eternity.
This, of course, is Vogon poetry, as read by Prosthetnic Vogon Jeltz in Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
In the TV series Kung Fu, David Carradine played Quai-Chang Caine, a Buddhist monk trained in the martial arts who frequently spouted homilies dripping with Eastern mysticism.
The video game Gauntlet featured monster generators that would continue to create monsters for your characters to fight until the generators were destroyed.
When your character steps into a shop in the Nethack dungeon-adventure computer game, the shopkeeper always greets you with something like "Welcome to Asidonhoppo's general store!" One of the shopkeepers is named Dirk. (Vader, of course, comes from Star Wars.)
When 7-up first decided to advertise the fact that it was caffeine-free, they showed ads featuring a guy who reminded me a lot of James Earl Jones, usually dressed in Polynesian garb. As he held up a bottle (or can) of 7-up, he would say, "Crisp, clean, and no caffeine." Later commercials also added, "No artificial colors, no artificial flavors" to the litany of 7-up's virtues.
As for its pink color, that was another reference to the long-running "Rog-O-Mattock" game of Rogue mentioned above. Potions, like wands, each have a different color chosen randomly when Rogue begins. In this particular game, potions of haste self were pink. Gold potions in that game were potions of extra healing, as the story demonstrates a few paragraphs later, while green potions were the garden-variety potions of healing. White potions were potions of raise level, which explains why the potions of super heroism Ringman bought for the Townspeople were described as "glowing white."
The crew complement of the starship Enterprise from the original Star Trek TV series was exactly 428 crewmen.
The first stanza of A.E. Houseman's poem "To an Athlete Dying Young" reads:
"The time you won your town the race
We chaired you through the market-place;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high."
Buccaneer's sword does the equivalent of 25 sword hacks.
In the animated TV series Thundercats, Lion-O had a magic sword called the Sword of Omens. This magic sword contained a cat's-eye-looking thingy called the Eye of Thunderra. Whenever danger was around, the pupil-slit on the Eye of Thunderra would glow bright white and the background music would play a dramatic "DAT da DAAaAAaAAaAAaAA!"
In the movie Ghøstbusters, when the group is hunting their first ghost on the 20th floor of a hotel, Ray Stanz suggests that the group split up, and Peter Venkman replies, "Yeah, we can do more damage that way."
In the Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends cartoon series, whenever Spider-man, Iceman, and Firestar were about to go tackle the bad guys, they put their hands together, then Spider-man said, "Spider friends," and then they all shouted, "GO FOR IT!" as they raised their hands into the air like a football team right before a big game.
In the animated She-Ra TV series, the heroine would turn into She-Ra by holding aloft her magic sword (which looked like He-Man's sword except that it had an elliptical turquoise gem embedded in it) and saying, "For the honor of Grayskull!" This would be followed by a shower of what look like little glowing tadpoles coming out of the tip of the sword and dancing around her body. I always imagined they looked suspiciously like sperm cells. Anyway, while this was happening, the exact same music the story is trying to describe in textual form is playing in the background.
Another Thundercats reference. The Sword of Omens had a power called "second sight" which strongly resembled clairvoyance. To use it, Lion-O had to say, "Sword of Omens, give me sight beyond sight!" (Of course, Lion-O said it in English.)
Yet another reference to Thundercats. Lion-O would sometimes say, "Sword of Omens, come to my hand!", whereupon the Sword of Omens would, well, come to his hand.
The one-and-only city to have a name on all of Central Earth is "Town." Just "Town." The idea to name a town "Town" came from a 1977 TV Easter special called The Easter Bunny Is Comin' to Town, whose narrator was voiced by Fred Astaire.
In the late, lamented Infocom's Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy adventure game, there comes a scene where you get to play Zaphod Beeblebrox just as he's about to steal the new infinite-improbability-drive-powered starship Heart of Gold. Zaphod is in front of a huge crowd that's gathered to watch the christening of this new starship. Anything you do and say for the next few turns, absolutely anything, results in "The crowd cheers wildly. It thinks you're terrific!"
The repeated cries of "YAAAAAAAAAYY!" were inspired in part by Tom Slick, a low-budget car-racing spoof cartoon that always showed alongside George of the Jungle and Super Chicken. The producers of Tom Slick could only afford a few people to do the voices when it came time for the crowds to cheer. So, instead of having constant crowd noise, the crowds would merely say "YAAAY!" from time to time, and the word "YAAAY!" would appear on the screen.
It was called a "pair of gloves" instead of, say, gauntlets, because of the Nethack computer adventure game. A pair of gloves was one of the types of armor you could come across; it could even be enchanted, just like other pieces of armor. Of course, characters in Nethack couldn't do anything like a monk's open-hand attacks with them, so their "plus" only affected your AC, not your to-hit chances or damage.
In an otherwise transcendently beautiful episode of the Challenge of the SuperFriends cartoon series, the Legion of Doom gets hold of the dreaded Noxium crystal and uses it to wipe out the entire Justice League. However, at the end, the Justice League comes back and reveals that they had been hiding out in a space station all that time. Baffled, Luthor asks how they were still alive, since he watched them die. Superman answered "You only killed our Superfriends androids, programmed to act like us in every detail." I wanted to throw a rock at my TV when he said this.
Scott Adams (not the guy who draws the Dilbert comics, the other Scott Adams) used to run a rather profitable business selling software for home computers before the IBM PC came out. One of his most successful lines were the text-based adventure games he wrote himself. His second adventure game, Pirate's Adventure, featured the magic word YOHO, which when uttered would teleport you to another room. The description that accompanied this teleportation was, "Everything spins around and suddenly I'm elsewhere."
One of the early hand-held electronic games that came out in the 1970s was called "Merlin." It was red, and shaped somewhat like a pushbutton telephone receiver. (The "buttons," however, were touch-sensitive LEDs that could be used to play 6 games, including tic-tac-toe, mastermind, and a bizarre variant of Blackjack in which you had to get to 13 instead of 21.)
In the 1979 movie The Warriors, Luther goads them by saying, "Warriors, come out and play-i-ay!"
The thoroughly forgettable Italian space movie Star Crash featured one scene in which the heroine saw a derelict spacecraft out of her front viewport, and then opening her eyes wide in astonishment, she gasped and said, "It's a space ship!" (The general reaction from the audience was, "No, duh! What gave it away, lame-brain?!")
These are all from Dune. Lisan-al-Gaib, Muad'dib, and Kwisatz Haderach are all phrases used to describe Paul Atreides. Shai-hulud is the name the Fremen use to deify the sandworms. And shooting a lasgun at a personal shield causes a thermonuclear explosion for some reason.
Another Nethack reference. Actually, this reference goes all the way back to Rogue, the computer game that Nethack was based on. Whenever you gain an experience level in either of those games, the game comments, "Welcome to level <level-number>."
Oolong Caloophid is, according to Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the author of that trilogy of philosophical blockbusters, "Where God Went Wrong," "Some More of God's Greatest Mistakes," and "Who Is This God Person Anyway?".
Another Hitchhiker's Guide reference. Man proves that God doesn't exist by noting that the Babel Fish is clear evidence that God does exist, which violates God's rule that people must have faith that He exists without evidence, so therefore God cannot exist. "Oh," says God, "I never thought of that," and disappears in a puff of logic.
Anna Russel does a lovely treatment of Wagner's Ring of the Nibelungen opera cycle. Wagner's Ring is based heavily on Norse mythology, with a few of Wagner's own harebrained twists thrown in for dramatic effect. Odin, in Wagner-speak, is named "Wotan." Anna Russel describes part of the plot of the second opera, Die Valkyrie, by saying, "Siegmund kills Hunding! Hunding kills Siegmund! Mr. and Mrs. Wotan get into a dreadful argument!"
In a Bugs Bunny cartoon set in the world of Robin Hood, Bugs Bunny told the Sheriff of Nottingham that he was friends with Robin Hood and his Merry Men, whereupon the Sheriff replied, in a high-and-mighty British accent, "Upstarts and robes! Never heard of them." (Or perhaps it's "Upstarts and rogues." I'm sure some Warner Brothers afficionado will point me to the definitive dialog script one of these days.)
This describes the character of "Dungeon Master" in the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon series.
A Bugs Bunny cartoon made during World War II titled "Super Rabbit" had one scene in which Bugs Bunny fast-talked the bad guys into cheering for him from the stands. He encouraged them to cheer, "Bric-a-bracker, firecracker, sis boom bah / Bugs Bunny, Bugs Bunny, rah, rah, rah!"
In the movie Excalibur, King Arthur is losing a fight to Sir Lancelot. He cheats by calling upon the power of the sword Excalibur to smash through Lancelot's superior defenses, and succeeds, but in so doing Excalibur is broken in half. Merlin sees this and exclaims, "You have broken what could not be broken!"
This was a subtle reference to the "quickening" effect in Highlander. Considering that characters in AD&D get experience points for killing others, there is an eerie similarity between gaining an experience level and "The Quickening," in which an immortal gains power by killing another immortal.
This cosmological model is still believed in, with dead seriousness, by a small group of people who belong to The International Flat Earth Society. They base their insistence that the Earth is flat on several Biblical passages. Personally, I think they don't go nearly far enough, what with their heathenistic insistence on a flat but circular Earth; there are other Biblical passages which prove that the Earth is square.
A single-issue comic book titled Destroy! featured an unbelievably gigantic titanic colossal battle between two mega-powered superheroes, who beat the crap out of each other and demolished all of Manhattan in the process. Yet despite levelling every building on the most densely-populated island in the country, in the final panel, the mayor confidently clamps his cigar between his teeth and says, "Well, at least no one was hurt."
(Well, okay, there was one panel near the end, buried deeply under the piles of rubble and earth-shattering explosions, where someone announced, "We'll have to evacuate Manhattan." But I can't imagine 10 million people being safely evacuated in the 10-20 minutes it supposedly happened.)
This refers to an obscure children's book about a dragon who lived with a suburban family. It most enjoyed eating scrambled eggs.
The name Ludicrous Lance was inspired, indirectly, by the Mel Brooks movie Spaceballs. Before Spaceballs, the progression in increasing order of power throughout the Disgusting Character stories was as follows:
It was clear, from this progression, that "Ludicrous" was bigger and more bad-ass and farther along the general spectrum of impressiveness than "Ridiculous." Therefore, a character with "Ludicrous" in his name would be more powerful than Ridiculous Sword. ("Unbelievable Sword" had already been decided upon as the name that would represent the next generation of disgusting characters, but with "Ludicrous" something-or-other thrown into the mix, there was now an opportunity for an equally-matched villain to act as a foil for Unbelievable Sword.)
The Pike-Awl character's nomme de guerre comes from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. "Space," it says, "Is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is."
The movies Fletch and Fletch Too starred Chevy Chase. Imagine Chevy Chase in the role of the fletcher in these scenes, and his personality will make more sense.
The song "Pencil-Neck Geek," once a perennial favorite on the Dr. Demento radio show, laments that "Soon the geeks were poppin' up all over town. / You couldn't hardly sneeze without knockin' one down."
In the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode where they did Godzilla vs. Megalon, at one point in the giant monster fight at the end, Godzilla picks up a tree and starts using it as a club. Tom Servo, imitating a professional wrestling announcer, quips, "Uh oh, he's using a tree! This isn't the Godzilla we know!"
This, of course, was the call for "retreat" used by the Knights of the Round Table in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
This line comes from an episode of The Three Stooges, who probably got it from someone else.
In the main title sequence for the old George Reeves Adventures of Superman TV show, the announcer says that Superman posesses "powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men."
This is a direct quote from Star Wars, when Luke tells Ben Kenobi that he can't go with him to Alderaan.
"I'm just a poor wayfarin' strangerThis is the first stanza of a real-life gospel song, originally sung by slaves in the Old South. The sense of despair throughout the lyrics is unmistakable.
A trav'llin' through this world of woe,
But there's no sickness, toil or danger,
In that bright world to where I go."
This line is uttered by the title character of Dr. Strangelove near the end of the movie.
Ken Burns created a nine-episode PBS documentary covering the entire history of baseball. It was titled, simply, Baseball, and first aired on PBS in 1993.
These lyrics are from the title song to Man of La Mancha, except with "I am Ringman" substituted for "Don Quixote", "Deliv'rer of Centaurs" substituted for "The Lord of La Mancha," and "freedom" substituted for "glory." It forms a thematic couplet with the frequent quotes of the song "The Impossible Dream" (which is also from Man of La Mancha) found in the earlier Disgusting Character stories.
In issue 65 of Dragon magazine (Sept. 1982), the "What's New with Phil & Dixie" comic on page 76 argued that there was no difference between medieval and science-fiction RPGs. "Levitation?" "Anti-gravity disks!" "Mind reading?" "Brain scanners!" "Portal spell?" "Windows!"
The "Centaur" language is actually Esperanto, an artificial language created in 1887 by a Polish eye doctor.
The "Hobbit" language is, of course, French. The "Orcish" language, while no examples of it appear in the text, is supposed to be German — an idea borrowed from the Dingbat the Monk AD&D fanfiction stories.
This is a direct quote of Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back as he's instructing Luke to stay away from the Dark Side of the Force.
This comes from an episode in the fourth season of Babylon 5. John Sheridan (played by Bruce Boxleitner) comes back dramatically from certain death on Z'ha'dum, and when someone comments, "We thought you were dead," he replies, "I was. I'm better now."
Another Star Wars reference. Ben Kenobi tells Luke that his Uncle Owen didn't want him "to follow old Ben on some damned fool idealistic crusade like your father."
Regis Philbin's favorite line on his hit game show, Who Wants to be a Millionaire?.
This is the famous closing line spoken in the movie Dirty Harry, right before Harry Callahan wastes him with his crossb— er, with his .44 magnum revolver.
Another Star Wars reference. Replace "Peter Perfect" with "Artoo Detoo," and you'll have C-3PO's overjoyed words at being reunited with his old 'droid buddy aboard the Jawa sandcrawler.
In the Star Trek original series episode "Plato's Stepchildren," the crew of the Enterprise finds a planet inhabited by telekinetic aristocrats. These telekinetics force the crew to perform demeaning actions against their will, like puppets on strings.
Replace "paladin" with "Jedi," and you've got the next-to-last words of the Emperor to Luke near the end of Return of the Jedi.
This comes from one of the more difficult-to-hear lines spoken in the first Star Wars movie. When Uncle Owen is talking to C-3PO, deciding whether or not to buy the 'droid, he tells C-3PO to shut up. At that moment, three different voices all compete for the dialog soundtrack: Owen says, "I'll take him," a jawa jabbers unintelligibly, and underneath it all in the background, C-3PO replies, "Shutting up, sir!"
This is the second stanza of A.E. Houseman's "To an Athelete Dying Young," and forms a thematic couplet with the fragment of the first stanza that appears in IUDC part 2. There's one very minor difference from Houseman's original words, though: In this version, "Town" is capitalized.
"Yep, pretty much" was one of Tom Servo's favorite epithets on Mystery Science Theater 3000.
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