I was leafing through an old issue of Dragon Magazine from 1988, less for the articles and more for the study of the gaming Zeitgeist that the magazine offered, when I spotted an ad for the Bally Midway Dungeons & Dragons pinball game. The ad copy was brilliant: “The Realm of Fantasy Enters the World of Reality Via Ball Midway’s Fantastic Dungeons & Dragons Pinball!” Who could resist the call of two gaming juggernauts somehow fused into one nigh-holy gaming entity?
This 225 lbs (102 kg) pinball arcade system designed by Ward Pemberton with art by Pat McMahon. It had a couple of interesting features worth noting. First, there was a mechanism called “teleport” wherein the player shot the ball into specific Teleport lanes, and the ball would vanish, only to reappear elsewhere on the table. The ball was lowered under the playing area, then a new ball was fed into the shooter lane. This captured ball could be released again, but only if the player sent a ball into the Dragon’s Lair, activating the “summon help” feature. For even more ballsy fun, if both Teleport lanes had a captured ball, and the player entered the Dragon’s Lair, all three balls could enter play!
The second interesting feature of the Dungeons & Dragons Pinball machine was the ability to keep a ball from dropping out of play by initiating the “Magic Save” function. When the ball was in peril of going down one of the left or right side lanes and disappearing from play, the player could press one of the the buttons located under the left and right flipper controls, which caused a small block to appear in the middle of the lane, re-routing the ball back into play. Even better, the player could earn more “Magic Save” opportunities with the right sequence of actions!
If you ever played this pinball machine, I hope this ad brings back fond memories, and if you didn’t, but desperately want to, save your pennies, as they tend to sell handily for a few thousand dollars! In the meantime, click on the image below to see an enlarged version, and enjoy the trip into yesteryear!