Dragonlance: War of the Lance by Libertad!
PostOriginal SA post
Happy New Year everyone! I figured that the first FATAL & Friends for this year should cover an appropriately iconic Dungeons & Dragons setting: Dragonlance during the War of the Lance!
As of 2020 the Dragonlance setting has had 4 official rulesets: 1st Edition AD&D, 2nd Edition AD&D, the unique SAGA System, and 3rd Edition D&D. For the first half of its lifespan the world’s primarily taken place during the War of the Lance, the notable conflict of the first adventures and novels and their immediate after years. The SAGA System was controversial, partly due to being a very wonky rule set and partly due to the fact that it took place during Dragons of Summer Flame. Said time period was Dragonlance’s Spellplague equivalent in regards to being a fandom base breaker. In 2003, novels were still being written for the current era by Margaret Weis and other authors, so when Dragonlance got a 3rd Edition sourcebook it took place at this time.
One of the largest demands by fans after its release was to provide aid on setting games during the War of the Lance, aka the 4th Age/Age of Despair. Being eager to please, Sovereign Press made a War of the Lance sourcebook one of their first major releases. This sourcebook was also notable for being one of the few D20 Dragonlance books where Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman got together to help write it. Although both authors individually (Weis in particular) worked on various 3rd Edition books such as Towers of High Sorcery, the Legends of the Twins was the only other product of which they both had credits. And who better than to write a setting sourcebook than the ones who created the setting over twenty years ago?
I should first note that this sourcebook is not a D20 conversion of the 14 original Dragonlance adventures; those were made into their own trilogy of sourcebooks. Rather, War of the Lance is a holistic overview of the continent of Ansalon during the time when the Dragonarmies are conquering much of it in the Dark Queen’s name. It’s technically set right before the first adventure opens up (Qualinesti has yet to be invaded, the Discs of Mishakal haven’t been retrieved from Xak Tsaroth, etc) but there is information on how the war develops and changes places over the years.
Chapter One: Characters
350 years ago, there was a mighty Empire by the name of Istar, and under the dominion of the Kingpriests sought to remove all evil from the face of Krynn. But it was this very zeal that led them to commit many atrocities. When the last Kingpriest sought to challenge and command the gods themselves, the pantheon answered him with a fiery mountain which plunged the capital and much of eastern Ansalon beneath the waves.
The world would never be the same again.
None of the Races of the Age of Despair were not left untouched. The loss of divine magic made plagues grow out of control. The sinking of land and alterations in climate led to many famines and forced migrations. Old treaties and friendships were abandoned, while elves and dwarves became isolationist and cut themselves off from the world. The minotaurs forged a new empire, their enslavement in Istar now a memory. People grew bitter at the gods, or in turn forget them as the centuries waned on and found solace in newer, false religions.
Humans, due to their short lifespans, were one of the quickest to forget the gods, and in time the divinities became much like fairy tales for children. Empires and nations were replaced with city-states, and even Solamnia broke up into semi-autonomous provinces. Even its renowned Knights found themselves in disrepute when commoners blamed them for either being unable to protect them or from too many of this once-noble order forgetting the spirit of the Oath and Measure. Cities quickly became havens of filth and disease, as the lack of divine magic and the withering of crops destroyed many more settlements; even those far from Istar’s reach.
Beyond the walled towns and sedentary farms, nomadic humans suffered from the disruption of their own food supplies. Migration routes and herds changed, and tribes passed into distant memory as they died off or were conquered and assimilated by stronger neighbors. There were some among the nomads who believed that this was all a test by the gods to measure their devotion, while others found new religions with ancestor worship growing increasingly common.
Elves still have grand civilizations in their forests, but they are a shadow of their former selves. Even this otherwise aloof and xenophobic people were horrified at the brutality the gods had wrought, but blamed the humans of Istar (and later all humans by extension) into provoking the Cataclysm. They still believed in the gods, but no longer worshiped them, angered at their abandonment. The Qualinesti kingdom closed down its borders when human and goblin warlords invaded their cities in the belief that they harbored magic and riches long since lost. The Silvanesti elves, who neighboring Istar, lost much of their own forests beneath the waves. They were similarly isolationist but viewed the abandonment of the gods as a “wise choice” for them to do likewise in regards to a world they felt was not worth saving. Both kingdoms noticed the rise of the Dragonarmies via magical surveillance, and the Silvanesti signed a nonaggression pact with these forces. Both kingdoms sought to prepare for a diaspora, and the invasion of Silvanesti by the Dragon Empire and its subsequent destruction was all the incentive Qualinesti’s inhabitants needed to start sailing west.
The Kagonesti elves long lived on Southern Ergoth but had scattered bands all across Ansalon. They met their brethren in exile upon their shores, and extended them permission to settle. A permission that would be exploited by the refugees, who used the opportunity to put the Kagonesti into indentured servitude. The Sea Elf tribes of the Dimernesti lost countless numbers from the Cataclysm, while explorers from the remote Dargonesti kingdoms inhabited the sunken ruins of Istar’s capital. Both clans remained isolated from each other and the surface world, something the Dark Queen took advantage of by sending sea dragons to menace their lands.
An Age of Despair was nothing new to the Ogre Races, whose lives were always of violence and hardship. The fall of their main adversary of Istar allowed them to invade lands now unable to defend themselves, and their societies existed mostly as independent bands. It was ironic then, that they would be the first victims of Takhisis’ chromatic dragons who sought to unite the ogre tribes under her new Empire. This of course meant killing off many of their leaders and rival tribes to impress the sheer might wielded by the newly-fledged Dragonarmies.
The Irda, those ogres who were spared from the good gods’ curse of ugliness for turning their backs on Takhisis eons ago, lived much as they did before: on isolated islands far from Ansalon’s coasts. But the Cataclysm caused a large schism in their society: some viewed it as a sign that their isolationism was wrong by letting evil go challenged in the world while others kept to the old ways. The former ventured into Ansalon disguised as wizards to battle warlords, murderers, and worse, but they suffered greatly for anti-wizard prejudice earned them hostility even from those they sought to protect.
The minotaurs, once enslaved by Istar, found themselves a free people in their new island homes. They viewed the Cataclysm as divine justice, of their god Sargas (known by other races as Sargonnas) freeing them from toil and servitude. They are now an empire unto themselves, claiming many islands beyond the known coasts of Ansalon, although their leadership was rife with infighting and treachery. The current Emperor Chot Es-Kalin entered into an alliance with the Dragonarmies; although neither side trusted the other, they both saw much to gain. Chot assigned rival houses to fight in the Dragonarmies in exchange for loot brought home, which motivated minotaurs for greed and vengeance upon old enemies while moving said rivals away from his empire.
Half-elves and half-ogres are outcasts, looked down upon by both sides of their ancestry. They are usually the result of sexual assault; among the elven nations half-elves are either pitied or mocked (among the Qualinesti) or cast out into the wilderness as mongrels (among the Silvanesti). Among human communities they fair little better, and in the Dragon Empire they are hunted down and executed like their elven parents. Half-ogres face similar prejudice, humans looking upon them as no different than monsters and ogres looking down upon them for being comparatively small and weak. Both half-elves and half-ogres are more likely than not to end up among groups which are more tolerant of the forsaken: mercenary companies, criminal guilds, cults, and wizarding Orders.
The Dwarves once had an interconnected civilization, but the Cataclysm tore their realms apart. The flooding of surface lands and destruction of old trade routes prevented the kingdoms of Kayolin, Thoradin, and Thorbadin from contacting each other. Food shortages in Thorbadin forced the dwarves to close their mountain gates, even from those of their brethren living outside. Those stranded would become the Neidar clan, aka hill dwarves, and a bloody civil war between them and the mountain dwarves over this. Meanwhile, the nation of Thoradin was overtaken by a horrible mold plague, with much of its pre-Cataclysm territory crushed and flooded. Many of the survivors were turned evil by the plague and formed the new nation of Zhakar.
The mountain dwarf kingdom of Thorbadin rests in an uneasy peace; new trading partners are hard to come by, and worshipers of the now-gone true gods clash with new cults unsatisfied with the old ways. Food is strictly rationed which caused more than a few riots. The hill dwarves were forced to fend for themselves, having to train much more of their populace in fighting due to the many bandits and monsters roaming the surface world. The more liberal mountain dwarves of Kayolin allowed the Neidar to settle in their kingdom, which was difficult initially but over time won the respect of neighboring Solamnia with who they established trade networks with to alleviate the food and space shortages.
The dark dwarves, aka the evil dwarf clans, are under the thumb of tyrannical governments. In Thorbadin the Theiwar and Daegar have more power than ever upon the Council of Thanes: both seek to overthrow the ruling Hylar clan and claim the mountains for themselves. The Theiwar are united and have a veritable amount of wizards in their ranks, but the Daegar cities are lawless and full of gangs of the poor and private militias serving the rich who are the closest equivalent to justice.Trade embargoes imposed by the mountain dwarves have resulted in food shortages, forcing the Theiwar and Daegar to rely upon fungus crops with little success. The Zhakar, being truly alone, see more and more of their people go insane and are thus exiled, and their forges begun supplying weapons and armor to the neighboring Dragonarmies as a means of enriching their kingdom.
The gully dwarves live much as they did in prior Ages, but the large amount of abandoned territories and ruins spawned post-Cataclysm give them more places to live. Their lives are ones of survival, and no other races of Krynn enjoy their presence; in Thorbadin they are viewed more as vermin than fellow dwarves, while those living in the Dragon Empire or other places of evil end up as slaves. The dwarves of Kayolin, however, are a relative exception: the gully dwarves are tolerated as a laborer class of street sweepers and vermin hunters and are treated with courtesy and respect when others do have to interact with them.
Nice to see that Kayolin’s overall open-mindedness has paid off in spades.
Gnomes of Ansalon have always been a strange bunch. They moved on from the Cataclysm relatively unscathed; while many gnomes died it was accepted as the inevitability of life. Their island home is relatively isolated from Ansalon’s mainland, and they long used technology of dubious quality to make up for the loss of magic. In fact, many gnomes sought to journey out into the world to catalogue events and make sense of this new Age: their city-state of Mount Nevermind did much to transport food and medicine to their suffering human neighbors, earning them a strong friendship with their neighbors in Sancrist and Solamnia.
Kender never fail to have an upbeat outlook on life, but even so many couldn’t help but be saddened by the disappearance of the gods. The kender cities of Hylo and Kendermore in the continent’s west and east suffered from the Cataclysm, with Kendermore’s flooding forcing many to flee and be displaced as nomadic tribes. During the Empire of Istar they were declared an inherently evil race, which caused a rather unlikely alliance between goblin and kender in defending their communities from soldiers and bounty hunters. In modern times this legacy still lasts in Northern Ergoth, where humans, kender, and goblins have their own neighboring regions but live peacefully with each other.
Centaurs are much like elves in that they are isolationists and keep to themselves in forests, but they also live on the open plains. Although mostly good-aligned, the Kingpriest also declared them inherently evil and to be put to the sword, which made them distrustful of outsiders well into the Fourth Age. The increasing violence wrought from desperation by their neighbors made the normally-benevolent centaurs more aggressive and warlike as a result. Most of them settled in isolated regions of Ansalon in order to find long-term peace, although a few nomadic tribes became regular trading partners of equally-mobile humans in the Plains of Dust and the deserts of Khur.
Draconians are the youngest race in Krynn, artificial creations of the Dragonarmies made from the corruption of good dragon eggs. Born and raised to be soldiers, draconians are brainwashed into a life of war and forced to fight each other for scraps of food by their human pseudo-parents during childhood. Although they are physically stronger and in some cases more magically talented than their human counterparts, Dragonarmy officers maintain reproductive control over their population by only hatching male dragon eggs and keeping secret the origins of their species.
Each subrace of draconian is based on their true dragon parentage, and have different inherent abilities which often determines their roles and duty in the Dragonarmies. The Baaz (brass) form the largest number of draconians and are regarded as expendable infantry; they have a rivalry with the kapaks artificially generated by officers who pit them against each other during training, which is another measure the military uses to prevent possible draconian uprisings. Kapaks (copper) are the second-most populous subrace and are often scouts and assassins due to their knack at remaining quiet and inherently-poisonous saliva glands. The women’s saliva can heal, but this is not known yet. Bozaks (bronze) have natural arcane spellcasting capabilities as a result of their draconic ancestry, but are taught that their powers come from Takhisis and often act as leaders and magical support to baaz and kapak units; this upbringing makes them quite zealous and arrogant.
Sivaks (silver) are the largest subrace of draconians with the ability to take the shape of those they murder, making them both expert spies and elite soldiers and bodyguards. They are the least likely draconians to defect, as they are more able to blend in among and thus get along with the human soldiers while also preferring action and battle to the relative sedentary life of administration in the upper ranks. Finally, the auraks (gold) can also take alternate physical forms but have powerful innate arcane magic. As a result, they are never in the front lines and used as part of special teams or as diplomats and spies. They’re the subrace which has cottoned on to the fact that their spells are not the result of Takhisis’ divine providence, and ironically have the highest rates of defection.
There are five more subraces of noble draconians, who are created from chromatic dragon eggs. But they won’t be created until the final months of the War of the Lance in desperation. Although the ‘metallic’ draconians do not inherently gravitate to evil, noble draconians are invariably good-aligned due to the gods imposing a sense of ‘cosmic balance.’ Said draconians end up defecting or get executed when it becomes clear that working for the Dragonarmies violates their principles.
Classes in the Age of Despair
Dragonlance has been a setting closely wedded to Dungeons & Dragons as a ruleset, and the Fifth Age/Age of Mortals were congruent to the switching of systems to 2nd Edition AD&D and SAGA. With the Cataclysm and return of the true gods being a big thing in the original adventures, certain D20 classes have to be revised or excised to remain authentic to pre-5th Age eras.
Overall the Age of Despair is at a point when magic on Ansalon is both the least common and trusted among the populace. The departure of the gods more or less made all divine casters disappear, with heathen priests and charlatans filling the void with either arcane magic* masquerading as miracles or using sleight of hand and other means of psychological trickery. Takhisis was the first to violate her pantheons’ retreat, and evil clerics among the Dragonarmies would openly cast spells during their new empire’s founding. It would not be until after Goldmoon’s** epiphany and discovery of the Discs of Mishakal that clerics of good and neutral deities would start appearing in Krynn once again. While people could still take levels in Cleric, Druid, etc the supernatural aspects of their class would remain untapped until they turn to worship of the true gods and gain their Medallions of Faith. It was common for people with noncasting Cleric or Druid levels to represent a heathen (false) priest who coasted on by with knowledge, charisma, and/or mundane alchemy and herbalism.
*the Wizards of High Sorcery hated such people, as they were most often renegades and when discovered inflamed anti-wizard sentiment. The Orders had their own division of “miracle-busters” dedicated to exposing such frauds during the Age of Despair.
**or the Prophet PC stand-in if playing your own heroes during the 3rd Edition Chronicles.
Speaking of which, wizards are the only form of arcane casters among non-draconian mortals, with sorcery and spontaneous casting solely the gift of dragons, fey, and the like. And even with wizards the Tower of Wayreth is their only true last bastion. Most are either lone travelers or teachers and apprentices not always welcome in many communities. Sorcerers, mystics, and spontaneous casters wouldn’t come into existence until long after the War of the Lance when the Graygem is broken and lets Chaos into the world.
The noncasting classes more or less exist without alteration, although monks are usually isolated philosophers in monasteries. As to who or what powers their supernatural abilities, the book doesn’t say. Speaking of which…
The Master is a new skill-centric core class meant to represent exceptional craftsmen, sages, and bards of the non-magical variety. They are explicitly meant to be to the Expert NPC class what the Warrior is to Fighters in 3rd Edition parlance. And as you can imagine it’s a pretty weak class: it has the same proficiencies/hit dice/skill points as the Rogue but lacks said class’ offensive and utility features and more exotic weapon choices like the rapier. Its major class feature is its Primary Focus, where you choose either Craftsman/Performer/Professional/Sage which corresponds with one of the four multi-skill specialties. Said Focus determines which skills are class skills and also what types of Knacks you can choose.
A Knack is a special ability you can take every couple of levels which corresponds to your Focus. Each Focus has a Knack where they treat a primary Craft/Perform/etc skill as granting half its ranks as “shadow ranks” to all other skills in said group (10 ranks in Knowledge-Arcana can give you 5 ranks in all other Knowledge) plus a Knack to make more money when using weekly/daily checks of your Focus’ skills.
The Craftsmen can build Items of Renown, which are “half-magical” items which are just really expertly made: weapons grant bonuses on attack (but not damage), armor reduces armor check penalties (but no AC bonus), but perhaps the best feature is raising the bonus on skill checks for appropriate tools (usually +2 with masterwork) to as high as +10!
Performer knacks are less powerful versions of bardic music, and are basically inspirational buffs and debuffs to various rolls.
Professional, oddly, has two sweet-talker Knacks: one where you gain bonuses on skill checks involving deception and falsehoods, and another where throw a person off-balance with bluster as a minor debuff (-1 on attack/skills/saves per time the Knack’s taken), but most of them are rather meager non-combat downtime things like “get Leadership followers but only for your profession.”
Sage Knacks have options like being able to learn new languages upon first encounter, gaining the equivalent of bardic knowledge, substituting Knowledge for Charisma-based skills when among scholarly types, and two “exploit enemy weakness” knacks where one lets you add your Intelligence bonus on attack rolls and the other grants +2 on attack rolls when making a successful Knowledge check to recognize a creature or character.
The only other things the Master has going for it are +2/+2 to two skills as potential bonus feats, gaining access to Knacks from a second Focus at 7th level, and can gain Skill Mastery as per a Rogue at 10th level.
For Prestige Classes we have both new ones and revisions to existing classes. Due to the loss of divine magic the 3 Knights of Solamnia PrCs from the corebook get revised: the Knight of the Sword no longer requires or uses spellcasting, and the same applies for Knights of the Rose (but Swords can still detect and smite evil!). They also have the option of trading in levels of one PrC when they get promoted to a higher order. It wouldn’t be until Knightly Orders of Ansalon that the Prestige Classes were made self-contained with easier prerequisites, aka no needing Crown levels before Sword, Sword before Rose. Before then pretty much all of your class and feat options were pre-determined if you wanted to eventually be a Knight of the Rose.
Chorister is a cleric who honors their god through holy (or unholy) music and dances. While they can represent any deity, some gods have philosophers more suited to it than others. It’s a half-casting progression which grants access to spells from the bard list as one gains levels in the class. The other major feature are “church choir” equivalents of bardic music which includes things like the ability to apply metamagic feats to divine spells after several rounds of chanting or listeners using the chorister’s Perform result in place of a saving throw vs divine magic.
Overall it’s got some pretty cool features, although its “+1 caster level every other level” may be a turn-off to some primary casters.
Dragon Highlord represents the leaders of the five respective Dragonarmies (and also Emperor Ariakas), those pledged to Takhisis in service of conquering the world! They are a short 3-level class and center around battlefield morale. They extend the duration of demoralization penalties on Intimidate checks, grant bonuses on attack/damage/Will saves equal to their level to non-good humanoid, giant, and dragon type creatures serving under them, and apply their Charisma bonus on all saving throws and Improved Resist Dragonfear* feat for free.
*+8 bonus on Will saves vs a dragon’s Frightful Presence.
The morale bonuses to enemy minions is pretty good, and as most statted Dragon Highlords in the 3rd Edition Chronicles have all 3 levels and rarely fight by themselves this will definitely see use. You have to be evil alignment and high-ranking in the Dragonarmies, so this isn’t a Prestige Class most PCs will have.
A Gnomish Tinker is the pinnacle of gnomish drive and ingenuity, a master craftsman who can assemble non-magical gadgets out of the most disparate parts. They are a pretty easy class to enter, with the main barrier an appropriately gnomish role-playing one:
Approval of the Chief Review Sub-Committee of Engineers, Consultants, and Inventors by a six-tenths vote and a signed waiver lodged with the Registrar of Contributing Administrative Functionaries and Governors.
They carry a unique toolbelt which holds tool points they use to fuel their class features. The Kitbash class feature can either take apart an item or trap to convert to tool points, or coax greater performance by giving an object an enhancement bonus on relevant attack/saves/skill/DCs up to half their class level by spending tool points. They can also create MacGuffins, devices which can replace a 0 to 2nd level wizard spell, but only a limited number of times per day and such devices are considered non-magical. The rest of their class features are hohum, like skill-centric bonus feats, increased bonuses on aid another actions, and bonuses on Charisma skills when interacting with gnomes among other minor things.
The Tinker isn’t going to replace the party wizard anytime soon, but the bonuses for kitbashing can be a useful long-term buff (lasts for 1 hour per Intelligence bonus). They don’t really have much offensive or utility features beyond this, which limits their attractiveness for PCs.
A Handler is the kender cultural equivalent of a thief. You see, kender detest deliberate robbery, but holding onto an item due to curiosity and amassing such trinkets over time is regarded as socially acceptable because this is not done out of greed or the intentional desire to deprive someone of something. They are international celebrities in kender communities, for they have many interesting stories to tell from their travels.
The Handler is heavily rogue-focused in both class features and prerequisites, but more defensive and “straight thief” in utility. They gain bonuses on Sleight of Hand checks and new maneuvers such as being able to steal objects in combat without penalty, Kender Tales which function as bardic knowledge, adding their Charisma on saving throws which represents incredible luck, and more straightforward rogue class features such as Defensive Roll and Improved Evasion.
This may sound like an appealing class for “disarming” opponents of valuable items in the middle of battle, but the Handler has absolutely no offensive features or even a sneak attack progression, which heavily hurts it for a Rogue Prestige Class.
Minotaur Marauder is our final entry for this section, representing wild card sailors among their race who owe allegiance only to themselves and their crew. They are hunted by their brethren loyal to the empire as well as other sailors who are often the target of their depredations. They are a 5-level class, where they gain a pithy sneak attack equivalent (dirty strike) which caps out at 2d4 damage and is limited to one use per target per day; +2 to +4 bonus on confirming critical hits; a poor man’s Intimidate called Bull’s Wrath which imposes a -1 on attacks and saves on a successful DC 25 Intimidate check (demoralization from Intimidate is -2 and can stack as Bull’s Wrath is an untyped bonus); and Opportunist, which lets them make one attack of opportunity against a target who is hit in melee by someone else.
This is an underpowered class, and its features across five levels don’t stack up to other features which you can better get through straight Rogue and such. It’s actually meant to key off of the Mariner class which I reviewed in Legends of the Twins, a similarly-weak core class.
The overwhelming majority of feats have been reprinted from the Dragonlance Campaign Setting. A few are new but have been covered in my Legends of the Twins review. I’ll cover a few of the more interesting ones both unique to this sourcebook and which featured in others:
Alternate Form can be taken by a true dragon of at least adult age category. It lets them assume a single specific alternate form of humanoid or animal type of indefinite duration but can shapeshift in such a manner only once per day.
Astrological Forecasting is a rather situational one, where you can read someone’s horoscope once per week and give them a spendable +1 to +3 bonus on a single check any time during the next 7 days. The concept is cool, but the piddly bonus and infrequent rate blunt its use.
Create Draconian is a spell that lets you spawn baby draconians from dragon eggs. The following chapter has more rules on this, but overall you need one other spellcaster of another discipline (arcane if you’re divine and vice versa), and if the ritual is interrupted you and the other caster take Constitution damage.
Heroic Surge was a reprint from the base setting, but grants you a per-day use of one bonus move or standard action per round to be performed at any time during your regular actions. Said feat was very popular among gaming groups for letting martials make full attacks while moving more than 5 feet.
Improvise Masterwork Item lets you temporarily treat a non-masterwork item as such with 10 minutes of work. It can be recognized as temporary by others via the appropriate Craft or Appraise skill, so don’t think of trying to use it to make easy money.
Improved Taunt improves the kender taunt racial ability. The base taunt is a Bluff check vs the target’s Sense Motive, and if the target fails they take a -1 on all attacks and Armor Class. This feat increases the penalties to -2.
Spellcasting Prodigy treats a spellcaster’s primary casting stat as 2 points higher for the purpose of determining bonus spells per day. It can only be taken at 1st level.
Thoughts So Far: The looming legacy of the Cataclysm is a unifying factor among Ansalonian civilization, and the first chapter gives a detailed view on what kind of setting you’re getting with the War of the Lance. Things are bad all over, and most of the civilizations are on poor terms or too busy dealing with their own things which makes them ripe pickings for the invading Dragonarmies. There’s a lot of problems, providing for a good setting in which to adventure.
However, the class options aren’t exactly appealing for PCs. The Master class is underpowered, with only the Chorister being an attractive choice. Dragon Highlord is good, but not really suitable unless you’re doing a very offbeat Dragonlance campaign. The few feats which I can say are truly new to this book, Alternate Form and Create Draconians, are more for NPCs to take than PCs.
Join us next time as we learn of the power of the moons and gods in Chapter Two: Magic of Krynn!
Magic of KrynnOriginal SA post
Chapter Two: Magic of Krynn
It can safely be said that the 4th Age is when magic was at its rarest. Divine Magic of all kinds entered into the realms of myth, and even elderly travelers lived their entire lives never witnessing the art of wizardry.
The vaunted gift of magical healing was perhaps the greatest loss. There have been attempts to make up for this, notably with religious movements attempting to contact new gods in hopes of making up for the loss of the true gods during the Cataclysm. But in fact, the loss of divine magic occured before this dire time, when so much of Istar’s government grew so corrupt that clerics were de-spelled and the few valiant examples of their patron deities’ ideologies were raptured away before the inevitable happened.
The gods, realizing they were going to have to take drastic action, withdrew their clerics from the world. Still, the last Kingpriest, having decided that he was equal to the gods in power, paid no attention. He commanded the gods, as a master commands a servant.
This tragic decision led to the event that is known as the Cataclysm, when the gods hurled a fiery mountain down on the city of Istar, destroying the city and casting its ruins to the bottom of what would become known as the Blood Sea. The continent of Ansalon was split asunder. Countless thousands died. This marked the beginning of the Fourth Age, the Age of Despair.
Devastated by this tragedy, the people of Krynn cried to the gods to aid them, only to discover that the gods no longer answered their prayers. The true clerics from all the races had vanished. The power of divine magic had disappeared. The people were left to fend for themselves. The gods heard the prayers of the people, but in their wisdom perceived that the people had not yet learned their lesson. The people had not come to the gods in humility, asking forgiveness for their mistakes. Like spoiled children, the people demanded that the gods help them and, when the gods did not, the people reacted like spoiled children—growing angry at the gods and turning away from them.
Shortly after the Cataclysm, mobs attacked and destroyed the temples and other places of worship. Anyone who tried to reason with the mob, or to speak out on behalf of the gods, was liable to fall victim to the mob’s wrath. Thus the faithful learned to keep silent. And, as years went by and the gods stayed away, the remaining faithful began to find their faith waning.
The gods waited for mankind to come to them. For over three hundred years, the gods waited in vain.
What kind of victim-blaming BS is this? These aren’t toys or summer vacations being demanded; we’re talking about the desperate and the dying pleading for life-saving treatment. It gets even worse where in the following paragraphs there’s mention that there are cultures like the dwarves who never wavered in their belief, honoring the gods more as a memory than as a continuing presence due to their absence. The elves and many sedentary humans were bitter, sure, but in the previous chapter we had nomadic humans viewing the Cataclysm as a test but never received blessings in 350 years.
We get brief descriptions on various false faiths. Most of Ansalon is irreligious, either being a variety of atheist (“the gods are a myth”) or antitheist (“the gods are not worthy of respect”). Ironically it was this latter attitude which groups like the Seekers exploited; said group figured that there were gods, but that they should dedicate time and research to finding new ones which are worthy of respect. They clashed with other cults but soon became the predominant religion in Abanasinia, which features prominently in the beginning adventures of the Dragonlance Chronicles. Although they promoted ideals of charity and community, all too many of them fell to greed and hypocrisy. Many false faiths, even those with idealistic beginnings, became exploited in such a way. After the War of the Lance most such faiths were abandoned in favor of the true gods, whose spells and divine manifestations to questioning prayers were all the evidence needed.
An exception to the lack of divine magic existed among the gods of evil; when Takhisis relocated the Temple of Istar into the mountains of Neraka, she began to empower a trusted secret few, and some other evil gods followed suit. They would not openly reveal their powers to the world until 200 years later during the foundation of the Dragon Empire. And it would be nearly 20 years after that until the Heroes of the Lance would retrieve the Disks of Mishakal from Xak Tsaroth which cause the good gods to grant Goldmoon healing powers and soon others who followed her example. Most of Takhisis’ divine brethren stuck to the shadows by forming their own localized cults, but among the Dragonarmies worship of the Dark Queen was taking hold and pilgrims ventured to Neraka for training in the unholy arts.
We get write-ups on how the gods gradually re-enter the peoples’ lives during and after the War of the Lance. The gods and their priesthoods become organized into alignment-based branches known as the Holy Orders of the Stars: the Holy Order of Good, the Holy Order of Neutrality, and the Holy Order of Evil. Each order represents a threadbare association of clerics who (in theory) are subservient to the highest-level cleric of the Order’s chief deity: Paladine has a Chosen Prophet, Gilean has a Starmaster, and Takhisis has a Nightlord. This is a throwback to AD&D rules, where Dragonlance clerics followed a “there can be only one” Druid-style of leveling up where you had to prove your worth to take the place of the current leader above you.
Lawful deities such as Paladine, Mishakal, and Gilean quickly erected formal hierarchies, while the more free-spirited and chaotic deities appoint clerics on a case by case basis. With a few exceptions deities mostly appeal to cultures and subgroups relevant to their interests: Chemosh the god of death appeals to those on the verge or fearful of passing away, while Sargonnas becomes the state religion in the minotaur islands. The Knights of Solamnia pledge allegiance to three gods Habbakuk (nurturing god of the sea), Paladine (not-Bahamut), and Kiri-Jolith (a male Athena-like “justified war” god).
Arcane Magic has a criminally short entry in comparison. Unlike the rest of the pantheon, the three moon gods never left Krynn and still bequeath their power to the Orders of High Sorcery through lunar phases. The wizards realize that the gods, their gods specifically, never left. But they’re no more likely to be respectful of the rest of the pantheon; it was revealed in Towers of High Sorcery that the Gods of Good minus Solinari approved of Istar’s anti-wizard purges.
In fact, the only real notable entry is details on the creation of draconians. Which seems odd as such rules will not come into play in a typical Dragonlance campaign and works best as a bad guy plot device. But it wouldn’t be a 3rd Edition sourcebook if it didn’t have highly specific and/or unnecessary rules!
Basically the ritual requires at least three casters,* two of who must be of differing casting traditions (arcane/divine) and all of them must possess the Create Draconian feat. A ritual is performed for 8 hours around a single unborn dragon egg, and at the end of the ritual the fetus is transformed into several baby draconians who then hatch out of the shell. The numbers differ greatly depending on the subrace of the draconian (and parent dragon egg), with more powerful subraces producing less draconians. However, if one or more ritualists has a Caster Level above the minimum 10th required for the feat, they generate points for a Creation Pool. Said points can be spent to enhance one or more born draconians, such as granting them ability score boosts, bonus hit dice, and even bonus feats relevant to their racial abilities (Ability Focus, Improved Natural Attack, etc).
*which contradicts Chapter One’s minimum of two.
Although magic in general was at its rarest during the Age of Despair, the era was not without its own magical innovations. The War of the Lance, particularly among the Dragonarmies, saw some new offensive innovations in regards to spells for combat purposes. The text also outlines that the “sorcerer/wizard” designation for new spells is such for making use of them in other Dragonlance eras. There’s 16 new spells, but I’m only covering the most interesting ones for the sake of brevity.
Barrier of Deflection is like Mage Armor, but clerics can also cast it and it deals 1d6 force damage to those who strike or touch the recipient in melee.
Elemental Blade is like the Druid’s Flame Blade, but it can be learned by more classes (clerics, sorcerers, and wizards as well) and can manifest as any of the five energy types. Each energy type has its own corresponding debuff which forces a save on a target every time they’re attacked with the blade. A few are obvious, like sonic deafening an enemy, but cold and electricity have some pretty good status effects (stagger and prone conditions respectively). It’s personal in range, meaning it’s not something you can give to a party member as a buff unless you have a class/feat/magic item/etc to bypass this limitation.
Flamewave is like burning sphere, save that it creates a moving wall of fire which deals damage to those it passes while setting alight flammable objects.
Healing Hand is a 1 round/level buff which lets your mere touch heal 1 point of damage as a standard action, or healing up to six targets at once as a full-round action. The description mentions that it’s used during mass combat where a little healing goes a longer way than the typical Cure X Wounds spells. But such a meager bonus will not help in direct combat given how much damage even low-level monsters can deal.
Radiant Dart is like magic missile, but you must roll to hit a target with each missile and dazzles enemies for 1 round per point of damage taken.
Share Sight allows a recipient of the spell and the caster to see through each other’s eyes by closing their eyes and concentrating. This lasts for 1 hour per level, and they see things through their natural/magical sight: for example, a human seeing through a dwarf’s eyes will view details discovered from darkvision.
Shroud From Sight is an enchantment which causes onlookers to not notice your presence on a failed Will save as long as you concentrate. Smarter and 6+ Hit Die creatures can save every round, but others can only save once for the spell’s duration.
Stone Tentacles is similar to Evard’s Black Tentacles, but is lower-level (3rd) and can be learned by divine casters (clerics & druids). It manifests as 2-6 Large tentacles depending on Caster Level, spaced within 15 feet of each other rather than Evard’s 20 foot burst. The tentacles possess a lower attack and grapple modifier, where the use the caster’s base attack bonus instead of caster level for determining said modifiers. It can cover a wider area than Evard’s at higher levels and is more malleable for battlemap spaces, but the tentacles can be attacked and destroyed which makes them more vulnerable.
Traitor’s Death is an evil spell that wicked priests and arcane spellcasters use to prevent their underlings from turning upon them. It is akin to geas/quest where a promise the target makes is imbued with necromantic energy. If they break the promise they fall to -1 hit points and start bleeding out on a failed Fortitude saving throw; only magical healing can save them from imminent death.
We have even more magic items than spells, with 15 specific items, 9 artifacts, and 4 special enhancements to apply to magical armor. A few of them are reprints from the Dragonlance Campaign Setting, but incorporate newer errata.
We first begin with a discussion on magical items during the 4th Age: barring the Tower of High Sorcery in Wayreth and the dark temples in Neraka, new ones aren’t really being created. Where they are found, they’re typically ancient family heirlooms, locked away in some pre-Cataclysm ruins, or possessed by powerful individuals with the drive to keep them out of reach of thieves and warlords.
Magical items should not be thrown into a campaign without some thought given to their presence and impact. Each magical item should impart something to the sense of wonder and adventure. Rabbitslayer is “simply” a +4 dagger with a rather useful quality of reappearing when it is lost or stolen. However, giving it a name and a backstory gives it a sense of history, placing it within the context of the world and making it more important than “merely” a magical weapon capable of inflicting 1d4+4 points of damage.
Amusingly this publishing company would violate this advice multiple times during the Dragonlance Chronicles 3rd Edition conversion and the Key of Destiny Adventure Path. In the middle-to-higher levels it’s not uncommon to see nameless ‘elite mooks’ wielding +1 weapons and armor. Additionally, each of the Heroes of the Lance start out with a mixture of named specific items (Sturm’s notable Brightblade) and some +1 weapons or armor with no unique names or backstory to them (Tasslehoff’s forgettable +1 hoopak). This was the case in the original AD&D modules so I cannot be too hard on them for this.
But to this book’s credit, even most of the non-artifact magic items are specific named creations with some historical precedent in the world of Ansalon.
The Brightblade is a unique bastard sword of dwarven make, notably the family heirloom of Sturm Brightblade. It will only break when its wielder does: it is a +2 sword which deals 2d6 bonus damage vs chaotic-aligned creatures, but if used for evil purposes the blade will shatter and curse its wielder with a -4 penalty on most d20 rolls.
Diviner of Life is owned by the druid Waylorn Wyvernsbane, who is one of the later DMPCs of the Dragonlance Chronicles. Appearing as a cylinder of pure crystal, the light within changes colors depending on the physical health of the recipient it touches. It can be used to determine how many HP the target lost, if they’re suffering from disease or poison, or if they’re undead or an artificial creation like a golem.
Flute of Wind Dancing can be played via a Perform check to cast various wind-related spells, with more powerful magic requiring longer continuous rounds of playing.
Glass of Arcanist allow the reader to read any written word, and grants a +10 bonus on Use Magic Device checks with scrolls, tomes, and other magical items which involve reading to activate.
Icons of Truth are book-shaped objects. If a person lays a hand upon while uttering a false statement, the icon glows red and they take damage. It can also be used to dispel magical illusions. The government of Istar made many of these icons to use in their courts.
Nightbringer was forged by Black Robe wizards and somehow came into the hands of Verminaard, the Red Dragon Highlord. It is a +2 unholy mace which can blind an opponent on a failed Will save if the wielder utters the word “midnight” (free action) when attacking. The blindness lasts for 2d6 minutes if not magically healed, which makes it a powerful debuff.
Singing Statues are fashioned in the likeness of Mishakal, goddess of compassion and healing; they were prominent in many of her temples before the Cataclysm. A statue is activated when touched by water, at which point it begins singing. The sound prevents undead from approaching within 30 feet, and also can unlock locks, portals, valves, etc. A person can also call upon the goddess’ power to activate an area-of-effect cure light wounds spell, and they do not need to be a spellcaster in order to do so.
Dragon Bane Weapons are not a new magic item type per se, but rather covers new features to an existing type in Dragonlance. Dragon Bane weapons are never damaged or affected by a draconian’s death throes (won’t get stuck in a petrified baaz’s body, won’t melt in a kapak’s acid, etc). Such weapons are very rare on account that even during the days of Istar true dragons were rare to the point of myth. Such weapons were forged during the Third Dragon War, when Huma Dragonbane fought Takhisis who commanded the chromatic clans in taking over Krynn.
Wyrmsbane and Wyrmslayer are a pair of dragon bane longswords forged by Silvanesti elves. Wyrmsbane has the ability to cast Locate Object 3/day, while Sting-I mean Wyrmslayer- emits a loud buzzing when in the presence of dragons or draconians and grants a +3 on saves vs all spells and abilities made by dragons. Wyrmslayer was bequeathed to the Qualinesti in ages past.
The Blue Crystal Staff is our first artifact. It came into the hands of the prophet Goldmoon during the beginning of the Dragonlance Chronicles, where she found it in a ruined Istaran city which then became occupied by the Red Dragonarmy. The Blue Crystal Staff was meant to grant Goldmoon healing powers during the first adventure despite not being a Cleric: it is a staff with 20 charges which can be used to cast all kinds of healing magic. Cure Minor Wounds, which heals 1 hit point, expends no charges meaning that it can easily heal the party back to full after each fight. It can also teleport the wielder somewhere convenient and automatically deflect a dragon’s breath weapon, 1/day each.
The Crown of Power is an icon of evil, where prophecies state that whoever wears it will rule all of Krynn in the name of Takhisis. Its current owner is Emperor Ariakas, and it is said that the final Kingpriest once wore it. The crown slowly turns any wielder lawful evil over time from failed Will saves,* but grants some powerful defensive and self-enhancement spells to cast (bull’s strength, globe of invulnerability, shield, etc) as well as +5 bonuses to Armor Class and saving throws
*which interestingly lends credence to the fan (and Ravenloft setting) theory that the Kingpriest and Istar were in fact Lawful Evil.
The Disks of Mishakal are the most prominent example of Dragonlance’s subtle Mormon inspirations (the other being Goldmoon’s white skin and blonde hair among Lakota-expy nomads). They detail the teachings of the eponymous goddess and were highly sacred even during the Age of Might. Said disks never came into Istar’s possession due to becoming lost when coming into possession of the dwarves. A reader who chooses to embrace the teachings of the Gods of Light gains enough experience points to level up, but said level be in Cleric, and they gain a permanent +1 to their Wisdom score.
Hammer of Kharas is the most prized possession of the dwarves. It is an intelligent magic item with a host of spell-like abilities and can boomerang back into it’s wielder’s hand Thor-style, but its most famed feature is being one of the two items necessary to forge Dragonlances (the Silver Arm of Ergoth being the other).
Mounted Dragonlances are larger versions of the base kind (which are detailed in Dragonlance Campaign Setting) and wielders suffer -4 on attack and damage unless riding on saddleback. Lesser Mounted Dragonlances grant a +2 bonus on Armor Class and saving throws against the attacks, breath weapons, and spells and spell-like abilities of evil dragons. For Greater Mounted Dragonlances the bonuses are +5, but it deals permanent Constitution drain equal to the wielder’s level + their dragon mount’s age category if applicable when hitting an evil dragon.
The Silver Arm of Ergoth was created during the Third Dragon War as a joint project between humans, elves, dwarves, and metallic dragons. It looks like a molded silver cast of a human arm, but when attached to the stump of someone who lost an arm it magically attaches itself and functions as a highly effective prosthetic. It can only bond to people of good alignment and grants +4 Strength, the ability to heal 1 HP every hour, and Craft Magic Arms and Armor as a bonus feat if the wearer has 5 ranks in Craft (blacksmithing). Most importantly, it grants them the ability to forge dragonlances!
Armor Special Qualities are all alignment-based. Dishonorable/Honorable armor grants +2 Armor Class vs the attacks of lawful/chaotic creatures, while Profane/Sacred does the same but attacks from good and evil creatures.
Thoughts So Far: The new magic items are cool, effective for their stated purpose, and thematically tie into the campaign setting. It’s no coincidence that many of them were converted from the original Dragonlance adventures, but can otherwise make for some very nice treasures at the end of a quest. The discussion on divine magic and religion is a bit of a mixed bag, in that the text focuses far more heavily on the divine side of things. I am unsure what to think of three formalized holy orders, and there’s a bit too much page count spent on the Seekers and false religions which are highly specialized to one country (Abanasinia) in the entire continent.
Join us next time as we take a tour of the post-Cataclysm continent in Chapter Three: Ansalon in the Age of Despair!
Ansalon in the Age of Despair, Part IOriginal SA post
Ansalon in the Age of Despair, Part I
This chapter is quite extensive, longer the the previous two chapters combined. It goes into detail on the overarching history of the 4th Age, beginning from the year right after the Cataclysm to 4 years after the end of the War of the Lance. It also covers every major region/country of note as its own entry along with adventure hooks and how things change during the War of the Lance proper. The Dragon Empire, which is technically a bunch of nations and occupied territories rolled into one, is a special exception. It’s also a very picture-heavy chapter, where almost each of the 27 countries/regions has its own map; unfortunately the resolution for said images in the PDF is so low-resolution the text is near-indecipherable, so instead we’ll use a map of Ansalon as a whole.
For this post I’m covering the timeline and first half of the country entries. One thing I’d like to note is that this chapter outright contradicts the prevailing authorial statement of the mortals being ungrateful and the oh-so-wise gods waiting for the mortals to accept them again. For just this occasion I’m implementing a The People Didn’t Leave the Gods, The Gods Left the People Counter where I will note every major instance of the non-evil gods being full of it.
Age of Despair Timeline
Dragonlance’s calendar is focused around the Cataclysm, with years designating BC (Before Cataclysm) and AC (After Cataclysm). The first adventure of the Chronicles, Dragons of Despair, takes place in the autumn of 351 AC.
1-140 AC, the Dark Ages: Everything is terrible. The Cataclysm changed the face of Krynn, magic becomes rare to the point of legend, the dwarves of Thorbadin turn on each other in a bloody conflict, and violence, disease, and famine became widespread from the collapse of society.
141 AC, the Gods Return: Takhisis transported the Temple of Istar from its undersea ruins to central Ansalon, at the village of Neraka. The Temple’s Foundation Stone is part of a ritual to return her to Krynn as a flesh and blood goddess.
141-152 AC, the Rise of Dragons: The chromatic dragons, long in slumber much like their metallics, were reawakened by Takhisis.
157 AC, Plans Awry: The Foundation Stone was stolen by a nomadic human by the name of Berem. It becomes embedded in his chest, granting him immortality. As a result Takhisis is unable to enter the world of Krynn. Her minions searched for him in vain for the next two centuries.
287 AC, Egg Theft: The chromatics steal the good dragons’ eggs while their parents are in a decades-long sleep.
296 AC, the Oath of Noninterference: Once the metallic dragons wake up, Takhisis blackmailed them to stay out of the continent’s affairs and the oncomoning war. Unknowing of their eggs’ location, they reluctantly obeyed.
332-341 AC, Rise of Darkness: Duulket Ariakas, a former Black Robe Wizard and current warlord, made contact with Takhisis after finding a teleported temple of Istar in the mountains of central Ansalon. He started to gather various mercenary groups together to take control of local tribes, and gains the alliance of local chromatic dragons aiding the call. The Dragon Empire and its Dragonarmies are formed.
342 AC, Draconians Created: With the aid of a Black Robe wizard, a priest of Takhisis, and a red dragon, the Dragonarmies discovered a means of creating draconians from good dragon eggs to bolster their numbers.
342-349 AC, Occupation of Eastern Ansalon: The fledgling Dragon Empire’s forces moved east into the ogre nations of Blöde and Kern as well as the human tribes of Khur and the Blood Sea Isles. A half-ogre by the name of Lucien Takar became the Black Dragon Highlord and unites the ogres under service, but the Khur tribes that refuse to bow to the Dark Queen organized a local insurgency. Said insurgency is still ongoing but losing ground, and by 349 AC virtually all of the human kingdoms of eastern Ansalson swear fealty to the Dragonarmies.
348 AC, the Nordmaarian Campaign: The Red and Green Dragonarmies invade Nordmaar, the kingdom adjacent to Solamnia. They are conquered with token resistance in under two weeks.
348-350 AC, the Silvanesti Campaign: The Silvanesti elves, being isolationists, don’t really care about the affairs of other races beyond their borders. The Dragon Empire signed a nonaggression pact with King Lorac, but the elven lord knew that it was only a matter of time before their soldiers breach the forests. And that the Green Dragonarmy did. This war quickly became the Dragon Empire’s Vietnam, although much shorter-lived: the elves have a significant amount of arcane magic, civilians are trained in the use of bows and swords, and the forest canopies are quite ideal for concealment from aerial forces.
Both sides suffered heavy losses, but in time the Dragonarmy was about to claim the capital. King Lorac used a Dragon Orb to defend the city, but sadly the Orb took control of him instead, plunging the forest kingdom into a living nightmare which slaughtered elf and Dragonarmy soldiers alike. The threat of Silvanesti was ended, but it came at a cost.
350 AC, Recouping Losses: Emperor Ariakas spent most of the year attending to domestic affairs. Local uprisings were growing in number as a result of said losses, and the Dragonarmy leadership saw rapid changes in turnover from reassignment, demotions, and executions as inevitable blame was sought for the losses in Silvanesti. Verminaard became the Red Dragonarmy leader, while the creation of specialized units for the White, Black and Green Dragonarmies were underway for unorthodox forms of warfare. Money was spent on maintaining infrastructure, particularly in siphoning funds from occupied territories to make up for losses elsewhere. The White Dragonarmy was relocated to the Icewall and Sea of Dust for more suitable territory for their dragons. And invasions for Solamnia were planned due to said nation being the breadbasket of Ansalson.
351 AC, War with Solamnia: Solamnia is one of Ansalon’s largest countries and home to the most fertile farmland. Ariakas assigned the two greatest Dragonarmies, the Blue and Red, to take control of the knights’ eastern provinces. The bearby kingdoms of Throt and Lemish, who were no allies of Solamnia, threw their lot in with the Dragonarmies. The Red Dragonarmy conquered much of southern Solamnia, which they used as a staging ground to send squads into Abanasinia due to rumors of the Blue Crystal Staff in the region. Instead of sending legions immediately they used disguised draconians (and some goblins) for reconnaissance and diplomacy.
351 AC, Dragons of Autumn Twilight: The Heroes of the Lance (or the PCs) find knowledge of the true gods in Abanasinian ruins. Abanasinian towns and the elven nation of Qualinesti were invaded and razed once the Red Dragonarmy made its presence known. The Dragonarmies learned from their mistakes in Silvanesti to perform differently, and much of Qualinesti was already evacuating by the time they reached their forest borders. The Red Dragonarmy brokered a deal with the dark dwarf clans of Thorbadin to provoke a civil war, but were ultimately unsuccessful. The Red Dragon Highlord, Verminaard, was killed in the uprisings. Thorbadin remained a free nation and safe haven for Abanasinian refugees.
352 AC, Dragons of Winter Night: representatives from Mount Nevermind, Hylo, Ergoth, Solamnia, and various unconquered territories begin initially unsuccessful talks to find the best way to fight the Dragon Empire. The city of Tarsis, was razed by the Blue Dragonarmy and occupied. The Heroes of the Lance found one of the Dragon Orbs in Icewall Castle, and the White Dragon Highlord, Feal-Thas was killed. The secrets of making the Dragonlances were rediscovered in Southern Ergoth. The Battle of the High Clerist’s Tower, the last major bastion of Solamnic resistance against the Blue Dragonarmy, was the forces of good’s first significant military victory against the Dragon Empire.
352 AC, Concurrent, Dragons of Spring Dawning: The Heroes of Spring visit some undersea ruins, find Berem, and learn about his role in Takhisis’ plans to come back into the world. They also visited the sacred site of Godshome where they got divine insights from the Gods of Light.
The Heroes of Spring and Winter reunited to assault the Temple of Istar in Neraka, where Emperor Ariakas planned to open up the portal and let the Dark Queen into the world.
353 AC, End of the War of the Lance: Takhisis was defeated based on one of six possible ending resolutions in the modules, or in the novels when Berem sacrifices himself to close the portal. The Whitestone forces push back the now-fractious and disunited Dragonarmies. Only the Blue Dragonarmy ended up with any appreciable territory for years to come.
355 AC, Rebuilding: Gunthar Uth Wistan became the new Grand Master of the Knights of Solamnia and reformed the Measure to be updated for modern times. The Qualinesti and Silvanesti resettled in their homelands and began rebuilding, but the latter group has a long task ahead in cleansing their forest of Lorac’s Nightmare.
Geography & Climate of Ansalon
Before the nations proper we have sweeping generalities of the continent of Ansalon. For one, it (and the world of Krynn by extension) is quite small: the continent reaches 1,320 miles from the north to the far south, and 960 miles east to west. Ansalon’s in the southern hemisphere and its northern tip still manages to reach the equator. While I’ve heard complaints that this makes the setting too small, it’s far from easy to travel through: the central portion of the continent is dominated by foreboding mountains and badlands long inhabited by ogres and now is the heart of the Dragon Empire. In the east a gigantic whirlpool the size of a country dominates the seas, its currents picking up red clay from the ocean floor and giving it a creepy blood-red color*. Southern Ansalon is more rugged and chilly, a pseudo-continent of frozen water known as the Icereach creating a land bridge with the southern shore. Western Ansalon is pleasant in comparison, with Solamnia and Ergoth containing the most temperate climates and fertile farmland. Northern Ansalon is similar to the West, but its far reaches contain a tropical climate of jungles in the nation of Nordmaar.
*and superstition that it’s the blood of the inhabitants of Istar who sunk beneath the waves.
Abanasinia is our first entry and coincidentally the first land detailed proper in the Dragonlance novels and adventures. It is a frontier region where people from all over the continent migrate for a new shot at life. A tribe of indigenous nomadic tribes are known as the Plainsmen and modeled off of real-world Sioux/Lakota people. Abanasinia’s towns are all autonomous with their own local systems of government, although the Seeker religion is the closest thing to a national power. The Red Dragonarmy would invade during the War of the Lance after picking up rumors of an artifact of the true gods being in the region. Several of the adventure hooks are cool, such as a red-robe wizard getting kidnapped during the first local Mage’s Fair in an attempt to promote good PR for the Wizards of High Sorcery. Another involves some kender finding a magical ruins with a room which tells tales of the past through visions, whose “Second Dragon War” pseudo-movie was interrupted by dark dwarves driving them out.
Balifor was once a lush region of endless forest before the Cataclysm, but now it is a mixture of forest, savannah, and desert. The people here are traditionally nomadic members of the Fin-Maskar tribe, avowed enemies of the Khur tribe who threw their lot in with the Green Dragonarmy. Currently said army has claimed the various port cities and are doing their best to uproot Fin-Maskar resistance. Said resistance movements haven’t picked up much steam due to the dire reputation of dragons and the unholy arts of Takhisis’ dark pilgrims. A rough and tumble underworld thrives within the shady back alleys of the ports, some genuine freedom fighters and others wicked cutthroats out for themselves.
Blöde is home to the ruins of the first mortal civilization of Ansalon; although the ancient cities of the ogres now stand in swampy ruins, the current members of giantkind still hold pride in their heritage. They’re even more industrialized than their cousins elsewhere, with their fertile soil feeding the Dragonarmies and their soldiers proudly serving in the Dark Queen’s forces. There are a sizable minority of human fortresses and settlements, their presence tolerated as part of a longstanding non-aggression pact with the ogres. Blöde is very much a land of history and its inevitable progress, full of old Solamnic fortresses now inhabited by squatters, an old city of the magics and arts of the ogre empire attracting diggers looking for some unknown artifact, and even a local human barony with an eccentric ruler:
Langtree (Small Town, 1,891): Langtree is an independent barony located northwest of Vantal. The town of Langtree is ruled by Ivor of Langtree (LG male human noble 4/fighter 7), known to most people as the Mad Baron. His father was a knight that had the good sense to pack up and leave Solamnia during the turmoil following the Cataclysm. Within a secluded valley along the coast of Blödehelm, the family built a wooden stockade and worked the land. When refugees and exiles wandered through Ivor’s mother would take them in. A great many exiles fled the mountains and choose to remain and stand against the goblins, hobgoblins, and ogres from the east. In time, the city of Langtree formed and a fortress was established within it. He is known as the Mad Baron for venerating his worship of the ancient god Kiri-Jolith. He is an excellent military strategist and has signed a contract with King Wilhelm to assist in the defense of the kingdom.
The People Didn’t Leave the Gods, The Gods Left the People Counter: 1
Blood Sea Isles includes the minotaur islands of Mithas and Kothas, the famed sailors of Saifhum, and too many smaller islands to count. So named for the giant crimson whirlpool swirling around Istar’s former capital, the people living here are the descendants of Istarans lucky enough to have been living in the highlands and mountains when the Cataclysm struck. Not unlike the backstory to the setting of the Legend of Zelda, Wind Waker.
The minotaur islands are ruled over by a single emperor with literal laws of might makes right: trial by combat is used to settle the majority of disputes and challenges, from mating rights to monetary compensation and even the election of leaders! The Great Circus is a Colosseum-style affair in the capital whose games are vital to this last part.
The humans of Saifhum by contrast are a collection of relatively autonomous towns connected by rails with wind-powered sail cars, who have different relationships with their neighbors. The largest settlement of Sea Reach is serving as a port for the Red Dragonarmy, although said empire’s presence is little-felt in the Blood Sea otherwise.
The mysterious Isle of Karthay is home to the tallest mountains in all of Ansalon and home to the Kyrie, a near-mythical race of flying bird-people. The mountains’ upper reaches are said to hold lush jungles with all manner of strange life and treasures.
Dragon Isles are a tropical island chain far off the coast of Ansalon whose precise location shifts regularly due to ancient teleportation magic overlaying the entire region. It is a veritable utopia, home to virtually all of the good-aligned dragon clans who moved here to rest after the end of the Third Dragon War. They live in harmony with the various humanoid races, who in turn do not have the same racial strife as their couterparts in Ansalon proper. Elf and minotaur communities happily trade and support one another, and the dragons do not rule over them. They treated their smaller, bipedal neighbors as peers although they help with tasks said races may not accomplish so easily. Most settlements, both dragon and non-dragon, are small villages, with only a single city of several thousand serving as a capital. Auralastican, said city, is set on a gentle slope with beautiful buildings sized for all of the islands’ races and is reminiscent of architecture from the long-gone Age of Might. The five dragon clans carved out their own territories suitable to their ecology: the silver dragons lair high in mountain summits, the brass dragons make their home on an island with numerous limestone caverns, etc.
The only thing marring this seemingly-perfect world is the disappearance of the metallic dragon eggs. A group of chromatic dragons disguising themselves as humanoid pilgrims to the capital city managed to abscond with the eggs while the metallics were sleeping. As the good dragons cannot intervene on the continent without risking the lives of their children, they stay their hand and remain. The adventure hooks already presume that the PCs have already found and set foot on these remote islands, with hooks like investigating some mysterious huldrefolk* ruins, a silver dragon hiring the PCs to hunt down hydras whose eggs were part of shipwrecked cargo, etc.
*Dragonlance’s equivalent to Grey Aliens.
Estwilde is a large domain of swampland flanked by mountains in the east and west. The people here are mostly nomadic humans or ogres and goblins, and were one of the first regions along with Blöde to be taken over by the Dragon Empire after building their forces up in Neraka. Although ‘taking over’ is stretching it: the Dragonarmies mostly use it as a land to set up training bases and maneuver troops to the Solamnic front. The less xenophobic Estwildians do not mind the influx of trade and opportunity for loot and plunder by signing up with Emperor Ariakas’ forces.
The three major human groups are as follows: the Lor-Tai tribespeople govern everyday life via observance of numerous taboos, including refusal to speak in the presence of outsiders which prevents most meaningful contact. The Lahutians are cannibals believed to be descended from human-goblin cross breeds although they’re almost entirely human in ancestry. The Mountain Barbarians are the most numerous of the lot and form the “Estwildean” cultural standard but little else is told of them. Some interesting sites include Darkling Hall which is an unholy place where it’s believed the gods of evil first entered the world, the Singing Mountains where mesmerizing music plays by unknown singers, and a small village of gnome biologists whose plant-based monster experiments are running amok.
The people of Estwilde have no true religion, revering regional gods, ancestors, or fetishes. This area was once a stronghold of Gilean´s worship, but, after the Cataclysm, the religion lapsed and only a smattering of dogma-followers remained. These priests use dice called the Calantina that are, according to them, capable of predicting the future by interpreting signs of different animals with prophetic verse.
The People Didn’t Leave the Gods, The Gods Left the People Counter: 2
Goodlund is a field of grasslands east of Balifor. The plains and forests are fertile and the weather is mild year-round, making it highly populated by all manner of people from Kagonesti elves to reclusive centaur and nomadic humans. Unfortunately a significant amount of gnolls and sligs (evil amphibians) find the territory just as suitable to their taste and menace their neighbors. Goodlund is also home to the other major bastion of Kender in Ansalon beyond their homeland of Hylo. The kender live in a forest city by the name of Kendermore and have a rather carefree life in the ramshackle city. A nearby pirate port has set up here as the safest place to set anchor on account of the beach being surrounded by a “kender-infested forest.”
The Dragonarmies have long given up on policing this region due in no small part to the resilience of local kender who are experts at setting up traps in their forest home, and humans who are managing to remain beyond the Dragonarmies’ yoke due to being spread thin (which also hampers their ability to strike out at said Dragonarmies). Instead the forces of evil resort to hiring local gnoll and slig bands to wage war on the people of Goodlund.
A few interesting places include a set of islands off to the east inhabited by barbarian tribes turned aesthetic monks whose ancestors were taken and raised by the Scions, Krynn’s first sorcerers. They were raised in an artificial environment as part of said sorcerers’ attempts of training a community to physical and mental perfection. Their civilization of Claren Elian was actually the explanation for the existence of the monk class in early Dragonlance products, as said class didn’t really fit into the setting’s supernatural/magic structure along with not having any notable Fantasy Counterpart East Asian cultures. There’s also a set of ruins presided over by a gully dwarf which actually has a funny joke:
A tribe of gully dwarves has taken up residence in the ruins, declaring it “This Place”. They are known as the Glug clan and their ruler HighGlug Muk the First (CN male gully dwarf rogue 5) is known for his conniving and manipulative ways. He rules over his clan with an iron fist. He found the iron fist while digging through some refuse in an underground layer of the ruins.
Hylo (Kenderhome) is officially part of Northern Ergoth but the humans let them self-govern due to the fact that they’re not exactly eager to try policing a nation of kender. The kender do maintain positive relations with Ergoth as well as the goblins of Sikket’hul who are regular trading partners. Although the government is listed as an Oligarchy, Kenderhome has no true government in that the closest equivalent it has are local rulers who treat civil service more as a fun diversion than an obligation or privilege:
Elections are run each year to see who will be the next leader, but very often elections are decided by contests such as who can spit a watermelon seed the farthest, or stand on their head the longest. The games on Election Day are what make the whole system worthwhile.
The Cataclysm scared the kender of Kenderhome. They couldn’t understand why the gods had punished them along with Istar. These kender became somewhat subdued and meek. Many also became fanatically religious, making daily offerings to the gods and joining any new religion they encountered. They closely guarded their borders, thinking that it may have been their interaction with the outside world that caused the gods to punish them. Within three generations, however, many kender who had not been directly affected by the tragedy had begun to return to their normal optimistic selves.
The People Didn’t Leave the Gods, The Gods Left the People Counter: 3
The War of the Lance thankfully left Hylo (and by extension Northern Ergoth) unscatched. But the news of interesting things happening on the mainland drew more than a few curious kender to sail across the sea and find out what’s the big deal. The adventure hooks and interesting places include a magical tower inhabited by a ghost who warns the locals of danger, a gnome who hosts plays with clockwork figurines having said prized possessions go missing, the ever-so-classic “trolls/bugbears* are attacking villages,” and the appearance of an excavated ancient passageway which even the kender are too scared to investigate!
*the bugbears are noted as being different than the otherwise chill goblins.
Icereach is technically the name of the icy pseudo-continent dominating Krynn’s polar south, although only the relatively narrow band of land touching Ansalon has been explored to anyone’s knowledge. It is a cold, harsh realm inhabited mostly by nomadic humans known as the Ice Folk and the thanoi (evil walrus-people). Both groups war with each over the scant territories and resources while white dragons hunt whatever fresh meat they can catch. There was once a mighty ogre kingdom here but it fell long before even the Cataclysm. The White Dragonarmy relocated to this bitter land: its Dragon Highlord, the evil elf Feal-Thas, took residence in Icewall Castle to officially supply troop transports through southern Ansalon. But unofficially they are there to find and guard one of the fabled Dragon Orbs! Said army’s resources are stretched very thin, and make use of foreign minotaur soldiers and thanoi raiders to secure territory.
Interesting places and adventure hooks include a gnome research colony which has some smaller vessels capable of traversing the subarctic ice, a massive white arch in a valley believed by Ice Folk shamans (false clerics) to be a portal to the celestial realms, and a remorhaz-infested cave whose icy foundations reshape and reform from the intense body heat generated by the creatures.
Kayolin (Garnet-Thax) is one of the three major dwarven kingdoms and the one with the most contact with outsiders. Located in a mountain range bordered by Solamnia and Lemish, it is a rather liberal and tolerant realm in comparison to others of their race: gully dwarves are treated with respect and as full citizens as opposed to sub-dwarven vermin, they opened their gates to the hill dwarves, and forged strong bonds with Solamnia. In the latter case the two realms supply each other with goods that cannot be easily gained domestically. They also form a natural barrier against the enemy nation of Lemish for Solamnia, so there’s that matter of practicality too.
Religion still plays a big part in the culture of Kayolin. The current ruler, Governor Erran Flowstone (LN male dwarf noble 4/cleric 7), is a priest himself, and he has not forgotten the teachings of Reorx. Instead of training as a warrior while he was young, Governor Flowstone took up the vestments of his faith. Many of the Kayolin stubbornly refuse to believe they have been abandoned by Reorx, and patiently await the return of “the Forge” back into their lives. Since the Cataclysm they have kept a forge lit and burning, heralding Reorx’s anticipated return.
The People Didn’t Leave the Gods, The Gods Left the People Counter: 4
Half the population lives in the tiered capital city of Garnet-Thax, with smaller villages and towns located either on surface openings throughout the mountain range or within the network of tunnels kept secret from non-dwarves. A fair amount of the adventure hooks tie into the forgotten bowels of the mountain and the strange beings which lie within, such as a race of “deep goblins” and unknown monsters with razors for hands.
Kern is the second ogre nation, located to the north and northeast of Neraka*. Unlike Blöde their soil is poor and mostly inhabited by dry savannah, meaning that they resort to hunting or banditry. There is a set of magical canals of unknown origin with running water that appears out of nowhere, serving as the only reliable patch of farmland in the nation. The ogres’ karsh hounds are famous hunting dogs which serve as their chief export and trade good. Such dogs are being seen in the Dragonarmies in greater numbers ever since the ogre chiefs pledged loyalty to Takhisis. Kern has a few large towns along the coast, although its capital city is nestled in a forest surrounded by mountains.
*which itself is filed under the Taman Busuk entry.
Interesting places and adventure hooks include badlands inhabited by an intelligent giant scorpion and a red dragon with a legendary hoard guarded by wards and ogre servants, a newly-risen temple of the god Kiri-Jolith in the middle of the savannah, and the Dancing Woods which is home to centaurs and fey creatures who ironically are the major resistance to the Dragonarmies in the region.
Kharolis is located at the southwest extremity of the continent of Ansalon proper. Once an Ergothian vassal state, its people broke free as the Cataclysm sent much of said empire beneath the waves.* The people were so proud of what they had won that not even the encroaching permafrost of Icereach or the various goblin and thanoi raiders could make them flee their settlements. It is a diverse place, home to hill dwarf clans, elven diaspora using the country as a waystation in heading for Southern Ergoth, and wizards from all over Ansalon heading to take the Test at the Tower of High Sorcery of Wayreth.
*although they fared better than Istar.
In close proximity to the Forest of Wayreth, Kharolis is also notable for being one of the only nations on Ansalon which has a positive attitude towards wizards. The good-aligned Order of White Robes repeatedly lent their aid in repelling monstrous invaders and help find ways for the inhabitants to survive in the cold, harsh climate. This has earned them the trust of the common folk, although many town leaders are wary of a “wizard coup.” Said nation also has close ties to the city of Tarsis, which has seen better days since the Cataclysm landlocked this once-grand port.
There’s an interesting error in the important sites entry. A druidic cult of Morgion, evil god of rot and disease, hatched an evil plot to spread disease in the Firecrab Hills a mere 10 years after the Cataclysm. But in Dragonlance lore the evil gods first came back to Krynn in 141 AC. Before this period no divine magic, not even that of the evil gods, could be learned or practiced on Krynn. Other interesting sites and adventure hooks include a once-pure magical well whose waters turned brackish from a tentacled beast now living in it, a rogue fire elemental in Wayreth which ends up killing a villager and puts the wizards in some hot water, and a hill dwarf sage who claims to know the location of a pre-Cataclysm weapons cache.
Khur is an arid region so named after the most powerful tribe in the area, although there are various other tribes with a common language and culture native to the region. Although technically grouped as “nomadic humans” in the setting, the tribes of Khur live both as wandering bands and have their own large cities. The tribes have a complicated history of various alliances and rivalries; when the head of the Khur tribe Salah-Khan claimed the title of Green Dragon Highlord, he used the might of the occupying Dragonarmies to violently suppress other tribes and elevate his own. He was successful for a time, but the losses of his forces during the Silvanesti Campaign helped inspire multiple local uprisings. Although the Dragonarmies have numbers, dragons, and magic on their side, the rebel tribes can live a subsistence life in the desert and so far managed to stay ahead of the patrols.
The loss of the gods did not demand a major adjustment from the Khur. Having a unique outlook on the pantheon, the Khur assume their gods still protect them, and that it was the gods of the Kingpriest and his people that disappeared in the Cataclysm. The gods of outsiders are usually thought of as false gods. The healers of Khur, the Daughters of Elir-sana, have noticed that their goddess has elected to make the people of Khur rely more on natural healing methods since the Drowning. If that is the wish of their goddess, then they shall abide by it. The Seers of Delphon find that visions are not as easy to see as before, and it takes much more time and patience to come up with accurate readings, but they do not doubt their gods’ existence.
The People Didn’t Leave the Gods, The Gods Left the People Counter: 5
The tribes of Khur* are Dragonlance’s fantasy counterpart Arab culture. All but two of their cities have the prefix Ak- which I believe is a fancy spin on Al- which is more or less the Arab world for “the.” Cities of Dragonarmy-allied tribes such Khuri-Khan get favorable economic trade opportunities, while the cities of the Khur tribe’s enemies such as Alan Ak-Khan are under military occupation and the citizens are treated harshly.
*also known as the Khur people even for the non-Khur tribes, it’s complicated.
Interesting sites and adventure hooks include the Seers of the city of Delphon identifying the PCs as heralds of the region’s freedom...which quickly spreads among the public and has the Green Dragonarmy declare a manhunt for said PCs; the Dragonarmies finding ways to direct locust swarms to menace disloyal villages; a newly formed cult of Chemosh known as the Soul Traders who promise magical means of immortality without telling their recipients under which god they’re now bound; and the ever-hot Burning Lands which is said to hold a chunk of the fiery mountain that struck Istar deep within its reaches.
Lemish is a heavily-forested nation and mortal enemy of Solamnia. Although smaller than its rival, the nobility of Lemish are on the other side of Kayolin and their proximity to the hobgoblin nation of Throt means that most invasions by the Knights rarely last long. The enmity stems from Lemish having prior ties to Ergoth and more or less becoming a Solamnic province once that empire fell into decline. Lemish’s local nobility had no desires on being beholden to protecting their commoners in the “enlightened feudalism” way the Knights of Solamnia did, and violently resisted any attempts to enforce the Oath and the Measure.* And even when Solamnia won, Lemish’s distance prevented said commoners from being adequately protected, so soon both social classes hated the Knights.
*the Solamnic Knights’ moral code.
Although traditionally wary of Neraka, they eagerly allied with the Dragon Empire upon realization that this mighty civilization would dearly harm their hated enemy in a way their forces could never do. As a result, Lemish has seen an explosion in the draconian and foreign soldier populations. Most of the country’s towns remain rough and tumble hives of scum and villainy, where heavy-handed nobles and thieves’ guilds run the show and slavery is an all-too-common method of punishment. The place is quite diverse, including some elves living in a border town which has enough Solamnic influence that they and knights will not be arrested on the spot, a hobgoblin ruled city which is no more different (or corrupt) than the human population centers, and even a small village of kender who are regarded as wild by their cousins in Hylo for choosing to live in such a dangerous country.
Interesting sites and adventure hooks include a hobgoblin tribe in a stretch of wood who percularly act as the forest’s protectors in an almost druidic-like fashion, an immortal being known as Lord Wilderness who puts travelers through tests for the honor of entering his forest, kender asking the PCs to track down a sivak assassin masquerading as one of their murdered townsfolk’s identities, and a band of Kagonesti elves who ask for the PCs’ assistance in rescuing an imprisoned Solamnic knight.
Thoughts So Far: The first half of the countries/regions in this chapter are nice and diverse both in local feel and adventuring opportunities. The fact that a lot of the latter do not necessarily tie into the main plot of the Dragonlance Chronicles makes it easy to run games outside the setting’s main adventure path which is a huge plus. I particularly like how the more inhospitable/evil realms have an explanation in “what do they eat” with rice fields and magical canals in the ogre kingdoms or the dwarves having above-ground communities and trade relations with neighboring humans.
The only major flaw of this chapter is the fact that there are a near-dozen examples of civilizations or prominent individuals maintaining faith in the gods post-Cataclysm. One could easily ask why Langtree’s “Mad Baron” who is the best thing Blöde has to a Lawful Good ruler has not been gifted with divine insight like Goldmoon has.
Join us next time as we finish off the rest of this chapter!
Ansalon in the Age of Despair, Part IIOriginal SA post
Ansalon in the Age of Despair, Part II
Nordmaar is the most northern and tropical of Ansalon’s countries. This region was once a mere chain of small islands pre-Cataclysm but the change in climate and receding sea levels gave the region vast new tracks of land. The people of Nordmaar do not see the Cataclysm as a disaster so much as an event which gave their people new opportunity. The jungles are the most notable features, but the vast plains are home to some of Ansalon’s most famed horses and their culture is a pseudo-Aztecian society. Most Nordmaarians are organized into tribal structures based on geographic regions or central cities, and there are some remnants of Solamnic culture from the lasting friendship between the two nations.
But such good times came to an end. Their proximity to Taman Busuk and the ogre nation of Kern meant that they were the first good-aligned nation to be invaded by the Dragon Empire. Their people fought valiantly, although the razing of villages by dragonfire meant that precious few warriors had anything to return to. The nobility in the capital city of North Keep may have surrendered, but there are remnants of the Nordmaardian army who’ve taken to the jungles in hopes of whittling down the invaders’ forces guerilla warfare style.
Interesting sites and adventure hooks include an old sports arena converted to a bloodsport colosseum by the Red Dragonarmy, a rumored great beast in the jungle which if awakened could (theoretically) be turned upon the Dragonarmy, and mysteriously disappearing ruins which are believed to be moved around the mountains by a great burrowing dragon.
Some people were asking if the book’s treatment on Nordmaar in regards to portrayal of Aztec culture had anything notable. Sadly not much beyond the names of certain individuals and tribes (Cuichtalic tribe, Topotlic tribe, etc). There may be other Dragonlance sourcebooks which go into deeper detail on Nordmaar, but the War of the Lance gives us only a surface dressing.
Northern Ergoth is the primary inheritor of the culture of the first human empire. Once a grand civilization spanning from Kharolis in the far south to modern-day Solamnia in northwest Ansalon, the Empire of Ergoth fell into gradual decline until the Cataclysm sunk most of its territory. Now the remnants of Ergoth are divided between two island countries off the western coast of Ansalon.
Life in Northern Ergoth is relatively good in comparison to the rest of Ansalon. It is far removed from the Dragon Empire’s depredations,* they have strong alliances with the neighboring realms of Hylo and Sikket’Hul, and most of Ergoth proper has a mild climate and fertile plains. The goblins of Sikket’Hul are unlike most of their kind in that they’re non-evil and pursue farming and academic pursuits, having gained friendship with the Ergothians for fighting alongside them against Solamnia in various ancient wars. They are considered their own country but grouped under the Ergoth entry.
*although its Emperor knows that it’s only a matter of time until the dragons fly west.
However, not all is well in the birthplace of humanity. Firstly, Northern Ergoth is very conservative: it is taught that people are born into their social class and it shall always be this way, and women are barred from earning a living in traditionally male occupations and only senators (Roman-style council members) can own land. The island’s far north is occupied by the Ackalites, a violent group of Ergothians who feel that their mainstream society has grown too soft and weak and are even more tyrannical and misogynistic. Troll clans in the northern swamps menace the kender of Hylo and are said to perform strange rites.
Interesting sites and adventure hooks include devotees of Takhisis attempting to make inroads among the goblins, the city of Lanction getting taken over by the rumored leader of the Thieves’ Guild, and the World’s Heart (which is said to have granted the first emperor the divine vision to forge a new country) being claimed by an Ackalite warband who are now forbidding entry to pilgrims.
The Plains of Dust are an expanse of cold desert wasteland which stretches over south-central Ansalon. It was once home to verdant grasslands before the Cataclysm, but like so many other things after that dark day there is now hardship instead of beauty. With unpredictable weather and little in the way of arable land, most people do not choose to live here. Exiled elves and griffon-riders from Silvanesti cross the land in great numbers as they flee from their fallen kingdom. A pre-Cataclysm column-supported bridge known as the King’s Highway once connected Istaran towns across the plains, but it’s now crumbling.
The city of Tarsis is on the Plain’s far west edge, and is the closest thing the region has to a proper spot of civilization. However, it was once a thriving port city and the receding waters left it permanently landlocked. It still has large buildings of the golden age, especially the Library of Khrystann which holds tomes on all manner of subjects.
Interesting places and adventure hooks include the Hamlet of stone Rose so named for a petrified hedge mage of apparently magical origin, an abandoned settlement where a vallenwood tree holds a relic of the ancient god of wisdom Zivilyn, and an underground temple of the true gods whose healing waters bind drinkers to perform various kinds of quests.
Qualinesti is one of the major elven nations, bordering Abanasinia, Kharolis, and Thorbadin. Their nation was founded by rebels in Silvanesti who sought to break away from the caste system and were exiled west. They were initially much more open-minded and tolerant, trading freely with the dwarves of Thorbadin, the wizards of Wayreth, and the human nomadic tribes. Even then, they had their cultural holdovers such as disdain for interracial marriage. When the Cataclysm came, Qualinesti’s neighbors believed that the elves came out unscathed and thus had plenty of food and money. They invaded the elven country in a series of raids and all-out wars, which ended Qualinesti’s history of openness when they ruthlessly forced all non-elves out of the country.
Nowadays there are some meager numbers of dwarves, centaur, and even humans, but in very small numbers. In fact, much of Qualinesti’s lovely cities and verdant towns are sparsely populated as a nationwide evacuation is underway due to news about the Dragon Empire’s brutality reaching them from their Silvanesti neighbors.
Arcane magic is widely embraced and used in everyday life in the elven kingdoms. Buildings are made of exotic materials such as quartz and crystal, and sweeping metallic arches swing around the capital city of Qualinost in gravity-defying architecture.
Interesting sites and adventure hooks include the keep of Pax Tharkas which is occupied by the Red Dragonarmy, the Tower of High Sorcery of Wayreth which is the seat of government for the three Orders of wizards, an overgrown ruined city whose rooms are shuffled about and rediscovered at random, and a powerful wizard who asks the PCs to enter his memories to activate a long-forgotten spell that he believes can resurrect his dead daughter.
Sancrist is an island home to the last bastion of the Knights of Solamnia. They retreated here due to a succession of rebellions in their homeland, and Castle uth Wistan is a veritable fortress hosting the Whitestone Council of free countries who working on a way to fight the Dragon Empire. Also of note is the gnome city of Mount Nevermind: built in an active volcano, the geothermal energies are harnessed to power all sorts of machines and an ever-increasing list of new experiments. The humans live in a semi-feudal system but can elect local burghers and sheriffs, while the gnomes function under a complicated bureaucracy of council members who consult with each other on specialized tasks; records are kept for every conceivable thing.
Both groups get along well; the Solamnics gave aid to the gnomes who mistakenly filled their own mountain with natural gas fumes on the Day of Rotten Eggs, while the gnomes gave aid to the humans after the Cataclysm when the former were in need of the gnomes’ medicine when divine magic no longer worked. Interesting sites and adventure hooks include a gnomish shipyard hiring the PCs to test an experimental underwater transportation device known as the Tallpeedo,* an imprisoned red dragon breaking free from an underground prison due to the gnomes digging too deep, a vapor-emitting wood-chopping engine causing people in a nearby village to get high, and...well, it seems like just about every hook involves gnomes and their wacky experiments.
*so-named for being sized for Medium creatures.
Schallsea is an island located in the New Sea between Solamnia to the north, Abanasinia to the south, and Taman Busuk to the east. It is inhabited by two nomadic human tribes, one of which is indigenous long-term (the Wemitowuk) and the second was driven from Abanasinia due to losing a war against the other Plainsmen tribes (Que-Nal). Both groups established relatively positive terms and lived simple hunter-gatherer lifestyles, although all this would change when the
Pretty much all of the interesting locations and adventure hooks involve resisting the Blue Dragonarmy occupation, such as finding the tomb of a legendary dragonslayer to resurrect and lead against the invaders, freeing captured prisoners, and a dryad protector of a village needing help in fighting draconians.
Nelakne’s Glade: In the Northern Forests of the Schallsea, the Wemitowuk have dedicated a portion of the forest to the ancient goddess Chislev. Within the forest, there lives a dryad by the name of Nelakne who has befriended the people of the Wemitowuk tribe. Visitors to her glade find that it is always peaceful and soothing. They quickly forget their worries and fears. The Wemitowuk believe Nelakne to be the incarnation of Chislev and honor her with an annual ceremony in the spring.
The People Didn’t Leave the Gods, The Gods Left the People Counter: 6
Silvanesti is an ancient nation on Ansalon whose society and borders have hardly changed since the First Dragon War when the elves inhabited the ancient woods. Unlike your Daddy’s elves they are strongly Lawful instead of Chaotic, meaning that they have a hard-on for everything being safe and predictable. Their lot in life is determined via inherited castes, all of their buildings are magically terraformed from rock and mineral deposits, and it is said that despite their respect for nature almost every tree and natural feature has been magically altered to be perfect. They were more than eager to live as they always did and cared nothing for what happened beyond their borders. Even the loss of divine magic did not change society overmuch; the loss of House Mystic and divine magic was felt, but they had arcane magic to preserve their old beauty.
The Dragon Empire was the notable exception; the rumors of the Dark Queen’s forces wielding divine magic was enough for even the inwards-looking aristocracy to take notice. Even the Dragon Empire was wary of the elves: Silvanesti had lost virtually none of its magical resources post-Cataclysm such as a giant thorn hedge surrounding their country. But from the elven perspective, you had these ‘barbaric’ humans, goblins, and whatnot fighting alongside mythical dragons and calling divine aid from one of the ancient gods of evil and whose territory now bordered the forest. Both sides knew that war would come eventually. The Silvanesti king Lorac signed a nonaggression pact as a stop-gap measure to covertly build up his forces, but even that was not enough. The Dragon Empire invaded Silvanesti, and the nascent nation would have its first major war with the oldest surviving civilization on Ansalon.
It went terribly for everyone; the elves had faerie allies, arcane magic, and their thick forests concealed many traps for the dragons flying overhead. But the Dragonarmies were ruthless, had healing magic, expendable draconian troops, and the terrible might of dragonfire. When they marched upon the capital of Silvanost, King Lorac in his desperation used the Dragon Orb to drive off the invaders. He succeeded, but at the cost of his people.
Today Silvanesti is a chamber of horrors: the barrier hedge now opens up in random places to close up on travelers and bleed them to death with choking thorns. Now-empty towns are inhabited by illusory murderous counterparts of their prior inhabitants. Once-benign fey have been driven insane and now torment any unfortunate survivors. And the land itself conjures nightmares based upon the inhabitants’ worst fears.
Interesting locations and adventure hooks involve rescuing those few elves still trapped, a rumored cache of Irda artifacts within the capital, and the laboratory of a House Magus wizard’s wards finally failing and leaving its contents open for the taking...if the PCs can beat some Dragonarmy* scouts to the punch!
*the Green Dragonarmy has given up on Silvanesti, having a bevy of troops at the northern border at best and too busy putting down insurrections in Khur.
Solamnia is so big its map gets a page of its own in the sourcebook, but it is now a country in name only. During the Age of Dreams and Age of Might it was an expansive realm ruled over by benevolent, chivalrous knights. When the Cataclysm fell the Knights of Solamnia tried their best to maintain order, but a combination of failing and outdated ideals along with the popular belief that the Knights themselves could’ve prevented the Cataclysm and failed* turned much of the populace against them. Now the Knights have retreated to Sancrist, and today Solamnia is a collection of independent city-states whose governments range from communes of peasants, guildmasters combining state and profit, to warlords hardly better than the Dragonarmies occupying the eastern provinces. The Knights of Solamnia have a token presence in prosperous Palanthas, the largest city on the continent, although they mostly guard the High Clerist’s Tower which functions as the mountain pass into said city.
*This is a reference to Lord Soth, a former Knight of Solamnia tasked with ending the Kingpriest’s reign of terror but failed in his mission when he gave it up to kill his wife suspected of infidelity.
The interesting locations and adventure hooks include the High Clerist’s Tower whose grounds are sacred to the Gods of Light, the haunted realm of Nightlund whose battered militias are barely defending their communities, and a false religion known as the Believers of the Restoration who pretend to be all about peace and love on the surface but are violent and corrupt. They’re behind more than a few murders of Solamnic Knights.
Southern Ergoth is hardly a nation in comparison to its northern cousin, its territory divided up between relatively isolated groups who want little to do with each other. The old capital of the Ergothian Empire, Daltigoth, is now a stronghold for ogres and hill giants that have thrown in their lot with the White Dragonarmy, while the Silvanesti and Qualinesti refugee colonies are not getting along with their native Kagonesti cousins. Zhea Harbor is the major human province who is mostly kept functioning by funds and soldiers from Northern Ergoth. But despite these divisions, Southern Ergoth is a beautiful land home to idyllic glades and scenic prairies.
History Section posted:
As with most empires, the Ergothian leaders became tyrannical, lording their power over their people. This uncompromising political view led to the Rose Rebellion, in which Vinas Solamnus and the Army of Ergoth joined rebel forces and led an attack against Daltigoth. Emperor Emann Quisling was forced to surrender and accept Solamnus’s terms to grant the eastern regions Independence. The lands Surrounding Daltigoth remained loyal to the emperor, but the empire’s Dominance dwindled.
Lol they had an emperor named Quisling. Interesting sites and adventure hooks include the Solamnic Knight outpost of Castle Eastwatch, the various ogre factions jockeying to claim leadership of Daltigoth, a secret underground library beneath said city which the PCs are hired to scope out and retrieve what books they can, and a transparent ghostly citadel whose ghosts are trapped in a cycle of reliving the night of the Cataclysm.
This walled city was the location that many of the humans fled to for safety when it became clear that Daltigoth was lost to the ogres in the aftermath of the Cataclysm. The size of the town swelled as more and more refugees arrived. Disease killed many of the inhabitants before the healers were able to get the sickness under control. Unable to determine the fate of the rest of the empire, a regent was chosen to act on behalf of the emperor. Regent Belin Dasoto was a former cleric of Mishas (Mishakal) who survived the Cataclysm. It was largely due to his knowledge of disease that anyone at all survived from the widespread illness. Plus, Regent Dasoto was known to be connected to the former imperial bloodline. Dasoto took the reigns of Zhea, and led the people through the darkest years of the Cataclysm.
Unfortunately, he can be said to have been the last righteous ruler of Southern Ergoth. His sons, influenced by petty nobles who survived the fall of Daltigoth, were little more than tyrants, or puppet rulers.
I dunno if said former cleric consciously forsworn Mishakal’s aid, but here he sounds like he’s still living by her principles.
The People Didn’t Leave the Gods, The Gods Left the People Counter: 7
Taman Busuk is the name of the cold and rugged badlands and mountain ranges which dominate central Ansalon. It is home to two cities of note, Sanction and Neraka, the latter of which has given the designation “Nerakan” to its inhabitants both rural and urban. Most of the societies are tribal humans, goblinoids, gnolls, and some exiled Zhakar dwarves, but the city of Neraka is notable for being the origin and capital of the Dragon Empire with Sanction its military stronghold and only natural harbor. Society is gradually industrializing with the increasing militarization of the Dragonarmies, and all sorts of monstrous humanoids, mercenaries, and dark pilgrims of Takhisis have made Taman Busuk a melting pot of evil.
Pretty much every settlement of note counts as an interesting location due to the presence of all manner of wickedness, although even in these desolate lands there are underground freedom fighters angered at Takhisis’ dominance. An enchanted pre-Cataclysm feature known as the Ancient Road is mostly crumbled, but in some spots its magical tube-shaped force fields* still linger. Godshome is a bow-shaped depression in a mountaintop that bears an unknown power of the Gods of Good, while the Tower of Gargath’s long-dead owner was reputed to hold the Graygem but may still contain other aberrant features.
*count as Globe of Invulnerability and Wall of Force in appropriate locations.
Thorbadin is one of the three dwarven nations in Ansalon and perhaps the most well-known and iconic among Dragonlance fans. Part of the Kharolis Mountain Range, it is a two-sided world. On the surface of the rugged terrain live hill dwarf communities, but beneath the ground lie countless tunnels of interconnected cities, not all of them inhabited. At the heart of these tunnels is the metropolis of Thorbadin which surrounds a gigantic stalactite known as the Life-Tree which holds entire neighborhoods. Its government is led by a Council of Thanes made up of the most powerful members of the respective dwarven clans, and the realm is hardly united on any matters due to the legendary rivalry between the mountain dwarf and dark dwarf clans. Things will only get worse when the Red Dragon Highlord Verminaard convinces the dark dwarf leaders to support him in an invasion of the kingdom in exchange for appointing them leaders above all thanes.* The hill dwarves are a people apart, ruled by their own local town councils and forbidden entry into Thorbadin.
*Spoilers: They both try to screw over each other during the Dragonlance Chronicles.
Of all the dwarven clans, it has only been the devout Daewar that have kept the worship of Reorx alive throughout the centuries. The forgers of the Daewar clan still maintain the same level of dedication and reverence for their god as the day he disappeared from their midst.
The People Didn’t Leave the Gods, The Gods Left the People Counter: 8
Interesting locations and sites include an exiled slum-city of Theiwar (dark dwarves) who backed the wrong thane in their clan’s civil war; the main Theiwar city of Theibardin which is located beneath an underground lake and whose inhabitants are interestingly noted as “living lives much like the other dwarves” albeit with little joy; the rough and tumble city of Klarbardin* whose clan is notable for a large number of insane members and whose walls are built out of poisonous quicksilver; inter-religious warfare between Daewar over a holy icon; a nest of wyvern who took the only key able to open the Tomb of the Thanes; and insane Klar cultists who are kidnapping gully dwarves to sacrifice to a deep shaft they call the Well of Souls. In the last example they’re picking their victims because the other dwarf clans don’t care about the gully dwarves, so it’s up to the PCs to do anything about this.
*The Klar are the “working class” of the mountain dwarf clans and notable for having a higher than usual number of insane people. Even so, they are not the dark dwarf/derro clan of AD&D adventures: that belongs to the Theiwar.
Throtl is a nation at war with itself. Roughly two-thirds of its population are goblins and hobgoblins, the remaining third humans. Said humans have a meager, old-fashioned feudal life where minor noble families oversee their protection* and discourage women from taking up martial occupations. They and the goblinoids have been at war for generations, and there have been attempts by Throtl’s king to petition to become part of Solamnia. This is complicated by the fact that other nobles are not keen on become subservient to a foreign power and have been able and willing to overthrow kings for this, and Solamnia has enough problems on its plate with the Blue Dragonarmy as-is.
*an ideal Throtl’s rulers have rarely lived up to, given that they’re all descended from warlords and bandits and the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
As for the goblinoids, they are much more organized and whose once-various tribes have been united under Chief Blackmaw. The warlord has a harem of female hobgoblins who are worshipers of Takhisis, granting him a magical advantage over his now-dead rival contenders.
Most of the interesting locations and adventure hooks involve the goblins as enemies, although there are some interesting variations such as a hidden dwarven waystation which can be found via a treasure map, a strange perpetual supernatural storm reaching all the way to Lemish, and even a rare animal merchant offering the PCs money for worg pelts.
Yes, an MMORPG meme is an adventure hook.
Zhakar is our final entry for this chapter. Once known as the kingdom of Thoradin in pre-Cataclysm times, the place is now a den of misery and evil. The only major surface-ground sign of the dwarves is the well-guarded Zhakar Keep, from which emerge arms dealers who trade weapons to the neighboring Dragon Empire. Beneath the surface lies the true extent of their kingdom and their depravity. An omnipresent fungal disease causes the dwarves’ hair to fall out and skin to flake, forcing most of the populace to dress in black cloth from head to toe. Their culture encourages sadism and the pursuit of wealth; their prisons are dens of horror, while their large buildings and palaces are tackily-decorated with gems and artwork. The fungal disease and their own culture generates a higher than normal number of insane members who are exiled from the city or imprisoned.
Interesting locations include a surface village meant as a trading outpost with neighboring ogres who find the dwarves a bit too creepy for their tastes; a range of summit ridges haunted by undead; a network of technological chambers built to harness the energy of underground volcano vents; and a secret tunnel being dug underneath the city of Sanction. The adventure hooks include helping a traveling freak show circus evade the Zhakar chasing them down, and investigating the Cult of the Worm who believes that a massive worm-like entity sleeping beneath their kingdom will destroy the surface if awoken.
The Zhakar have largely given up on Reorx, or any of the gods. They believe they have been abandoned along with the rest of the world. Some Zhakar, however, have been known to leave offerings of finely crafted pieces in the ancient temple of Shinare. These items have been disappearing. No one yet has taken this as any clear sign of anything, other than the fact that someone has been stealing the offerings. The truth, however, is more surprising. Because of the strange disappearances, a sizeable number of dwarves have started venerating the Silver Master once again.
The People Didn’t Leave the Gods, The Gods Left the People Counter: 9
Thoughts So Far: The second half of the regions and countries are good, although I notice a bit of sameness in places. Although quite different in tone, Qualinesti and Silvanesti are the same conceptually as are Thorbadin and Zhakar, albeit in the sense of “this dwarven/elven nation is normally okay but in trouble, but this dwarven/elven nation is utterly screwed!” Some of the adventure hooks in places like Nordmaar, Sancrist, Schallsea, and Throtl lean too heavily on a singular problem or theme without the variation seen in the first half of this chapter. But I would not call this a bad chapter overall; the overview of Ansalon at this time provides a lot of idea material for Dragonlance games even outside of the War of the Lance.
Join us next time as we take an in-depth look at the most iconic settlements and dungeons in Chapter Four: Cities, Strongholds, & Ruins!
Cities, Strongholds, & RuinsOriginal SA post
Chapter Four: Cities, Strongholds, & Ruins
Whereas the prior chapter looked at Ansalon in the big picture, this chapter details more individual locations of prime importance during the 4th Age. Many of these locations featured in the Dragonlance Chronicles, some prominently like Xak Tsaroth and others merely mentioned or visited briefly like Qualinost. Like the prior chapter, these locations in question are detailed before the Chronicles’ beginnings.
Cities, Towns, & Villages
The settlement entries follow the standard 3rd Edition guidelines for communities. A settlement outlines a stat block detailing the government’s alignment, a list of important characters, dominant trade goods and religious faiths (expect to see “None” or “Takhisis [Dragonarmies]” here a lot) along with how many assets worth of steel pieces are in the community. Unlike other campaign settings magic item shops don’t really exist outside of Qualinesti and Wayreth* so the “steel piece limit” is likely not going to matter as much unless the PCs are seeking to buy land or ships, hire mercenaries, or the like.
*although one of the later Weis/Hickman books, Dragons of the Highlord Skies, mentions that the city of Neraka crafted and sold magic items related to Takhisis’ priesthood.
Flotsam is one of the few big port cities in the Balifor area, but it is so run-down it’s a miracle that traders use it at all. Although now under the official control of the Black Dragonarmy, it is still very much a den of lawlessness; the criminal underworld and occupying soldiers have a bit of a “hands off” policy towards each other as long as neither side causes too much trouble for the other. But the Dragonarmies make an exception for local rebel units, of which there are many ranging from the Silver Fox’s band of Khurish freedom fighters to Silvanesti refugees in hiding. The docks are now under lockdown by order of the Black Dragon Highlord, which has caused more than a bit of resentment and rebel sympathies among those who rely upon the sea for a living.
Haven is the largest city in Abanasinia and the center for the Seeker faith. It is a theocracy where the local religion rules via a council and the city guards both report to and are directly hired by them. Haven’s primary source of income comes from its outlying farming communities in addition to being a trade hub for the rest of the region, although the increasing corruption and mistrust among the Seekers has made the city not as friendly to outsiders in recent times. Albeit unknown at this time, the Red Dragon Highlord Verminaard made a deal with the church to help him find the Blue Crystal Staff in exchange for favorable treatment by “his goddess.”
Kalaman is a Solamnic city which transitioned to a wildly different form of government after overthrowing the Knights. Their rulers’ old lands were either torn down or redistributed among the former serfs, and all elected governors henceforth had to have no knightly heritage or renounce it and all of its privileges. The trade guilds soon became the predominant power, and a social safety net for the populace has made it so even the poor are supported.
This republican experiment came to an end when the Blue Dragonarmy besieged the city to use as a jumping off point for invading the rest of Solamnia. The Blue Dragon Highlord Kitiara Uth Matar commonly uses its castle as a base of operation when she’s not leading forces directly astride her blue dragon.
Mount Nevermind is a city unlike any other on Ansalon. It is the oldest home of the gnomish race where one can witness all manner of technological wonders. Its government is a democracy of various clan leaders and guild masters appointed by the general public, and its unconventional militia is formed of specially-trained mechanics whose devices are just as likely to decimate their own ranks as that of any potential invaders. The volcano’s central vent has long been sealed, with lava flows serving to power geothermal devices. The 35 levels of Mount Nevermind are connected and traversed by catapults known as Gnomeflingers along with more conventional lifts and cart tracks. The gnomes also have an extensive waste management system, and their garbage dump is filled with mutated monsters lurking among the toxic run-off and malfunctioning equipment; which by gnomish standards means it’s completely functional and never breaks down.
Neraka is the capital city of the Dragon Empire and its spiritual heart. Five camps from each Dragonarmy are permanently stationed here for its defense, and the city’s center is dominated by the teleported Temple of Istar which now serves a church to Takhisis. Most of the Outer City is full of dirty and claustrophobic streets, while the Inner City is much more well-kept and is home to high-to-do people in the imperial government and those working under them. Below the streets of Neraka, hidden to even the Dragonarmies, is the Undercity. These catacombs and passages are home to bands of resistance fighters as well as pockets of monsters.
The Temple of Takhisis is prominently important, and has its own one-and-a-quarter page entry. This is the final dungeon explored in the Dragonlance Chronicles, and much like the dungeons later detailed in this chapter is a brief overview rather than a detailed room-by-room analysis. Basically the temple is a macabre mockery of old Istar filled with dak pilgrims, and has features such as a permanent Desecrate spell, Glyph of Warding traps keyed to chromatic dragon’s breath weapons, and some details on the apartments and council chambers for the Dragon Highlords and Emperor Ariakas. The Foundation Stone has its own chamber deep within the bowels of the temple, trapping the souls of anyone foolish enough to touch or damage it.
Palanthas is the most populous city on mainland Ansalon (30,000 people) and is only beat by Mount Nevermind (60,000). After the Cataclysm rent Krynn asunder, Palanthas was left as the only significant deepwater port on the continent which survived relatively unscathed. Its beauty and prosperity have earned it the nickname the “Jewel of Solamnia,” and being flanked by mountains on three sides gives it an immense natural defense against invading armies. Only the pathway to the High Clerist’s Tower can one enter the city by foot. It is very much Dragonlance’s Waterdeep/Sharn/Greyhawk equivalent in being a city of adventure, although it only ever got a proper sourcebook of its own for the much-maligned SAGA System.
Palanthas’ most notable features include the spooky Tower of High Sorcery whose Shoikan Grove repels all intruders with immense fear, and the Great Library whose Aesthetics chronicle all manner of lore about Krynn. The head of the Aesthetics is Astinus, an immortal who has since existed since the Age of Dreams and tirelessly writes down all of Krynn’s history in a book known as the Iconochronos.
Port Balifor Is the Black Dragonarmy’s major headquarters and gateway to the Goodlund Peninsula. It is more prosperous than Flotsam, although it is still a place where decent folk must watch their backs. And unlike Flotsam the Dragonarmies cracked down hard on the local underworld, which once held the council of ruling merchants in its grip. Said merchants have now had their meetings suspended and their more prominent members “went missing.” A new underworld power player has snuck into the vacuum: the Duskmen are an organized crime syndicate of divine spellcasters of Hiddukul, god of trickery and dishonest dealings. They even managed to bribe some Dragonarmy officers in helping them smuggle illicit goods.
Qualinost is the capital of the Qualinesti elves. A near-perfect walled square, four tower keeps are connected by arches suspended hundreds of feet off the ground. The Tower of the Sun, home to Qualinesti’s government, is the tallest building rising 600 feet in the air. The place is very much an “idyllic foresty elf home,” where every dwelling once had a garden and music and poetry can be heard on every street corner. Now many of these homes and streets are now eerily silent, as more and more families pack up to sail for Southern Ergoth.
Sanction is the largest city in Taman Busuk and the Dragon Empire’s military center of operations. Its natural harbor opens out into the New Sea, giving the local Red Dragonarmy access to Abanasinia and Solamnia’s respective coasts. Created at the foot of three active volcanoes with canals and bridges containing the lava flows, it looks just as evil as the Dragonarmies inhabiting this town.
Sanction is a filthy city full of army camps, taverns and shops which cater to the soldiers, and former temples to the Gods of Light and more recent false gods whose foundations are now converted to the Dragonarmy’s use. The Temple of Luerkhisis is particularly important, for beneath its floors are the secret chambers which hold the metallic dragon eggs and from where new draconians are created.
Silvanost is a deserted city now inhabited by the shades of King Lorac’s nightmare-filled dreams. The former Dragonarmy green wyrm Cyan Bloodbane now manipulates the elflord as he clutches the Dragon Orb in his withered hands, using him as a proxy to further twist the beauty of the realm into things of evil. The insane dream logic of the place stretches and warps the length and direction of streets and the dimensions of buildings. Faces of elves screaming in misery appear as spectral figures upon doors and portals, while the illusory sounds and laughter of elven children are accompanied by tortured screams. A foul green mist is omnipresent and smells of burning flesh.
Solace is a cozy little village in Abanasinia, notable for most of its buildings not being on the ground but within the boughs of mighty vallenwood trees connected by rope walkways and bridges. It has existed in a relatively ideal state for hundreds of years; not even the Cataclysm could’ve dampened these peoples’ spirits. It is controlled by the Seeker Council in theory, whose High Seeker in town has been helping the Dragonarmy hobgoblin Lord Toede search for the Blue Crystal Staff. Solace’s major claim to fame is the Inn of the Last Home, an expansive and beautiful place with stained glass windows and delicious spiced potatoes.
Tarsis was once the most prosperous and beautiful city in Ansalon, rivaling even Istar’s capital. The Cataclysm took that all away, robbing its waters and leaving salt-soaked soil surrounding it for over three hundred years. It is a dying city surviving only due to the persistence of its people, the dilapidated academies, art houses, and remnants of its glories a daily reminder. The people are bitter about the loss of their old livelihoods, and came to blame mages, knights, and non-humans for their problems. It is a democracy in name only, its appointed Council members remaining in leadership positions for life due to corruption. The Dragonarmies sent emissaries promising peace, but in reality seek to occupy the city and use it as a base in Ansalon’s far south.
Tarsis’s most famous feature is the Library of Khrystann, one of the few remaining of its kind in the city. It is located beneath a block of abandoned buildings via a secret entrance amid the flagstones, and its caretaker Lillith Hallmark is an agent for Palanthas’ Order of Aesthetics. As such she is tasked with guarding the library from those of ill intent.
Strongholds & Bastions
Castle Uth Wistan is the family home of the Uth Wistan family of proud Solamnic Knights. It is a well-defended fortress complete with a drawbridge and moat, and its commander Gunthar Uth Wistan is coming to be a very prominent member of the knighthood. After the War of the Lance he’ll be appointed the Grand Master of the Knights, the first to take the vaunted title post-Cataclysm. There’s not much to say about the fortress proper: 21 rooms are detailed, but we don’t get things like where guards will occupy during a siege, possible double agents, or other potential adventure hooks.
19. Chapel. This is a chapel to the three gods of the Knighthood, Paladine, Habbakuk, and Kiri-Jolith. This chapel has been kept up throughout the Age of Despair, despite the absence of the gods.
The People Didn’t Leave the Gods, The Gods Left the People Counter: 10
Darken Wood is an ancient Abanasinian forest avoided by most living creatures which...kind of doesn’t make sense given the factors of a forest’s ecology. Creepy ambient magic dims all forms of light, an omnipresent enchantment makes trails and paths seem to shift, and all those who die within its confines raise as undead, which makes me wonder just how many of the trees in this place are actually unliving. Centaurs and spectral minions go on patrol to protect the land from evil beings. The woods are presided over by a powerful unicorn known as the Forestmaster as well as the largest population of pegasi on Krynn.
The source of the strange darkness and undead spawn is due to an ancient curse priests of Takhisis placed upon the forest. An unlikely alliance between the Forestmaster and a nearby human king were tasked with finding a way to lift the curse. The king’s men are those afflicted, but at least they’re the kind of undead with good intent.
Flying Citadels are not a specific place so much as a type of aerial fortress the Dragon Empire would develop late in the War of the Lance. A priest of Takhisis and a Black Robe wizard conduct a ritual upon the grounds of an existing fortress, lifting the surrounding ground to be permanently airborne and “drivable” by a spellcaster tasked as the Wind Captain. While the Dragonarmies have significant aerial support through dragons alone, flying citadels are meant to be a sort of “aircraft carrier” for them as well as more conventional soldiers. The boons of a mobile fortress which is unimpeded by terrestrial terrain is obvious.
We have a sample flying citadel along with maps and major rooms numbered. A citadel can function as an effective Small Town, save that almost all of its inhabitants are combatants, as well as rules for what happens if characters try to take over or sabotage the magical runes responsible for keeping it afloat (paralyzing trap which also damages would-be saboteurs).
Topping out this entry are rules for magic item creation of flying citadels. While it’s theoretically within the limits of two 13th-level spellcasters, it can cost anywhere from 90,000 to 1.1 million steel pieces depending on the size of the base building. As cool as a flying base of operations may be, most adventuring parties may end up settling for a keep or tower than a bonafide castle unless the DM’s very generous.
Icewall Castle sits at the edge of the imposing Icewall Glacier, commanding a magnificent view of the surrounding tundra. Once a keep and lighthouse in the pre-Cataclysm southern plains, the encroaching glacier gave the place its current name. It currently serves as the headquarters for the White Dragonarmy and is split into two levels. The Upper Reach holds the courtyards and the White Dragon Highlord’s personal chambers, while the Lower Reach is mostly natural caverns which include a trapped remorhaz and the hoard of the white dragon Sleet. A Dragon Orb is the greatest piece in the wyrm’s treasure collection.
Great Library of Palanthas is one of the oldest buildings on Ansalon. It would not be much of an exaggeration to claim that it holds the history of the world within its halls. A group of monks* known as the Order of Aesthetics dedicate every waking hour to writing, keeping, and copying the knowledge contained within the library’s many tomes. The place is heavily guarded and kender are not allowed inside, and no book may be removed from the library without the Master’s permission (although books may be copied via paying a scribe). Said master, Astinus, is an immortal of unknown origin who spends time in his study with an artifact known as the Globe of Present Time Passing to remotely scry anywhere on Krynn and record what he sees.
*the scholar kind, not the martial artist kind.
The High Clerist’s Tower was built during the Age of Dreams by the founder of the Knights of Solamnia. It’s long-forgotten nickname of Dragondeath came as a result of being specially designed to trap and kill dragons via use of a Dragon Orb. Before the Cataclysm the leader of the Order of the Sword lived within the Tower and saw to its maintenance. After the Cataclysm it still stands proud, but no Solamnic dares set foot within its sacred halls. The High Clerist’s Tower would soon come to be the site of the most famous battle during the War of the Lance.
The High Clerist’s Tower is an expansive, multi-level stronghold inhabited by ghosts of former inhabitants. If a dragon orb is placed in a special chamber and activated, it will mentally compel dragons to fly into herring fish-bone patterned hallways which are easy for such creatures to enter but not so much to escape.
The Inn of the Last Home is Solace’s most famous establishment and fulfills the “you all meet in a tavern” trope during the Dragonlance Chronicles. Its ale and spiced potatoes are legendary, drawing people from Abanasinia and beyond. A massive spiral staircase around the vallenwood tree leads up to it, and at night the warm fireplace beautifully reflects light through stained glass windows. There’s not much else to say about it other than it has a nice and cozy feel to it. Even when the Red Dragonarmy invades Abanasinia and topples the tree, the dragons are careful enough to lay it down upon the ground first so the soldiers can use it as a local watering hole.
Pax Tharkas was once built by the elves of Qualinesti and the dwarves of Thorbadin as a sign of mutual friendship. Soldiers from both races manned the fortress, but after the Dwarfgate Wars it stood abandoned...at least for a time. The Red Dragonarmy occupied the fortress as a base for their eventual invasion of Qualinesti, and captured people are dragged off in chains to slave away in the mines. It is well-defended even before the full-scale invasion of Abanasinia, manned by draconians and goblins overseen by the Red Dragon Highlord Verminaard. A pair of red dragons, Ember and Flamestrike, are present, the latter a senile elderly wyrm tasked with watching over the children of slaves. A secret elven tunnel known as Sla-Mori is a potential weak spot for saboteurs to enter Pax Tharkas.
Ruins & Dungeons
Most of the below dungeons are visited by the PCs in the modules of the Dragonlance Chronicles. As such, they are not complete dungeons ready to run out of the box but more brief overviews of prominent inhabitants and locations. A few have maps, but are more ‘big-picture’ than individual room entries.
The City of Lost Names is a set of ruins within the northern wastes of Solamnia. The place was a glorious civilization built by people whose origins are unknown and once ruled over by mighty sorcerers. The city fell from grace when red dragons razed it, giving us the ruins of today.
Or at least that’s what current scholars think. The truth of the City’s destruction is at the hands of the gods themselves. The City’s most notable feature, unknown to most, is holding a machine known as the Anvil of Time. This time-traveling dungeon was designed by a few sorcerous mortals while researching the Graygem and ended up discovering time travel instead. As the gods felt that mortals are not yet ready for such magic, the sorcerer’s refused to give up the Anvil. So the Gods of Magic along with Zivilyn and two evil gods committed genocide on the city via an army of red dragons.
Killing an entire civilization for the crimes of its leaders. Seems like Dragonlance’s gods never learn.
Dargaard Keep is the current residence of Lord Soth. It was once a beautiful place whose walls formed the shape of a rose if viewed overhead, but now it is a dark and dismal castle inhabited by the undead remnants of former knights and the same elven specters who convinced Soth to abandon his quest. There are two shrines to Mishakal and Paladine, the latter in particular is said to hold a blade of Good so powerful even Lord Soth cannot hope to touch it.
Derkin’s Tomb (known as Duncan’s Tomb in the Dragonlance Chronicles proper) is a giant floating island holding the tome of Thorbadin’s last dwarven king. The Hammer of Kharas lays within and whoever wields it will become Thorbadin’s king. A gold dragon known as Evenstar maintains a centuries-long lonesome vigil in guarding the tomb from intruders, and has set up a variety of traps and pranks to waylay trespassers.
Foghaven Vale is the resting place of Huma Dragonbane in what is now Southern Ergoth. A giant silver dragon monument looks out over the vale, and somewhere deep within the silver dragon is the ancient forge for the dragonlances. The Vale’s sole inhabitant is the silver dragon D’Argent, who in the Chronicles would lead the Heroes of the Lance to the forge by taking the form (or possessing the body of, depending on Edition) a character familiar to the party.
Godshome could not be in a less-suitable location. Deep within the Khalkist Mountains this sacred space is smack dab in the middle of the Dragon Empire. It is in fact the place where the gods’ presence is in closest contact with the world of Krynn via the magnificent Glitterpalace. The castle is hidden from the view of those deemed unworthy, and opens up into a central nexus chamber where the worthy are teleported to other rooms. The Test of Wisdom confronts explorers with puzzles, illusory realities, and Escheresque architecture that can confound even experienced minds. The Test of Valor pits one against dangerous battles which test not just their martial skills but also their bravery. Finally, the Test of the Heart confronts one with their greatest failures in life, past events of shame and sorrow taking all-too-real forms. Those few who manage to best all of the Tests will gain some great boon from the gods.
Explorers favored by the Gods may find even more than they bargained for at the heart of Godshome—an entrance to the fabled Glitterpalace of Paladine. This place has long been considered by many to be little more than a legend, the faint hope of those who cling to desperate dreams. Such dreams of long ago, when the Gods watched over the people of Krynn, have become the staple religion of the needy in the 4th Age, and stories persist, telling of those who found Godshome and entered this proving ground coming forth healed of some deadly ailment, or carrying with them the knowledge of the True Gods.
The People Didn’t Leave the Gods, The Gods Left the People Counter: 11
Istar sank into the middle of the Blood Sea, and the ruins of the capital are still in surprisingly good condition. So much so that the Dargonesti sea elves have settled among these ruins. The heart of the Maelstrom, that massive whirlpool touching almost every shore in eastern Analson, is actually spawned from an open portal to the Abyss located in the pit of the city. Although the Maelstrom’s outer ridges can be safely coasted and used to sling-shot a ship through the Blood Sea, those who end up too close find themselves inevitably drawn into the center. The Dargonesti have some means of avoiding the effects of the currents and use their talents to save shipwrecked and drowning sailors. Present-day Istar’s most notable inhabitants include a red robe wizard by the name of Zebulah and his Dargonesti girlfriend, the monstrous King of the Deep who menaces the sea elves and whose life is connected to ten statues scattered about the place, and three hags who converted portions of the ruins into death traps.
Xak Tsaroth is the dungeon most Dragonlance players are familiar with, for it is the first dungeon you explore in the Chronicles to recover the Disks of Mishakal. In pre-Cataclysm times it was a city on the edge of Istar’s borders, but the Cataclysm sent it topsy-turvy via an earthquake and now it is broken into various uneven tiers. Now surrounded by utter swampland, no Abanasinians bother to visit. It is currently the site of a covert force of Red Dragonarmy soldiers using it as a base to search for the Blue Crystal Staff. They are quite curiously led by a black dragon instead of a red one, and the ruins are also home to a tribe of gully dwarves who are used as a labor force by the Dragonarmy and counterweights for an elevator-like lift mechanism.
Thoughts So Far: This chapter is both useful and too sparse. Detailing the major cities is a definite plus and gives some fodder for gaming material, but the strongholds and dungeons are a bit of a mixed bag. Some of them do not even have maps or detail just 1-4 rooms of which a dungeon does not make. The difference between a dungeon and a stronghold blurs a bit given that places like Pax Tharkas are definitely places PCs will visit while adventuring. All the same, having a War of the Lance sourcebook and not covering places like the Inn of the Last Home or the High Clerist’s Tower is downright criminal, so this was a bit of a compromise of a chapter.
Join us next time as we get our wargame faces on and learn about the great armies of the 4th Age in Chapter Five: The War of the Lance!
the War of the LanceOriginal SA post
Chapter Five: the War of the Lance
Dragonlance is, at its heart, a wargame. Think about it: the huge amount of pre-generated PCs and DMPCs in the original adventures, the even larger number of mook hordes in encounters, the most iconic adventures involving massive battles, the backdrop of fighting against an evil empire, and the custom-made BattleSystem rules which came in various boxed sets for the AD&D versions. Chapter Five is all about giving you system-neutral advice and backdrops for how to set up the epic battles of the War of the Lance for your favorite wargame of choice.
When this book was released in 2004, there were quite a few fantasy strategy games on the market. Wizards of the Coast was pushing its D&D Miniatures line heavily whose streamlined D20 System rules simulated small-scale warfare. Malhavoc Press published Cry Havoc which had high production values for a 3rd party sourcebook. And this is not counting the many independent wargames existing outside of the D20 framework. Instead of committing to one system, Sovereign Press/Margaret Weis Productions opted to let DMs use their own rules of choice. And to help get a feel for proper conversion, War of the Lance provides outlines for terrain, troop numbers and divisions, and overall abilities of leaders and units in general 3rd Edition terms. There’s a sidebar with advice on how much your wargame system of choice should play an impact vs PCs being the stars of the show, and also to set specific goals beyond “kill everyone on the other side” to avoid monotony.
War in the Age of Despair
This first section goes over a discussion of how warfare changed after the Cataclysm, and how it was affected during the War of the Lance. For much of the 300 years after the fall of Istar, there wasn’t really any empires with professional standing armies on Ansalon: you had places like Ergoth and Blöde calling themselves empires as a throwback to lost glory, but most city-states and nations relied upon drafted peasant conscripts and militias. The major exceptions were societies with established martial traditions such as the Knights of Solamnia or the Daewar clan of Thorbadin, or cultures which have a universal ‘warrior class’ due their small numbers and living in dangerous conditions such as the hill dwarves. Bandits were very common and were often drawn from deserters, mercenary companies, and regular people who decided for various reasons to take from others by force. The loss of divine magic and retreating of wizards from mainstream society meant that warfare looked closer to real-world medieval conflicts than typical high fantasy faire. The Dragon Empire was of course the major exception, and Emperor Ariakas read up extensively on pre-Cataclysm civilizations and their military forces to use as his blueprints for forging the Dragonarmies.
We get a house rule for War Without Clerics, an alternative means of providing a party healer during times when divine spellcasters didn’t exist or were in short supply. Basically, every time a character suffers hit point damage from a single source it’s marked as its own Wound. A character can then roll a Craft (Alchemy), Heal, or Profession (Herbalism) to treat individual Wounds with a DC equal to 20 + the total number of damage dealt. Success means that all of the damage is converted to non-lethal damage and can thus naturally heal faster.
This is not only underpowered given how fast damage can outscale skill check modifiers, it is also a book-keeping nightmare. But as a partial defense, this was made in 2004 at a time when the D20 System’s flaws weren’t being rigorously analyzed or common knowledge to the point they are today. Particularly in regards to the caster/noncaster disparity, which even Wizards of the Coast was in denial about. Combine this with the popularity of “low magic campaigns” and you ended up with rules like this.
This section ends with Dragonarmy Politics After the War. The forces of evil did not instantaneously collapse, but shrunk in size and became loose alliances of individual Dragonarmies’ territories. The Red Dragonarmy has fallen to infighting in northeastern Ansalon; the Blue Dragonarmy consolidated most of the Taman Busuk and is currently fairing the best of the five; the Green Dragonarmy was overwhelmed in Khur and more or less exists on life support with its remnants joining the Blue Dragonarmy; the Black Dragonarmy’s last highlord has just been assassinated and none of the underlings have managed to claim the reigns yet; and the White Dragonarmy is more or less the same as it was pre-War of the Lance in Icewall save that they’ve been reduced to governing thanoi tribes.
The Dragon Empire never truly died: its name and legacy was ended after the Blue Lady’s War, when the Blue Dragonarmy’s flying citadel was destroyed during a failed invasion of Palanthas. But the scattered remnants would be reborn 13 years later as the Knights of Takhisis, who during the dawn of the 5th Age would grow to prominence once again on Ansalon. As of the current Dragonlance timeline, the death of Takhisis turned the knights into a more secular organization of Nerakan nationalists.
Note: the above portrait is not official artwork from this book. This chapter is very light on illustrations so I needed to find something thematic to break up the walls of text. This is drawn by StevePalenicaStudios of Deviantart.
This section goes into detail on the greatest threat to the free peoples of Ansalon. The Dragon Empire is a military dictatorship with theocratic underpinnings: virtually all of its leadership is part of the war effort, and instead of the steel piece standard their currency system uses ingots of various metals whose value is determined by rarity and weight.* If I had to guess it’s because such material is more suitable to crafting into practical instruments of war. Each of the five Dragonarmies is a professional standing military unit divided into smaller Wings, and its leaders govern civil as well as military affairs. The five Dragonarmies are so named based on both geographic and aesthetic value: chromatic dragons tend to (comparatively) get along better with those of their own clan and are typically assigned to terrain with which they’re ideal: this is why the Green Dragonarmy was chosen to spearhead the Silvanesti Campaign, and why the Whites were relocated to Ansalon’s far south.
*This is not in the book proper, but discussed as part of an unrelated Let’s Read of 1st Edition Dragonlance Adventures.
Dragonarmy military structure is hierarchical and highly mobile. Although nobility still exists in some occupied provinces the ruling classes are often either overthrown if belligerent or incorporated as officers into military ranks for those houses which sided with the Empire. Takhisis and Ariakas do not tolerate resting on one’s laurels even if one’s heritage is supposedly “fit to rule,” and in theory a mere human commoner or ogre brute can become Highlord one day. This acts as a positive morale boost for soldiers to join and perform well, and it’s not uncommon for officers to jockey and sabotage each other’s efforts or outdo each other to climb the ranks. In practice, the Dragonarmies are quite racially stratified: draconians and goblins are often used as expendable troops, and humans disproportionately make up officer ranks over that of other races. The Black and White Dragonarmies are the major exceptions to this, the former having many ogres and the latter being composed heavily of minotaur and thanoi among all its ranks.
We get stats for the most common troop types divided by race: most of them are either base monster stats for multi-Hit Die creatures such as ogres, save that they’re more likely to have “proper gear” such as chain shirts and battleaxes than primitive hide armor and clubs. Specialized military units may have 1 to 2 levels of Warrior, while heavy infantry/cavalry and races renown for organized tactics* may have 1 level in Fighter. Only proper Officers, 6th-level Fighters at the minimum, are likely to have masterwork gear and whose statblock can represent a variety of archetypes ranging from local governors and non-commissioned officers to commanders of smaller Wings.
*such as minotaurs and hobgoblins.
The Black Dragonarmy serves more as a domestic police force than a mobile military unit, covering the regions of central and eastern Ansalon. Its priorities are more geared to supporting the larger armies in newly-occupied territories as well as asset management. The Black Dragon Highlord Lucien remarkably turned the ogres into a disciplined fighting force, and it’s the only Dragonarmy which has more giant than draconian troops. Their forces are trained in wilderness survival, being drawn from tribes in rugged regions and have a high number of scouts due to this.
The Blue Dragonarmy is the most skilled and organized of the five Dragonarmies thanks in no small part to its leadership under Kitiara Uth Matar. She was entrusted with the invasion of Solamnia for this very reason, and thanks to an alliance with Lord Soth is the only Dragonarmy making use of necromancy. Its Reaper Army is notably dangerous as battlefield casualties provide them with fresh troops to continue the assault. There is a distinct lack of goblinoid troops on the front lines in spite of an alliance with Throtl due in no small part to Kitiara loathing their race, and they’re kept in reserve units.
The Green Dragonarmy may not be as poorly-funded as the White Dragonarmy, but its Highlord Salah-Khan may be in the most dire straits. He helped the Empire take over Khur and nearby regions as a tribal warlord, making him even more unpopular among the rival clan. After his forces suffered heavy losses during the Silvanesti campaign, he’s laboring under Emperor Ariakas’ steely gaze to make up for these losses along with the domestic insurgencies growing under his territory. The Green Dragonarmy is mostly a domestic military unit, making use of psychological warfare, spies, and ambush tactics to disrupt rebellions and make civilians more likely to cooperate with their oppressors in the belief of staving off worse punishments.
The Red Dragonarmy is the most widespread and well-funded of its kind. It is notable for having the only Highlord, Verminaard, who is a cleric of Takhisis. As such its leadership is the most versed of the lot in magical affairs. Most of Verminaard’s troops have masterwork equipment,* and his red dragon’s terrorizing fires have been so fearsome that they caused more than a few enemies to surrender before the fight even began. His current duties are the occupation of Abanasinia, rooting out any signs of the return of the true gods along with their artifacts. Verminaard prefers to use draconians and goblins over humans despite being human himself; the draconians have been brainwashed into the military life, and he won over many goblins by promising them the chance to strike at their ancient foes in Qualinesti. The human troops coming to Sanction are disproportionately mercenaries and as such the Red Dragon Highlord doesn’t trust their motives as much.
*Something which is not actually reflected in the Dragonlance Chronicles.
I actually like this, for it more or less cements a previously-undiscussed aspect of the original Dragonlance adventures. Rank-and-file human troops don’t really show up as encounters in invaded countries until the last stages of the War of the Lance. The Abanasinian invasion was almost entirely draconians and goblinoids, and human Dragonarmy soldiers are typically encountered as Black and Green troops in Eastern Ansalon. This sourcebook more or less explains why Verminaard has almost no humans working under him during the time of Dragons of Autumn Twilight.
The White Dragonarmy is the smallest and least-funded of the Dragonarmies. It used to be an auxiliary force to the others, although after the Silvanesti Campaign its Highlord petitioned Emperor Ariakas to relocate his forces to Icewall. Being an exiled elf, many humans in the Empire are prejudiced against Feal-Thas, so his forces are disproportionately filled with minotaurs and thanoi who are too distant from the elven realms to have really formulated any long-standing rivalries. All of his troops are equipped for cold weather, and polar bears serve as his cavalry.
The Forces of Whitestone
Although resistance has existed for as long as the Dragon Empire got its dark beginnings in Neraka, organized opposition on the international level would not occur until representatives at the Whitestone Council came to an agreement in the Winter of 351 AC. When the Heroes of the Lance introduced the creation of the Dragonlances and secured victory at the High Clerist’s Tower, the armies of good became a force to be reckoned with. Over the next year they would march across Solamnia under Laurana, who despite her young age more than proved herself worthy of the title of the Golden General. After the deaths of Emperor Ariakas and the Dragon Highlords, the Whitestone forces would fight the Dragonarmy remnants in some places and sue for peace in others.
The military structure of the Whitestone Council is more diverse than the Dragonarmies, owing to the composition of different national and ethnic units serving. Gunthar Uth Wistan functions as the Lord General making decisions for the allied armies as a whole, with Laurana directly under him. Below them both each army has its own sub-commanders.
Solamnic Forces are the most experienced and well-trained among Whitestone’s armies. There are only sixty-three true Knights of Solamnia, with the vast majority comprised of volunteer soldiers, squires, and mercenaries. The Solamnics have the most effective cavalry, and when the metallic dragons would join the war a third of them comprised the majority of the Dragonlance-bearing aerial cavalry. Solamnic heavy infantry units and mounted archers are highly competent, being 3rd and 2nd level fighters respectively, and even the light infantry/cavalry who are 1st-level warriors all have masterwork equipment.
Elven Forces include both Qualinesti and Silvanesti soldiers. They are more mobile than their counterparts, made up of light infantry, light cavalry, and archers with some elite units of griffon riders. The bonds with said griffons are so strong they chose to remain on them instead of dragons for the duration of the war, and their aerial advantage made them expert scouts and messengers between all the armies.
Dwarven Forces are a bit unconventional. None of the three dwarven kingdoms sent representatives to the Whitestone Council, and Thorbadin in particular was busy enough tending to its own domestic affairs. Kayolin had a strong alliance with the Solamnic humans and many dwarves could be seen aiding their taller allies on the battlefield. Dwarven units are exclusively infantry and crossbowmen, and barring Klar and Aghar units they all have 1-3 levels in Fighter. The maddened Klar are fierce 1st-level barbarians, while the gully dwarves can hardly be called soldiers as 1st-level Warriors but are more than eager to fight for the looting and scavenging opportunities.
This kind of goes against the gully dwarves’ penchant for cowardice, don’t you think?
Other Forces includes volunteer units, militias, and mercenaries who can be from a variety of backgrounds. They are represented with human stat block entries for light and heavy infantry and cavalry units, and are not as competent as the dwarves or Solamnics. Only the heavy infantry and cavalry units have masterwork equipment.
Kender Armies could be called an oxymoron, and rather represents the ephemeral groups of kender adventurers who all got together to aid the other races. They require higher numbers of commanders on account of the job being like herding cats, but they are useful as their legendary taunts can drive entire enemy forces to heights of reckless stupidity. Kender only have light infantry and archers and are notable for being equipped with sithaks, a combination scythe and longbow which has not been statted anywhere else in 3rd Edition Dragonlance sourcebooks to my knowledge.
Rebel Organizations is our last entry, and a rather lacking one at that, for there are no write-ups for their army units. They are more or less covert civilian organizations, bandits, army remnants of conquered nations, and thieves’ guild members who all for their own reasons have an incentive to fight the Dragonarmies. The first notable organization includes the Silver Fox’s revolutionaries in Khur who are made up of tribal groups that were enemies of Salah-Khan before he joined the Dragon Empire. The other is the Hidden Light movement in the heartland of Taman Busuk: they are a highly covert secret society who operate out of safe houses made up of people who lost everything to the Dragonarmies.
Major Conflicts of the War of the Lance
The following four major battles are significant events which helped turn the tide of war during the War of the Lance. Two of them feature as adventures in the Chronicles proper (Ice Reaches and High Clerist’s Tower) while the other two take place before the Chronicles of offscreen (Silvanesti and Vingaard Campaigns). The former two conflicts make note of actions performed by the Heroes of the Lance from the novels, which may not necessarily line up with how things may go down in your campaign. Each entry goes over the geo-political background, principal events, and the listing of primary military units and their troop numbers during the battle or series of battles, and what kinds of adventures a DM can run PCs through during these times.
The Silvanesti Campaign (349 AC)
Some folks are born made to be in the Dragonarmy
Ooh, they're red, white and blue
And when the pilgrims shout "Hail to the Dark Queen"
Ooh, they point the staves at you, Lord
It ain't me, it ain't me, I ain't no Highlord's son, son
It ain't me, it ain't me, I ain't no fortunate one, no
There’s not really much new to add here that I didn’t go over in previous posts, but we learn here Feal-Thas betrayed his own people by passing on intelligence to the invading Dragonarmies which they used to breach Silvanost’s defenses.* All five of them participated, but it was Green Dragon Highlord Salah-Khan’s forces who retained all the glory...and the biggest losses. The former Red Dragon Highlord Phair Caron perished during the Campaign, the nightmares unleashed from Lorac’s Dragon Orb causing her own troops to kill her in a blind frenzy. During the ensuing inter-military purges, Verminaard was appointed to that position when less successful officers were executed for harboring the majority of blame (justified or not) for failing to capture Silvanesti.
*and for which he was able to rise to the dubious honor of White Dragon Highlord.
Battle of the Ice Reaches (351 AC)
While heading south in search of a Dragon Orb, the Heroes of the Lance came upon a camp of Ice Folk who have been skirmishing with the invading White Dragonarmy in their lands. Tired of the hit and run tactics, White Dragon Highlord Feal-Thas decided to make an example by invading and surrounding the village with the intent of killing everyone. The Heroes of the Lance helped fight against the thanoi, minotaur, and white dragons while the civilians evacuated on giant wind-powered sleigh-boats. Half of the Ice Folk were killed, but the Heroes of the Lance ventured to Icewall Castle. During the battle Feal-Thas and his white dragon mount are killed, removing the Dragonarmy of an effective leader and forcing the soldiers to retreat from much of their holdings.
Battle for the High Clerist’s Tower (351 AC)
Solamnia is a rich land with fertile fields, and the city of Palanthas the major deepwater harbor in northern Ansalon. Still reeling from losses in the Silvanesti Campaign, Ariakas sought to exploit the deep divisions in Solamnic society to claim the territories and feed his empire. The Knights of Solamnia, once one of the greatest warrior societies of the continent, were more or less discredited and hated in large parts of the country. It was theorized that the meager militias would be unable to put up as much resistance against the Dragonarmies, which was quickly proven right when Kitiara and Verminaard’s forces subjugated much of northewestern Ansalon. Eventually they conquered the area to the south of Palanthas’ mountain range. The knighthood, having lost several major cities, were desperate to defend the path but found little aid from the city’s mayor who foolishly believed that the Dragonarmies would abide by a nonaggression pact.
Gunthar Uth Wistan, who was in a meeting with the Heroes of the Lance and was informed of the Dragonlances, decided to send them to the Tower to help aid the beleaguered Knights. A test of wills broke out between Sturm Brightblade and Derek Crownguard, the two Knights among the Heroes, over leadership positions. Crownguard won out in rank, and quickly made a tactical blunder where his detachment and the man himself were killed. Bakaris, Kitiara’s second in command, returned Crownguard’s severed head to the Tower, and Laurana (the Qualinesti princess) responded by shooting the messenger and severed his arm in the process.
Tasslehoff Burrfoot discovered a chamber for holding a Dragon Orb while exploring the Tower, which was put to use when the Blue Dragonarmy made a second assault upon the Tower. Sturm ordered the knights armed with Dragonlances to gather around strategic positions as the enchanted dragons flew into tight hallways. The knights stabbed at them through holes in the walls, killing off most of the enemy wyrms this way. The draconian soldiers were driven insane by the orb’s song and fell upon each other while also running in random directions.
Kitiara ascended the Tower and confronted Sturm Brightblade at the top in solo combat, slaying him before retreating. Sturm’s sacrifice grew exponentially among the Knights and beyond, serving as a rallying point for the once-divided knighthood to put aside their differences and band together under the Whitestone Council.
The Vingaard Campaign (352 AC)
The Vingaard River is an important thoroughfare through much of Solamnia and beyond, running through the city of Kalaman and into the fertile Plains of Solamnia. Laurana, appointed as the head of the Whitestone Army, led an international coalition down the Vingaard River, seizing towns and villages from the Dragonarmies with the goal of beating them back out of Solamnia. Aided by the metallic dragon clans who discovered the fate of their eggs, the forces of good could now match Takhisis’ forces in the sky, dragon for dragon. The Blue and Red Dragonarmies gave a good fight, but their relative lack of experience against similarly-aerial forces along with the dangerous Dragonlances routed even their largest units. Laurana earned the name of the Golden General as her hair caught the light of dawn while she stood upon the recaptured Vingaard Keep.
Other cool stuff happened during this time, like Gilthanas and the silver dragon D’Argent making a sneak attack on the green dragons while they were groundbound, or a contingent of silver dragons using their breath weapons to create an enormous ice dam for soldiers to cross over a raging river. The Vingaard Campaign was a major success, freeing most of northwest Ansalon from evil and uniting Solamnia. Sadly, Laurana was kidnapped by Bakaris and taken to Neraka, where the Heroes of the Lance mounted a rescue operation for her where they would bring an end to Emperor Ariakas once and for all.
Adventuring: Each entry suggests various kinds of plots a Dungeon Master could run during these military campaigns. The Silvanesti Campaign suggests a desperate struggle to survive in a war-torn forest with a higher level of magic than usual* as well as safeguarding refugees fleeing their homeland. The Battle of the Ice Reaches is...underwhelming and really just “go play Dragons of Winter Night.” High Clerist’s Tower is the defining turning point in the War of the Lance, and suggests the idea of using an artifact to summon Knights from the past to help fight the Dragonarmy.** Finally, the Vingaard Campaign says that this is the first time that metallic dragons are seen “filling the skies” and is a good point in the timeline where PCs can have an excuse to be dragonriders long-term and make use of those aerial combat rules from the main setting sourcebook. Which when you think about it, is kind of one of the War of the Lance’s weaknesses. The concept of riding around on a mounted dragon and jousting in the sky doesn’t happen until near the end of the main timeline/adventure path/etc.
**Spoilers: this happens in the adventure module but with ghosts instead of time travel.
Thoughts So Far: I like this chapter. There are some striking similarities between it and the Legendary Wars chapter in Legends of the Twins, but as this sourcebook preceded Legends here is where we really get the D20 outlines of troops and suggestions to use them as blueprints for converting to your wargame of choice. The stat blocks for all kinds of Dragonarmy mooks, and some potential Whitestone forces as followers for those with the Leadership feat, is a nice touch that can see use in most Dragonlance games. The overview of the major military conflicts is welcome, if a bit overly wordy on specific details.
Join us next time as we get more NPCs than you can shake a Dragonlance at in Chapter Six: Personalities!
PersonalitiesOriginal SA post
Chapter Six: Personalities
Whereas Chapters Three and Four gave us outlines on the world of Krynn, Chapter Six focuses on its people. We have a whopping 68 characters* each with a short bio and full stats. Each entry provides a specific named individual, ranging from influential figures during the War of the Lance to minor characters from the Dragonlance Chronicles. Quite a few of the entries are dragons and a few undead and giants too, so it’s not just the humanoid races getting shoutouts.
*69 if you count Kitiara’s two different stat blocks as their own entries.
It would be a fool’s errand to go over every individual character. Instead I’ll group them up by related subject material (Dragons, Heroes of the Lance, Dragon Highlords, etc) and call out any particularly interesting bios or stat blocks. Finally, this chapter is rather low on images, so I may borrow Dragonlance artwork from other sources to make up for this.
These are controllable characters who join the party during the Dragonlance Chronicles series of adventures, but are not part of the initial Heroes of the Lance.
Alhana Starbreeze is the haughty princess of the Silvanesti people, a Noble/Fighter who can inspire people as part of her class feature even if she doesn’t have a winning personality.
Derek Crownguard is the foil to Sturm Brightblade, an example of what the knighthood is versus what it should be. Derek is a multi-class Fighter/Noble/Legendary Tactician who specializes in mounted combat and inspirational buffs, but you’d hardly know that given that in the book series he was constantly butting heads with the rest of the party.
Elistan of Haven is a former Seeker leader turned prophet of Paladine. Unlike most Clerics of Lawful Good deities he is more on the “pure caster” side of things, with a middling Strength score and emphasis on defensive magics over smiting the wicked.
Gilthanas is the second son of Qualinesti’s king and Laurana’s brother. He is not fond of his cousin Tanis due to a host of personal issues. He is multiclassing all over the place, with 1-2 levels in Noble and Fighter and 3 in Wizard. He’s meant to be a gish* but he still triggers arcane spell failure in his worn armor which makes him a poor man’s Raistlin...or poor man’s Caramon.
*fighter/caster hybrid for you newbs.
Laurana is the daughter of the ruler of Qualinesti and love interest of Tanis Half-Elven. She would become one of the most beloved figures during the War of the Lance, leading the Whitestone Forces to victory over the Dragonarmies. She is a 6th-level Noble with some middling combat ability, and focuses more on the social side of things.
Serinda Elderwood is a Silvanesti privateer who strikes out against minotaurs and Dragonarmy ships around the Blood Sea Isles. Like Gilthanas she is triple-classed but with levels in Mariner instead of Noble. She’s pretty terrible at melee combat, having a negative strength score which makes her rapier damage pitiful, and her stat block does not mention what wizard spells she has memorized or even a spellbook!
Theodenes is a “mad gnome,” looked down upon by others of his kind because all of his inventions work properly. Or he would in the base Chronicles: War of the Lance retcons him into a typical tinker gnome who is respected by his peers. He is more adventuresome and mobile than others of his time, and is on a Life Quest to make the “ultimate tool chest” which can improve any mechanism on Krynn by using the right tool in question. Oddly Theodenes is lower-level than when he appears in the Chronicle adventures, being a 5th-level Fighter/Master rather than 10th-level (with levels in Gnomish Tinker) when he ordinarily appears.
Tika Waylan is the barmaid of the Inn of the Last Home and would join the Heroes of the Lance very soon on their quest. She is a multi-class Fighter/Rogue who has the Improvise Weapon feat and can treat her frying pan as a weapon. Amusingly said frying pan deals more damage than her shortsword at 1d8 base weapon damage! That’s longsword levels of dangerousness!
Vanderjack is the odd man out of the DMPCs. Although Neutral rather than Evil, he is a mercenary leader who is upfront and honest about being in it for the money. He joins the Heroes of the Lance when in Southern Ergoth, hearing of a legendary treasure near the mountains. Said rumored treasure is the dragonlance forge.
Statwise he’s a 10th-level Fighter with some fancy feats like Improved Disarm/Overrun and Combat Expertise hinting at a more causing style of fighting. He wields a unique trademark longsword which can draw the life force from an opponent.
Waylorn Wyvernsbane is a delusional druid immortalized in a sleeping tomb in Silvanesti. He was alive during the Third Dragon War, a humble Druid of Chislev who fell in love with the SIlvanesti Queen. Said Queen would later become evil, and Waylorn bravely fought her and her wyvern minions. She escaped along the River of Time into an undetermined future, so he was placed in a magical slumber to be awoken when the time is right. Sadly the years have not been kind, and when awoken will believe himself to be Huma Dragonbane himself.
Statwise he is a Druid with one level in Barbarian, which supplements his already powerful Wild Shape ability.
These are the major leaders of the Dragon Empire, and also includes Ariakas.
Ariakas, the Dragon Emperor is the most powerful person on Ansalon. Level-wise as well as politically: he has 23 levels in total, a mixture of martial and arcane classes and prestige classes. In addition to having good leadership qualities from Dragon Highlord and Legendary Tactician, his limitless material resources means that his spellbook has every 0 to 3rd level Wizard spell from sourcebooks the Dungeon Master owns. It’s also presumed that he can acquire any mundane or low-level magic item not currently in his equipment list if necessary.
Feal-Thas is the White Dragon Highlord and as an elf and traitor to his people has to work twice as hard to prove himself worthy of the Dark Queen. He’s proficient in both arcane and martial casting with an emphasis in damaging and summoning spells. His levels in Winternorn* give him the ability to receive a massive 1/day +10 bonus on initiative checks as well as Knowledge and Sense Motive.
*described in Towers of High Sorcery
Kitiara Uth Matar has two stat blocks: one when she’s still a friend of the Heroes of the Lance several years before the Dragonlance Chronicles’ beginning, and the other when she becomes Blue Dragon Highlord. She was the daughter of a disgraced Solamnic knight whose rough upbringing instilled in her a rather bitter personality. This eventually causes a rift between her and her long-time friends, albeit not without generating a messy love triangle between Tanis, Laurana, and herself.
Kitiara’s first stat block is a 7th-level melee Fighter specializing in mounted combat but uses a rather weak short sword as her primary weapon. The second stat block is a mighty 15th-level Fighter/Dragon Rider/Dragon Highlord wielding a Wounding Lance. She picked up a lot of feats enhancing her knack for mounted combat and charges, which combined with her dragon mount can rack up a lot of damage...if said dragon were statted up in this sourcebook! Like Ariakas she can have any low-level items the DM deems necessary in addition to her core equipment.
Lucien of Takar is the most boring of the Dragon Highlords, I hate to say. Like Kitiara he is a pure martial but doesn’t have an established backstory with the Heroes of the Lance or a kickass dragon mount. He fights exclusively with a longsword and almost all of his abilities and feats (besides the Dragon Highlord suite of features) involve melee combat.
Salah-Khan is the Green Dragon Highlord. Unlike the other Highlords he is not so big on the direct combat side of things as he is the sneaky-stabby side of things. He is a multiclass Ranger/Assassin/Dragon Highlord and uses a unique variant of the Assassin class with no spells. In 3rd Edition D&D, assassins are spontaneous casters and therefore sorcerers, so they don’t line up with the Age of Despair’s setting continuity. This spell-less Assassin has a Barbarian’s Fast Movement and a Rogue’s Skill Mastery at 3rd and 7th levels. He also can’t cast ranger spells even though you’d presume that Takhisis can afford to throw him a Speak with Animals spell or two.
Verminaard of Nidus is the Red Dragon Highlord. There’s not really much to say other than that he’s the first “big bag evil guy” the Heroes of the Lance face. Statwise he’s a Cleric/Dragon Highlord with the unique Nightbringer magic item. After the battle of Thorbadin he would survive as an ex-cleric and become a shifty information broker in the town of Flotsam. His new identity: Sevil Draanim Rev, is literally “Verminaard Lives” spelled backwards.
From the heroic D’Argent and Flamestrike to the wicked Cyan Bloodbane, Dragonlance’s great serpents are just as much characters in their own right as they are monsters. With one exception, each one in this chapter is at least Adult age category, meaning that they’re a force to be reckoned with at most levels of play.
Cyan Bloodbane is a demented green dragon more than eager to visit vengeance upon the elven race, and the Silvanesti Campaign more than accomplished his evil measures. He is an ancient green dragon with a good mixture of utility and offensive spells, and he is nearly unmatched in melee combat.
Ember (Pyros) and Sleet (Terrisleetix) are the dragon companions to the Red and White Dragon Highlords respectively. They carry their riders into combat to terrifying effect. Sitting at Challenge Rating 20+ each and being quite old, they are encountered in the Dragonlance Chronicles but only Sleet is actually fought. Even then he’s a very difficult battle at the time the PCs face him (9-11th).
Pyrite is the oldest gold dragon on Krynn, but age has not been kind to him. His senility and weakened strength give him a bunch of unique debuffs, such as a nonlethal toothless bite attack or reduced natural armor. He is still very powerful as a colossal great wyrm dragon. Pyrite was once a good friend of the legendary knight Huma Dragonbane and believes that he is still fighting in the Third Dragon War, so he’s on the lookout for his old friend who he doesn’t realize is dead.
Silvara/D’Argent is a silver dragon who rebels against her kind by providing covert support to those fighting the Dragonarmies. Living among the Kagonesti elves as a notable healer, she would eventually help the Heroes of the Lance not only find the legendary forge of the Dragonlances but also uncover the secret of the good dragon eggs. She is a very old silver dragon and thus is very powerful: even in humanoid form she can cast spells as a 13th-level sorcerer and has a good mixture of combat, utility, and even healing spells. Technically she is a DMPC, but I’m including her under Dragons just because.
Whisper is a shadow dragon, one of the few of his kind on Krynn. He was summoned to this world by the archmage Fistandantilus as a guardian for the fortress of Zhaman. Placed under a Geas spell to remain as sentry for as long as his summoner remained upon Krynn, the spell has persisted somehow despite Fistandantilus going missing from the disastrous explosion that brought an end to the Dwarfgate Wars. As centuries pass he got bored of killing the meager intruders who could not hope to stand against him, and decided to entertain them and ask them questions about the outside world.
Statwise he is a wyrm of his kind, with a breath weapon that bestows 7 negative levels instead of damage and can gain total concealment in any condition other than full exposure to sunlight. His spell selection specializes in the illusory and creepy, ranging from spells such as Black Tentacles and Nightmare to Invisibility Sphere and Permanent Image.
Heroes of the Lance
These are the original 8 PCs and main protagonists of the Dragonlance Chronicles. The stat blocks here detail them after having visited Xak Tsaroth and retrieved the Disks of Mishakal, placing them at 6th level. As for why not the beginning, well poor Goldmoon would not have any class features then!
Raistlin & Caramon Majere are listed together although they have two different stat blocks. A literal “brains and brawn” pair, Caramon is smarter than he seems but many people presume him a dullard due to his lack of self-confidence. Raistlin, of course, needs no introduction to the majority of readers here. Caramon is pretty much the brawny sword and board Fighter, but Raistlin has 5 levels in Wizard, 1 level in Wizard of High Sorcery and starts play with not one, but 2 artifacts: the Staff and Dagger of Magius!
Flint Fireforge is the party dwarf and sort of a curmudgeonly mentor figure. He is a multi-class Fighter/Master (Craftsman) but with just 2 levels in the latter he’s not going to be making any legendary blades anytime soon.
Riverwind & Goldmoon is our other two-for one entry. They both hail from the Que-Shu tribe of Abanasinian nomads. Riverwind’s grandfather raised him in the belief that there existed ancient gods who existed before the Cataclysm, while Goldmoon was worshiped by a goddess among her people; although initially religious opposites they fell in love with each other, eventually marrying during the Chronicles. The two eventually come into possession of the Blue Crystal Staff which in turn gave them an inkling as to the return of the true gods.
Goldmoon is very much your stereotypical “healing priestess” and focuses exclusively on curative and defensive magic. Riverwind is a multi-class Barbarian/Ranger who is adept at both two-weapon fighting and ranged combat.
Sturm Brightblade would be a Paladin if such a class where permitted in the Age of Despair. The son of a Knight of Solamnia, he has sought to preserve the best of his father’s order in spite of having to flee the country from which his family lived in and protected. He has two deep and dark secrets that he hopes his companions will never find out: he was never actually knighted, and he had a one-night stand with Kitiara (this was before she became Blue Dragon Highlord). Statwise he’s a pure Fighter with melee specialization and possesses the unique Brightblade magic item.
Tanis Half-Elven would be a Warlord if the Dragonlance Chronicles were made for 4th Edition. Instead he’s a high-Charisma Fighter and the leader of the Heroes of the Lance. His half-elven heritage has caused him no small amount of grief, especially when Laurana’s family would reject her love for the ‘half-breed.’ As such he’s a bit emo, but less about being a half-elf and more due to having feelings for both Laurana and Kitiara. Stawise his Fighter feats center around archery, and he has the Leadership feat but it’s unclear who his cohort and followers are. You can make a joke about it being the other Heroes, but they all have PC classes and violate the “no more cohort levels than your level minus two” rule.
Tasslehoff Burrfoot is perhaps the most hated Dragonlance character on account of being responsible for the literary creation of the kender race. But overall he’s not that bad; he’s the most upbeat of the Heroes and his levels in Rogue provide him as a valuable scout/trapfinder in a party that has way too many fighters.
People who you wonder why they have stats in the first place, for they surely will be useless in combat.
Bertrem the Aesthetic is the personal assistant to Astinus in the Great Library of Palanthas. He’s a Master (sage) with mad skillz in Knowledge and other ‘smart people’ things like Decipher Script and Gather Information.
Bupu is a 1st-level spell-less (heathen) gully dwarf Cleric who the Heroes met in Xak Tsaroth, and is notable for being one of the only people Raistlin was ever nice to.
Gnosh is a notable gnome, for his Life Quest centers around study of the Dragon Orbs. He can be a great boon during the Chronicles adventures where, if the PCs visit Mount Nevermind, can learn a lot about the dread sphere they have in their possession.
Otik Sandath is the current owner of the Inn of the Last Home and who every adventuring party wants to have as their friendly neighborhood innkeeper. He is the adoptive father of Tika Waylan who works for him as a barmaid, and he knows practically everyone in Solace. He has not one, but three Profession skills at +13 to +16, so I take it that he’s got a very busy work-life.
William Sweetwater is yet another friendly neighborhood innkeeper, but he operates out of a tavern deep in Dragonarmy territory. He is a contact for the Silver Fox’s resistance movement.
Fewmaster Toede’s entry is great; he is in reality a cowardly minor officer under Verminaard who somehow climbs the Dragonarmy ranks after his death. But the entry is written from an in-character autobiography which due to his massive ego makes him sound like the greatest hero on Ansalon. His various /r/thathappened deeds include being the Dark Queen’s chosen champion, having lots of hot sex with Kitiara, and being invited into all three Orders of High Sorcery without needing to take the Test because he was just that obviously good at magic.
Kronin Thistleknot is the closest thing the kender have to a leader. The Grand Marshal of Kendemore, he is more rugged than most kender and while still childish and joyful is very much aware of the Dragonarmies’ danger. He is notable for being a 12th-level Barbarian, which creates a funny mental image of a murderously angry kender.
Lorac Caladon is the Speaker of the Stars, the King of all Silvanesti. He is 18th level, a multi-class Noble/Abjurer Wizard/Wizard of High Sorcery. Being the ruler of a high-magic nation and former student of the Tower of High Sorcery of Istar means that he has access to all 0 to 3rd level wizard spells of five different schools from the Player’s Handbook. But you’re never going to see this stat block in action in any regular War of the Lance Campaign, for he is now a deluded husk hunched over the Dragon Orb. The only thing that can end his curse will be his death. He is remembered now as a tragic figure, who believed that he did what he could to keep the Silvanesti safe. Now his mind is only nightmares of his failure.
The Rest of Them
Berem Everman is a multi-class Barbarian/Ranger who has a unique set of defenses from his Green Gemstone, which includes an immunity to all manner of death/drain/disease/necromancy/etc effect as well as converting damage from all sources to nonlethal. This makes him effectively immortal.
The Gray Wraith is not a wraith in Monster Manual terms, but rather a spectre undead with more Hit Die than usual. This wicked figure is the guardian of the Silver Arm of Ergoth, residing in a shrine near Qualinost. Those who take the artifact will earn the spirit’s undying enmity, with no ocean too wide or mountain high enough to keep him from getting to
Lord Soth would perhaps be the most famous undead character in all of Dungeons & Dragons were it not for Strahd Von Zarovich having his own series of modules. This immortal knight bears a great weight of guilt upon his shoulders for abandoning his quest to prevent the Cataclysm. Until Kitiara recruited his services for the Blue Dragonarmy, he spent most of his days in introspective ennui in a gloomy castle. He is a 17th-level Fighter/Rogue Knight,* and his Death Knight template gives him a huge host of strengths and abilities. He is a heavy hitter in melee combat with his greatsword and has a small number of undead-creation and debuffing spell-like abilities.
*as in the prestige class Rogue Knight, not a fighter/rogue.
Mara seems not to be from the main series of novels in that I don’t recognize her, and the text calls out an obscure Dragonlance short story “War Machines” so I presume she’s from that. Mara’s a teenage girl who has dreams of becoming a great adventurer, but when her town is invaded by the White Dragonarmy she must gain the aid of the gnomes of Mount Nevermind to help her. She is pretty much a 2nd level acrobatic Rogue but with a gnome pseudo-magic item that acts as a Rod of Metal and Mineral Detection.
Ogmag was once a random ogre mage encounter in the Chronicles, but in this sourcebook he gets his own backstory as an exiled former advisor of Stormogre, Daltigoth’s ruler. Other than that, his 2 levels in Master make him nothing special.
Theros Ironfeld was the blacksmith who would gain the Silver Arm of Ergoth and forge the legendary dragonlances. He is notable for being the first major black character in the Dragonlance Chronicles, and whose backstory...involves him asking to be taken by minotaur slavers as a child because he longs for adventure…
And when said minotaurs raise him and later get attacked by elves, Theros challenged said elves to single combat with only a shovel. The elves respected this so much that they allowed him to depart, and he returned to the minotaur homeland a hero and earned his freedom as a reward.
Theros is a member of the Master (Craftsman) class, but he has a high Strength, Power Attack feat, and enough levels in said class that he can make for a decent fighter if push comes to shove.
Thorne is a Red Robe Wizard of High Sorcery who has been most unfortunately cursed with pseudo-lycanthropy. “Pseudo” because lycanthropes do not exist on Krynn, and he only changes at night when all three moons of magic are full. Which means that due to Ansalon’s moon-tracking chart he shapeshifts every 1.5 years. Not too debilitating. He lives in the village of Dimmin running an herbalist shop, and secretly dreads the next time his curse will arise.
Thorne has statblocks for both his normal form and dire wolf form, and no longer ages in either. He is not in the main Chronicle/Legends books, so he’s probably like Mara in being from a spin-off novel.
Thoughts So Far: There’s not really much to say about this chapter. The stat blocks range from a wide variety of characters, and although some characters are undoubtedly missing this feels like the most complete list of major characters from the Dragonlance Chronicles. There’s no handy appendix sorting them by Challenge Rating, and some of them are built poorly, but as a long-time sufferer of DM Fatigue I can hardly pass up 50+ NPCs.
Join us next time as we finish up this book with some DM advice and a full adventure in Chapter 7: A War of the Lance Campaign & the Lyceum!
A War of the Lance CampaignOriginal SA post
Chapter 7: A War of the Lance Campaign
I’ve noticed a commonality among the Dragonlance sourcebooks I’ve read so far: each of their final chapters are quite short, and this one’s no exception at a mere 5 pages long. Chapter Seven is a series of broad advice for Dungeon Masters based on three distinct time periods within the 4th Age.
An Age of Despair Campaign can take place anytime after the Cataclysm and before the War of the Lance proper. It is a time of desperation and violence where the higher values of the Age of Might are quickly forgotten. The lack of any kind of magical healing makes mundane doctors and herbalists the most important people in their communities, while steel and iron become more valuable than gold and other soft metals. Even many Knights of Solamnia, hated and distrusted in their own homeland, become mercenaries and sell-swords as a means of making a living. Wizards are vilified while false religions propagate. It is a more lawless sword and sorcery feel than the high fantasy tropes common to Dragonlance.
The War of the Lance Campaign is the default, and immediately it asks the burning question of how can the characters’ actions feel meaningful when the novel characters are the ones saving the world. It suggests letting the players play as them, but throw in some plot twists like Raistlin confronting Fistandantilus and becoming a White Robe Wizard. Or the Heroes of the Lance get slain during their mission and the PCs pick up where they left off.
Not really good advice. The general setting outlook emphasises the changing world: the Dragonarmies are steamrolling kingdom after kingdom, mythical dragons have been sighted laying waste to towns, and magic of the true gods is rumored to be returning both among the forces of Good and Evil. Populations are displaced from war, and it is during this time that people are starting to unite beyond petty grievances against this common threat. Less sword and sorcery, more standard epic fantasy.
A Post War of the Lance Campaign reflects the pseudo-peacetime after the destruction of the Temple of Neraka and the deaths of Emperor Ariakas and the highest-ranking remaining Dragon Highlords. The Dragonarmies still exist and are a threat, but are now disorganized remnants. The more fortunate survivors of the War of the Lance can return to living a less exciting life, but cities need to be rebuilt, infrastructure repaired. While the gods are back and churches are being formed for them, there is still some initial distrust of people that remember the Cataclysm. The metallic dragons, no longer bound by their Oath of noninterference, now have a more active hand in the world. Silvanesti is still rife with nightmares (although not as bad as they once were) and while the Knights of Solamnia are back in the peoples’ favor there are warlords and opportunists unwilling to give up their ill-gotten holdings. PCs who were instrumental in the Dragonarmies’ defeat, or were Heroes of the Lance themselves may become respected figures of their communities...and thus asked to aid with all manner of problems, like perhaps a dwarf PC asked to help make peace between the hill and mountain clans of Thorbadin.
The Lyceum Adventure
This adventure is actually a 3rd Edition conversion of an AD&D adventure. Originally written by Tracy Hickman and converted by Cam Banks, it is an 8th-level dungeon crawl set several months after the destruction of the Dark Queen’s Temple at the end of the War of the Lance.
Said dungeon is the Lyceum, originally one of the anchor points for the Lost Citadel where the three Gods of Magic trained the first wizards-to-be. It then became a secret citadel for wizards, but during the final years of the Age of Might its extraplanar portal, the Skydome, served as a gateway for all of the true clerics of Ansalon. At the behest of their patron deities they came to this place to be raptured out of the world and start new lives in realms beyond Krynn.* The Red Dragon Highlord Rugoheras, a mere shadow of his accomplished predecessors, is desperate to turn things around and learns of the Lyceum’s location. By kidnapping a pair of siblings from a nearby village, he hopes with the aid of a Black Robe Wizard and Cleric of Takhisis to re-enact the tragedy of Berem Everman, the Green Gemstone Man. By creating a new Foundation Stone out of the scattered shards of the Dark Queen’s Temple with innocent blood, he hopes to accomplish what Emperor Ariakas failed to do and open up a portal for Takhisis to enter the world!
*Does this mean that this is also the dungeon where 18+ level PCs went to in the AD&D versions of the setting?
The hook for the adventure is investigating a strange mist near the small town of Turog and the gathering and sudden disappearance of traveling Red Dragonarmy soldiers near the area. THeir camps have been left completely empty after some strange black clouds boiled out from the Lyceum’s location. If you’re wondering why such a vaunted citadel was never claimed by the Wizards of High Sorcery or some other group since the Cataclysm, it was magically warded from intrusion until a small force of draconians occupied it by disabling its wards. Given that the Highlord, cleric, and wizard arrived until after the war's end and there’s no Aurak or similarly powerful draconian spellcaster among their ranks, I don’t know how they managed to do this.
The Lyceum is a 64 room dungeon crawl. It has random encounters as well as rooms with monsters and/or traps, and barring a few exceptions said encounters punch well below the party’s weight level due to the ‘war of attrition’ aspect of dungeons. A fair amount of the rooms are empty thematic set-pieces reflecting the places’ role as a mystical safe haven for wizards. The monster/trap rooms are more or less self-contained: barring the exception of the named bad guys, the Dragonarmy soldiers don’t really act like a fighting force who will take advantage of the dungeon’s layout or traps or where they’ll most likely move in case of searching for intruders. There are some creatures who are creations of the old mages or features of the dungeon itself, but there’s no indication of examples indicating any interaction: “the draconians had a bad run in with the spectral minions in Area 28. The corpse of a baaz can be found here” and similar things do not appear in this module.
Some of the more interesting rooms include a kitchen and pantry holding a captured kender* and griffon who the draconians are planning on eating; a room with a ghostly wizard teacher who presumes the PCs are students and will magically summon a dunce cap on any character who appears to not understand arcane magic (and will demonstrate “the effects of a fireball upon an annoying group of adventurers” as a magical trap); a hallway with three glowing gems that unlock doorways in the rest of the complex, but have a puzzle where they teleport into each other’s pedestals if one tries to grab them and thus all three must be grabbed at once; a maze constructed of dimensional teleportation magic which bend light and sound so that it looks like it’s one long hallway going on forever; a fountain whose waters can bestow Cure Moderate Wounds and Lesser Restoration once a day on those who drink from it**; a pair of towers whose tops and bottoms are dimensionally connected so that the monsters and treasures inside are in freefall; and a library with 17 spellbooks...whose “books” only contain one spell each and have most of their content dedicated to treatises, various uses, and the history and development of said spell.
*with said kender not being statted up, how he’ll react to the PCs saving him, or information he may know about the Lyceum.
**said water loses its magical potency if taken out of the Lyceum.
One of the Lyceum’s interesting figures is Estigon, the ghostly former Keeper of the Lyceum who appears every so often to drop helpful hints to the PCs. He is a multi-class cleric/wizard who discovered that the source of all magic is the Highgod and thus reflects his ‘universal understanding.* He and Justin, the spirit of a cleric guarding the Skydome, will drop hints to the PCs to use a unique magic item found elsewhere in the dungeon: Justin’s Icon of Truth, which can be used as a weapon against the forces of evil. Estigon’s class combination breaks earlier sourcebooks like Tower of High Sorcery, which stated that you cannot multi-class in an arcane and divine casting class at the same time because the magic just doesn’t work together. On the one hand, this adventure was written by Tracy Hickman and thus likely counts as “G-Level Canon.” On the other hand, Towers of High Sorcery had Margaret Weis as one of the primary writers, so I don’t know who overrules who in this case.
*Dragonlance’s uber-deity, or Ao, equivalent who created all of the true gods and is not known or worshiped among the general populace.
As for the major villains, they are all encountered in different areas of the Lyceum. The Black Robe Wizard has a shield guardian ally enchanted with Dispel Magic to imbue into a slam attack, and will regroup with his assistant in the library who has a retinue of human Dragonarmy soldiers standing watch. Spirior Minsi Tarenthela, the cleric, talks to herself via prayers to the Dark Queen and can spill the beans on the evil plot if the PCs are sneaky enough to eavesdrop. 2d6 baaz draconians will come to her aid if a fight breaks out at which point she will flee. To what rooms or out of the Lyceum proper, the adventure does not specify.
Finally, the Red Dragon Highlord Rugoheras, is in a room torturing the kidnapped sister. His red dragon companion is using magic to show her torturous visions in the hopes of driving her to suicide by stabbing herself with one of the Nerakan temple shards...which isn’t a reenactment per se of Berem Everman’s tragedy: the man and his sister, after coming upon the Foundation Stone, get into an argument over the risk of taking it. Berem sought to pry out the green gemstone with a knife, but when his sister tried to stop him he pushed her off...and onto a nearby sharp column which instantly killed her.
I also have to ask why the kidnapped brother is needed in this case, who is held in a different room. I can get that villains may have an illogical plan or throwing things at the dartboard to get their Queen back, but the adventure doesn’t really acknowledge this plot hole.
The battle with the Highlord and his dragon has a surprising amount of tactics. The dragon has no orders to harm either sibling and thus will not turn his breath weapon on PCs who are too close, while the Highlord will do everything he can from preventing said siblings from leaving the room. If Justin’s Icon of Truth is used, it will automatically cast Order’s Wrath, stunning both the Highlord and the Dragon for one round with the former dropping any held weapons.
But oddly, the adventure presumes only one solution even though Rugoheras can be killed normally and is only 8th-level himself: the PCs use Justin’s Icon of Truth or somehow push or manipulate the Highlord into falling through the Skydome,* where he will come face to face with the Dark Queen. His happiness is quickly overshadowed by her anger, as his form is enveloped into the void of the Abyss. The dragon somehow teleports into the portal as well if he’s still outside. Justin will thank the PCs for ensuring that justice was served and lets them keep whatever they found in the Lyceum as a reward. The Lyceum will disappear shortly thereafter, any memories of the place wiped from the minds of all but the PCs.
*Which is well away from the room the battle takes place and must be traversed via the teleportation-illusion hall.
We have three magic items before we wrap up this book. The Black Shards are pieces of stone remnants flung from the Temple of Neraka’s explosion. They are purely a plot device power for the bad guys’ ritual, but can be dispelled or turned as though they were undead/evil, at which point they become wisps of darkness which fade back into the Abyss. Orbs of the Moons are three orbs colored after an appropriate Order of High Sorcery. When an arcane spellcaster who worships the appropriate God of Magic wields such an Orb, they can cast Lesser Globe of Invulnerability 1/day or Dispel Magic 3/day each. Justin’s Icon of Truth contains all the powers of said magic item detailed in Chapter Two, but takes the form of carved ivory disks detailing how arcane and divine magic have the same source: the Highgod, a force even greater and beyond that of the true Gods of Krynn. Said Icon of Truth is highly Lawful and grants any wielder the ability to cast all but the highest-level spell from the Law domain.
Thoughts So Far: Chapter Seven is far too short for me to have any real opinions on, and felt more like words to help fill out the page count.
As for the dungeon, it feels more like a fun house than a living place. The Highlord’s plot is never explained if he’d be successful in unleashing Takhisis into the world or not, but either way I feel that this is a weak point of the module. The high stakes seem out of place when juxtaposed against the fact that it’s literally “villagers gone missing” cliche, and the party has no prior ties to the Lyceum or those inside it. Not to mention that it kind of commits the fallacy of repeating the Big Bad Evil Guy’s Plot from the main Chronicles, and thus you cannot help but compare it to that and how much less epic it is than the final module in the original Dragonlance series.
After reviewing Towers of High Sorcery I cannot help but notice that the sourcebooks are contradicting not just themselves but each other: in that book, it was explained that arcane and divine spellcasting were impossible to be learned by the same person. But here we have the Lyceum’s ghostly keeper as a multi-class Cleric/Wizard. The fact that Krynn’s magical nature is so specific and hard-wired to the setting makes this feel less tolerable to happen than in a setting like Eberron or Forgotten Realms where all sorts of things in D&D are said to have a place.
Final Thoughts: I love this book. It has pretty much everything but conversions of the original adventures when it comes to running games set during the War of the Lance. It does a great job detailing the world of the Age of Despair, and has plenty of stat blocks for generic Dragonarmy baddies and most of the named characters from the Chronicles. The new rules-facing material tends to be divided into two camps: if it’s related to magic it’s good. If not, like most of the Prestige Classes, feats, and the Master core class, it’s not so hot. The adventure at the end of the book is subpar for the reasons outlined above, but even this weak ending does not tarnish the shine of what may very well be the most comprehensive sourcebook for the 3rd Edition line of Dragonlance products.
While my next planned review is Dragons of Krynn, I do not know when I’ll get around to that. I plan on taking a break for now, but after a month and a half of writing three reviews I feel that it is a rest well-deserved.
See you all next time until the next Let’s Read!