Dragonlance by PurpleXVI
Introduction AKA "What is this hot garbage?"Original SA post Dragonlance!
Introduction AKA "What is this hot garbage?"
Back in The Elder Era of 2e AD&D we had a lot of big settings with a lot of content. Post-apocalyptic Dark Sun/Athas, high-concept Planescape, grand strategy Highlander intrigue in Birthright/Cerilia, the fucking Forgotten Realms full of Greenwoods' magical realm bullshit, venerable classics like Mystara and Oerth(Greyhawk) that were inherited from 1e and fading into the background. Alongside those, we had Dragonlance. Now, I'm gonna be honest: Dragonlance is some incredible dogshit, but when I was 15 and a young nerd, it was totally the shit. I read the books, because oh man, there were books, based off a primary module chain, which the developers played through and then published as a book series. There were prequels. There were spinoffs.
Dragonlance's world, Krynn, was big in terms of its franchise. It even had a shitty direct-to-VHS(if it wasn't late enough to qualify for DVD, I don't believe it did) adaptation of one of the first books. It had a series of videogames made, probably some of the earliest D&D franchise videogames ever, released around the same time as the original Pools of Radiance(and if I remember right, even using something of the same engine). No one ever made a shitty Planescape or Birthright cartoon. Though both Birthright and Dark Sun got videogames.
Now obviously, a lot of people worked on this shit, but the two primary names are Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman who are reasonably prolific within the fantasy(and to a lighter extent sci-fi) sphere. The other big TSR project they were, as far as I remember, both part of was Ravenloft(though not in as leading roles as Dragonlance), and aside from that they've just been writing a shitload of books. They wrote, no surprise, the Dragonlance books. They wrote the Death Gate Cycle, they wrote a bunch of other stuff I've had no exposure to but which all seems pretty low-rent by-the-numbers fantasy.
Now, these two are bad writers. Not Chris Fields-level bad, I'm pretty sure menstrual cycles have no mentions at all in the books. Not Ed Greenwood-level bad, this isn't going to be their sexual fantasies crammed on to ink and paper. But keep in mind these are the fuckers who invented Kender. These are the assholes who wrote a 7-book series(the Death Gate Cycle) which had a few interesting ideas and periods of solid writing, and then decided to cap it all off with "IF'N Y'ALL'D JUST FOUND JESUS, NONE OF THIS APOCALYPSE WOULDA HAPPENED."
So, how am I going to get revenge for what these fuckers did to my spongey, impressionable teenage brain? To ensuring that the first D&D setting I was ever exposed to as a 10-year-old when a cousin decided to run a game was Dragonlance rather than something good?
I'm glad you asked, because here's the fucking game plan:
First I'm gonna go through the world book, with all of the DEEP DENSE LORE, as well as what rules set Krynn aside from generic D&D.
Then I'm going to go through the entire canon adventure module path.
And I'm dragging you fuckers with me.
Aside from the disparaging intro I've written, the book also has its own introductory section.
Adventuring in Ansalon differs from adventuring in any other fantasy setting. The DRAGONLANCE saga is high fantasy-a struggle of Good versus Evil and the triumph of heroism in the face of overwhelming odds. Hope, honor, loyalty to one’s friends and gods, courage, self-sacrifice, and perseverance are the meat and drink of adventures on Ansalon. This World Book provides the one-of-a-kind color and flavor of Krynn. From its mundane features, such as exchange rates and month names, to the esoteric psychology of dragons, Krynn is unique.
While I know you're meant to love and hype your own product, this seems a bit full of itself. What setting isn't full of Good vs Evil fights, especially back in those days where (intentional) moral grays in RPG's were a somewhat rarer meal? Oh shit, the exciting and rare chance to be a good guy! Holy fuck! Not that I don't like being a clear-cut good guy on the side of good sometimes, but this just feels up its own ass.
On Krynn, you will meet many unique races—kender, draconians, minotaurs, gully dwarfs, and high ogres, to name a few. On the other hand, some stock fantasy creatures do not appear—lycanthropes, orcs, half-arcs, and halflings. All of the races and beast of Krynn, however, are marked by individuality and diversity. Every creature-even goblins and hobgoblins—are fully detailed and three-dimensional. A sense of wonder and amazement surrounds every creature of Krynn.
"Unlike those other, lesser, unheroic games, our creatures are fully detailed and described!" Let's not mention that minotaurs are hardly unique to Dragonlance, that gully dwarves are basically just dwarf hobos, and high ogres are just pretty ogres that know magic.
Just absolutely up their own ass.
Ye Historie of Ye Dragonnes & Lances
Year 0, Day 0, Minute 0, Second 0, a GRAND DIVINE DEITY that's never relevant to the plot again wakes up, writes the blueprints for creation and then immediately subcontracts it out to a Good God and a Bad God, with a Neutral God for the tedious administrative business, before rolling over and resuming his nap. Looking over the job they've been given, the three gods then promptly subcontract the work of creating existence further to a bunch of minor gods. Thus our relevant cast is, for now: Paladine(very good), Takhisis(very bad), Gilean(very neutral,) and Reorx(has hammer, is the one doing the actual work of creating things while everyone else just administrates).
The good and bad gods each make themselves a batch of dragons and promptly start fighting so hard that they almost break the world even before it's had a chance to really exist, forcing them to call a truce. About five minutes later they then start fighting again, this time over who gets to own the stars. Eventually they pry the stars out of heaven and decide that this is great material for making mortals out of, and that's where all of the animals and sapient species come from.
Anyway, then we get like 10,000 years which can be summarized as "ogres enslave humans, humans do not like being enslaved, put an end to that. elves tsk tsk but don't interfere or help the humans because they're useless dickheads, plan a colonialist war against a bunch of dragons because they want more trees to live in." Not satisfied with stealing the dragons' lands, the elves also literally capture their fucking souls and imprison them deep under vast mountains. The gods of magic help the elves do this and are imprisoned on the moon. Or all three of the moons, anyway, there are three. This is a stupid and meaningless plot point because literally the next paragraph is "some shenanigans happen and dwarves go to the moon and liberate the gods of magic." This is also what causes goblins, minotaurs, gnomes and kender to exist. So in a slightly roundabout way, we can blame elves for the existence of kender. Fucking elves.
This whole mess has also created a magic meteor that wanders across the world making unspecified changes to it. Trying to hide from it, the dwarves dig into the ground, find the stones full of dragon souls and, going "what the fuck is this magic garbage?" just toss them up to the surface, awakening the dragons to go fight the elves again. Everyone in this setting is an incredibly moronic fuckup. A bunch of wizards show up, and this time rather than just trapping the dragons' souls underground, they wave their arms around and trap their physical bodies underground, too. Deciding that magic can do some stupid and awful shit, the wizards decide to make Magic Laws and from then on you're only allowed to do magic if you're a licensed wizard of Good, Neutral or Evil. So yes, you can be a licensed magic supervillain in Dragonlance, complete with wearing pitch-black robes and cackling evilly.
A bunch of other incredibly stupid shit happens, like kender suddenly getting their hands on a flying fortress out of nowhere and crashing it into a mountain, an entire dwarven city disappearing because no one can remember where the front door is and the elves being very concerned by "the half-elf problem" which sounds like a very unsubtle way to say that the elves are huge racists worried about racial purity.
The next section of Dragonlance history involves a lot of these guys, THE SOLAMNIC KNIGHTS, who are mostly remarkable for often being featured with sick manes and even sicker facial hair. Takhisis scams a bunch of lizardmen into hiding dragon eggs in dwarven mines, which the dwarves mistake for gems, and sell to people, and then the eggs hatch, the wyrmlings eat their owners, and flap away into the world to cause chaos. It seems like an extremely convoluted plot compared to just having the dragons' parents hatch the eggs and then unleashing them from their nests. Also somewhat, uh, flawed by the fact that most gems aren't just sold pried straight out of the ground but are usually carved and faceted, probably something that an egg would not tolerate well, even a dragon egg.
But whatever, this stupid cartoon villain plot brings the worlds to its knees until a Solamnic Knight named Huma, who's banging a dragon, is the first to figure out the secret of poking dragons with a really long stick(okay, so Dragonlances are supposedly something real special made for killing dragons and do have magic powers, but in the setting they're literally mass produced, and thus it's somewhat hard to take them seriously, and considering how ruinously fucking dangerous they are to dragons, it's also hard to take dragons all that seriously as a threat... in this setting about how scary and cool dragons are). Eventually Huma and his girlfriend give Takhisis a good poking with his lance and she agrees to fuck off and stop ruining the world for a while, taking the dragons with her. Both good and evil dragons are put in eternal hibernation at this point, so they'll stop fucking the world up at the behest of any angry gods.
While all this is happening, a lil' burg called Istar becomes a big ol' trade center, allied with dwarves and the Solamnic Knights, they get fucking rich and immensely loaded, using their economic power to brute force open new markets and increase their wealth(the only ones who manage to serve as a roadbump to their economic dominance are the cutesy, random innocent kender who organize massive market manipulation and threaten to crash the continent's economy until Istar makes them tax-exempt.). This is where Istar goes: "Man, being rich sure also makes us right. Since we're the richest, we're probably also the rightest!" and declares themselves the continental center of truth, morality and righteousness. Their next step is to start sentencing all criminals to death in the gladiatorial arenas, which mysteriously makes Istarian clerics start losing access to their high level spells. Probably just a coincidence.
Then they start burning wizards at the stake, except the ones they need to cast mind-reading spells on all comers, checking if they're committing any thought crime.
The Kingpriest tried to elevate himself to godhood and command the other gods. He used their gifts to the world to control them. The gods were wrathful. True priests disappeared from the world. The gods sent thirteen signs to warn t h e people of the coming Cataclysm. The Solamnic Knight Lord Soth, although given the chance to save Krynn from the Cataclysm, refused. On the thirteenth day of Yule, the third of the new year, the sky burned and a fiery mountain fell from the heavens. It dragged lstar to the depths of the ocean.
It didn't really go well for anyone involved. Lord Soth, in particular, was a spectacular fuckup. Perhaps next time the Gods shouldn't trust their last hope to someone who murdered his wife just so he could deep dick an elf instead, because he ended up killing both himself and his new elf wife just because some randos he met on the road told him she was a ho, turning himself into an evil Death Knight who hangs out in his fort being whiny for all time(until he inexplicably ends up in Ravenloft).
The mountain also hit Istar so hard it punches a hole through reality into the Abyss, giving Takhisis a back door into reality, which she uses to prepare for taking over the world. Again. Good Gods really not knocking this one out of the park.
While the good dragons are napping, Takhisis sneaks in and steals all their eggs, then kicks them awake and tells them she'll kill their kids if they try to interfere in this attempt at world-domination. This gives her a monopoly on dragon power for the coming war that she's plotting. Her plans are slightly foiled by the fact that some wandering idiot found her Plot Artifact(tm) lying in the woods and pried a part of it off as a souvenir, which prevents her from returning to Krynn in physical form. Her amazing godlike senses also fail to find him because he gets locked up in jail by a bunch of dwarves, and apparently police procedure trumps divine power.
Not being content just being one flavour of evil, Takhisis passes the time by jamming Tanar'ri into the good dragons' stolen eggs, making them explode into evil dragon dudes. Most of these dragon dudes are idiots who explode/melt/petrify on death or otherwise inconvenience their attacker if killed.
This is about where the canon adventure path and modules start. Takhisis kicks war into high gear, starts conquering the world and generally does pretty well at it. Elves get stomped, humans get stomped, dwarves get bottle up in their fortresses. It's all coming up Takhisis. Except then the Canon Heroes(tm) find the Dragonlance blueprints(which no one had, of course, thought to keep track of), figure out the blackmail Takhisis has on the good dragons(and rescue the eggs) and it all turns around. They stop Takhisis moments before she manages to manifest physically on Krynn and drag hordes of Tanar'ri with her, and all goes well except for the part where this doesn't make Takhisis legions completely vanish and they still hold large parts of the continent under their control. The main timeline ends at this point, except for an incredibly stupid bit that decides to introduce time travel to the setting, with several of the Canon Heroes going into the past and fucking things up but ultimately changing nothing about how history turns out.
Next Up: Fantasy Geography!
Geography of KrynnOriginal SA post Dragonlance
Geography of Krynn
Okay, so not all of Krynn, literally the only part of Krynn that ever matters is this place, the continent of Ansalon. Which is kind of weird because the fluff acknowledges that other continents exist, one, Taladas, is even surprisingly well-detailed with an interesting minotaur empire, and the writing clearly states that Krynn is a normal-sized planet so probably there are yet more continents than that. But anything that matters? Ansalon. Only place where the fate of existence hangs in the balance? Ansalon. Only place where some mad lad attempts to displace the gods and gets slammed with a burning mountain for his trouble? Ansalon.
So, this is pre-slammed-by-mountain Ansalon. Silvanesti and Qualinesti are where the elves hang out, Thorbardin and Thoradin are where the dwarves hang out(totally not confusing fucking naming, assholes), Hylo is Kendertown and Mt. Nevermind on that lil' island out in the far west are where gnomes, tinker gnomes, live. For some reason, the map of pre-Cataclysm Ansalon is the one they show in the Geography chapter, and you have to page all the way to the back of the book to find the map of the world as-is in Current Year(about 300 years after the Cataclysm). Thankfully one of the other Dragonlance supplements I have access to, has a comparison.
yeah, that ain't gonna just buff out
That big wrinkly mass to the south is the southern polar icecap of Krynn, the Cataclysm apparently caused enough climactic change to make it grow and start overwhelming the southern reaches of Ansalon. The big red bruise in the northeast is the undersea pit that Istar got turned into, complete with a gateway to the Abyss at the very center.
I had to glue this together from six images that didn't quite line up, so sorry for the seams. You'll probably want to paste the link if you want anything readable.
Post-cataclysm there really aren't many major human nations, mostly they've been smashed back to the city-state, village and tribal level almost everywhere. This massive loss of industry also means that gold has lost almost all of its value, and one of the most valuable currencies on Ansalon is now steel coins, rather than gold coins, since they can be melted down for making tools and weaponry. Most outlying parts of Ansalon are occupied by one of the five Dragonarmies(one for each type of Chromatic dragon), who are pretty much the closest thing most places have to a large government unless they're elven or dwarven-majority regions(excepting Silvanesti which is now a Silent Hill-esque nightmare realm because their king decided that using suspicious artifacts to protect their land was a good idea).
Also, as another strike against "man, dragons are scary," we're told how Inuit-esque tribesfolk near the southern icesheet hunt white dragons with harpoons like big flying whales. Yeah that's, uh, that's not really selling me on dragons being particularly scary.
Solamnia, despite being literally split in half by an inrushing sea, and Nordmaar, are about the only still-organized, non-evil, human-majority states around.
This section also namedrops the "Seekers" and "Seeker Lands" without ever describing them. The Seekers are essentially a theocracy without a god, a cult getting rich and powerful on people's need for religion while having not even the slightest connection to the gods. They're mildly important at the start of the first Dragonlance book and adventure(s), during the period where contact with the true gods is still a lost gift.
Anyway, they waste some time statting out rulers of various places which then each get a single paragraph of flavour text. What you should take away from this is the following tidbits. Solamnia and Nordmaar, good! Elves, friends! Dwarves, friends! Kender, insufferable! Everywhere else, in trouble/occupied/bad!
Original Species Do Not Steal
Anyway, if you're playing Dragonlance, you probably want to make a character. Humans, elves, gnomes(well, almost) and dwarves are 100% bog fucking standard and the only difference is fluff, like how your human can be a BARBARIAN human, which is kind of a shame because there are some actual things they could have used to differentiate their races a bit if they'd given a fuck.
Like, take the Dwarves, the dwarves are fucking idiots who have a ruling council where they politely give seats to the two dwarven families and clans whose stated purpose is to bring down the council and dominate all dwarven civilization, and who are more or less outright Chaotic Evil. Meanwhile, in the background, there's a mysterious clan of dwarves infected/disfigured by a strange mold that makes them weird(unplayable) outcasts with inscrutable goals(they're not zombies, they're still intelligent, still reproduce, still forge things, still even do some trade). The fungus dwarves, the Zakhar, are more interesting than anything else about dwarves in this setting, so of course they only get a minor sidenote. Much like the note about how the dead have a traditional place on the dwarven council... which they only rarely use to enter a vote. Literal dead ancestors on the council? My man, please run with this interesting shit rather than the other generic dwarfy bullshit you're writing. But of course, you know they don't and won't.
Instead you know what we get several pages about? Gully dwarves!
the two in the lower left are gully dwarves, no clue who the dwarfbarian up top is
An entire subspecies of brain-damaged dwarves, if you want to play as one of them, you roll your stats with a special method that assures you'll get sub-average mental stats
Gully Dwarves posted:
Thanks to poor living conditions, most gully dwarves are smeared with enough grime and soil to plant a small garden. Their bedraggled clothes hostel a bevy of parasites. Aghar lucky enough to possess jewelry wear it conspicuously and garishly. All told, the filth and rags and mismatched jewelry sometimes cast the gender of any particular Aghar in doubt.
Aghar are proud, long-suffering survivors. Beneath a cheerful and hapless appearance beats a tenacious heart. The Aghar has survived, even thrived, in conditions that would kill any other dwarf. Those who accuse Aghar of treachery and stupidity are listening to their noses instead of their hearts.
Survival: Individually, gully dwarves are harder to kill than cockroaches. Survival is the chief virtue in their minds: to live is to win, to die is to lose. Consequently, they have raised groveling to an art form; they spill sensitive information at the slightest threat. Most Aghar (wisely) run from violence unless their homes are at stake. Other races brand such behavior as shameless cowardice and treachery. Gully dwarves see no shame, cowardice, or treachery in survival.
I mean, treachery, maybe. Stupidity? No, the rules mean they're literally dumber than all other playable species. Tough survivors? Their constitution is on average lower than any other species, too. They've got a language so confusing that no one can decipher it, which is somehow also proof of their non-mechanically-supported secret genius, and they literally can't ever understand numbers. Because you know, filthy noble savages would never need to learn to count anything. Obviously. And for your weird daily kick of racial purity bullshit, gully dwarves are the result of humans and dwarves fucking and producing fertile hybrids. Because of course, something's gotta be wrong with that.
Elves? They're elves. You have your classic flavours like: forest elves and sea elves who are ~harmonious~ with nature, not-dickhead elves and dickhead racial purity elves who turned their homeland into Silent Hill.
Gnomes are now Tinker Gnomes, which largely means they've been infested by a terrible strain of lolsorandom monkeycheese 90's comedy. You see, because Tinker Gnomes build things, but sometimes they don't work, and it leads to wacky!!!!!! consequences!
Sadly, gnomish mental distraction and fascination with detail tend to undercut their technology. Anything gnomish machines can do, magic can often do more cheaply, quickly, and efficiently. Generally speaking, gnomes who invent items exert as much effort, risk as much danger, and experience as much success as wizards who perform spell research,
'cause it'd be a real shame if these little assholes who are apparently smart enough to invent gunpowder and cannons actually contributed something other than slapstick comedy to the setting. They've a couple of potentially useful special items, but all of them backfire "comically" about as often as they do anything handy, meaning they're basically Skaven but it's not supposed to be funny when they blow their own hands off, and the game, of course, has no actual rules(that I can see or find anywhere) for making your own wacky inventions of any kind. This kind of relegates them to an unfun NPC backwater.
Then there's Kender.
Fuck Kender. If you've been in this thread for any period of time, you've heard someone complain about how Kender are a fucking terrible idea and whoever came up with them should be publicly hung, quartered and drawn. Imagine a species that never grows out of that early part of life where everything needs to be investigated(and checked for edibility the hard way), where long-term consequences before "the next two seconds" don't exist in their brain and most of the interpersonal skills that people develop between the ages of 5 to 21, like "personal space" or "respect for others" are permanently stunted. Now imagine if the authors thought this was cute, charming and precious rather than incredibly insufferable and annoying.
Independence: Kender believe in the rights and freedoms of the individual. Kender nations have no real ruler because they prefer the freedom of anarchy. They resent being ordered about, and would rather do what they want, when they want. Demanding something of a kender only results in loud complaints, reluctant work, and taunts. But kender willingly volunteer for any task, as long as it is interesting.
Although they demand freedom of choice, kender often fail to consider the consequences of their actions. A kender’s impulsive action may back him into a corner from his comrades must save him. “I guess I shouldn’t have opened that door with the warnings on it, huh?” Entire parties bristle when a kender utters that awful saying, “Oops!”
Play a kender IF: you want to be the guy who gets the entire party TPK'd, you want to be hung upside down naked from the nearest lamp post before the session is over.
Handling: Kender are oblivious to matters of ownership. If a kender needs something that another person is not using, the kender will innocently borrow the item and put it to use. Curious kender often pick up items for closer examination, then distractedly forget to put them back. Although dwarves cannot distinguish this action (called “handling”) from theft, handlers and thieves differ drastically.
First of all, thieves steal for personal gain, but handlers take things due to curiosity and distraction. When a handler’s curiosity shifts to a new item, he often loses the one he just picked up. Secondly, a thief always takes the most valuable item but a handler always takes the most interesting one. A handler will prefer a glittering shard of glass to a bagful of dull silver ore. Finally, thieves steal maliciously, knowing that they break moral and governmental laws; but handlers take things innocently, unaware of rules of property that would make their actions malicious.
Although kender handlers have common thieving abilities, they are not thieves. Handlers take quick offense at accusations to the contrary. Even if caught in the act of handling, they have (and believe) many excuses:
• “I guess I found it somewhere,”
• “You must have dropped it.”
• “I forgot I had it.”
• “I was keeping it safe for you.”
• “You said you didn’t want it anymore.”
• “This looks just like yours, doesn’t it?”
• “Maybe it fell into my pocket.”
"They don't know they're doing anything wrong and they're very innocent but they always have an extensive repetoire of excuses to absolve them of blame, thus suggesting that they know perfectly well they just did an asshole thing and deserve a good thumping for it. Also unlike thieves they'll probably just lose or break whatever they took from you if they have it in their hands for more than a minute, so good luck recovering any lost property."
In conclusion, fuck Kender, and fuck you if you play a Kender.
But wait, there's more! Kender aren't the only semi-unique playable race for Dragonlance. There are also minotaurs! They do more stuff than just hang out in mazes, on Krynn. They've got their own societies, and primarily tend to value personal honor and competition. Generally if there's a disagreement, some sort of contest will settle it. This even spreads into their legal system where anything that can't be hashed out in court gets settled in the arena(in the supplement for the continent of Taladas, there are a lot of words spent on the minotaur legal system.). Their outlook on the world is somewhat shaped by the fact that they've been enslaved twice, first by a bunch of asshole dwarves, and then by Istar, so they take their personal freedom very seriously. Minotaurs are, of course, incredibly OP because they get a +2 to Strength, which lets them reach Strength 20. Normally Strength advances to 18, then through percentile Strength(i.e. 18/xx which has about ten steps or so), then to 19. So a Minotaur that rolls up a base 17 or 18 Strength actually gets a +10 Strength, rather than the +2 that the sheet says, allowing them to utterly demolish almost anything they encounter.
Lastly there are the Irda Ogres, who are the Ogres that didn't get all up in enslaving early Humans(or, at least, felt bad about it and released their slaves later on). Like minotaurs they are somewhat OP, but in this case more in the sense that they get free shapeshifting abilities and a bonus to spells/day that no other species, no matter their stats, can access. In a setting from the era of non-human level limits, Irda are also free of almost all of them, and even have access to classes that are usually human only, like paladins. In this game there is literally no reason to ever play anything but a Minotaur or an Irda.
Knights, Knights and Some Guys Who Aren't Knights
So classes. Of course, Dragonlance has the basics. Every single class present in the PHB is in Dragonlance, with the only one suffering any real changes being the Mage. But of course, that isn't enough, we gotta have more classes. There's also the Knight, Barbarian, Cavalier, Mariner, Heathen Priest(lol) and Handler, while the Mages are split into High Sorcery and Renegade branches of wizzadry.
Solamnic Knights are.... hahahahahahah. Okay, so in AD&D you had Multi-Classing, like Fighter/Mages, Cleric/Thieves, etc. basically advancing as multiple classes at once, with XP spread evenly between them, and gaining the advantages and disadvantages from all of them(mostly advantages, though, so a Fighter/Cleric would get a Fighter's Thac0 and Cleric's spellcasting, but also the Cleric's weapon limitations). But you also had dual-classing, a human-only option to fuck yourself over. You'd start out as one class, then later start over at level 1 of another class, no longer advancing as the first, retaining only your HP, and being unable to access any abilities of your first class until the second's level surpassed that of the first. It was an awful subsystem. Solamnic Knights are a class made entirely around it. Basically you start out as a Fighter, dual-class into a Paladin(thus you don't even unlock any neat abilities when you surpass your old class) and then dual-class into what I can only call a literal prestige class, since the Order of the Rose doesn't actually seem to gain any advantages over the Order of the Sword(the Paladin-esque one). Lol what a fucking ripoff.
Barbarians, Cavaliers and Mariners are, despite the description, basically just Fighter kits.
Wizards of High Sorcery...
Since that time, all Wizards of High Sorcery vow first loyalty to magic and its continued existence on Ansalon. This loyalty lets magic flourish, despite attempts to eliminate it. After this primary loyalty, wizards have loyalty to their orders. A White Robe and a Black Robe wizard, fighting in opposing armies, would do everything necessary to destroy each other. If the wizards met on neutral ground, however, they would most likely compare notes and discuss magical matters. If an outside force were threatening the destruction of magic, the wizards would band together to stop it.
Are basically all Chaotic Evil, despite what the text would have you believe. "'sup Mr. Evil, want to borrow my notes so you can better see how to turn peasants into invertebrates?" I mean, if you willingly aid someone that you know is of evil alignment, because of his night black robes and his heart-felt vow to eternally serve evil magic, then you, yourself, are also an evil asshole. Or at the very best you're "neutral" because you're doing it "for the cause of magic." Which in D&D feels a lot like doing it "for the cause of battlefield artillery." They also, of course, start training you in battlemagic in early childhood, a very noble cause.
Also because a GM's life isn't ass enough, now they also have to track phases of the moon because there's a Good Magic Moon, a Neutral Magic Moon and a Bad Magic Moon and the phase of the moon determines how much extra Wizard Power you get depending on your level and your alignment. Your specific order also works as a sort of Specialist wizard thing, except it mostly turns out that Good Wizards get shafted. All three orders have the same access except the Bad Wizards also get Necromancy on top of what the Good Wizards get, and the Neutral Wizards get Illusion instead of the Good Wizards' Divination, which in AD&D is such a good tradeup I can't even make a joke about it.
All three orders advance at the same rate, as do Renegade Wizards, who, lacking the school limitations, are more flexible, but also don't get the Lunar buffs every so often and have to hide out from the Wizard Cops(except the Good Wizard Cops who let them go with a stern warning as long as they don't set fire to any peasants with fireballs or "threaten the cause of magic" whatever the fuck that's supposed to mean.). The Black Robes will also let Renegades go as long as they promise not to join the Good Wizards or Neutral Wizards. The Neutral Wizards are, in fact, the only ones who really take the whole "capture renegades and kill 'em dead if they don't join"-thing particularly seriously.
Priests are the same as usual, except for the aforementioned Heathen Priests, who are a catch-all for "you're not worshipping a real god" or "you're worshipping a god from another plane." Apparently Krynn's deities take their trademarked abilities very seriously, as priests of non-native gods have to convert or have zero spell access.
Keeping up with the theme of Kenders sucking shit at everything, Handlers, the Kender-specific rogue class, are Rogues except literally just worse, since they're just Rogues but without a backstab bonus.
Oh and you know what would be funny? If there was a second roll at the end of chargen that could completely unbalance the starting players. It's an option to roll for social "status." For instance, you might start out as Nobility with a ton of extra money, fame and gear. Or as a slave with literally zero starting money and gear. This is, thankfully, an optional rule. But why would you ever have something so dumb in there?
Lemme just get one last "fuck Kender" in there for good measure.
Now that's out of my system. For about five seconds.
we're here to bully you for not using a better setting, nerd
Probably the last post before we get started on the adventure modules. Oh boy.
AppendicesOriginal SA post Dragonlance
A good bit of what's in the core book from here on is what you could charitably call appendices, so it's just gonna be this one post to go through them, a quick look back, and then by the next post we'll get started on the canon adventures. Oh boy will we ever.
The first appendix we hit is basically just a bunch of canon NPC's from the adventures statted up for use.
One of the greatest strengths of the DRAGONLANCE® saga is its cast of well-developed characters. Ansalon contains many unique heroes, each with his or her own goals and motivations, hopes and fears. In addition to well-detailed heroes, Ansalon has a huge and varied cast of allies and villains who help shape the world and its conflicts.
This is a bold fucking claim. Not the part about there being a lot of NPC's, this is true, but about them being well-developed. It's worth noting that almost every NPC here is in the mid to high levels, there are scant few NPC's here you could introduce to a starting level party without the party getting annihilated in seconds(if hostile) or completely outshone(if accompanying or allied). There are four, four, NPC's below 5th level, two of them are gully dwarves, one an innkeeper and the last has a note that she's probably secretly a Silver Dragon so uhhhhh I think that kind of blows her being fourth level out of the water. This is out of 32 statted-and-described NPC's, even a generic(albeit metaplot-related) hunter is 6th goddamn level which is the point at which a fighter-class character can be expected to solo a decent number of human-equivalent enemies without eating shit. On the other hand 17 of them are 10th level or above. There are also at least two avatars of the gods in here(Reorx and Gilean's, respectively). Though at the point where you're giving NPC's almost 900 hit points, maybe it's just to just write "N/A" or "the PC's lose if they try to fight this guy."
A few of the NPC's are actually useful, but even the text admits that most of them are really only useful for giving out quests or for being the target of quests to kill bad guys.
The second appendix is on the gods:
Each of the 21 true gods appears in the following pages, along with the High God, who is beyond creation. All of these gods are NPCs, and their involvement on Krynn should be limited to providing adventures for PCs.
Please fucking keep this in mind when we get unto the adventure modules. The gods are as follows:
Paladin, Generic Goodness
Mishakal, Healy Goodness
Majere, Productive Goodness
Kiri-Jolith, Chopping up Evil
Habbakuk, vaguely defined good acts
Branchala, Musical Goodness
Solinari, the good wizard moon
Takhisis, Store-Brand Bad
Sargonnas, Evil Vengeance
Morgion, the flu is his fault
Chemosh, undead stuff
Zeboim, evil sea stuff
Nuitari, the bad wizard moon
Reorx, making stuff
Lunitari, magic moon for the sake of magic
And as I think I've mentioned before, almost none of them bear any relevance whatsoever to either the metaplot or anything that happens in the adventures. Takhisis and Paladine are relevant as they have, despite what the book tells you, a tendency to be physically present in some of the canonical adventures. Reorx's avatar is also a cast member more or less throughout an entire book, and one of Mishakal's artifacts is extremely plot vital. Outside of that, though? They and their priesthoods might as well not exist. Hell, they don't even fucking have any importance in the creation myth.
generally any Dragonlance art that doesn't involve faces or expressions can look pretty cool
The third appendix is a short bestiary. Much of what's in the bestiary is stuff we have in most other settings, like centaurs and griffons, with no twists at all on them, but there are a few new creatures that are specific to Ansalon. Foremost among them would probably be the Draconians, they're the result of Takhisis corrupting the stolen eggs of the good dragons, quite literally, according to the fluff, by jamming Tanar'ri spirits into them, this causes them to explode into roughly man-sized humanoids(multiple per egg) with traits inherited from the type of metallic dragon egg they were created from. They basically don't age, they can't procreate naturally and they love to get drunk, that's about what they've got in common with each other.
Auraks are created from Gold dragon eggs and are shapeshifting special agents of the dragon armies, as well as being innate magic-users with a laundry list of spell-like abilities including casual mind control. If you manage to down one(not easy, considering that they're roughly equivalent to eighth-level Fighters with mage abilities slapped on top for funsies), they first go into a berserker rage and then, if they survive in that state for long enough, or get hurt enough, turn into a malicious ball lightning that chases people and electrocutes them until it explodes, which also happily has a chance of totalling your gear. About the only safe way to engage them is at maximum range with spells or siege equipment, and a GM springing one or more of these on the players without giving them a chance to engage with those sort of means should expect to be tarred and feathered since getting badly damaged by them is almost guaranteed.
Baaz are from Brass dragon eggs and probably the only kind you could regularly spring on your players as mook enemies. They don't have a laundry list of magic powers, they have reasonable stats and their only on-trick death is turning to stone for a while before falling apart, so there's a chance for them to temporarily trap melee fighters' weapons. This means that there's a good argument for engaging them at range or otherwise thinking about what you're doing, and enemies without stupid unavoidable "fuck you" attacks that still make players think about how to engage them are a good addition.
Bozak are from Bronze dragons, they've got another laundry list of spell-like abilities, though not as absurd as the Auraks', and their on-death trick is that their bones explode, doing all of 1d6 damage in a small area. Suggested numbers of 2d10 at a time, and HP in the range of 4 to 32, means you could probably have a fun time if they're in a formation and you drop a few from range, potentially triggering a chain reaction of exploding Bozaks.
Kapaks are much the same, weaker stats than Bozaks, made from Copper dragons, turn into acid rather than exploding but their death-effect is otherwise mechanically the same except it also destroys all affected gear without any kind of saving throw which, depending on how the GM adjudicates what gets in contact can be a real fuck-you, even if it's just your weapon. It doesn't even say it accounts for magic gear or the like. Still, arrives in groups of 2d10, has less health than the Bozaks. Hit 'em with a couple of longbows from maximum range and pick through them once the acid's lost its potency.
Sivaks are from Silver dragon eggs and have the second-best basic stats, outclassed only by the Auraks, but don't have an incredibly annoying list of abilities or a day-ruining death-effect. Instead they have two abilities that actually make them interesting to use in a story, firstly they can assume the shape of anyone they kill, and if you kill one, it turns into a copy of you for three days. This gives them some actual story uses beyond "2d10 show up in a random encounter, fight to the death."
At times the writing verges on almost humanizing the draconians and making them useful as something other than enemies(and, really, any even vaguely competent author should be able to see the potential there), as they seem to be quite aware(and even somewhat depressed, thus explaining why they drink so much) over being a species with an expiration date(even noting that some Baaz draconians are refusing to accept their extinction as inevitable, though for now all they're doing is trying to steal more dragon eggs, of any alignment, to try and replicate their original means of creation). Considering the means and conditions of their creation, it wouldn't be hard to think about how their "evil" might be as much nurture as nature.
After the Draconians there are dragons which are, again, D&D Generic, and then there are the goblins. Now... technically, Dragonlance goblins are the same as other D&D goblins, but their description is fucking something else. I mean, I know that fantasy is kind of a classic realm of "this species is bad by nature, don't think about it, just kill them with no moral qualms." But, take, say, the D&D monstrous manual, the worst it says about goblins is that they overhunt areas they live in and kill more than what they strictly need to eat(congrats, this also describes humans). Now let's have a look at how Dragonlance describes goblins, which is basically nothing but how they're an inferior, evil species that can't even make basic tools and only has negative personality traits.
Goblins are on the whole unpleasant and brutal creatures. Although some folk have known non-Evil goblins, or even intelligent ones, these examples are clearly exceptions. Most goblin folk are honorless brutes who want only to kill, eat, sleep, and pass gas.
Born Killers: What do goblins do for a living? Kill! Kill! And kill again! All goblins are vicious fighters with no sense of honor or justice, and they have no compunction about using anything as a weapon, no matter how dangerous it may prove to be. They revel in glory, reject fear and cowardice in battle, and have very good reasons for giving ground when they themselves retreat.
Snivelling: Although fierce in battle, among themselves goblinkin can be world-class grovelers, bootlickers, and whiners, able to flatter shamelessly and deflect blame almost as an unconscious reaction. Superiors expect this treatment and bully their inferiors, and they in turn appease their masters in the same way. Much of this snivelling is simply a cover for the backstabbing, double-crossing, and treachery each goblin holds in his heart.
Shortsightedness: As a group, the goblin races rarely look beyond their next meal, battle, or plunder. This makes them excellent troops for Evil leaders who need a quick army. Fortunately, this character flaw also limits goblins’ ability to carry out extended campaigns against civilized lands. Goblins aggressively take what they want but have little patience for longterm sieges and marches.
Mighteousness: The goblin races believe in force. Consequently, their leaders are the strongest and fiercest members among them. Merging separate tribes into an army is nearly impossible because goblins from other tribes may as well be elves.
Honorlessness: Goblins have no shame and will lie, cheat, or steal to get what they want. No contract with a goblin is binding unless one is in a position to enforce it. This doesn’t mean that goblins never cooperate or that they steal constantly. They cooperate if they must or if it serves their own interests, and they steal only when they think they can get away with it.
It just seems a bit much! Even by D&D standards! There are literally less words devoted to how evil Takhisis, the goddess of outright evil, is than there are words devoted to what an inferior and terrible species goblins are.
After that, there's-
Yep, you're seeing that right.
Dragonlance has fucking aliens.
Okay, okay, so these guys are the various "lost folks of Krynn." I.e. races that don't technically exist any longer or you shouldn't encounter but they're in here anyway because no reason or because they were mentioned off-hand at some point during the DARKEST DEEPLORE. Like the lizardmen, the Bakali, who helped out Takhisis way back but aren't actually evil and-
Yet, perhaps they left their mark on the world. The only people to ever crossbreed with that poisonous race, the goblins, sired the dark-blooded trolls who make their home in the marsh and swamps, once home to this lost race of wyrm.
-and more weird anti-goblin racism and miscenegation that leads to horrible mutants. Sure, why not. Mind you how the fuck does a reptilian species that literally lays eggs crossbreed with goblins, who are mammals.
The alien looking guys are the fairy "huldrefolk" who just happen to leave big stone circles and the like around and dwell in an alternate dimension and are psychic. So they're basically fucking alien Greys in Dragonlance that have weird elemental powers.
The last appendix is the "special artifacts of Ansalon." Almost all of these are straight from the books/adventure modules, so we'll deal with them when we get that far.
If you pitched Dragonlance to me without telling me any details, I'd be interested in it. "It's a post-apocalyptic setting where the gods are real, but have abandoned the sapient species of the world because they were considered to be too huge fuckups." You could do a lot of interesting stuff with a setting like that. You've got a gritty post-apoc world but one that could quite possibly be saved by reconnecting with the gods, somehow, like a slightly more hopeful Athas. Alternately, maybe everyone decides that gods that are willing to throw burning mountains at them for failing to act right, deserve no mortal power or worship, no matter how much they claim to be "good." Maybe the world experiences a technological renaissance as people are forced to find alternatives to fading magic. There's potential there.
But the more detail anything in Dragonlance has, the worse it is. The details are where we get Kender, or the idiotic workings of the Towers of High Sorcery, the hugely unbalanced race options, the weird goblin racism, tangential fairy alien grays, nuclear weapons, a truckload of dragonfucking and a setting that demands we take dragons seriously as a threat while describing how hidebound tribesmen hunt them in kayaks with harpoons.
So I'm looking forward to tearing into the shitty adventures.
Tune in next time for... DL1: Dragons of Despair!
skeleton warrior wishes you good luck and good night until then
Dragons of Despair/Dragons of MysteryOriginal SA post Dragonlance
Dragons of Despair/Dragons of Mystery
Welcome to the very first Dragonlance adventure, module DL1. Just to make things properly confusing, though, you'd probably want to start by reading DL5 which contains world and setting information, primarily stuff we've already gotten from the boxed set, but also a decent bit of stuff with background on the canon characters. Y'see, unlike most other things that have pre-genned characters, where they're there for newbies or drop-ins who lack the familiarity or time to make a character of their own, Dragonlance wholly expects you to use the pre-generated characters. They are, of course, the protagonists in the associated books(the book/module timeline is a bit confusing. As far as I can tell DL1 through 4 were written first, then the first book, then the remaining books were written, and then the last modules.
DL1 through 2 are the first book(Dragons of Autumn Twilight), DL3 and 4 are not in the books, DL5 is unrelated to any books, DL6 through 10 and part of 12 are in the second book(Dragons of Winter Night), DL11 is intended to cover the strategic parts of an overarching war going on partially in the background, sometimes in the foreground, of the modules, and I think DL13 and 14 fit the last book(Dragons of Spring Dawning). And in case anyone asks, yes, just to fuck with anyone with OCD, there's no "Summer" book... in this series. There is in fact a "Dragons of Summer Flame," but that one's more properly associated with another series that hands over the torch to a "second generation" of characters(generally, as implied by the "second generation" term, children or somehow bearers of the torch handed to them by the original protagonists).
Now if this is confusing, I apologize if I've understated the size of Dragonlance as a franchise. The thing had in excess of a hundred books, outside of modules, sourcebooks and rulebooks, just as associated fiction. The various modules and sourcebooks add another about 60 entries, so probably there are 200 or more Dragonlance books across both fiction and game, and the editions it's been published for.
The Companions of the Lance
Because DRAGONLANCE is a story, certain name heroes and villains are important. They should not die until the right point in the story (sometimes, they shouldnt die at all!). What happens when the wrong person gets killed?
Thats where a special rulethe obscure death rulecomes into play. If a name character (any DRAGONLANCE PC or featured NPC) dies prematurely, that character meets an obscure death so that you can bring him or her back later.
One good reason to play a pre-generated Companion of the Lance in these adventures is that you literally get a get-out-of-death-free card. You're not allowed to die until your ordained time, so you can do whatever dumb shit you want and the GM just has to clutch his head and desperately fudge shit to keep things on track. Essentially you're supposed to get knocked to zero HP and then tumble off a cliff, into a ravine, get captured, actually just get knocked unconscious, it was a Tanisbot instead of the real Tanis, etc. whatever, you don't die, now get back on the railroad tracks, vermin.
The same goes for villains, where they're supposed to just straight no-sell anything that'd kill them with "special defenses" until their ordained time to die, or it was a doombot, or they just get resurrected by evil clerics offscreen and return to their track like good puppets.
All PCs brought into the DRAGONLANCE game from outside the campaign are subject to normal death. Remember, the lack of clerical magic in Krynn makes it very difficult to obtain a resurrection spell.
I don't know about you guys, but I'm already hype to learn about these Companions of the Lance(tm) that we'll definitely want to play as rather than anyone else. They are...
Flint: He's a dwarf. As generically dwarfy as it is possible to be. Friends with Tanis, grudgingly tolerates Tasslehoff. 4th-level Fighter.
Tanis: A half-elf. Angsty about his split heritage, tends to be the one that gets involved in romance drama including. Ran away from his home in elf-land in part because of drama with his adopted wholly-elven sister, and now has a boner for Kitiara, an evil Human that shows up occasionally. 5th level Fighter
Sturm: Lawful Good Fighter who really wishes he was a Knight of Solamnia. Notable for the fact that the art likes to show him with a sword-and-board setup while the rules insist he's got a magic two-handed weapon and no shield. 6th level.
Raistlin: An extremely OC do not steal human mage. Starts out Neutral and has, I shit you not, hourglass-shaped pupils because of his very deep and traumatic and meaningful test in the Tower of High Sorcery. He's third-level and is constantly described as weak and sickly despite his bog-standard Constitution and Strength of 10 each. Everyone in the party starts out with some magic items, but his is a literal named Artifact. Brother of Caramon. Half-brother of Kitiara.
Caramon: Brother of Raistlin, a generic well-intentioned 6th-level Human Fighter. Is all boners for Tika, a barmaid. Half-brother of Kitiara.
Tika: 4th level Fighter dual-classed from a 3rd-level Thief. Is pretty into Caramon and doesn't have much of an importance until then.
Tasslehoff: Oh boy, it's the party's intolerable Kender jackass. Fuck Tasslehoff. Also in this edition of Dragonlance, Kender still get to backstab people for bonus damage, they don't yet have a Handler subclass. 4th level.
Goldmoon: A NOBEL SAVAGE Cleric who doesn't actually get access to divine spells until some way into the first adventures. Hangs out with Riverwind. 5th level Cleric.
Riverwind: Another NOBEL SAVAGE that I literally can't remember anything about except that he protects Goldmoon. 5th level Ranger. Is always an NPC.
Laurana: Tanis' sort-of sister(he's the adopted one), full elf, a 4th level Fighter. She got Tanis kicked out of the home because she told her brother, Gilthanas, that they'd promised to marry each other one day and Gilthanas didn't want no foul mudbloods in his family.
Gilthanas: Tanis' sort-of brother and kind of a racist asshole. A level 5/4 Fighter/Mage.
And a whole bunch of other losers we'll bumble into as appropriate. The whole cast isn't going to be around from the first moment, but the core party of Flint, Tanis, Sturm, Raistlin, Caramon and Tasslehoff will almost always be there, while Goldmoon and Riverwind join the party relatively early on.
Now, one of the first things you might notice here is that these characters are by no means balanced. You've got a 6th-level Fighter alongside a 4th-level Fighter, just for the most obvious starting issue. Some characters have no magic items, while others have literal artifacts.
Their backstory for getting together as a party is that Tanis and Flint, business partners, end up tolerating Tasslehoff because he has the maps needed to open up new trade routes(which they find out after catching him stealing their shit). While travelling, they bump into Raistlin(performing magic tricks for money) and Caramon, and Sturm who prevents Tasslehoff from robbing a wizard. In the background of all of this, we're told, Tanis and Kitiara fuck in the woods somewhere. Flint ends up hiring them all as security for his trading trips and they go around earning him fat stacks of cash for a few years, until trade starts dropping off from an excess in monsters and badguys. They all decide that a good way to pass the next few years is that they're gonna split up, look for any signs of the true gods(it being 300 years since the cataclysm with no signs of divine magic), and then meet up once a year to discuss what they've found. And that's basically where Dragons of Despair starts, on one of their yearly meet-ups.
The remainder of what Dragons of Mystery contains is essentially just the setting details we already know.
Dragons of Despair(again)
Let's get this adventure on the road.
We're provided with two maps, one of which is readable and in colour, but lacks event keys and markers. And one of which is borderline unreadable, black-and-white, and does have event keys and markers. For anyone who doesn't feel like having severe eyestrain, just refer to the coloured map and note that the game starts just slightly east of Solace.
The air surges fierce and sweet, carrying the clear musk smell of the woodlands. The soft murmur of stirring leaves, of insects, and of small animals fills the landscape. The clear highland sky blushes with the end of day and fades into starry sleep. This is home.
There are another five paragraphs like this, and then we're instructed that anyone playing a pre-gen should flip over their character sheet and loudly read the story on the back. Anyone not playing a pre-gen should just remain quiet because they don't get to have any stories. Then a bunch of hobgoblins ride up and go "NYAAAARGH GIVE US THE CRYSTAL STAFF NYAAAARGH WE'RE VILLAINS" and attack because they're assholes. They are ridiculously outmatched by the party and probably even Raistlin could solo the encounter by beating them to death with his artifact staff.
Event 2: Goldmoon Found. Roll 1d4. The result indicates how many encounters after the beginning of the game this event takes place.
"Suddenly, soft music begins. Its source is a slim, beautiful girl. Lyre in hand, she slides gracefully to sit; nearby, a large plainsman raises a flute to his lips.
The girls eyes are a bright sky blue, her skin a buttery tan. Most striking of all is the flowing white gold of her hair. Plush white furs trim her woven cape. A single feather folds back along the right side of her head.
Her voice clear as winter air, she begins to sing . . ."
The Song of Riverwind is in the center of this module. If Goldmoon is a PC in the adventure, have the player read the lyrics aloud or, if he or she has natural minstrel abilities, sing them with the music provided.
Ah, street musicians, if only the hobgoblins could have attacked them instead. Anyway, the next stage of the adventure literally will not progress until the party stops flicking coins at these two and recruit them instead. If any PC's are injured, Goldmoon's staff will casually leap out of her robe and whack them, healing them for all damage taken. It is, of course, a crystal staff, and gasp, the hobgoblins were after these two hobos all along. For some reason Riverwind must be an NPC and cannot be a PC, but now Goldmoon's player actually gets to do something. If no one plays Goldmoon, she and Riverwind will always be around as NPC's.
If the players don't recruit Goldmoon and Riverwind, they'll just keep fucking showing up repeatedly until the party does. BUT THOU MUST design at its finest. Like, if they don't even show up injured and get the free healing, there's no indication that they're anything other than bad musicians. The text doesn't even say what kind of riot it'll cause when the staff heals someone in full daylight, possibly with other NPC's around, considering that divine magic and healing hasn't been around for hundreds of years, and is now suddenly happening in front of them.
If the players dally for too long, an increased number of cursed events will happen. Bad weather, thunderstorms, the dragonarmies beginning their invasion of Ansalon and their being forced to sing songs. No, really.
Event 4: Reading of the Canticle. On one of the nights the party is camped (your choice), pass around the Canticle of the Dragon found at the end of this book. As though around the campfire, have each player read one verse aloud, from first verse to last, until they finish the poem.
Weiss and Hickman like to fancy themselves musicians/poets and most of their books have at least one homemade song or poem at the back, in the case of the songs, usually with musical notation. I've never tried to play, or heard anyone try to play any of these, but I somehow don't have a lot of confidence that they're any good.
Anyway, having read the book, I know that the authors actually want the players to head into Solace before any of this happens. It's a town built entirely in huge, though somewhat squat, trees, and thus a massive fire hazard. The players are supposed to be herded towards the Inn of the Last Home so the GM can read some bad lines from the barkeep and Caramon's player can engage in a kind of weird romance with Tika(they've got a 6-year age gap and he's known her since she was 14, so it's kind of an older brother/younger sister situation that eventually turns sexual and while there's nothing outright wrong about it, it just feels a bit weird, especially since it feels like the text tries to make her sound younger than the 19 she is).
The barkeeper: A magical staff! I bet it was forged by demons from the terrible Darken Woods. There are terrible mysteries in that place, there are! Och, what an evil place.
A man at a table: Hooded men have been in town asking about that staff! An evil lot they were, too. I wonder if they were offering a reward.
A man by the storyteller: A man of the Holy Guard rode through two days ago asking about that staff. He said that anyone who had it or had knowledge of it should make haste to the Capital of Haven and meet at once with the Prelate of the Temple there but I certainly do not want to get involved!
The Old Storyteller: I foresee great and terrible destiny in your eyes. There is a Blue Staff which you must return to Xak Tsaroth. There, in but a few days hence, you shall face your greatest peril in contest for the greatest gift given to man.
A girl at a table: It was probably found in Darken Wood. I hear that the ruins there are filled with wealth and dangers to match. No one who has entered that place has ever returned to tell the tale.
A boy dreams by the fire, I saw the white stag up near Prayers Eye Peak just a few days ago! If only I could catch it. He who walks the paths of the white stag is blessed, I hear tell.
So basically most of the NPC's are trying to chase you into the Darken Woods which is in the wrong direction, while the GM's mouthpiece, Fizban(that cursed fucking character) very clearly tells the PC's to stop wasting time and haul off east so the plot can get moving. In the book, this is where the party meets Goldmoon and Riverwind, one of the local authorities shows up, tries to push Riverwind and Goldmoon around, falls in the fireplace, and Goldmoon heals him because she's not an asshole. Then they have to flee Solace as a group because the hobgoblins are all up in their shit and they do not want their shit to get stabbed.
Anyway, presumably by this point the players have gotten the somewhat browbeaten point and are hauling off down the roads which are patrolled by Baaz Draconians in disguise. Not being psychic, they'll mostly just question the players(relatively politely, at that) about the staff and whether they've seen it, and let the players go if they say no. They'll only attack if they straight-up see the staff in the players' hands. The only NPC's around are terrified farmers who've been harried by hobgoblins and draconians, or have had their friends and family disappear in the night, and wish things would get better soon.
However, if the PC's have not gotten the point, the game does in fact have descriptions for stuff as far west and south as Haven, the only other real city in the area. The Seekers, who are described as pure assholes in the book, are in complete control of Haven, where they actually seem to be doing their best to control a shitty situation involving refugees coming in from all sides and will, if presented with the staff, actually echo that the players should please take it to Xak Tsaroth, since that will supposedly make things better(if the PC's try to hand it over to the Highseekers so an organized force with armed soldiers can undertake the quest, the staff will randomly murder one of the Chaotic Good councilmen because that is how "good" works in Dragonlance). Entering the Darken Wood brings the entire elven army down on them who'll try to arrest them and haul them off to the Forestmaster. Slipping around said army means that the forest's ghost cops, centaurs or pegasi do the same thing. The Forestmaster also, no surprise, tell the PC's to fuck off east and get the plot moving, but will at least provide pegasi air taxis for the purpose of speeding things up.
Eventually the players will get out of the Seeker lands and enter the plains barbarian lands where they find that some asshole named Verminaard has had his troops butcher the hell out of the local natives in some pretty brutal ways. Not good news. There are a few NPC's they can bump into, like a man fleeing some Draconians that they can rescue and heal up, but it's like a stuck record at this point since the only dialogue they ever get is "RETURN THE SLAAAAA-" I mean "RETURN THE STAAAAAAAFF to Xak Tsaroth, please and thank you."
The goal is to reach the eastmost map marker, 44, which is Xak Tsaroth. The surrounding terrain is all swamps and has potentially eight fucking random encounters per day, ranging from some random snakes, to draconian patrols, to level-draining undead(fucking really?) or the huge black dragon Khisanth just doing a drive by breath weapon nuking on the party. I mean, okay, half of these encounters will just straight up end the party, even if they're rolling with all of the canon PC's that could be present at this point(everyone on the list bar Laurana and Gilthanas), but let's say they only get one, let's say they get the fucking wraiths. 2d6 of them, which have 5+3HD each and drain a level with each hit in addition to doing damage. They'll outnumber the party, almost certainly land some hits, and in a couple of whacks they'll be able to kill most members of the party or drain them so hard that they're essentially unable to continue the quest. Not to mention, how the fuck do you even account for level-draining enemies in a module like this? What if everyone in the party drops two levels, how do you maintain any semblance of balance?
I'd rate the odds of the canon party, or even a non-canon party at the top of the suggested level range(4 to 6) and party size(6 to 8), surviving this swamp as very, very low if the GM follows the random encounter frequency and tables without adjustment of fudging. Jesus.
Kree! Whoever designed this hated the living more than I do!
You said it, skeleton warrior, you said it.
Next up: Xak Tsaroth. Surely it can't be any worse than the swamps
Dragons of Despair: 3rd Edition ChangesOriginal SA post
Dragons of Despair: 3rd Edition Changes
I hope that this doesn't come off as backseat F&Fing, but I happen to own both the original and the 3rd Edition adaption of the Dragonlance Chronicles. I also made a series of blog posts discussing how I changed said adventures for my 13th Age game to make it less railroady and more playable.
So interesting things, the 3.5 version changed some things around: for one, all of the PCs are of the same level. However, there's still a problem in that the overwhelming majority of them are some degree of Fighter, with Tasslehoff, Goldmoon, and Raistlin the major exceptions (Riverwind's a Barbarian/Fighter). Furthermore, Riverwind got upgraded to "true PC" status. Furthermore, there are discussions of archetypes for players who want to make their own PCs to replace some or all of the Heroes of the Lance, as well as a pool of "free GP/XP" for magic item crafting given that the Chronicles rarely have any downtime. To account for this the adventure calls out how certain characters and events would react to said archetype (the Prophet [Goldmoon] may be asked by Elistan to share their tale of the true gods," etc).
There's also further discussion about the world of Dragonlance and how certain races or classes would logically make sense or be affected by things (bards cannot cast spells, sorcerers do not exist outside of dragons/fey/etc at this time, and so on).
Also in the 3rd Edition version no Seeker council member gets outright killed. Rather, it merely shoots out a bolt of blue energy at Locar who gets singed rather than murdered (and is Lawful Neutral and will try to take the Staff by force from the PCs). I happen to own the AD&D version, and while outright death is possible the blue bolt deals 4d6 damage which given the Highseeker's HP averages from 16 to 26 is a possibility rather than an inevitability.
Furthermore, the battle with the hobgoblins at the beginning is led by Fewmaster Toede, a comic relief recurring villain who's bilking travelers for "protection money." This happens in both versions. But in 3rd Edition as the plot needs him alive he gets a Natural 20 on his initiative result and will spend the first round fleeing on his donkey while his minions fight the party.
Edit: This is kind of important and strangely overlooked. There are 3 more DMPCs you can recruit! They have no pics, but can be hired out as mercenaries at the Steel Tankard Tavern in Haven but only if the current party is too small or missing members. In AD&D they cannot be recruited and have no proper names or level, but can give advice about goings-on in Abanasinia. They are Jaymes Green the Ranger, Bear the Barbarian, and Fiona Wainwright the Rogue. They are all 5th level and the conversations with them in the tavern are given more proper action in description rather than just quoting text, like what you'd see in a novel. They even have full stat blocks in the appendix in back, and Fiona has a unique feature where she has one eye missing and takes a -2 penalty to Initiative, Reflex saves, and ranged attacks.
Also Riverwind and Goldmoon are automatically part of the party at the beginning. There's actually 3 separate encounters (Toede included) which can be run in a "split the party" manner where the PCs are coming back to Solace from their respective journeys for the true gods. The other 2 are Seekers with attack dogs looking for the Staff, and goblin deserters from the Dragonarmies. Each of these encounters can shine some light on further goings-on in the adventure proper.
Edit putting things in from later post:
Oh no, it's entirely reasonable. I probably won't be touching the 3E content, so it's interesting to see that 3E, despite being generally not an edition I like or have many positive comments for, actually made Dragonlance suck less shit.
The first hobgoblin ambush here is also, by the way, lead by Fewmaster Toede, but only in the sense that "Toede tells his minions to attack, then hightails it away before anyone can interact with him."
It had the benefit of a new writing team who did more than just a straight translation. Cam Banks was one of the major writers on the project, who some here may know as the lead designer for Marvel Heroic Roleplaying. They also had the advantage of having several more generic supplements out (the Campaign Setting, Towers of High Sorcery, etc) to adapt to the modules. Gilthanas has the Heroic Surge feat, which grants you a per-day resource of being able to do a bonus move or standard action in a round, which had the most obvious benefit of letting you move and full attack. Some of the PCs are poorly built with sub-optimal choices, usually reflective of situational incidents from the books: Tika's built around improvised weapons due to a frying pan scene in the books, and Caramon has Improved Unarmed Strike despite being a sword-wielder also due to one scene where he knocks out a pair of baddies by conking their heads together.
Also the maps are a lot more clear. Here's one for the Abanasinia region:
Dragons of Despair: Lost City of the AncientsOriginal SA post Dragonlance
Dragons of Despair: Lost City of the Ancients
Welcome to scenic Xak Tsaroth! It's a swampy shithole, though at least the random encounters should stop once being eight a goddamn day once we've actually gotten this far. We're informed that 1d6 times per round, the player characters spot broken and useless garbage in the underbrush which is like, am it expected that I, the GM, announce this every time it happens? Why not just write in the descriptive text: "Sometimes you see some old garbage lying around, indicating this place was inhabited once."? You also better stick to dry ground, because 2 out of 3 times you touch any of the water in the area, a random encounter bursts out at you.
Note that these encounters can be some stompable generic snakes, fucking black dragon hatchlings, more level-draining undead or just a fucking Catoblepas, a creature that has a save-or-die gaze attack. Those are the only four options for what can come out of the water, so just fucking stay out of the water, Jesus Christ.
As you can see from this map, there are bridges between the various patches of dry land and oh wait any time you cross one you need to make a dex check to fall in and if you fall in you provoke a random water attack just as if you'd tried to go through the water. Also the wording is "whenever anyone enters the water, for whatever reason" for triggering the attacks, so technically if anyone jumps into the water to try and help you out, they trigger yet another random encounter. Better just let whoever ends up in there die and then be Plot Deviced back to life a few steps farther down the road. Maybe he wasn't tasty and the baby dragons barfed him back up.
We start at 44a and want to make our way to 44k to continue the plot, everything in between is really just an excuse to get ambushed by enemies or fall in the water and get stuck in fractal random enemy attacks. About the only things of note otherwise is the Temple of Baaz(44f), where a bunch of draconians worship a great wicker black dragon. It notes that its possible to crawl inside the dragon and yell real loud and it'll panic the draconians, but then there's a good chance the wicker dragon topples forward into a bonfire and you're stuck in there burning to death until you pass a successful dex check. Funnily enough, the random encounters are almost universally more dangerous than the actual placed encounters in this area.
Anyway, let's assume that our Brave Protagonists manage to make it through the swamp, it's impossible to do so without any fighting as there's a forced encounter at 44d, and circumventing that requires splashing through the water between 44a and the dry area to the north of it, triggering an almost guaranteed random attack, but if they manage to not fall off the bridges, that forced encounter with some draconians and then going northwest is probably the only sane way to reach 44k. I'll note that none of the battles, even with the draconians at 44f with their wicker dragon temple, have any rewards whatsoever.
Emerging from the dense jungle, a broad cobblestone street runs south and north among the ruins. A roadway branches to the west. Here, the fluted columns and relief carvings of buildings sag wearily. A large cobblestone courtyard lies to the east amid crumbling buildings. Beyond the courtyard are four tall free-standing columns: no trace remains of the building they once supported. In front of these pillars, a huge well plunges into the earth.
Vapors rise from the well. To the north of the well, a single building stands whole, although time and the weather have worn its outer walls.
And when you get there, you're told in no uncertain terms that the only thing to do is head inside the temple at the far end of the courtyard which has large, solid doors to close behind you. If you dilly dally, Khisanth, an ancient black dragon, leaps out of the well to chase you inside.
This reminds me a lot of the Dark Sun module "City by the Silt Sea," which is also about exploring a ruined city on the edges of a sea(albeit not a sea of water), except there, rather than just a straight line in and out that you gotta obey, you're given a map of the area, and there are dozens of interconnecting ways and routes down from the surface into the caverns and ruins below. I gotta say that the more story a module has, the worse it tends to be, since it tends to railroad the party more. If it's just a scene set, for the players to walk on to and do what they want with it, that tends to work out so much better.
Anyway, Khisanth attacks! And she kills everyone. No, really. If she attacks and everyone doesn't instantly fucking run for it, they're dead, because her breath weapon will rake them for 64 points of damage prior to a saving throw which can at best reduce it to 32.
Tanis has 35 HP, Caramon has 51 HP, Raistlin 8 HP, Flint 42 HP, Tasslehoff 15 HP, Sturm 45 HP, Goldmoon 19 HP, Riverwind 34 HP. Generally the members of the party have a 1 in 4 chance of making their save, and everyone who isn't a Fighter-type class will eat shit anyway even if they make it unless they've spent so long grinding infinitely respawning draconian encounters on the way that they've levelled up and gotten more HP. So fucking book it the hell out of there, is the point. Generously the game points out that Khisanth will spend her first round in the air figuring out what the fuck these loser invaders are doing in her ruined city before she starts letting rip with spells and breath weapons from the safety of being airborne.
If anyone's still alive after four rounds of that, Khisanth gets scaredy and dives back into the well to hide.
Amazingly, with that, we're already past part 2 of Dragons of Despair. Let's have a brief musical interlude.
Descent into Darkness
Slamming the huge doors shut behind them, the party is safe for now, at 46a. Another way to get down into Xak Tsaroth's interesting parts is to just plunge down the well that Khisanth attacks from. This would probably be a bad idea as A) no one would survive the 900-foot drop(100 feet of well and then below that, 800 feet of free air down to the cavern floor) and B) then they'd be in Khisanth's lair, and there she's definitely not going to give them even the slightest hint of mercy or quarter. So probably better to just use the temple of Mishakal as your entryway like the good devs intended.
Golden doors open into the central chamber of the temple. A tremendous dome rises high above the delicate tile floor. It seems as though time has stilled in this room. In the center of the circular room stands a polished statue of singular
grace and beauty: the delicate form of a woman, draped in flowing robes. Her hair cascades about her shoulders and neck, which is adorned by a detailed amulet. The look on her face is one of radiant hope tempered with sadness. A feeling of warmth and love abides in the room.
Mishakal, who is for some reason statted here, like anyone in the party is going to be ready to challenge 355HP worth of divine avatar, tells the party that they've got a good job but because she's an asshole she's not going to start letting Goldmoon have her class features until they've hauled ass into the bowels of Xak Tsaroth to recover the Disks of Mishakal, a bunch of platinum wafers with the commandments of the Good gods on them.
The rest of the temple contains only two interesting things, a small Draconian ambush(these draconians will actually surrender if almost killed, unlike basically every other enemy, ever, being willing to trade information for not being cut wide open) and a bunch of gully dwarves trying to dig through the solid rock walls with their hands for treasure.
Its the lords, mates! shouts the leader. All the dwarves drop like sacks to their knees. Faces pressed against the slimy floor, they grovel out, whimpering, We didnt mean nothin by it, your lordship! and join the line of other gully dwarves (47b).
If the PCs stop them, the Aghar beg for mercy. If the heroes promise to spare them, the Aghar draw a very crude map that shows the way down into the cavern city. They advise: Go visit our king, the great Phudge Highbulp. Hell help you right straight!
There's also a room with a risk of death if you don't have a dwarf along(you'll have it if you have the canon party, but if not...) since the floor is unsafe, which only dwarves will know innately, and for anyone else if they weigh too much they have a 65% chance of taking a 500-foot drop on to a hard surface.
At the bottom of the temple are the crypts(with barely any lootable corpses, even, what is this crime of a module?) where the draconians have a gully dwarf-powered elevator into the ruins proper(it's powered by using gully dwarves as counter weights to either raise or lower the elevator part that's full of draconians needing to go one way or the other), which is a reasonably fun set piece. The draconian commander will try to leap into the elevator to get down and raise the alarm, but if too many PC's jump after him, the elevator will start going down at an alarming pace, potentially killing everyone on board. And the side of the elevator coming up has more draconians in it for anyone staying behind to deal with. It's also a combat encounter that has no dick moves in it, though so far these can be summarized as any combat encounter where the players are dealing with draconians, because all the rest have been some hot bullshit so far.
In the book, though, the protagonists don't use the elevator to go down, instead they find a slide at point 48. Either branching leads them to a couple of minor encounters(either some ghosts that just try to chase them out of the room or a single, weak giant spider) and nothing of any actual interest other than the fact that one will dump them in an old bakery store room still containing flour, and it's mandated by the book that if anyone gets covered by the flour, anyone they encounter is required to ask them why they've got flour on them until they get it off. 54b has a ghost sage who will try to answer any questions the players have, though considering that he died like 300 years ago mostly all he can do is explain the layout of the place further. There's also a treasury the players can try to break into, but it requires crossing a swift stream that is basically a save-or-die as the players have to risk getting swept off the falls at 56 if they flub multiple checks in a row, eating something like 20d6 damage from the drop.
Joke's on the players, though, because the only things of worth are either the treasury's steel doors(remember, steel has replaced gold as a valuable currency on Ansalon) which are too heavy to carry, or the ancient currencies inside the treasury... which are just clay tokens and thus fiat currency and completely useless. If only the ancient Xak Tsarothians had adopted the steel standard..............
Anyway, having taken the slide, it's near impossible to get back up it again, and the players can either climb down vines next to the waterfall(risking 20d6 damage if they slip) or another route that involves climbing ancient curtains, jumping from curtain to curtain, and the risk of falling(3d6 damage) into a bunch of snakes(weak if you get the drop on them, ha ha, but their poison does 3d4 damage so if you eat multiple hits and aren't Caramon, you're probably dead).
All those potential deaths and completely pointless rooms(it's amazing how many of them are only a chance for the GM to describe how much mold there is in the place) and we're still only around point 60/63 depending on which save-or-die we decided to risk!
But believe it or not, that was part 3 of our exciting adventure. Meeting some hobo dwarves and risking death like ten goddamn times.
Lair of the Dragon
The goal here is to get to the large, circular room in the lower right, Khisanth's lair, to recover the Disks of Mishakal, and then getting the fuck out. This level primarily contains off-guard draconians who are squabbling over ruin loot, or drunk, and a good few of them can at least be bypassed just by not kicking in every door and screaming "DIE, SCUM!" some of the drunker ones will even mistake the players for fellow draconians and give them clues before passing out. Along the way its also possible to rescue a captured kender, though parties of primarily Good alignment will likely help the draconians kill him instead, a custom-made Chaotic Evil party might decide to side with the kender. Comically enough, while armories and treasuries will contain nothing at all of interest to the party, a random pantry will have a bunch of high-quality weapons in it(well-crafted enough to be magic-equivalent in terms of attack and damage bonuses).
There's also a tribeswoman prisoner on the loose who's hiding from draconian and gully dwarf patrols, one of the only other survivors of the barbarian encampment that the party found burned to the ground way back in part 1. Generally the module has a good amount of random people who might temporarily join the party, but they're universally pretty useless and not characterized at all.
A small section of these lower ruins are controlled by the gully dwarves, who've actually managed to capture a single drunk draconian who will tell the party nothing, even if charmed or threatened, except that Khisanth holds the next plot ticket, and I think any party of idiots could and would have that figured out by now. The gully dwarves are mildly belligerent, but will run away if threatened, and if actually engaged in battle will die effortlessly. The worst danger is being hit by any of their food("made by throwing just about anything dead or near death into a pot. The stuff stinks violently, and keeps on stinking") which literally forces the rest of the party to make Con checks to be anywhere near you and causes all attempts at sneaking or ambushing to automatically fail.
The gully dwarves will, if pushed enough, offer to show the party a secret way into Khisanth's lair, in part because they're annoyed that the draconians have made Xak Tsaroth much too clean and orderly, just so we know what sort of wacky, gross creatures the gully dwarves are.
I seem to remember from the books that Raistlin befriends a gully dwarf named Bupu(who crushes on him somewhat and offers him dead rats and sticks and etc.) in this part of the story and she has a minor-but-important part in things for a while, but either I'm misremembering which story she shows up in, or she's not actually part of the adventure.
If the party doesn't find out about the secret entrance or get the gully dwarves to guide them to it, they instead have to charge into Khisanth's lair head on. This means dealing with multiple draconian patrols and an alarm trap. If they trip it, Khisanth sticks her head out and slams them with the breath weapon which, as we already know, would probably cause an instant TPK.
Either way, assuming the party makes it into the lair... a mystery voice tells them to grab the discs and then bop Khisanth with the staff. Just a small snag: If Khisanth hasn't used up all of her breath weapon blasts and spells for the day yet, first thing she does is flap into the air and hit the party with that, TPK. If she's already used her breath weapon, the party is already TPK'd. So a bit of a catch-22 there. She'll only stay on the ground if she's out of ranged options. At this point, you have to hope that Goldmoon or whoever has the staff can land a whack on Khisanth before she kills the party the conventional way, because she's got low AC, plenty of HP and can slam someone in melee for up to 24 damage(5 to 24, to be exact), which after eating the rest of her bullshit is probably enough to kick someone down.
If someone DOES manage to land a hit with the crystal staff, though, Khisanth gets one-shotted. Actually landing this hit is somewhat complicated by the fact that Goldmoon, the canonical carrier, is a cleric and not a fighter, and the fact that Khisanth has a magical ring creating a constant field of Darkness that makes it hard to whack her or see what she's doing. Whoever manages to hit her also gets destroyed by the LIGHT EXPLOSION that kills her, this is canon, even happens in the book, and everyone is real sad about it for like two pages until whoever did it turns out to not, in fact, have made a heroic sacrifice, and is in fact safe and sound back up top in the Temple of Mishakal.
Khisanth also turns out to have been a load-bearing boss, every ten minutes the PC's spend in the caverns they run a 15% chance of eating 1d12 damage worth of rubble falling from the ceiling, as well as the water slowly rising below them which comes with a handy risk of drowning if they don't get out fast enough. Even assuming they've cleared out every other encounter and have a clear run of it, those 1d12 damage drops could easily kill half the party, especially if they've taken some damage, before they get anywhere near the surface. Hell it might kill them before they even get a chance to score any of the only real loot in the game, which is in Khisanth's minor hoard.
One problem is also that doing the one-shot staff kill againts Khisanth loses the players the crystal staff, which is a potent source of free healing and a decent blunt weapon for LG clerics and mages besides, which is a bit of a dick move. At the very least this point, Goldmoon gets her divine magic to make up for it, thanks to the Discs of Mishakal. Let's just hope the right person picks them up, though. Why? Because much like the Crystal Staff, anyone not LG or NG who picks them up(like, say, Raistlin, or Tasslehoff) will get roasted for 4d6 damage. Now, most of the canon party, outside of those two, are LG or NG, but if you're rolling with a custom-made party that's a real assfuck of a surprise. "Yaaay we killed the dragon and the the d-" "sorry joe you're insufficiently good for the gods, you're dead now, roll a new character."
Anyway, divine magic is back, hooray! And no one died because the canon heroes are functionally immortal, hooray! But oh no, oh wait, as we leave the swamps, stuff is on fire out west, the place we came from! What disaster could this be?!
To be continued in.................
DRAGONS OF FLAME
Kree! Save-or-dies in random encounters are bullshit! Never send in an un-telegraphed save-or-die!
Skeleton warrior brings us true GM'ing wisdom.
Dragons of Despair: Lost City of the Ancients: 3rd Edition ChangesOriginal SA post
Dragons of Despair: Lost City of the Ancients: 3rd Edition Changes
It's not exactly spelled out in the adventures, but the rules for Hide/Move Silently and Listen/Spot mean that it's possible for non-Tasslehoff PCs to attempt to sneak around if they need to avoid encounters; even more so when the perception skills suffer penalties due to lighting and distance. But when most of the party are burly fighters in armor only Tasslehoff has any real skill at this beyond the luck of the d20. The 3.5 Chronicles level up not by loot or EXP but by the Speed of Plot (aka level up at the end of an adventure). This means that grinding is not a thing either.
The Blue Crystal Staff can cast Cure Minor Wounds at no charges. In 3.X this was a 0 level spell that restored 1 HP per casting. This meant that out of combat healing back to full was a given if the PCs were not pressed for time.
Xak Tsaroth still has that angled-side map showing the entire ruined complex, but it also added flat top-down maps of major sections for ease of use and perspective:
The random swamp encounters are coded to the overall party level, with crocodiles, ochre jellies, chuuls, and the like. Barring a single wraith (who can be hurt by divine magic) they are mostly melee monsters who aren't going to be unstoppable roadblocks and given the 4-8 PC action economy aren't in any danger of overwhelming the party.
Falling into the water does not risk triggering random encounters.
Mishakal has no stats, given that it's presumed no party in their right mind would want to fight/kill the goddess.
Khisanth's breath weapon does 12d4 acid and has a DC 23 Reflex save. This is on average 30 damage, half if successfully saved against. Far less damage than the AD&D version, but it's still deadly on account that most of the Heroes of the Lance have around 40~ HP max and given levels in Fighter rather paltry Reflex saves. The text advises that the deadliness of Khisanth's strafing run can be used to demonstrate the power of the true gods when any dead PCs are revived by Mishakal later.
A simple Knowledge check can inform PCs that entering the well is extremely dangerous given its length. However Tenser's Floating Disc, Fly, and Levitate are spells the PCs can learn at this level which the adventure does not account for.
The 500 foot fall trap which only a dwarf can detect can also work for anyone with an appropriate Craft skill. Additionally, the trap triggers in 2 rounds and you have an easy Listen check and a Reflex save to escape. And even if you fail the Reflex save you end up hanging by the fingertips instead of outright falling, which can be inconvenient if a nearby enemy hears the sound.
There's a half-page sidebar of likely questions the PCs have for the gully dwarves, and their answers which are of course less than straightforward:
Snakes individually do not do 3d4 damage, given how weapon/natural attack damage die values work based on size. They can still poison a PC, but they deal small amounts of ability score damage and the Blue Crystal Staff has Neutralize Poison as one of its chargeable spells.
A spectral ghost of a former librarian, Ossamis, can still give the PCs directions to the Disks of Mishakal. In the 3.5 version he can provide more answers on things like Khisanth's weakness and a potential secret path to her lair. His answers are less than straightforward, being more in riddles rather than gully dwarf stupidity.
There's a way to use Conversation/Persuasion to defeat Khisanth. She seeks to disarm the PCs of the Blue Crystal Staff, but is unaware of its potential Holy Explosion Mode. She offers to spare the PCs if one of them hands over the Staff, claiming that they are "merely returning that which is taken from me." A successful social roll (likely Bluff) can catch her flat-footed with a free attack. The staff-strike is not an auto-kill: it is made as a touch attack (which vs. the dragon's 9 AC is easy to make even if Goldmoon strikes with her +7 bonus in melee) and deals 1d8 damage to both the dragon and Prohpet for each charge expended, 2d8 if a critical hit. If the dragon takes at least 50 points of damage she auto-fails her save against massive damage (yes this was a thing in 3.X) and is consumed in light. The book also suggests making it an auto-kill if the DM is pressed for time or if it will be more dramatic to do so.
There's no random falling rock damage, with the only kind of damage happening if the PCs cannot escape at all and leap into the raging currents out among underground rivers to the New Sea (with added risk of drowning).
Khisanth also has 199 hit points in this version rather than 64 to account for 3.X making everything bigger number-wise. This is a pretty high number for a 5-7th level party, but the Blue Crystal Staff (which can have up to 20 charges) is meant to be an equalizer in this manner.
Also here's my blog post on how I ran this adventure myself when doing 13th Age, and what other GMs could change and look out for in their own games.
Dragons of FlameOriginal SA post Dragonlance
Dragons of Flame
when showing off your pecs matters more than your AC
Alright, so in Dragons of Hope we were railroaded on to a fed ex quest full of horrible TPK-tier random encounters and mostly trivial fixed encounters so that we could deliver a stick, find Mishakal's DVD collection and reintroduce the good gods' divine magic to the world(as an aside, we're told that the evil gods have had their clerics active for longer, but what about the neutral gods? Are they just sitting this one out? Who knows!). We now have access to the greatest miracle of all, divine intervention on speed dial, and are heading home. Before the Companions of the Lance(or possibly Heroes, both terms are used mostly interchangeably) left for Solace, however, Mishakal threw them a new quest, which was to find a great leader of some sort to unite people under the banner of Good.
DRAGONLANCE is a complex epic, filled with detail, legend and history not found in most modules. To run this module properly, you must think of it as a story, and try to motivate players subtly to follow the right path.
Well, Dragons of Despair certainly knew how to do this, by filling every path off the beaten route with NPC's hectoring the players to get back on track and, if they insisted on walking off the straight and narrow, infinite encounters with the Dragonarmies' troops.
Chapter 5: Que Kiri and the Plains
So, referring to the map above, the players are coming from the northeast, finally leaving the random encounters of Xak Tsaroth and the surrounding swamps behind as they head back to Solace to spend what little loot they got out of the ruins on booze and whores, but whoops, as they get closer, it turns out everything's on fire ahead of them, oh no! The Dragonarmies have started invading and everywhere they come across between Que Shu and Que Kiri is burned to a cinder by raiders. Que Kiri itself has been hit as well, but has a single almost-survivor who will live just long enough to go "aaaargh dragons killed us all aaaaaargh." The rules text specifically states that even if a Cleric, the new amazing divine trick they've got access to, should heal him, he dies within like a round anyway. Way to give the players a nice introduction to the awesome powers of the gods, jackasses.
This then prompts an ambush by a type of draconian the party hasn't dealt with before, Kapak draconians. They're the ones who turn into acid pools on death, though the 1E version notes their acid will only destroy wood and leather, not metal equipment, so at least your weapons should be safe. However, they can also lick their weapons to poison them, which turns them into save-or-die weapons as a hit where you fail to resist the poison paralyzes you for 2d6 rounds. So unless the rest of the party can keep the draconians off you and kill them by themselves, you'll just get casually coup-de-graced by the first draconian with a combat action to spare. They're also a step up in general combat stats compared to the other draconians the party has faced so far, and considering that they attack in packs of 2d10 size, their odds of hitting someone, and someone flubbing their save vs poison are rather high.
Anyway, presuming they survive this(they will, after all, being the immortal canon heroes. And no, I'll keep harping on that dumb shit forever)...
If the PCs decide to continue to Solace, go to Chapter 6: Solace. Read the opening encounter as the party crests the pass in the Sentinel Peaks between Que Kiri and Solace.
The dragonmen have conquered all of the areas off the north and east map edges. If the PCs leave the map at these edges, move immediately to event 5: “Captured!”
At the start of this adventure, the dragonarmies have conquered all of the lands on the map except Qualinesti. Although folk still live in these areas, the Dragonlords have absolute power. If the PCs wander through these areas, let several days pass with the usual random encounters, then go to encounter 5: “Captured!”
This encounter returns the PCs to their epic path if they stray or dally. Run the encounter when the party is in open terrain (plains or low mountains) and has no place to hide.
[unwinnable encounter with fucking two red dragons and their draconian support ensues, the PC's will be captured no matter what]
Within an hour of their capture, the heroes will be surrounded by several hundred Kapak Draconians. Their weapons and other possessions are removed and they are loaded into a huge wheeled cage and taken to Solace. There they will become part of the caravan to the south. Go to Chapter 7: The Slave Caravan.
Choo fucking choo. Go to Solace or you'll get fucking brought to Solace, assholes.
Chapter 6: Solace
So, yeah, you guessed it, Solace has also been raided. But unlike the farmsteads further east and Que Kiri, it's been occupied. The Draconians are smart enough to let the Inn of the Last Home stay standing, since they need a place to booze it up, even though they've burned most of the other trees around, and have set the locals to doing drudge work. The draconians here won't randomly attack the PC's either, unless the PC's annoy them, in fact they don't give a damn for the most part, suggesting that the draconians are only as belligerent as the story needs them to be to harass the PC's back on their paths. Guess the draconians aren't Lawful Evil but instead Lawful Railroading. Starting any trouble gets you jumped by, I kid you not, 100+ Kapak Draconians, and inevitably captured.
Just go to the inn, get drunk, and try to forget the bad game you're stuck in.
Tika Waylan, Caramon's romance interest, shows up and serves them while telling them the very startling secret that living in an occupied town isn't much fun.
Curly auburn hair tumbles around Tika’s lightly freckled face. Her striking green eyes match her low-cut blouse, and the kulots tucked into her boots allow her great freedom of movement . A fur trimmed leather vest actually doubles as effective leather armor if she gets involved in unexpected trouble. She wears a gold ring on a chain around her neck.
Tika is a brash young barmaid who looks older than her 19 years. Rough living has hardened her, and she presents a tough image as insulation against her sense of vulnerability. Indeed she has certain childlike qualities: a fascination with magic and a fear of heights. Formerly quite happy at the Inn of the Last Home, she now nurses a bitter hatred toward the dragonmen who have invaded her home. She realizes that it is just a question of time before her patience with the brutal conquerors wears out and she does something rash and foolish. Tika is a former 3rd level thief.
That's when some draconian patrons start harassing an elf patron, and Tika begins beating them around the head with a pan. Whether the players help her out or not, Fewmaster Toede shows up just as the melee comes to an end and arrests everyone. Once again, trying to resist is pointless unless you want to deal with hundreds of draconians in an unwinnable fight, so just go ahead and surrender. The players are allowed rolls to hide small items on their person, but spellbooks and theves' tools, just the sort of thing that might derail being imprisoned in some way, are explicitly forbidden from being hidden.
Chapter 7: The Slave Caravan
Yeah that's right, we're done with two chapters out of a total 6 already. Turns out not giving the players even a smidgeon of agency really helps move things along! Anyway, in addition to the party the caravan contains: some generic nameless NPC's that serve no purpose, Tika Waylan, Gilthanas(Tanis' brother-by-adoption that's a full elf and kind of a huge racist prick) and Elistan(one of the former Haven Highseekers). Tika magically becomes a PC at this point, the adventure is made for level 5 to 7 PC's so of course she starts at level 4, along with her terrible dual-classing class choice. The PC's have been robbed of anything they could use to make an escape, but if they try to come up with a plan anyway, you know, to have some sort of agency, Gilthanas tells them not to try and is very cryptic about it.
The only choice the players get to have is when a gravely wounded resistance fighter is tossed into their prison wagon, whether to heal him so he doesn't die or not. Some sort of huge assholes might choose not to, but why not? It's not like you have anything else to use your fucking healing magic for.
Oh and if you do ignore Gilthanas' advice and somehow break out, good luck, there's a combined force of ~250 draconians and hobgoblins guarding this caravan of, like, what, twenty people, tops?
Attempting to talk to Gilthanas about anything results in a random encounter with large amounts of exposition, he tells them the story of PAX THARKAS, the fortress they're being carted towards. It used to be a monument to peace between the Qualinesti(less racist) elves and the dwarves, but now the draconians have taken it over. Also there's some other dickery in the past related to it, but thankfully Gilthanas is interrupted by ELFS attacking the caravan to rescue everyone. If the players don't think to recover their gear, by the way, it'll all be lost in the fray. Keep in mind that every PC has one or more magic items, some of them of +2 quality or with unique, ireplaceable attributes of some sort(like Raistlin's artifact STAFF OF MAGIUS).
But holy shit running these fights must be a pain in the ass. It's large swarms of weak enemies(like 16 hobgoblins) against about eight PC's. That's a lot of fucking moving pieces to keep track of. 1E D&D hadn't yet cottoned on to the idea of statting many small enemies as "swarms" or implementing some sort of non-kludgy mass combat rules that I'm aware of, at least not in the base ruleset.
Chapter 8: Elvenhome
Seriously these chapters are just one fucking encounter each, what the hell?
Anyway, the elves go: "GOOD PRISONERS, THOU ART SAVED. PC's please come with me to safety in the SACRED ELVEN REALMS the rest of you are on your own lol go south or something gl hf" Seriously elf dudes you've got an entire fucking city just over the hill you can take in like twenty smelly humans or whatever. Why you gotta be huge assholes.
But what if the players don't want to go to Elftown? Well...
If the players go north, they have random encounters (see Random Encounter Table) forthe next game day. Then they run into one squad of Kapak draconians (use entry #4 on the Random Encounter Table) per game hour. These dragonmen fight to the death, and there are an infinite supply of squadrons.
fucking oh my god I can't stop laughing.
So, uh, long story short. Just go with the fucking elves because in one direction there are infinite draconians, and in the other direction the elves capture you and bring you home anyway.
The dense aspen forest thins out in front of the spires and arches of Qualinost. The city is small by human standards; by the same token, no humans could ever build a city like this. Four slender towers lined with silver mark the four corners of the roughly square city. Between each of these towers, strings of slender arches— also silver-stretch in an elegant chain.
A high tower of burnished gold dominates the city, throwing off sunlight in a whirling, sparkling pattern that gives the impression of movement. Of course, the tower is quite still, but the illusion is very realistic indeed.
Then you get a cutscene where the elves talk to each other(looks like Gilthanas tried to raid Pax Tharkas before and got caught during that trip), some "poetry," and then Tanis' ex who's also his sister-by-adoption shows up.
An exceptionally beautiful elven maiden moves forward from the onlookers. She curtsies slightly toward the Speaker before blessing the weary travelers with a smile like a spring sunrise. Her beauty seems greater as she moves closer; yet a childlike air about her belies the wisdom in her eyes.
Ah yes I love reading about beautiful children who have a romantic thing going with 30-something men. Totally not weird at all. Anyway she's just there to serve the players some elven McDonald's before the next set piece, for now. Anyway, once the players have gotten diabetes from eating too much elf food, Cutscene Mode kicks in and the King Elf tells them what's so important about Pax Tharkas: the elves are totally fucked and the hostile army encamped at Pax Tharkas is very likely to murder them all if they retreat from the other armies coming in from the north. So, they need the PC's to go to Pax Tharkas and lead the slaves there in a bloody uprising and take the fortress so the elves can leg it.
But do the PC's want to take on this momentous quest? Doesn't fucking matter, lol, if they say no, they have a prophetic dream about being fucked and then they get attacked by draconians every hour, on the hour, until they're all dead. Game fucking over.
ARE YOU SEEING THE PATTERN YET?
I'm seriously not making this up.
no matter which direction the PCs go, after one game day they encounter draconians as they did in encounter 14. These skirmishes will continue, one every game hour, until all the PCs are dead
So of course, our players, after the GM shows them this passage from the book and taps it pointedly, smile nervously and accept the GRAND ELFEN QUEST.
Overnight, Laurana is captured for a future plot point of some sort, to which the elves just shrug and go "whaddaya gonna do about it, eh?" while Gilthanas joins the party, giving them a second arcane spellcaster(he's a Fighter/Mage of low-ish level).
The cutscenes have been exhausted, the elf food has been eaten, it's time...
Kree! It's time to take a break from this railroad! It's got less branching paths than my reanimated spine!
Next Time: PAX THARKAS
Dragons of Flame, Part I: 3rd Edition ChangesOriginal SA post
Dragons of Flame, Part I: 3rd Edition Changes
1. Heading north initially does not spawn infinite enemies, but rather the sourcebook says you're going deeper into enemy territory and to "consult the geography section of the War of the Lance Campaign Setting Companion" to guide the DM in seeing what happens. Aka they haven't written the plot with that in mind but aren't going to kill the PCs.
2. The survivor screaming about dragons can be healed by cleric spells, but he'll still pass out unconscious (and presumably can be carried to safety). In the AD&D version he can still be cured but gradually loses HP until he dies which cannot be stopped with magic.
3. The flying red dragon is only one instead of two, and it can be hidden from with stealth and appropriate magic. They can still be captured but it's not an inevitability. But if they are captured they are taken right into the slave caravan, skipping Solace entirely.
4. Kapak Draconian poison deals Dexterity damage (1d6 initial and secondary) so it's unlikely to insta-paralyze PCs on the first hit unless they have super-low Dexterity.
5. PCs who go south to Pax Tharkas early will meet up with Gilthanas' elf scouts engaged in a fight with trolls. He'll beg the PCs to return to Solace to reunite with his comrades and explain how dangerous it is to simply go to Pax Tharkas without a plan.
6. Tika's stat block is a level 3 rogue/level 3 fighter, which will put her on part with PCs who leveled up from Xak Tsaroth if doing the 8 party model. She is meant to be leveled up higher if the party size is smaller (8th in this case). For DMPC types like Tika and Gilthanas there are no guidelines for building them beyond their base levels; that's in the hands of the PCs. Gilthanas is a 2nd level Noble/3rd level Wizard/1st level Fighter. He's meant to be a gish type but arcane spell failure penalty of 20% with his elven chain is pretty bad. His spells include mostly utility things but has a few offensive measures.
7. Tika has a sidebar of likely questions PCs may ask her:
8. During the slave caravan one of the prisoners is Fizban the Fabulous, a weird and wacky recurring wizard character who will disappear during the chaos once the caravan's attacked. He's actually Paladine in disguise, subtly aiding the PCs. This is in the AD&D version but a much-abused gully dwarf servant frees the PCs' lock on the cages before running away. In 3rd Edition he's given more personality and the name of Sestun, grumbling about poor treatment by Toede causing him to turn against evil.
9. Many years ago before I did the 13th Age Dragonlance campaign I ran the 3.5 version for some high school friends. The party wizard trapped his spellbook with sepia snake sigil which is like explosive runes but paralyzes the reader instead. Fewmaster Toede claimed the book for himself and ended up in a rather undignified pose once triggered. As the spells' duration lasts for literal days, the presence of a hunched-over hobgoblin tied to his donkey provided no end of amusement to the group.
Nothing like this happens with a spellbook, I just felt like adding that in for readers.
10. Also here's my blog entry for this. It also covers Pax Tharkas which PurpleXVI has yet to review.
Dragons of Flame: Part 2, The BurninationOriginal SA post Dragonlance
Dragons of Flame: Part 2, The Burnination
Chapter 9: To the Walls of Pax Tharkas
So, to recap, the closest thing the heroes have to a home town/home base has been burned down and occupied, they got captured, got rescued by dickhead elves, sat through a shitload of cutscenes including descriptions of how beautiful a "childlike" elf was and then said elf was kidnapped in the night, and no one gives a fuck because finally they're going to get to raid the closest thing this module has to a dungeon, at least the module shouldn't be able to railroad them once they get there, right? So spirits high once more, they set out, now with Gilthanas and Tika added to the original party tally.
(As an aside, I forgot to point out that the party failing to heal Theros Ironfeld, the injured blacksmith that got tossed into their wagon, back in the earlier part of the module, would have caused considerable damage to the Dragonlance time continuum and storyline, but for some reason the game doesn't prevent you from doing this. So I guess it'll be your one act of rebellion for the module)
Onwards they trudge, to the SLA MORI, some sort of weird secret elven path into Pax Tharkas, but before they're even halfway there, BOOM! They walk into a glade full of corpses, one of the corpses turns out to be just a wounded guy who yells out "aaaaargh draconians aaaaargh" and then the party gets ambushed by Draconians, presuming they prevail, this turns out to be a wounded guy(Eben Shatterstone) they can actually save. He coincidentally has no where else to go, no pressing mission or lord he's serving, because he's not actually a wounded guy the draconians had wounded, he's an evil traitor out to betray the Heroes of the Lance, conveniently put right in their path.
So either the Dragonlord Verminaard knew exactly where they were going and put just one guy and pile of corpses in their way, and thus you have to wonder why he didn't block their path with, say, a spare dragon instead, or maybe one of his infinite supply of draconians, or he just happened to drop piles of fresh corpses and traitors all over the countryside to fuck with random adventuring dickheads that might interrupt the Red Dragonarmy's part of world conquest. If someone stabs him, the corpse gets lost, presumably so he can fulfill some vital cutscene purpose later. Gilthanas encourages the party to stay on the railroad and bring this extremely suspicious guy along.
The sun has almost disappeared in the west; the imposing fortress of Pax Tharkas is nearer still. The tops of its two mighty towers rival the mountain peaks for control of the sky. Between the towers, a massive wall closes off all passage through the mountain gap. A single gate, 30’ tall and 20’ wide, seems to be the only entrance.
Suddenly, the massive gate swings open. Even before it finishes moving, after column of armed troops march out. Rising clouds of dust soon obscure their exact numbers, but surely several thousand pass from the fortress onto the plains. The road they follow leads to Qualinesti.
“The Dragonlords’ power,” says Gilthanas grimly. “The time has come.” The elven warrior points to a narrow vale leading into the mountains just east of Pax Tharkas. “Here lies the approach of the Sla-mori. We must move carefully: this valley is sometimes not a safe place.”
Gilthanas is pretty correct, as the party is forced into a scripted encounter with three Trolls. Trolls are pretty scary fuckers, the equivalent of sixth-level fighters that constantly regenerate hit points and can do upwards of 28 damage a round to a given target if they land all their hits, the sort of thing that can annihilate weaker party members in one blow. The only thing that puts down D&D trolls permanently is fire or acid damage, so unless you put them down far enough that you have time to build a bonfire and toast all their parts at your leisure, you need a mage with fire or acid damage options. Neither Gilthanas or Raistlin are high enough level to have much of this, so this is a serious slugfest that actually has a decent chance of dumpstering the party on pure numbers, even considering the party's numeric superiority, not needing to rely on Draconian paralyzing poison to do the job. If the trolls drop just a couple of party members(like, say, fragile Tika, Gilthanas, Goldmoon or Tasslehoff), they might win the damage race handily.
Assuming the trolls don't end up using the party's ribs for toothpicks, Gilthanas then kicks open the gate to the Sla-Mori...
It's a dungeon, it's a proper dungeon, it even has some degree of branching paths, hell yeah!
It also begs the question of why a famed fortress has a handy secret back door dungeon, if the elves and dwarves are so smart. Also it turns out someone's been there before, so the players don't have a dungeon all to themselves. If I remember right, the party canonically heads towards area 28 first, which only exists to give the party a free two-handed sword +3 that also does double damage to draconians and dragons, coincidentally the main enemies of this entire module series. This is an extremely generous reward, though outside of 100+ appearances, draconians, while the most numerous enemies of the module series, also tend not to be the most dangerous enemies so far.
Not having a spider sense, the party will then probably want to check out that door to the south... oh man is it gonna make them wish they had a spider sense, because it hides a giant slug. I mean, ha ha, right, a giant slug? What danger is that gonna be? Joke's on you, fucker, in D&D, giant slugs aren't just gross big things, they happen to be huge slabs of HP(thankfully with terrible armor class) that can vomit acid. It does a decent but not horrifying 1d12 damage by slamming and biting things, but 1d32 damage vomiting acid on them. I know that in 2e AD&D this acid spit has a limited daily use, at the very least, but there's no such note here or in the 1E Monstrous Manual.
I mean, sure, with the trolls, the party could wall off the weakest party members in the back and leave them to safely sling stones, arrows and spells, but not against the slug. It might just randomly 360 noscope Raistlin and melt him into a pile of goo and fizzing red robes on the first round of combat. How are you going to explain that one away, Dragonlance? Does he just get better? Does fucking Fizban taxi him in later when he's vital to the plot? Maybe keep him in a little jug until he heals?
Best thing? That room has no treasure or any reward at all. It is 100% just a "fuck you" to the players that has no purpose, and there's no warning that there might be a slug behind the doors, either.
If the players go into the other tunnels, they get such fun adventures as being ambushed by a wraith(another level drainer! This adventure really loves those.)
Hey, you want even more of a fuck you? Let's say the players realize that this place is a fucking death trap and send someone no one will miss, or at least someone who can sneak, like Tasslehoff to scout ahead. Well, see that looping tunnel at 31? It's kind of a soft lock/dead man walking situation, because the moment someone reaches the X down below, the door at 31 closes. It cannot be opened from the outside, only the inside, but it requires a combined strength of 50 to open. This means that a single party member, or even a group of party members, could just be permanently lost in there.
And no, neither Raistlin or Gilthanas know Knock or any other way to bypass this "fuck you"-door which is either trivial or condemns half the party to death by starvation.
But let's say that, seeing the wraith and realizing they want none of that shit, the party runs on down to 32 instead. Huffing and puffing they enter a room full of closed doors and non-hostile zombies that just lie there. If they're curious and open a door? Zombies attack, the book does not describe if there's anything behind said doors that contain anything of interest, so presumably no. The wraith chases them? Zombies rise and attack. Cast any spell, perhaps for knowledge or to check for horrible "fuck you"-traps? Zombies attack. Open the doors at the end? Zombies attack. Hope you like mass combat with 40 mooks at once, or that the players aren't too bloodthirsty to just leave by the doors at the south end of the room and just close them and agree to never go back.
Room 33 contains nothing, room 34 only contains a trap that does 3d6 damage by dropping you into a pit if you check it out.
The centerpiece of room 35 is a truly titanic chain stretching from the floor and upwards, someone sufficiently small and thiefy(i.e. a kender and no one else) could climb it and thus have a secret entrance into Pax Tharkas. In the book, Fizban and Tasslehoff climb it and Fizban pretend-dies in the room which leaves Tasslehoff heartbroken. So far in this module Fizban has only appeared as one of the "STAY ON PATH, PLZ" NPC's in Dragons of Despair, though un-named to the players. Presumably he had a larger role in the books because the canon party needed him to keep them on track.
Room 36 on the north side of the room is a secret vault full of gold... which is nigh-worthless on Ansalon so fuck you for bothering to scout around, dickheads.
Presumably after sending Tasslehoff up the chain and hoping he dies there alone and suffering, the party continues to point 37 which is Pax Tharkas proper.
Chapter 10: The Tharkadan Towers
Any kender or other small-sized thieves sent up the chain arrive at area 61, everyone else who stays clustered tightly together and shellshocked by the bullshit they just dealt with(note again that NO COMBAT ENCOUNTERS have anything of value, only staying out of combat and restraining your curiosity extremely will reward you during the trip through the Sla-Mori) arrives at area 38.
Oh and, of course, we're apparently supposed to still have random encounter checks in most of the Sla-Mori and fucking Pax Tharkas itself. At least inside Pax Tharkas it's just piles upon piles of pointless Draconian encounters.
Anyway! At 38, the party hears a young woman being menaced behind the door to 39. Obviously they kick it down, stab the draconian and oh joy of joys, it's Laurana who was about to get hauled off for some unspecified abuse. If the players bang off for a smoke break instead of saving her, she dies "an obscure death" but returns in a later module? Then why even say she dies, just say she vanishes or... whatever. Fuck this module. She doesn't become a PC yet and she doesn't serve any real point except presumably to make whoever plays Tanis feel either real uncomfortable because he's supposed to roleplay an awkward attraction to this poorly characterized teenage-equivalent elf.
Rooms 40, 41 and 42 are full of women prisoners, essentially, whose children are being kept locked up with Flamestrike, a red dragon, to make sure they and their husbands stay compliant. I'll note that I would NOT be unable to keep from playing this for comedy. Just imagine a fucking mature red dragon having to deal with like close to a hundred rambunctious kids. "Keep your hands off that hoard!" "Stay away from those magical artifacts!" Hating it but not being able to incinerate them because they're the insurance policy against a slave insurrection, and I imagine the kids would soon realize they're the ones in charge, leading the dragon begging the heroes to rescue it when they finally arrive.
Anyway, guess who else is here? It's Elistan! Yeah, that guy that showed up for all of one brief sentence earlier in the module. You know, one of the other prisoners in the slave caravan. That the elves just told to go fuck off. Whoops. Guess we know where those slaves ended up now, huh, guess most of them are probably dead, huh. Fucking elves. Anyway, Elistan got injured in the mines, so presumably whoever's playing Goldmoon gets the hint and heals him, which makes him go: "Damn, son, guess the good gods are rad. I'm converted now." And he instantly becomes a low-to-mid level good-aligned Cleric of Paladine. Assuming the full canon party, and counting Laurana, Elistan and Eben, the party's currently at 13 characters. Poor fucking GM managing this herd.
The women also send a group of 12 up to the mines to feed the men every night. They wear heavy shawls and robes to protect against the autumn chill, and the guards pay little attention to those in either feeding mission,
Thus, any characters concealed as these women would be able to move about the fortress fairly safely, as long as their movement could conceivably be one of these feeding missions. If the heroes do not think of this, Maritta suggests that armed men, disguised in women’s robes, could enter the chamber where the children are kept and rescue them.
If the PCs decide to make a rescue attempt in this way, Maritta has the following advice about Flamestrike:
"You must try to pass the dragon quietly, she sleeps very deeply. I don’t think she would normally harm the children-in fact, she seems very fond of them-but do not attack her, even if she should awaken. She is half mad, and there’s no telling what she might do if aroused.”
Yeah, I would absolutely play this dragon as just as much of a victim of the war as everyone else, just a cranky old grandma who wants to be left alone and maybe watch the children play.
With that sorted out, room 43 is just a Gully Dwarf Comedy Zone where a bunch of them run around like bad stereotypes of people with brain damage or Down's, and can be bribed for info on the fortress since while the draconians are keeping them around as guards(fucking WHY, though? They're useless. At least in Xak Tsaroth they could be used as literal dead weight which is about all they're good for) they don't actually like the draconians in any way or form.
Room 44 is a storage room that mostly just contains a bunch of oil as well as rules for arson if it's used to cause a horrible smoke inhalation death for a large part of Pax Tharkas. The fire doesn't spread through doors, but assuming that not every door is closed by default or that some enemies might open doors to see just what the fuck is causing all the black smoke to seep through the keyhole, there's enough smoke inhalation damage to, I kid you not, depopulate most of the fortress of everything that isn't intentionally hiding or a dragon unless they clear the fuck out fast.
Marching upstairs, the party arrives in room 45.
This hallway is furnished with great care, creating an atmosphere of comfort and luxury. A plush purple carpet blankets the floor, and many tapestries of rich red and golden colors decorate the walls. Each of the several doors is made of dark-grained vallenwood and has golden rivets, hinges, and latches.
At closer examination, however, the luxury begins to wear thin. Great, dark stains blot the carpet in many places, and a wide muddy trail mars the center of the floor. Some of the tapestries, depicting pastoral woodland scenes, have been defaced: charcoal has been used to add a beard and mustache to an elven princess, and long slashes ruin a scene of elves and dwarves in council.
I'm sorry but this doesn't make the draconians seem like awful evil art vandals, it just makes them seem like giggling teenagers who have no idea what sort of damage they're actually doing.
Many of the rooms here mostly contain a chance for the players to not be sociopaths, a lot of the draconians and hobgoblins around the place won't specifically attack unless the players charge in going: "HO HO! FOUL CREATURES! FACE SMITING!" and are instead just chilling out, relaxing between duties and getting mildly drunk. Just about any gully dwarves the party encounter will eventually encourage them to go save Sestun who's being held captive in room 50(the gully dwarf cooks will also, I'll note, imply that Verminaard wasn't planning to torture Laurana, he was just planning to have dinner with her, which makes him sound a bit less like an evil mastermind and slightly more like a very desperate incel). If freed, Sestun creates some unspecified trouble around the place and then legs it, but generally the PC's will probably want to save him just because he helped bust open their cage when the slave caravan was attacked by the elves(I missed that little bit in the dense prose, my apologies). Generally PC's will tend to form a pretty warm attachment to any NPC that helps them out or just generally isn't a belligerent asshole for no reason, i.e. any NPC's that aren't elves.
Room 51 contains a boss battle with Toede, Verminaard and Verminaard's red dragon, Ember. Generally this is not a fight the party has a hope in hell of winning, and they should just keep clear. As with Khisanth, Ember using his breath weapon is essentially a TPK scenario right away. If the party scouts before entering there, they'll know it's not a fight they can deal with, most likely, and they'll go next door to 52a, b and c, which are Verminaard's private quarters. There are a few minor magical items there(potions and scrolls) and a couple of traps including a save-or-die poison trap and a sleeping gas trap that will almost certainly get the entire party's throats cut by Verminaard when he comes back to change his giant work pauldrons for his giant pajama pauldrons. The PC's can also snoop on Verminaard's conversation with Toede in Room 51, to give Verminaard a tiny bit of character other than "bad, evil mans, terrible fashion taste."
After looting Verminaard's underwear, the party will probably come around to 55/56/57 which is where Flamestrike and the children are.
Flamestrike jooks every bit: as awesome as is usual for her kind, but a close look reveals that this dragon suffers some of the ill effects of age. Many of her teeth are blunted or broken (accounting for her lessened bite damage), while one of her eyes is cloudy and apparently blind. Long scars mark her weathered flanks, and she looks unusually slender, perhaps even scrawny.
Flamestrike lost her brood of young to an unknown enemy years ago, and this tragedy has deeply scarred her personality. She is a very careful guardian of the children, and would never harm one of them under any circumstance. She deals harshly with those she believes threaten “her” children.
Sadly, all that's accounted for here is the players either killing Grandma Dragon or further ruining her life by sneaking "her children" away from her a second time while disguised as women. I think it's a crying shame, and slightly heartbreaking, that there's no accounting for talking Flamestrike down. I mean, I think it'd be a pretty cool moment to have Verminaard gloating over the players astride Ember, preparing to incinerate them as soon as he's done cackling, and then they get blindsided by Flamestrike who might not be as strong as Ember any longer, but has age and experience to make up for it. It'd be the sort of thing that would be both narratively cool, and would allow the players the pleasure of fighting Verminaard on even ground while his dragon mount is getting suckerpunched by Flamestrike in the background.
They didn't completely miss the mark but... we'll see.
Flamestrike will wake up when the players are sneaking away with the kids, but not in time to stop them, just in time to get real pissed, and of course she can't vaporize them with her breath weapon on account of the kids.
Presumably the party then returns the children to their mothers, rather than hauling a caravan of scraggly children around for a while.
59 through 62 are primarily foreshadowing that Dragonlances exist to make dunking dragons trivial(via a cutscene where the party stumbles upon a bunch of paintings telling a tale about them and Pax Tharkas) and a chance for the party to get TPK'd. You probably noticed the dragon drawn next to point 43 at the lowest level, in the room with no doors. Room 60 lets you access said dragon and also lets said dragon access you by flying/crawling up and annihilating you. Do not go in room 60. 61 and 62 are about a mechanism that completely and for about a month's time blocks Pax Tharkas' primary gate, it's not explicitly spelled out, but the party's meant to lure out Ember and trick her into melting the giant chain with dragonfire to activate the mechanism, which prevents the army from Pax Tharkas(which has mostly moved out to fuck up Qualinesti) from re-entering the fortress and either giving chase to anyone heading further south or from rooting out any freed slaves that remain in the fort to give them trouble.
Of course, we haven't actually gotten far enough to free the slaves yet.
63 through 70 are mostly just distractions, store rooms and kitchens and a few more prisoners that don't have any real narrative purpose, until the party reaches areas 71-73 which are the mines where the male slaves are kept.
The "win" condition for this module is essentially to bring the women and children to room 73 un-incinerated, at which point the male slaves butcher their guards with relative ease, Elistan starts organizing the slaves and the cutscenes take over...
If the heroes have rescued the women and children, Flamestrike will be battering against the barred doors, the men will have rushed down from the mines, and the thousands of troops that marched out of the fortress to the north will be rushing back to answer the alarms. The mass of people, around 800 of them, should be collected on the southern side of the great fortress.
Suddenly, with a splintering crash, the double doors holding Flamestrike fly outward. The great beast slithers out of the tower toward the crowd of prisoners.
“My children! You shall not have my children!” Her voice is shrill and strained. "Leave me my children!” she demands, lumbering down the gradual slope.
Now another great crimson shape appears, flying. Bellowing a challenge, a second huge red dragon lands on the mighty Tharkadan wall. On its back is the imposing figure of the Dragonlord Verminaard, still concealed by the fearsome mask. His voice booms through the valley. “This is the final insult! I have tolerated your impudence far too long.. .slaves are cheap and plentiful. Now you pay for your foolish daring!” As the people scream and turn to flee down the valley, his evil voice picks up more power: “Now, I destroy you! I destroy your wives! I destroy your children!”
As Ember leaps from the wall, Flamestrike pauses in her advance. Confusion shakes her as she looks from the children to the great engine of death above her. Suddenly, her dim eyes take on clear focus as she makes a decision.
Curling her long neck upwards, Flamestrike sends forth a horrifying spout of fire, straight at the flying dragon and the Dragonlord. With a scream, Verminaard is engulfed in the glowing cloud, and his dragon-steed bellows in pain. Quickly, the two dragons lock in a fearsome melee, thrashing their mighty bodies across the valley and bringing boulders tumbling from the mountainsides.
So the players get to cut down dozens upon dozens of mooks, but don't get to actually fight the big boss who's instead incinerated(though not actually killed, the module specifies that he survives) by a somewhat-sympathetic NPC that the players don't get a chance to help out but who quite possibly gets maimed or outright killed. In fact outside of fighting the giant slug, assuming the PC's actually put up with that hell of a fight, or the three trolls, this module has no actually memorable fights, just endless waves of draconians and hobgoblins from unspecified sources.
Anyway, the cutscene ends with the PC's and the slaves legging it south and hiding out in a small valley. Tired and hungry, but free, the challenge of surviving the next few days being a problem for the next module...
Kree! If Flamestrike was my grandma I might not have turned out to be a skeleton warrior! I could have become a skeleton doctor instead!
You said it, Skeleton Warrior. Waste of a good NPC.
PS: No, I didn't forget about Eben. Even though he could have annihilated the party and saved Verminaard at a number of points by just making sure they didn't escape Flamestrike or alerted Ember, he's not supposed to actually betray the party until DL3 where I presume it'll be part of something involving an infinite number of enemies if the players don't stay on the railroad tracks.
Next Up: Dragons of Hope
Dragons of Flame, Part 2: 3rd Edition ChangesOriginal SA post
Dragons of Flame, Part 2: 3rd Edition Changes
1. Eben Shatterstone is considered to have rolled a high enough Bluff result that the Sense Motive results are set in stone. A 28 or higher is required to find out that he's not being entirely forthright, and only a DC 35 or higher result (nearly impossible at this level barring a very high roll and min-maxing) indicates that something's wrong with him and not to trust him. There's no question of what happens if the Prophet/Goldmoon uses a Zone of Truth as a prepared cleric spell to get an answer out of him.
For anyone wondering, both modules made his alignment Chaotic Neutral so he won't show up on a "Detect Evil" spell.
2. The trolls are not as tough to deal with on account that they are weak to fire as well as acid. Fire-based spells such as Scorching Ray, Burning Sphere, and Fireball are much more plentiful in 3rd Edition, with the latter most likely having been learned by the Sage archetype/Raistlin on account of how many mook hordes are in these modules. 3rd Edition Wizards automatically learn 2 spells every level increase without the need to find existing scrolls or spellbooks, which mitigates the relative lack of fireball scrolls in the module.
3. The giant slug's pretty tough, but its acid spit does middling damage at most, but unless washed off with water continues dealing damage in perpetuity. The real problem is its paralyzing secretions and bite attack. The slug can also burrow through the ground, albeit very slowly. It's tough, but not one-hit kill tough unless the party's stupid enough to get within melee range after noticing it paralysis attack.
4. Gilthanas' spellbook contains the Knock spell and his stat block has it as one of his prepared spells, so the sliding door trap can be used to get around this. Additionally thanks to the wonders of skill checks a rogue can disable the trap via a DC 25 Disable Device check. A trio of gargoyles will try to kill any party members separated in the trapped corridor.
5. The zombie horde will not be triggered if someone uses a spell-like ability, but spells and magical items will do so. For those not in the know, a spell-like ability (SLA for short) is some innate magical power someone has, usually a monster or virtue of one's race or a Paladin's at-will Detect Evil. It's not something you gain in most classes, so the only time it may come up if one of the PCs is of a monstrous race with a fancy Level Adjustment.
6. The treasure vault no longer has gold ingots, which were long looted by thieves. Instead there's actual useful treasure in the form of a pair of boots and cloak of elvenkind, +2 Gloves of Dexterity, a masterwork shortsword, and a Charm of Animal Transformation which is a new magic item which can transform you into a specific animal form (in this case a fox).
7. In the AD&D module Laurana will cower in the corner while the PCs fight the draconians, but in this version she will grab a weapon if one's available and join in the fight. She has the stats of a Level 6 Noble, a rather underpowered class but she is far from helpless.
8. There's a rules system for general levels of "ALERTNESS" for guards in Pax Tharkas. The place is ordinarily big enough that individual clashes will not cause the entire complex to go on alert, but fleeing Dragonarmy soldiers and guards near the alarm systems may trigger one of two rope and bell systems on the big central wall area. Once rung, random encounter patrols increase, and 30 draconians in groups of 5 will begin scouring the complex in search of the PCs or any other suspicious characters. Said centarl wall area is guarded by Galang, a hobgoblin monk who's notable for the fact he prefers not to fight with weapons or armor (monks are quite rare on Ansalon).
9. The storage room makes no mention of using the lamp oil for arson purposes.
10. PCs watching Verminaard verbally berate Toede in the Throne Room have a chance to hide from Ember's gaze rather than being auto-spotted. But as Ember is an honest to god Challenge Rating 20 Old Dragon his +36 Spot check is almost impossible to dodge barring magical invisibility. FLamestrike is also similarly-powerful, although she has a special quality in her stat block of aging poorly reduce her abilities and features across the board, such as spellcasting loss and lower weapon damage.
11. Verminaard's private quarters no longer has a sleep gas trap. Instead it has a magical Glyph of Warding which triggers a Bestow Curse spell of an undefined nature, which is more of a debilitating debuff that must be magically healed than a potential TPK. His private dining room, which had a save or die poison needle trap, now merely does Strength damage instead. In fact this is a pretty significant change from AD&D overall, where almost all poisons were save or die by default.
12. PCs can engage in some social skill checks to convince Flamestrike that they’re Maritta, the head of the women prisoners, and also to convince the children to quietly follow them out of the room. Even if successful, a six year old as one of the last will call out “goodbye Auntie Dragon!” causing Flamestrike to be confused and then angry. In the original module she wakes up after a few dozen of the 180 children are out rather than nearly all of them.
We get black and white artwork of Flamestrike:
13. The dragonbattle cutscene goes just as it does in the original Chronicles, but with the aforementioned fire immunity being a thing in 3rd Edition it doesn't make sense.
14. I linked it earlier, but in my blog entry for updating the Chronicles I turned the Ember/Flamestrike into a boss battle of sorts where the PCs took control of Flamestrike while they lead the prisoners down a now-quaking mountain pass fighting Dragonarmy soldiers on the ground. To simplify things I had a list of moves for Flamestrike to use, and the residual dragonbattle in the sky could cause collateral damage on the ground.
Dragons of HopeOriginal SA post Dragonlance
Dragons of Hope
Alright guys prepare for-
Oh my God what's wrong with your faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaace.
Ahem, Dragons of Hope. It's the next exciting installment in the original arc of Dragonlance modules, and keep in mind we're still in the first book so far. To recap, first the players rediscovered proof of the true gods and reintroduced divine magic on the side of good to Krynn. Just to fuck things up, the Dragonarmies serving Takhisis attacked shortly after, conquering and burning most of the heroes' homelands and known regions, occupying what they didn't destroy. The heroes were captured and rescued by elves, who needed the heroes as a sick commando squad to distract one of the armies headed for their homelands and force them to fall back, so the elves could escape. The heroes pull this off with the help of a heroic (and slightly insane) dragon grandma who bravely gave her life for the sake of saving a bunch of kids, despite ostensibly being a Chaotic Evil red dragon, and are now leading some eight-hundred refugees south away from the pursuing dragonarmy of Verminaard.
We're given some rules for how fast these refugees will die, and we're meant to not let all of them bite the bucket. If they have to sleep out in the open, if they're without food, if they're camping but not going anywhere(????? are they sharkfolk or something?) or any time a situation causes them to rout and panic.
There are also some kludgy and half-assed rules for adjudicating whether the combat-capable refugees(about some forty Fighter-equivalents) die like mooks or rout the enemy if they're used to deal with large numbers of bad dudes, as well as rules for Refugee Politics. Immediately after first making camp, the refugees set up five political blocs just to make themselves problematic for the players, each with their own leader. Elistan(former Seeker, now a Cleric of Paladine) leads one group and generally works with the PC's(70% of the time). Locar leads the still-faithful Seekers(even though it's literally just been proved their supposed faith was a crock of shit with no divine power) and will actively spite and vote againts the players any chance he gets(supporting them only 10% of the time). Briar leads the surviving Plains Barbarians and is "good and friendly" but still fucks over the PC's 70% of the time just because. Brookland is another good person, the leader of the elves and half-elves among the refugees, and just spites the PC's 60% of the time because he's a dickhead elf. Eben Shatterstone is a literal traitor who's snuck into a leadership role among the refugees and will fuck them over only 50% of the time, which means that this literal traitor is more reliable than Briar and Brookland, despite them being good and sympathetic.
Now, of course the refugee council doesn't just vote on straight percentile rolls, no no. They have a bunch of modifiers to fuck over the PC's. Every dead refugee, for instance, is a -1, so once 1/8th of the refugees are dead, the PC's can no longer command the refugees at all. Each day, and each time they've broken camp, are also a -5 each, so welcome to a -10 penalty for each day. Literally the only ways for the PC's to improve the chance of the council agreeing with them is to find a bunch of food or to reach a specific location on the map.
Sorry for the poor map quality, I had to staple it together from eight separate images, none of which actually lined up correctly. The following map may be slightly more readable:
Chapter 11: The Way
The players start at the X(marked in red) and are meant to escort the refugees to Area 21(also in red) where they can finally dump them off safely, after which point they're meant to find the ancient lost dwarven kingdom of Thorbardin so they finally have a place to hole up for a while. For maximum helpfulness and ease of use, the map starts out the PC's and the refugees right next to areas 4 and 22, rather than, say, areas 1 and 2. Good design, module, good design. The module assumes that the players get attacked right off the bat, but if they collapsed the gates of Pax Tharkas with thousands of tonnes of rubble in Dragons of Despair(as the party did, canonically), Dragons of Despair explicitly says this delays pursuit by several days. Dragons of Hope does bring this up later, but still has you eat a flood of draconian attacks as your fun introduction to the adventure.
Then the refugees camp for the first time, the five faction leaders tell the PC's to eat a dick and they're running this show now, but still demand that the PC's feed them and find them safety. They do at least indicate to the PC's that they should be looking for the entrance to Thorbardin and that the necessary clues for access are rumoured to be hidden under a mountain shaped like a skull, once the fortress of the evil mage Fistandantilus.
You'll also constantly be dealing with Verminaard's dragon army in hot pursuit. They take over one "encounter area" every four hours, apparently chosen at random or by the GM, starting with one bordering Pax Tharkas(the X) and then occupying something else adjacent to something they already occupy every time. Since the dragonarmy doesn't advance in hexes, this means that their advance, depending on the size of the area they march into, can be very slow or extremely rapid. Since there are only 30 "encounter areas," this also means that after five days, they'll have claimed the entire map.
Every 6 hours there's also a 10% chance that Verminaard and Ember(who survived, RIP Flamestrike, you were a good girl) swoop out of the sky and just incinerate 1d6 refugees or launch a full-on attack on the PC's(again, dragon breath, TPK, etc. I've pounded this drum enough, it's a fucking stupid encounter and should never happen). Worse yet, there's a chance the party might run into Fizban who's standing around arguing with a tree or something similarly idiotic and instantly glues himself to the party and the refugees. Fizban is, as has been mentioned before, Paladine, who will cheerfully stand by acting like an old man with Alzheimer's while a red dragon is incinerating them inches away, rather than, you know, smiting it with holy power or otherwise saving anyone, thus suggesting that "Good" on Krynn is a very relative term.
A strange, ragged old man is just ahead of you. He wears a long beard and a floppy hat. He seems to be deeply involved in conversation with a large tree. The tree does not seem to be responding. As you watch, the old man gets very frustrated that the tree is not answering.
Running down the clock means that we get the usual failure state of "endless draconians attack until all PC's and NPC's are dead."
The outdoors encounters are generally not exceptionally exciting, and little seems to indicate that Area 21 is a safe place to stash the refugees, so either the players will have to haul that whining mob through Skullcap mountain with them, or they'll be wandering at random with refugees dying left and right and drowning in bogs like unattended children until they randomly bump into the safe zone. Most of the combat encounters, presumably to account for the PC's having 50-something low-level henchmen along, tend to involve large numbers of monsters, like an entire hive of giant bees(rip cute bees, but the PC's need your honey to feed the refugees) or an entire village of hill dwarves that the PC's can fight if they're dumb assholes. In other places, Fizban's brand of slapstick comedy ends up causing up to 6d6 damage to every PC as his magic drops them into a crevice in a glacier, potentially killing up to 10 refugees as well. Any party that doesn't crucify him and leave him to the dragonarmies are raw sociopaths.
The highlands end in a precipice that drops into a steep canyon leading southwest. On the northern edge, an ancient cobblestone road runs straight into a sheer cliff face in one direction and onto a large bridge in the other.
The bridge is weathered, its stones loose. Great arches rise out of the glacier. The bridge leads to a road on the other side. The span of the central arch has given way-a gap of 30 yards blocks passage over the bridge.
The glacier drops 50 ft. and levels off. The glacier is very smooth; a climber could easily slide into the canyon and the unknown lands beyond.
“Stand back!” Fizban suddenly cries, acting as if somebody just woke him up. He stares out across the bridge and then spreads his arms wide, his sleeves flopping over his hands. “I see the way! Behold!”
His hat topples over his face. “The powers I . . . uh . . . powers I . . .” He crosses his eyes at the tassle that swings in front of his face. “Uh, oh . . . yes . . . powers I bring forth!”
With a flurry and rustle of loose sleeves, the strange magician looses his spell. Improbably, a bridge span appears to cover the gap, bathed in brilliant light and apparently made completely of silver and gold.
Fizban’s triumph is short-lived. Moments later, the bridge collapses completely on both sides, taking the ground on which you stand with it. Fizban falls first, quickly disappearing into the canyon below. Uncontrollably, you slide down the glacier chute. The last thing you see as you slide off at breakneck speed to the southeast is the golden span, still floating high overhead.
Other places spawn infinite numbers of escalating-in-size ogre squads until the PC's leave, for no clear reason. All of two places the PC's can actually find any food supplies to help keep the refugees alive, these places are easily missed, and without food, the mounting deaths of refugees(and lacking the bonuses from finding food) will find the council voting against every plan and suggestion the PC's have. At this point the GM is effectively in charge of where the PC's go, or the refugees sit around sniffing their own farts until the dragonarmies murder them.
Technically this isn't a failure state but the adventure assumes the PC's give a shit about the refugees and also that Elistan survives, so likely the PC's should try not to get them killed.
Generally this entire section feels like it would be greatly improved by having the pursuing dragonarmies as more of a narrative thing than an actual mechanic for them, since the mechanic for them is mostly just "if you go to any of these places by accident, you get ded by many dragon lads, do not go there." In general the mechanics seem to harm this section considerably, and it feels like it would be helped a lot if it was more focused on the refugee politics. Rather than keeping track of individual units of food and blankets, and exactly how many refugees are dead. Just have it as more of a balancing act whether the party wants to play peacemaker or just stick with the councilmembers that support them primarily. Hell, maybe give us some opinions that the councilmembers would have on their quest to seek refuge with the dwarves, rather than just "this guy will be an asshole 90% of the time just to fuck with you."
The refugees can travel 12 hexes per day without stuff like tossing the sick and injured off a cliffside to speed themselves up, so unless you know exactly where to find food ahead of time, starvation scenarios are more or less guaranteed, especially since both places the PC's can find more food are relatively northerly and thus pretty likely to be rapidly gobbled up by the Dragonarmy once they get on the move.
Ultimately this section is pretty dull and there are only two places that really break it up. One is, obviously, Skullcap, the other is the optional Outpost Mines.
Chapter 12: The Outpost Mines
Look at this fucking spaghetti mess of a map. Sure are a lot of rooms. And areas.
Shame they're all fucking pointless.
All it contains is some ogres to fight(no loot, no real story relevance), more fucking gully dwarves(stupid, annoying, useless) and a talking monolith full of ANCIENT WISDOM... that it can use to dispense some exposition about Fistandantilus and nothing else.
Basically Fistandantilus went: "Har har! The Cataclysm has occurred and I am a masterful genius of magic! Clearly, any day now, the world will appreciate me and my kind. We will rule all with our mega-intellects. ANY DAY NOW." [hundreds of years pass] "Any... day... now... fuck this shit, I'm gonna go conquer some dwarves." And then he gathered an army of refugee dwarves that Thorbardin had not let in, waged war on Thorbardin, and when he lost he got so salty about it that he blew himself and his fortress up in a giant magical explosion.
He's, uh, a very nuanced character, you see.
No he's not, I'm lying.
Chapter 13: Skullcap
So, you know, if you're a GM, just hide the map, give the players vague instructions and move them in the right direction rather than fucking them over with the bullshit that the game actually wants you to visit on them. The players put the refugees into daycare at area 21, and then find Skullcap just mere moments later, a great big literally skull-shaped mountain ruin rising over a cursed swamp that occasionally attacks the PC's with ghosts. If I remember right, a large part of Dragons of Hope, if not all of it, wasn't actually in the books, it was just sort of a casual timeskip from Pax Tharkas to the end of DL4. I fucking wonder why, possibly because not even the world's greatest author could make this shit interesting. Maybe Stephen King, though, I could see this being a grim horror novel about players trapped around the table by some sort of demonic dungeon master forcing this on them.
"gee Raistlin where did the rest of the module go" "we lucked out and the guy playing Tasslehoff stole half the pages off the GM, it's better this way, trust me"
Skullcap is a relatively large dungeon, at least in terms of areas. It contains exciting things like more dragons to murder the players(A Shadow Dragon, to be exact. It says that it'll talk to anyone it hasn't killed yet, but says nothing about whether or not it'll attack at random like just about every other creature in these modules. The difficulty of Skullcap depends a lot on where the players go first, since in the Armory(area 61) they can literally recruit an adult Brass Dragon who's been frozen in time for hundreds of years, he'll cheerfully accompany the party as long as they're not the world's hugest dickheads and they can use him to help fight the Shadow Dragon if they want to raid its treasure hoard, though that seems like a pointlessly dickish thing since the writing seems to mostly imply that the shadow dragon will just chill out unless the players attempt to do just that, raid its hoard.
There are also some incredibly sick treasures to find in here, like a fucking Vorpal Longsword +3, for those not learned in D&D Lore, Vorpal Swords have a chance to just one-shot any enemy they hit, lopping off their enemy and icing them no matter how much HP they happen to have. The majority of the rooms though are essentially just empty space, unless your GM is a sociopath who uses the random encounter tables verbatim, which means that in Skullcap there's a 10% chance per 30 minutes that enemies will randomly show up and attack. And of course, in Skullcap that means multiple chances of level-draining undead as well as, randomly, a bunch of Kender prisoners that could just happen to be there. What are still-living Kender prisoners doing in a fucking fortress that's been abandoned for hundreds of years? Most of the fixed encounters are just more level-draining undead, too. There are, of course, also some classic wacky wizard traps like "room that shoots 10d6 damage fireball at you and TPK's the fucking party lol."
The primary goal here, except for collecting those pieces of sick magical loot and your friendly brass dragon, is to reach area 92 or 93 where you'll finally get told where Thorbardin is as well as how to find the entrance(though finding both would be preferable, 92 has a small PLOT DUMP and 93 has loot).
93 just has a map to Thorbardin, 92 instead has a magical helmet that makes anyone who puts it on be temporarily possessed by the spirit of an ancient dwarven prince who tells them about the war against Fistandantilus as well as how to find Thorbardin. Either counts as the information the party needs to get to the finish line. Access depends on having either the right spells or finding the right keys around the place, the party can also stumble across Fistandantilus'(fuck I'm getting tired of writing out that name) Demilich remnants which will just watch them spookily, neither communicating nor attacking unless the party attack it first.
In general Dragons of Hope could have had a lot of potential, players leading the desperate refugees from Pax Tharkas into the wilderness and protecting them, but Skullcap feels like a very pointless side trip there just to make sure the module has a dungeon. Just have them know where the isolationist kingdom of Thorbardin is and focus on the hardships of the route... like so many other things about Dragonlance, it feels like a missed opportunity. The GM would also have to really provide most of the roadside conflicts, since the module does almost nothing to suggest them or provide any pre-made other than "the refugee leaders will pointlessly and spitefully tell the players to go fucked when they suggest a course of action or destination."
At least it can only get better in...
DL4: Dragons of Desolation
Kree! You know that's a lie, coward, unless they canonically shove that fucker Fizban off a cliff!
C'mon, Skeleton Warrior, language, there might be kids reading this.
Dragons of Hope: 3rd Edition ChangesOriginal SA post
Dragons of Hope: 3rd Edition Changes
1. Like its AD&D version, mass combat and survival rules for the Abanasinian Refugees exists. As does the faction system, and are both mostly translated wholesale plus a few D20isms (having the Leadership feat helps in most matters for instance). However, the faction system makes use of the Diplomacy rules, which any 3rd Edition veteran knows can be easily abused by cranking up the modifiers to the point you can sweet-talk just about anyone. Only the Seekers and the Free Folk are Hostile, who are led by Eben Shatterstone the traitor which is why this is the case. The Plainsfolk are unfriendly, but with a good die roll even they can be put up to Helpful. It shouldn't be very hard for a party with a Diplomancer to get all the non-Eben factions on their side.
2. The map of the Tharkadan Mountains detailing places the PCs can visit is easier to make out than the AD&D version. The PDF unfortunately has a low-resolution image, but I snapped a better one (hopefully) on my iPhone once it sends through:
3. The Dragonarmy's occupation of places is more forgiving. Most notable locations explain at what point they occupy a place. Instead of AD&D's five days, they will claim all but one of the notable areas in 6 days, and the Hopeful Vale (the place the refugees camp at while the PCs visit Thorbadin) in 13 days.
4. Fizban's monkeycheese antics which can get innocents killed from the collapsing bridge is excised completely from the module.
5. The Neidar (hill dwarf) village the PCs visit has a sidebar of answers for questions PCs are likely to ask them, from dragonarmy patrols to a brief history of the Dwarfgate Wars as to why they don't regard Thorbadin as a safe haven to Skullcap's location.
6. The honeycomb cliffs food source had royal jelly which contained magical properties equivalent to healing potions in AD&D. In 3rd Edition it's entirely boring mundane honey but has enough food units (which exists in both versions) to feed all of the refugees for for the entire trip and then some.
7. The Steam Caverns side trek is more or less excised mapwise on account that the 3rd Edition book regards the exact geography is unimportant. Additionally the refugees are not eager to camp in the Steam Caverns on account that gully dwarves live there (this happens in both versions). On the other hand, the gully dwarves graciously provide lots of food units free of charge to the refugees, although they taste foul.
8. Given how buff dragons got in 3rd Edition, the Shadow Dragon encounter in Skullcap may end up as a TPK should they choose to attack it, even with Blaize's help; this is due to Whisper being a unique form of dragon which has darkness-themed abilities such as a breath weapon which deals 7 negative levels (which may be equal to the party if they're the 8 PC set-up). Said Shadow Dragon gets a proper name in this version (Whisper), and will mistake the party's Sage archetype PC for Fistandantilus and mention that he is obligated to obey him as part of the original bargain. Sadly this involves guarding Skullcap against intruders and not say, going down into its lower reaches or defending the refugees from the Dragonarmies.
9. There are more rooms with encounters in Skullcap. For instance, PCs may fight Thoraxes (giant bugs) while climbing down to its lower reaches. As there are no rules for random encounters within this dungeon, this was likely done to make it feel less empty.
10. The Vorpal Longsword is replaced with a Ghost Touch Longsword instead (which can hit incorporeal undead, several of which are in the dungeon). Some other treasures are added or modified, like an eastern treasure room containing a Keen Scimitar (doubles critical hit range) which don't have parallels in AD&D to my knowledge.
11. Fistandantilus' shadowy remnant is considered a demilich monster in the AD&D version, which likely explains why he doesn't attack the PCs on sight given it would be a likely TPK. In the 3rd Edition version he is a unique creature which is more in line with a reasonable enemy encounter.
12. Blaize's fate is not illuminated on or how he'll depart the party, oddly enough. He can take humanoid form, but this is a bit of a plot hole in the fact that the metallic dragons have a pact not to interfere against the Dragonarmies or else the kidnapped dragon eggs (which are secretly being used to make draconians) will be smashed. This is also why the metallic dragons in the module are often in isolated places or have taken humanoid form to blend in among mortals.
Dragons of DesolationOriginal SA post Dragonlance
Dragons of Desolation
At least this one has kind of a cool cover! So, recapping, in the last adventure the party spent a lot of time wandering around the wilderness wondering how Fizban was going to get them all killed before finally leaving the useless refugees somewhere dry and kicking over Skullcap for loot. In the process they met a dragon that didn't give a shit about them, and a neat dragon friend who just kind of fucked off because he didn't really feel like helping trivialize the next adventure. Or possibly Ember ate him for lunch, depends on your random encounters. In the process they found maps indicating where the lost dwarven nation of Thorbardin was, so they could finally have a place to leave the refugees without any awkward feelings of guilt.
Also if the PC's failed to find a map in DL3, "Fizban the Fabulous" would tell them where to go, thus revealing that Fizban could have saved them multiple dangerous days of slogging around haunted swamps just by telling them where stuff was.
So let's get started.
Chapter 14: The Doors of Thorbardin
love how Tanis on the left there just seems mostly annoyed and how the busted perspective makes Tanis look either ten feet tall or Ember(the dragon) like he's barely the size of a horse.
The story starts out after the party has rejoined the refugees and told them that they can finally be rid of each other. Rejoicing, the refugees gather what food they have and hold a grand feast to praise the protagonists for being such cool dudes. Elistan toasts the heroes and somehow gets pass-out drunk on water, no one can wake him up. Presumably the PC's don't toss him in a ditch and go on their way at this point, they're meant to keep Elistan's lifeless-seeming body around for plot reasons.
In the night, the PC's all have spooky dreams about a LOCKED DOOR with Elistan on the other side yelling "PLEASE, HELP ME FIND MY STUFF." If they open the door, they go to a spooky DREAM TOWER where they see mysterious evil things that... just... aren't actually revealed or described at all right now, and more Elistan yelling at them. The players eventually wake up feeling vaguely ill at ease about stuff.
When they wake up, Verminaard, who again apparently knows where they are and what they were doing all along, is hovering above the camp on Ember, gloating.
Verminaard (see NPC Capsules) calls for the heroes, using both voice and telepathy. “Pitiful fools,” he sneers, “to think you could defeat me in the Mind of Evil!”
When Verminaard uses the phrase, “The Mind of Evil,” each of the heroes suddenly remembers the terrible dream of the night before.
Tanis: Dreams that he's gotta choose between really wanting to dick Caramon's half-sister and saving Elistan. If he dithers, he'll get stabbed.
Goldmoon: Dreams that her dead tribe is evil and also that Elistan is evil.
Riverwind: Gets Goldmoon's dream but from a third-person perspective.
Sturm: Dreams that he gets too scared to fight a dragon.
Laurana: Let's everyone else die because she's too lazy to do anything.
Remaining non-Caramon, non-Flint fighters: Dream that they stab a draconian but the draconian was actually Caramon
Tasslehoff: Dreams that trying to pick locks and steal stuff will get you killed.
Caramon: Raistlin turns real evil.
Raistlin: You realize that you're in 3rd ed D&D and all the non-casters are irrelevant, you leave them to die.
Flint: You feel responsible for everyone else getting stabbed to death in their dreams.
In the books the dreams and their details matter considerably more since they are, obviously, partially prophetic but also intended to be hugely dispiriting to the protagonists. In a game where the players have agency(well, okay, this is the DL series, they have some agency), prophecies are considerably less effective because making them come true in any real sense will usually involve massive railroading unless the players are very cooperative.
“It is pointless for you to continue in this lost cause,” he says. “Wealth and power can be yours if you but take your place beside me, and place your swords in my service.”
Verminaard has no intention of keeping his word. If the heroes betray the refugees, Verminaard takes them back to Pax Tharkas with promises of rich rewards. Once there, he orders his troops to feed them to Ember.
If the heroes attack, Ember flies out of missile range. Verminaard laughs at the futility of the attack. If the heroes actually hit either Verminaard or the dragon, Ember attacks with spells, but does not use his breath weapon.
If the heroes reject Verminaard’s offer, he says, “Fools! I could destroy you as you stand. But I have other uses for you... and there are things worse than death!"
Of course, any suggestion at being able to affect the course of the story is a trick that gets you killed if you don't pick the branch the authors wanted you to take.
I mean let's just recap this shit. Literally the only real threat to the dragonarmies, the return of the true faith, is right in front of Verminaard. Two passes with Ember's breath weapon, problem solved, Dragonarmies have a win locked in. But Verminaard doesn't do that. It's. Urgh. I mean if the guy is already telepathic, just have him tell them this shit in, I don't know, the fucking dream they just had? That he apparently knew all about and/or controlled somehow? That would have avoided this entire confused stupid moron situation.
So after this obviously the party sets out for Thorbardin to get this shit over with. Keep in mind that the countdown to the dragonarmies killing all the refugees in DL3(max of 6 days since they set out, so a total of 10 if the players blocked up Pax Tharkas with collapsing stone) is still going, meaning that the party may well be operating under a strict time limit here. Some smart cookie might get the idea of bringing the refugees with them into Thorbardin, the reason why this is not a good way to keep them safe is that they keep getting randomly attacked by infinite amounts of Derro dwarves until the refugees go back out into the cold. Why? Because fuck the authors of these things, that's why.
It doesn't take long for the party to find the gate, which can either be opened by: an elf or half-elf with lucky rolls, a Fireball spell or a Knock spell. If the party has none of these, Fizban blows himself up Fireballing the gate open, if that's not necessary, he falls to his "death" when the gate opens and knocks him off a cliff. This is, sadly, not Fizban's death. In the books, as mentioned, he "died" in Pax Tharkas, saving Tasslehoff. Not sure which survivor I'd be more upset by, in that case, but he always turns up again, Fizban is impossible to get rid of.
Laurana and Eben are tagging along as NPC's, it's noted. The GM is instructed to repeatedly remind the PC's that Laurana is there, especially Gilthanas and Tanis, though she's also supposed to not actually do anything. Meanwhile Eben helps with everything he can and is even controlled by a PC as a henchman until he inevitably stabs everyone in the back like he's supposed to. I'm thoroughly expecting his epic betrayal to be completely underwhelming.
It's also worth noting that during the trip to Thorbardin's gate from the refugee camp, random encounters will happen like usual. One of the possibilities is "Hylar Dwarves." Now, Flint and any other dwarves we've met so far are Neidar dwarves, Hill dwarves. Hylar dwarves are Mountain dwarves, i.e. usually from Thorbardin. Nothing here indicates what happens when the party encounters a pack of mountain dwarves, whether they're from Thorbardin, random wanderers, have any useful info or what. They're just a random fucking encounter with no substance.
Chapter 15: The North Gate of the Dwarves
is... is that Sturm in the background? did he fall into a black hole? WHY IS HE SUDDENLY TWO FEET TALL?
So we're inside Thorbardin now. Let's have a ma-
Alright I gotta admit, the maps in the DL modules so far are pretty awful dogshit. Their focus on verticality and regular transits from one level to the next, both up and down, is fucking terrible for keeping track of what's going on where. Now look at this hot fucking mess. In the upper right you have the map of the dwarven kingdom in general, which is pretty reasonable and parseable, then down below you have this fucking muddle of cubes. You want to know how to read that? Well fucking so do I, because I feel like the book's presentation of it is severely confusing.
dwarf maps posted:
Also on the map are the sixteen City Blocks that make up the dwarven cities. All the City Blocks on the map are facing north.
It has been said that if you’ve seen one dwarven city, you’ve seen them all. Nothing could be more true. Once a dwarf finds something he likes, he sticks with it. Dwarves leave architectural innovation to the elves, who enjoy that sort of thing. In the world of Krynn, all dwarven cities are made of the same City Blocks, repeated endlessly.
To find your way around a dwarven city, a third type of map is used. This map resembles a crossword puzzle, made up of small boxes with numbers and letters in them. Each chapter has one or more “crossword puzzle” maps in it. Each box on the map represents one of the sixteen City Blocks on the large map.
In each box is a place for a Block Number (one of the sixteen city block types), Facing (a compass direction: N, E, S, or W, or “R” for Random), and Encounter (keyed to the Encounter section of the chapter). All boxes have a City Block Number and a Facing; only some of them have Encounters.
The left box in the example on pg. 10 contains a “2” and an “E.” On the large map, “2” is a Great Hall. (Remember, all City Blocks on the large map are facing north.) Since the direction is “E,” rotate the block 90 degrees so that the City Block faces east. It connects with a “8 E.” Looking again at the large map, you see that “8” is a Court. Since it, too, faces north on the large map, you must rotate it to face east. The court contains an Encounter, as well. Refer to the current chapter’s Encounter section to find out what happens in the Court.
(NOTE: If the direction is “R,” assign a facing at random.) Some areas of the dwarven kingdom are currently inhabited, others are in ruins. Modify the block descriptions below based on the information in each chapter. City Blocks are connected to each other by the little extensions on each block, which are open. If the City Block doesn’t connect with anything, the extensions are just alcoves.
Some of the cities of Thorbardin are not visited in this adventure. You can create your own dwarven cities just by preparing “crossword puzzle” maps, and set your own adventures therein.
why the fuck make that overcomplicated map system if almost every goddamn cell is just empty of interesting encounters or anything similar, fucking Christ
Anyway, once inside it's pretty clear that the area around the northern gate got fucked severely by some heavy fighting long ago. Things are in ruins, there are dusty skeletons and rusty weapons and armor all over the place. Depending on how the players decide to enter the great halls, whether they move straight ahead or stick to the walls, they either encounter the Dwarf Cops who ask them to come peacefully to see the king(Thane) or they encounter the Dark Guide, a Derro who will just try to lead them into a trap. Basically anything other than surrendering to the cops and letting them bring the party to the Thane is punished somehow, with the only real choice being whether the party help the Dwarf Cops rescue some kidnap victims held by the local Derro gang. If they decide to follow the terrified Derro guide rather than the cops, they get killed by a whole pack of 250 angry Derro.
So just follow the cops, I guess.
Kree! When listening to the cops sounds like a good idea, maybe it's time to take a break! Take care of your mental health!
Gotta listen to the Skeleton Warrior, guys.
Next up: More dwarves, less Fizban
Chapter 16: The Honor of the HylarOriginal SA post Dragonlance
Chapter 16: The Honor of the Hylar
I just want to point out that "Chapter" 14 was literally just eating breakfast and having a dream, and Chapter 15 was essentially opening one door.
Anyway, now that the Dwarf Cops are in charge, it's literally a railroad as the party is shuffled along the dwarven kingdom to to the Court of Thanes. In fact I'm not even sure why we have a map of the kingdom considering that almost everything that goes on in there is under the auspices of heavy-handed railroading, really just a chance for the GM to hand out descriptions of how cool and majestic the dwarven underworld is. Also dwarf kids will laugh at them for being weird tall topsiders along the way.
The party could dodge, kill or escape the dwarf cops, but we're basically told not to because either dwarf farmers have them arrested by yet more dwarf cops or they get ambushed by triple-digit numbers of dark dwarves(Theiwar or Daergar, i.e. Derro or Duergar) who might well not kill them, but will certainly bore the players to death around the 80th identical dwarf ambush.
If the party should depart the North Hall of Justice on the Second Road, they encounter a war party of 1d10 Theiwar led by a 5-HD commander after 1d4 turns. Each 1d4 turns thereafter, they encounter another party, each with 1d6 more Theiwar than the previous one, until they turn back, are killed, or are captured.
Basically every "wrong" choice just ends in "until they are killed, surrender or are captured."
Eventually the party is taken to the dwarven capital, carved out of a titanic stalagtite above a massive underground sea.
If the characters should commandeer a boat and try to visit any of the other cities that line the Urkhan Sea, they are attacked by a dragon turtle.
Holy shit what is wrong with whoever wrote this?
On arrival, the party gets either luxury accomodations(if they helped the cops) or prison cells(if they did anything else, essentially), until the Thanes are ready to see them. The Thanes themselves are kind of unimportant, because they're basically split between Normal Racist Dwarves and Evil Racist Dwarves. For whatever reason, the dwarven civilization tolerates the Theiwar and Daergar, groups of dwarves dedicated to being evil berserkers and/or magic-using highway bandits, as part of their ruling council. Also currently the lord of the Theiwar is simultaneously plotting with, and mind controlled by, Verminaard.
The good racist dwarves listen to the party's asylum request politely until the lord of the Theiwar starts in on a racist screed about inferior hill dwarves and humans and how they should all be beheaded and burned for fuel. The ultimate fallout is that the council tells the party they need to recover an ancestral hammer from their tomb valley or they won't give the refugees asylum. Failing to accept this quest gets the party thrown into jail to rot indefinitely. Also the party has to leave someone behind as a hostage, which just so happens to be Eben, the traitor. In return they get a Dwarf Cop along for the adventure, the same one that arrested them as soon as they arrived in Thorbardin.
If the heroes do not agree to the quest, they are imprisoned in the dungeon on level 17 of the Life-Tree, and left to rot.
They mapped out 28 levels' worth of their half-assed Dwarven City Blocks for a place that only exists so the cutscenes have a place to happen.
Chapter 17: Kalil S'rith
Real talk, fantasy authors should be kicked in the head any time they use an apostrophe in a made-up word or name.
Anyway, the party wanders into the dwarven tomb valley which only exists to give the GM a chance to drop some more random encounters on the PC's while they walk down a straight path. They walk down the path, rebuild an ancient portal from some scattered stones and eventually figure out that the password is carved into one of the stones, thus taking them to a giant floating tomb where the adventure continues. If the party gets stuck, the dwarf cop tells them what to do. Everything else is just more cutscene fodder and random encounters of zero interest except for one thing, one decent random encounter along the way.
"A rotting figure limps down from a large tomb. Its arms are outstretched and it is mumbling. Behind it trail dwarven undead."
This is the mummy of Rathkar, who cannot rest until forgiven by 77 men who listen to his entire life story. He has been forgiven by 31 so far. Rathkar’s story takes hours to tell, and he mumbles. His “terrible” sin was that he never told his wife that he loved her.
Keep in mind the party is still under somewhat of a time limit before the dragonarmies murder all the refugees outside Thorbardin, because the mountain dwarves are huge assholes, just like the elves. So this actually has, gasp, a choice for the players where they can either politely listen to accelerate this guy being freed from his curse, or fight him and his undead entourage, which are quite defeatable.
Anyway, the party reconstructs the dwarven Stargate and it teleports them to THE FLOATING TOMB
So the Floating Tomb has no random encounters, it only has traps, shitloads of traps, and one asshole inhabitant. The party arrives at 24 on the map and he's after them every step of the way.
Evenstar is basically a peaceful, though world-weary dragon, amused at the heroes’ struggle. He enjoys confusing people by changing shape when not observed. He does not reveal that he is a gold dragon until noted in the text, only that he is the guardian of the tomb. He does not use his powers to cause death.
He stalks them invisibly or in various polymorphed guises, not "causing death," just shoving the party into a variety of traps that can cause between 1d6 and 10d6 points of damage, ostensibly to test their worthiness and non-assholishness. Despite that essentially none bar one of the tower's traps are in any way moral or ethical tests, they're just tests of raw strength and dexterity. Also there are some traps that will just plain drop people off the floating island into the burial valley below which A) deals 10d6 damage(basically killing anyone short of Caramon) and B) means they have to deal with the random encounters down there solo, which include undead level drainers! Oh boy!
For instance, check area 42. It's full of randomly swinging invisible logs that, if they hit you, will knock you down to 35 for undefined damage(falling between levels appears to be about 3d6 in other examples). Then in 35, you may need to make a dex check to avoid being thrown down to 50, again for some unclear falling damage, probably another 3d6. 50 is just an empty room with a single rope crossing it. If the GM is nice, you manage to grab hold of it on the way down, but even then it takes a dex check to make it to either side. Fucking up your checks in room 50 drops you out of the bottom of the floating tomb, 10d6 damage on splashdown.
In other words, fuck Evenstar, a smart party stabs him in the brain the first chance they get, dogpiling him and blitzing him down, since his magic is powering 90% of the dangerous traps in the place. In part because he's also the person maintaining this shitty effect:
Every time the heroes choose a direction, they may (50%) move opposite the way they think they are moving.
Mmmmmmmm yes I want Wizardry 1 spinner squares in my pen and paper RPG. This is more like a fucking BDSM session than a D&D session, Jesus Christ.
Aside from that Evenstar also stuffed the place full of spikes, blades, giant rolling boulders, flamethrowers, falling ice, spiked pits, etc. but he's a good-hearted soul who doesn't want to kill, honest.
The place does at least have some rewards in terms of magical items, some plain +X stuff, but also scrolls and some spectacles that allow the wearer to see thorugh illusions. The only thing Evenstar warns the party not to steal in any sort of polymorphed guise is the spectacles, probably because they'd see him in his true form and realize he's the asshole dragon causing all their problems. Most rooms, though? Just traps and bullshit, almost all based entirely on random chance, none on clever problem-solving.
I had a problem reading through this place, though. See, the party's here for the Hammer of Kharas, and nowhere does it say: "This is it. Here's the Hammer of Kharas. Congrats guys, you found the thing you needed." So I read it more closely and...
The room is hot, lit with a sanguine light streaming through crimson windows. Only a narrow balcony thrusts over the shaft that opens to the distant lake below.
Hanging from a slender thread, a mighty bronze hammer swings back and forth. Every hour it strikes one of the gongs thrusting out from the walls.
Evenstar casts an invisible cylindrical wall of force over the swinging Hammer. The Hammer may then only be retrieved by finding some way to sever the cord and catch it; climb beneath and up to it, or by waiting for the end of the spell.
Except for the capital H on the Hammer in the last line, you'd never know this was the Hammer of Kharas. In fact, I don't even know if it is. I just think it is, because it's the only reasonable thing it could be, the only thing that's actually explicitly called a hammer in the place.
Eventually, presumably, the party, after wishing they could stab the game designers, figure out that the only hammer in the place has to be the one they're looking for, and limp back to the exit, carrying their severed limbs and stapling Tasslehoff's head back on... stumbling right into a cutscene.
As they march out on to the platform to teleport back down, Ember glides in going all: "GNAR HAR HAR, I WILL KILL ALL THESE LOSERS." and Evenstar goes "ehhhhh, you shouldn't." and Ember goes: "YEAH BUT I WILL" and attacks, and this time he holds back no punches. It's straight to breath weapons and spell bombardments to TPK the party for multiple rounds before gliding in for melee. And what does Evenstar, polymorphed to look like a dwarf, do? Fucking nothing. This ancient gold dragon asshole just watches as the party gets incinerated unless they can somehow catch him in the blast from one of Ember's attacks.
Being made by a species of absurd dickheads, the Hammer of Kharas will also specifically allow the party to use none of its artifact powers in this fight. Again, dragon breath against a tightly packed party with no way out. Almost certainly the first blast will kill or incapacitate everyone in the party who's a caster, bows will do negligible damage against Ember and the melee combatants won't get to do anything for multiple rounds, leaving Ember several rounds to kill everyone. Unless the GM intentionally pulls punches or de-powers Ember, I can't see any way, outside of absurdly lucky rolls, where the PC's would survive this fight.
Evenstar's only contribution is to suggest that the party use a nearby flagpole as a lance, except it also says in the book that Ember can't be hit with it if he can see it. How the fuck are you going to stealthily use a flagpole as a braced spear against a dragon? Idiot book. Afterwards, Evenstar goes: "Gosh, good thing you won, this hammer is really important and you should guard it!" And then whips up a bunch of magic flying horses for the party to ride down to the ground and back to the dwarven city, a trip during which they're harried by multiple smaller red dragons(Ember's kids) and draconians.
Chapter 18: Dark Realms
So, unless the party gets back to Thorbardin fast enough, they get hit with encounters underground every two in-game minutes. Their speed getting back is entirely random as every ten minutes outside the party has a 10% chance of getting attacked, digging into their surplus time getting underground. At most, collapsing the path behind them buys them another hour, consider that this is a party that just fought a dragon after a real dickhead dungeon, they're almost certainly low on HP and spells, and are going to be fucked by even casual encounters unless they have a chance to take a rest. But the game won't give them one.
Unfortunately, even if the party avoids the dragonarmies, they're fleeing into a part of Thorbardin controlled by the Daergar, evil berserker Duergar. They've "captured" Eben, whom the party is meant to find in a Daergar prison, along with an old guy named Beren who is extremely metaplot important, but otherwise just some ancient ranger dude with a bit of dementia. The party has no reason to believe Beren matters in any way, at this point. The party can either A) follow Eben who claims to know the way out but will lead them into a trap, B) escape on their own which will lead them into a trap or C) keep fighting until they get defeated at which point they're captured and delivered into the same trap.
If characters try to go in another direction, they encounter parties of Daergar and draconians that fight to either capture them or force them into the final encounter.
It's stuff like this that honestly makes me skip through a good bit of the side stuff, because it's always just a brief description and then "now get back on the path, scum."
Anyway, they encounter Verminaard next to a ceremonial pit and he's of course decked out in items and enchantments that make him immune to attack, so the players have to stand there and listen to him, even if they weren't brought there as prisoners. He also has, like, 200 Daergar hanging out as buddies to assist him if the players are really persistent.
Verminaard speaks again. “Word has reached me that Ember has been slain! For that you will surely pay! You thought to best me by gaining the Hammer of Kharas, but I was in control all along. I permitted you to retrieve what I could not. Now I have you and the Hammer, and with it I shall command the dwarven kingdoms. To show you how futile has been your struggle, one of your own will bring the Hammer to me."
Hold on there buddy. You knew where the fuck it was, because you were ready to ambush the party. It being in the sky wasn't a problem because the puzzle to re-assemble the portal wasn't really a puzzle, just "slap these rocks together" and besides you have dragons that could just have shovelled hundreds of dudes on to the flying tomb. What prevented you from just grabbing the fucking hammer yourself, asshole? In fact, what does Verminaard even need the hammer for? The hammer's only special attribute is that it allows forging Dragonlances. If no one has it, good is already losing. Evil doesn't need it to gain an advantage, they just need to prevent the forces of good from claiming and using it.
His gaze sweeps over the party members. Ask each player in turn if he will voluntarily take the Hammer to Verminaard. If all refuse (as they should), Eben Shatterstone reveals himself as the traitor. Take Eben’s Character Card back from the player and have Eben tell the party that, indeed, he works for Verminaard. If Eben is not with the party, Verminaard can attempt to telepathically control anyone with a wisdom of 10 or less. The person he attempts to control may make a save vs. spells to resist. If all resist, Verminaard has his personal guard retrieve the Hammer.
Anyway, the hammer mind controls whoever was bringing it to Verminaard and bonks him for a ton of damage. Then Verminaard casts spells at the hammer wielder, knocking him down and slowly executing him on the edge of the big ol' Chekhov's Pit in the middle of the room. Meanwhile the Daergar are in religious ecstacy over seeing the Hammer of Kharas do its thing and are just watching like a cheering crowd, not interfering. If Verminaard is allowed to finish off the traitor, he summons a Fireshadow(totally not a balrog, guys) to help him, and if the players sat through the dream cutscenes at the start of the module, Elistan's force ghost shows up and blesses them all while cursing Verminaard.
Once the party has Verminaard close to death, he jumps into the pit, killing himself just to deny the PC's the chance to loot his body, and the dwarf cop that's been accompanying the team since they entered Thorbardin dies no matter what. He's been poisoned by some random event during the fight and nothing can save him. Not sure why the game gives the players LOST DIVINE MAGIC and then seems to prevent them from using it meaningfully as often as possible.
Anyway, this fight would normally be relatively fair except that Verminaard has a bunch of ettin and ogre bodyguards who help him out, and the party still hasn't had a chance to rest up since fighting Ember. They will be at minimum HP and completely out of spells. The Hammer of Kharas does a lot of damage and certainly helps, but a couple of lucky hits from Verminaard and his lackeys will finish the party off. Not letting them have a chance to heal up between those two fights is a terrible design decision. Also if Verminaard manages to summon the Fireshadow you might as well just tell the party they get TPK'd, there's no way they'll be able to survive.
If the heroes defeat Verminaard and recover the Hammer of Kharas, a party of Hylar dwarves led by Hornfel Kytil arrives shortly after Arman Kharas’ death. He asks the heroes to give him the Hammer.
If the heroes give Hornfel the Hammer of Kharas, he hails them as saviors of Thorbardin, and grants them and all their companions safe passage through the kingdom. Each character who survived is made an honorary War Leader (equivalent to a knighthood), and a citizen of Thorbardin. If the heroes refuse, the Hammer uses its powers to take over its wielder, and gives itself into the hands of Hornfel. Hornfel treats the heroes the same as if they gave him the Hammer voluntarily.
I still can't believe that after four modules the only meaningful choice the party has had is whether to listen to a mummy ramble about his wife for a couple of hours or not.
Anyway, the party still has to get back and actually fetch the refugees, during which they keep getting attacked by more fucking draconians. Holy shit guys cool it with the random encounters.
If the players took too long, by the time they get back to the refugees they're all dead, except for Laurana, Elistan and like twenty injured guys. Turns out Elistan woke up from his nap immediately after the party killed Verminaard and... I don't even know what the fucking point of that entire thing was. Why did Elistan have to be a force ghost to aid them? He could just have busted in along with some dwarf warriors during the end fight and cast some buffing and healing spells, restoring the party to fighting capacity no matter how injured they were, just so the fight wasn't a total wash.
Anyway, the party now has a dwarven knighthood and are rid of the fucking refugees. They get to keep Elistan around, though, heading south to the city of Tarsis to arrange an escape fleet for the refugees to sail away to safe lands in... even though the refugees are already safe. That was the point of the whole last two modules, getting them safely ensconced in dwarven lands somewhere the dragonarmies won't soon each them. Wasn't it? I don't know. They've also gotten the less-blatantly-evil mountain dwarves secured as kings of all Thorbardin through ownership of the Hammer of Kharas, which gives them the authority to tell the Daergar and Theiwar dwarves to stop murdering random visitors and other dwarves.
Kree! You still have another eleven modules to go, jackass!
You suck, Skeleton Warrior.
Next up: DL6: Dragons of Ice
Dragons of Desolation: 3rd Edition ChangesOriginal SA post
Dragons of Desolation: 3rd Edition Changes
I forgot to link my blog post for the preceding chapter Dragons of Hope, so here it is.
Here's the blog post for Dragons of Desolation.
1. Although duergar and derro were the "dark dwarf clans" of the original adventure, further Dragonlance supplements had them go the way of the dodo and made the Theiwar and Daegar their own unique subraces. No psionics or inherent insanity, they're pale dwarves who have light blindness and an inclination towards stealth. As to why the other dwarf clans tolerate them, I presume it's the fact that an all-out war (until the Chronicles) would be disastrous for both sides; another factor is that the dark dwarf kingdoms are just as talented in dwarven craftsmanship but are under a trade embargo by the "good dwarf" clans who also control the major roads into the surface. This means that the Theiwar and Daegar don't have as much economic pull, which the setting uses to justify them grabbing for power in treacherous and deceitful ways.
2. Verminaard doesn't try to pull a Vader "join me and we can rule the world!" thing.
3. The evil derro/Theiwar guide who leads the party into the ambush of 75 evil dwarves is instead a Daegar who leads them into a nest of four umber hulks. The guide can be caught and interrogated about the political situation in Thorbadin (with a pro-Daegar bias of course)
4. One of the rooms which contained a pair of ropers now has just one; likely on account that they're quite powerful in 3rd Edition (CR 12 IIRC).
5. One area where the PCs leave Northgate with Arman is the North Hall of Justice. The PCs must sneak through here in order to get into friendly territory. The 3rd Edition version calls for Move Silently checks every two minutes until a total of five failures is accumulated. If the PCs fail a sixth check (Hide or Move Silently) they are attacked by a small contingent of 22 dark dwarves. Which is manageable in comparison to the 250-strong battalion which they can face (and face 40 automatically with presumably no chance to hide).
6. There's more detail on what happens if PCs go off the beaten path and explore the section of Thorbadin built around the Life-Tree, such as 5 Hylar guards being summoned for every round of combat which happens if the PCs don't surrender and accept an escort to the Hall of the Thanes. But it's still just as rail-roady.
7. During the meeting with the Thanes the PCs have a chance to realize that the Daegar Thane is being telepathically dominated by Verminaad due to similar speech and mannerisms. In the 3.5 version this is excised, and instead a Sense Motive check realizes that he seems to have well-rehearsed his speech and knows several things he shouldn't know, like expecting the PCs' arrival in the kingdom.
8. The adventure dispenses with the extensive maps not relevant to combat areas.
9. An additional encounter with dire wolves infected with super-rabies (and have a "bloodrager" template to reflect this) can be fought in the Valley of the Thanes, aka the undead-infested place with the floating island holding the Hammer of Kharas.
10. The motives of Evenstar is described less as moral tests and more to confuse and misdirect intruders. He also will not use any of his powers to cause death (although some of his pranks like greasing up a staircase can cause 1d6 or 2d6 damage and the swinging invisible logs 3d6). In the room with the magical truth-seeing glasses he will warn the party against theft when disguised as Kharas but not try and force them to stop (last part is added in the 3rd Edition version).
11. The Floating Tomb has four wyverns which can be fought in the upper courtyard. They are advance scouts for the Dragonarmies, and one of them will immediately fly off to warn Ember about the location of the flying tomb (Ember comes regardless, though).
12. Evenstar will join the fight against Ember and attack if the big red dragon somehow harms Evenstar or does collateral damage to the nearby towers (this happens in both versions). Evenstar is a stronger dragon than he, and the Hammer of Kharas' power can be used against him. Furthermore, the PCs have the opportunity to cause Ember to impale himself on the pseudo-Dragonlance with a Bluff vs Sense Motive check like a matador taunting a bull. He has a +27 Sense Motive, so he's almost never going to fail on this. The fight is still just as lopsided save for one trick: DRAGONS HATE HIM; STAY AT HOME WIZARDS DISCOVERS ONE NEAT SPELL TO ONE SHOT SMAUG!
It's Shivering Touch from Frostburn, which is a no-save 3d6 Dexterity damage spell which requires a melee touch to connect. Just about every True Dragon in 3.5 has a score of 10 Dexterity, and Ember's no exception.
13. Neither Verminaard nor the Hammer will control the PC's actions. It will even leap out of a PC's hands to be grabbed by Eben, and Eben hesitates due to an internal dilemma. It will then be taken by Rance, the Daegar Thane, who will then betray Verminaard by throwing the hammer at him in a "I WILL CONTROL THE DWARVEN REALMS NOT YOU!" speech. The Theiwar and Draconians end up fighting the Daegar, and then Rance is paralyzed by Verminaard's Hold Person as Eben moves to kill him. During this chaos the PCs can break free and retrieve their equipment. In the AD&D version it is Eben and Eben alone who does the dramatic triple-cross turn against Verminaard; instead of Hold Person the Red Dragonarmy leader casts Spirtiual Hammer and hits Eben for maximum damage every round.
14. In the AD&D version Elistan will fill the PCs with hope and vigor via special dream magic, granting them bonuses on various abilities. In the 3rd Edition version this goes not happen, but 5 rounds in Takhisis is dissatisfied with how Verminaard's handling things and strips him of all of his divine spells including any active buffs. It is possible to kill Verminaard before he falls into the pit, but he will fling himself into it if he believes he is at risk of capture rather than defeat. Verminaard's Dragonarmy soldiers in the AD&D version suffer penalties on to-hit and damage rolls if they witness their leader dying; in 3rd Edition the loss of morale is merely descriptive in that the fighting quickly dies down when most of the bad guys either flee or or die.
15. The Hammer does not try to mind-control any PCs who try to keep the weapon for themselves. But it would be a huge dick move for them to keep it, so I presume the adventure presumes the PCs do not do this.
16. If the heroes return too late and the refugees are slaughtered, random baaz draconian patrols will spawn if they stay around for too long. In the 3rd Edition version such encounters are excised.
General Note Stuff
This covers things which aren't in specific adventures or changes, but the Dragons of Autumn arc as a whole:
Safe Passage: This isn't a change, but highlighting one of PurpleXVI's questions: Thorbadin's Thane grants the refugees permanent residency within their lands until darkness lifts from Krynn. Even so, Elistan and the refugee faction leaders want to find passage to other lands free of menace because reasons.
Songs: Canticle of the Dragon, Riverwind and Goldmoon's wedding song, etc all have verses in both versions. But only the AD&D version has a musical sheet to accompany the lyrics.
Gully Dwarves: Given that the Chronicles were published before a major "setting book" could be made, stat blocks for draconians, gully dwarves, and brief descriptions of elves are present in every AD&D sourcebook. However, there are some things in the Chronicles' gully dwarves which is not present in others. For one, although Chaotic Neutral, it is described that they're willing to do anything, "no matter how mean," to survive. Gully dwarves also belief that all forms of magic are hoaxes which deserve to be exposed. In later publications it was a force they were fearful of and didn't want anything to do with most of the time rather than a refusal to believe in its existence.
Sturm's Sword: In the AD&D version Sturm has a +3 two-handed sword. In 3rd Edition it is a unique magic item all its own, the Brightblade: it is a +2 bastard sword which deals 2d6 bonus damage vs creatures of chaotic alignment. It will shatter and bestow a curse upon its wielder if said wielder attempts to use it in the furtherance of evil acts.
Dagger of Magius: 3rd Edition Raistlin has one more artifact as his starting equipment. It's a +3 Dagger which cannot be detected by magical or mundane searching of any kind when carried by a mage. This is rather nifty on account that Raistlin could use it to smuggle said weapon into places and will not be found on his person if the party's captured.
Character Cards: As AD&D stat blocks are far smaller, the original versions had sample two-sided cut-out pages for each PC and DMPC. They even came with a drawing of said character's face. We did not get such things in the 3rd Edition version, meaning that some characters such as Eben Shatterstone and Derek Crownguard never get proper pictures in the revision.
And in case people are wondering, here's Eben's handsome mug along with Elistan's and Laurana's:
Dragons of IceOriginal SA post Dragonlance
Dragons of Ice
Welcome to scenic DL6! You'll notice we skipped over DL5, because as mentioned in the first post, DL5 just has general setting info and collates the stats and descriptions of all the player characters in one place. Now, one of the fun, "fun," fun" things about DL6 is that a number of your players won't get to play. If you've been playing through the module series since DL1(and haven't been hung and quartered by your players yet), the number of PC's has been slowly growing since DL1, and no PC's that you've gotten used to having around have been removed. DL6 changes that up. A number of PC's split off from the rest and won't be back until DL9, entirely by story fiat that the players get no involvement in. Like, the players do not get to pick which the southbound party consists of, DL6 just decides that.
Missing are: Tanis, Tika, Caramon, Goldmoon, Riverwind and Raistlin. In return, Elistan becomes a PC(but not Laurana, she remains an NPC for a while longer for baffling reasons, considering that she's been a constant member of the party since the start of DL3). Of the original-ish party we have Gilthanas, Flint, Tasslehoff and Sturm, with two Solamnic Knights(Derek and Aaron) and their fabulous moustaches thrown in as assisting NPC's and potential alternate PC's for players whose characters are absent.
They are, at least, decently statted and kitted out, but the party's now lacking a primary arcane caster of any kind(and how the hell is Gilthanas higher level as a Magic-User than as a Fighter? Did 1E have dual-classing rules and are they somehow applied to this poor sucker so he's only gaining levels as a Magic-User? Jesus.).
So anyway, let's catch up with things, this is our journey thus far:
In between DL4 and DL6, half the party has journeyed south to Tarsis to see if they can ship the refugees off to safety, apparently, despite them being statedly in the safest place they can be. Only after arriving in Tarsis and finding that there's not actually a way to send the refugees to safety(on account of Tarsis now being landlocked, something that the party, despite most of them having gone on long trading trips with Flint in the past) weren't aware of, do they reluctantly decide to actually fight the Dragonarmies and maybe kind of try to save the world.
Chapter 1: The Fall of Tarsis
By the time the game starts, the party's been in town for about eight days or so. They've shown up and found that the city governor is being advised by a draconian(and that draconians are openly walking in the streets, but in a more or less completely peaceful way, not butchering and killing civilians or anything of that sort) and, rather than marvelling at happy interspecies cooperation, they're horrified that the city is essentially already in the dragon highlords' thrall. Two days before the game starts, they're almost arrested(for unspecified reasons, maybe they killed some random draconians in the street or something), and meet up with a Silvanesti elf(Alhana Starbreeze) and some Knights of Solamnia who're both seeking to bring the battle to the Dragonarmies.
The "missing" PC's are actually still in the city, hanging out with Alhana and most of the knights, the remaining two and the in-play PC's are just hanging around away from their friends, for some reason checking the city for "sources of aid" despite there being literally zero indication that anyone in the city has a problem with the Dragonarmies or is in any way the source of knowledge needed to defeat them. But of course, that's what we have plot railroading for, an old mysterious man just sort of randomly shuffles up and goes: "I HAVE THE NEXT PLOT TICKET, FOLLOW ME." and doesn't seem to account much for the players not doing so. You see, if they don't, they have no real idea where to go after the next bits.
So they follow the old man, knowing better than to argue with the GM, and he shows them a fabulous hidden library that doesn't contain anything except a couple of scrolls(and some fresh glasses of True Seeing if they didn't loot the Floating Tomb and kick Evenstar screaming into the sky), but which really only exists to contain a mysterious reference to an ORB OF DRAGON CONTROL hidden in Icewall Castle. Seems like a handy artifact for dealing with dragons, right? Anyway, the PC's probably high-five and leave the library to tell some people about the rad artifact they found out about, but oh no, as soon as they go outside, the blue dragons and their armies are attacking Tarsis. Oh noooooooo.
The leader of the Blue Dragonarmy shows up briefly to pose, and holy shit do the writers hate the players for attempting any sort of agency. She doesn't attack, but if the PC's attack her, the GM is told to just casually double the size of the next encounter. As the PC's try to leave Tarsis, they're supposed to get jumped by 16 Draconians, this is increased to 32 if they tried to fight the Blue Dragon Highlord. At this point the stats of the Kapak Draconians aren't too scary, but that's still enough that just sheer weight of attacks might wear down the PC's, especially as their only arcane caster, Gilthanas, has a very poor spell selection and can't wipe a big chunk of them with AoE damage or something.
Now, the PC's don't get to do anything other than escape. The city has a small resistance movement of smugglers and thieves, but they casually say they don't plan to do anything about the occupiers for about a year, and all of the citizens will just betray the PC's to the occupying forces 2 times out of 3. Because they're assholes, I guess.
Presumably the PC's finally get the point and skedaddle from Tarsis. To the south, I hope, for their sake, since all the other gates are heavily guarded. Just to make the goddamn point. If they go the right places, they might spot that the "missing" PC's and NPC's are escaping from the city on griffons, pursued by blue dragons.
So much for Tarsis! I mean, shit, it's a cool and interesting set piece, a city where the draconians are apparently coexisting in relative peace with humans and demihumans, rather than the scenarios seen so far where they've been bullying and shoving them around. It could really have been used to say some things about whether the draconians are perhaps as much victims of Takhisis as the other races are, but no, all the draconians are just evil plotters that betray the city roughly five seconds after the scene is set. Ah, but perhaps we could have had some sort of interesting campaign about a resistance movement against the occupying dragon ar- no. You guys have to go chase the big magic thing, right away. Off you go.
Chapter 2: The Ice Reaches
And yes, those are big evil walrusmen.
The descriptions of the terrain south of Tarsis is, at least, mildly evocative. It was a sea floor, hundreds of years ago, so there are relics of said times lying around, like the skeletons of ancient behemoth sea creatures(that's cool, weird sea stuff is always cool), but sadly they don't really do anything with it. Like, there's potential here. You could have weird Flying Dutchman-esque encounters with ghost pirates, or hell, even ancient sailing ships that sunk and whose cargoes are now accessible, or maybe even sea creatures that were warped by the divine fuckery of the cataclysm to be horrifying land dwellers. Instead, what do we get? A check every two hours for random encounters. One of the potential encounters is a fucking Blue Dragon or, you guessed it, more fucking level-drainers.
The players are meant to travel south to Icewall Castle but, again, unless they accepted random plot tickets from shady old men in Tarsis, they won't know it. I'm surprised that the authors resisted the temptation to have Fizban show up and prod them along. In fact, he doesn't seem to re-occur at all in DL6, thank fuck.
There are no locations of any importance otherwise. Once they step out on to the ice, the encounters at least change so they now have a chance of encountering THANOI(bad walrusmen) and other ice-themed enemies instead, as well as the mysterious "snow-covered crevasse" encounter. Approaching one of these prompts a surprise roll, if you fuck it up, every character has a 50% chance of falling 20 to 200 feet(calculated by a roll of 1d10*20). I don't believe I need to point out that falling 200 feet, even in 1E D&D will utterly and completely fuck you sideways, with some 20d6 damage. That's 20 to 120 points of damage at worst. The most fragile party member is Gilthanas with 25HP, anything but the smallest possible fall has the potential to splatter him.
I know Raistlin isn't in this one, but he only has 15HP, this could at worst have killed him fucking eight times over. In fact, on the suggestion of a friend, from now on the lethality of a given situation will be rated in Raistlins. This one is 8Ra.
Chapter 3: The Ice Folk
Yes, I know, Chapter 2 just vanished, that's because Chapter 2 really only exists so the players will wander on to the glacier and get lost in a blizzard that almost kills them, so some brave and noble ICE VIKINGS in their ICE BOATS can rescue them. Specifically the rescue only happens once the blizzard has almost, ha ha, iced them, so they're gonna be low on health(it specifically doesn't trigger until someone is under 12HP from frostbite) and it's specified that HARALD and his ICE MEN will be eager to fucking murder the players stone cold dead if they make the slightest mistake. Harald himself is a fucking level 14 Fighter who can do 1d6+7 damage per hit. Now, that'd be manageable except he's also got a bodyguard of ten 12th-level Fighters, each able to hand out 1d4+7 damage per round, that's approximately another 8Ra's, except they don't have to just kill one guy at a time, they can spread around the love. The only thing that can soften the initial circumstances is if the players have rescued a random encounter bear from minotaurs, doing this is also a good idea since the bear is about the only way the players have of avoiding the deadly crevasse random encounters.
So, you know, easy place for a TPK against a bunch of hardened ice dudes. The lesson is to always be nice to bears.
The vikings then bring the PC's home(their culture is a combination of inuit and viking, I suppose) and warm them up and let them get healed, at which point Aaron(or his player), suddenly remembers there's an overarching plot and goes: "Well dang, we should fetch that orb, guys, and then bring it to a place far to the west called Sancrist Isle since it's in a bunch of prophecies. Also if we don't get the orb we should get there anyway to slice some evil nerds up." And the vikings suggest salvaging an old ship from the ice to sail there, which sounds like a great idea, no way a wooden sailing ship would have suffered any damage from being icelocked for 300 goddamn years or anything.
Before anyone can suggest to Harald that this is a fucking stupid idea, someone charges in and goes: "egads! 200 minotaurs and 500 thanoi are headed right for us! we're all fucked!" And that's right, they are fucked, the next section is really just an extended cutscene where the players fight some thanoi and their battle bears until a white dragon shows up and forces the defenders to pile into their ice boats and flee, allowing a pittance of the hundred or so ice vikings to escape. The players' reward for playing along with this and saving some vikings is that they get an ice boat so they can get to Icewall Castle without freezing to death along the way.
Surprisingly the module doesn't force you into a guaranteed TPK against thousands of draconians or thanoi or whatever if you end up fighting and killing Harald(fat fucking chance of that, anyway), but without the ice boats of the ice vikings you'll be moving slower and thus having to deal with far more random encounters.
Chapter 4: Icewall Castle
oh yeah if the party rescued that bear from a random encounter it's a semi-permanent companion, that's kinda cool
So the party approaches the sinisterly silent ICEWALL CASTLE, aside from the usual random encounters(every hour around Icewall Castle there's a chance that a white dragon named Sleet and its rider will decide to strafe the PC's with its breath weapon for 3.5 Ra worth of damage, which is approximately 2 dead Gilthanases per attack), nothing hassles them until they start climbing the ice wall to reach it, which prompts a series of module-mandated, forced dex checks to avoid suffering damage for up to 2 Ra each time. This would suck less if there was some sort of alternative, like the dex checks were the risk of taking a stealthy climbing route and there's a proper, albeit icy, route up to the front door that risks getting into a fight instead or something.
One of these events is an avalanche that reveals a secret cave entrance to the castle. It contains nothing awful, but it does contain a dead, frozen gold dragon with a non-Dragonarmy rider(also dead and frozen) on its back. This is supposed to be a "SHOCK GASP! THERE ARE ALSO GOOD DRAGONS????"-event but it's kind of spoiled by the fact that Blaizsce the Brass Dragon(or was it Bronze? I always mix those two up) was potentially chilling with the party for a good chunk of Skullcap back in DL3. The party can pry a broken Dragonlance from the frozen rider's hands, but it has no utility.
Anyway, the players are in, they can also ignore the secret passage but that just means getting ambushed by more enemies than are strictly necessary, as Icewall Castle has very few specifically placed enemies, and most of them are pretty uninteresting, except for stuff like how a couple of failed dex checks can drop a character alone into a battle with a fucking Remorhaz, which is a huge ice worm that drops 6d6 aka up to 2.4 Ra on enemies every round and attacks like a 12th-level Fighter. There's also Feal-Thas, the Dragonlord of the White Dragonarmy who's thankfully a huge idiot. Rather than having bodyguards or riding his giant dragon, he instead hides in a library, invisible, and will try to destroy the PC's on his own mano a party.
He's a pretty horrifyingly effective Fighter, and he also has a few save-or-die spells up his sleeve, like Polymorph Other and Web, so a few bad rolls can severely compromise the party's ability to fight. Oddly enough he won't summon anyone for help even once the fight is joined, nor will he consider, say, retreating. Unlike Verminaard he won't somehow deprive the PC's of a chance to loot his body, but unlike Verminaard he also only has a small amount of relatively generic +1 and +2 gear. Despite being a relatively low-magic setting, as in mages themselves are relatively uncommon and untrusted, low-level magic items in Dragonlance seem extremely abundant and there isn't really any sense of "oh boy, how awesome!" when one of them pops up in the writing, it's generally with very little fanfare.
Probably the deadliest encounter in Icewall Castle, though, is Sleet's hatchery containing three awake hatchlings that can toss out 168 HP worth of breath weapons in a round(until they're damaged, anyway), equal to 11,2 Ra. Needless to say, this is also enough to annihilate any other member of the party if the hatchlings win initiative, even if everyone is uninjured and makes their saving throws.
Eventually, either only kept alive by canon immortality or sheer luck, the party will reach Sleet and eat shit. 3 Ra worth of damage from her breath weapon until she takes damage, and then she'll "merely" hand out 1.5 Ra a round. The only thing that's noteworthy about her is that she has a relatively novel escape route, she keeps her third breath weapon use back in case she's getting clowned on, then leaps through a waterfall on the edge of her lair concealing a secret tunnel and blasts the waterfall with her breath weapon behind her, sealing the tunnel with an icy wall that it'll take the party long enough to hack through that she can make good her escape. If she does escape, though, she comes back to blast the players with her breath weapon three times from the air while they escape from Icewall Castle themselves. Without battle magic from Raistlin supported by Tanis and Riverwind with bows, this also means that the players are stuck hoping that Gilthanas and Aaron can whittle down Sleet in the air enough that she won't be able to get off a second ice breath, except whoops the first one will annihilate Gilthanas every time even with a passed saving throw, even doing max damage to the dragon Laurana goes down on the second pass and Elistan is almost certainly dead on the third pass.
With absolutely maximum damage and zero misses, Tasslehoff's sling(assuming Sleet gets that close) and Aaron's bow can take out Sleet in two rounds, because she's pretty fragile, but that's still 84 damage pre-saving throws. ANYONE who flubs both throws is dead, even Sturm with his 74HP.
And this time Sleet has a dozen minotaurs on the ground for backup. That's a pretty fucking lethal encounter.
Her lair also has the Orb of Dragon Control which some PC will probably try to check out. Firstly, it contains the soul of an evil dragon that will try to mind control anyone fiddling with it. Then, remembering that it's called the Orb of Dragon Control, someone will probably try to use the handy-dandy command words written all over it to whistle up a ride. Whoops, bad idea, that has a 66% chance of doing nothing and a 33% chance of summoning up 1d3 randomly statted white dragons. Hope you like randomly getting into a fight with three Ancient White Dragons. It is in fact just a massive ruse to fuck with the players and this entire quest has largely been a waste of their time.
Chapter 5: Icemountain Bay
This chapter exists PURELY to have the players walk west, find one of those icelocked boats and set off for Sancrist Isle far to the goddamn west. There is no other content.
Why is this even a chapter? I swear these chapter titles exist only to make these shitty modules feel bigger than they are.
And why do they keep giving us these maps when anything but moving in a straight line to the next objective is harshly punished and there's practically never anything off the beaten path worth interacting with?
Kree! I liked the part with the bear! Why wasn't the bear in the books?
Search me, Skeleton Warrior, maybe we can pretend it ate Tasslehoff and has taken his place in all future scenes.
Coming up: DL7: Dragons of Light
Dragons of LightOriginal SA post Dragonlance
Dragons of Light
DL7! We're approaching the end! So, having spent some time getting frostbite and getting a bear buddy(nothing ever indicates that the bear at any point leaves the party, so I'm going to presume he's with them from here on out, because the bear is the coolest party member), the party has iced(get it) another Dragon Highlord, this time Feal-Thas of the White Dragonarmy who got very unceremoniously annihilated, along with his mount Sleet, letting the party recover an Orb of Dragon Control that's actually a very nasty joke played on them, since it's actually an Orb of Summoning Random Numbers of Uncontrolled Dragons. DL6 had an extremely high chance of death for everyone involved, simply because of the massive amounts of breath weapon spam and random traps. Maybe DL7 will be different.
Additionally, we've also still got the split party thing going on that DL6 had. As mentioned, most of the canon party actually won't return till DL10 just because fuck us.
This module starts with a refresher on elves, because it's all about elves. We've got five kinds: Qualinesti, Silvanesti, Kagonesti, Dimernesti and Dargonesti, as well as, grudgingly, Half-Elves and Dark Elves.
Dimernesti and Dargonesti are largely irrelevant, being sea elves, shallow and deep-water respectively. Qualinesti elves are the elves that aren't total racist assholes, but instead just practice racism as a hobby. Silvanesti are the grandpa-racist elves who consider the Kagonesti, who happen to be brown-skinned forest elves, to be, uh, basically sub-elven and only useful as chattel slaves and occasional target practice. Neither Qualinesti or Silvanesti have any respect whatsoever for the Kagonesti. The description of "Dark Elves" as a throwback makes them sound like the elf version of neanderthals, but they otherwise go undescribed and in the novels its primarily used as a description for "elves who are even bigger assholes than the rest," like Feal-Thas.
Also, in this module we have a silver dragon called Dargent. D'argent. Yes, really, the pun names are this fucking stupid. Anyway, this dragon is polymorph capable, or will sometimes just steal people's souls and puppet their bodies around to manipulate stuff... and it's randomly determined who Dargent is in the story. I mean, it's very clearly meant to be a Kagonesti elf named Silvart(yes, really.), and is as well in the books, I believe. But it can also be her dog, Theros Ironfeld, Fizban(oh God no, not this guy again) or even one of the PC's. But really ignore that and just toss the role to Silvart, she's already annoyingly present in the story.
Chapter 6: Awash on Ergoth
Ergoth? How did we get to Ergoth?
Well, at the end of DL6, the party chopped a trapped ship free of the ice of Ice Mountain Bay, got it vaguely seaworthy and set off to Sancrist(north and west of Ergoth), but on account of none of them having any seafaring skills whatsoever, they fucked up and ended on Ergoth instead. They're coming into the bay marked in the upper left, their salvaged ship finally starting to give up the ghost as the module starts... with a fucking white dragon. A white dragon that blasts them with breath weapons right away. Once again, only Aaron, Gilthanas and Tasslehoff can fight it off, but Gilthanas eats shit under the first blast of a breath weapon even if he passes his save. Then there's the second factor, which is that they're sailing into a bay full of nasty reefs...
Whoever's the helmsman must make ten Dex checks, one each round, and for each failed check, everyone on board must make a Dex check or eat 1d8 damage. This is completely unavoidable, and the worst case is that the party eats 10d8 damage, which is anywhere from 0.6 to 5.3 Ra, not counting the breath weapons. The dragon is suggested to be Sleet from the last adventure, but if they killed Sleet, there's still an unstatted white dragon which I think we can assume to be as strong as Sleet. Her first breath weapon adds 56 damage, so that's another 3.7 Ra, so we're somewhere between 3.7 Ra(all helmsman checks or resulting dex checks passed) and 9 Ra(all helmsman checks fucked and all resulting Dex checks flubbed), just on the first goddamn encounter, on the first goddamn page, of the game. And that's not even accounting for the potential damage from further breath weapons, keep in mind the damage done is equal to the dragon's total HP, so if it avoids taking any damage until it's fired all three blasts... 16.5 Ra at very worst.
The Dragon also doesn't just leave on round 10, which is where the party finally runs aground and flounders to shore in the shallows, but will keep attacking until at 50% HP, dead or it has used all three breath weapons.
But let's assume the party manages to drive off the dragon without anyone dying. They manage to get to shore, shaking off the water and hauling along the Orb of Dragon "Control" as well as all their gear. The south of Ergoth is a heavily wooded realm with wide, sandy beaches. It honestly looks pretty nice for the first five minutes.
And then the fucking elves show up.
Note to the party that these are elves, and it would be an evil act to attack, especially if there are elves in the party
An elven hunting party, with a stag rider, and stag riders are fucking cool, I can't lie on that, but they show up with their slaves. These are Silvanesti elves, see, with Kagonesti "servants" along. It turns out that the Silvanesti homelands are thoroughly fucked by an as-yet untold disaster, so they just skipped out to sea, landed on Ergoth, the Kagonesti homeland, and took over, enslaved the locals and started turning their camps into fortresses reminiscent of home. So the game is outright telling us here, that it is evil to kill or attack slave-taking colonist scum.
Please eat my shit, Dragonlance, thank you.
Already considering the Kagonesti lands "theirs," the Silvanesti promptly try to arrest the party and haul them up along the beach, at which point a bunch of Qualinesti collapse a pit under the Silvanesti, hit them with sleeping poison darts, and laugh, offering to take the party off to their camp on the west side of the bay. See, the Qualinesti homelands are currently burning merrily under the torch of the Red Dragonarmy, so they holed up on Ergoth as well. One of the Kagonesti slaves, Silvart, takes this chance to heal any wounded PC's, showing that the Kagonesti are much nicer than their supposed relatives.
At this point the party can either go with the Qualinesti, or wander off into the woods on their own, where they'll likely bump into more Silvanesti. If they enter either elf grouping's claimed lands on Ergoth, they're promptly arrested and imprisoned, though the Qualinesti treat it as them being "guests of honour," while the Silvanesti are way more up-front about it being about putting the PC's in jail for not being elfy enough. The Qualinesti also shame Laurana for wanting to fuck a half-elf(Tanis), and fete Gilthanas as the protagonist and the rest of the PC's as his loser sidekicks.
Remember! Attacking the racist dicks who shame women for the crime of miscenegation is evil!
Theros, the smith from DL2, is also in the Qualinesti encampment. He's been forging weapons for the elves with a fancy new magic silver arm that he got by stumbling around some ruins and accidentally jamming his stump against it. I'm still not sure why the party were allowed to let Theros die back in DL2 since from here on out, he's very vital to the story.
If the party explore the area before committing to either camp(or getting busted by either elf group's forest cops), they can reach the Kagonesti burial grounds. They toss their dead in boats and let them sail downriver to the sea. There's an island at the mouth of the river, and those judged unworthy by the elven god, Branchala, will supposedly have their boats beach on the island, while the virtuous dead sail out to sea. The burial island is crawling with undead, including some banshees who have some petty loot. The Qualinesti and Silvanesti moved in and killed most of the undead, and were baffled when the Kagonesti considered it an act of blasphemy. Part of the island that's not full of undead also serves as the only "neutral" ground in south Ergoth between the two elf factions.
Chapter 7: The Wilds of Ergoth
Anyway, once the party has either committed to getting arrested or hiding in the woods, chapter 7 starts. If the party is imprisoned in either camp, Silvart and Theros will bust them out, if they're in the woods, Silvart and Theros will flim-flam the elf patrols looking for them and then join the party. Theros' motivation is that he's had enough of racist dickhead elves and wants to find a Solamnic Knight encampment farther north on the island, while Silvart's motivation is that she knows the PC's are carrying an evil magic item with the potential to fuck up her homeland and she wants the PC's to head north with it and fuck off.
Presumably, the party gives the elves the slip, though there's every chance elven pursuers will come up as random encounters. A few days north of the main concentrations of elves, the party comes across another group of adventurers, these of a more classic murderhobo persuasion, lead by a mercenary called Vanderjack(who is another potential silver dragon identity) and possibly including Fizban(if the GM for some unholy reason decides that Dargent is disguised as the old asshole). As a reasonably clever thing, all members of the adventuring party bar Vanderjack(and Fizban, if he's there), are actually Sivak draconians polymorphed into the appearances of party members they've killed. Vanderjack is, you see, hunting for the legendary TREASURE OF HUMA(an ancient hero of the Solamnic Knights), and the draconians want that treasure and then to stab Vanderjack. Being smart enough to know they can't handle three times their own number in a fight, they try to slip away in the night if the party joins up with Vanderjack(or rather, he joins the party).
The point of this section of the game is for the party to get to a region known as Foghaven Vale, about halfway up the island of Ergoth. As they go along, some weird creature stalks the night, howling, and Theros is convinced that it's the guardian of the silver arm he claimed, come hunting for it. He calls it the Grey Wraith.
Outside of the pointlessly murderous start of DL7... it's kind of my favourite module so far? It has a very interesting situation to start with, albeit one that the players aren't allowed to interfere with and which the party is shuffled away from as quickly as possible because they're not allowed to kill elves. But it's the most interesting setup so far.
The party is now moving into the deeper Kagonesti lands, and any elves met here are Kagonesti, which can be recognized by the fact that they're actually pretty decent chaps compared to the other elves. Mostly they just want the party to fuck off if they're not accompanied by Theros or Silvart(and thus strangers), but otherwise allow them passage with no hassle.
There were 100 clan-villages of Kagonesti scattered throughout the Ergoth forests before the coming of the refugees, each with its own. distinct customs and facial make-up. There are now some 50 clans left, most of them in this area. The remainder have fled to the west and north, or been enslaved by the Silvanesti, or indentured by the Qualinesti. Kagonesti villages are temporary structures of animal hide and light wood, using the boughs of living trees to aid in construction and camouflage.
Again, these elves that it would be "evil" to attack have enslaved or displaced over half of the local population. And what the fuck is the difference between "enslaving" and "indenturing" the locals? Slavery is fucking slavery.
Being cool dudes, again, the Kagonesti will also trade the party rad as hell stag mounts for steel as long as the party treats their stag herds right. Hell yeah, now we've got a bear buddy AND we're stag cavalry. Fucking aces. Generally, as long as the party stays on the move, and this is easy with the stag mounts, the party can also explore the area in the south of the island a decent bit. There aren't a lot of interesting encounters, but there are some sprites that'll drug them and send them downriver to the Silvanesti, for instance, if they disrespect the woods. They can also meet an old hermit who gives them a sabertooth kitten as a gift as well as a bunch of maple candy to bribe birdmen guides with, this guy is the fucking best. The kitten may also be Dargent if the GM wants to throw the party a real wildcard.
If Fizban is with the party at this point, they're likely also clued into him being a polymorphed creature or otherwise not the real Fizban by the way in which he hasn't caused any mass murder with "wacky" shenanigans yet.
There are multiple passes through the mountains, though the one the party wants is a three-way pass to the west, Foghaven Vale, none of the others will lead them to the Solamnic Knights, though they can get in fights with ogre bandits or get poisoned by old men who are actually polymorphed Ogre Mages that offer them food laced with save-or-die poison. Considering that so far every NPC the party's met on Ergoth who wasn't a Silvanesti or Qualinesti has been reasonably trustworthy or even outright nice, this is kind of a dick move. It's also a real good way to TPK the party.
One side of the mountains is also ogre lands, the passes are guarded by ogres, but if the players cross the mountains... none of the ogres on the other side consider that maybe they just killed or snuck by the guards, assuming they must be there for a reason. The potential shenanigans suggested are also, gasp, not a bunch of pointless asshole dickery.
• The characters are accosted by an ogre asking for a human judgment in a disagreement between tribes. The side the characters decide against takes personal (and violent) insult.
• An ogre tribal leader offers to buy one of the elves, dwarves, or kender from the party. They offer supplies, venison, or ogrish bone pieces.
• An ogre guard unit stops the party. Having more on the ball than the others, they ask for proof of statements, and are suspicious of elves, kender, and dwarves.
If the party gets seriously involved in a fight with an ogre tribe or unit, the other ogres gather around to place side bets, but do not enter the fray. If the characters defeat the ogres, the others let them go, but pass on word to Daltigoth of the superior fighters headed that way.
Daltigoth is, sadly, poorly detailed, but a clever GM could use it well. It's a ruined human city where the White Dragonarmy is, under the command of some giants, rallying an ogre army(with mixed success, they've got the ogres rallied and wound up for a fight but mostly they fight each other), considering that the giants running the thing are a family, a father giant and his three sons, and all three sons are actively scheming and hoping for their dad's death so they can take over. This could be used for some interesting drama and setting them against each other to sabotage the Dragonarmies' efforts on Southern Ergoth.
There are also some interesting details about the area, like how the local ogre farmers are using "Baluchitherium" as beasts of burden rather than, say, horses or oxen or whatever. Looking around apparently they're huge ol' prehistoric things that look a bit like a proto-anteater was crossed with a rhino. They're fucking huge and, uh, their 14HD and 2x 5d4 attacks probably make them some of the most mercilessly dangerous enemies on South Ergoth. Don't fuck with ogre farmers is, I guess, the moral of the story.
In any case, eventually the party is hemmed in by uncrossable islands, the sea and hard-to-cross wastelands, but surprisingly no infinite-by-fiat enemy attacks, and their only path is Foghaven Vale...
Kree! Why is there ever more than one kind of elf? Only Drow are ever statistically different!
Search me, Skeleton Warrior. I think a better question is "why are there elves at all, they always suck."
DL7: The Second Half, Coming Soon To A Thread Near You!
Dragons of Ice: 3rd Edition ChangesOriginal SA post
Dragons of Ice: 3rd Edition Changes
Blog post link.
1. The artwork is different in a lot of places. Often more detailed, notably the maps. Although a lot of the older artwork's not present. Some examples:
The last pic is of Feal-Thas proper, who in both versions has a pack of pet winter wolves (who are scattered throughout the complex and do not fight alongside him; wasted potential).
2. Laurana is a proper PC rather than an NPC, while Derek Crownguard is demoted from controllable PC to NPC. There's also a sidebar on how to role-play him. For those who haven't read the novels (including myself) he was a constant stick in the mud who butted heads with the party, and was obsessed with the Dragon Orbs and victory at any cost that he died in a foolhardy and tragic manner during the Battle of the High Clerist's Tower. This can be averted in both the AD&D and 3rd Edition versions. Derek in 3rd Edition has levels in Noble and Legendary Tactician* as well as Fighter, meaning that he can give the party some bardic-like buffs. His feat selection is optimized around mounted combat, which is not unusual for a Solamnic Knight but can be a hindrance in Dragons of Ice given the relative lack of horses.
*martial prestige class focused around buffing alllies.
3. There's one more Solamnic Knight PC: Brian Donner, a faithless Paladin and Knight of the Sword who is a chivalrous and brave man. He is pretty much a Fighter without bonus feats, but if he becomes faithful to the true gods he will gain holy powers. Both he and Aran Tallbow were killed off quite early in the novels, so they didn't get much characterization in the main story.
4. There's a lot more random and set-piece encounters in Tarsis, both before and during the siege. They range from things like Dragonarmy patrols, drunk city guards, angry mobs, and a fortune-teller who can give a PC a minor spendable one-time +2 bonus to a roll. There's a set-piece encounter for what happens if the PCs try to get violent at the governor's palace (Dragonarmy soldiers and Gildentongue, an aurak draconian ambassador who is a sort of recurring villain in the adventure path). The book provides a template for a Mob, which was originally in the Dungeon Master's Guide but is basically meant to simulate large groups of human-sized opponents handled as one creature. Sadly we only see it used for unruly peasants and not Dragonarmy troops, which would be the more logical choice.
5. The caretaker of the hidden library in Tarsis will not let the PCs leave with the magical Glasses of Arcanist without a fair trade of some other magical or unique item.
6. One of the nearby towns, Zeeriak, has a new NPC for the PCs to meet. Galeswept is a nomadic human Barbarian who brokured a trading pact with the White Dragonarmy of furs and other goods in exchange for protection. There's not much more than that but she can give the PCs information about the region presuming they don't tip their hands that they may upset the political balance.
7. PCs can meet griffons as a friendly random encounter outside of Tarsis. Through them they can learn that their companions who fled with Alhana Starbreeze are safe, and can be used for long-distance aerial travel (to a point, the Plains of Dust are the griffon's home and they don't wish to go too far).
8. The PCs can help aid the Ice Folk during the invasion of their village. It is run as a series of 3 encounters whose relative level of success determines the losses suffered by the Ice Folk: holding the south wall, repelling the thanoi from setting the ice boats on fire, and holding off the enemies so that civilians can retreat. Each of them don't need to "kill all the bad guys" to win, where if a set amount of rounds pass the conditions are such that Dragonarmy's attempts fail. Feal-Thas and Sleet attacks the village in a brief strafing one in both versions, but only the AD&D advises that they don't enter direct combat with the PCs. Meaning that theoretically the PCs can kill off the Dragon Highlord and his mount before visiting Icewall Castle.
9. When climbing up the Icewall there is no "you fall the entire way" result. Failed checks mean that a PC falls and slides before hitting a lower level and suffering damage. PCs who are strong enough can perform a Reflex save to safely catch a faller. The PC with the highest check rolls Climb and the others roll to Aid Another (add +2 to the primary roller) to see how far they progress. And yes, spells such as levitate and fly can bypass this entirely.
10. Looting the frozen Dragonlance-wielding Solamnic knight or animating his body into an undead will be met with angry rejection by Derek Crownguard and any Solamnic NPCs in the party. There's no mention of what happens in either version if a PC tries to cast Speak with Dead on the dragon or the knight.
11. Feal-Thas has a minotaur second in command by the name of Ronox de-Jaska. He's a Fighter/Legendary Tactician who focuses on greataxe and charge attacks with his horns.
12. Feal-Thas' spell selection is greater in 3rd Edition and more geared towards overt damage-dealing spells than Save or Sucks like Polymorph. Any damaging spell he can opt to deal cold damage, he is capable of summoning monsters, and he has levels in a prestige class called Winternon and one of its more unique features is to grant a once-per-day +10 bonus to a d20 roll related to seeing an opponent's wyrd (Knowledge, Sense Motive, or rolling for initiative in combat).
13. Sleet is still a very dangerous dragon (very high AC, powerful melee attacks) but his breath weapons deals a more survivable 8d6 damage. The default Heroes of the Lance stat blocks in back have HP ranging from 40 to 80, with most ranging in the 50s range.
14. As for lack of ranged damage-dealing, Elistan's a lot more powerful in 3rd Edition on account of well...CoDzilla. He has a greater selection of spells he can swap out every day depending on how generous the DM is with sourcebooks.
His default stat block has Searing Light, a good ranged spell. He can also cast Flame Strike which can be useful against Sleet. For the more martial PCs, both adventures have a room full of magical icicles which can act as magical javelins or shortspears, although there's not a lot and they don't do much damage (3rd Edition Sleet has 276 HP).
15. Sleet's Lair has treasure in it beyond the Dragon Orb: Bracers of Armor and a Ring of Counterspells are the two magical treasure, and thousands of steel pieces worth of various fancy art and trade goods.
16. The remorhaz, although rather unintelligent (sentient but cannot speak any language), is capable of being turned against the Dragonarmy in Icewall Castle on the fact that it is being kept prisoner and fed the corpses of prisoners. As to how the PCs can do this, the adventure leaves it to the gaming group's imagination. In AD&D the remorhaz had animal intelligence, so this is a nice touch on edition changes.
17. To account for the Solamnic DMPCs, new Archetypes for replacement PCs are added: the Shepherd (Elistan), the Golden General (meant to be an Archetype a character becomes rather than starts out as, Laurana), the Bon Vivant (Aran Tallbow the archer-knight), the Gallant (Brian Donner the not-Paladin knight), and the Maiden (Laurana).
Dragons of LightOriginal SA post Dragonlance
Dragons of Light
Chapter 8: Foghaven Vale
Alright, so when we last left off, the party, accompanied by a random mercenary, a polar bear, a magic elf dog, a native elf, a burly blacksmith with a magic arm and a saber-tooth kitten had finally made it to Foghaven Vale, the only thing between them and getting to the Solamnic Knights on South Ergoth and relative safety. Now, if I tell you that the Solamnic Knights are to the northwest and show you this map:
Can you tell me what the problem is? That's right, there's no actual exit to the northwest. Instead, the party has to march up to that giant statue to the north and explore a dungeon to get to the knights. Oh and there's the vale itself to contend with as well, as soon as the party enters they're more or less railroaded straight to Theodenes the Gnome, of no great story importance, he just stole a magic healing statue from the ogres in Daltigoth and is now on the run from Thunderbane, son of Stormogre, the giant leader of the ogres. He joins up by claiming to know a path through the dragon statue to safety, and then the ogres attack right afterwards, giving the party a choice between surrender into slavery(lol) or butchering Thunderbane and his crew.
Stormogre and a pair of Hill Giants will start the battle by throwing boulders at spellcasters from the back lines, while ten ogres rush into melee combat, clogging up the party's melee line. The problem here is that the party's two casters are Elistan and Gilthanas. Gilthanas has 25HP, Elistan has 49. Each thrown boulder does 2d8 damage. With Stormogre described as reasonably tactically capable, they'll probably focus fire on one target at a time, dealing 6 to 48 damage if all their boulders hit, it's very likely for both of them, but even more likely for Elistan than Gilthanas. 3 Ra of damage in a single round is pretty rough for a completely unavoidable encounter, especially with everyone else focused on not getting pulped by ten ogres and thus probably unable to do anything about the ogres' ranged backup for a while. The ogres aren't quite the equal of the party's melee fighters one for one, but they take a lot of chopping down to finish off, and time is on the ogres' side as Gilthanas and Elistan are unlikely to survive more than a couple of rounds, and then the boulders are going to splatter characters like Laurana and Tasslehoff in short time.
Evening out the fight is the party's upgrades since the last adventure, Elistan is now level 9, and the human fighters(Sturm, Aaron and Derek) are level 10, 9 and 8 respectively. Unfortunately Clerics don't have much offensive potential and Fighters in 1E don't yet have the same rapidly escalating lethality as in 2E. We're not told Gilthanas' spells, but assuming he's not a moron and has learned Fireball, Lightning Bolt or other big boom magical artillery stuff, his init roll could do a lot to decide the fight. Unfortunately, outside of spell use, really all the party can do is wade in and roll D20's until one side stops breathing.
Most of the valley is unremarkable and quiet, even the random encounters are relatively mild, though the party can run across a few interesting things, like Dargent's lair. If she's polymorphed, it's just a big fat pile of loot in a cave, if she's possessed someone with Magic Jar there's a big sleeping dragon on the loot. Obviously if there's a dragon, attacking said sleeping dragon makes Dargent drop her control, return to body and flee(after stun-gassing the party), and generally Dargent will be pissy about the party stealing the loot(and will demand it back later when her disguise is busted one way or another). The loot is also, it should be noted, kind of garbage. It's just pure money, and there are few-to-no gold sinks in this game since the party never really has a chance to buy anything other than fresh arrows for the archers and maybe the occasional armor upgrade for the fighters.
Generally attacking or despoiling the valley gets you attacked by stuff like pondkeeper nixies or moon dogs, but if you stay chill and just beeline for the shrine, you won't get fucked over.
But surely, before entering a clearly marked dungeon, the party will need a rest after fighting Stormogre... surprise! Resting in Foghaven is a trap, since it triggers the Grey Wraith that's been stalking Theros to attack. It'll almost certainly be flattened by the party's advantageous action economy and their all having magic weapons. It's immune to turning in the presence of Theros' silver arm, but that doesn't matter, turning undead was always pointless against single powerful undead anyway, it was meant to flatten hordes of skeletons and zombies until you were an epic level priest that could disintegrate vampires just by thinking about it. The problem is that the fucker, of course, level drains, and it's very likely to get in at least a couple of whacks before it goes down.
Fuck off, level drainers.
They can also loot Huma's tomb on the way for some nice magic gear, but it causes a temporary curse(-1 to hit and -1 to all saves) until his shield and sword are wielded against an evil dragon. Considering that evil dragons are very prevalent, and the sword is a Dragonslayer sword, and the shield a protection-against-breath weapons shield, this is a great trade. We'll probably get hit by some more evil dragons in about five minutes, anyway.
Chapter 9: The Stone Dragon
So the Stone Dragon is huge, it's meant to be a small series of combat encountes in itself climbing up along it and battling creatures dwelling in its nooks and crannies. When they eventually clamber over it, there's even a small Aarakroca town behind it(well-disposed to them as long as they're not dickheads, otherwise pointless), telling them that they just missed a bunch of Sivaks who broke into the Stone Dragon through the secret door in the spine. The actual climbing is very fucking dull, just repeated checks to see if you fall and die and some extremely generic combat.
For a supposed shrine to goodness, the interior of the Stone Dragon also has some dickhead tricks.
The walls of this room are dotted with small holes, as if burrowing insects had nested in the solid rock. There are 10 piles of thick gold bars in this room, each pile containing 20 bricks.
The “gold bars” are ceramic bricks covered with gold paint. The small holes are darttraps. Any character touching the floor is hit by 1-6 darts for 1-3 points damage per round.
So firstly, the trap is fucking stupid, because by now the players should know gold is worthless on Ansalon. Secondly, what purpose did this room serve when the Stone Dragon was operational as a forge for Dragonlances? Thirdly, that's up to 1.2 Ra of unavoidable damage just for entering the room. Goddamn. And if the players try to reach the gold they don't know is fake, they might eat even more for no fucking reward at all! In another, similar room, worthless-looking bricks are actually steel bricks and the same trap is set. Now, firstly, after seeing the obvious bricks as worthless, the players could reasonably assume that the non-obvious bricks have worth. But why would there be steel bricks under guard? The shrine was from pre-Cataclysm where steel wasn't the main item of value!
Another area has four Stone Guardians, which hand out 4 to 18 damage per round, have 10HD each and are hard to hit at all, but mercifully have the weakness of not being too great at hitting the party themselves. They also take half damage from edged weapons, which everyone except Elistan is using and resist most elemental damage, making Gilthanas useless. Their massive durability alone might allow them to wear down the party, especially if they get in a couple of hits on weaker party members like Gilthanas, Laurana or Tasslehoff. They're also a non-optional encounter, so fuck you for playing, I guess.
There's also a corridor that locks players into a damage race against a statue on rollers that will squish them if they don't break it before it pins them against the wall. It doesn't seem like there's any way to determine if people get crushed before they get pinned against the wall, but that does 4 to 40 damage, slightly short of 3 Ra and enough to kill 3 out of 8 party members. The party has three rounds to do 60 damage to break it, not an awful lot, but if they've already fought the Stone Guardians and know how tough they are, they might try other ways of escaping before they start handing out damage, and only high-Dex party members have a hope of getting around the statue without just doing more damage to themselves. Flint, Sturm and Elistan are pretty likely to pooch said rolls.
Though at least there are no random encounters inside the Stone Dragon, for once, so the party can actually take their time and rest up between each merciless asskicking the place delivers.
Proceeding upwards, towards' the dragon's head the players encounter the cruelest trap yet... fucking Fizban is back.
He's murdered a bunch of draconians and then decided to take a nap, but wakes up when they arrive. He apparently knows that the party couldn't have gotten this far without some help, and thus instantly knows Dargent is among them(though it should be noted that the only thing Dargent's actually done is let them out of Elf Prison if they got themselves locked up by the Qualinesti or Silvanesti, otherwise she's been pretty passive). He does some lame wacky magic tricks and starts yelling at Dargent about "THE OATH, THE OATH, YOU FOOOOOOL"(i.e. the fact that the good dragons' eggs are forfeit if they're found to be awake and acting in the mortal world), and the party can either side with Dargent or Fizban. They should side with Dargent and chase the old senile fuck off, for reasons about to become apparent soon, though it feels like the text tries to make them side with Fizban, because the text was written by assholes.
If they side with Fizban, he just mutters some vague shit and trails along being useless. If they side with Dargent, she does at least tell them where the treasure in the place is, but is as mysterious as he is.
If the party just stands and watches, they have a sick anime battle and then both disappear.
At the end of the area, they find the Dragonlances and the forge needed to make more, but between them and that is the Last Guardian, where it's important that they send Tasslehoff off to sit in a corner. See, the Guardian gets stronger with every attacker, but Good attackers empower it less than Neutral and Evil ones, and Tasslehoff's damage contribution is negligible in any case. Honestly, probably the pro-est strat here is just to send Sturm in to solo it so it gains the least buffs, because the buffs also include an AC boost, so the more guys join in on trying to slam it, the stronger it gets.
Of course, this is a mechanic never alluded to, to the players, except with vague hints("the only evil is the evil you bring with you!" yells a statue at them, just before the fight, which most would probably just have thought was a Star Wars reference, another goes: "One pure-hearted can do the work of many!"), so they can't necessarily interact with it(and even if they do, it's basically just one guy doing the fight while everyone else takes a smoke break). They can only be surprised when the entire party joining in drops it to -5AC, increases the damage done to 2d6+9 and triples its HP total as well as guaranteeing that every attack it makes will hit. This is, in fact, probably the most dangerous setup for it since it'll be near-impossible to hit, will be guaranteed to land almost every blow and will be able to finish off most members of the party in two hits as well as being highly magic resistant.
Luckily for the party, the story requires that they survive and reach the Dragonlances.
The dragonlances... are good! Sort of. Kind of. It depends very much on how the battle starts. See, like a dragon's breath weapon, they do damage equal to the user's total HP(or in the case of the dragonrider lance, equal to the user's + the ridden dragon's), which means that whether said enemy dragon gets off the breath weapon first, or whether the lance wielder attacks first, very much determines how the battle is going to go, since both are going to do more damage if they go first, and less damage if they go second. As it stands, currently the party's high-Con Fighters(Sturm, Derek and Flint) could each annihilate any dragon encountered so far in at most two blows if they were at full HP. Ember would be the only dragon met so far that wouldn't go down like a wet sack of noodles from the first whack. In the books, the dragonlances broke after most uses due to being impaled in a dying, writhing massive creature, but the rules here don't seem to bear that out though it's kind of thematically neat to have them be one-shot weapons.
Of course there's also the issue that the dragonlances are lances, i.e. melee weapons, and dragons fought outside can just stand off at breath weapon distance and blast the party from the sky while laughing.
Aside from finding the forge for the dragonlances, the Stone Dragon also contains the material for them, Dragonmetal(very creative, I know), the source of which is guarded by a stone golem. The first sign that joining Dargent was the smart choice is when she just tells the golem to fuck off rather than the party having to fight it. This pool also, by the text, basically lets Theros forge them all +1 gear if they need it, there are no rules set for him needing it, but presumably they can hold him hostage until he kits everyone out in +1 armor and weapons(most already have it, but still!).
The second hint that Dargent was the right choice is when the party tries to leave the Stone Dragon through the passage that will take them to northwest Ergoth and the Solamnic Knight camp.
Because three white dragons attack(if the party let enemies escape earlier, they're summoned by the escapees, otherwise they arrive anyway. Thanks a lot, Dragonlance). Now, if the party has Fizban along, his foot gets stuck in a hole and he does nothing except uselessly try to free it while the dragons chain-blast the party with their breath weapons, TPK'ing them. If the party has Dargent along, on the other hand... she drops the disguise and lets a party member mount up with a rider's lance and engage the white dragons in the air.
This is the party’s first opportunity to use the Dragonlances from the Stone Dragon. If Dargent is present, she polymorphs into her natural form and takes a hero aloft. If she does this, she tells her rider that all the white dragons must be slain so that no word of her actions reaches outside ears. If Fizban is present, he begins to cast a spell, steps backward into a shallow hole, and struggles to free himself for the remainder of the conflict. The white dragons do not notice him.
You can't even use him as a distraction!
Also the text explicitly states that the dragons will strat as I suggested, multiple breath weapon strafing runs before landing and engaging in melee if anyone's still alive(lol at that fucking idea, their HP is randomly determined and can be anywhere from 18, 1.2 Ra, to 144, 9.6 Ra, but most likely around 81, 5.4 Ra... per round. The worst case scenario is just shy of 30 Ra over all the dragons' breath weapons, which I think is the most absurdly murderous encounter so far. If the White Dragon scouts roll max HP, the party is instantly evaporated, if they roll minimum HP, Tasslehoff kills them all with a thrown rock. Genius game design). With Dargent as a mount to engage the dragons in the air it's entirely possible that she and her rider might one-shot one of them, and at the very least it won't be hitting the grounded part of the party with its breath weapon would trying to fight them off. The idea of any party having decent odds of winning the fight if they sided with Fizban over Dargent is idiotic.
You know what the worst part is, though? After the fight, if Dargent is around, she authorizes Theros to use the Stone Dragon's forges to mass produce Dragonlances, and then the party travels to the Solamnic Knight camp at last... and then fucking Fizban shows up again! And this time he doesn't disappear, he sticks around, presumably to instantly make the players' lives miserable at the start of DL8.
Kree! Writing Fizban into a story should count as a crime against humanity! Bring Tracy Hickman before the ICC!
You read my mind, Skeleton Warrior.
Unfortunately, we'll have to gather more evidence for the court...
Next up: DL8, Dragons of War!
Dragons of Light: 3rd Edition ChangesOriginal SA post
Dragons of Light: 3rd Edition Changes
Obligatory blog post link.
1. There’s no introductory discussion on the different elf types on account that the 3rd Edition “core” sourcebooks already do this.
2. Making D’argent a PC is no longer an option which you can randomly roll: instead it’s suggested as a possibility to discuss privately with a player you trust for the role if you want to go that route. There’s also explanations of what their dragon-disguised D’argent forms are doing and how they’ll try to convince the PCs to visit the Stone Dragon fortress. She is also using a shapeshift spell-like ability rather than a magic jar spell to hijack a person’s body. This means that the “real” NPC is still around but elsewhere, meaning if she’s disguised as Fizban the inevitable encounter with said wizard will be a dead giveaway there’s an imposter (and thus causes said confrontation).
3. The initial white dragon encounter still happens at the beginning, but if the PCs killed Sleet in Dragons of Ice it will be Squall, a much weaker dragon who is the mount of Flight Marshal Odenkeer (who we’ll talk about later. The “replacement dragon” in the AD&D version is a nameless dragon scout from Daltigoth; the D20 version just gave him a name and personality.
4. It’s no longer listed as an evil act to attack the Silvanesti hunting party. Also most Qualinesti NPCs are listed as Chaotic Good, with most Silvanesti Lawful Neutral. The Kagonesti are overall Neutral. In spite of this the nominally freedom-loving Qualinesti are just as eager to enslave the Kagonesti and treat them like trash and hate Laurana for her relationship with the half-elf Tanis.
5. There’s detailed write-ups of the various important figures in the elven lands and their personalities and initial attitudes when meeting the PCs.
6. The disguised ogre mage’s poison is incapable of killing the PCs but can knock them unconscious. Which can still be a shitty TPK given that he’ll attack the PCs once some or all of them succumb to the poison.
7. Several encounters in the wilderness are changed and some new ones are added as well. The Mountains of Ergoth, in addition to having treacherous terrain, have ogre war parties aided by harpy archers, while the legendary boar Harkunos the Thunderer is capable of casting spells from the Strength domain and can shapechange into humanoid form (in AD&D he was just a really big boar).
8. Some DMPC and potential D’argent-disguised characters have different classes and roles: Silvart, formerly a Fighter/Thief, is now a Druid/Rogue with actual spellcasting; Porthios is a Noble/Fighter at 10th level rather than just a Fighter; Theros Ironfeld is an 11th-level Master specializing in Craft skills rather than a meager 3rd-level Fighter (his combat capabilities are still sub-par). Finally, the gnome Theodenes is a multi-class Fighter/Master/Ranger rather than a pure Fighter: some of him more ‘techy’ abilities include alchemical weapons like thunderstones and tanglefoot bags, an “Exploit Weakness” class feature which lets her add Intelligence instead of Strength/Dexterity to attack rolls, and a Gnome Toolbelt which can let him temporarily turn equipment masterwork by spending Tool Points and regain said points by breaking down items and traps.
9. Although not a change per se, the writers saw fit to make the ogres’ farming beasts of burden just as tough in the edition transition. Baluchitheriums are Challenge Rating 9, have 184 hit points, and can dish out a lot of damage in melee. But like all non-magical giant animals they lack the means of attacking enemies which can keep out of their range.
10. The ruined city of Daltigoth is still overall undetailed, but the book points out that there’s more information in the War of the Lance sourcebook now published.
11. An encounter with will-o-wisps in some salt marshes has actual magical treasure in the form of a Wand of Fireballs (that’ll be useful!), two Elixirs of Hiding, and a +2 Mighty Cleaving Battleaxe. This magical weapon property lets the user make a bonus Cleave attack against a second opponent within reach. For our non-D20 readers, Cleave was a notable feat which let you make a bonus attack against an enemy in melee when you KO or kill a different enemy in the same round.
12. If the PCs rob the Tomb of Huma of the sword and shield magical items or D’argent’s personal treasure hoard, the dragon will protest against doing so regardless of what form she has (or growl and snarl if in animal form) but will not attack the party if they ignore her. She will ask them to return the treasures once she reveals her true form to the PCs, trusting that this will give some authority to her request.
13. The tribe of aarakocra the PCs can meet in the Hidden Vale are replaced by Kyrie, a different race of flying bird-people who are also native to Krynn; their tribe is called the Aara-Kocra, which is a none-too-subtle nod to their original species. If D’argent is disguised as the elven leader Porthios, she will be treated well due to taking him there while he was wounded to recover while she was disguised as Fizban. Hearing about this from the kyrie can tip off the party to a potential imposter.
14. The Stone Dragon in Foghaven Vale is occupied by a White Dragonarmy officer, Flight Marshal Odenkeer, and his sivak draconian minions who fill up a few otherwise empty rooms. Odenkeer’s mission is to find the well of dragonmetal and taint it to prevent the creation of any more Dragonlances. He sought to hire Vanderjack’s band for aid, but sent the sivak draconians to kill and impersonate his associates (who he has less need of) as an insurance policy if the legendary mercenary decided to turn upon him. Odenkeer is purely martial, being a Fighter with levels in Rogue Knight (think martial rogue) and Legendary Tactician.
15. If Feal-Thas somehow survived Dragons of Ice, he will replace Odenkeer here.
16. The Guardian of the Lances, that super-boss construct who becomes more powerful the more PCs who fight it at once, is present. Instead of gaining strength from being attacked, it gains power with every opponent of evil alignment it drops.
17. The room with the Guardian is also the room which the PCs will fight Flight Marshal Odenkeer, a pair of sivaks, and possibly Vanderjack who will turn on the party if he’s an NPC/not D’argent. The Guardian already killed 6 draconians previously, and Odenkeer will try to out-maneuver the PCs by putting them and the Guardian in its line of fire if possible. Odenkeer, if successfully fled, will fight the PCs after drinking an invisibility potion down at the Heart level with the Dragonmetal Pool. There’s a giant celestial basilisk instead of a stone golem guarding the forge level who can be dismissed by D’argent. The battle becomes a race against time as Odenkeer will make a mad race for the dragonmetal pool, possessing a foul liquid substance which he can use to corrupt it. Even if poured in, the pool’s corruption can be countered by positive energy magic, but once the corruption is complete only the willing self-sacrifice of a good-aligned character can restore the pool to its original state.
18. The fight with the three white dragons still happens as a climax encounter. But dragonlances do not break off into an enemy’s flesh when using them. Additionally, they deal Constitution drain instead of the user’s/mount’s hit points when used against dragons specifically. This applies every hit with no saving throw, and can do even more Constitution on a critical hit, which still makes them very effective weapons.
Dragons of War!Original SA post Dragonlance
Dragons of War!
Welcome... to a Dragonlance adventure that doesn't suck fat piles of shit! I know, right? What a fucking plot twist. So, quick retrospective. Each Dragonlance adventure has only one or two credited authors, then an editor and artists for the rest, so it's hard to get an idea of how much they were solo flights or team ventures. The authors are, in order:
DL1: Tracy Hickman
DL2: Douglas Niles
DL3: Tracy Hickman
DL4: Tracy Hickman and Michael Dobson
DL6: Douglas Niles
DL7: Jeff Grubb
DL8: Tracy Hickman and Laura Hickman
Now, DL1 through 7 are not good, but there are distinct variations in quality. The ones by Tracy Hickman and Jeff Grubb(though Jeff Grubb has provided probably the most party-demolishing encounters thus far) at least try to give the players some option to explore and go off the beaten path(even if doing so mostly just gets them beaten up more for no reward) and a sense of a larger world that could be interacted with. Douglas Niles is a fucker, though, his are just raw linear dogshit poured down your throat. The first half of DL2 and all of DL6 are absolutely the low water mark.
As a note, both Tracy and Laura are the credited authors for the AD&D Ravenloft module.
But DL8... DL8 is different. Both in presentation and execution.
Chapter 10: Winter Councils
DL8 starts when the players are escorted to the western coast of Ergoth by the Solamnic Knights, they arrive at a port city and get an update on how the wider war is going and the state of the continent... which is not good. The Dragonarmies have essentially all of eastern, western and northern Ansalon under their control. The Solamnic Knights are holding the center, and Ergoth and Sancrist are still more or less free, as is Thorbardin, but the elven kingdoms have fallen and the Knights are only barely holding on while the Dragonarmies consolidate their gains, having yet to have any real decisive wins so far. Morale is at an all-time low and the Knights are riven with infighting as to what's to blame for their defeats.
The party can either choose to head to Sancrist to meet with the Whitestone Council, the meeting of the still-free as they plan a countermove, or they can just head east with their dragon orb and dragonlances and join the main battle. Each choice for the first chapter is essentially presented as a CYOA novel with "you travel for X days, go to encounter Y." which is a nice change from fiddly hex-tracking. The days are also important since 4 months into the game, the Dragonarmies launch their final assault on the High Clerist's Tower, the last main bastion preventing them from steamrolling the continent. There are also encounters keyed to time, some are omens, others are war-weary troops passing by and telling the party about how the war is going, that sort of thing.
If they head west, the Council turns out to be a shitshow. It's just elves, dwarves, knights, gnomes and kender all arguing about who's right and what the best plan is. The local Knight commander gives them access to his armories(containing some nice magical gear) and urges them to head to the main continent of Ansalon, to aid and reinforce the troops there. So it's costly in time, but rewarding in gear.
The Council comes to no conclusion. Indeed, the elves are ready to declare war on the Knights, while the dwarves carefully fuel the argument on both sides. The kender aren’t helping much as they taunt both sides to keep tempers hot.
Still the general mood seems to be against you. If you return here the Orb and lances might be taken from you. Swift departure is advised by Gunthar.
The council is unable to decide on a course of action. The elves demand that the Orb be returned to them and are prepared to go to war to regain it. The dwarves are skeptical of the worth of a Dragonlance not forged by the Hammer of Kharas. They demand possession of Huma’s Tomb and sole right to forge and wield the lances. The Knights and other humans want the lances and Orb to go to the High Clerist Tower and Palanthus, respectively. None of the delegates trust the others nor are they willing to work together
Along the way to the mainland, there are a few minor sites and towns to explore as side trips, generally all of them have a reward, there are no pointless side trips made available. What's important is that during these, the party finds the Crown of Yarus, either from random explorations or talking to NPC's along the way. It's used for unlocking the coolest ending.
In general, most things here are meant to drive the PC's towards the High Clerist's Tower, but if they make clever use of their time, they'll be well-decked-out in +3 gear for most of the melee combatants. The game even assumes that the party might want to interfere in some warfare in the contested lands away from the High Clerist's Tower, and offers stats for this(there's a BATTLESYSTEM to be used for it, which I'm frankly not familiar with, the GM can either use it to run the large battles, or he can resolve it via a simplified morale-based mechanic, which the PC's can affect by inspiring the troops on their side with clever leadership and heroic actions. Looking up the stats for BATTLESYSTEM units, though, I have to say it, but it sounds very groggy. Maybe someone more familiar can correct me.), rather than just assuming that the PC's get flattened if they get caught between two armies, they get to smite dozens and hundreds of draconians and associated Dragonarmy chaff, though it's still not their main mission.
Another important place the party can reach is Palanthus, this is where Astinus, the immortal historian(pretty clearly Gilean in disguise, though) resides and chronicles all of history. Recognizing the heroes' quest as vital, he reveals stuff about the High Clerist's Tower to them. It's not just a mighty fortification, the central tower(defended by magic) also contains powerful artifacts that can be used in the tower's defense, and he can clue them in as to where to search for some of these. Unfortunately Draconian diplomats have already talked the Palanthians into not bothering to support the Solamnic Knights, so there's no military aid to be found in the city.
All that's left is to head on to the High Clerist's Tower... which is where we've been going all along, anyway.
Chapter 11: Last Bastion
The central tower rises from eight surrounding towers. These are in the middle of a surrounding curtainwall: octagonal battlements on which you can see Solamnic Knights pacing. East of the curtainwall, a newer set of walls completes the
distance to the eastern wall of the canyon. The stream runs under this set of walls and buildings through multiple portcullises.
The rain-soaked banners of the Knights hang from the eight outer towers. No banner flies from the great tower.
Three separate encampments are spread north of the tower. Dark figures move among the tents.
Flashes of light roll through the clouds overhead. Thunder rocks the canyon walls and the rain turns into a downpour.
This is where the players have their main choice: how to win the battle at the High Clerist's Tower. They can just support the Knights and their troops and win a straight military victory with superior leadership and the occasional bit of magical support from Gilthanas and Elistan. The main sorties from the Dragonarmy encampment besieging the tower are noted, as well as some events(at one point a raider will challenge a rookie knight to single combat due to a feud he had with the knight's father, if a PC steps in to take the duel for him, allowed under Solamnic Law, and wins it, that'll give the Knights a major morale boost).
If no one takes his place, Harus must refuse combat. The act shames the Knights and lowers their morale by 2. If a PC takes his place and fights Vindar, then the morale of the Knights goes up by 2. If the PC defeats Vindar then the morale goes up by an additional 1. No NPC Knight of Solamnia will offer to stand in Harus’s stead. Only a PC may chose to do so.
Winning the duel is in fact a pretty major thing that will massively reinforce the defenses of the High Clerist's Tower due to the importance of morale.
It's also accounted for that the party might try to sneak into the sieging army's camp to spy on the forces there, which will give them valuable information on when the next assault will happen and with which forces. Especially if they try for the non-standard victory conditions, which they might well, because the Dragonarmies brought some real bullshit to this fight, including a half-dozen Blue Dragons and Lord Soth and his undead knights.
Technically it's possible for the PC's to take the fight to the dragonarmies in the open field if they've secured enough morale boosts and had good enough battles repelling them from the walls, but it's implied to be suicidal, which it may well be, since this also triggers if Solamnic Morale drops far enough, at which point their commanders decide that the only way to prevent them from routing is to go on the offense and launch a sortie on their own.
Chapter 12: The Tower of the High Clerist
The High Clerist's Tower itself is obviously the focus of the fortification, it's massive, ominous and haunted as all hell. It's been that way since the Cataclysm. Prior to this, it was the home of the spiritual head of the Solamnic Knights, the high Clerist, the last of which was Yarus, who passed his days with an imprisoned Bishop of Sargonnas, Kornus, and planning how to make the world a better place. He's presented as a genuinely good person who was willing to befriend even a bishop of the god of Vengeance rather than just executing him.
There are three major things to do inside the High Clerist's Tower itself.
Firstly, figure out the purpose of the Dragon Orb in the tower.
Secondly, figure out the purpose of the Crown of Yarus.
Thirdly, score some sweet magic loot.
It also has some stuff that's cool, but mostly cosmetic, like a real-time map of Ansalon, that also accurately displays which areas are held by allied forces and which are held by Dragonarmies, which is pretty neat, if not immediately useful, but helps suggest the High Clerist's Tower as a central fortification for the forces of good. It's also absolutely drowning in sweet magic items for good-aligned clerics and arcane spellcasters, as well as magic weapons for the fighters in the party. The place is relatively low on traps, and none of them are bullshit TPK's or the like. A few gully dwarves and religious fanatics are wandering the corridors, terrified by where they are and looking for a way out(it's somewhat easy to get lost since one of the nastier traps is a teleporter maze), while the hostiles are almost purely the ghosts of those who were trapped in the tower when the Cataclysm struck. At the party's current power level, they're potentially dangerous, but fair, and have no bullshit level drains or similar stuff to bust out. Many of them are also either initially friendly or friendly as long as the PC's aren't idiots. Some of them can even be recruited to assist the party in the tower, which is useful if there are hostile ghosts around.
The Bowling Stairs feel like something out of Grimtooth's Traps, though. If the players attempt to climb it without disabling the mechanism, it drops a huge rolling boulder down the stairs. It does a lot of damage, but not enough to kill most of the party unless they're already badly beat up, even on a maximum damage hit(50HP/3.3Ra). However, there are three boulders coming down in a line... so if you keep going up after the first one flattens you, you're gonna get flattened again. And again. And then when they reach the bottom? They get teleported back to the top! I could easily see it climbing a PC life or two after the party tries to climb once the first ball has passed and bashed them up.
Probably the easiest objective to accomplish is to figure out what the Dragon Orb is used for in the tower. After all, the only thing the orbs do is send out a siren call to evil dragons that pisses them off and makes them hunt down the orb to go berserk, right? Exactly, and that's what the old Solamnic Knights figured out how to weaponize.
This is the dragontrap. A Dragon Orb is activated in the central room (Encounter Area 35). Any dragon within range is drawn toward it, entering the tower through the great portcullis gates (Area 31). As the dragon gets closer, the hall narrows. The hall’s herring bone pattern makes it easy for the dragon to enter but difficult to get out. Once this far, however, the call of the Orb becomes an undeniable obsession.
The portcullis in Area 31 was dropped once the dragon was in Area 32. The iron portcullis at 32a consists of two parts controlled separately from Areas 32b. These are slammed shut when the dragon’s head entered 32c, holding the head (and thus breath weapons) in room 32c. Knights can then attack the dragon from the side halls, killing it easily.
This method would disgust modern-day Knights because they have forgotten the spirit of the Measure. Pre-Cataclysmic Knights knew that evil must be defeated and dishonor came from not using all available means to accomplish this. The dragontrap was safe and sure and much honor was earned in defeating evil dragons this way.
This is actually a pretty important thing for the PC's to do, as it's one of the largest morale boosts they can give the troops outside, as well as negating the Dragonarmies' air power advantage in the area. It also fucks up draconians, making them go temporarily insane and forcing them to retreat from the field of battle, so if the party pulls this during one of the Dragonarmy's attacks, they'll suddenly negate a massive number of their troops and likely secure themself an easy victory and some breathing room.
Adding to the party's collection of pets, the tower also allows them to pick up an ethereal black cat and dog to complement their sabertooth kitten and polar bear.
What about that crown, though? Well, Yarus was killed in the tower at the time of the Cataclysm, and he was a seriously powerful dude, a 23rd-level cleric. If the party brings his crown to his corpse, they resurrect him as mighty ghost skeleton pope who helps turn the tide of battle. At the same time, by finding an enchanted chess piece they can also revive a legion of good-aligned undead knights to assist the besieged forces. Doing either, or especially doing both, is almost a guaranteed victory for the defenders. The GM is encouraged to still run it by the BATTLESYSTEM(tm) or the simplified resolution, but the massive bonuses are essentially undefeatable and you might as well just narrate how every craven fascist on the battlefield is gutted by a ghost or turned to ash by the pope. The commander of the good ghosts is also an absolute monster, if he got into a fight with Lord Soth, there's a good chance that he could smash ol' Buckethead to bits.
If I remember the books right, the party activated the dragon trap, but didn't awaken the allied undead, and this is where Sturm canonically eats shit getting stabbed by Kitiara, Caramon and Raistlin's half-sister, who's the leader of the Blue Dragonarmy.
Now, though, I bet this is making this dungeon sound real simple and easy, isn't it. Like a walk in the park that you'll get over and done with in an hour's time with enough left to narrate the party's victory dance on top of a dragon corpse. How could the party possibly run down the clock while exploring this place?
I'm going to borrow a term from the British here and say that this dungeon is fucking mental. Please, I encourage everyone to copy the URL and look at the true size of this fucking thing. It does look fucking cool, though, heck yeah.
Anyway, assuming the party doesn't eat shit, they've given the forces of good their first real military victory against the Dragonarmies since the start of the war, likely taken out multiple dragons, embarrassed Lord Soth and Kitiara, and awoken Palanthus to the danger it's in, rallying its army for the side of good. It's a good day's work, and relatively unrelated to the metaplot, and best thing yet: there's no fucking Fizban present. Obviously DL8 has some weaknesses since it relies on the GM having and being willing to use Battlesystem rules to really come into its own, but even without that, some solid descriptions alongside the simplified battle rules could easily make the players feel like they're in the middle of a war and that their actions matter. I nominate this as the best Dragonlance module so far, and it only took us eight of them before there was one I didn't just shit all over as a piece of garbage!
Kree! Finally a module with some positive undead representation! We're not all villains, you know!
Even D&D can be progressive sometimes, Skeleton Warrior.
Next! DL9: Dragons of Deceit
Dragons of War: 3rd Edition ChangesOriginal SA post
Dragons of War: 3rd Edition Changes
Obligatory blog post.
Note: I'd like to mention that we're getting close to the home stretch of Dragonlance Adventures. After this Dragons of Deceit is our last Winter adventure, and Dreams, Faith, and Truth detail what the PCs who escaped from Tarsis with Alhana Starbreeze on griffons have been up to. Said Spring adventures are meant to take place at roughly the same time as the Winter arc (Ice, Light, War, Deceit). Dragons of Triump is technically "Spring" but has the PCs from both groups reunite for one last grand adventure to take down the Dragonarmies and bring peace to Krynn.
1. The Morale System is more or less unchanged and transitions well to 3rd Edition interestingly enough, along with the one-page outline of a Simplified Battle Resolution System. There is no mention of Battlesystem, as by the time this adventure was released there’s enough mass combat rules (D20 and otherwise) that the adventure trusts gaming groups to use whichever ones suit their tastes best.
2. The AD&D version refers to the High Clerist’s Tower as the Clerist Keep in some places. All such mentions are changed in 3rd Edition to be consistent.
3. The journeys for travel time dispense with wilderness hex and give flat rates for travel based on their current location and there they wish to go to next.
4. The Tower of Crystyn is guarded over by a Retriever demon rather than being entirely abandoned. The PCs have to work to get their magical loot.
4. The magical items the Solamnic Knights can give the PCs from their treasure are mostly updated into their closest equivalents, with some exceptions: a Cloak of Invisibility becomes a Cloak of Resistance (bonus on all saving throws) while a +3 longsword becomes a +2 mighty cleaving longsword.
5. If Theodenes, the gnome DMPC from Dragons of Light, is still with the party and they visit Mount Nevermind, the gnomes express concern that the PCs are traveling with “a mad gnome” whose success rate with his inventions are too high, and they treat him passive-aggressively. If the other PCs complain or confront the gnomes’ poor treatment, they see the error of their ways and agree to start up a diversity relations program. It will take 13 months to get properly set up, but Theodenes will be greated better in the short term.
6. More maps. We have a nicely-detailed full-page map of the city of Palanthas:
The Tower itself (and the surrounding terrain for the mass combat battlemap) has maps in both, although the 3rd Edition the Towers are oriented slightly differently and are in black and white artwork spread out over several pages.
7. If the PCs meet Astinus to ask for advice on the Tower, artifacts, etc he has some in-character descriptions. This is in both Editions, but some bits of the text are changed slightly:
1st Edition posted:
Even as the Cataclysm rang across the land, it was placed carefully on a dais at the base of a great shaft surrounded by well-secured doors.
3rd Edition posted:
Orb—Even as the lost souls of the Tower wailed in agony, it was placed carefully on a dais at the base of a great shaft surrounded by well secured doors.
8. In the AD&D version it is mentioned that the PCs could gain the aid of Palanthas’ local army in exchange for 80% of treasure found in the High Clerist’s Tower. This option does not exist in the 3rd Edition version.
9. The precipitation on one of the higher-elevated passes to the Tower turns to snow, making it impassible for 14 days.
10. Yarus is 20th level rather than 23rd, but he’s still very powerful. We also get some full stat blocks for Lord Gunthar Uth Wistan, who is a rival of Derek Crownguard and both seek the seat of Grand Master (whose position is appointed by the Knight’s Grand Council).
11. There’s a vampire cleric of Sargonnas working in Lord Soth’s undead army. He has infiltrated the High Clerist’s Tower in search of a way to rally the ghostly forces within to serve the deathknight. Put privately he’s after a crown worn by the evil priest of Sargonnas believed to be interred within the tomb, in hopes that it will free him from Soth’s service. This Crown of Kurnos is equivalent to a Book of Vile Darkness, and wearing it counts as though reading from that accursed tome.
12. There’s no Battleystem rules, but there’s a side-bar detailing the numbers and divisions of the opposing armies during the battle along with brief statistics (60 2nd level human fighters, 180 bozak draconians, etc) for specific divisions along with their leaders if applicable.
13. The random treasure location table for the Tower has slightly altered magic item results, notably the replacement of artifact-level items such as the Book of Exalted Deeds/Infinite Spells with lesser yet still potent options like Bracers of Archery, Greater or Mace of Disruption. Additionally, each room is noted as a Possible Goal Artifact Location for things like the chess piece, Dragon Orb (yes there’s two), etc.
14. Some of the room-specific encounters have been incorporated into a random encounter table which the DM can trigger when the parties enter a new room or if there’s been a lul in action. Some of them have been altered a bit: the gully dwarves’ “secret mission” to find ‘the great steel marble’ was a result of a cleric of Morgion (disease and rot god) tricking them into recovering the Dragon Orb for himself. One member of the wandering kenders is given a stat block and name (Kipper Snifferdoo) and is actually a new cleric of Gilean (god of knowledge and leader of the Neutral gods). There’s a wingless undead dragon abomination known as “Sthank” which the aforementioned vampire cleric let loose in the tower to preemptively kill any living opposition that may be encountered in the Tower.
15. Vindar of Khurman, the guy who issues a one on one combat challenge to one of the Knights in the tower, has a more fully-realized stat block. He’s armed with a Sword of Life-Stealing which can bestow negative levels on an enemy and give the user temporary HP.
16. In the novels, Derek Crownguard met a most undignified end. In the AD&D version his fate is left up in the air and his only mention is for a leader stat block in the Battlesystem. But in 3rd Edition he will be one of the commanders who desperately mounts a suicidal run (“things will only get worse so we attack now) and the fate of him and those under his command is left to the GM. In AD&D, Crownguard’s PC card shows up in the next module, so I presume he is meant to survive.
Edit: Derek only performs this maneuver if the Knights' morale drops low enough (8 or less).
17. Although implied in the original AD&D version due to its sacred status, in 3rd Edition it is explicitly mentioned that Derek Crownguard and NPC/DMPC Knights will not accompany the PCs into the High Clerist’s Tower.
18. For PCs scouting into the enemy encampments proper, we have stat blocks for Bozak Elite Guardsmen (Bozak with levels in Sorcerer)* along with tougher-than-usual Baaz soldiers (levels in Fighter). In AD&D they were just run of the mill variety of draconian.
*In Dragonlance's 4th Age (the time of the Chronicles) spontaneous casters such as sorcerers did not exist, and Bards did not have magical powers (the Master class from War of the Lance was a partial substitute). However, dragons, fey, and other beings with an innate tie to the land and cosmos of creation could access such power without being bound to a god or the moons, and Bozak and Aurak draconians were natural sorcerers. However, the Dragonarmy propaganda taught that said draconians gained their power from Takhisis herself in an attempt to keep them in line.
Dragons of DeceitOriginal SA post Dragonlance
DL9: Dragons of Deceit
why is someone with Solamnic facial hair and armed with a dragonlance riding an evil red dragon while meeting with Fizban, a supposedly good mage?
Son of a bitch, it's fucking Douglas Niles again, so far his modules have been some of the worse ones. Anyway, the start of this module is a bit weird. At the end of DL8, losing the High Clerist's Tower is clearly marked as a loss condition whereunder which western Ansalon is doomed to be conquered by the Dragonarmies in short order, even if the PC's escape alive. However, the start of DL9 also accepts that the tower might have fallen and the players simply fallen back to Palanthus.
As usual we've got Elistan, Laurana, Sturm, Gilthanas, Derek, Aaron, Flint and Tasslehoff on this expedition. In addition, if we're lacking sufficient PC's, we have Gunthar uth Wistan, grandmaster of the Solamnic Knights, a level 13 asskicker ready to roll with the party. He's strictly superior to basically every Fighter in the party so far. And Silvart, from DL7, also returns and is a mandatory PC for this part, which means one of the players gets to be a fucking Silver Dragon. Of course, since she's still under the Oath, she's not technically allowed to bust out her draconic form. In her elf form, she's just a high-level Thief/Fighter, but she can continue to use some of her dragon stats in elven form, like her Thac0 10 and 70HP, which make her much better at combat than a thief of her level normally would be. She also gets to use herbs to cast certain healing spells like a Cleric. It otherwise doesn't specify whether Dargent(the dragon's true name) in her Silvart guise can still use her innate spells, but even without that she's pretty powerful.
Chapter 13: The Silver Messenger
This chapter is literally a single page long and starts with the players having just finished DL8 when Silvart shows up and goes: "'SUP LOSER NERDS, I'm pretty sure the reason the Good Dragons are bound by the Oath to not help you dorks is something hidden in Sanction, the malign supervillain lair of the Dragonarmies. You guys wanna come with?" And since they have literally no alternatives nor plot hooks, and every NPC encourages them to do this, they will.
Chapter 14: Into the Dragonlands
They can either travel to Sanction overland or by sea, and by sea either by their own ship or on a chartered trip with a captain that hates the Dragonarmies. Overland travel is basically impossible unless the players get a map showing them a secret pass into Sanction, since there's a mountain range they need to cross, and the non-secret pass is infinite encounters, while trying to cross the mountains without a pass has a 20% chance of provoking a Dex check per character, per hour, or they'll trigger an avalanche dealing 3d6 damage to that character. Crossing the mountains without a pass takes... six days. Assuming an 8-hour rest per day, that's 16*6 = 96, a potential 96 checks, which can each trigger 3d6 damage. A maximum of 1728 points of damage for a whopping 115.2 Ra, the most insanely dangerous thing in the entire series of modules thus far. Even assuming perfectly average rolls on everything, let's see... 19.2 checks(rounded down to 19), the worst Dex in the party belongs to Flint, he'd screw up half his rolls, so 9(if we round down again) rolls of 3d6 damage, up to 162 points of damage, for 10.8 Ra, or 5.4 Ra if we assume also average rolls on the damage.
Travelling overland is otherwise somewhat unrewarding, the players can travel relatively freely in the overworld, but most places they can reach are either under siege or Dragonarmy strongpoints like Lord Soth's castle which are undetailed except for how many things will show up to skullfuck the party. For instance Lord Soth himself has 3 Banshees as bodyguards and "undead of all types" in his fortress. The only thing it's suggested the players can interact with is that they can support a Solamnic dictator trying to take over a castle while the real owner is away fighting the Dragonarmies, except that's not really detailed either.
Going by land also has the problem that no matter which path they take, Fizban will latch on to their party, somewhere, somehow.
The smarter choice is going by sea where they encounter Fizban in the middle of the ocean on a small rowboat and can choose to just let him drown rather than bringing him along. The sea also has the advantages of zero random encounters, aside from Fizban there's literally only one encounter where the players are set upon by a Dragonarmy privateer craft crewed by minotaurs, and if they defeat the minotaurs they can steal their ship and their letter of marque, which will allow them basically free access to Sanction's harbor. If they don't do that, they'll have to either outrun the warships guarding the harbor or come up with a good excuse why they should be allowed in freely rather than in chains.
It's pretty obvious, considering that it has an actual detailed encounter rather than just endless random encounters, that the author intended for the players to go by sea. Going by sea the players can also sail into the maelstrom at Istar's former location to try and kill themselves and make the agony of being in Dragonlance end.
Another way to get into Sanction is essentially to fail any combat encounter, at which point the players are captured and hauled in right to their objective.
Chapter 15: Sanction
Sanction might as well be a fucking skull carved into the side of an erupting volcano, it's a town whose main industry is evil temples and which is surrounded by three constantly erupting volcanoes, to the point where the town is literally full of rivers of molten magma. The place has a constant temperature of 100F/38C, to boot. This place, where everyone should be vomiting out bloody chunks of their lungs on a daily basis, and where the streets are literally being eaten away by lava, is where the forces of evil have their secular headquarters, it's also the HQ of Ariakas, mega overlord of the Dragonarmies. Even just crossing the bridges over the lava rivers causes 1d4 heatstroke damage to anyone who fails a saving throw vs breath weapons, meaning most of the natives should be keeling over on a regular basis.
The place is such a mess that if the players actually get inside and just try to look vaguely like an organized troop of mercenaries, no one will give a shit, even if they start murdering other mercenaries in the streets over slights perceived or real, since everyone's used to small matters of bullying exploding into bloody violence. They might well have to regularly murder a few locals, mind you, since, not being draconian, ogre or minotaur, those three groups will try to pick on them. In one detailed encounter, a bunch of minotaurs will show up and try to rape any female PC's or NPC's unless the players murder them. Classy.
Out on the plains, the party might have encountered some resistance fighters if they came by land, and the leader might have asked them to help save his brother who's enslaved in Sanction. This plot thread feels somewhat forgotten, since he's given a location in Sanction's slave cells, but no real description of what'll happen if the party tries to free him, except that he and the other slaves will "try to help," which won't amount to much since Nathan's power level is roughly where a few of the party members were back in DL1.
He's one of the slaves pulling Ariakas' slavemobile.
The only three locations of any detail or interest in Sanction are three temples, to Huerzyd, Duerghast or Luerkhisis, none of which are real deities in the setting. Huerzyd is the home of the SHADOWPEOPLE, a bunch of weird magical telepathic bat people who live under Sanction. Duerghast is where they'll get hauled off to if taken prisoner, and Luerkhisis is their final objective. If they get taken prisoner and hauled off to Duerghast, the Shadowpeople will bust them out of their cells and introduce them to their mighty telepathic hivemind before showing them how to enter the temple of Luerkhisis. If the players decide to, for whatever reason, climb one of the volcanoes around Sanction, that also reveals a secret path into the Temple of Luerkhisis.
Let's just assume they get there, somehow.
Still can't get over these dumbass pauldrons which appear to be standard-issue for male Dragon Highlords
The Temple of Luerkhisis is important for three reasons.
Firstly, it's the only place the players can get their hands on some serious loot that actually justifies a bit of exploration(though not much, there's literally one location with worthwhile loot, the rest is all just more fights with draconians in various locales around the temple).
Secondly, they can bust into Ariakus' room while he's not home and shit on his bed. Outside of being around to interrogate the PC's if they get captured, Ariakus is mysteriously and inscrutably unfightable in this module.
Thirdly, this is where a bunch of evil wizards are using dragon drool(no, really) as part of a ritual to turn good dragon eggs into evil draconians.
The chanting has reached some kind of climax, for the hooded figures pause. Suddenly, a drop of saliva from the red dragon’s hideous maw plops onto the egg.
Immediately, the silvery surface turns black and slimy. Like some poisonous tumor, the egg begins to grow, changing shape and writhing as if in torment.
The egg becomes huge and begins to split apart. Instead of the silver dragon that should emerge, however, many squirming, lizard-like figures spill forth.
The egg has just given birth to several dozen miniature Sivak draconians.
As a bonus I suppose nothing says the players can't scoop up a handful of baby Draconians and raise them as their own kids at a later stage.
Anyway, the mages are high-level and evil, and also guarded by a Copper Dragon that they convinced... somehow, that guarding the eggs from anyone trying to rescue them was the good thing to do. The players can convince him that he's an idiot and fucked up if they use basic things like "logic" and "not being morons." Temporarily putting a stop to the corruption rituals requires fighting a 10th-level Cleric and Mage, as well as the big drooling red dragon helping with the ritual. It's not actually required, though, having seen the ritual is all the evidence that Dargent needs to declare DRAGON WAR.
Using magic telepathy that Dragon Highlords seem to get as part of their job perks, Ariakus senses that someone's figured out the Dragonarmies' secret and calls up all his goons on the Evilphone to go chase down the intruders. At this point, whether the PC's have met the Shadowpeople or not, one of them shows up and goes: "Hey nerds, you're about to die unless you follow me" and leads them into a secret passage brimming with random draconian encounters(though at this point since Dargent can drop the disguise and just vaporize enemies with breath weapons, that should trivialize much of the combat, so the GM is encouraged to just add dragons until the players feel threatened) until they reach the supreme Shadowpeople hivemind that can teleport, which teleports the players to safety.
Chapter 17: War in the Skies
It feels like an extremely Deus Ex Machina thing, and kind of lame, that the players are literally just teleported to Good Dragon Island north of the continent of Ansalon. Like... getting out again, and escaping Sanction(since just popping Dargent to dragon form and flying off in the main street might get them dogpiled), could have been a decently interesting challenge if they didn't decide to just... skip it. In fact the Shadowpeople feel like a really weird and random addition to Sanction, especially since the players will really only encounter them if they either investigate the temple to Huerzyd or get captured, the latter of which mostly requires them to fuck up a combat encounter or be incredibly stupid.
Anyway, GOOD DRAGON ISLAND.
The dragons are very upset and want to put the party in DRAGON JAIL until the party tells Aurumnus the Gold Dragon(no, really, that's his fucking name, I shit you not) about how baby Draconians are made(perhaps they've got a few stuffed in their backpack to show off. the game does not account for this but the party clearly needs more mascots), which makes the dragons declare DRAGON WAR on the forces of evil. They instantly whip up like a literal two-hundred fucking dragons, and give the PC's each a dragon mount with mounted lance(no word on whether the polar bear and any of the sabertooth kittens also get their own mounts) and decide it's off to get fighty. The players' dragon mounts are randomly decided in type and age category, which is dogshit since the age category of the mount, if nothing else, can decide a lot about their power.
This drops the PC's into an aerial battle with twelve evil dragons, supported by ground-based heavy artillery, while the majority of the dragons dogpile into the temple of Luerkhisis to purify it of all life that isn't precious eggs.
The main problem with this is mostly that the fight is decided by initiative almost entirely. Dragonlances and dragon breath weapons both run off current HP in determining how much damage they do, which means that striking first is likely an instant kill(since mounted lances deal damage equal to mount + rider HP, and the target only has mount HP), while striking second means that you've likely already had some of your offense ablated off by a breath weapon(though the saddles on the good dragons are shielded, and the rider receives half damage on a failed save or zero on a successful save). It's meant to be a cool aerial dogfight, which it could potentially be if not for the breath weapons being involved. 1E and 2E AD&D also hadve some moderately clunky aerial battle rules which require keeping track of speed, height, turning ratios and location for every combatant, especially since the dragonlances can't be used against targets who have height on you.
Anyway, once the party wins this fight, the module is over! The PC's have now closed the air power gap between the evil Dragonarmies and the good factions.
Also, thankfully, there are no scripted actions for Fizban in this entire module, making his presence completely irrelevant unless the GM loves harrassing the party with shitty homebrewed fishmalk antics.
Kree! I guess our Christmas present is that this module was mercifully short! Remember kids, stay on the railroad tracks and daddy Niles won't have to hurt you with endless avalanches!
Thank you for the wisdom, Skeleton Warrior.
Merry Christmas, everyone!
Next up: DL10, Dragons of Dreams
Dragons of Deceit: 3rd Edition ChangesOriginal SA post
Dragons of Deceit: 3rd Edition Changes
This is the last blog post I ever wrote on my own campaign. I did complete the Chronicles, it’s just that all this writing was quite a bit of work.
1. Lord Gunthar Uth Wistan is not a playable PC option. On a similar note, the “obscure death” rule is lifted here in the AD&D manual:
Remember that player characters are no longer subject to the obscure death rule. If a PC dies, he's gone forever!
Given in 3rd Edition that divine resurrection is easily a thing at this level (12th-13th) this is not as large a hindrance as it is in AD&D.
2. On a similar note the character D’argent is impersonating is not under PC control. Given she is shape-shifting rather than using magic jar spell (mind-swap bodies) she never assumes her true dragon form unless the PCs are fighting an evil dragon (such as Harkiel in Sanction). She is still a powerful option when taking humanoid form in 3e, as she has access to 6th-level spells.
3. We have brief role-play write-ups on two characters in Palanthas: Captain Karyzzal who can lend the PCs a ship to sail to Sanction, and Lord Amothus who...doesn’t really do much of anything.
4. The Tower of High Sorcery generates a powerful fear effect preventing people from walking up to it. It is more vague in AD&D, but in 3rd Edition its outer limit is given mention that it functions as a Fear spell at 20th caster level. Any closer than 500 feet is an auto-fail and can affect even beings immune to fear. In AD&D the limit is 100 feet instead.
5. If the PCs meet and rescue Fizban at sea (or in the alternate land encounter), it will mention that he and D’argent will not be on speaking terms during this adventure due to the combat between the two during Dragons of Light. The adventure will also mention that he can do a one-time “fall guy” bail-out if the PCs end up captured in Sanction or ‘inadvertently’ wander into a trap or hazard which the party failed to notice.
6. Several encounters are changed a bit: the adult blue dragon who the PCs can encounter at sea is much stronger and has more staying power than his AD&D counterpart. Howevering, spells such as Shivering Touch and save-or-die/lose spells can still make for a quick combat. A potential save-or-die hazard of whirlpools at sea will not kill PCs who end up in a sinking ship. Given how many different types of races/spells/feats/etc exist in 3rd Edition, rules are instead given for how strong the whirlpool’s current is and how long it takes for the ship to sink to the bottom of the sea. Also Swim checks for swimming out of reach. Patrolling scrags (aquatic trolls) are higher in number from 4 to 11 and led by a leader with levels in Ranger.
8. Land encounters are a bit different, and have static number of enemies instead of rolling randomly. The random number of dragons at Vingaard keep is kept at 2 instead of 1d6, while the war parties Dargaard Mountains number only 20 hobgoblins to fight instead of 40.
9. Warren Windsound, a rebel leader in the swampy Dragonarmy terrain of Estwilde, got some stat upgrades. He’s a multi-class Fighter/Rogue of a total level of 10; in AD&D he was just a 5th level Fighter.
10. Now that 3rd Edition has been released after Final Fantasy VI, you can now play this iconic “evil empire city” music when the PCs visit Sanction.
11. This has applied to some prior settlements such as Tarsis and Palanthas, but 3rd Edition has city stat blocks: mentioning the alignment of the governing power, the people of note, racial and class demographics (D&D, not economic) and so on. Sanction’s rather novel in that it also lists the breakdown of the city guard and Red Dragonarmy presence, listing the number of soldiers of each class (the Red Dragonarmy Reserve Company has 2 7th-level Fighters, 18 2nd-level Fighters, etc).
12. Instead of a random encounter generator of who to meet on the streets and their race and class, there’s a more brief and holistic overview: the city is filled with dangerous violent people attracted by the Dragonarmies’ promises of wealth and power, the soldiers are belligerent, while the original human natives who lived here before their rise work in the service sector such as taverns, inns, and shops catering to the soldiers and mercs.
13. Several named encounters in the city have more detail: witnessing ogres fighting human mercenaries provides stats if the PCs intervene. In an encounter between an ogre-minotaur clash, PCs who aid the ogres will have the giants clap them on the back, saying “you small folk aren’t so bad after all” and advise them on which army camps to avoid.
14. Technically part of changed encounters but important in that it acknowledges the possibility of pulling a fast on one an otherwise overwhelming opposition: PCs who see Emperior Ariakas’ procession have the opportunity to follow it to the Temple of Luerkhisis (entering is another matter) and thus gain a clue of where Ansalon’s emperor stays while in Sanction. If the PCs are brave or canny enough to rescue one of the slaves, they learn that his name is Nathan and he and the other slaves were freedom fighters part of a local insurgency. The slaves (both in this encounter and imprisoned in the Temple of Luerkhisis) are similarly-martial and have some decent stats (5th-level Warriors) who can at least cause a dent in some of the weaker enemies through sheer numbers if liberated; in AD&D they are not trained in combat.
15. Penalties to resist breaking under torture are a DC 20 Constitution roll rather than rolling a d20 under your Constitution score to succeed, which makes it much harder. Certain feats can provide bonuses, such as Iron Will and Endurance. The torturer is given a name and stats, a hobgoblin rogue named Lord Craven, accompanied by an ogre barbarian named Grunk the Ogre (i’m not repeating myself, this is how the adventure stat block refers to him).
16. There’s a lot less handouts, like the artwork on dragonlances and saddles for dragonriders, Lord Gunthar’s personal journal while he travels with the PCs, and a full-page artwork of Silvart/D’argent in both her elf and dragon forms. A bit of a sad loss IMO.
17. Remember that Mob template I mentioned back in Dragons of Ice? Well it’s actually used for Dragonarmy soldiers this time! But only humans, goblins, and hobgoblins and not draconians, ogres, or minotaurs.
18. In the giant army camp (ogres, minotaurs, trolls, etc) PCs in the AD&D version will be bullied mercilessly by soldiers of said races looking for a fight. In 3rd Edition monster stats are listed as merely potential encounters.
19. There are no random encounters in the Temple of Heurzyd, with empty rooms filled up with more appropriate encounters. In AD&D they included things like swarms of rats/carrion crawlers/stirges and possibly some draconians, but one room has a beefy Elder Black Pudding ooze. Same thing for the Temple of Duerghast, but with more Dragonarmy soldiers and captured arena animals instead of scavenging vermin. A penned dire tiger, if communicated with via magic, can join the party out of gratitude.
20. The Temple of Luerkhisis (Ariakas’ dwelling and secret dwelling of the good dragon eggs) has its front gates guarded by two shifts of a rotating pair of red and white dragons; the white one is less attentive and thus is easier to sneak past with a suitable disguise. Ariakas can be encountered during the day, presiding over an assembly in the audience hall.
21. Clerics of Takhisis are renamed Dark Pilgrims of Takhisis. Those within the Dragon Empire’s territory who shown the right amount of competence as well as Lawful Evilness have the chance to undergo clerical training in one of the large religious centers, thus engendering a sort of pilgrimage; they were detailed in a spin-off novel but became a bonafide prestige class in 3rd Edition (sort of a cleric/rogue hybrid, but which only the priest corrupting the good dragon eggs has levels in in this adventure). They are much stronger level-wise, being 9th-level Clerics with access to some pretty debilitating spells (Dispel Magic, Blind/Deafness, Confusion, etc), whereas in AD&D they were merely 3 Hit Die enemies.
21. Ariakas’ bedroom has a Mirror of Life Trapping in both versions, but in 3rd Edition there’s an internal mechanism of a swift-moving tapestry to cover it which can throw off observes (who may think it was the tapestry and not the concealed mirror which caused a person to disappear). The Emperor’s personal treasure room also has several potions and a bandolier holding sheathes of various wands.
22. One of the secret entrances into a tunnel beneath the temple is guarded by an ice devil (gelugon).
23. The copper dragon prisoner has been tortured, poisoned by Wisdom-draining substances, and threatened by Emperor Ariakas himself that 100 eggs will be destroyed for every intruder which gets past him. His addled mental state is a result of the aforementioned trauma rather than in AD&D him being “not very bright.”
24. The stats for the baby sivak draconians are excised and presumed to be treated as noncombatants due to this.
25. To make up for the loss of prior handouts, we get an illustration of the corruption of the good dragon eggs:
26. Since D’argent is not a PC she will automatically offer one of the heroes to ride on her back during the aerial assault of Sanction. In AD&D it was up to the player controlling her whether or not to allow such a cool thing.
27. We have a totally badass illustration of the metallic dragons flying to war:
28. Saving this for the end, but of the major NPCs Emperor Ariakas underwent some changes: he’s multi-classed 23rd level character in both, but in AD&D he’s a Cleric/Fighter who does not have a full spell list but can be presumed to have any conceivable lower-level spell on hand. In 3rd Edition he’s an arcane spellcaster instead, with levels in Wizard and Knight of the Thorn for his spellcasting, with Fighter, Legendary Tactician, and Dragon Highlord for his martial side. Technically speaking the Knight of the Thorn is an Age of Mortals thing for spellcasting Knights of Takhisis, but as Ariakas is meant to be the ur-concept he has levels in a Prestige Class that doesn’t yet exist.
Brief Outline on the Adventure Path TimelineOriginal SA post
Brief Outline on the Adventure Path Timeline
Obligatory Valkyria Chronicles Music
I realize that this is a long time coming, but I've been juggling the holidays along with my Towers of High Sorcery review and compiling future 3rd Edition Changes for adventures PurpleXVI hasn't yet posted. So here I outline the preceding and succeeding years involving the War of the Lance, the principal conflict of the Dragonlance Chronicles.
Some things to outline: people earlier pointed out the seeming rapidity of the Dragonarmies taking over much of Ansalon. The continent of Ansalon is rather small, being approximately 1,000 miles north to south and 1,500 miles east to west. Even so, a lot of it is inhospitable terrain, with the central region full of mountains and the far south with arctic wasteland. The Blood Sea of Istar in the east can be circumnavigated but is more dangerous to sail upon unless you’re a hardcore minotaur.
In addition to flying dragons as aerial units, it must be mentioned that the Dragon Empire is effectively a high-magic nation in a low-magic world. They’ve existed for roughly 20 years building up their forces before the adventure’s onset, and have the only major source of clerical magic on Ansalon. The Wizards of High Sorcery have not really been involved in the war save for some notable exceptions, but the Dragonarmies get around this with Bozak draconians who have minor arcane spellcasting and can progress in ability. Aurak draconians are even more powerful, but they’re rare enough to the point that they’re only deployed in special operations. So the bad guys basically have all the benefits of D&D spellcasting while most national armies have Fighters and Rogues/Thieves at best. The Silvanesti and Qualinesti elves are the major exceptions in regards to arcane magic (both wizards and storehouses of magical items), and the Empire was particularly ruthless in crushing them for these reasons.
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.
141 AC, the Gods Return: Takhisis transports the Temple of Istar from its undersea ruin 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, are reawakened by Takhisis.
157 AC, Plans Awry: The Foundation Stone is 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.
287 AC, Egg Theft: The metallics still asleep, the chromatics steal the good dragons’ eggs.
296 AC, Blackmail: Once the metallic dragons wake up, Takhisis blackmails them to stay out of the continent’s affairs and the oncomoning war. Unknowing of their eggs’ location, they reluctantly obey.
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 starts to gather various mercenary groups together to take control of local tribes, and the aid of local chromatic dragons aiding the call.
342 AC, Draconians Created: With the aid of a Black Robe wizard, a priest of Takhisis, and a red dragon, the Dragonarmies discover 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 move east into the ogre nations of Blode and Kern as well as the human tribes of Khur and the Blood Sea Isles. A half-ogre by the name of Lucien Takar becomes the Black Dragon Highlord and unites the ogres under service, but the Khur tribes that refuse to bow to the Dark Queen start up a local insurgency. Said insurgency is still ongoing but losing ground, and by 349 AC 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 fall 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 knows that it’s 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: you see, the elves have 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 creating 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. Nearby kingdoms of Throt and Lemish who were no allies of Solamnia threw their lot in with the Dragonarmies. The Red Dragonarmy conquered much of southenr Solamnia, which they used as a stating ground to send squads into Abanasinia due to rumors of the return of the true gods and their artifacts. Instead of out and out troops they used disguised draconians (and some goblins) for reconnaissance and diplomacy.
351 AC, Dragons of Autumn Twilight: The events of Dragons of Autumn Twilight. PCs find knowledge of the true gods in Abanasinian ruins. Abanasinian towns and the elven nation of Qualinesti are invaded and razed, the Dragonarmies having learned from their mistakes in Silvanesti to perform differently. The Red Dragonarmy brokers a deal with the dark dwarf clans of Thorbadin to provoke a civil war, but are ultimately unsuccessful. The Red Dragon Highlord, Verminaard, is killed in the uprisings. Thorbadin remains 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 convene to find the best way to fight the Dragonarmies. The city of Tarsis, is razed by the Blue Dragonarmy and occupied. The PCs find the Dragon Orb in Icewall Castle, the White Dragon Highlord, Feal-Thas, is killed. The secrets of making the Dragonlances are rediscovered in Ergoth. The High Clerist’s Tower is defended as the last major bastion of Solamnic resistance against the Blue Dragonarmy.
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 visit the sacred site of Godshome and get divine insights.
The Heroes of Spring and Winter reunite to assault the Temple of Istar in Neraka where Emperor Ariakas plans to open up the portal and let the Dark Queen into the world.
353 AC, End of the War of the Lance: Takhisis is defeated based on one of six possible ending resolutions. The Whitestone forces push back the Dragonarmies which are now fractious and disunited with the fall of Ariakas and the remaining Dragon Highlords. Only the Blue Dragonarmy ends up with any appreciable territory for years to come.
355 AC, Rebuilding: Gunthar Uth Wistan becomes the new Grand Master of the Knights of Solamnia and reforms the Measure to be updated for modern times. The Qualinesti and Silvanesti resettle in their homelands and rebuild, but the latter group has a long task in cleansing their forest of Lorac’s Nightmare.
Overall, the timeline is a bit fast. The Silvanesti Campaign's 2 years is rather quick for a grinding war of attrition when you look at historical wars, although the rest of the Dragon Empire's conquests are more gradual.
Dragons of DreamsOriginal SA post Dragonlance
DL10: Dragons of Dreams
Oh boy does this one ever suck shit. Like, okay, there have been bad DL modules so far. Oh boy have there ever been ones that wouldn't be fun to play in. And there have been adventures that, as-written, the players would be incredibly unlikely to ever make it through without the Obscure Death rule saving their bacon. But DL10? I think it may be the first one that's actually fucking impossible to run as written.
You'll find out why in part 3, fuck this module.
So, remember back in DL6, when we split the party? This is when we finally get back to the rest of those losers!
Chapter 1: Griffon's Flight
So we're back in Tarsis when the Blue Dragonarmy attacks. The first half of the party escapes south out of the city, but this half of the party gets immediately dogpiled by invading forces when the elf they're hanging out with(Alhana) whistles up a pile of griffons and goes: "WE GOTTA GET OUT OF HERE." If the players say yes, Chapter 1 is instantly skipped. If they say, "no, we wanna stay here and save people" or "no, you seem fucking shady you knife-eared box of dicks" chapter 1 exists entirely to punish them. The only thing they can do that won't instantly TPK them is to leave Tarsis and head east as fast as possible to hit the border of Silvanesti where Chapter 2 starts. Anything else triggers the ol' classic "enemies attack until you lose," except rather than a TPK the PC's get captured, lose all their weapons(which should include a good few magical ones) and then Alhana shows up and rescues them. So they get back on the railroad, just heavily punished for thinking they got to make any choices.
While wandering the plains eastwards to Silvanesti, the party might also think they're being smart by foraging for food. But any berries they collect and don't eat instantly will rot overnight and the smell will worsen all random encounters for the whole day! Ha ha! Fuck you, PC's for thinking you were intelligent!
The only interesting part of Chapter 1 is when the players reach the border of Silvanesti, they'll cross a river and see a PROPHECY in the waters telling them how to win the module. See, for whatever reason, the solution to the final puzzle is randomized and revealed in the prophecy. I don't get why, it would somewhat make sense for a tournament module, to prevent it being easily remembered and gamed by players with sticky brains, but for a module you'll almost certainly only ever run once, and with one group, it seems like a very pointless thing.
Anyway, once the party is past the borders of Silvanesti, Chapter 2 and the real
Chapter 2: The Bleeding Forest
So what happened to Silvanesti was that their king, Lorac, was like: "oh shit these fucking dragonarmies are invading, better mess with this highly suspicious magic orb" and then he did and he fucked it up and now Silvanesti is all Silent Hill. It's weird, murderous and full of illusions. In fact, almost every single enemy in Silvanesti is an illusion, which means the players might disbelieve them into not existing, except this happens per illusion, per player, so half the party succeeding at disbelieving an illusory enemy just means they can't aid the other half who're still stuck with it. Illusory enemies technically only deal 1/4 real damage to players, but being knocked down to 0 HP still kills them, and they won't learn of the "fake" damage until the very end of the module.
Disbelieving is an Int check, and by default, at this stage of Silvanesti, most of the PC's will have a 10% chance of disbelieving something that's attacking them, while Tika literally cannot pass a disbelief check, and only Raistlin has a base chance of 25% or better. Speaking of, he's gained a whole 3 HP since last we saw him! Don't worry, though, basically every enemy will still one-shot him if they land a hit. So our Ra aren't thrown off too much for use in this.
Just to add up the fun, thanks to Dream Geometry, any time a PC is out of sight of the rest of the party for even a split second, they're magically lost, moved to somewhere random in the forest, and will have to deal with random encounters all by their lonesome for the period they're by themselves. In a worst case scenario this is 8 random encounter checks that can cough up one or more dragons a piece. Great way to get a TPK.
Now, to increase the fun, we've already got 7 PC's present, and 6 PC's away, but the missing PC's can still show up as dream versions of themselves, which the GM is encouraged to have played by their original players, which means you can end up dealing with a mad fucking 13 players at worst. The GM is encouraged to be annoying and vague and keep the PC's thinking their characters might actually be present, also their real selves take 1/4 damage when their dream illusion selves do, so a sufficiently overkill hit could see non-present PC's explode like someone just stomped on a grape out of nowhere.
The goal of the PC's in every chapter of DL10 is to get deeper in the forest and reach King Lorac to end the nightmare.
Chapter 2 is primarily just awful random encounters over and over, like a fixed encounter that hits them with three elementals that can each do enough damage to flatten Raistlin in a single hit(1.8 Ra/32HP max damage from the toughest one) and enough to smush Alhana in one whack, too, if they roll max damage. The remainder of the party is "lucky" enough to be able to survive two hits. These elementals also have 16 Hit Dice, that's a potential shitload of health, so they'll likely get in a lot of attacks before the PC's win, if they win. One potential TPK encounter already, especially if the party got stripped of their magic gear in Chapter 1!
And then they also get strafed by a fucking dragon, no breath weapon, though, so it's survivable, because Cyan Bloodbane, the dragon torturing King Lorac, for whatever reason "doesn't want to kill the PC's right away." Fucking stupid.
The only truly unique encounter in Chapter 2 is Tower Shalost. If the players find it and break into it more or less because they're bored, they can suffer through an arbitrary block-spinning puzzle that I couldn't even parse while reading the module(it feels like it would make a lot of sense if you could see it, but described by text I really can't wrap my brain around it. It may just be me that's the moron.), likely trial-and-erroring it and triggering multiple random attacks each time they do so, before getting through to the inner sanctum. I'm not descriving Tower Shalost because there's nothing but the puzzle and the inner sanctum, where they find Waylorn Wyvernsbane, an ancient druid that's slept for hundreds of years and is mostly only worth bringing along for some extra meat to smash into enemy illusions. He's dumb as a box of sticks, will succeed at literally no disbelief checks, almost as fragile as fucking Raistlin and has recurring periods where he hallucinates that he's actually the legendary hero Huma. The reward, aside from Waylorn, is also a magic staff that the PC's can poke themselves with to tell how many HP they have(it shows a literal HP gauge). Technically it could also be used to poke illusions to tell they're illusory, but this gives them no bonus to actually disbelieving them, and also the staff is actually reasonably fragile and would probably get broken by incidental damage the first time they tried this otherwise-intelligent strategy.
If the players get lucky, they'll stumble on a river that'll carry them straight to the capital of Silvanesti... if they pass an arbitrary choice of which branch of the river to sail down. They have literally no clues as to which branch is the right one(coincidentally, the right one!), and picking the wrong one gets them into a fight with three extremely beefy water elementals and requires them to pass a strength check at -5 or suffer 1d12 damage from drowning... after which, they have to pass another strength check or suffer 1d12 from drowning... and so on, until they either pass it and get out of the river or just die. Caramon, Riverwind and Tanis are the only ones with the sufficient Strength to have a 50+% chance of making the check, and Raistlin only needs to fail two and he's probably dead. This is a real bullshit encounter to shit out on to the PC's.
Really, though, this chapter is just random encounter after random encounter sprinkled with a chance to make a non-canon buddy or get drowned in a river, and also repeated descriptions of how spooky they are. But hey, this doesn't sound so bad, right? Maybe the players will even disbelieve an encounter or two into not happening! What's so dogshit about this, you're gonna ask, Purple? Yeah just you fucking hang on.
At this fucking point of the game, the GM will be running a minimum of 49 PC's and NPC's(assuming no one died on the way), 64 if the PC's picked up Waylorn, more yet if the random counters say they picked up some illusions of their non-present buddies along the way.
Kree! This is worse than the time you dreamed about having to go through 64200 old TSR supplements for a criminal investigation!
God you're... you're not fucking kidding, Skeleton Warrior.
Next Time: I'll explain this dumb bullshit. Or I'll try. Dear God
DL10, Chapter 3: Hollow GloryOriginal SA post Dragonlance
DL10, Chapter 3: Hollow Glory
So, let me just explain that outburst from last time. As we enter Chapter 3, the GM is supposed to run a separate game for each character as they enter their own illusory dreamworld version of the Silvanesti capital... except each of them also have the rest of the party(and any illusory companions picked up along the way) present in their own dreamworlds, and still run by their own players, and no one's informed which dreamworld thread is theirs where they're real and which one is the one where they're an illusion.
Assuming the worst case scenario, if the entire non-present squad has shown up and been kept alive, and the party has also collected Waylorn, but assuming there aren't any threads being run where Waylorn, Alhana or the not-really-present characters are the "main characters," that gets us to... 84 "active" characters, spread over six separate sessions which all need to be run until they reach the tower at the center of the city, oh and at this stage the massive penalties to disbelieving illusions increase so that really only Raistlin is left with a ~10% chance of disbelieving any awful bullshit thing happening to the party.
This section is relatively light on "fuck you for existing"-encounters, though, mostly Silvanost is empty and forgettable, populated largely by imprisoned elves, monsters disguised as imprisoned elves and illusions of imprisoned elves. Though of course, ha ha, there are still RANDOM ENCOUNTERS! A truly unfortunate party(the distances travelled are rolled randomly between encounters, so you can either skip between them instantly or risk up to six per, and there are five encounters for each group before they reach the tower) could end up hitting up to 30 of the fucking things, up to and including getting attacked by Cyan the huge green dragon(at 54 HP only Tanis and Caramon won't be instantly wiped out by his breath weapon on a failed save. At 3 or 1.5 Ra on a failed or successful save respectively, Raistlin will always get wiped out if he hits the party with his breath weapon) or Beholders, which are no less scary in 1e than in later editions.
Oh and, ha ha, this is per party. So at worst the players have to deal with 180 random encounters just to get to the next stage of the game.
A special prize for potential encounter 23 in this section:
"The sounds of weeping clash with wild laughter‚ all coming from the side alleys. Suddenly you are set upon by elves gone insane!"
Roll 3d6 every time you run this Encounter to determine how many of these elves attack. Thus the Encounter will be different for each group.
Ah yes so very fucking different because you don't know how many elves you have to murder each time. What's the matter, Niles, did you have a deadline? Or were you just too eager to get back to huffing lead paint for miniatures behind the company dumpster full of old Dragon Dice supplements?
Anyway, the other noteworthy encounters are an execution(with randomized executioner and executed), where interfering to save the executee will give you a hint that will help not at all, because it's not something you can do anything about. "YOUR GREATEST STRENGTH WILL BECOME YOUR WEAKNESS IN THE TOWER!" and we'll see what dumb shit that means when we get to chapter 4. Spoiler: It's extremely fucking stupid. Another encounter gives them a chance to free a prisoner, who's either an evil spirit in disguise, an illusion of King Lorac who's evil, a water spirit(who doesn't contribute anything), the illusion of an elven cleric(who is, however, level 12, and thus actually quite useful) or an elf general who tells the party a story summarized as follows: A kid is lost in the woods and afraid, but falls asleep under the stars because Paladine is nice, and doesn't die, the end.
So after butchering like a couple hundred illusionary elves, the party eventually reaches the tower at the center of Silvanost...
Chapter 4: The Web of Shadow & Night
And we're still keeping up the fucking stupid split illusionary parties thing, I'll note. Mostly Chapter 4 is the same as Chapter 3 except way more eager to kill the party. Illusions can literally no longer be disbelieved in any effective way, and here comes the whole "STRENGTHS BECOME WEAKNESSES"-thing which is mostly just "fuck you for playing anything but a wizard." Fighters are reduced to mage Thac0 and saving throws, Rogues have their success chances at rogue-y stuff reversed(but the party has no Rogue if they're the canon one, anyway, so whatevs), Clerics and Druids get a crippling spell failure chance that gets worse the higher their Wisdom and Mages gain a full spellcasting level and steal the Thac0 and saves of Fighters.
The lack of a rogue is a problem since some potential encounters require lockpicking to proceed, plus one of the potential very first encounters will probably pulp most parties thanks to the reversed stats. Three Stone Golems that can belt out 1.3 Ra worth of splattered PC's, each, per round, when all party members bar Raistlin have been reduced to being completely useless? Yeah. Great show. One of the other potential first encounters is simply a locked door... that only the real Alhana can unlock, except there's only a real Alhana in one of the parties. Now, the lock could be picked... but the party has no rogue if it's the canon party. Congrats, Douglas Niles, you just provided a fucking challenge that's unbeatable by the canon party unless they get real lucky.
After the front door, oh boy, old Nilesy gets real fucking lazy. I'm sure that everyone's noticed that most editions of D&D have a "random dungeon generator" in the DMG, i.e. "roll to see if the next thing is a corridor or a room," and has briefly entertained using it to make a dungeon or perhaps a one-shot adventure before discarding that as lazy and silly. Not Douglas Niles, actual TSR RPG module author! In between every actual encounter, you're supposed to use that fucking thing to generate random paths. Now, if you're pleanning to create weird, geometric dream logic areas? Possibly not a bad idea. But still, this is Niles, so I'm going with him being a lazy fucko. It's especially fun because we're now getting a potential random encounter per ten fucking in-game minutes, with each having a 1 in 12 chance of Cyan Bloodbane or a Beholder. There are other encounters as well, but comparatively, they're quite forgettable.
The next forced encounter is a literal dragon, and note that this party has no Dragonlances to one-shot them with, and even if they had, their Fighters wouldn't be able to land a damn hit anyway.
But the dragon is, uh, also not a dragon? Which is weird because the dragon is an illusion, but it's covering up another illusion? Like in one case it's an illusion of a dragon that's actually a polymorphed illusion of one of the party members. In the other case it's an illusion that's covering an iron golem(which will absolutely fucking paste the party so hard it's not even funny, it can kill over two Raistlins per turn. Alternately the dragon can be dead and it's instead a a Lich that'll one-shot the entire party with a Delayed Blast Fireball on round one. I don't fucking get this, does the disguise drop when the dragon attacks? Or do they get attacked by the dragon unless they disbelieve it, and now there's another illusion that'll attack them instead?
Oh and the text actively encourages the GM to "target the players' weaknesses," it might as well be chanting for a TPK since one of the next potential encounters is fucking Lord Soth, who's a laughable joke of a character, but a terrifying meatgrinder of an opponent. He can basically one-shot the entire party with a 20d6 damage fireball(120 or 6,66 Ra HP worth of damage at peak output), cast any Power Word spell(one of which is "Kill," it does exactly what you think it does) or just blender the party by being a more dangerous combatant than any member of the party even assuming their Fighters hadn't been downgraded to uselessness.
So at this point the party has probably clued in that they'll be fighting a dragon as the end boss of the module, and they stumble on to a room full of Dragonlances! Except either the lances are evil and attack them, or they'll come with a crazy version of Silvart who'll betray the party(1 in 6 chance per 10 minutes or any time the lances are used, because another dragon to fight is a great addition to any game) or the lances are literally guarded by an illusionary Takhisis(but remember, die in the illusion, die for real!) that roasts the party with breath weapons for 1d6+4 rounds before sauntering off, as if they'll even survive one round of that.
The only good part of this maze is an encounter with an illusionary Fizban that the party is actually allowed to fight and kill. The two alternate versions of this involve either fighting an evil copy of Raistlin(who's just as fragile, lol, it'll be like one turn and he's dead) or Berem(who's immortal! the book just says the PC's will have to "find some way of dealing with him" to get past him. REAL FUCKING HELPFUL, NILES). Fizban is also guarding a dying copy of Berem that'll give the party some clues(i.e. "REMEMBER WHAT THE RIVER SHOWED YOU WAY BACK, LOSERS!") and then die. Which is honestly a bit weird because while Berem is very metaplot-important, the party met him for like five minutes back in DL4 and since then he's never been present or mentioned even once, which makes it feel like they included him there and then only way later realized they needed a Deus Ex Machina for the plot to work and hurried to make him real important and not just another throwaway NPC to clutter things up.
Eventually, however, the parties will arrive at the last encounter in the tower, Lorac's throne room, which contains five fucking dragons, four illusions of Cyan Bloodbane, and one real version. At this point all characters also regain control over both their real versions and their illusionary versions, meaning each player can end up running a small army by themselves. Even so, five dragons with their breath weapons can basically wipe the slate clean in seconds, so probably the smartest thing to do is awaken Lorac, since waking him from his dream banishes all the illusions and makes Cyan leg it despite the fact that a single breath weapon blast would still clear most of the party out of the way.
Depending on the vision back when the party entered Silvanesti, they may have the option to either: have Alhana slap him, have Alhana hug him, have Waylorn, Goldmoon or the illusion of the elf cleric hit him with a Dispel Magic spell, yell the irrelevant story about the sleepy kid at him, break the Dragon Orb or kill Lorac. Only one of the first four will work, but the latter two will always work. Even if the party doesn't stab Lorac, he cries for a bit and then just dies anyway, so the smart move is absolutely for everyone to just alpha strike Lorac with everything they've got their hands on to take him down, forgetting the stupid, might-fail solutions(Lorac gets a save against all of them except for the weird story if that one comes up, and the Orb takes a decent amount of damage before it breaks).
So that's it, that's the exciting adventure of DL10. You get no loot, you save no one, all you do is wake up a couple of old men and pray that the migraine will somehow kill you before you need to run the sixth fucking clone of your own character in yet another fight against twenty generic elves.
Kree! How did anyone ever play this shit to its conclusion? Douglas Niles is a psychopath!
Seriously this one is absolutely the worst most unplayable trash the Dragonlance modules have dropped on us so far.
Next time: More suffering! But at least it's a different flavour!
Dragons of Dreams: 3rd Edition ChangesOriginal SA post
Dragons of Dreams: 3rd Edition Changes
1. For the pregenerated heroes there are some changes. Alhana is a fighter/noble rather than pure fighter; Goldmoon has 8 levels in Cleric and 1 in Chorister, a prestige class from War of the Lance which is akin to a divine bard with song-based class features; Raistlin has 3 levels in the Wizard of High Sorcery Prestige Class, and for his Red Robe specialization he chose Magic of Independence which makes his magic harder to dispel; Riverwind is a multi-class Barbarian/Ranger rather than pure Ranger, as is Tanis who is a Fighter/Ranger and Tika being a Fighter/Rogue (both were pure Fighters in AD&D); finally, Waylorn Wyvernsbane is still a druid, but has 1 level in Barbarian and a black bear animal companion named Colbert.
2. Some of the Archetypes which serve as guidelines for running original PCs got updated. The Conscience, which Tika served, is meant to be the group’s moral compass. Waylorn Wyvernsbane, although a joining DMPC, is the Enigma who is meant to be the cliche “mysterious stranger.” Alhana Starbreeze is the Noble who is from a royal family of Ansalon’s great nations (not necessarily Silvanesti). Kronn-alin Thistleknot, a DMPC who will join up in a later adventure, is the Rebel, representing someone who is all about FIGHTING FOR FREEDOM. The Swashbuckler, the third DMPC archetype played by a Silvanesti sailor in the next adventure, is for the flamboyant warrior which is important given the adventure after this one has lots of sea travel.
3. The Red Dragon Inn, that place that got blitzkrieged shortly after Alhana Starbreeze and the party escaped via griffons, has a map. If the PCs decide for whatever reason to refuse Alhana’s offer to escape or stick around an adult blue dragon will arrive to hunt down and kill the PCs; if the PCs can drive off or kill said dragon, they will be able to safely escape.
4. There’s some more in-depth description of rules references in the DL Campaign Setting and the Player’s Handbook for the Plains of Dust and survival (weather, temperature, aerial combat rules due to flying on griffonback, etc). The loss of Constitution from starvation and exposure to the elements from travel is unneeded, for 3rd Edition has rules for all those things in the base rules. There’s some new places to visit which are given short descriptions, such as the Tower of Tears home to the souls of the dead who drank from its poisoned waters, and the village of Stone Rose which is a haven of outcasts and empty buildings so named for a petrified hedge maze of stone rose bushes.
5. The random encounters are given more detail than just meeting monsters and their number. There are lists for specific encounters and the monsters’ desire and tactics: harpy archers will use their songs to divert the griffons’ flight down to some ruins, while some centaurs paranoid from Dragonarmy soldiers invading their territory may approach the heroes in a tense stand-off when they make camp. A lot of the encounters in the Plains of Dust involve creatures capable of flight (or wait for the PCs to make camp on the ground), given that griffon-riding would render most groundbound enemies trivial.
6. There’s a half-page block of text for questions and likely answers from Alhana Starbreeze:
7. Several mandatory (aka non-random) encounters are added to when the PCs make camp. Some involve combat while others are role-play opportunities. One of them involves visiting some refugee elves in Stone Rose who aren’t dicks to the party for once. They’re happy to see Alhana and offer a roof to sleep under for the PCs and what passes for a meal under such tough times. There’s also two Silvanesti elf children who, while their parents don’t approve, will try to discreetly meet up with the PCs to learn about non-elves. I actually like this encounter for several reasons: it is one of the few humanizing touches of the elves during the Chronicles from those who aren’t DMPCs and shows the fact that they’re suffering from the diaspora. Contrast this with Dragons of Light, where they’re living high and mighty off of the exploited Kagonesti.
One other encounter I like is a temple home to a giant World Tree dedicated to Zivilyn the God of Wisdom. Those who sleep during camp will get a vision of finding a medallion in the tree, and a PC who ascends will find a Medallion of Faith and get the opportunity to become a Cleric of said deity. One of the combat encounters involves the griffons going wild as they smell one of their own, a young one who has been captured and tortured by four ogre barbarians and will immediately fly to aid their kin whether the PCs like it or not.
8. One of the in-game speeches by Alhana, where she describes the backstory of what happened to Silvanesti and her father, is moved from the Appendix under her character entry to a scene when the PCs arrive at the forest kingdom’s borders. The AD&D version makes reference to this when the party arrives at here too, but it’s moved for ease of convenience.
9. Disbelieving a dreamshadow enemy means that they treat damage from said creature as non-lethal. The PCs can still attack and fight said enemies unlike in AD&D.
10. Killing a Dreamshadow version of an existing character will not transfer damage over to the real one.
11. Literary aids and advice are provided for describing the nightmare realm of Silvanesti, to make it seem like an ephemeral dream whose logic changes on a whim and distance beyond 60 feet can be off for purposes of movement, ranged combat, short-range teleportation, etc. Some of this can be bad in the hands of the wrong DM, such as asking players to roll Will saves for no reason and simply shake your head while going “you don’t notice anything unusual.” To speed up play and die rolling checks to disbelieve an illusory encounter the party as a whole makes one Will save by the PC with the highest modifier, but others can aid another (add +2 to the roll) with successful Sense Motive checks.
12. There are several new random and set-piece encounters in Silvanesti, too. They include things like a fire elemental disguised as an elf on fire screaming for help, murderous pixies driving a tormented dire bear into the PCs’ path, an arcane ooze formed by the magical residue of Silvanesti wizards who tried and failed to halt the Nightmare’s expansion (it literally eats spell slots!). Some places which had no encounters gets an enemy or two, such as a Wyndlass (swampy barbed tentacle octopus) in Quinarest. Also there’s no “splitting up” of real and dreamshadow PCs. The DM can still covertly swap out a real PC for a dreamshadow, but those not part of the main party are presumed to be doing stuff offscreen. Or if a PC dies the DM can reveal that they’re a dreamshadow as a means of saving their bacon.
13. The Tower of Shalost’s puzzles can provide hints with successful skill checks such as Knowledge (Architecture & Engineering). Each level has a greater elemental of a different type for the PCs to fight. In the AD&D version the levels had Chaggrins/Ildriss/Harginn/Elemental Grues instead, which are monsters with which I’m not familiar.
14. Waylorn had just a head-shot in the AD&D version. In 3rd Edition he has a black and white full-body shot:
15. The Diviner of Life magic item which can be found in Waylorn’s tomb can also detect various negative status effects and undeath in addition to a target’s current Hit Points. It can also shine colors based on the percentage of their HP total to accurately measure the extent of their injuries (and thus how many healing spells are needed to make them good as new).
16. Various encounters in Silvanost are either bunched up or split into their own encounters to cut down on the variants for single encounters (which I go into more detail on in changes 15 and 16). The encounter with dreamshadow elves and a beholder in a locked box has been replaced with chain devils masquerading as the elves, and the box contains a spectre due to the beholder being copyright of Wizards of the Coast and not OGL.
17. The encounter with a mock execution has more elven spectators, who are treated as a mob rather than a small number of individual elves. The executioner and prisoner in AD&D can be a variety of forms based on the coin toss results at the Thon-Thalas River: for example, the executioner can take the form of Sturm Brightblade, the prisoner the head of the solamnic knights. In 3rd Edition the executioner is Lorac, and the prisoner has the form of either Laurana or Alhana Starbreeze . There are more examples of their interactions and how things can go (and for ways of freeing the prisoner).
18. The chained form of Loralon and the involved encounter takes a variety of forms based on coin tosses. But in 3rd Edition he tells the tale of the Dark-Knight Child, which is a Silvanesti fairy tale of a child-turned-monster who tormented elves in the woods, but during the Cataclysm felt safe and came to peace upon realization of Paladine’s power. Said tale is also one of the results in the original, but the person who tells it will be a near-death elven general under attack by flying ghost-birds.
19. There’s some new encounters in Silvanost proper: one involves a nymph tied to a tree and under attack by eight giant vultures who will give the most handsome male in the party her circlet of persuasion (bonus on social skill checks) and a kiss if freed. Another involves a fantasy realm of a dreamshadow Cyan Bloodbane being served hand on foot by elves and talks down to the party of their futile mission. And one I’m sure PurpleXVI will like, shows a dreamshadow PC with the Sage (Raistlin archetype) ruthlessly gunning down Fizban with spells while shouting “THE CIRCLE IS COMPLETE AND THE POWER IS MINE!” With his dying words Fizban will tell the PCs about the coin-toss in the river Thon-Thalas which will help them find the truth...after the PCs spent over a week traversing through this nightmare forest and likely already heard of it from Alhana.
20. The rules for subverting PCs’ statistics, such as attack progression and saving throws along with altered class features, is excised. It would be a much greater headache given the complexities of the D20 System. Instead the distortions provide for a simpler formulae: DCs for skill checks and saving throws are (the normal DC + the PC’s relevant modifier) - 10.
21. The mandatory and room-based encounters are more static rather than allowing for alternate options. For example, the tower entrance is guarded by a pair of stone golems rather than golems/mimic/trapped lock/skeletons as possibilities. Granted, this makes things less wonky and malleable, but the static options chosen are cinematic and cool (the illusory Towers in Solamnia have the PCs fight a lower-powered version of dreamshadow draconians, Kitiara, and her blue dragon mount Skie).
22. During the final fight with Cyan Bloodbane, the text advises to bunch up results rather than rolling individually for characters and dreamshadow counterparts due to the large numbers in this encounter.
23. Given how much easier it is to scale damage and in some cases alter d20 results like with the Luck domain, the “Breaking the Orb” possibility for resolution is much easier to do (roll a 1d20 for every 6 non-magical damage dealt to the orb; 18 or higher breaks it).
24. Alhana will gift the PCs with valued elven treasure for helping free her land. This includes the single Dragonlance if the PCs did not find the room containing it in the Tower, along with a host of other magic items such as a Flute of Wind Dancing and the sword Wyrmsbane (brother sword of Wyrmslayer found all the way back in Pax Tharkas).
Dragons of FaithOriginal SA post Dragonlance
DL12: Dragons of Faith
"But wait," you ask, "Purple! The last module you did was DL10? Where's DL11? We love Dragonlance and want to know everything about it! I bet DL11 is full of kender! Give us those kender right now!" and I'll laugh and say thta DL11 is basically contentless, if you're super hype for the BATTLESYSTEM(tm), then DL11 is mostly just an overview of the large battles of the War of the Lance, both the ones the PC's were and weren't around for, so you can run them on your own. Done a different way it could have been interesting, if the whole module series was more... freeform, like the players had to beat the Dragonarmies, and they could do that either by force of arms or booting Takhisis back to the Abyss and thus decapitating the Dragonarmies, and the whole adventure series was a set of actions the party could take to increase their odds of success. Infiltrate or invade Sanction to find evidence of Egg Crimes? You recruit dragons to your side. Put up with Fizban for a while? You might end up finding the Dragonlances. Go suffer in a swamp? Might manage to recontact the Gods and get divine magic back on your side. Maybe even have alternate ways of accomplishing some of those objectives, but instead of having a straight adventure path, just throw the various adventure locations in there, along with some other places where the party might get magic equipment, recruit allies, do random acts of good, gain valuable intel, etc. so there's more to do on the side than jus tthe metaplot.
But no, instead we get this, so we're doing DL12 now, fuckos, and we're still sticking with the team from DL10 for this one: Tanis, Caramon, Raistlin, Goldmoon, Riverwind and Tika, bolstered by Serinda and Kronn, two new PC's. Waylorn is also still hanging aroudn as an NPC if the players found him in the last module, otherwise he gets forced into the party when Serinda and Kronn do.
At least the cover looks pretty fucking metal, and Douglas Niles didn't write this one, so it might not suck ass!
Chapter 5: The Prophecy
So the start of this adventure is as fuck "okay, the players are farther to the north after DL10, make up an adventure that gets them there or something whatevs, anyway they're north and shit happens." I mean seriously, it fucking says that, not quite verbatim, but just "they've travelled north, if you give a fuck give them a reason, otherwise just lean over the table and tell them that they went north, end of story." But whoops lol turns out north... is DRAGONARMIES TERRITORY!!!!! What a wacky mistake, better hope they can charter a ship to take them to a place where people don't want to stick their heads on pikes!
They're on the south side of the BLUD SEA doing sweet fuck all when suddenly some other travellers(Serinda and Kronn, also Waylorn if they didn't grab him in DL10) are getting their asses kicked by some Draconians and Hobgoblins. There's no accounting for the party choosing to not get involved, instead it's just assumed the party will hoover them up on raw principle. I forget if there's anything interesting about Serinda, but Kronn's dealio is that he is, or becomes, a MIGHTY REBEL WARLEADER to the Kender just so we can pretend they're not a fucking blight on the setting.
There are of course also the usual events along the lines of: "if so and so many days have passed and the party aren't on the rails yet, start hitting them with "random" encounters until they die or get the hint." Because this is a module in the fucking DL series. Now, where are the rails leading the party, you might ask? To fucking Kendermore. Welcome to a shitty, cursed module that forces you to deal with Kender in bulk. Either the party wanders there on their own, or they get captured by kender rebels, and either way they have to endure putting up with the Kender for way longer than they would ever want to, i.e. any time at all. They engage in a bunch of extremely tiresome and "wacky" antics just so they can eventually tell the players that they're, gasp, the fated heroes of prophecy and that they should go see the old Oracle in the woods.
However, they don't know where the Oracle is, so instead they send the party to yet another fucking Kender who supposedly knows. When they find him, he spends a while pretending he isn't who they're looking for an other, similarly tiresome bullshit that the PC's have to put up with because he's the only way onwards in the story. And then the directions he eventually gives them are bunk and just waste their time(and possibly risk their lives when they get attacked multiple times underway, what wacky folk, the kender!) when the oracle is basically right next door. Fuck kender.
The Oracle goes: "Yep, you guys sure are the fated ones" and throws some tarot cards around, you're supposed to cough up for a TALIS(tm) deck to use for this, but don't fucking bother, because the only useful "prophecy" it can generate is summarized as thus: "There are some real bad dudes around, also you guys gotta go hang out with the SEA ELFS. Later, nerds." Then the Oracle peaces out.
If the party decides to give the GM shit, they can waste some time wandering around the countryside instead, seeing such sights as A RIVER, SOME TREES, ANOTHER DRACONIAN PATROL and MORE KENDER. The Kender also have some local ruins the party can raid, but module fiat declares that anything the party recovers from the ruins, the kender steal from them and put right back in the ruins. Oh those wacky little scamps by which I mean utter assholes. There are a few other ruins around, one of them is just nothing but random monster encounters, some minor items and "THE HEARTSBLOOD GEM, WHICH POSSESSES ITS OWNER" and then has no description of how this works or anything else about it anywhere else in the module. There's a spring that heals the party! But if anyone drinks from it twice and fucks up a saving throw the second time, they go insane for 2d6 days which may include attacking the rest of the party. For 2d6 fucking days. And the party has basically no indication that there's anything shady at all about the spring.
In general it's all kind of a boondoggle zone because sure, sure, the party can go hunt up a bunch of valuable metals and gems, but the party is already at that stage of power in D&D where gold just... doesn't really matter, there's nothing to spend it on. They have all the mundane gear they could ever want, and they can't buy magical stuff, and nowhere are there any situations where they can buy big stuff or make any meaningful bribes because all their enemies tend to be fanatics in some sense or another, and on top of that they bypass the usual AD&D assumption of settling down and buying land and stuff, because they've got a big important quest to be on that'll fuck the world up if they don't complete it.
Everything is kind of on pause until the PC's drag themselves to Flotsam, the only decent-sized non-kender town on the landwards side of the BLOOD SEA.
Chapter 6: Flotsam
I'm reminded of those discussions about inaccurate population numbers when the game describes Flotsam as the capital of a region with all of its 4000 citizens, 1500 of which are armed men, draconians and mercenaries. The place is ruled by HIGHMASTER TOEDE, who's risen in the ranks, with Kitiara hanging around being a shady asshole like usual. If the party spend any amount of time in this shithole, Toede will literally walk past and drop a document that might as well be marked "PLOT" that goes: "OH MAN WE'RE TOTALLY CONQUERING THE BLOOD SEA! WE BETTER HOPE NO ONE TRIES TO STOP US!!!!!"
The PC's can also buy semi-useless intelligence from a guy who's literally named "VERMINAARD LIVES" backwards. Real fucking subtle. Verminaard somehow survived yeeting himself into a pit under the dwarven kingdom, got stripped of his divine power and now tries to fuck up all of Toede's plans because he's salty that the frog-looking little asshole has done better than him. He even hates Toede enough that he'll help save the PC's from him despite the fact that they directly contributed to his current fall in stature. You might think this was part of some sort of redemption arc or something, but Grandma Flamestrike is about as close as Dragonlance comes to a morally complex character, and even then mostly only by accident.
At this point Berem, the guy who accidentally fucked up Takhisis' plans and got himself made immortal against his will and now has mild dementia, is also being actively hunted by the Dragonarmies since they've figured out what the fuck happened and he's back in the gameworld again.
Flotsam also has a bunch of "whoops you didn't pass a % threshold, now you're arrested, disarmed and gonna die in two days, lol"-events, and in the Verminaard fashion, any PC's who disguise themselves as Dragonarmy troops will get invited over for drinks by any of the three Dragon Highlords in town that they meet. If they're also of the opposite gender and not insufferable boors, they'll also be unceremoniously asked if they're DTF. Remember that back in DL3 Verminaard did the same thing to Laurana, so I can only assume that you have to be a highly desperate incel to get picked for Dragon Highlord status.
Ultimately there are only two things of interest that happen in Flotsam other than your crying GM having to describe sex between Kronn and one of the dragon highlords, is that a few days in, there's a meeting between the Dragonarmies and some Ogres to make an alliance, and the party can crash that meeting and fuck it up. Secondly, Berem has ended up being the helmsman of a ship, and somehow Verminaard, that dumb motherfucker, is the first person to figure out that Berem is the person all the Dragonarmies are looking for, so he kidnaps him and drags him off to the sewers to figure out how to profit off it. The party busts him out, presumably, the game again doesn't really account for them not doing this, but by this time the rest of the Dragonarmies have woken up to who Berem is, so the party flees on board the ship that Berem is the helmsman of.
Chapter 7: The Blood Sea of Istar
Basically no matter what the party does, there's an endless sequence of encounters intended to force them into the Maelstrom to escape, where they'll eventually either get sunk by the attackers or fuck up a navigation or sailing roll and head straight for the center.
What, you expected agency?
Chapter 8: Istar of the Deep
So anyway the party drowns but PSYCH!!!! turns out that water elfs saved them. The conflict down here is that the wet elves are fighting some fish people, we're invited to use the BATTLESYSTEM(tm) to handle this at the same time as we play out the rest of the module. No! Fuck you! Fuck that! Focus on one thing at a time or it's all going to be a shitty muddle, asshole authors! The sea elves want the party to go assassinate some enemy leaders to make the fish folk federation fall apart, and I guess the party's gonna do that because what else are they gonna do under the fucking sea?
The best part here is that the party can add to their menagerie of animal buddies, by kicking a sea slug's ass and then jumping on its back(where there's already a saddle), they now gain what's stat-wise a giant slug for a mount, and nothing anywhere says they can't take it out of the sea. Hell yeah? Hell fucking yeah. Nudibranch slugs are cool and colourful and with giant slug stats, it can really kick ass, too. Otherwise Istar is just kind of, eh. "Here's a room, there's an enemy, it attacks on sight, have fun. It drops these items." For beign a weird undersea neighbourhood literally on the edge of hell, it's surprisingly... non-weird.
Chapter 9: The Battle of Istar
Ha ha no, we're not fucking around with that BATTLESYSTEM shit.
Chapter 10: Friends in Need
No matter what the party does here, it actually doesn't really matter. Whether the elves get kicked out of the sea or the players kill the balrog-esque thing leading a bunch of regenerating sea demons allied with the fish people, they can just leave by the same path, the only difference is whether the upbeat or the sad music plays.
Anyway, back to the plot. Turns out the crew of the ship the PC's were on ended up on Pirate Island, where they've ended up needing to battle the PIRATE KING for their freedom, except, good news! They can substitute the PC's if they want to. And what PC's don't want to fight a pirate king? Lame loser ones, that's who. Berem, meanwhile, has ended up on Minotaur Island... except, not. The party can show up and be all "HEY MINOTAUR KING, GIVE US BEREM." and he'll be like "oh yeah sure whatevs I'll help if you PASS MY CHALLENGE" and then toss them into the MAZE OF DEATH except Berem has already left the island, so by the time the party is done all they'll have accomplished is wasting some time... and picking up a pair of hitchhikers. The Maze itself is really just a litany of Dex checks.
See, Kitiara, wearing the equivalent of a fake moustache in terms of disguise effectiveness, and her dragon, Skie, polymorphed to look human, will attempt to join up with the party to get closer to Berem, essentially pretending to be wacky foreigners with just enough competence to be useful. Any time their disguise is rumbled, they effectively yell, "IF IT HADN'T BEEN FOR YOU MEDDLING ADVENTURERS AND YOUR KENDER," Skie drops the disguise and they fly away. Their plans are only very vaguely defined, so it comes off more as comedy than a genuine threat.
Chapter 11: A Hidden Refuge
So funny thing, if the party skipped the PIRATE COVE and the MINOTAUR ISLAND and happened to figure out where Berem was heading right away and went there? Everything went perfectly well without them, the sailors beat up the pirate king and even picked up not-Kitiara and not-Skie on the way, which means that anything other than just skipping straight to the end was literally pointless.
Turns out Berem has decided to go treasure-hunting with a bunch of minotaurs on a haunted desert island with literal giant sandworms and an abandoned automated gnomish fortress where they might get trapped in the laundry room. It also turns out that Kitiara can literally just phone up Takhisis to scry out Berem's location for her, which makes you wonder why she needs this whole charade of following the party around in disguise at all. The module assumes that Kitiara will steal a march on the PC's by locking the party in the gnome fort and then running off to the nearby lair of a metallic dragon that Berem is hiding out with. The lair is a classic dungeon full of traps, most of which have however already been triggered, so it's mostly just an extended chase sequence where Kitiara escapes by GM fiat, poisons the dragon, steals Berem and tries to run back to Skie with him.
It's another pointless sequence, however, because no matter what, the party gets Berem back. If the party catches up with Kitiara, she drops Berem and flies away on Skie. If they don't, Skie flies away with Berem who jumps to his "death"(he's functionally immortal) and the party finds him just in time to save him.
Wait, wait a fucking moment!
What's up, Skeleton Warrior?
You're telling me, no matter what the players do, it all turns out the same fucking way? Unless they straight-up die? They could just spend a week partying in Flotsam and banging a Dragon Highlord and it all turns out the fucking same?
Pretty much, skeleton warrior.
On the one hand, this module sucks, on the other hand, a module you can complete by not even bothering to play it, does at least technically let you skip all the shit parts.
Anyway, once the party's all done, some NPC depending on who the players haven't gotten killed or pissed off will tell the players that they should see the KING OF ALL GOOD DRAGONS who'll surely unfuck the world if they can wrangle a meeting with him. And this is what they're gonna do in...
Next up! DL13: Dragons of Truth!
Dragons of Faith: 3rd Edition ChangesOriginal SA post
Dragons of Faith: 3rd Edition Changes
I may have overdone myself, but this adventure had quite a lot of changes. This module is longer than most, so for the D20 update it was split into two chapters: Dragons of Shadow, which covers the PCs’ landbound journey from Silvanesti to Flotsam and Port Balifor, and Dragons of Faith which covers nautical travel in the Blood Sea of Istar. Although the latter chapter shares the name as its AD&D predecessor, there was never a Dragons of Shadows module or term in any of the AD&D books. So I’ll split my section in two:
Dragons of Shadows Changes:
1. The Talis deck still plays a role in determining future events, but only the AD&D version has cut-out handouts of individual cards and illustrations for them.
2. The original adventure begins one month after the end of Dragons of Dreams. In 3rd Ed it is two weeks.
2. Serinda and Kronn-alin are recruitable DMPCs, whose stat/class changes I outlined in the last adventure. They are encountered in different circumstances: in AD&D they are being chased by a hobgoblin patrol led by a bozak draconian, while in 3rd Ed an adult black dragon is chasing them down to capture them and Serinda has fallen unconscious in the fight.
3. AD&D insists that it’s important for Waylorn Wyvernsbane to remain with the party. 3rd Ed is more lenient and says he can join the party later if they parted ways or did not meet, and also mentions that Alhana may continue adventuring with the PCs if they desire and it makes sense for the group’s plot and party dynamic (although it makes more sense for her to stay behind and rebuild Silvanesti IMO).
4. Percentage chances for attracting unwanted attention by Dragonarmy patrols are excised. They still exist as an encounter but it’s up to the DM’s judgment when to deploy them. There’s also a mandatory encounter where they come across a search party making an arbitrary arrest of merchants on the side of the road (and who Waylorn may be among if he’s not with the party). However, the AD&D version has a wanted poster for elves captured dead or alive (worth more alive), which was relocated to the entrance to Flotsam. Both versions however emphasize how dangerous it is to be openly an elf in Dragonarmy territory, and those who speak the language in public or cannot hide their ears are going to get jumped. But strangely there’s not any info on what happens for kender PCs (who the Dragonarmies are at war with). As for PCs who can cast divine magic of a non-Takhisian origin, there’s a chance that Goldmoon/Prophet archetype will be recognized by a Dragonarmy soldier during a military parade in Port Balifor as the Black Dragon Highlord’s procession heads down the city streets. Same goes for Tanis/Leader archetype; their faces are famous by now!
5. The meeting with the kender rebels in Goodlund is moved from the initial event and encounter areas to its own proper section; kender NPCs involved in the pranks have leaders with proper names and stat blocks, as well as Iron Bands of Binding (teleport a struck character to a predetermined location) which the kender will throw at the PCs to teleport them to Kendermore rather than using a weighted net trap to catch and drag them. In both cases the PCs can escape or avoid said traps, and there’s explanations of various other ways the kender will try to herd the PCs to Kendermore. There’s more detail of the structures of Kendermore and how the kender live within the ruins along with write-ups of various traps the kender set up around the wilderness of Goodlund.
6. No mention of any heartsblood gem.
7. The AD&D and 3rd Edition books are organized a bit differently in the presentation of random encounters, traveling events, and proper locations. AD&D has the encounters and events listed first and the locations last even if said encounter/events are confined to certain locales. 3rd Ed has a similar set-up, but takes pains to shift events and encounters into their proper regions so entries for places like Port Balifor/Goodlund/etc are as self-contained as possible. Additionally, 3rd Ed cut down on the amount of minor encounters based on regions and put them into random encounters which can be triggered anywhere within the region. There’s also some new encounters, including one where a group of kender “borrow” a ship from Balifor to take on a joyride and which can be repaired and rendered seaworthy.
Quite a few have been cut; some of them were chaff (“2d8 taer live on this lone island,” that’s it) but some included cool write-ups such as the Bloodwatch Ruins. Although bare-bones with no map, this one had a line-item list of thematic encounters such as walls that weep and and endless corridor which teleports PCs back to the beginning. Another one is the abandoned tower of Death’s Teeth which had a similar list, but in 3rd Ed is confined to a randomly-generated rumor among the inhabitants of Kendermore.
8. An encounter involving a terrified village under attack by a giant constrictor serpent mentions a human family and a hobgoblin farmhand taking refuge indoors. In the AD&D version the hobgoblin was just listed as a ‘hobgoblin’ with no explanation on his relationship with the humans. While it doesn’t out and out state it, it is kind of interesting seeing the normally monstrous races having civilian duties.
9. Stat blocks being much shorter, every AD&D adventure has a table of combined generic enemy statistics in a cell block format with one enemy type per row. For the human encounters AD&D lists them as “Men, Common/Guard/Warrior” and don’t really differ.
In 3rd Edition we get more variety; this is also the first module where the PCs start encountering rank-and-file Dragonarmy soldiers that are human. The various “nameless” mook encounters are surprisingly competent with proper PC classes, although it makes a kind of balancing sense given the PCs are 10th level by now. For Dragonarmy soldiers specifically, the rank and file are 4th-level Fighters, Sergeants 8th, and the rare Captain 11th. Only the Captain possesses actual magic items, and they’re a +1 breastplate and +1 longsword with the Sergeants having masterwork gear at best. Even the draconians encountered in overland patrols have a few levels in Fighter.
10. There are short write-ups on interesting locations around Balifor, including nomad settlements and a plateau with a layer of polished glass known as the Window to the Stars. We also get a brief discussion of the Khur tribes, who are fantasy counterpart Arabs who live both in traditional nomadic bands and the larger port cities. The PCs get a chance to meet one of the tribes at an oasis where they get an outline of the current situation in the region: Salah-Khan, the Green Dragon Highlord, used his power to kill off leaders in rival tribes which began a local insurgency against the Dragon Empire’s rule. They advise against heading to Salah-Khan’s stronghold in Ak-Khurman due to being the most fortified region, and if the PCs do they will get into an encounter with a powerful Dragonarmy officer (13th-level fighter) astride a green dragon mount.
11. The settlement of Port Balifor gets a very in-depth entry spanning 8 pages in length. There’s a map, brief write-ups for the local power players, and seven locations to visit along with 5 random encounters. Some of the more interesting encounters include a bar brawl between Dragonarmy soldiers and incognito Silver Fox rebels and a mini-plotline involving the Duskmen, a local cult of Hiddukel (god of deceit and dishonest business) running a smuggling ring. They can make for some very risky allies or merely a third party to play off against the Dragonarmies.
Finally, the PCs meet allies of the Silver Fox, the local insurgent rebel leader, here and get safe passage to Flotsam via their contacts.
12. Outside Flotsam a group of Silver Fox rebels are disguised as a mixture of Dragonarmy officers and merchants, one of whom in the latter appears to be a Kagonesti elf. This is a secret test of character to see the PCs’ intentions in resisting evil. If the characters take (or appear that they will take) violent action they will congratulate the heroes and take them to their leader’s base in town. If the PCs attack and continue the assault in spite of protestations then the ‘merchants’ will also join in the fight.
13. Flotsam has some keyed locations and descriptions, along with how many Dragonarmy officers are present or within in the vicinity in case the PCs do something to attract attention. Some more detail is provided on how the soldiers respond to a crisis and transmit information between each other (ringing gongs in gate-houses, blowing signals on horns, searching inn rooms the PCs last stayed at, etc).
14. PCs carrying visible weapons in Flotsam will be told to surrender them or risk arrest. But in 3rd Ed some guards are corrupt enough to look the other way for a small bribe (1 steel piece per visible/found weapon).
15. There are handouts for likely questions and answers PCs may have for the Silver Fox and Kronin:
16. Sevil/Verminaard’s high-stakes card-game is resolved with skill checks and die rolls rather than actually playing the Talis deck mini-game. He also has some other sidequests for the PCs to perform, such as attending an underground auction for confidential documents stolen from the Black Dragon Highlord. Verminaard in AD&D is still in Takhisis’ favor and can cast his cleric spells, but in 3rd Edition he’s forsaken by Takhisis and must survive on his skill at arms.
17. Two potential encounters (not rolled for by dice) include saving a gnome taxidermist targeted for assassination by a Black Robe wizard and his minions for coming into possession of a magical talisman (this has no connection to the Dragonarmies), and an encounter where Dragonarmy soldiers will stop the PCs on the street and demand that they tell them what they know about the Silver Fox and his rebels.
18. The encounter where a traumatized elf attacks the heroes if they’re disguised as Dragonarmy officers is given more description. He is a noble by the name of Piaras Starbreeze and wishes to avenge his murdered daughter who suffered at the hands of the Dragonarmy. He is armed with a +2 dragon bane longsword made of green-tinged steel with elven runes, a family heirloom. He cannot be reasoned with unless the PCs alleviate his insanity with magic.
19. Toede’s manor and its occupants and treasures were brief in AD&D, but there were some guidelines for who and what may be encountered in key rooms. There’s even less detail in regards to this and the variety of treasure descriptions, but there’s still a generous haul.
20. During the raid on the jetties the Dragonarmy soldiers act more competently. They surround the building and cordon off all foot traffic, and Gildentongue’s* orders to let the PCs escape so that he can follow the group is excised. The PCs will need to make their way through the sewers through a secret door in the cellar if they wish to escape discreetly. In the AD&D version the soldiers act like police with search warrants: they show up and begin knocking on doors in the inn, shouting for rebels, and leave the PCs when Gildentongue (disguised as an officer) orders them to leave them be. In 3rd Ed they act like soldiers on a night raid: are no knocks besides the kind to smash doors in and will drag people out of their beds to arrest as rebels.
*An aurak draconian who acts as a spy/ambassador/magical expert for the Dragonarmies.
21. Sevil/Verminaard has a trap where he can pull a hanging chain to collapse a section of above room in a sewer passageway. He will do this if things are turning against them and needs to beat a retreat.
22. Kitiara’s Journal has a half-page handout:
23. There are proper maps for the Jetties raid and the fight with Verminaard in the sewers.
Dragons of Faith Changes:
1. The Talis Deck only exists in the AD&D version. As such, the rather detailed write-up on how to use and apply them in games with unique effects is excised.
2. (This is more a novel/retcon in later products thing) One of the swords Caramon Majere gains as a gift from Alhana is Mantooth, which is a sword with powerful anti-magic properties. It has 3rd Edition stats in the Tower of High Sorcery sourcebook, but its presence is not in this adventure or any of the Spring arc ones.
3. The Perechon has its own map. Additionally, several members of the crew get more detailed backstory write-ups ranging from two to three paragraphs. A few get revised classes, like Lendle Chafka the gnome engineer being a Master/Gnomish Tinker rather than a Fighter. In the AD&D version Captain Marquesta is described as “a black woman,” while in 3rd Edition she is made Ergothian (who are Dragonlance’s Sub-Saharan African physical analogy, but culturally they’re Roman).
4. The ability score checks for naval combat/outmaneuvering Dragonarmy galleons are replaced with skill checks, Profession (Sailor) being quite important.
5. The random and predetermined oceanic encounters are different; AD&D has more environmental obstacles like choppy waters or an annoying albatross which if killed will cause the crew to hate the party for “bringing bad luck.” The 3rd Edition encounters are either new or altered to be more combatic. For example, the haunted ship in AD&D which is haunted by an insane sailor and 3 Taer is instead replaced with a vampiric coven of Dragonarmy soldiers driven insane with bloodlust from a supernatural red mist.
6. The Island of Kalpethis, which is home to the pirate crew of the Bloodhawk ship along with several other island-based locations and encounters are excised. Most of the bigger places (like the minotaur islands) have been detailed more heavily in the various 3rd Edition sourcebooks so it may be a case of not repeating information.
6. An encounter at sea with the Bloodhawk, a group of pirates with a grudge against Marquesta, are a mandatory encounter at sea. It’s a rather large battle involving 22 nameless sailor/pirates on each side and named NPC enemies and allies. Barring the PCs and their DMPC allies there are 56 people involved which...can be a lot even with two full-sized ships. The Bloodhawk will use hit and run tactics, retreating once one of their spies on Marquesta’s ship betrays the party and steals a treasure chest in the chaos of battle. They will be encountered later as the PCs get washed ashore after aiding the sea elves against the King of the Deep.
7. The koalinth (sea hobgoblin) minions of the King of the Deep have been replaced with Yrasda assassins, who are aquatic ogres. The ogres have some “elite mooks” among their number such as a spellcasting druid. Some underwater areas which were previously empty now have monsters, such as a coral cave with a school of barracudas.
8. In the AD&D version the magic fountain which granted the power to breathe water had a poison dart trap which caused targets to fall asleep and experience dreams. In the 3rd Edition version the dreams and their descriptions have been excised.
9. Zebulah’s laboratory has a lot more magical items, although the wizard will regard PCs taking things from here as theft.
10. The Old Tower location shows two different visions if its rune is activated based upon Edition: in AD&D it shows Highmaster Toede leading an army of koalinths into Istar. In 3rd Edition it shows a magical visual recording of Istar during the Cataclysm, including people running through the streets as it looks like the very sky is on fire.
11. Zebulah’s Dragon Orb which causes the PCs to go on a hallucination acid trip adventure in the AD&D version, no longer does this in 3rd Edition.
12. Zebulah has his own question/answer box for the PCs:
His appearance has changed as well. In the AD&D version he looked like a fit and buff bearded dude with braids. In 3rd Edition he’s a more heavyset bald man wearing glasses
13. The encounter in the Pit of Istar involving 96 individual lacedons are all combined into a single monster via the Mob template. They’re in thrall to a yrasda cleric.
14. The BattleSystem in AD&D is used to run the Battle in Istar between the sea elves and the King of the Deep’s forces, and battle turns pass concurrent with the PCs’ exploration of the pit. In 3rd Edition the result of the battle lies entirely upon the PCs: if they destroy the Death Statues bound to the King of the Deep and a battle against GIldentongue (disguised as Kitiara) astride a sea dragon mount with sahuagin mooks. At no point is Highmaster Toede present during this chapter; I take it there’s only so many times you can run him as impotetent comic relief to the point he cannot be seen as a threat.
15. The King of the Deep, being a unique creature, has his own stats in 3rd Edition. He’s a Colossal-sized Challenge Rating 22 Outside with an impressive 30 Spell Resistance (making him nigh-immune to most spells) along with powerful melee attacks some of which can paralyze targets. He has an Unholy Shockwave AoE attack he can emit once every 1d3 rounds and panic good-aligned beings, and a two-way telepathic link with all evil-aligned creatures within 5 miles. In AD&D can regenerate hit points and a roar attack which can instill fear (not damage) as an AoE, and instead of paralysis his razor-sharp scales that have a chance to disarm any weapon that strikes him in melee.
16. In AD&D the sea elves can lose the battle and be forced to abandon Istar. In 3rd Edition it’s presumed the PCs will aid them, and since the sea elves’ victory is concurrent on the PCs surviving the above two encounters, well…
17. The sea elves will be happy to give the PCs treasure as reward for driving off the King of the Deep. There’s no specific examples, but the module suggests Zebulah’s Dragon Orb, the Dragonlances, or even divine artifacts or magic items which sank with Istar.
18. There’s a few optional encounters in the Ruins of Istar. Most of them are various kinds of aquatic monsters, but one interesting encounter includes undead Knights of the Divine Hammer (Istar’s pseudo-paladin order) who can be nonviolently interacted with but will be murderous to any obvious arcane spellcasters. At least their base stats have a Lawful Neutral alignment rather than Lawful Good which the setting loves to portray the Kingpriest’s government. The other one is a gnome submarine called the Aqua Regis with a gully dwarf crew. Their ship malfunctioned during the expedition and is on fire, and will request the PCs’ aid in putting it out. Failing this will cause the submarine to explode. The Aqua Regis’ crew can be encountered later on the Isle of Karthay if they are saved, and will happily lend the PCs a ride to Kalaman.
19. The trial-by-combat obstacle course between Marquesta and the Bloodhawk pirates has a full map now along with room/encounter placements. In AD&D it had suggestions for the DM to make one themselves.
20. In the AD&D version there’s an encounter where the Pcs can go (or be misled) to the isle of Kothas. Here they can meet the minotaur emperor Chot Es-Kalin; the gnome Lenda Chakfa is a prisoner in Kothas and the PCs can earn his freedom by participating in Arena games. In the 3rd Edition version this little side-trek is excised as Lendle is already reunited with Marquesta’s crew.
21. Lady Lengstrien and the Blue Wizard (Kitiara and her mount Khellendros in disguise) have a sample question/answer box:
22. The sand worm enemy (which is a sea serpent in AD&D terms) is replaced by a purple worm. The encounter is otherwise identical.
23. Chafka’s Tower has a full map, and boxed text descriptions are included for most rooms.:
24. The gnome automatons in Chafka’s Tower include some “monster” constructs as well as traps. The enemy constructs are stationay monsters with partial stats to reflect the fact they are missing some characteristics, but can emulate a variety of spells and attacks via reflavored descriptive text such as a conveyor belt “casting” a Slow spell on those who try to move on it.
25. In the AD&D version the adventure suggests the possibility of Zebullah or his wife Apoletta telling the PCs about the Glitterpalace. In 3rd Edition it only mentions Clarion (the bronze dragon) as giving this possibility. It also suggests what happens if the PCs ask said dragon why he isn’t fighting against the Dragonarmies: he’ll ignore the question and tell them about the Glitterpalace.
Dragons of TruthOriginal SA post Dragonlance
DL13: Dragons of Truth
So Dragons of Truth is what happens when you write a module after having fired your editor, or while your editor is on holiday, because while the other modules were presented in a pretty easy-to-understand fashion, even if the content was dogshit, I kept having to recheck DL13 to see if I was missing something. It's also gonna pull some wacky shit on us, including what I believe to be the biggest Ra count of any fucking module thus far, and yes, that's even accounting for the fact that Raistlin has advanced to a legendary 30HP.
After spending DL12 accomplishing, uh, basically nothing except having a pair of NPC's(Waylorn and Berem) forced into the party that the modules keep telling us are important(canonically, Berem is very important, and I believe that canonically Waylorn doesn't really exist. I don't believe he was ever in the novels), almost drowning repeatedly, possibly having an orgy with half the Dragon Highlords and killing Verminaard again, the PC's are now- checks -suddenly somewhere else entirely, for unclear reasons. Like, the game basically goes "okay now you're near Neraka," after a brief intro where they're suddenly at Kalaman(a place where good people are), told to go to Neraka, and then they're unceremoniously warped off to Neraka. You think I'm kidding but they're literally teleported behind enemy lines by allied mages.
The big kicker here, though, is that nah, these NPC's aren't necessarily important. Basically, you roll a random die at the start of the module to decide whether Fizban(who's here now, I guess. If he's not, he suddenly joins the party a couple of days into the adventure along with a fucking gold dragon who just fucking shows up. OKAY, I GUESS.), Waylorn, Berem or none of them at all are vital to saving the world once we get to DL14. Yeah, that's right, it can turn out that Fizban was just a crazy old asshole all along, Waylorn is just schizophrenic and Berem's big ol' immortality gem isn't actually connected to the metaplot at all. Again! I have no fucking clue why they'd do these things, but I guess I'm not best-selling author Tracy Hickman who clearly has D&D modules all figured out.
Chapter 12: Land of Dark Empires
There are more or less three parts to this adventure, except it's more like half a part, another half of a part and then a whole part. The first two chapters, 12 and 13, are essentially kind-of-sort-of one big chapter just split on what route the party takes to Neraka. See, the part of the occupied lands between Neraka and the Whitestone front lines are, in the best of hamfisted fiction badguy stereotypes, blasted wastelands with tons of volcanoes around(literally ten volcanoes are in the game area and they up to 3 of them start shitting out big scads of lava per day), essentially like Sanction but an entire country instead. And the party can either go overland(possibly hijacking a Flying Citadel along the way, which I'll give the book is a pretty damn cool way to make an entrance) or dive into the ancient lava tubes and just sneak their way there underground, which seems like a much better option except for... ha ha, we'll get there, oh we'll fucking get there.
Chapter 12 is the section that's about going overland, and mostly the overland trip is just about hiding from constant patrols, hope you like fighting dragons, because there are constant chromatic dragon patrols and your odds of getting spotted are very much up to GM fiat(the best modifier possible, disguising yourself, can have a -10 to -70% efficacy against Being Fried By Dragons From The Air, depending on whether the GM thinks your disguises are good or not!). If the party gets spotted and can't get away, they get attacked by three Huge Ancient Dragons with 12th-level Fighter riders... after the dragons have loitered out of range but in-view long enough for a ground patrol to reach the PC's, too, which means between 20 and 50 Draconians joining the fight, too. I guess the solution is don't get fucking spotted unless you want a TPK.
Along the way, a bunch of extremely ham-handed hints are trying to force them to take a detour to the GODSHOME where they will undergo THREE TESTS to find out which of the NPC's they have along are useless. They can also completely ignore this, if they like, and just keep all three NPC's alive. It's stuff like a cute baby deer that refuses to go anywhere but in the direction of the nearest GODSHOME portal. If the PC's ignore this, eventually giant glowing doors start manifesting in their path and they'd have to pointedly ignore them and step around them.
Mainly what's to do here is to raid a few Dragonarmy camps(or just kill some of their patrols) to get kitted out with disguises to avoid Death By Dragon, and otherwise just beeline for Neraka. Interesting encounters include: Slave caravans, the town of Jelek(where a butcher will give them some advice for the next module), a gate guarded by a Lich that hits the party with a Meteor Swarm spell from atop a tower they can't reach, a camp of perpetually drunk Dragonarmy soldiers so sauced they'll offer the legendary heroes of the lance a drink and require intentional effort by the PC's to goad into a fight(the only sure way to get them fighting, in fact, is to steal their booze)... and a Flying Citadel under construction that they can hijack.
It's only just been made flight ready, so it's not properly staffed, and it's very simple to fly once unmoored. The cleric engineer is a loyalist that they'll have to kill to get out of the way, but they can absolutely bribe the citadel's mage engineer into being their buddy. He does not give a fuck and I guess it's finally a way to fucking get some use out of the thousands of
Chapter 13: Dark Passages
So this chapter exists to kill the PC's for being clever dicks who try to sneak through the lava tubes rather than risking constant discovery by the dragonarmies. See, the lava tubes are unstable as fuck, it turns out. In some sections there's a 1 in 4 chance of a collapse which may deal between 1d4 and 5d10 damage(already a happy 1.6 Ra, but wait, there's more!) from the rocks falling. Doesn't sound too bad, right? Most PC's would survive that, probably even Raistlin... oh wait except if the roll is bad enough, those hit also get buried! Every round(minute) that a PC is buried, they take 1d6 damage. The book offers a way of calculating how long someone's buried(or rather, how long it takes to dig them out) if you don't have the Dungeoneer's Survival Guide(tm) to figure it out. Their example gives two hours to dig a PC out, that's 120 minutes, 120d6... a worst-case scenario of 770HP damage, which is 25.6 Ra. Ain't no PC's gonna survive that shit.
Everything else in the lava tubes is just fire, fire and more fire, oh and some magma. At least overland there was a bit of random loot to be had from raiding Dragonarmy camps, and some tips from the butcher of Jelek and the drunk soldiers. Lava tubes? Just a shitload of ways to horribly burn to death or be crushed alive!
Chapter 14: Glitterpalace
So sooner or later, the PC's will almost certainly give in and enter the gods' windowless
Anyway, THREE TESTS which each reward the players with a MYSTICAL GEM that they must use to escape the Glitterpalace. The first is the TEST OF WISDOM, which won't test your Wisdom. Instead you just have to beat up some golems and a couple of demons to collect the MAGIC GEM. The WISE solution is to get the demons to argue with each other and walk past, or to splash water on the golems to melt them. But you can just brute force it. WISE INDEED.
Next is the TEST OF VALOR, where you escort a kid who calls himself Sturm and every time you meet a skeleton you have to say "no, we're not the assholes who killed you" or you'll get attacked by a shitload of them. The kid is clearly some sort of phantom, but the module never explicitly says if these places are real or imaginary tests, whether the PC's are actually being teleported around the continent to beat up golems or if it's all in their minds or some other dimension. They can convince the skeletons to go fight the ARMIES OF EVIL by arguing that they're responsible for the skeletons being dead, but it never says anywhere if an army of revenants and spectres suddenly on the side of good tip anything, anywhere. So it may just be imaginary.
Last is the TEST OF HEART, which is the only one that's somewhat thematically appropriate. The PC's are in a blasted badplace full of the corpses of a bunch of people they've gotten killed, and they're supposed to feel bad about it except, uh, unless they've been exceptionally incompetent or pointlessly murderous in ways that would hard-lock most of the previous modules, most of the dead NPC's on the list of suggested NPC's will be bad guys like Verminaard, Feal-Thas, Toede(wait, he can't fucking die, he's supposed to escape every time. Fuck you, module, remember your own rules) or Kitiara's dragon from those five minutes where he was polymorphed into a suave wizard in DL12, so this is unlikely to be discouraging to the players unless they've actually been incompetent morons all along or feel real remorse for killing the guy who was probably going to date rape Laurana or all the other people who attacked them on sight. It also has a bit that's got a good chance of getting the PC's killed, see, if they try to talk to certain NPC's here they have a 30% chance of becoming NPC's themselves unless another PC succeeds at a not-in-any-way-guaranteed attempt to talk them out of being sulky NPC's who've given up on life, except if they try this, they can end up fighting up to 200 unstatted WARRIORS OF FAILURE. The lesson here is that they should just ignore everything they possibly can in this test and try to walk past it so they're not subjected to save-or-dies or the GM trying to guilt them about killing a someone in self defense.
Each of the tests has a chance of also giving them a sign about how they're supposed to defeat Takhisis in DL14. If it's Fizban(who's then really Paladine), his chance of success at the end of the entire adventure line, literally everything it hinges on, is a percentile roll based on how many spells he's cast that day. It can also be Waylorn needing to stab her(turning out to actually be a reincarnated Huma), Berem needing to be sacrificed on an altar, Berem needing to be tossed on an altar or Berem actually being Paladin and just needing to be near Takhisis. Lastly it may also be that the only way to win is for a PC with a Dragonlance to shoo her back through the portal to the Abyss and then follow her in so she doesn't come back out again.
Aside from some dumb clues as to how they're meant to actually beat DL14, though, the only real advantage to actually going to the GLITTERPALACE rather than just joy-riding their stolen Flying Citadel straight to Neraka while blasting some sick tunes on the sound system is a FABULOUS DIVINE BLESSING which, uh, hm, let's see... 10% of the time people are more likely to believe what they say! And they have twice the rate of good encounters(lol what are the odds of any of these actually fucking being around) and have twice as easy a time not getting noticed(okay admittedly this one will be pretty handy to avoid having to smack away dragons constantly assuming the party undertook these piss-easy "tests" early-on during the trek to Neraka rather than putting them off).
DL13 so far wins the prize for Dragonlance modules.
Kree! Just one more! Then you'll be free of this curse forever! Unless these sadists ask you to review more Dragonlance!
Kree! Hey dorks! There's another 22 Dragonlance adventure modules outside of the original DL series! Make him review them!
Next up: DL14, Dragons of Triumph
Dragons of Truth: 3rd Edition ChangesOriginal SA post
Dragons of Truth: 3rd Edition Changes
1. The cut-scene where the players RP as Whitestone Council leaders complete with card cut-outs containing their lines is altered. The players remain in control of their PCs the entire time while said Council members are controlled by the DM in boxed text.
2. This chapter begins with a detailed write-up on the City of Kalaman, where it is presumed the PCs end up after hitching a ride out of the Blood Sea. We get a map, list of various important figures, and even description of places the PCs might visit and what services they can find. Goldmoon/the Prophet PC has the opportunity to teach people in a hospital about Mishakal and turn them into Clerics via prayer and training. There’s also boxed text where then the PCs enter the city there’s a Festival of Spring Dawning and they’re welcomed as heroes; Kalaman was recently liberated from the Blue Dragonarmy, and there are plays re-enacting the PCs’ most famous battles albeit exaggerated for dramatic effect.
3. The crux in getting the PCs to head into Neraka is the appearance of the Dragon Empire’s flying citadel in the sky, where Kitiara appears on the back of her dragon mount demanding the handing over of Berem the Everman along with the surrender of the metallic dragons and Solamnic forces. She issues an ultimatum of 3 weeks. The adventure says that the flying citadel is beyond the PCs’ capabilities to handle...even though the very next adventure after this one they’ll be assaulting the Dark Queen’s Temple in Neraka, which is supposedly the most well-guarded place. The Governor will be appalled if the PCs suggest attacking the flying citadel, saying that they’ll surely rain death upon Kalaman in retaliation.
4. The details regarding being spotted by flying dragon patrols, relative levels of alert, etc in Taman Busuk are excised in favor of a singular encounter with a blue dragon and her rider who may spot PCs if they’re on the ground or flying. Dragons and dragon riders who were nameless in AD&D now have specific names and tactics and make use of magic items in their inventories.
5. One encounter involving a mobile war camp containing one of the Dragonarmy leaders, is Kitiara instead of a randomly determined leader and meant to be more of a stealth encounter than a typical combat one (sheer numbers and lots of old chromatic dragons).
6. There’s actually a rather detailed encounter where the PCs can cross paths with a Dragonarmy patrol, and exploit local rivalries between and within the five different colored armies whose officers have their own local grudges (they seek to capture the heroes as prizes and may sabotage another patrol’s efforts, one of them may use the opportunity to kill a higher-ranking officer in “friendly fire” to claim their rank, etc).
7. The Ancient Road location is home to a gholor (a powerful burrowing undead creature) which has a lair full of treasure in a sinkhole.
8. One encounter involving a gate pass presided over by a lich and wemic soldiers in league with the Dragonarmies is relocated to the next adventure, Dragons of Triumph.
7. When the PCs encounter Fizban and his gold dragon ally, only Fizban will join the party. The dragon, Pyrate, is far too powerful a DMPC to tag along. Pyrite has “better things to do than flying around with young hooligans who won’t let an old dragon sleep in peace.”
8. Darallan the Butcher, a Hidden Light resistance member in Jelek, has a question/answer sidebar. She’s also given a proper stat block as a 10th-level human barbarian.
9. The flying citadel under construction will not be ready for flight in three weeks, and as such cannot be moved into flight mode. Its magical map simulation can still be consulted to find places in the region.
10. An encounter where the PCs can challenge some drunk Dragonarmy soldiers to a drinking contest in a Dragonarmy patrol if appropriately disguised is excised.
11. Traveling underneath the Nerakan Plains via an underground series of wizard-built roads is not present in this adventure. The following adventure, Dragons of Triumph, has more detail on subterranean travel.
12. The imprisoned gnome Gnip is given a ring of sustenance as an explanation of how he was able to survive in the dungeon for several months.
13. A Sense Motive check in the fight with the clay golems can determine they’re avoiding the water.
14. The experimental gnomish weapons are expanded on, and can be repaired by a tinker gnome NPC or one with the Gnomish Tinker Prestige Class. The Bolachucker and Flasklobbers are replaced with a Hydromatic Dispenser (like a damaging fire hose AoE) and a Vibropotent Maul (imagine a sci-fi vibroblade, but a hammer).
15. The super-fattening dining room trap imposes a Dexterity penalty in addition to no longer having one’s armor fit.
16. The dwarven painters now have a reason for attacking the PCs when the music box stops playing, not to kill but to drive them out of the room for distracting them from completing their artwork. The dwarves can be reasoned with or allowed or aided in their task and will reward such PCs with a Belt of Dwarvenkind.
17. There’s now a new treasure room which has magical items either from the Towers of High Sorcery sourcebook or the core rules if the DM does not own said product.
18. The spirit trapped in the painting now has a proper name and backstory (Black Robe Wizard elf responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Solamnic peasants during the Third Dragon War) and who can be slain if the painting is destroyed. Three undead knights will aid her in combat.
19. The vision of Takhisis who attacks the PCs at the end of certain trials is a Dreamshadow (illusory being like in the Silvanesti Nightmare) and cannot kill the characters.
20. The draconian and Dragonarmy human soldiers are much lower-level in the Test of Valor’s throne room (3rd level Baaz and 4th level respectively) than in the AD&D version (kapaks and 10th-level respectively).
21. The escape bubble which can block a shaft exit takes “many hours” to get past rather than four days.
22. The visions of dearly departed people can afflict a Crushing Despair spell upon the PCs.
23. Breaking the Soldiers of Failure out of their stupor is easier when giving an inspiring speech, given how Diplomacy works in 3rd Edition. THey have the stats of Dreamwraiths (evil ethereal dreamcreatures detailed in Towers of High Sorcery).
24. The undead which attack the PCs in the great moors are given higher numbers. Instead of all of them having energy draining powers, most of them are undead with some more powerful than usual wraiths disguised among their number as normal skeletons and zombies.
25. The adventure specifies that the gods in question communicating with the heroes at the end of all three tests are the Gods of Good rather than the gods in general. Their three blessings are more or less the same, but reconfigured to fit within the frameworks of D20 System paradigms. Additionally, said blessings may be shared with the other half of PCs who played through the Dragons of Winter adventure arc.
26. In the appendices, but the various surviving Dragon Highlords got mechanical and background makeovers in their 3rd Edition transition. In AD&D Lucien of Takar was the White Dragon Highlord replacing Feal-Thas and is a human; in 3rd Edition he is a half-ogre and Black Dragon Highlord leader. In AD&D, Salah-Khan was the Black Dragon Highlord and is a 13th-level Fighter. In 3rd Edition he was the Green Dragon Highlord and a multi-classed Ranger/Assassin/Dragon Highlord*
*Prestige class detailed in the War of the Lance sourcebook.
27. The wemics have been expanded upon: text about their alliance with the Dragon Empire being one of convenience to protect their tribes is there, but there are also details on their day-to-day lives and culture as nomadic hunter-gatherers; bonus languages for them are rendered setting-appropriate, such as Nerakese and Nordmaarian.* There are rules for wemic PCs, although their 5 Racial Hit Die and +3 Level Adjustment means they start as 8th-level characters minimum. For those not in the know, 3rd Edition had its own sub-system for making playable monsters as PCs in a sourcebook known as Savage Species. But said rules were broken and monsters were made intentionally underpowered for their equivalent levels because the designers at the time wanted to discourage them in favor of the “core races.” This only succeeded in getting the people who wanted monster PCs in the first place angry and not using the sourcebook.
*Wemics were originally from the Forgotten Realms.
Dragons of TriumphOriginal SA post Dragonlance
DL14: Dragons of Triumph
We're finally here, we're finally going to fucking finish this fucking garbage. And guess who's writing the final section? That's right, it's Douglas Niles! That asshole.
There are also a bunch of dumb mistakes in this, like Toede is now the White Dragon Highlord, rather than some nameless goon called Lucien, just so he can be even more of a comical loser.
God, where do I even fucking start? Well, firstly, remember how you could hijack a flying citadel in DL13, which was the only cool and awesome part of that module? Nothing in DL14 accounts for you having a sick ride to just cruise over to Neraka in, nada. Secondly, remember how Neraka was behind the war's frontlines, with the Whitestone Forces and the Dragonarmies locked in battle along the front, so they had to teleport you in, so you could attempt to sneak to Neraka while the fighting was going on way behind you, men and dragons dying to cover you during your perilous mission?
Chapter 15: The Neraka Plains
Fuck you. The very first thing that happens is that the Whitestone forces just roll up and go: "hey lol guys guess we're routing the Dragonarmies now. " so you can remix your party from among all of the PC's we've had so far, including Kronn and Serinda who've yet to have any sort of fucking purpose. I mean, okay, whatever the fuck, the only purpose this serves is so you can reshuffle your party(up to a max of 8 PC's, though), because the entire fighting thing just remains background dressing for the module.
So what's left on the plains on the way to Neraka? Well, you can find some gully dwarves. Oh boy it's been a while since we last found some of them! They are, as usual, disgusting and stupid, and these in particular are part of a "bandit" gang whose leader punishes insubordination by forcing them to take a bath. Jesus. The plains proper contain basically nothing of interest, but if you hop into the fissures you can find a gelatinous cube full of treasure and fight a vampire. The vampire, like all evil creatures in this game, attacks on sight despite being intelligent and a deposed former part of the ruling clique among Neraka's undead, but this is all lore that only the GM knows. To the PC's he's just gonna be a dumb vampire that attacks them and drops a map and some loot.
The vampire has been thwarted by the liches (see Appendix I) for control of the Undercity of Neraka. He burns with desire to return to the Undercity as a ruler. To this end, he has a map of all of the passages of the Undercity locked in a small box in his coffin.
But Dragonlance is in general very low on reason, negotiation or other means of dealing with problems aside from stealth or raw violence, and most enemies don't really have "motivations" of any kind besides "nyar har har me real evil."
The players might also stumble across some rebels in Nerakan territory who can tell them about a secret way from the fissures on the plains into Neraka's understructure, warn them about the Nightwalk(hoo boy if they don't know about this one, the FUCKENING will be very real) and give the name of a contact in the city. Considering the hint about the Nightwalk, I'd say this one is almost a mandatory encounter. You'll learn what the Nightwalk is once we get to Neraka itself. Mind, the party doesn't have a lot of spare time to hang around and investigate the plains. After day 3, the gates of Neraka are sealed and getting in becomes near-impossible(aside from the aforementioned underground passage) and at Day 7, Takhisis manifests and it's game over if the players aren't immediately in position to shove her back to the Abyss.
So they better fucking hoof it to EVIL CITY.
Chapter 16: Neraka
the Draconians in DL14's art tend to look confused more than dangerous or aggressive
Neraka is... pointlessly detailed a lot of the time. Like, I don't need to know that all taverns in Neraka have 1d6+1 windows. WHICH IS A REAL FUCKING EXAMPLE, I DIDN'T MAKE THAT SHIT UP. And why the fuck do I need a "random tavern customer"-table? Why is the module expecting me to meticulously track time by the tens of minutes? I mean, there ARE some useful details, the module is decent at giving an example of what it's like with the competition between the different commands. For instance if there's a brawl their MP's will arrest the troops of other dragonarmies before their own, giving their own troops a chance to sneak awayl. But at the same time the Dragonarmies are unbelievably dysfunctional, like... their troops spend so much time getting drunk and brawling, and when I mean brawling I mean "they will literally fire spells and poisons at each other," not just a bit of bruised knuckle action, that there's no way they should ever have been able to present any sort of danger to any organized military. I mean, rather than putting their capital in some sort of breadbasket region, it's literally on the blasted plains between ten different volcanoes and there are no farms in sight for miles.
Nonetheless it's cute that the party can pick up what's basically tourist kitsch/sports team apparel at the Neraka markets, little pennants reading "GO [COLOUR] DRAGONARMY" or "I WAS THERE WHEN THE DRAGONARMIES WON THE BATTLE OF NERAKA," etc. which is probably completely unintentional but the first thing about any of these modules to have made me smirk, despite their constant attempts at shitty humour with the Kender and Gully Dwarves and the like.
Pennants proudly proclaiming the various Dragonarmies, or announcing a victory at the yet-to-be-fought Battle of Neraka can be bought cheaply.
Generally there's a pointless amount of detail spent on Neraka, a city that will stop existing by the end of this module(sorry, spoilers!) as though it's a major campaign hub, rather than a brief stopover for the PC's. Like imagine any fucking detail and either there's a map of it or a table for determining it randomly. It's also worth noting that there are sewers, sewers full of the undead. See, the Nightwalk, every night there are patrols of the undead out that leave Dragonarmy troops alone but attack good-aligned characters on sight if they're on the streets. Each patrol consists of "one lich, 11 groaning spirits (banshees), 11 wraiths, 22 wights, 77 zombies, and 222 skeletons." So in essence: fuck you. Not knowing about the Nighwalk, the party might actually consider the night-time streets a safe time to go exploring and stuff, but no, it is not. And can you imagine trying to run that fucking fight in a game with no mass combat rules? PS yes that's 33 level drainers in one fight, as well as 11 save-or-die AoE casters.
If the undead overwhelm the PC's, however, they're not killed, but instead dragged off to SKELETON COURT in the sewers where the various kinds of undead will argue as to whether the PC's should be tortured, eaten or energy-drained, before a tribunal of liches retires to consider the appropriate punishment. If the PC's time their capture right, the court will adjourn for the Nightwalk and they'll have a chance to escape(they'll be left with all of their gear and not tied up for ????? reasons, just some ghouls standing around nearby). And again it's like hey, you've got a fucking society of free-willed undead with legal institutions living under Neraka. Yet all they do is attack on sight. The party can never negotiate with them, talk to them, flim-flam them(because they detect good by default) or otherwise do anything but fight them, and yet they're probably the most interesting part of Neraka aside from buying White Dragonarmy T-shirts.
Well, okay, the party can also go to the arena and perhaps free the 100+ slave gladiators there... except their ability to assist is that "they'll do whatever the PC's ask within reason" but there are zero suggestions as to what said help could accomplish. Can they sabotage Neraka's gates so the Whitestone forces can break through? Can they cause confusion that'll give the party a span of time without patrols? Can they get them free drink at the arena concession stands? Despite being something the module designers put in there, they leave all of that on the GM's shoulders to adjudicate. Fuck you, Douglas Niles. It's basically the same for the freedom fighters in the city, sure, they'll help, but what will that help amount to other than showing the party a way into the temple that requires travelling through the Skeleton Court Sewers? You figure it out!
There's also a secret treasure chamber in the sewers guarded by a red dragon that got shrunk with magic, shoved in, and then allowed to regrow while being too big to get out. We're told the dragon can speak, but nothing that would help us deal with the encounter except as pure combat. Is the dragon happy to be guarding Ariakus' loot, regarding it as a sacred task? Does he want to escape and is perhaps willing to cause some chaos if the PC's can shrink him so he can get out and then split the treasure with them? Does he attack on sight? Nobody fucking knows.
By and large, though, Neraka is kind of unimportant despite all the detail wasted on it.
Chapter 17: The Temple of Darkness
Because the players, once they've bought a full set of commemorative Takhisis dinner plates, will be beelining for the Temple. Now the Temple is supposed to be a non-euclidean horrorzone of shifting gravity and other weirdness because it's not the original Temple of Istar, rather it's a seed grown from the Foundation Stone that's spent centuries getting soaked in Abyssal radiations. Unfortunately, rather than being creative, this just means the map has a lot of soft curves rather than sharp angles and the GM is supposed to improvise and go "Whoooooooooooooah it's really trippy being in here oh nooooooo" but for all intents and purposes it's just another building. It's got a front door, a secret entrance, walls, roof, ceiling, illusory acid pools and ceremonial torture chambers. Just like any other building.
Depending on their objective, they'll have different places to go. If they got one of the Berem objectives, they'll want to head to the top floors, if they got the "just smash the stone, morons"-objective they have to head to the magic anvil that has no purpose other than being able to smash Berem's gem in the basement and if they got one of the heroic sacrifice variants(Waylorn, Fizban or a PC) they gotta head for the dead center of the temple where the Dragon Highlords chill.
Like most structures and dungeons in the DL modules, most of it is entirely skippable and pointless. Like there's a room full of evil clerics doing evil things for no real reason, like most of Takhisis' clergy. They're just being evil because their religion is bad stuff. They're not doing evil things because it enriches or empowers them and they don't care about it shitting on someone else, or because it makes them feel good at someone else's expense. It makes it completely impossible to take them seriously in any way.
Oh and they get this art that looks uncomfortably like a Jewish caricature to me, but maybe I'm just being overly sensitive.
There's also the room where the party might stumble on 60 to 90 Draconians working out that all have Magic Missile memorized and can thus machinegun the party apart. Even assuming they're just blasting it out at level 1 effect, that's still 90d4 aka 90 to 260 damage which will shred most of the party if correctly distributed, cannot be saved against, cannot be dodged.
I mean, part of the problem with the temple is that it swings between a functional structure and a dungeon. Take Pax Tharkas from DL2, it was a structure that was clearly used as a fortification, troops had to be able to move around and get around and rooms had sensible purposes. In this temple, which is ostensibly a training ground for elite troops as well as the top levels of the clergy and also where the Dragon Highlords have their residences, you have random lethal acid pools in the corridors hidden by illusions and gardens full of predatory/fatally aggressive fungus/vegetation. Considering how the Dragonarmy troops in Neraka are described as being drunk 80% of the time when they're not fighting, imagine how many draconians looking for their room end up troppling into a patch of Green Slimes or an acid pool.
This dungeon is just agony, rather than small groups of level-appropriate enemies, there's no encounter smaller than 40 fucking soldiers or low-level spellcasters at once, even if the party just mulches them all it'll take fucking HOURS to resolve a single combat encounter. We also get meaninglessly elaborate descriptions of the rigmarole and pageantry in use whenever the Dragon Highlords have a meeting, and it's like... is there any GM out there that's really going to read this shit to his players verbatim? Or are they just going to skim over it by calling it an "elaborate display"? At the same time, parts that could have used more details have none. There are a bunch of scribes working on a revisionist according-to-Takhisis history book, but we're just told it's not done yet, rather than, perhaps, having some examples of historical periods per Takhisis' spin. Perhaps giving us some insight into whether she's unabashedly selfish or self-justifies to make herself out as the tragic heroine doing what has to be done or avenging her dragon kids or whatever, maybe giving the Dragonarmies a bit of character beyond "violent, alcoholic, slavers, hate elves and kender."
But thankfully we get details on the important parts, like exactly how high the architectural arches in the main meeting room for the Dragon Highlords(where they'll also be summoning Takhisis in a few days) are, what the odds are of the Dragon Highlords returning to their quarters for an afternoon nap are(universally, 50%), what their quarters are like(Toede and Lucien: Filthy, Salah-Kahn: austere, Ariakas: Fancy, Kitiara: professional) and what their hobbies are(Toede and Lucien: getting drunk, Ariakas: consistently getting laid with 1d3 trollops, Kitiara: getting laid 4 times out of 5, Salah-Kahn: getting high on artisanally crafted drugs).
Everything about this adventure screams "written for the word count by someone who didn't give a fuck," like how it states what bonuses Takhisis' being incarnate on Krynn will give the dragonarmy troops... before it then fades to black with an "oh and you lose the game." so those bonuses never have a chance of actually having a meaningful effect anywhere.
And okay the thing is from the moment the party reaches the temple, everything is a save or die. There's no way to have a "subtle" fight with 50 draconians that won't alert the remaining 2000 troops in the area, the Dragon Highlords and all the undead in the sewers, so you can either sneak and bluff, or you can die. There isn't even a climactic battle with Takhisis either, at most there's a D100 roll if it's the Fizban ending, otherwise everything else is just shoving a guy at a thing and getting a win. The Anvil of Might ending, the one where you smash Berem's gem rather than shoving it into the Foundation Stone, that Anvil doesn't even have any fluff associated with it. Why is it the only thing that can break the gem? Why is it even in the temple? It's stupid.
Considering the garbage they had to work with, I'm actually impressed that the novels turned out as coherent as they did. It makes you wonder that they didn't ever stop and think when 1/3rd of the module stuff wasn't exciting enough to tell the reader about in the novels, just glossed over, or stuff like how literally all of DL13 and DL14 never really happened that way in the novels either.
It's also hard to emphasize how quickly this can be over if the party can just get inside. They can literally sprint to the council chambers(for the Fizban/Waylorn/Self-Sacrifice) ending in two minutes. Even if they alert everyone along the way, they'd probably manage to get there in time. Same goes for the Anvil of Might. If they get one of the Berem-centric Foundation Stone events and manage to arrive from the undercity(it's relatively safe while the undead are parading through the city), all they need to deal with is one training room(which can, admittedly, be anywhere from 0 to 90 draconians depending on when they show up) and one acid pool, and they're there.
Almost all of the Temple is, in fact, kind of out-of-the-way of the party's actual objectives, and also in a situation and with encounters that aggressively discourage any sort of fucking around and not just getting to the target and then getting out. And there's nothing to even gain from going around other than finding out what kind of weed the Green Dragon Highlord smokes or how much Ariakus is getting laid, no interesting rewards, no interesting encounters, just pointless fights that'll realistically probably get the party killed very fast if they engage in them, because as mentioned either they're overwhelmingly huge or they're just big enough that there's no way to finish them quickly without alerting the entire city that you just fireballed half their clergy.
Now, with all the time wasted on describing stupid incidental shit the PC's will never interact with, you'd figure that maybe they'd describe a bomb-ass ending for when you kick Tasslehoff through the portal with a dragonlance to keep Takhisis penned up in the Abyss. lol no, you're just told that the party has a 5% chance per member to suffer 1d12 D6's worth of damage from parts of the temple falling on them, since Takhisis was a load-bearing boss. That's right, you might have just won the game and then a fucking 1 in 20 chance flattens your PC for 12d6 damage. What the FUCK, Douglas. Like what the FUCK? Oh yeah and this is per round. As in per minute. So imagine they're fighting off the last couple of Dragon Highlords trying to get revenge for just fucking up their lives, and Ariakus and Lucien distract the party for two, three, four rounds... suddenly starting to look real likely that this shit is gonna off more PC's than any other encounter in the module.
Then they've got an hour to clear the fuck out of Neraka before these rules count everywhere in the city. Now, you know what's fucking missing? Maybe a description of how the dragonarmies react. Are they scattering to the winds? Sacrificing themselves to hunt down the PC's as revenge? Surrendering to the Whitestone forces? Engaging in infighting? It doesn't fucking say. You go ahead Mr. Smarty GM, make it up yourself. Douglas Niles is too cool to finish writing the fucking module.
Your reward is that Neraka explodes and a couple of old constellations are returned, Takhisis and Paladine, and now all is right in the world again. Or at the very least you have a chance to make an excuse and get away from the psychopath of a GM who'd actually run these fucking modules.
God I fucking wish this one was signed, they had three interior artists on it, and whoever managed to capture this amazing level of goofiness is a champion. From the Draconians who look like they have no idea what they're doing, to the Dragon Highlords casually lounging around in their armor that's 90% pauldron without sleeves, to the band celebrating Takhisis' arrival that look to be random peasants baffled by the concept of a drum, to that one head of Takhisis that's slithering off to the side to unleash a mighty burp, this piece of art is, well, it's art.
Fuck you, Dragonlance, I'm gonna go review something that hurts me less.
Kree! I thought the part with the Skeleton Court was cool!
Next up: Maybe more Dragonlance? If I hate myself enough and people want it?
Dragons of Triumph: 3rd Edition ChangesOriginal SA post
Dragons of Triumph: 3rd Edition Changes
1. The supplemental material expanding on the setting is excised considering that such material became standard in the later setting corebooks. However, the five Ages have different names in the original adventures than what they’d be more popularly known as in the main line of books: the Age of Starbirth was called the Age of Dreams, the Age of Dreams was the Age of Light, the Age of Despair was the Age of Darkness, while the rise of the Dragon Empire up to the War of the Lance was labelled as its own Age: the Age of Dragons.
2. Needless to say, the BattleSystem stats for running the Whitestone forces fighting on the Plains of Neraka is excised.
3. As mentioned in the last adventure changes, a few of Dragons of Truth’s encounters were moved to this some, such as the guarded bridge pass with a lich and group of wemic warriors.
4. This is something which was in AD&D than the 3rd Edition conversion. The Dragon Highlords end up retconned from the previous adventure into the proper chromatic colors future adventures recognize: Lucien is now Black and Salah-Khan is now Green.
5. Also AD&D: Emperor Ariakas is spelled “Ariakus” in this adventure even though previous AD&D adventures had him as ‘-as.’ Looking back on prior AD&D adventures I notice an inconsistency in said name, even within the same NPC Capsule.
6. The Second Council of Highlords’ “Dark Justice” section has a predetermined outcome (in AD&D the BattleSystem results can determine how pissed off Ariakas is to the various Highlords). 3rd Edition presumes that only Toede (White Highlord) is found wanting and is led off to the dungeons after much pleading.
7. There’s a scenario for what happens for PCs captured by a Dragonarmy caravan; the caravan will be attacked by a mixture of human and wemic rebels led by Darallan Seubban (the Hidden Light resistance member from Dragons of Truth).
8. The rebel explorers encountered underground have developed stats. Their leader (originally a nameless male) is now a female half-elf by the name of Maaya Frostfell who is a multi-class noble/fighter/range. The rebels are split evenly between fighters and rangers, and the rangers worship Habbakuk (neutral good god of sea).
9. The trolls encountered in the fungus cavern have levels in Barbarian and are lead by a fiendish (evil outsider descent template) troll barbarian named Grak.
10. The vampires in the blooddrinker’s lair have class levels on account of said monster being a template rather than a creature all its own in 3rd Edition. Their treasure hoard is much bigger. In AD&D it included just potions, but now has weapons and armor and a ring of protection.
11. The city of Neraka has a more detailed map than the bare-bones one in AD&D:
12. The prison and slaver pens have stats for guards and slavers if the PCs try to break anyone out.
13. Dragonarmy mooks of all races are the best of the best. The soldiers guarding the Dark Queen’s Temple are 12th-level Fighters, while the Dark Pilgrims 9th level Clerics. The average district guards are 8th-level Fighters, monsters such as giants and draconians range from 3rd to 6th level Barbarians or Fighters depending on their race in question (less powerful with more levels), and even the goblins are 6th-level Fighters. Various rebel/allied groups range from mid-level Warriors (rebel fighters) or Commoners (temple slaves). Even the gully dwarves living underground are 6th level with a mixture of Fighter/Rogue.
14. Ariakas' hidden treasure vault in the Undercity is watched over by a brass dragonflesh golem. It's a mindless construct so no pesky questions of motivations or feelings over its virtual imprisonment.
15. The Dark Queen’s Temple has human guards as well as elite Draconian units from each of the five Dragonarmies. Their tactics are elaborated on when encounter the PCs.
16. The Nerakan businessmen kept in the Temple Dungeons will turn on the party by reporting them given the earliest available opportunity. Maelstrom, a Hidden Light resistance member, can be found and freed here.
17. The Foundation Stone Chamber is guarded over by a nightwalker monster.
18. The Council Chamber when not in use is watched over by 20 elite draconians from each of the five Dragonarmies along with 10 Temple Guards. The ones from different units will not work together well as all want the opportunity and prestige from capturing any intruders.
19. If a fight breaks out in the Ballroom, officers will assume it to be a brawl and fight among themselves.
20. Gorzaug, Takhisis’ fiendish elite minion, is a Marilith in AD&D. In 3rd Edition she becomes an Erinyes (female fallen angel-turned-devil) Cleric.
21. Ariakas’ Crown of Power, the Miceram, is given appropriate stats and backstory. It was originally worn by the Kingpriests, and requires daily will saves to avoid moving one’s alignment one step closer to Chaotic Evil (Ariakas is Lawful Evil). It comes equipped with a variety of defensive bonuses to AC, saving throws, Caster Level, and various spell-like abilities. If the Sage (Raistlin) or Prophet (Goldmoon) archetypes wear the crown, they have a vision of overcoming Takhisis and growing in power. A successful immediate Will save grants them enhanced spellcasting capability against all evil creatures and minions of the Dark Queen.
In the ending option where Berem is Paladine in disguise, he needs the Crown of Power in order to seal the gate, and will give it as a gift to the PCs to use as they see fit...even though it may inevitably turn them Chaotic Evil.
22. The Dark Queen’s Entry, aka the Final Boss Battle where the PCs fight Emperor Ariakas, Kitiara, and Lord Soth among the many minions in the Council Chambers is only run during one of four endings: Fizban vs. the Queen of Darkness, Huma Returns from the Past, Sacrifice Self, or Berem Seals the Gate. Berem and His Sister resolves when Berem is taken to the Chamber with the Foundation Stone, while in Death of the Gem the PCs must obtain the Hammer and Anvil of Might to break Berem’s chest-embedded stone and thus prevent Takhisis from ever entering Krynn.
23. Each ending sequence is accompanied with its own boxed text and character dialogue. There’s also a pair of all-encompassing set of boxed text for if the heroes are either successful or not in preventing Takhisis’ entry into Krynn.