Introduction AKA "What is this hot garbage?"
Original SA post
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 Krynn
Original SA post
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.
Original SA post
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 Mystery
Original SA post
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...
: He's a dwarf. As generically dwarfy as it is possible to be. Friends with Tanis, grudgingly tolerates Tasslehoff. 4th-level Fighter.
: 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
: 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.
: 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.
: Brother of Raistlin, a generic well-intentioned 6th-level Human Fighter. Is all boners for Tika, a barmaid. Half-brother of Kitiara.
: 4th level Fighter dual-classed from a 3rd-level Thief. Is pretty into Caramon and doesn't have much of an importance until then.
: 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.
: 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.
: Another NOBEL SAVAGE that I literally can't remember anything about except that he protects Goldmoon. 5th level Ranger. Is always an NPC.
: 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.
: 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