The Hidden History of DragonLance – Part 1

This post is related to my series on re-imagining DragonLance (DL0, DL1, DL2, DL3a). In the re-imagination of the modules, I strive to improve some of the flawed or weak parts of the modules, but also to introduce what believe is a hidden aspect of DragonLance, but before I continue doing this, this hidden history needs to be exposed.

Some time ago Monte Cook wrote briefly about Science Fantasy in lieu of his new – and rather interesting – Kickstarter (or kickstarted as it is) project Numenera, that plays out in a fantastic setting, where technology is so advanced, that it seems like magic – thus reminding us of Arthur C. Clarke’s famous third law:

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

This relates in its own manner to my re-imagining of the old DragonLance modules for my reason to re-imagine them came not from a desire to improve the modules though improvement were sorely needed having been designed in an age, where there was very little experience in writing story heavy functional modules (and in the 90s it was no better as several PlaneScape and Ravenloft modules can attest – and I am a fan of those settings).

No, the reason for re-imagining the modules were the obvious presence of science fiction themes and elements, and that by reading between the lines it became obvious, that DragonLance was a science fiction-setting.

Through the lens of D&D

The one main reason for this not being so obvious is the need to keep DragonLance within the D&D paradigm, thus you must have elves, dwarves, and halflings, there must be gnomes and other elements central to the D&D-rulebooks. This obscures the fantasy-elements, but they are certainly not gone.

Science Fiction … in D&D …?

Expedition to Barrier Peaks is a classic, where the heroes discover a crashed space ship, encounters robots and other strangeness, but it is not the only module with science fiction-elements. The DA-modules for D&D becmi had the heroes travel back in time to distant past, where a spaceship has crash landed. Later this spaceship became a central object in the grand history and cosmology of the D&D Mystara-setting (among other things including a nuclear physics scientist among the Immortals of Mystara, i.e. that is the Mystaran version of deities) – see Gaz3, Gaz10, Gaz13, PC4 as well as Hollow World Campaign Setting and Wrath of the Immortals as well as the final episode of Voyage of the Princess Ark.

In CM6 Where Chaos Reigns the characters travel in time to three different ages to save a dimension from a time travelling, technological highly advanced race, the Oard, that are a bit like the Borg, and now the PCs must save the world in different eras from the borgish monsters.

In the D&D becmi-module IM1 The Immortal Storm the characters being Immortals since this is the i of the becmi-scale they travel to another dimension, where they end up in modern-day New York.

In the PlaneScape-setting can also remnants of spaceships be found, but they seem almost like easter eggs hidden to amuse GMs and players, rather than an attempt to add science fantasy to D&D.

In the AD&D 1st DMG were also rules for cross overs to Gamma World, so in general the D&D-games were not exclusively tied to a fantasy setting, but kept science fiction-elements as an option.

The Science Fantasy of DragonLance

In my re-imagining DragonLance I have hinted at the presence of technology, but it is not until DL3 Dragons of Hope it becomes truly obvious, that the re-imagining includes science fiction-elements. This works best when presented as a surprise for the players. However the science fiction-elements are not elements that I am adding to DragonLance. They were there all the time. I will only be pointing them out.

Next up is retelling the story of DragonLance, but this time emphasizing the Science Fantasy elements.

Retelling the Story of DragonLance

This is not the complete story, but it covers most of the elements, that can be gleamed from the first modules.

Gods from Outer Space

Long ago an alien race came to Krynn, and they were viewed as gods by the inhabitants of this low tech world. They granted immense advances to the inhabitants, and they often communicated with the inhabitants using an elected class of priests, and often using their Messengers to bring the knowledge of the Gods. In the local language the word for Messenger of the Gods were ‘dragon’.

Things went well on Krynn, but the arrogance of mankind angered the gods – as the story has already been told in the DragonLance material – and it was decided to punish mankind. The gods dropped a nuclear device or some equivalent on or near the city of Xak Tsaroth creating the catastrophe, that forms the present post-apocalyptic DragonLance-setting. It is likely that one faction (Thakisis) tricked the other alien factions into doing this, and then led them into exile, so the Thakisis faction could return and reshape the civilizations of Krynn, perhaps as slave races mining rare resources for their alien masters posing as gods.

Having regretted their decision the aliens went into a self-imposed exile, where they abandoned the population on Krynn to fight for itself.

Meanwhile back on Krynn the survivors of the nuclear blast escaped to the plains of Abbasinia – thus the name of the plains, Lands of the Abandoned – and from here the survivors split into three groups: The plains people, who disavowed technology forever, the first emigrants who went west and settled the town of Solace and Haven – hence the names of these settlements – and then a group went south to find shelter in the Seven Cities of Thorbardin.

The southbound emigrants passed the ancient fortress of Pax Tharkas and soon reached the lands of the Agar and their Seven Cities of Thorbardin. However the gates were closed and the emigrants were left to their own, had it not been for Fistandantilus.

Fistandantilus and His Fortress

In an ancient past the engineer Fistandantilus never felt appreciated for his technological knowhow and immense skills, so he uploaded himself as an AI to his mobile, technological fortress. From this position he led the southbound emigrants in battle for the Seven Cities of Thorbardin. In the plains near the Seven Cities it became a mighty battle involving armies of war machines, however Thorbardins mobile fortress were invaded by hostile forces, and Thorbardin released his neutron weapons in order to stop his enemies at the cost of his allies. Now the plains are littered with lifeless war machines and the mobile fortress were frozen in place. In the depths of the fortress Fistandantilus lived on trapped in the isolated circuits of his computers.

The Seven Cities of Thorbardin

Hidden beneath the seven domes are the wondrous cities of the Agar. The Agar were another breed of humans being slightly different from the people of Xak Tsaroth. The Agar had one weakness and it was their susceptibility to radiation. The agar population living in the domed cities that survived almost unscathed, but any agar living outside the domes were corrupted by the radiation and their descendants became the gully dwarves. There were agar living in Xak Tsaroth and at Pax Tharkas, and their descendants all became gully dwarves.

The domed cities have since fallen from their technological might and the survivors of the Agar have become mere shadows of their great ancestors, and now they live in a state of war between the domed cities.

One of the wonders of the domed cities is the flying city, which was the seat of the leaders of the Agar, but now the flying city is being run by an AI waiting for people to return to its city.

The Dragon Army and Lord Verminaard

The lords in the heavens have disagreed on how they should treat the people of Krynn. After having been lured to destroy the human population by one faction of aliens, they all went into exile to reflect on their actions. The faction that tricked the other aliens into destroying the civilization of Krynn had other plans, and they have now returned to reshape the population on Krynn in a new image. To do this they have sent their servant Lord Verminaard.

Lord Verminaard is likely just a robot or a cyborg. Most likely a cyborg with psychic powers. He has been upgraded by his lords from the stars, and been given several dragons as his servants. Lord Verminaard may be the descendant of the human servants, that served the “evil” aliens from outer space, and he has now sent back to Krynn to conquer the world.

Through a program of genetic hybridization he has been given an army of draconians.

So where is the evidence for this?

I will address this in my next post on the Hidden History of DragonLance.

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About Morten Greis

Historiker, etnolog, brygger, fægter, rollespiller, science fiction entusiast History and Ethnology, brewer and fencer, roleplayer and science fiction enthusiast View all posts by Morten Greis

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